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Hostel Mamallena

Mamallena
Calle de la Media Luna 10-47, Getsemani, Cartagena, Bolivar
(035) 670.0499
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www.hostelmamallenacartagena.com

Overview: Cartagena's Mamallena is the best place for backpackers to stay. Located in the convenient and vibrant Getsemani neighborhood, it's near all the most important cultural, historical, and entertainment destinations, and just minutes from the Centro, San Diego, and Castillo San Felipe. Getsemani is located in the southeastern quadrant of the island that constitutes downtown Cartagena. At Mamallena you'll find a great backpacker atmosphere, a friendly and attentive staff, reasonable prices, and a great hostel bar/restaurant, the Pajaro Loco.

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Neighborhood: Just turn right out of the hostel, and you'll pass by a wide variety of bars and restaurants. You're just a 5 minute walk from the Torre del Reloj (clock tower) where you'll find the Hard Rock Cafe and a major entertainment zone. Across the street is the popular Bar Etico. Just around the corner to the northwest is the popular local eatery Este es el Punto, where you can eat like a local and not break your budget.

And there's a convenience/variety store just 20m west of the hostel that stays open late and has just about anything you could need. You're also just a five minute walk from el Muelle where boats depart for Playa Blanca and Isla Rosario. Bottom line...Mamallena is the perfect base for your explorations of Cartagena and the surrounding areas.

How to Get There: If you're arriving in Cartagena's Rafael Nunez Airport, it's just a $10.000 ($5) taxi ride. Everyone knows where Calle de la Media Luna is, as it's one of the main east/west thoroughfares cutting through Getsemani.

Management/Staff: Australian owner Stuart started Mamallena a year and a half ago, and it clearly has the backpackers touch. In that time he has transformed the space from a run-of-the-mill motel to a fantastic backpacker hostel.

The staff is friendly and extremely knowledgeable about the city. In my brief time at Mamallena they were able to direct me to a print shop, a used bookseller, and my gym (Bodytech), as well as a slew of other useful pieces of local information. And their directions were precise and easy to follow. It's clearly a staff that knows the city well and has a passion for taking care of their guests. They can also help you plan your trip beyond Cartagena, providing advice and details about transportation, tours, and accommodations in other parts of the country.

Rooms: Mamallena is located in a charming blue building with bougainvillea-lined balconies. They offer 31 dorm beds and 15 private rooms, set around a charming tiled courtyard area with flowering trees and plants. The walls are decorated with brightly colored murals which largely illustrate the flora and fauna of Colombia. Here you can also encounter perhaps the most popular member of the staff: the adorable Tori the parrot (or lora in Spanish), who will delight you with her amusing antics.

Shared Rooms: Dormitories are comfortable and comparable to the prices that you'll find at other hostels in Cartagena.

Private Rooms: The private rooms are cozy, furnished with tables, chairs, and a nightstand, and feature fun pop culture decoration. They are arranged motel-style around a central courtyard, and feature attractive pine walls and colorfully-tiled bathrooms. You will sleep like a baby on the wonderful mattresses, which may be the best I've ever seen in a hostel. There's no hot water, but why would you want hot water in Cartagena? The showers are set to a perfect refreshing temperature, and trust me, in Cartagena, you'll want to cool off every couple of hours.

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Amenities: There is a large and well-equipped kitchen for guest use, with a big refrigerator. Upstairs you'll find a great TV lounge with extremely comfortable couches and beanbag chairs. There's also a shaded balcony area where you can relax and enjoy the afternoon breezes. The hostel also offers a complete laundry service, which is broadly defined as "a large bag of clothes" for just $10.000.

A great feature of the hostel is the free pancake breakfast served all morning long. Ximena in the kitchen whips up pancakes that are light and fluffy and topped with delicious syrup. She also spent six months studying Italian cooking in Uruguay, and the Pajaro Loco serves up delicious Italian fare: pizzas, pastas, gnocchis, as well as burgers, sandwiches, and a great assortment of appetizers, including fried mozzarella squares, garlic bread with guacamole, and chicken and shrimp brochettes. And help yourself all day to complimentary coffee.

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Mamallena attracts a great mix of adventurous and fun-loving guests from Europe, North America, Australia/New Zealand and beyond. The bar has a wide doorway which opens onto Calle de la Media Luna and attracts a good mix of tourists, backpackers, and locals. Enjoy an ice-cold aguila for $3.000 or a wide variety of cocktails, mixed drinks, and shots. There's always something happening, both in and out of the hostel, even in the middle of the week.

Many backpackers in Cartagena are either heading to Panama, or arriving from Panama, many by way of 4-5 day sailing tours that pass through the picturesque San Blas islands, populated by the indigenous Kuna people. The staff at Mamallena are particularly expert in coordinating your trips to or from Panama, and they can provide the best information about boats and captains making the trip. And Mamallena offers a board, just to the left of the reception, of the upcoming departures and their respective prices...they also can provide detailed information about various boats and captains.

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Conclusion: So...if you're backpacking in Cartagena, Mamallena is the place to be, with a great location, great staff, reasonable prices, and great eating and drinking in the Pajaro Loco. And take heed of the saying you'll find painted on the bar wall:

"No es cierto que la gente deje de perseguir sus suenos porque envejece, mas bien envejece cuando deja de perseguir sus suenos."

"People don't stop following their dreams because they get old, they get old because the stop following their dreams."

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