Cartagena continues growing as one of the top destinations in the Caribbean and all the major hotel chains are either fully established or developing properties in the city and its surroundings. In the last 5 years Intercontinental, Radisson, Hyatt Regency (which I reviewed last year), Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn have started operating properties in the city.
Last December, Conrad Hotels & Resorts inaugurated their 1st property in South America (and 34th worldwide): a beach resort and golf club in Cartagena, Colombia. I happened to be in the area and decided to check what the latest addition to the chain was about!
You can access Conrad Cartagena’s website here.
All my previous stays at Conrad properties had been fantastic and my expectations were set high. This property did not disappointed. From the lounging and dining options available to the kindness and attention to detail of the staff made my 48 hours on their grounds a great experience from beginning to end.
The Official Photo Set
Let me start this review with the official photo portfolio (kindly given to us by the property for this review).
The location of the hotel was probably my main concern before checking in. The resort is located 22 km north of Cartagena.
In a good day with no traffic, it could take you about 30 to 35 minutes to get to the old town, but if there is traffic entering the city add at least 20 minutes to the journey (traffic in Cartagena can be bad).
But once you get there, the location couldn’t be nicer. Definitely not convenient if you’re looking to be all out and about in the city (unless you like to drive or you hire a driver), but it is perfect for a relax/disconnect type of holiday.
The hotel only neighbor is a high-end condo development whom the hotel shares the golf course and gated access with. The hotel has no direct beach access but it offers a beach club instead at the opposite end of the golf course.
If you’re not driving, transportation to/from the city shouldn’t be an issue. The hotel offers round-the-clock luxury cabs to the city or pre-arranged limo service.
The property also offers golf cart shuttles either to the beach club or the golf club, so all mobility concerns I may have had, they had them covered.
Here are some pictures of the hotel exterior during the day:
And some more of the hotel exterior during the night:
Access to the lobby is granted through a stunning white wood gate.
The lobby’s theme is Caribbean Chic. High ceilings, giant fans, clean lines and light colors mix in an open air space. Colombian studio Sokoloff & Sewerin Arch SAS was in charge of the design.
Right across of Front Desk there is a large sitting area with an open terrace to the pool area. There is a piano in this side of the lobby too, and I was informed that on Fridays and Saturday evenings live music was to be performed in that lobby space.
Some other pictures of the lobby space. There are openings both to the front parking area and to the pool area, and shallow water ponds used for passive cooling of the space.
There is a commercial area to the other end of the lobby. At the moment of my visit boutiques hadn’t finished moving in but it is my understanding that as if now it is fully functional.
And it wouldn’t be a hotel lobby without a lobby bar. Son y Ron offers a fair selection of small bites and a rum-based cocktail list to refresh the tropical evenings.
The Pool Area
There is direct access from the lobby to the pool area through a terrace next to the lobby bar. There is also access through a side hallway where two of the hotel restaurants are located.
The hotel offers 4 large pools and a jacuzzi on this space. There is a kids and a family pool, and an adults-only pool right next to the pool bar. The hotel was in soft-opening mode (there was still ongoing work in some areas) and there were not many other guests around: plenty of space to enjoy the pool!
By sunset,a fireplace was lit on the pool area and some projections on the walls took place.
The Golf Course
The golf course is an 18-hole, par-72 course designed by Jack Nicklaus combines championship-level play with stunning ocean. This course is the only TPC course in South America. Here are some panoramic views of the golf course taken from my suite balcony:
The Gym & the Spa
Located on the ground floor at the end of the commercial area, the hotel offers gym and spa services for their guests. The Spa was a work in progress during my stay but I could access to the spa’s private pool on a quiet area of the property. Some pictures:
The Beach Club
A golf cart shuttle takes you on a ride from the hotel front door, around the golf court and to the beach club at the other end of the court. The beach club is a Caribbean-style construction with a small pool (both for adults and kids), beachfront cabanas with bar and restaurant service. It is the perfect spot to watch the sunset!
Meeting & Event Space
The hotel offers meeting & event space for up to 800 people on their ballroom and 600 people on the ballroom gardens. This event space counts with a separate entrance so it does not interfere with the hotel guests.
Upon arrival I was upgraded to a 1-bedroom corner suite with views overlooking both the pool and the golf course. The suite consisted of a closet and a full bathroom at the entrance, a large dining/living room space with its balcony, and a separate bedroom with balcony, en-suite bathroom and bathtub.
Again, light colors as a predominant palette, and small artwotk pieces here and there make for a clean interior design with a predominant sensation of open space.
The balcony and the views were just wow!
The dining area
Welcome amenityThe living room was spacious. A sofa, chair and ottoman were distributed in the space. The setup included a 55″ screen with a sound system, subwoofer and all.
The room communicates with the living room through two sliding doors. Again, the light colors and the minimalist decor gave a sensation of amplitude and the views over the golf course and the ocean completed the scenery.
Next to the bed there was a full size window to the en-suite bathroom (you get bedroom views from the bathtub). A privacy wooden blind completed the window setup.
There is no working desk in this room, but the large dining table on the living room . The desk in the room is definitely not thought for work (neither is the hotel!)
TV set and room deskPlenty of storage space in the room. Safe box, bathrobe, slippers, iron and ironing board, umbrella, a shopping bag and laundry bags were stored in the closet.
Minibar items in the room
And there were power outlets everywhere, and USB ports everywhere. And DND/Service call switches everywhere.
Access to the bathroom is through a sliding door decorated using the same graphics as the artwork in the living room.
The bathroom consisted of a large vanity, bathtub, shower and private lavatory. Shanghai Tang amenities everywhere per brand standards.
The balconies and the views were spectacular. Ideal for a morning coffee or evening drinks. We spent a lot of time on it, mostly accompanied by refreshing adult beverages!
The only con of the balconies: not much privacy, so don’t get frisky.
Thanks to the lovely guest relations team, I had the chance to visit their deluxe double and king rooms to check them out. Same general style, different room size, but overall spacious and comfortable IMO. Here are some pictures of the regular rooms:
The hotel offers 3 different restaurants from informal to full formal dining, and a café ideal for mid-morning or afternoon snacks.
Breakfast @ Adesso Tu
Adesso Tu is the restaurant where breakfast is served. During lunch and dinner service this locale becomes a pizzeria, seerving presh pizzas from their wood fired oven. The set up of the place is upscale informal, with terrace tables overlooking the garden and the pools, and interior tables in a temperature-controled environment.
The breakfast spread was impressive. Lots of local flavors in terms of fruits, freshly squeezed juices and baked/fried goodies (buñuelos and empanadas!). A good selection of cheeses, cold cuts, bread and salads complemented the buffet.
And the service during breakfast was spotless. From entering the restaurant to the end of the breakfast the staff couldn’t be more attentive to all our requests and needs.
Lunch @ Sea Salt
Sea Salt is their pool restaurant. Definitely the most informal dining setup the hotel offers. An open space overlooking the pool and the golf court and a large terrace over the pool area complete the seating space.
Again, lots of local flavors in the lunch menu!
Food was delicious and fairly priced. One thing I loved is that food and beverages prices in the resort are reasonable and you don’t feel like an abused hostage (as it happens in many other resorts around the world).
Afternoon snacks @ Market Cafe
For the caffeine addicts, or if you’re looking for a small snack. Market Café is open all day long next to the lobby.
Dinner @ Biblioteka
Their most upscale restaurant, Biblioteka is also located on the ground floor close to the lobby bar. The restaurant offers a main dining room and smaller private dining rooms on the side, all in a formal setting. Business casual dress code is required for this restaurant.
This was the menu: small but very interesting!
And the food was delicious. Here are some pictures:
Late snacks @ Room Service
Room service is always an option! Here’s a look of the menu and some items we ordered.
Basic rooms at this hotel go for about $300-400 or 50,000 Hilton HHonors points per night. At that price point I think it’s an excellent use of HHonors points!
The Service (and Conclusion)
Nowadays the concept of luxury is not as related as fine decor as it was before (you can have a nice decor with a low budget, creativity and ikea). I think luxury is now more related to service, and in this aspect the hotel staff exceeded all my expectations.
The staff training has been done with extreme attention to detail. All the staff would greet you with a smile, would volunteer to help you in anything you need and was always available for any request we had.
On an informal chat with Stephane Mercier, the hotel’s general manager (and former GM at the Conrad Miami), he informed me that the core staff (at managing level) got on-board the project about one year before opening, while lower level staff got between one to three months in-site training before inauguration day. and you could tell the training worked out well. The staff is dedicated to make your stay the most comfortable they can, and they work for it.
This property is definitely a game changer in Cartagena’s luxury hotel scene. They’re pushing to open the city to a more upscale traveler looking for relax and disconnection on their vacation, and they’re the first to deliver a solid luxury resort product in town.
I stayed at the property for 48 hours and didn’t feel the need to get out or didn’t feel trapped at any point. The staff made my stay the most enjoyable, and their installations and offerings are varied enough to keep you entertained for a short vacation.
I can’t wait to go back!