3 weeks in Colombia with kids

Family Itinerary: 3 Weeks in Colombia with Kids

This family itinerary for 3 weeks in Colombia with kids starts in Medellin, explores a few colonial towns around Medellin in the coffee zone, then heads up north to Cartagena and the Rosario Islands on the Caribbean coast.

Colombia is a land of jungles, coffee plantations, and beautiful beaches. A country that we would have deemed unsafe a few years ago is now welcoming families with kids and showing off its artistic side. Here’s everything you need to know to plan your Colombia family vacation. We’ll cover where to go, how to get there, where to stay, and some travel tips for visiting Colombia with kids.

We visited Colombia as part of our Family Year Out when our kids were 4 and 7. We flew in from Mexico, where we spent six weeks exploring the country. After Colombia, we spent time in Peru and then Brazil.

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Visiting Colombia with Kids

We found Colombia to be a wonderful country to visit with kids. We experienced a shift in language coming from Mexico- we found that many words and phrases were different. For example, people respond to “thank you” by saying “con gusto” in Colombia instead of “de nada” as they do in Mexico.

Colombia is full of wonderful fruits, many of which we had never heard of before our visit. We enjoyed fresh fruit, but also a variety of fruit juices served fresh. There is also a lot of fried food, from buñelos, to empanadas and arepas.

We started in the busy city of Medellín which is a great gateway to smaller colonial towns where you can learn about coffee plantations, hike through the jungle, and see lots of colorful plants and birds. Safety is a concern for many families, we found Colombia to be quite safe along established routes. After spending several months is South America we compiled our best travel tips for South America and our top recommendations to help you stay safe with kids.

3-Week Colombia Itinerary

This 3-week Colombia itinerary starts in Medellin and ends in the Rosario Islands near Cartagena. These stops only scratch the surface of all the wonderful locations in Colombia but will give you and your family a taste of several regions of the country as well as cities and smaller towns.

Medellín- 8 Nights

Medellín is in the middle of a jungle- it is loud, and chaotic, with a lot of traffic from cars, trucks, and a lot of motorbikes. Called the “city of eternal spring” this city is green and in bloom all year long. There are tons of things to do in Medellin with kids, from riding the metro to visiting the museums and parks.

Parque Berrio, Medellin Colombia
Parque Berrio in the center of Medellín

There is a metro that runs north-south through the city that will help you avoid the traffic on the streets. Your metro card also includes buses and cable cars. You can take the cable car from San Javier to the top of Communa 7 for great views of the city.

Make sure to visit Communa 13 with its graffiti murals, music, and street performers. We did a combination tour with MedellínDayTrips that included a visit to try exotic fruits at a local market, a ride on the cable car, and a graffiti tour of Communa 13.

Because the tour was only the four of us and our guide, we could pace the tour (and the stories of historical violence) around our family’s needs.

Don’t Miss Tour: Exotic Fruits, Cable Car and Communa 13

We found Medellín tricky to explore at times as it’s based around neighborhoods, rather than a center that is full of attractions. We heard from several locals that they generally avoid the busy Centro in their day-to-day lives.

We decided to break up our time in Medellin into two pieces, so we could explore two different neighborhoods as well as surrounding towns.

Getting to Medellin:

Medellin has an international airport that is easy to fly into. We recommend Skyscanner to find the best flights for your family. From the airport, you’ll need to take an official taxi into town. We paid 90,000 pesos for the drive to the Laureles neighborhood (2022).

Where to Stay in Medellín

During our visit to Medellin, we stayed in two very different neighborhoods, each with its own advantages. Here are our best recommendations for where to stay in Medellin with kids- all of these hotels offer family rooms.

Where to Stay, Barrio Laureles: Hotel Dorado La 70. This hotel is on a very busy, load street, but is also close to the Estadio metro station (a 3-minute easy walk), as well as many restaurants and bars. The room we stayed in was large and comfortable with a nice clean bathroom. We had an interior room, which meant no natural light, but also meant we had no noise from the street.

Check Availability: Hotel Dorado La 70

Alternate Hotel, Barrio Laureles: 3H HOTEL Av 70. We found that a lot of the interesting restaurants and coffee shops are south of the Estadio station and Carrera 70, so we would recommend staying just south of Avenue San Juan. This hotel is a 9-minute walk from the metro station and 7 minutes to Parque de Laureles. It has a lot of family room options and gets great reviews.

Check Availability: 3H Hotel Av 70

Where to Stay, Barrio El Pobaldo: Hotel Tik Medallín. This hotel is right across from Parque de El Poblado. There is a small pedestrian strip of restaurants and cafes just next to the hotel. The El Poblado metro stop is fifteen minutes to the west, while Calle 10 to the east leads to the more upscale restaurants of the neighborhood. The hotel is nicely laid out, with a roof terrace, and breakfast included. We enjoyed having a room with a double bed and three twin beds, giving us lots of room to spread out. There can be some noise from the street at night.

Check Availability: Hotel Tik Medallin

Jardín- 4 Nights

Jardín is a small town in the middle of the Colombian jungle, that is part of the coffee-growing area. The drive from Medellín takes you on bumpy, windy roads with amazing views of the mountains. Jardin was one of our favorite locations in Colombia- the scenery is jaw-dropping, the locals are friendly, and the restaurants are delicious!

Jardín is in a valley surrounded by mountains covered in coffee plants, banana trees, and the occasional grove of bamboo.

Jardin from Mirador Cristo Rey, Colombia
Jardín as seen from Mirador Cristo Rey

One of the best things to do in Jardin is to tour a coffee farm to learn how coffee is grown and harvested in Colombia. You can also hike up to Mirador Cristo Rey above the town for a cold, fresh juice and wonderful views of the town below. Don’t miss the cathedral on the main square- it’s breathtaking inside.

Jardín gets a lot of unpredictable rain. Plan to get outside when the sun is shining, and bring rain jackets for when the rain blows in. Sometimes the rain is over quickly, sometimes it pours for hours.

Getting to Jardin: Rapido Ochoa runs buses several times a day to Jardín from Medellín. You can book ahead of time on Bookaway. The journey takes 3- 4 hours each way depending on traffic.

The buses tend to be small (20 or fewer seats), so you may want to book return tickets. The buses leave from the center of Jardín on Calle 8 in between Carrera 5 and 6.

Book Now: Bus Tickets from Medellin to Jardin

Don’t Miss Hotel in Jardin: Hotel Kantarrana Urbana Jardin. This hotel is the kind of oasis you never want to leave. Located right in the center of town, you’re a quick walk to the main square and all the restaurants in town. Once you enter the hotel, you’ll be in a peaceful garden-like space with passionfruit growing by the door. We had an upper-floor family room with a double bed and two twin beds. Hot, fresh breakfast is served each morning.

“Beautiful property with a lovely garden and hammocks to swing in. The staff was friendly, the location was great, and the breakfast was delicious.

-Keri (read more reviews)

Check Availability: Hotel Kantarrana Urbana Jardin

Guatapé – 1 Night

Guatapé is a beautiful colonial lakeside town, known for the huge El Peñón de Guatapé. This giant granite rock (La Piedra) towers over the landscape and has 649 steps built into the side so you can climb to the top for views of the lake and land all around.

The town itself is fun to walk around- there are lots of shops and cafes to explore, as well as boats to take out onto the lake itself.

Colorful Street in Guatape, Colombia

Many people visit Guatapé as a day trip from Medellín, but at two hours each way, you may find it more enjoyable to stay the night and take your time exploring this small town. We chose to leave most of our baggage in Medellín and take just a backpack of overnight essentials to make the trip easier.

Getting to Guatape: Take the Soltrasanvincente bus from Terminal del Sur, Medellín. Check-in or buy tickets at window 14 on the lower level. Buses leave every 30 minutes, and the trip takes around two hours, depending on traffic.

The bus will stop at La Piedra (the rock) first if you want to get off and see the rock before going into town. After you have finished climbing the rock, you can grab a taxi or a tuk-tuk into town.

Where to Stay in Guatape:  La Casona Hostel. This hostel has family rooms with a double bed and a bunk bed that are perfect for a one-night stayover. If it rains (which happens a lot in Guatapé) you’ll have lots of common space to hang out in. One block from the main square, you’re close to all the action.

Check Availability: La Casona Hostel

Cartagena- 6 Nights

Cartagena is one of the most visited cities in Colombia. It sits on the Caribbean Sea, on the northern edge of the country. Cartagena was once a large Spanish slave port, the Spanish built a walled city (the old town), and several forts to protect it. This was our favorite of the larger cities in Colombia- the energy here is uplifting, make sure to put Cartagena with kids on your itinerary!

Getesemani District with colorful murals in Cartagena Colombia
The Corner of Plaza de la Trinidad in the Getsemani District, Cartagena

Cartagena today is full of color. Artists line the sidewalks with their work, and ladies in colorful dresses pose for photos with bowls of fruit in their heads. The two main tourist districts – the old town and Getsemani, are definitely built around the tourist experience.

Cartagena is a great base for some wonderful day trips ranging from visits to mangroves to a relaxing day on a gorgeous beach. Make sure to allow some days for exploring some of the top day trips from Cartagena.

Getting to Cartagena: Cartagena is best accessed by plane. We flew from Medellin on Avianca, it was about a 45-minute flight. From the airport, taxis have a set fee by district- you’ll pay between 12K and 15K COP for the trip into town. Once you are in town, almost everything you’ll want to do is within walking distance.

Where to Stay in Cartagena: Casa Villa Colonial

You’ll want to stay in the Getsemani district, just outside the walled old city. You can easily walk to the old town, but you’ll be surrounded by the art and energy of this hip district, which is full of restaurants and cafes.

This hotel is on a quiet block, beautifully decorated, with lots of space. Our only complaint was there was only wifi in the lobby- if this is important to you, ask for a first-floor room.

“Beautiful small colonial hotel with a lovely roof top pool and terrace, in a superb location very close to all the restaurants, bars, street stalls & music of gethsemene and walking distance to the historic centre.”

-Samantha (read more reviews)

Check Availability: Casa Villa Colonial

Rosario Islands- 3 Nights

The Rosario Islands are known for their beautiful Caribbean waters and coral reefs. You can come on a day trip with a visit to a beach club, or stay for a few days to soak up the quiet ambiance of the islands.

We loved our visit to the Rosarios- we made some wonderful friends and had some unforgettable experiences there. We put together some travel tips for the Rosario Islands to help you navigate all the options in this wonderful national preserve.

These islands are largely rocky outcroppings and some mangroves, so you’ll find great places to swim, but fewer long stretches of sandy beach.

Rosario Islands in Colombia with Kids
The Blue/Green Waters of Isla Grande, Rosario Islands

Part of a Colombian National Park, there are many islands that make up this archipelago. We visited Isla Grande, the largest island which has a lot of resorts to choose from. The best time to visit the islands is December to March.

Getting to the Rosarios: From Cartagena, take a one-hour water taxi. Taxis leave from Muelle de la Bodeguita just outside the city walls. Taxis leave in the morning starting at 8 am and return in the afternoons, leaving the islands around 2 pm.

Book ahead, and plan to get to the port early- the boarding process can be chaotic. Water taxis cost about 70K pesos each way. There are several taxi companies, we used Cartegena Life since it was recommended by the hotel.

Where to Stay on Isla Grande- Budget: Rosario Ecohotel

This is a lovely hotel where breakfast is included, but you’ll need to pay separately for your other meals and any drinks. There is no pool and very little sand. Instead, you’ll find boardwalks and a swimming area that is a combination of soft sand, rocks, and corral.

We had a room on the second floor with wonderful views of the ocean, a beautiful spacious bathroom, a small table, and lots of room to spread out. This is a great location for some trips out among the islands. There are also kayaks that you can borrow at no charge.

Check Availability: Rosario Ecohotel

Where to Stay on Isla Grande- All-Inclusive: Hotel Isla del Sol

An alternative is an all-inclusive hotel- you’ll pay more upfront but do not have to worry about adding much to your bill while you are there. This hotel is more expensive but has a sheltered sandy beach which is great for kids, as well as a swimming pool.

Check Availability: Hotel Isla del Sol

Both of these hotels are on the north side of Isla Grande where the wind gets quite strong at night.

Alternate Location: Bogotá- 3 Nights

A lot of families spend time in Bogotá, as there are a lot of flights that go through this capital city. Some of the highlights of this city include the Museo Del Oro which holds the largest uncut emerald in the world, as well as a lot of gold artifacts.

Chapinero is a great safe neighborhood for families to stay in. Bogotá is also a great place to take an exotic fruits tour or a graffiti tour.

Book Now: Bogota Fruit Market Tour

When is the Best Time to Visit Colombia with Kids?

The best time to visit Colombia with kids depends on which part of the country you are referring to. Medellín is often called “the city of eternal Spring” and has pleasant weather year-round, though it is the most crowded in January and February. Cartagena is best visited from January to March before the weather gets too hot.

Street Mural in Cartagena
Mural in Cartagena

Is Colombia Safe to Visit with Kids?

Yes, Colombia is safe for families! Overall, Colombia is much safer than it was a few years ago. While we don’t recommend setting off into unfamiliar areas, we have felt quite safe traveling around Colombia, including the Laurales and El Poblado neighborhoods of Medellín.

We have found the people of Colombia quite warm and welcoming, and always willing to help if you look lost or confused.

Communa 13, Medellín

Can I Drink the Water in Colombia?

Yes, you can drink the water in Colombia! If you want to be extra cautious (because sick kids are no fun), then use a Steripen to purify any bacteria in the water. You should have no concerns about cooking or brushing your teeth with the water in Colombia.

We love to use our Steripen UV Water Purifier even when the water is considered safe- it’s added peace of mind when traveling with kids.

Check Prices: Steripen UV Water Purifier

Woven Baskets outside Plaza de Bolivar in Cartagena
Woven Baskets Outside Plaza de Bolivar in Cartagena

Travel Tips for Visiting Colombia with Kids

Here are some of our top travel tips for visiting the beautiful country of Colombia with kids.

Wire Transfers

We had several hotels in Colombia ask us to wire them a deposit to hold our hotel reservations. This can be tricky for Americans, as banks charge hefty fees for wire transfers.

We recommend joining Remitly– you can do instant wire transfers from a debit card for $3.99 USD, or less if you can wait 3-5 days for the transfer.

We also used this service to pay for a tour in Medellín rather than show up with a lot of cash. This service costs a lot less than the 6% fee the tour was charging for using Paypal or a credit card.

Of course, be careful as once you transfer money, you are not protected from fraud. Be sure to chat with your tour provider and only transfer money if you are comfortable that the service is legitimate.

Get a Free Account: Remitly Wire Transfer Service

Watch Tour Age Ranges

We had several tours (the free walking tour! The exotic fruits tour!) that we realized were only available to teens and up. I have no idea why some tour groups limit fruit tasting to certain ages, but we had to scramble a bit to find tours that worked for our family, particularly in Medellín.

The Local Food

Most Colombian food is not spicy- in fact, sometimes we found it needed additional spice! This is a great country for kids to try lots of the local cuisine. Our kids loved the coconut rice, as well as patacones (smashed plantains). They also enjoyed street food ranging from empanadas to waffles with arequipe (similar to dulce de leche).

Enter and Exiting Requirements

Colombia requires a registration form called Check-Mig to be filled out online before entering the country. You’ll need one form for each adult, any kids traveling with you can be added to one of the adult forms.

Keep a digital copy of the completed form on your phone- immigration doesn’t require paper copies and did not ask to see our digital copies.

It’s important to note that you’ll need to fill out this form again online to exit the country! There is no charge for the form. We also had the airline verify our outbound flight before allowing us to enter Colombia.

What to Bring on Your Family Vacation to Colombia

There are several things you’ll need for your family vacation to Colombia! The weather is hot, humid, and variable, so you’ll need to be prepared for sun and rain.

1. Sunscreen

Colombia is hot, make sure to bring sunscreen and re-apply regularly!

Snorkel an Mask for day trip from Cartagena

2. Snorkel and Mask

Most companies include this in their price, but we found that due to sanitary regulations, some tours were only providing masks. Snorkeling with only a mask, is well, just holding your breath!

We recommend this traditional-style snorkel and mask– it looks just like a diving mask. It comes in different colors and has sizes for adults and kids. It has a great system to keep water out of the snorkel, so you can dive down and not get a mouthful of water. If you also want fins, you can find the full set as well.

Shop Now: Snorkel and Mask

3. Quick Dry Towel

When you get out of the water, you need a quick dry towel that absorbs well, and then dries quickly so it’s ready to be used again! We use these towels from REI and they work well over and over. We prefer the large size- it packs up small, but is large enough to dry off your whole body.

Shop Now: Quick Dry Travel Towel

Blue 2 liter dry bag for using at the beach in Cartagena Colombia

4. A Dry Bag

Keep all your gear dry at the beach! A dry bag is essential whether you’re aboard a boat or dodging waves on the beach. Throw everything in this 2-liter bag and know it’ll be kept dry.

Shop Now: 2L Dry Bag

5. Rain Gear

From Medellin to Cartagena, you should be prepared for rain! Colombia gets a lot of rain- which is why many parts of the country are so lush and gorgeous. We love these Colombia brand jackets for our kids- they are a great price, and they hold up well during travel.

Shop Now: Kids Rain Jackets

FAQ: 3 Week Colombia Itinerary

Do I Need a Car in Colombia?

No, you do not need a car in Colombia. We do not recommend driving in Colombia. There is a lot of traffic, a lot of chaos, and a lot of motorbikes weaving in and out of traffic. In most cities, you can use Uber, or an unmetered taxi to get around safely.

Is it Safe to Travel to Colombia as a Family?

Yes, you can safely travel with your kids to Colombia. Colombia has been peaceful since 2016. Since then the major cities have seen a boom in culture- from top-notch restaurants to art galleries and museums. From snorkeling to learning about coffee harvesting, there are a lot of activities for the whole family.

Is Three Weeks Enough Time in Colombia?

In three weeks, you can see several areas of Colombia, but it is not possible to see everything! Colombia is a large country- most people fly between the major cities of Medellin, Bogata, and Cartagena. In fact, Colombia is the 4th largest country in South America and more than twice the size of Texas.

Are 10 Days Enough in Colombia?

In 10 days you can see one or two regions of Colombia. While we tend to travel slowly, you can definitely see a lot in ten days! Start in Medellin for 2-3 days, head to Cartagena for 2-3 days, and then end with a relaxing couple of days in the Rosario Islands.

There You Have It: 3 Weeks in Colombia with Kids

Colombia is a wonderful place to explore as a family. We enjoyed our time in both the central and northern parts of Colombia with kids and always felt safe. This itinerary includes both jungles and beaches, so you can get a taste of some of the different regions of Colombia.

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