The Eyesore on Cartagena’s Doorstep
Tourists searching for a quick retreat from the heat of Cartagena’s walled city erroneously visit Bocagrande. Parque Tayrona this is not. You have been warned. With a skyline resembling a prize fighter’s smile, Bocagrande extends ignominiously out on an isthmus of land from the cultured and enchanting old city of Cartagena, offering at first glance, little more than a stark reminder of the errors that stem from brash excesses and ostentatious poor taste.
This should be a quarter of Cartagena where vacationers sip tranquilly from fresh coconuts while lounging in shaded hammocks gently shifting in the Caribbean’s breeze. It is not.
Gone are the art deco homes that once lined the avenues here and in their place stand towering hotels and timeshare skyscrapers. The mish mash of constructions has mercilessly slashed away at the natural beauty of the place. This stretch of land is an homage to modernity, casinos and gaudiness that cater to Colombian holiday makers bizarrely and continuously captivated by this criminal development. Untold numbers of national tourists flock here year round and in high season, like Semana Santa, Bocagrande is mayhem.
Although Bocagrande offers the closest beaches to the Ciudad Vieja, they are nothing to look at and offer very little in the way of relaxation that a beach should offer. Aside from the dirty sand and unclean waters that greet you here; there is no respite from the continual pestering from vendors. Banish visions of the rustic yet natural beauty of the beaches in the Parque Tayrona further up the coast in Santa Marta. One remains tense and continually watching personal belongings in the fear that they will be swiped.
It may seem convenient to be able to receive whatever you may desire and more here on the beach, but rest assured, after incessant offers of massages (sometimes several costenas will surround you, feel the pressure!).
“Have you ever had a massage from a Costena?”
And then follow various other less salubrious sales pitches. The offers don’t stop there. Whatever you need from sunglasses, to ice cold beer, to a photo shoot, to fruit salad, all can be delivered and they make sure that this fact is drummed home in an amicable fashion.
There are glimmers of hope that change may be afoot. Just maybe, architects and planners are taking a more holistic approach to new developments and constructions. It seems hard to believe, but some of the shopping centres and restaurants have been built elegantly in recent years, defying the abrasive style that accompanied the blatant money laundering of the 1980s and early 1990s. However, even these improvements can not take away from the fact that here lie all the worst edifices to consumerism. One long strip of bingo halls and burger joints.
Should the heat of the city become to much, as can happen, then you would be better suited making the journey to La Boquilla, Marbella or the Islas del Rosario where the beaches are better suited for achieving a relaxing tan