When booking in Cartagena, it's worth spending a little extra or taking the time to find a place that will make you happy, because the heat and humidity are soul-sucking. Even if we hadn't been traveling with a 6-month-old with a nap schedule and my older mother-in-law who needs a good deal of down time, we would probably have observed the unofficial Cartagenian siesta from around 11:30 to 2:30 every day. We were glad we chose the Casa del Curato because we spent more time in the hotel than we usually do when traveling.
To begin with, the reviewer who said that Casa del Curato is "more of a hostel than a hotel" has not stayed in many (any?) hostels—that statement is patently absurd. This is a small, attractive, affordable hotel in the heart of a good district (San Diego) in the old town of Cartagena. The common areas are appealing and breezy, the rooms are clean and well-appointed, and the breakfast is more than adequate.
As other reviewers have noted, the staff is among the best features at the Casa del Curato. Everyone treated us well, especially a young male receptionist with braces who was very sweet to our baby, and the head cleaning lady, with whom I had several interesting conversations about Colombian culture and politics. Employees went out of their way to help us, and made us forget about any petty gripes that might otherwise have detracted from our time there.
In terms of location, I don't think we could have done much better. Two plazas, each with several dining options, are within a block of the hotel, and because of the monumental first-class hotel (the Sofitel Santa Clara, housed in a restored convent) also just a block away, there are always cabs and horse carriages lining up nearby. The city walls, which make for a pleasant walk with their view on the Caribbean, are two or three blocks north and very easy to get to. Most of the main attractions of the old town are a little south in El Centro, but the cruise ship tourists pour into that area in such numbers that we were happier to be in San Diego. The walk between these two sections of old Cartagena is pleasant and takes only 10 or 15 minutes, and San Diego has as many high-quality restaurants and pretty balconied houses as does El Centro. (Getsemaní, the working class district of the old town, offers a more authentic glimpse of urban Latin American, but is a little too chaotic and squalid for a relaxing holiday stay, at least by our current standards.)
There is a substantial difference between different rooms at this hotel. The downstairs rooms are attractive, but cave-like with no windows and a slightly musty smell. Upstairs, there are balcony suites and at least one balcony room, where we stayed. The suites, of course, are more expensive, and their balconies look out on the street instead of onto the tiny pool, like ours did. This was a significant detractor, although it also meant that our room was very quiet (ideal for small children). Furthermore, the room was spacious, and had a refrigerator, high ceilings with exposed beams, and a great shower (in Cartagena, you will want to shower every time you go out, so this really matters). There are some charming details, like painted ceramic sinks and stained glass windows over the downstairs rooms.
The minuscule pool downstairs is cute, but a bit cloudy. There is a nice patio on top of the building. Breakfast (juice, coffee, fruit, eggs, and toast / pancake / arepa) is substantial and cheerfully served. The building and neighborhood feel safe and secure. Our air-conditioning was frigid and the temperature could not be adjusted up, but we found that at night the ceiling fan was sufficient to keep our room comfortable.
All things considered, this was an excellent choice for our four days in Cartagena (October 2012). The other options we considered were either considerably more expensive, or too grungy for comfort. We would stay here again.
Be aware that the upstairs "room with balcony" (as opposed to the "suites with balcon...
See more room tips
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.