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“Great- if you go in with right expectations!”

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Occidental Cartagena
Ranked #44 of 149 Hotels in Cartagena
Certificate of Excellence
Toronto, Ontario
Level Contributor
17 reviews
14 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 92 helpful votes
“Great- if you go in with right expectations!”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed March 20, 2013

Our biggest expectation for this trip was to enjoy the incredible historical aspects of this amazing city, the walled city! It is truly a gem! I never tired of walking through those gorgeous cobblestone streets and gazing up at those flower laden balconies, churches, squares. It is truly magical, day or night! As such, the free shuttle was an economical and convenient option. It is 20-25 minutes away. We once went into the city twice in the same day.

If you want to have a typical resort vacation, you will be sorely disappointed because as many have already stated on this forum, the beach is very wide, but not a fine white sand and it does not have blue translucent water. I used the beach to walk on for my morning exercise and took a dip for a few minutes, once only. Also the entertainment was very lacking, but in all fairness participation was very low. The only show that looked worthwhile was the Folklore one as we were walking in but we couldn't really enjoy it because we wanted to access the buffet before it was closed. The weather was FANTASTIC! Warm moderate mornings, progressing to hot into the afternoon. Breezy late afternoons and evenings.

The rooms were small but modern and clean. Water pressure could have been better when you're trying to rinse shampoo from long hair, but really you can't take notice to all these trivial things when you're on vacation. We're getting extremely spoiled aren't we?? Listening to all these people go on and on about the suites makes me wonder it may have been worth it to spend a little more, but in all reality, we hit the city every chance we got. Didn't spend a lot of time in the room. The night life in the city was amazing! We danced many nights away and if we got carried away and missed the shuttle, it cost us 20-25$ US to return to the hotel. It is not cheap in town though. Prices for drinks and dinner in moderate to fancy clubs are comparable to fancy upscale places in North America. We had one typical Colombian lunch in a working class place in Bocagrande that was 8-9$ and I'm sure that's because they realized we were tourists. After clubbing one night, we also ventured to Bocagrande for great stuffed Arepas at a fast food Arepa place which was very cheap. Lunch in Getsemani (which felt like I was in New Orleans, just outside the walled city-a must) was amazing, offering upscale Colombian Cuisine, affordable, but not cheap. Anything in the walled city is pricey. Had amazing ice cream in tropical flavours that was to die for. Wish I kept the name to give this place a plug because most of the fancy ice cream places are Gelati types and carry mostly European flavours, whereas, this one had the tropical fruit flavours, Coco, Marañon, Mamey, Zapote, Tamarindo, delicious!!

The food in the resort was very good if you are open to trying some of the local fare, otherwise you will find it limited. A delicious soup at every meal, even breakfast (the hangover soup in keeping with Latin customs, hahaha). Ceviche every lunch and dinner, excellent salads and a good variety of tropical fruit. Lovely breads and baked goods, cakes etc. I really enjoyed the food but it is not an expansive buffet because it is a smaller resort and many people seem to leave the premises to venture out. In my opinion, the buffet provides more than adequate variety and quality of food.The a-la-cartes were just ok for me, nothing special at all. Almost the same food as the buffet just fancier presentation. Self serve salad bar and dessert bar. There was a snack bar that provided the typical hamburgers, hot dogs and fries, as well as, Colombian Empanadas, Buñuelos, but the fresh made to order Pizzas and Calzones were the best to go foods!

I would go back for sure, but the attraction to this destination for me, is Cartagena!

  • Stayed February 2013, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
7 Thank chicanite
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Rating summary
  • Location
    4 of 5 bubbles
  • Sleep Quality
    4 of 5 bubbles
  • Rooms
    4 of 5 bubbles
  • Service
    4 of 5 bubbles
  • Value
    4 of 5 bubbles
  • Cleanliness
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (146)
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English first
ontario
Level Contributor
3 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 8 helpful votes
3 of 5 bubbles Reviewed March 17, 2013

This hotel is only 2 years and as you would expect it is very nice and everything is well maintained. We upgraded to the deluxe room with a jacuzzi on the patio, the room was very large with separate living space and bedroom.
One of the nice things about this hotel is they have 2 swimming pools one being what is described as a quite pool, this pool is situated amongst the 3 buildings housing the rooms, very nice to sit on your patio and look out to it.
The larger pool is where they hold all the aerobics and games during the day, loud music and constant shouting in Spanish to try and get you involved with the activities, not a problem for us as this is normal in the Caribbean and does add fun to your stay.
The hotel only as one bar which is quite small and can become very busy at times and service is quite slow, you will not find premium drinks as stated in the description by the hotel.
The restaurant buffet offers a variety of choices for meals, we found the lunch menu to be much better than the evening choices, if the choices are not to your liking there is a grill next to the buffet serving hamburgers and hot dogs, also in the evening you can order a selection of pasta dishes and pizza, you will need to ask for the menu as they do not advertise this option (we found out about this on our last night by accident).

Pros
Very nice clean hotel
Staff are friendly
The free shuttle service to the walled city is excellent and the guide on the bus gives you an historical overview of the city

Cons
The maid service is very poor, they basically just make the bed, towels, toilet paper etc are not replaced and you need to call the front desk to get them which does not mean it will happen.
There are no coffee makers in the rooms, they will supply one but again they do not replenish the coffee after the first time.
Our room was missing most of the items that the hotel boast of on their web site, I:e ironing board, microwave.
The nightly entertainment is substandard (mostly karaoke) compared to other hotels we have stayed at.

Room Tip: Upgrade to the deluxe room as the standard rooms are very small
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  • Stayed March 2013, traveled with friends
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
2 Thank norushOntario
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Toronto, Canada
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
2 of 5 bubbles Reviewed March 16, 2013

We liked the location of the hotel and the shuttle service to the walled city is a definite plus. The premises were nice and clean however the service at this hotel need A LOT of improvement. We were three people in the room and needed to call the front desk four consecutive days to have three towels brought to our room. There was no hot water in the shower and had to contact the front desk three consecutive days to have this taken care off.
The food was good and there was good variety at the grill and the buffet. Our experience at The Nativo restaurant was rather disappointing: there was not enough soup or salad for everyone even though reservations are required. We complained and were told there would bring more salad, but they never did. Our order was incomplete and it took more than thirty minutes before we could tell our waitress about it (restaurant under staffed). She had not even realized that a meal was missing. A final dissapointment was on the last day when we were told there would be a courtesy room available after check out before going to the airport .What a bad surprise when the hotel staff member found that that room was occupied. There was neither an apology nor a solution to the situation. This only reflects poor management and poor organization.
Having stayed at other Grand Occidental Hotels in the Caribbean the service is not up to the standards of the other ones.

Room Tip: Rooms above second floor have nicer view and possibility of using the balcony
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  • Stayed February 2013, traveled with family
    • Value
    • Location
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    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
1 Thank Elvira G
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Toronto, Canada
Level Contributor
53 reviews
21 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 54 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed March 11, 2013

I'm writing from my room at the Occidental! I've read some of the reviews on here and most of them are quite accurate. I'm not sure why some people had bad things to say....I have found almost nothing to complain about! Here is my list of pros and cons for easy reading:

Pros:

Great food! There is always something yummy to eat. I particularly like their pizzas, wraps, fruit (there is an abundance of mangos!), plantains, grilled chicken and omelettes.

Well appointed rooms - I took the deluxe/ocean view room that overlooks the entire property. The AC works well, the room is clean and modern equipped with a flat screen TV. The fridge is stocked with beverages that get replenished daily. A large glass decorative bottle awaited my upon my arrival -- nice touch...I prefer glass over plastic. The bed is comfortable -- I've been having restful nights.

Staff - are friendly and try their best to meet your needs. Every morning I had a fresh, cold coconut delivered to my breakfast table. Be jealous :p

Pools - look nice (I haven't been in any of them yet). I noticed that you don't have to fight for chairs or anything...it's not crazy like a common resort in the DR, Mexico, etc.

Transportation - A great perk for this resort is that we get free shuttle service from the hotel to town and back on a schedule. Saves you a lot of mula so you can spend it elsewhere ;)

Town-The food is amazing! Try some of the street food..it's cheap and tasty! You can find a lot of fruit here too..along with fried treats, ice cream/gelato, coconuts..mmmm coconuts

Cons:

I'd have to say that there is a weird smell coming from the taps in the washroom...kind of like water that has been sitting for a while?

English is not widely spoken here (I think it adds to the charm of the place) so if your Spanish is limited, bring a dictionary or you may have a hard time communicating what you want.

Room Tip: Higher floors have better views but rooms on the first floor have jacuzzis
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  • Stayed March 2013, traveled solo
    • Value
    • Location
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    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
6 Thank MsGlobeTrotter2011
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Mississauga, Canada
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 8 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed March 10, 2013

To be honest our expectations of the resort were not that high. We were looking specifically to go some place different, with some interesting things to see off the resort. It did exceed our expectations.

The resort is only about 2 years old. This was nice because the facilities are still new and in good working order. The only downside is that the palm trees are still small for shade, and the staff are still in the learning stage. You can tell that tourism is still a relatively new thing in this area because aside from the front desk staff not many spoke english. However, they are all very nice and friendly. If it was a person pouring water at dinner the extent of their English was " Water...yes?". We met a couple who had been here one year earlier and they commented on how much improvement they had noticed in the service. Approximately half the people on the resort were from Colombia or other parts of South America which may explain this.

Rooms - They were very clean with nice duvets. The air conditioning controls seemed to vary by room. In our room the highest we could set it was 20 degrees Celsius which was a bit chilly. Since we were on a ground floor we did not feel comfortable leaving our patio door open which would have been preferable as the evening temperature is nice. I would recommend getting a room on the second or third floor so you can do this as the breezes at night are nice. We had the odd geko in the room which did not bother me.

Food - The food was very good. In fact, I would say it was better than two other Occidental resorts we have stayed at. There was always a nice selection of fruits and vegetables. There was typically a rice dish at every dinner with a selection of two or more meats plus various cooked vegetables and other goodies. Fish was very common and well prepared. The food changed everyday so I did not tire of it.

Restaurants - Since the resort seemed to be half full at best we had no issue booking the restaurants. The "Grill" is an outside restaurant where you can order a selection of grilled meats like ribs, steak skewers, etc. You could not order a good North American style steak which was a bit disappointing. However, it was ok. The Italian restaurant is really not a restaurant at all. It is also an outside oven that any can walk up to and order a pizza or lasagna. Both were excellent. The last restaurant, and the only one inside, is more of a fine dining experience. The menu changes nightly. We had oriental one night and Peruvian food another night we were there. Again, it was good but not excellent. The salad bar and deserts were identical to what you could get at the buffet so where was nothing special there.

Pools - It is nice that they have two pools...a "quiet pool" and "activity pool". The quiet pool was nice and quiet. Again, since the resort was only half full getting a lounger was not a problem. The activity pool really did not have much in the way of activities. A spinning class at the edge of the pool in the morning, the odd pool exercise session for the old folks and that was it. Essentially the only real difference was that they had music going all day which ranged from Bob Marley, Spanish music or American top 40 hits sung in Spanish which was funny. There is a bar at the quiet pool but you have to get your own drinks. The pool waiter just sat with the bar tender all day and talked and never asked if you wanted anything. At the activity pool there was also no service at all. If you wanted a drink you needed to walk to the bar yourself (not far) and get it yourself. This was a good example of the staff still needing to learn North American service expectations.

Beach - The water is about 150 meters from the resort. A very short walk down. It is a darker sand so it does get hot. There are no trees down by the beach at all. They have these small shelters built that you can lay under and they work fine. The water is not clear because there is a river not far that empties into the Caribbean, and constant waves which clouds the water. The water is a great temperature. It was windy every day by the beach which was a bit annoying. One evening it was really windy and the water came close to the resort and washed away many of the shelters they had set up. Another day there was a farmer who was moving his cattle from one pasture to another and I guess the beach was the quickest way to get them there. All of a sudden there was cattle everywhere but they moved on quickly. That was interesting and a testament that the area is still being built up for tourism. There is also a small fishing village about a 10 minute walk down the beach. Not much to see really but very local.

Cartagena (Old City) - This is likely one of the main reasons why you would choose this destination. The tour company offers a half day tour of the new and old city which I highly recommend. They show you around and you see Fort Catagena, the Monastery and a walking tour of the walled city (old Cartagena). It is well worth it and gives you a chance to scope out things to come back to during your stay. The hotel has a shuttle bus that goes back and forth from the resort to the Old City from 8am to 12:30am each day which makes things so easy. However, you need to book the shuttle in advance. A cab is only about $20 USD if you want. The Old City is very safe and beautiful architecture. We walked for hours, did a few museums (Historical Museun and Inquisition Museum), visited the various squares, walked on top of the wall that surrounds the city, shopped and ate. The food is one of the best parts. There are many great restaurants and the prices are reasonable. I can honestly say it was perhaps some of the best food I have ever eaten. You can eat like a king and have a bottle of very nice wine for $30 to $50 per person.

In the city of Cartagena itself most shop staff spoke no English (which makes bartering a challenge). The street vendors and restaurant staff spoke enough to get by with you. Even in the museums very little was in English so you can pay for an English guide who will give you the museum tour in English. Emeralds are the big thing here as they are mined close by. There are A LOT of emerald jewelry stores but know your prices before you go. Everything is on a barter system so you have to know something about emeralds and their costs to know if you are getting a good deal or not. Just remember that everything you buy outside of a restaurant is negotiable (clothing, tour guides, jewelry, taxi, etc). If you know basic numbers in Spanish it is a big help.

Other Tours - We did not do any but we spoke to people who did. The general consensus was that they were not worth taking. Mud bath at the volcano (Colombian men in the mud bath with you offering to give you a "massage", and women when you get out wanting to help wash the mud off you...all for money...disturbing was the consensus. There is a boat trip to an island with a "white sandy beach and coal reef". The people said the beach was not white and there was very little see in the water. The shopping trip to four towns seemed to be a big disappointment for everyone. It was 12 hours on a bus and the stuff being sold in every town was exactly the same...hammocks and bags. There was a bit of history and they said the lunch was very good...but not worth the money and 12 hours of travel. This tours is the one thing they really need to work on at this destination. However, the Old City makes up for a lot and you can go there a few times before you are bored. This is really the main attraction.

Overall, my wife and I enjoyed ourselves but would likely not go back. It is really a 3 star resort and I think our expectations where in line with what we paid. Once you have seen the Old City there is really no reason to go back unless you are ok with hanging out on the resort all day. We had a good time, met some really nice people, ate well and learned a great deal about a real gem of a city.

Room Tip: Get a room on the second or third floor so you can enjoy the night breezes.
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  • Stayed March 2013, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
7 Thank Michael L
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Toronto, Ontario
Level Contributor
24 reviews
8 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 62 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed February 25, 2013

Colombia, Cartagena, such a beautiful city and this resort compliments it so well. My wife and I stayed here Jan. 5, - Jan 11, 2013, after spending 2 weeks in Bogota. We managed to get the all-inclusive package from Nolitours and we travelled with Canjet. This resort is a great value for your money. It is only about 1 or 2 years old, so it's very well kept, clean, and the layout of it, and is very modern, yet tropical. Let's start with the room. Very spacious, and clean, the beds, which is something very important for us, are excellent! We slept really well. The room has it's own free security box, a/c, LCD screen, minibar, and an outside balcony. We stayed right behind the adult's only swimming pool so this was great because it was not loud at all. The service is great. There are 3 restaurants, the buffet, the grill, and "el nativo". Stay away from El Nativo, it was not very good. We ate there twice and both times we were let down. Once for the Peruvian night, and the other for the Spaniard night. It's just that they don't give you enough authenticity and when it comes to seafood, they are very frugal. But, the grill and the buffet were excellent so don't let this bother you. They also have another restaurant, right beside the buffet where they make pizzas: La Trattoria, but it's just right outside the buffet, so basically it's the same restaurant, but great pizzas. There are bars in every pool area (2) and one bar on the beach, so this is good. The quality of the drinks is excellent, so no complaints there. The beach, omg, so beautiful, and perfect for long walks. If you like surfing, this is the kind of oceanfront you want, great waves! What else can I say, I give this resort 8/10. I only wish I could go back. If you want more information, feel free to contact me and I will get back to you.

  • Stayed January 2013, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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Helpful?
4 Thank wiljos
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Martintown
Level Contributor
5 reviews
5 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed February 25, 2013

My wife and I spent a week at this resort and enjoyed ourselves immensely. We booked a jacuzzi suite which was very spacious, comfortable and clean. It is not located in the city of Cartagena but about a 15 minute shuttle bus ride away (bus provided by the resort). There are a number of pools on site with one designated a "quiet" pool for those who want to spend a more sedate time pool-side. There is also a vast ocean-side beach which is quite pleasant. There are four restaurants on site with a great selection to suit all tastes and the meals were excellent.
The staff is extremely pleasant and helpful. We would definitely spend another vacation here.

  • Stayed January 2013, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
3 Thank Hans v v
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Occidental Cartagena

Property: Occidental Cartagena
Address: Anillo Vial Via Manzanillo del mar Km. 4 | No. 9-85, Cartagena 985, Colombia (Formerly Estelar Grand Playa Manzanillo)
Phone Number:
Location: Colombia > Bolivar Department > Cartagena District > Cartagena
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Business Center with Internet Access Fitness Center with Gym / Workout Room Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Restaurant Room Service Shuttle Bus service Spa Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
#14 On the Beach Hotel in Cartagena
#14 Spa Hotel in Cartagena
#21 Family Hotel in Cartagena
#37 Romantic Hotel in Cartagena
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$
Hotel Class:3.5 star — Occidental Cartagena 3.5*
Number of rooms: 190
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
The Occidental Grand Cartagena Resort***** hotel's objective is to provide luxury, all-inclusive services on the seafront on the beautiful beaches of Manzanillo Bay. It is close to the cosmopolitan city of Cartagena de Indias. It has a contemporary design and a very calm ambience, and our guests' first impression is of an idyllic resort to relax and unwind in. Have a dip in the pool, stroll around the beautiful lush gardens or enjoy the 24-hour drink and snack service. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Occidental Grand Cartagena Hotel Cartagena

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