Susana and I decided to have a little mini staycation to celebrate the start of summer recently and stayed several nights at the Hotel Estelar Playa Manzanillo All Inclusive resort, located not far to the north from Cartagena. Here I’ll share our experience. So read on the learn if the Estelar Resort in Manzanillo would make a good choice for you.
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Hotel Estelar Playa Manzanillo Resort Introduction
The Estelar Manzanillo is sister property to the Estelar Hotel in Bocagrande, one of the newest hotels in town. In fact, it makes our list of the best luxury hotels in Cartagena. Its rooftop bar 51 SkyBar also makes our list of the best places for a sunset drink in Cartagena.
But enough about the sister property, you came here to learn about the All Inclusive Estelar at Manzanillo Beach. We stayed here for 3 nights in July 2021 to celebrate the end of the school years (yea, I believe we teachers deserved a nice vacation after the 2020-21 school year!).
We really liked it, and can’t really complain about much. For those who want an all-inclusive resort in Cartagena that is out of town a bit, it’s a good option. That being said, for most visitors to Cartagena, I actually wouldn’t recommend staying here. It’s a bit removed from the city (around 20 minutes) and the beach here is decent but doesn’t compare to those in the Rosario Islands or at Playa Blanca. Plus, with 2 pools, a beach, and all your food and alcohol paid for already, you’re likely to just stay here and not get out and see all the other things to do in Cartagena.
So for that reason, I’d recommend those coming to visit Cartagena plan a stay at one of the boutique hotels or hostels in town, and combining that with an escape to Islabela or Isla del Encanto or one of the other beachfront hotels for a few nights, giving you the best of both worlds and not being so isolated out here. The closer Las Americas might be a better option if you really want an all inclusive, resort style stay without being so far out of town.
If, however, you are planning a more extended stay in or around Cartagena, or live here and looking for a relaxed staycation that isn’t quite as pricey as staying out in the islands, this is a good choice for some R&R. Keep reading if you’re interested to learn more about our experience at the Hotel Estelar Playa Manzanillo.
What We Liked
There wasn’t a whole lot we didn’t like to be honest. The facilites were nice and there’s plenty of space. The grounds and gardens area all really pretty as well. We even saw some iguanas.
There are 2 pools on site, one called the “piscina activa” and the other the “piscina pasiva.” The activa is located towards the beach side and there are events like water exercises and other little mini competitions and entertainment for kids and adults like you often see at these types of resorts throughout the day.
The piscina pasiva is more relaxed and located back up around the rooms of the hotel. When we were there, they were requiring that you reserve 90 minute blocks at the pools ahead of time with short cleaning times between, which I imagine will be the case for the near future, but I can’t speak to if the reservations were required pre the times of Covid or will be dropped in the future.
The food was also surprisingly good for an all inclusive resort. Breakfast and lunch were big buffets with lots of options, pretty much what you would expect. And the buffet was also an option for dinner, or you have the option to eat at one of the restaurants for dinner if you make a reservation. There was a typical Colombian/seafood style restaurant, an Italian restaurant, and a grill and steakhouse style restaurant. We did the three of them for our three nights and thought the food was great at all of them.
In addition to breakfast, lunch, and dinner, there are also “snacks” available in the mid-morning and mid-afternoon. These were things like empanadas, hamburgers, mini hotdogs and choripans, sandwiches, and wraps.
All you can drink alcohol was also included. Like most all other all inclusive resorts, it’s mostly with bottom shelf liquor which works well enough for cuba libres, piña coladas, gin and tonics, and other mixed drinks. I wish they had had a better Scotch than Black and White though, I mean it wasn’t a cheap hotel stay, but anyways this is the nature of the beast with all inclusives.
I was pleasantly surprised to find they had Bogotá Beer Company beer on tap, one of my favorite Colombian craft beers. To be honest, all inclusive alcohol is a blessing and a curse (read: I had quite a bit to drink the first day), and honestly with all the food, this is a place where your body might hate you a bit after, but hey, we all deserve to be a bit overindulgent every now and then.
Ok, now to the beach. The beach here is fine. It reminds me a lot of beaches in my home state of South Carolina. There is a huge beach area with plenty of chairs and some beach beds, and there are hardly any vendors here like at many of the other beaches in Cartagena. But, as I mentioned above, the beach here doesn’t come close to the Rosario Islands or Barú. So, honestly, we didn’t spend a whole lot of time on the beach except to enjoy the show the first night and to catch the sunsets, which were gorgeous.
Finally, let’s talk about the room. I booked a Junior Suite with a terrace jacuzzi. These are first floor rooms which have a little sitting area and jacuzzi. There was also a little living room area, and the bedroom itself was very nice. Not sure why, but the water pressure in the shower was crazy strong, but other than that, the room was great. Only other mini complaint is the terrace area isn’t as private as I would have liked, located on the other side of thin hedges on the main walkway, but that’s not that big a deal.
All in all, we had a nice time at the Hotel Estelar Playa Manzanillo. While, as I mentioned above, I wouldn’t want to stay here if I was coming to Cartagena for the first time or had limited time (I should note that there is a free shuttle that goes to the city daily, so you can still see the city if you stay here), but if you have some extra time and want a few days of bumming around, drinking and eating too much, it’s a good choice.
Planning Your Own Visit to the Estelar Manzanillo
There you have it a review of our experience at the Estelar Manzanillo Resort. If you do decide to go yourself, I hope this was useful and, more importantly, you have a great time, overindulgent or not! I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below as well.
Cheers and Happy Exploring!
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