Carrera 3 # 31-23, Plaza Santa Teresa, Cartagena, Colombia
You’ll love the resort–like roof pool, celebrity chef restaurant, and indulgent spa—but pick your room carefully at this Cartagena classic.
The original portion of the Charleston Santa Teresa was created as a Carmelite nunnery complete with its own opulent chapel. Now de-commissioned, the restored chapel is used for vow renewals and exclusive events for up to 220 people.
Then the building was expanded and used as a hospital before being turned into a police station. Plaza Santa Teresa in front of the hotel was used to park police cars and the hotel retains ownership of the plaza where an open air bar and restaurant operates after 5 pm.
Today, the hotel works as a sort of hotel within a hotel. The colonial portion of the building is called Charleston Prive which includes 12 rooms with very high ceilings, lots of space, lots of natural light, but no water views.
The Republican half of the hotel includes 75 rooms on five levels in many different categories, so accommodations vary greatly in terms of size, views, and amount of light. Deluxe rooms are the most common category offering a moderate amount of space and ocean views or city views. Master and junior suites are rarer, but larger. Standard rooms, on the other hand, tend toward to be small and dark, facing the interior. Some rooms have been renovated. Some have not.
My room, for example, was extremely small, had just one tiny window, and the unrenovated bathroom was very motel-like. Ask about square footage, natural light, renovation status, and views before booking a room. All come with robes, minibars, and laptop-sized safes.
The pool area on the sixth floor roof has a very relaxing resort-like feel with plenty of deck chairs and sun beds, the La Terraza restaurant and bar serving ceviche, salads, pizza, pasta, fish dishes, and more, and terrific city and sea views.
A small but sufficient gym is equipped with Life Fitness machines, a Power Plate machine, and free weights. The indulgent spa has five treatment rooms with beds featuring heated mattresses and comfortable head rests. Spacious his and hers relaxation areas include multi-head showers, a Turkish bath, and a jetted tub.
When you do choose to leave the hotel, take advantage of the free loaner bikes to aid your exploration of the beautiful blocks surrounding the hotel. And come back hungry.
Colombian celebrity chef Harry Sasson opened his first and only bar and restaurant in Cartagena in the Charleston Santa Teresa. Harry's Bar offers an inviting space for a drink and it's the best place in Cartagena for wine lovers, with dozens of bottles offered by the glass, half bottle, or full bottle at very reasonable prices.
The neighboring dining area offers a huge menu that covers all bases. The large crab salad was full of sweet and mild crab along with capers on a bed of thinly-sliced skinless tomato. The hearts of palm salad was enormous and refreshing with spicy celery greens and parsley. The Angus Steak came perfectly cooked to order and was large enough to share. The salmon was crispy on the outside but moist and pink on the inside. Side dishes are ordered separately and meant to be shared. And believe your waiter when he or she recommends the coconut cake for dessert. It's like a warm, triangular macaroon topped with a ball of ice cream to create a hot, cold, chewy thrill. It's the perfect way to cap off another day in Cartagena.
Occupying a market space somewhere between the numerous small boutique hotels and the larger Sofitel Santa Clara, this is an elegant Cartagena choice and a good culinary choice if you skip the lowest category rooms.
Web Address: www.hotelcharlestonsantateresa.com
Total Number of Rooms: 87
Published rates: $349 to $609 double including buffet breakfast
Review by Karen Catchpole, photos by Eric Mohl.