When the staff of the Cartagena Convention & Visitors Bureau says, “Our walled city is open to the world,” they mean it. Most of Cartagena's historic buildings, monuments, and plazas are available for events. These venues range from the garden courtyards and rooftop terraces of 17th-century monasteries, convents, and private mansions, now converted into boutique hotels, to the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, Colonial Spain's largest fortress.
Cartagena, designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984, has benefited from Colombian President Álvaro Uribe's policies to promote economic stability and tourism. Its convenient location (2.5 hours by air from Miami) and moderate costs make the city an economical alternative to Europe and other South American destinations. The largest meeting facility is the city's convention center, which accommodates 5,000 people.
The 336-room Hilton Cartagena has its own convention hall (for 1,500 guests), plus 20 meeting rooms. Guest rooms in a new executive tower are spacious and comfortable. The Colombian-owned Las Americas Beach Resort offers 250 rooms and meeting space for 800 guests. Plans call for doubling the hotel's size by 2011. A smaller, exclusive property within the city walls is the 120-room Sofitel Santa Clara, a 17th-century convent, which offers gardens, a spa, wireless Internet access, and several meeting rooms including the chapel — the Salón Santa Clara — which holds 200 guests for dinner. For more, call the Proexport/Colombian Government Trade Bureau at (305) 374-3144 or visit the Cartagena CVB Web site at www.cartagenatravel.com.