Hotel Review: The Hyatt Regency Cartagena in Colombia
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To The Point
The Hyatt Regency Cartagena is perfect for anyone looking to spend time relaxing poolside. The Pros: Low prices, spacious rooms and three excellent pools. The Cons: Rude staff in the gym and a slow, disorganized check-in process.
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During a recent trip to Colombia, I spent a few nights at the Hyatt Regency Cartagena. I typically stay at boutique hotels, in Airbnbs or at Starwood properties, so it had been years since I’d been to a Hyatt. Since the Sheraton Cartagena was still under construction — it’s tentatively slated to open in July 2018 — and most boutiques were located in the historic center, the Hyatt Regency Cartagena’s many pools and oceanfront location eventually won me over. Here’s what it was like to stay there.
I went straight to the Hyatt website and signed up for the World of Hyatt loyalty program to make sure I’d be earning points for my stay. Rates for a Bay View King room started at $134 per night (pre-tax) and since it was only $10 more than the King room (from $124), I treated myself to the Bay View. I paid with my Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, which gave me 3x points for the travel purchase. A three-night stay plus taxes and fees came to $431, earning me 1,293 Ultimate Rewards points and 2,157 World of Hyatt points. Had I used points, it would have cost 8,000 World of Hyatt points per night to stay at this Category 2 property.
The Hyatt Regency is located on Playa de Bocagrande, a small strip of land jutting out into the ocean slightly southwest of Cartagena’s historic walled city center. It’s situated among high-rise apartment buildings and hotels like the Intercontinental Cartagena and Hilton Cartagena. The Plaza Bocagrande shopping center, home to several restaurants and shops, was located next door.
The Hyatt was about a 20-minute drive from the airport; taxis cost around 18,000 to 20,000 COP, or about $6 to $7, each way. The old city of Cartagena was about a 20-minute walk or a five-minute taxi ride away, with the latter costing about 6,000 to 8,000 COP (~$2 to $3). I always made sure to set the price with taxi drivers before getting inside, especially since they didn’t have meters.
The day of my arrival, I received an email that allowed me to check in online, but since I had to rush to the airport, there was no time for me to take advantage of this. I arrived at the Hyatt Regency at noon and was warmly greeted by the outdoor staff, who took my luggage. Advised that the lobby was located on the 12th floor, I headed up. Upon exiting the elevators, I first noticed the high ceilings and open-concept space. On one side, there was plenty of seating and a bar/restaurant.
The other side had minimalist decor and three check-in desks.
I went to one of the check-in desks and was told it was too early for me to check in but they would call me when the room was ready — likely before 3:00pm, which was the set check-in time — and in the meantime, I could enjoy the afternoon at the pool. At about 3:15pm, I hadn’t yet received a call and it had started to sprinkle, so I went back to the lobby to inquire. I was then informed that the room still wasn’t ready, as the hotel’s 261 guest rooms — 28 of which were suites — were fully booked and I needed to wait about 10 more minutes. I confirmed this by trying to make a reservation on my phone. It was true, the hotel was full. At least there was complimentary fruit-infused water in the lobby.
Not 10, but 20 minutes later, I returned to the check-in desk, frustrated that it was nearing 4:00pm. I was told it would be longer still, but we were offered a free cup of coffee for the inconvenience. I begrudgingly accepted, but looking back, should have argued for a glass of wine or a beer — it was almost happy hour, after all. Finally, at about 4:20pm, I was told my room was ready.
While I understand that the hotel was at full capacity, I still think if check-in time is supposed to be 3:00pm, my room should have been available, especially since the staff knew I had been waiting since noon. It made me wish I had been staying at a Starwood property, where my requests for early check-in have always been honored, or at an Intercontinental, where the staff seem to bend over backwards to fix even minor issues. But jet lag was rearing its ugly head and I was too tired to make a fuss in an appropriate and mature way, so I decided to let it go. I was simply relieved to finally have a chance to shower and rest in my room.
To get to my room from the street level, I had to use two sets of elevators with a stop at the 12th floor lobby to transfer. My room key was only necessary for the second set of elevators.
My annoyance about the late check-in dissipated ever so slightly when I saw my room, 2413, which was spacious and full of light. I was immediately drawn to the window, and even though the room had a bay view and not an ocean view, I still loved seeing the waterfront from high above.
The decor was chic and updated, yet also had small touches, like artwork made of ropes and touches of yellow paint, that made the room seem tropical.
Storage space was abundant. A large closet spanned an entire wall and was perfect for storing clothes and other items.
It also held a safe, hangers, a full-length mirror, two bathrobes and an iron with an ironing board.
The window and views were the focal point of the room. The king-size bed looked inviting and comfortable. There were two bedside tables and a huge wooden bench in front of the bed.
I noticed two outlets on each side of the bed, as well as a phone and alarm clock with USB and Bluetooth connectivity — the first I’ve seen in a hotel that was made specifically for connecting and charging an Android phone.
Each side of the bed also had two lamps and a set of lighting controls.
Below the flat screen TV were a dresser with storage space, a mini-fridge and an ice bucket.
The mini-fridge was stocked with the usual fare, including water, soft drinks, juice and some liquor.
A drawer containing snacks like M&Ms, Snickers and Pringles, among other treats, was also available.
Having the coffee maker, which came with Juan Valdez coffee pods that were replaced daily, was wonderful.
The work space consisted of a sleek glass desk with a wicker desk chair. While it looked cool and fit the vibe of the decor, it was not that comfortable for sitting and doing work.
There were also an armchair and ottoman, where I relaxed and enjoyed the views.
Here’s a peek at the view from my window.
The desk featured both US and European outlets as well as a music jack, a USB port and an HDMI port.
There was also another large mirror and a combination garbage can/recycling bin, which I appreciated. A floor lamp had been placed next to the armchair for added light, but despite that, the ceiling lights and the bedside lamps, I still found the room to be a bit dim at night. The soundproofing in the room was excellent — even though the hotel was apparently full, I heard no noise from the hallways or any of the other rooms. In addition to having air conditioning, there was also a working ceiling fan, which seemed unusual.
Wi-Fi was fast and I connected several devices without any issues. One final thing I liked about the room were the buttons by the door that were touch-operated, so I only needed to lightly tap for do-not-disturb or to get room service — much easier than using the usual paper signs that get stuck in the door or fall off.
The bathroom layout was large, with two doors that made it accessible from the room near the bed as well as from the closet area.
There was a large shower stall and a separate space for the toilet with a door you could close. I liked the solid lighting, especially around the mirror — there was also a small magnifying mirror and a good hairdryer.
The large sink and vanity area had good amount of storage space below it as well.
The shower had solid water pressure and you could go with rainfall or a smaller shower-head option.
The shampoo, conditioner, body wash and body lotion (not pictured here) were from KenetMD Skincare.
Two water bottles were available, but they weren’t even full-size bottles, which was pretty lame. When reading the fine print, I later learned the water was only free for Hyatt Discoverist, Explorist and Globalist members, but $3 each for everyone else.
It seemed strange to me that there were bathrobes in the room but no slippers. I later discovered a small menu in the bathroom of things you could order from room service, including free items you could keep (like slippers and sunblock), items you could borrow (like yoga mats or curling irons) and items you could buy and keep (like diapers and hairspray). I wanted to test it out, so I ordered a free eye mask and two pairs of slippers. They brought the slippers, but I had to call down a second time to get the eye mask, which they eventually brought up to me.
Although the Hyatt Regency Cartagena didn’t have a private beach area, its three pools made up for it.
The large pool had some small waterfalls and was labeled as the adult pool.
Surprisingly, the adult pool was full of splashing kids, so I made my way up to the next pool, the children’s pool, which was entirely devoid of children — confusing, right?
This area also had a small pool with in-water chairs that overlooked the ocean, which is where I parked myself for the remainder of my stay. The ocean views here were absolutely spectacular.
I also enjoyed ordering fresh mango juice at the pool daily.
The last pool was technically a lap pool, though it seemed people also used the space as a sunning area.
One thing I liked was that even though the hotel was apparently at full capacity, the pool areas were so spread out that they didn’t ever feel full or crowded. If one section did start to feel cramped, you could just move to another.
The pools were connected to a chic outdoor lounge and dining area, where I had lunch while I was waiting to check into my room.
The pool area seemed to be the perfect balance between trendy and family-appropriate, which was nice. There were large locker rooms with showers and bathrooms — I couldn’t figure out how to use the lockers, and there was no one available to ask. I was excited to see there was a steam room in the locker room, but it didn’t seem to be working, which was a bummer. I didn’t get a chance to use the spa, which had its own indoor area as well as a few cabins near the pool area for outdoor treatments.
The fitness center was well-equipped and fairly crowded, especially in the evening.
It had a variety of cardio equipment and machines, weights and even some yoga mats and boxing gear.
One morning, I went to the gym before heading over to the pool. After changing from my workout gear into a swimsuit in the locker room, I wanted to refill my water bottle from the gym water cooler, but was reprimanded by an employee, who condescendingly told me that the water in the gym was only meant for those using the gym.
I politely explained I had just left the gym and was on my way to the pool, asking if I could have some water, and was again reprimanded. I was extremely annoyed by this — I was a hotel guest who had just used the gym and I couldn’t even refill my water bottle? It wasn’t really a huge deal since I planned to order some food and drinks by the pool anyway, but this rude and patronizing staff member really put a damper on my morning.
Food and Beverage
The food prices were reasonable here compared to many of the pricey restaurants I encountered in the tourist area of Cartagena — ceviches were excellent and in the $12 range, while fresh mango juice was just a few dollars more. I also had a falafel sandwich, which was tasty — the yuca chips that came with it were delicious. There’s also the option to dine outside like I did or inside at the Kokaú restaurant.
The facilities at the Hyatt Regency were fantastic. It was so nice to be in a quiet, comfortable room with practical amenities like a coffee maker, full-length mirror and many, many outlets. The pool area had gorgeous views of the ocean, and the many different pool options and levels were perfect for everyone, whether you’re traveling with a group of friends, solo, as a couple or with your family. But the service at the hotel frustrated me in more ways than one, especially with the check-in incident and when I was spoken down to for attempting to stay hydrated. Although the hotel itself was beautiful, I’ll likely stick with Starwood and IHG in the future — even without having elite status, those brands still seem to offer the best treatment to all their guests, at least in my experience.
Have you ever stayed at the Hyatt Regency Cartagena? Tell us about your experience, below.
All photos by the author.
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