Cartagena, Colombia and the Secret it Keeps

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From left to right: Sebastian Munoz, Camilo Villegas, Ernie Els and Angel Cabrera

Minutes after Camilo Villegas put the final touches on his Karibana Skins Match win over Ernie Els, Angel Cabrera and Sebastian Munoz at TPC Cartagena at Karibana we sat down with the Mayor of Cartagena, Manuel Vicente Duque.

“Golf in Colombia is expanding and is part of a new beginning for our country. Beyond golf, we see enchantment from all of those that visit Colombia. Come to Cartagena and experience the Walled City, Caribbean Sea and the generosity of our people,” Mayor Duque told us.

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Angel Cabrera taking a stroll at TPC Cartagena at Karibana

We experienced those attractions mentioned by Mayor Duque and can attest — enchantment is alive and well in Cartagena.

Brothers and professional golfers Camilo and Manuel Villegas hosted the Karibana Skins Match which was the first of its kind in their native Colombia. Timely play and perhaps a bit of local knowledge for Camilo was enough to hold off Els, Cabrera and 2017 PGA Tour rookie Munoz.

TPC Cartagena at Karibana was shaped by Nicklaus Design along the Caribbean Sea. In addition to the to the Karibana Skins, it’s also a Web.com Tour stop. It’s the first TPC facility in South America — the resort also offers luxury condos, a spa, pool, tennis courts, a beach club and a Conrad Hotel by Hilton is slated to open later in 2017.
A press conference was held one day before the Karibana Skins Match got underway. The Villegas brothers, Els, Cabrera and Munoz sat at an elevated table and fielded questions from a room of eager journalists. There was energy in the air and justifiably so — Els, Cabrera and Villegas have combined for six major victories and 26 wins on the PGA Tour.

Els and Cabrera coming down the stretch at the Karibana Skins Match

Els and Cabrera coming down the stretch at the Karibana Skins Match

We asked the Villegas brothers what they say when they talk to their American and European friends about Colombia.

Manuel replied first, “Colombia has great people and there is a happy culture here. We have amazing food and of course the weather is incredible and the service here is second to none.”

Camilo added, “Golf or no golf, Colombia is a great country and I miss it a lot. It’s one thing to read about it, it’s another to visit. I’ve never brought anyone to Colombia that hated it.”

View of downtown from Cafe Del Mar

View of downtown from Cafe Del Mar

The food in Cartagena is phenomenal — arepas from street carts, views from Restaurante Club de Pesca and the seafood rice at Restaurante Candé hold special places in our hearts. And be sure to grab a table next to the large Colombian flag for the sunset at Cafe del Mar, excelente.

We stayed at the Movich Hotel within Cartagena’s Walled City aka Old Town — imagine a more charming French Quarter in New Orleans for a reaching reference. This cozy section of Cartagena is bordered by walls up to seven feet/20 meters thick, they were built to fend off attacks from pirates in the 1500’s. The mounted canons are a reminder of the attacks from English and French invaders. The wall’s circumference is 11 kilometers/seven miles and within this area are bursting colors, quaint plazas, charming restaurants and bars, historic churches and trendy boutique hotels. Street vendors offer fresh juices, ice cold Club Colombia beers and gifts ranging from art to hats.

Bustling street within the Old City

Bustling street within the Old City

People walk the streets during the day and gather for drinks in the plazas in the evening. Colombian music echoes through the narrow streets and horse buggy drivers whistle ahead to clear the path. We saw couples dancing, we saw a proposal and we saw a lot of smiling faces.

Plaza de la Aduana in the Old City

Plaza de la Aduana in the Old City

It seemed that Cartagena had showed us all it had, but on our last day it revealed more. We took a boat to the Rosario Islands for a day at the Hotel San Pedro de Majagua. We snorkeled the nearby reef and saw several tropical fish and large lobsters. It would be difficult to imagine a better place for newlyweds looking for a romantic honeymoon destination.

View from the Hotel San Pedro de Majagua

View from the Hotel San Pedro de Majagua

The golf in Cartagena was incredible, but the city offers so much more and that’s why it’s a brilliant golf destination.
In our conversation with Mayor Duque, we asked him for a secret about Cartagena. We asked him to tell us something that only a local would know, he smiled and said, “This is a secret.”

Perhaps we’ll have to return to Cartagena and learn more about this majestic city…

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