This is an excellent option for those who want to stay in the historic center of the city and appreciate the little extras when it comes to service. Casa la Fe is not a luxury hotel and is not priced as one; however, it is an excellent value.
We spent three nights there in early November. Our room was comfortable, well-appointed and very clean, with white linens on a comfortable bed, a very effective and quiet air conditioning unit (in spite of Cartagena's infamous heat and humidity, we managed to make our room even too cold at times), a ceiling fan (make sure it’s spinning in the right direction—we had to flip the switch on the base after realizing that it was blowing air toward the ceiling), and a desk and wardrobe (no iron, though). The bathroom was clean and comfortable and featured a modern walk-in shower with plenty of hot water.
The aesthetic of the hotel and rooms is charming and appropriate for the era of the building and its location on the Plaza Fernandez de Madrid. Our room featured a balcony that faced the park, which is small and absolutely packed with trees, so from the second floor, we only got a view of the street below and the leaves of the trees—nice but not striking. From our bed, we could hear horse hooves clopping on the street and music blaring well into the night, but we were warned of this before we booked a street-facing room—it didn't really bother us, but if you are a light sleeper, you should avoid booking a room with a plaza view and inform the staff of your noise preferences via e-mail shortly after making the reservation. An interesting bit about the plaza—it is reputedly the park that Gabriel Garcia Marquez refers to as the Park of the Evangels in “Love in the Time of Cholera,” and the house that supposedly served as the inspiration for the home of Fermina Daza in the novel is located directly across the plaza from the hotel—it’s the white one with the parrot doorknocker.
Staff member Adolfredis speaks English and promptly answered any question we sent him via e-mail before our arrival. He was on vacation during our stay, but all of the other staff members were courteous and extremely helpful. Some of them do not speak English, but if communication ever became a problem, I am sure an English speaker would be located for you. The hotel arranged for taxi pickup from the airport (for a fee, added to the hotel bill), and our taxi driver was extremely friendly and spoke English. He was right on time to pick us up for our departure as well. We briefly met the owner of the hotel, Jeff from the UK, and he was very welcoming. He seems to run a relaxed but efficient establishment.
I have not stayed in any other hotels in Cartagena, but I have stayed in several similar establishments (small hotels in old buildings) across Latin America, and what sets Casa la Fe apart is the level of service. They really do appear to be very responsive to guest suggestions and complains. Complaints left on this website seem to be addressed thoroughly by the staff and suggestions made here seem to have led to immediate improvements in service for future guests—to me, a sure sign that they are striving to be the best mid-level hotel in the walled city. The breakfast options I tried were all excellent, and the happy hour (first glass of wine or beer is complimentary) was a nice touch as well. We arrived before check-in and were allowed to store our bags at the hotel, which is not unique, but since our return flight did not leave until late in the evening on our last day in the city, we left our bags at the hotel and walked around the city for hours, working up quite a sweat. Much to our relief, we were allowed to clean up using the staff shower before departing for the airport.
The courtyard where breakfast and happy hour drinks are served is small but very pretty, with an abundance of vegetation. Neither the lobby nor the open-air courtyard is air conditioned, but there are tower fans available if you need them. There is a pool on the roof—it is very small but deep enough to submerge yourself in the cool, refreshing water—along with a shower, bathroom, clean towels and lounge chairs under a mesh canopy. The hotel is very conveniently located in the San Diego neighborhood, which is within the walled city and almost indistinguishable from downtown aesthetically but is a little quieter.
Through the front desk, I was able to secure tickets to a day trip to Isla del Encanto, one of the Islas del Rosario. Included in the trip was van pickup from the hotel, transport by speedboat to and from the island (an enjoyable ride offering a great view of the Bocagrande skyline) and lunch. We were taken to the beach in front of a very small resort on the island and were given access to everything except the rooms—the beach, beach furniture, bathrooms, hammocks and swimming pool. The sand was pleasant enough but not white. The water seemed clean but it was not clear, though it’s hard to say if the November date of this trip was to blame. Snorkeling and scuba diving excursions were offered (for an additional fee), and these activities took place in a sheltered inlet on a different part of the island. We skipped these, but their availability seemed to indicate that clear, azure water is not an impossibility on the island.
Isla del Encanto does not offer the sort of beach experience or view you might expect from a Caribbean island, but I found the day trip well worth the price and time. The sea breezes and the perfect temperature of the water made lounging and swimming extremely enjoyable. The staff on the boat and at the resort were friendly and attentive, and many of them spoke English. You just pick a spot on the beach, open a tab (which, in my case, was absolutely accurate), and a server will bring you drinks and food from the bar as you wish. The resort is relatively isolated, so unlike at Playa Blanca, there are no peddlers from a nearby town, though there are a few resident salesman at the resort who will try to sell you their wares if your paths cross—the resort has seemingly instructed them not be aggressive or too bothersome, however.
Probably the biggest drawback of this particular stretch of beach during our visit is the section of coral that separates the beach from the sandy bottomed shallow sea. It’s not sharp enough to cut you, but it’s rough enough to be uncomfortable to walk on barefoot, and it lasts a couple yards. Once you get past it, however, the sea bottom is nothing but smooth sand. I can’t say if this is a permanent feature of the beach there or not. Also, once the boat dropped us back off in the city at the end of the trip, we had to walk back to the hotel, but it was not a far jaunt at all.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Hotel Casa La Fe is an oasis of calm and good taste located in the very heart of the city and our services come recommended in the NYT and London Times Group Newspapers. Visit our webpage in Trip Advisor and take a Virtual Tour of our rooms and facilities. Ensure that you obtain the best rate and free airport pick-up by booking direct with the hotel using promotion code SDBOOK. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Casa La Fe Cartagena
- Casa La Fe Hotel Cartagena