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“Relaxing Getaway from Reality”
Review of Decameron Baru

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Decameron Baru
Ranked #1 of 4 Hotels in Isla Baru
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed January 26, 2011

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.

  • Stayed: January 2011, traveled as a couple
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6  Thank wam372
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed November 27, 2010

It was overall a good experience. Its a funny place to get to as you need to drive for couple of hours and take the ferry. Also the road is in bad condition but once you get there is not so bad. The food was nice and they had a good variety. The service was fine and they have activities going on during the afternoon and evening.
The cocktails werent that great but as normally people go under an all inclusive package thats understandable. The room was very nice and comfortable.

  • Stayed: April 2010, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank MarceSanchez16
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 19, 2010

The grounds of the resort are beautiful. Built in to the natural land features nicely. Some old trees surviving. The main building is two stories. The bottom the buffet restaurant and the top a bar and large lounging area with a high ceiling. Nice furnishings.

The standard rooms are built up from the man level, 3 stories high. The second two have balconies and the first level a sliding glass door opening to the pool. The kiddie pool area is extensive. A standard room on the first floor, facing the ocean and pool would be desirable for a family with kids.

I rented a deluxe room for $30 additional / night ($230 USD Total 2 People). These buildings have a deck on top and the rooms are built into the side of a hill descending to the ocean. I had a 1st floor in building 1 which is at the end of the resort. Very private. From our sliding glass door we walked 10 feet, down 4 steps to a tanning bed and chairs. Jump off the deck right into the ocean. A wide beach is 300 yards away. An average beach, not great. The room was nice. Huge bed, 36” flat screen, couch and chair. Behind a wall is the bath area. One sink, hairdryer, small refrigerator, a door-ed room for the WC and another for a nice shower. Plenty of hot water. The a/c worked well. Only dislike was walking up 4 stories for drinks. They need a bar closer.

The staff was very nice and helpful. Most lived on site. Some from Cartegena. Some locals.

Some pluses and minuses.

1) It is really hot and humid. All the time. Temperature never above 90. Humidity never below 80. Common area not air conditioned except 1 restaurant.

2) The location is beautiful. Nothing really to do off the resort. The main activities are eating, drinking, sunning and swimming. The staff puts on a show with a nightly theme. Nice once or twice. The have the usual sunfish, hobies, kayaks, etc.. I convinced them I could sail and we took the Hobies out for extended sails. The ocean is refreshing, the pool is hot. No waves. Usually a breeze. Rainy season in mid September but no rain.

3) Two sit down restaurants. One air conditioned (Italian), other on the beach (fish). The food and atmosphere for the buffet is fine for breakfast and lunch. I want something nicer for dinner. Both restaurants were fine. The reservation process I ugly. At 6:45am a line forms and your name goes on a list. Half the people do not show up and the restaurant is on half full. Not on the list, you do not get in the door. One night both restaurants were reserved for a private function. They should not do both at the same time.

4) Some of the processes are clumsy. For example we got there at 10am. Changed and went to the pool. Regardless of when they are ready, no keys until 3. So 150 people are on this line waiting for a key that took another hour. Held up the whole line for 20 minutes because the mixed up some letters in my name. Also they would not confirm a return bus until the day before departure. I tried to extend for an extra day which they also could not tell me until the day before. I finally gave up. My laundry is no where in sight after 4 days. No ice machines. Wireless internet but not in my building. $4/hour. The US Decameron 800 number reservation people do not know anything about they property. They were less than useless. The phone at Baru is [--], call directly. They gym and spa will not be finished until end 2010.

5) People were mixed ages at the resort. Some honeymooners, some seniors, lots of families. Mostly Colombians, some Venezuelans and 1 gringo. Everyone nice however.

6) Getting to the resort sucks. Arranged bus thru the resort for $30pp. It was actually a tour, drove us around Cartegena. Talking about this and that. Not what I wanted. Had to wait 45 minutes at the airport. Trip took 2.5 hours. Bus ( large one ) almost got stuck in the mud. The ferry to the island was just a flat platform that looked like it was going to sink.

The bottom line is that this is a fine resort. Some defects but worth a trip. At $230/night ( 2 people ) a bargain. I did not spend any additional money except for smokes and the internet. If I return it will be with a group to party with. If my GF can get a visa I would go to a place a little cooler.

  • Stayed: September 2010, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank wlvf9chpe
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 18, 2010

The good

The facility is very new and well constructed. It’s obvious that lot’s of thought went into its design. The main building consists of two stories with very high ceilings. Upper story is where you check in and it has a large bar (see “less good” below). Very comfortable place to wait out the frequent July rainstorms. Downstairs is where most all meals are served buffet style. Food is great! You can also eat in a seafood or Italian restaurant, but you need a reservation. The reservations should be made early in the AM because they (especially the seafood ones) go fast.
The entire main building has few walls to block the ocean breeze (augmented by huge ceiling fans made most appropriately by “Big A.. Fans”) and the views of ocean, landscaping and pools. Speaking of pools, there is one very large pool complex that is well designed. Lots of very shallow water for kids as well as large area with deeper water. Despite this being a “beach resort” the pools are where most of the daytime action takes place. The beach itself is fine and there’s a marine center where you can check out kayaks and paddleboats. They also have Sunfish and Catamarans but a hotel employee must accompany you on those unless you can convince management you can handle them on your own. (I didn’t bother trying.) They have diving trips and other excursions available too. Rooms are large, well appointed, and they mercifully contain air that is very conditioned! Whenever the heat and humidity became too much, we could retreat into our cool room for a respite. Staff was polite and accommodating. Overall experience -- once you make it to the resort -- was very pleasant.

The less good

Remember the bar I mentioned earlier? The Decameron bills itself as “everything included”. Meaning that food, drinks and standard entertainment options (boats are standard, dive trips are extra) are all included in the room price. The food is fine. The booze is not. They have to economize somewhere!
I focused on the rum which was of very poor quality. Not sure about other liquor, but all the bottles on the bar had labels I’d never seen before. The beer was cold and pretty good though. That said, what’s Paradise without good rum?? Luckily I had brought a bottle of Colombian rum myself. Strongly suggest readers bring their own. I used mine very openly (brought it to the bar and just asked for mixers). Bartenders had obviously heard complaints about the booze before so they tolerated me.

The other “less good” thing potential visitors need to be aware of is that it is difficult to get to the hotel. The most popular means is to take the Decameron Explorer buses that go from the Cartagena airport to the hotel. It is billed as an “about an hour and a half” ride. The first 45 minutes is on good paved roads. There is a stop while you wait for a short ferry ride across a small river. Then the real fun starts. The road is dirt with some rocks on the surface. I’ve mentioned rain many times already. So far, it really hasn’t been a problem. It IS a problem on a heavily traveled dirt road! The slow and very bumpy ride became much slower at the frequent points where the road had been eroded away or where the rain had created pools of varying depth. The trip that was billed to take 1.5 hours, took 2.25 hrs on the way up and 3.5 hrs on way back. Luckily, our flight didn’t leave till the next day. Others on the bus weren’t so lucky.

In July 2010, you could see piles of stone and rocks with some heavy construction equipment along much of the way indicating it would be paved at some point. I asked two hotel sources after arriving, when they thought the road would be completed. One said “December 2010” the other laughed heartily and said “this is Colombia…it will take at least 2 years!”

Bottom line is that you need to take this long, difficult, and hard to predict bus ride into consideration when planning your comings and goings…especially goings if you plan on flying out the same day. Once the road is complete…in December 2010…or 2011 or…you get the picture, it will be great!

I also asked about taking a boat for much of the way. My hotel sources said it cost about US$1,000 so I didn’t pursue that option any further.

The most frustrating part of our entire experience was the total lack of reliable information on transport to and from the hotel. We spent half of a precious sightseeing day in Cartagena trying to confirm the options available to get to Decameron (looked into boat, privately procured taxi and Decameron bus). Tried all the phone numbers on the Decameron website and got different answers on price, timing of trips and where to meet the bus. Very frustrating!

Important note: Apparently, most visitors go to hotel directly from airport. In that case, a Decameron rep will be in the airport arrivals lounge and that may ease the transfer. We were already in Cartagena and we returned there for another day of sightseeing before flying out. The lack of solid travel info made planning rest of Cartagena trip a nightmare.
Later learned that the bus trips are timed to coincide with arriving and departing flights. If there is no one on a specific flight, then the bus doesn’t make the trip. That makes sense…but it’s important to understand that. Complained to guest relations and strongly suggested they incorporate arrival/departure info/options on their web site. They said they’d update it soon.

In sum:

Like many Latin American adventures, you have to take the “less good” with “the good”. The “good” is Paradise for cheap (@ $200/day all-inclusive for two persons). The “less good” can be mitigated with a proper attitude and proper planning. I wrote this missive to help with your planning. I’ve found good rum always helps with the attitude issue!

  • Stayed: July 2010, traveled as a couple
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7  Thank Dsquared2061
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 29, 2010

The best hotel of the Colombia Caribbean, the beach is beautiful, the service is unique and the grounds with this gardens are pretty nice with a lot of future, the rooms have balcony with a great view of the ocean and its many colors and its pools are so beautiful, without a doubt is an excellent hotel.

  • Stayed: March 2010, traveled with family
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2  Thank Fileri
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 25, 2010

Stayed here for 2 nights as part of a long weekend trip to Cartagena. The hotel is very chic and luxurious feeling. The fact that its brand new means that everything is clean. The rooms are simple, but nice and each one either has a balcony or terrace beach/pool front. The beach is huge (and the water beautiful) and there are multiple pools with plenty of lounge chairs available. As noted in some other reviews, the resort is not complete yet (only 2 restaurants open and no gym, disco or spa yet), but we got a special rate so we did not mind. The rate also included a transfer which is basically an hour+ bus ride from the airport (boat would have been nicer, but the bus ride was not bad). The buffet meals were as good as could be expected for an all inclusive resort with some nice variety. Everyone who worked there was extremely helpful, responsive and pleasant. Seems like there was a nice mix of families, couples and singles at the resort.

  • Stayed: February 2010, traveled as a couple
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4  Thank courtney30
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 1, 2010

We were the first guests of the Royal Decameron Baru. The site wasn't entirely finished yet, which caused some inconveniences, but the treatment we received as a compensation was absolutely great (free excursions, voucher for free holiday in another resort, even a cash-reimbursement).
The place itself is wonderful, nice beach, great pools, good restaurant, large comfortable rooms, all very pleasantly designed.
The one thing that was suberb was the staff: plenty, smiling, extremely helpful and giving the sensation they were enjoying their jobs, on all levels.

  • Stayed: December 2009, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank EdgarKO
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Decameron Baru

Address: Baru Km 7 | Sector Portonaito, Isla Baru 130017, Colombia
Location: Colombia > Bolivar Department > Cartagena District > Isla Baru
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Business Center with Internet Access Fitness Center with Gym / Workout Room Free Parking Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Restaurant Shuttle Bus service Spa Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 4 Hotels in Isla Baru
Price Range: $281 - $471 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:3.5 star — Decameron Baru 3.5*
Number of rooms: 366
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

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