This was a much needed getaway where we could not be contacted...blackberries were left at home and work left far behind. We picked the right location in that this resort is quite remote--being 2 hours by bus from the Cartagena airport. We flew direct from Montreal to Cartagena and booked via Volitours.
The drive from the airport may seem like a deterrent but it’s not as bad as some of the reviews make it out to be. The bus was comfortable and air conditioned (note that your bags are transported to the resortt on a separate truck so do not panic). The drive within Cartagena is paved and no different than any other Caribbean city but once you hit the outskirts you are on a new 'autoroute' which is essentially a wide dirt road that is bumpy and washboard from the weather. halfway through the bus must take a 'ferry' to cross a canal to arrive on the island of Baru. The 'ferry' is really a cable barge that is hand cranked. Though it may seem sketchy, we crossed on 3 separate occasions and had no issues at all. The overall drive was very remote--passing through several villages along the way. After the rough ride for 2 hours, I think we heard angels singing as we pulled up to the beautiful entrance to the resort :)
Greeted by the recreation staff, we were quickly moved through to a registration table to pick up our personalized package including keys and then it was off to the room to settle in. Once in the room, we realized that our bags had not yet arrived (luckily we remembered to pack a swim suit and change of clothes) so we headed to the pool bar for a drink and a dip!
Our room was in the block 6 on the second floor with a beautiful ocean view. The rooms are new and very nicely laid out and decorated. With a large glass shower and down duvet, it was the perfect air conditioned retreat after a day in the sun. There were some issues with hot water in the shower (a water main broke one night leaving no hot water in the morning) but overall it was not a big deal. Room cleaning was a kind of hit or miss schedule. Though the cleaning staff was lovely, There did not seem to be enough of them so sometimes our room was changed at 10 AM and other times it was 5:30PM.
Food was good overall. The buffet was typical at an all inclusive with a few interesting additions (empanadas, unbelievable fresh juice selection, fantastic bakery items) but after 14 days the buffet kinda gets boring. The a la carte restaurants were great but the process was a bit of a pain. In order to reserve for the restaurants, you need to go to the lobby at 7AM to stand in line and register. There are only 2 sittings (6:30 and 8:30) and the spots are very limited. Unusually they are filled by 7:15!
Asian - great pad Thai, spicy beef and cashew chicken....and sushi bar! Spring rolls were on the menu but every time we asked for them we were told not today :)
Italian - fabulous spaghetti carbonara...pizza good as an appetizer when it is available....great staff
Seafood - did not try as I have an allergy :(
Things to remember about food - unless you eat a ton of fruit and veg at home, stay away from it here as it may upset your stomach and digestion. Start slowing trying new food as many people had at least a day of digestion issues due to new foods. Also, the tap water is not drinkable so only drink bottled water (provided in your room daily), water from the bar (ice is made with bottled water so no worries there either), or from designated drinking water coolers (at the beach). Major Suggestion: Invest in Dukoral oral vaccine before leaving...it’s worth the price for comfort and piece of mind.
Tipping is kind of interesting here. Since the majority of guests are Colombians and it is not norm to tip, the only people tipping are Canadians. Since the economy is so different, a $1 USD tip is really the most we ever gave and only if we thought the service was good. Total spent in tips for 14 days was $100. Bring lots of small US bills....no need to exchange money. If you need to the rate at the hotel is way off ($1 CDN = 1450 pesos / $1 UD = 1700 pesos.
The beach area is beautiful....clear water....silky sand...and lots of action. The recreation staff facilitates yoga and aerobics on the beach every morning. There is a great beach bar and if you are looking for a snack for lunch...burgers and hotdogs available from the snack back. The only downfall is that there are only 5 sun canopies that for 2 people each and the chairs seem to be sparse at times. In order to reserve your canopy, you must head to the beach to stake your claim with a towel not later than 6:30AM. We usually headed there, then to the lobby to reserve dinner then back to sleep for a bit. There are a few vendors but they are not a pushy as I have encountered on other vacations. There are also women offering massage and hair braiding but we steered clear.
We decided on a day trip to Cartagena but decided not to take the guided tour. Instead of $150 by boat or $80 by bus for the guided tour, we paid $18 for bus transportation and walked around ourselves. As long as you stay in the walls of the old city you will have no problems. Do not cross ny bridges and all will good. Lunch at San Pedro restaurant was lovely and shipping was fun. Everything everywhere can be negotiated a minimum of 50% discount. Bought a leather duffel, satchel bag, purse and 2 belts for $300! US cash is most accepted...and in stores credit cards are fine---even for bartered items.
For our first South American experience, we were impressed. Sunshine and over 32 degrees celcius every single day for 14 days, friendly staff, decent food, beautiful beach and pool areas, and a restful vacation.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Located at the paradisiac Baru peninsula, 75 minutes from Cartagena and member of the TripAdvisor ‘Hall of Fame’ for its certified excellence during 5 consecutive years, the Decameron Baru allows guests to enter a magical experience that will disconnect them from the outside world. The resort is located amidst a tropical forest and its architectural design intermingles with an ecological environment surrounded by many beaches, among which is the popular ‘Playa Blanca’, considered one of the best beaches of the Colombian Caribbean, and the luxurious ‘Playa Puntilla’ beach, where our travellers may enjoy a private club and several sports such as kayaking, rowing, scuba and snorkeling. Partying and enjoyment are guaranteed, enlivened with the rhythms from the countries of the great Caribbean basin such as ‘champeta’, a genre that mixes African and Colombian Indigenous sounds and that introduces travellers to the local culture. As a complement to pleasure, you may sharpen your senses with the delicacies of typical and renowned Colombian Caribbean cuisine. From this destination you may explore Cartagena’s colonial history and visit other important cities from Colombia’s northern territory such as Barranquilla, a commercial, river and sea port and seat of the multitudinous Carnival, as well as historic Santa Marta, considered the most beautiful bay in America. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Royal Decameron Baru Hotel Isla Baru