Bogota may be Colombia’s heartbeat, but Cartagena is certainly the crown jewel. Situated right on the sparkling Caribbean coast, this destination impresses with its 18th-century walled city, its candy-colored collection of old colonial homes and soaring clock tower and its maze of cobblestoned streets that weave through the historically significant forts, buildings and churches.

The pinnacle of the city is the UNESCO old town, but there’s far more to Cartagena than just the packed eight miles inside.

The outer town features a more real city — peddlers pushing handicrafts; street vendors selling an interesting assortment of grilled meats, arepas (griddled corn cakes) and empanadas; a large park home to lazy lizards and grimy alleyways home to colorful local characters.

Plus, the trendy Getsemani barrio is holding its own against the old city, with vibrant street art, thriving cafés, bars and restaurants and some of Cartagena’s best museums. It’s got a grit that you’d expect from a Colombian city, but not the crime — making it an interesting and refreshingly safe place to stroll through no matter the time.

One other thing this beautifully complex city has going for it are the beaches, which are touted as sexy as Miami Beach. As you walk along the peninsula of Bocagrande, you’ll be bombarded with fashionable Cartagenos sipping cocktails on patios or gorgeous women sunbathing in brightly hued swimsuits.

Not just a playground for adults, backpackers and partiers, though, this beach will also surprise you with the number of kids and families splashing in the Caribbean.