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“Small, quiet resort, but poor beach.”

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Occidental Cartagena
Ranked #44 of 153 Hotels in Cartagena
Level Contributor
44 reviews
23 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 53 helpful votes
“Small, quiet resort, but poor beach.”
Reviewed March 22, 2014

Just returned from a week at the Occidental (March 13 to 20, 2014) - hotel is small (three buildings - 192 rooms total - it was a quiet, relaxing trip - the staff were great - always smiling and helpful.
I did not want a lot of loud, cheesy "entertainment" and they didn't have any so that was great - one evening there was a small group singing Spanish songs, I enjoyed that - the audience was small though, about 20, as the hotel was only about a third full or less, by my estimation (although they told me they were full when I asked about changing rooms when I had a number of problems with mine - I later learned that two couples had managed to get free upgrades to the upper floors so they had a view of the sea) - I think they had something else a couple of other nights but I didn't go....I had to wait an hour for my room be ready after I checked in - then I had to get maintenance in as there were a number of problems with my room, balcony door didn't lock, a cupboard door was off its hinges, scraped on the floor, the sliding glass shower door was off its track and the shower water was cold...it took several visits but eventually all problems were fixed. Bed is a bit hard as mattress is on a concrete base - had a small gecko in my room, hiding behind art, then in cupboard by mini fridge, but there is a gap under the room door so thought he would come back if I managed to get him out so didn't try.
At the orientation the next morning they told us about a free 20 minute facial massage at the spa, a one hour 50 minute escorted walk along the beach to a nearby fishing village and that if we wanted bottled water we would have to buy it from the hotel. I went to the spa and they said the treatment was 10 minutes, I was the only person who showed up for the walk so it was only 40 minutes (and yes it was escorted by Ally, but as she didn't speak much English and I don't speak Spanish, it wasn't much of a "tour") and they give you water in two x one litre bottles in the mini fridge in your room every day - (along with two cans of beer, two cokes and two other cola drinks - I just used the beer and water).
The hotel does not have a store - but a lady sets up a stall of handmade (expensive) bags every day - but if you need toiletries etc they have nothing....they also cannot change money as they don't have a license and when I asked if the front desk would break a 20 peso bill so I would have small bills for tips, they said they could not and have no money - but I asked a different person at reception another day and he broke two 20s for me.
The fresh fruit at breakfast was great and I had a custom omelette every morning - coffee was great - they do cappuccinos at the bar near the noisy pool (the only place to get a drink at night, the other bar is at the quiet pool, but it closes at 5) - the buffet is the only place for lunch (the Grill next door is open during the day but only has hot dogs and hamburgers and very greasy deep fried chips) - you have to book into the Nativo restaurant, they do food from a different country each night - I had cannelloni on Italian night and pad thai on Asian night but the rest of the time there was nothing vegetarian on the menu - so I ate next door at the open air Italian restaurant, which had the same menu every night - so I alternated between pizza and cannelloni and got salad from the buffet. The wine at Nativo and the Italian place was good, but you could taste the difference in the wine served if you went to the buffet.
I took the free shuttle bus (you have to book it in advance to and from town, space is very limited) to the old walled city for a couple of hours - did that twice during the day and once in the evening - also had a massage from Teresa on the beach by the hotel...she is not there every day - I paid 40,000 pesos (about $22 Canadian) - very nice to hear the waves, pleasant, but not a trained massage therapist, but still enjoyed it. I also took an aqua aerobics class one morning in the noisy pool. I took the city tour for 45.00 US - they take you to the old walled city and the new city, also to two emerald stores...we got back 90 minutes late, so missed lunch and had some of the greasy chips and a beer....was also too late to book the Nativo restaurant...so if you take this tour, book the restaurant in the morning before you leave.
I wasn't going to do the tour to the Volcano - it is offered every day - you pay the guide 22.00 US cash - others went though and enjoyed it so much I signed up - the small bus was almost full when it arrived to pick me up - just one seat left for me. About a 30 minute drive, wear your swimsuit you don't care about under your clothes - take a towel you will need 3,000 pesos in small bills for 4 people each - the massage guy in the mud, the guy who washes your shoes, the lady who washes the mud off you and the photographer. They will say these services are by choice but really, they pounce on you so just go for it, it\s part of the experience - you climb up uneven stairs then wait to climb down a rustic ladder into the mud - it is deep but you are completely suspended and a guy grabs you and you lie back and he does a quick massage then pushes you away and you go upright, just hang onto some wood either at the stairs or the wall, as the next person is in and laying down - I was surprised that no one was leaving, but more people were being told to enter....the guy you give your camera to takes about a dozen pics of you - he asks you to point out your camera (he was holding about 15 or so at a time) as you enter and then keeps changing cameras taking lots of pics, you look up and yell "photo, photo" and I yelled "Samsung" and when you have had enough, make your way to the exit stairs - hang onto wood on the walls as it is easy to lose your balance and topple over - it is very hard to climb out - the mud is very slippery - brace your shin on the stairs and go slowly - the guy at the top removes some of the mud and you walk down the steps to the ground - bit uncomfortable as you are barefoot on dried mud stones....you put your sandals on and the guy escorts you to the lagoon - he washes your sandals as a woman grabs you to wash the mud off you - she will grab at your bathing suit, I took the top down but did not remove the whole suit....then you put your sandals on and go and get changed (we left our clothes in our bags on a table in a hut and the guide locked all valuables in a locker - I had put my room key and cash in a plastic bag and tied it - i left my rings, watch and earrings at the hotel in my room safe) - the guide gave us each a slice of watermelon and then everyone came for their tips - I had 2,000 bills and the woman who washed me did not have change....so I gave her 4,000, the guy who did my shoes gave me 1,000 change so I paid the massage guy 3,000 but had to give 4,000 to the photographer as when I asked if he had change he ignored me....but it's so little (2,000 pesos is $1US).
The weather was great, 31/32 every day, no rain - windy and I got a heat rash on my arms but it's going down now that I'm back in cold Toronto.
Take mediation with you in case the food/water doesn't agree with you - quite a few people got sick, one guy had to call the doctor - he was put on IV and probably given some meds too, this was the night before we left, and there was no charge!!!! there is nowhere to buy anything unless you go into town - even at the airport - there was only a gift store and small duty free, 2 coffee/sandwich places, no drug store so don't bank on picking up meds at the airport for the trip home.
At the airport when I checked in, I asked if it was ok to lock my checked bag and he said yes but then anyone who had locked their luggage was called over and had to unlock it for the police to go through the entire bag....but the good thing about that was that my bag was one of the last on the plane so it was one of the first to come off in Toronto.

Room Tip: Be in building three if you want to be away from noise at the noisy pool, try to be at least floor 2...
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  • Stayed March 2014, traveled solo
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3 Thank TorontoTraveller2009
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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English first
Ambler, Pennsylvania
Level Contributor
7 reviews
5 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 10 helpful votes
Reviewed March 8, 2014 via mobile

ThIs resort is located on a secluded beach near the charming walled city of Cartagena. The pluses: predictably perfect weather during the dry season; quiet beach (vendors have a little stand on the beach in case you want souvenirs but do not walk the beach); beautiful pools; clean, spacious, we'll maintained rooms. The minuses: sparsely filled in room minibar; food mediocre at best; very limited evening entertainment; few daytime activities around the pool or beach.
I think I got spoiled by the resorts on the Riviera Maya (Cancun) in Mexico with their lavish food and many entertainment options. I chose Cartagena because my schedule necessitated vacationing during the winter time when the weather in Cancun has been less predictably perfect; but if I vacation in the southern Caribbean again I will not return to this hotel.

Stayed February 2014, traveled with family
Helpful?
2 Thank Donna V
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Ottawa
Level Contributor
75 reviews
33 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 75 helpful votes
Reviewed March 5, 2014

The good points: The resort is about 25 minutes from the airport: Check in is relatively painless: The grounds are well maintained: The quiet pool (tranquil pool) is quiet and kept that way by a vigilant staff - thanks Fransisco: Lounges were plentiful: The beach is great for walking: The bed is comfortable: The staff are friendly and cooperative - special thanks to Fransisco, Miguel. .Evaristo, the two Omars at the beach bar and Jorge, all of whom contributed to the plus side of our vacation.: for meals - generally the soups were good, the ice cream was great and in the evenings there was always good pizza!

The not so good points : We had a suite - really spacious, but the furnishings were atrocious: the food was not great - usually lunch had something on the buffet that was edible - beware of the steaks at the Grill, and the Nativo restaurant is "iffy" at best - the menu changes daily so you have to check at the front desk to see what is being served, then decide whether to book or not, either at 6.30 or 8.30 pm. sitting: If you are looking for soft white fluffy sand this is NOT the beach for you, but as stated above it is great for walking: There is no quiet bar where you can get relaxing music, as in most resorts with lobby bars etc; in fact this lobby is small enough to qualify as a telephone booth!

Room Tip: Do not stay in building 3 - it should be extremely hot since it faces the afternoon sun. We liked b...
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  • Stayed February 2014, traveled as a couple
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1 Thank dormitch
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Ottawa, Canada
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
Reviewed March 3, 2014

Returned Feb 28th from a week at this all inclusive resort. Food, and staff were great. The room was wonderful, and I would return to this resort in future. I enjoyed my time there very much. On the down side, this is a smaller resort so the evenings are a little quiet, however it has free shuttles into town so an evening out can easily be arranged. We found Cartagena to be clean and safe, as was the resort. A good time.

  • Stayed February 2014, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
2 Thank Rob M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Bolton, Canada
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
Reviewed February 27, 2014 via mobile

We stayed at the resort from February 6-13, and we had a wonderful time.

Ronnie at the front desk was always very pleasant and helpful. In fact, the same could be said for the entire staff.

The whole staff was wonderful, the rooms were very nice. The pools were kept relatively clean, and we never had to fight to find chairs together. We spent most if our time poolside at the 'quiet' pool.

It was just what we needed for the week.

We would love to return one day, and maybe try to see a little bit more of the city.

The beach at the resort was very clean as well, and tidied each morning. The landscaping crew do a fantastic job.

A fussy eater may have a challenging time finding food some nights, but there is almost always something for everyone.

One other thing to note when packing... The wind does pick up in the evening. It would be wise to pack a light sweater for the evening hours.

All in all, no regrets.

Stayed February 2014, traveled as a couple
Helpful?
2 Thank 302Crew
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Ottawa, Canada
Level Contributor
20 reviews
7 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 16 helpful votes
Reviewed February 27, 2014

We stayed at this hotel for one week in February 2014. We were there as a group for a wedding that took place in the Old City.
Overall the hotel is very clean and the staff is great, although I speak Spanish and this helped me greatly.
A few things to notice:
The rooms have a door between the suites and the standard bedrooms. These doors are not sound proof!
The food is very good but be ready to get up and go get your coffee yourself in the morning. The staff is very nice but maybe the hotel is a bit under staffed.
The hotel is very quiet and the nightly entertainment is really not that interesting. Also, there is no disco. Basically, past 10pm the place is very quiet unless you ask the bartenders to put some music in the bar by the beach.
We did not have any trouble getting chairs at the pool or the beach. Also, the adult's pool was a bit too quiet and most of the people there were over 50.
There is a free shuttle to the Old City but it must be booked in advanced. The Old City is beautiful and must be seen! We also went twice by cab. The cab fair must be negotiated with the driver before you get in the cab. We had no problems and we partied in the old city and loved it.
The food at the buffet was great but there are only 2 à la carte restaurants.
We went with our 15 month old. And he LOVED the small children's pool. They also high some portable high chairs and the entire resort and ramps making it accessible for wheel chairs and strollers.
Overall, I would recommend this hotel if you're looking for a quiet vacation but with the possibility of a lot of sight seeing and some great food at the resort.
Colombia and Cartagena were truly beautiful and must be discovered!

Room Tip: All rooms are very close to the adult's people. Since there are only 3 buildings, are rooms are...
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  • Stayed February 2014, traveled with family
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Helpful?
1 Thank marie-renee83
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Cleveland, Ohio
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
Reviewed February 25, 2014

We enjoyed the hotel itself, but people who do not speak Spanish had a hard time communicating. I noticed that if you wanted something on your omelet you had to basically touch the food in order for them to understand what one wanted.
We stayed in building 2 and we had only a trickle of water the day we arrived. We could take not showers until much later. They also did not have shampoo to give us a couple of days. When I asked the maid she commented that she did not have any to give. We requested wash cloths and were told that they do not give them. The only wash cloths given to use are the ones used when we arrived to clean our hands.
The entertainment was basic, but too loud. Some of the people were playing or their phones rather than making an effort to talk to people.

Room Tip: I would ask for a corner room facing the ocean on the top floor.
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  • Stayed February 2014, traveled with family
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    • Service
Helpful?
1 Thank Familyreunion2014
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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