Best time to travel to Cartagena by a local

The Best Time To Visit Cartagena From A Local: The Answer Might Suprise You! (2024)

Written by: Abigail Dalton

What is the Best time to visit Cartagena de Indias on Colombia’s Caribbean coast?

Cartagena is perfect for adventure travelers and culture enthusiasts thanks to a wonderful mix of Colonial architecture and Afro-Caribbean vibes.

Luckily, I’ve spent months in Colombia, exploring not only the Caribbean shores but the whole country. This means I can say with confidence that it is a fantastic place to visit.

I’m also half Colombian, thanks to my mama, and so I can also tell you that the weather in Cartagena might not be what you’re expecting! 

Being so close to the equator, the climate is tropical, which means you’ll need to know when the perfect time to visit Cartagena is to plan an amazing trip!

Affiliate disclosure: I only recommend services and items I truly love, have tried, or researches thoroughly on this website.

Best Time To Visit Cartagena, Colombia: The Key Points

Seasons: Dry & WetDry: December to April, windy and partly cloudy
Wet: May to November, overcast
Weather & ClimateTropical: Hot and humid with shower bursts and downpours during the rainy season.
TemperaturesAverage: Highs around 30°C (87°F), Lows around 25°C (77°F)
Driest Month To Visit CartagenaDry season: January
Wettest Month To Visit CartagenaWet season: October 
Cheapest Time To Visit CartagenaHeight of the wet season: August to November
Busiest/Crowds In CartagenaDry season and holidays: Mid-December to January, national holidays

Ideal Time To Visit Cartagena, Colombia

Best time to visit Cartagena is generally in the dry season. A charming street in Cartagena with colorful murals, a bike rack with blue bikes under the trees and a seating area where you can relax!

In this post, I’m combining all my knowledge about visiting Cartagena!

This includes insider tips and reasons why visiting during the dry season, so the so-called “best time to visit Cartagena” might not actually be the best time, especially if you’re into snorkeling!

For most people, the best time to visit Cartagena is considered to be during the dry season. This season runs from December to April and is when the city experiences mostly warm, sunny days and hardly any rainfall. 

This is the best time to visit Cartagena if you’re seeking out hot-weather outdoor activities such as beach holidays, touring the city, and nearby islands.

It’s also a great time to visit if you fancy trying out some fun activities, such as windsurfing!

📍 Pro tip >> The actual best months within the dry season are between January and mid-March. This is when you’ll find the lowest rainfall, lowest humidity, and pleasant temperatures around 27°C/80°F

That said, it might not be the best time to visit if you’re looking to avoid crowds or traveling on a budget. There are also some activities, such as diving, which are better during the rainy season!

The Seasons In Cartagena De Indias (Cartagena)

The famous town plaza in Cartagena, Colombia, with the yellow city wall with its arched entrances, and the church tower behind it.

I’ve briefly mentioned it already, but I wanted to dive deeper into the tropical climate of Cartagena and the two seasons it experiences.

As always, a tropical climate is typically characterized by high temperatures and humidity levels throughout the year alongside two seasons.

These conditions are caused by various factors, including the location of the region, the winds, and its proximity to the equator.

The dry season runs from mid-December to April and is the busiest time in Cartagena, attracting tourists from around the world.

The rainy season lasts from April to mid-December, and although rain is almost certain, it won’t last all day, as is perceived by most visitors.

In truth, and especially towards the start of the season, the region experiences short and sudden rainfall lasting an hour or less and clearing up pretty fast.

Keep in mind that the two wettest months, September and October, see longer and heavier downpours. 

The rain brings in the humidity, which is really the only reason you might not want to visit Cartagena during the rainy season. It does get, and feel, muggy, with humidity often reaching 100%.

Cartagena Weather: Month By Month

A tropical climate typically experiences very small changes in temperature throughout the year.

This is also true for Cartagena, where average daily temperatures range between a 3°C difference.

Cartagena is, therefore, a year-round destination if you don’t mind a little rain!

📍 Pro tip>> To help you identify the best time for you to visit Cartagena, I’ve included the table below showing the daily temperatures, rainfall, and humidity levels on a month-to-month basis.

MonthDaily Temperature (°C/°F)Rainfall (mm)Humidity (d)
January30 / 27 / 24°C87 / 80 / 76 °F2.1mm80% to 100%
February30 / 27 / 25°C87 / 81 / 76 °F2.1mm80% to 100%
March30 / 27 / 25°C87 / 81 / 77 °F3.7mm80% to 100%
April31 / 28 / 26°C87 / 82 / 78 °F25.0mm80% to 100%
May31 / 28 / 26°C88 / 83 / 79 °F85.2mm100%
June31 / 29 / 26°C88 / 83 / 79 °F85.2mm100%
July31 / 28 / 26°C88 / 83 / 79 °F90.7mm100%
August31 / 28 / 26°C88 / 83 / 79 °F100.8mm100%
September31 / 28 / 26°C88 / 83 / 79 °F122.3mm100%
October31 / 28 / 26°C87 / 82 / 78 °F154.9mm100%
November31 / 28 / 26°C87 / 82 / 78 °F109.1mm100%
December31 / 27 / 25°C87 / 81 / 77 °F35.2mm80% to 100%

*Data sourced from Weatherspark.

The Worst Time To Visit Cartagena De Indias…Or Is It?

What is the best time to visit Cartagena? It depends on you! A typical street in Cartagena de Indias in Colombia with fruit vendors, street artists selling their art, and colorful walls and doors on the characteristic buildings along the charming street.

Most will agree the worst time to visit Cartagena is during the wet season, but this isn’t necessarily true.

Sure, if you’re visiting to enjoy beach days and wind sports and just want to relax at your hotel’s rooftop bar with a cocktail, then the rainy season probably won’t be the best time for you.

However, there are some reasons you might want to consider visiting during this period, which many don’t know or realize! 

Firstly, did you know that snorkeling and diving activities are actually best during this season?

Since the wet season has less wind than the dry season, the waters are much calmer. Visibility is also better as you won’t have the winds bringing up debris.

What About Humidity?

The view from San Felipe Fortress in Cartagena, Colombia, with old cannons peeking out of the fortress brick walls.

One of the downsides of visiting Cartagena during the wet season is the humidity.

The hot and damp weather makes humidity levels soar, and it can feel really unpleasant. It’s like a sticky melting point, and since there is no wind, it feels much hotter than it is.

📍 Pro tip >> During the dry season, although humidity levels don’t change all that much, it feels less humid due to the breeze.

So, if you’re affected by high humidity, you might want to avoid visiting Cartagena during the wet season.

What To Do When It’s Raining?

A charming street in Cartagena Old City with houses in bright pastel colors, trees filled with flowers, and charming balconies on the facades to the street.

There’s not much you can do but wait it out. If you’ve chosen to visit Cartagena during the rainy season, pack for the rain; carry a light rain jacket with you.

You’ll notice that the rain doesn’t last long, and it shouldn’t impact your day too much. 

Set aside activities that can be done during showers, such as museum visits, but in reality, this time is best spent relaxing in a cafe or sipping cocktails in a trendy bar.

Cartagena is full of incredible cafes, bars, and restaurants where spending a rainy hour won’t feel like you’re missing out!

[I screenshot the graph from *Image Credit: sourced from Weatherspark. – if you wanted to use it].

Cheapest Time To Visit Cartagena

The rainy season is always going to be the cheapest time to visit any tropical destination.

Since Cartagena is one of the most, if not the most, expensive cities in Colombia, you might want to consider visiting during the low season if you’re budgeting. There are also fewer tourists in this period.

It’s worth keeping in mind that as the wet season progresses, the prices for things like attractions and accommodations begin to decrease even more, with the overall cheapest time to visit Cartagena being between September and October. 

📍 Pro tip >> You’ll be able to find some unbelievable deals during this time on everything from flights to room rates.

If you’re backpacking, consider flying into Colombia during this period and visiting more natural areas, which will be teeming with life, before heading to Cartagena. If you time it well, you could get the best of both seasons!

Avoiding The Crowds In Cartagena

A man in a hat carrying lots of large baskets in a Cartagena de Indias street in Colombia in the summer sun.

Another thing to take into consideration when deciding on the best time to visit Cartagena is crowds. Cartagena is a hugely popular tourist destination in Colombia, attracting local and international tourists, so it sees large crowds.

Overall, the busiest period is the dry season, but there are also other times during the year when things can get lively.

This is usually during holidays, festive periods such as Christmas, New Year, and Easter, and special events, such as Colombia’s Independence Day. 

Special Events and Festivals In Cartagena

Colombians have many world-renowned artists, love to throw parties, and there are numerous festivals and events happening throughout the country.

For some of you, this might be an incredibly fun time to visit, where you can experience local life and customs. For others, it might be too busy.

If you want to avoid the crowds in Cartagena, these are some of the key festival dates to remember:

  • January: Cartagena Music Festival, Hay Festival, Feast of Our Lady of La Candelaria
  • February: Cartagena Carnival, Barranquilla Carnival 
  • March: International Film Festival of Cartagena de Indias, Festival del Dulce
  • April: Easter
  • October: San Basilio de Palanque Festival
  • November: Cartagena Independence Day
  • December: Christmas, New Year

My Favourite Time To Visit Cartagena

A typical street in Getsemani in Cartagena, Colombia, with traditional houses, lots of plants and flowers, and life, on a sunny day!

We’ve visited Colombia twice during the rainy season, both times in May. Although this wasn’t planned, it just worked out that way!

May falls into a period known as a shoulder month.

From my experience, I think this is a good time to visit if you don’t mind high humidity, as the weather was already hot and humid by this point.

The city was still busy, but as it was coming into the rainy season, the crowds had already started dispersing.

We found the accommodations had begun decreasing in price, and deals were available, but since we had been traveling Colombia for over a month, the city was still not as cheap as other areas we had visited.

I think if compared to Cartagena for the month before, we would have noticed a bigger difference. There wasn’t much rain at all during May, either, which meant none of our activities were impacted.

At times, we did find it quite uncomfortable, but the beauty of Cartagena and the thrill of being in such a charming place made up for the lack of breeze!

Overall, we had a lovely trip!

Have You Considered The Shoulder Months?

Street art in Cartagena, Colombia: a painting of a local girl with white flowers in her short hair wearing ear rings, peeking out from behind a palm tree leaf.

Shoulder months are the months that fall after a busy period; in tropical climates like Cartagena, it usually means just after and just before the dry season.

The first and last month of the rainy season, respectively. In Cartagena, this means the shoulder months are May and November.

However, you’re more likely to have a better visit (weather-wise) during the last two weeks of November and the first two weeks of December, just after the rains stop but before the holiday crowds turn up.

Shoulder months are generally great periods to visit for travelers wanting to avoid crowds and save money but get the best of the weather.

So, if you’re considering a visit, these shoulder months could be the best time for everyone to visit Cartagena.

3 Top-Rated Activity Recommendations In Cartagena

There are lots of activities to choose from when visiting Cartagena, including visiting historical sites and the Old Town if that fascinates you, a variety of water sports for anyone looking to explore the sea, as well as city delights and everything in between!

📍 Here are three top-rated super popular excursions you might want to do in Cartagena!

What to Pack When Visiting Cartagena

  • Light summer dresses
  • Light tops, T-shirts, or shirts
  • Airy skirts or shorts
  • Light and airy pants for exploring days
  • Evening outfits (Cartagena nightlife is vibrant!)
  • Bikini or swimsuit
  • Water and sweatproof SPF!!!
  • Multi-use shawl (aka towel, dress, beachwear, beach blanket, etc.)
  • A light shawl or scarf to wipe your face during the day and have around your shoulders in the evening
  • Sun hat or something protecting your face from the sun
  • Flip flops/sandals
  • Comfy breathing walking shoes
  • One pair of (comfy) heels (that you can dance in!!!)
  • Sunglasses
  • If you travel in the wet season, bring a raincoat and umbrella. Shoulder seasons probably are the best budget time to travel.
  • Your handbag should have a zipper or a proper way to close the compartments.
  • A small purse for a passport, vaccine card, visa, cash back-up, and relevant papers.

A Few Extra Great Reasons For Visiting Cartagena!

  • Cartagena de Indias is situated on the Colombian shore of the Caribbean Sea, with lots of beautiful beaches and marine life to explore.
  • Go island hopping outside Cartagena to explore the beautiful Colombian coast.
  • Being one of the oldest colonial cities in South America, Cartagena is home to a unique and rich history as it was one of the most important ports between the Old and the New World under Spanish rule.
  • You can walk the charming old city with bits and pieces of colonial history everywhere while also full of cafes, bars, and restaurants.
  • Test amazing Colombian street food on the go.
  • Experience the hip Getsemaní city district with interesting street art, cultural events, and lots of restaurants and spacious oases.
  • Cartagena is famous for its vibrant nightlife that lasts into the morning; find one of the rooftop terraces for dancing, cocktails, and an airy view.
For Pinterest: What is the best time to visit Cartagena de Indias in Colombia?

FAQs The Best Time To Visit Cartagena

Is November A Good Time To Visit Cartagena?

Cartagena is a year-long popular destination, and late November is a good time to visit, even though it falls within the rainy season.

It is just at the end of this wet season, meaning it’s likely you will encounter some rainfall. However, it should begin decreasing, and by early December, the city will experience very little, if any, rainfall.

Is Visiting Cartagena In December A Good Thing?

Yes, early December is a fantastic time to visit Cartagena.

The rains have all but stopped, the vegetation is lush, and the weather is at its best. Visit before the holiday period to avoid crowds.

Best Time Of Year To Visit Cartagena?

Depending on which activities you want to do in Cartagena, the time of year you visit will vary.

For snorkelling and diving, the wet season is best, for city touring and beach days, the dry season is better. In this period you will also have higher prices.

Is Cartagena’s Weather Predictable?

Cartagena’s weather is predictable in ways.

You can be sure it will be wet during the rainy season and dry during the dry season. However, it has been known to rain in the dry season, and during the wet season, you will also experience days of no rain.

Overall, the average temperatures will remain rather constant, and humidity levels will be high. The dry season will also bring a breeze, so it’s a good time for activities like windsurfing. 

In Summary: The Best Time To Visit Cartagena

As always, I leave you with a few final thoughts about the best time to visit Cartagena.

Overall, the dry season is the peak tourist season and the best time for visiting the city if you want to ensure a smooth and undisrupted holiday.

The only activity that will be affected is the underwater visibility, but you’ll still be able to go swimming, snorkeling, and diving. This is really only going to affect you if your purpose for visiting is to see the marine life.

If you’re looking to visit Cartagena on a backpacking trip or as a budget traveler, I would recommend the shoulder months. Mid-November to early December are the best dates, but anytime between May and August will also experience lower prices. 

Although it is possible to visit during September and October, keep in mind that these are the wettest months, and even as a seasoned traveler, your daily activities can be impacted by the amount of precipitation.

Cartagena is not necessarily one of the best places for nature-based activities, but this time of the year is an excellent time to see wildlife in the jungles.

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