Karmairi Hotel Spa
What We Love
- Small yet inviting pool, plus a wide beachfront that’s almost completely deserted
- Superb menu of Mediterranean small plates and entrees, with Mediterranean and Asian touches
- On-site wellness program that uses juice tonics, coconut and bamboo massages to detox
What To Know
- Children 14 and under are not permitted at the property
- There’s little within walking distance of the hotel, so you’ll need a car or taxi to get anywhere
- Only a few front rooms have an ocean view, and the inner garden and street views are nothing special
- Service is sometimes a little too laid-back
- Free WiFi
- Parking On Site
- Room Service
Rustic, tropical and hip. Natural elements are emphasized throughout, but not at the expense of style. Seashells appear in mosaic designs, river pebbles make up walls and floors, and you can’t take two steps without encountering a bamboo design accent. Intricately hand-carved wooden pieces in the lobby and on the patios add an Eastern touch that blends seamlessly with the palm trees and the beachy vibe of the common areas.
Bed and Bath
While the mostly white bathrooms are more functional than fashionable, the bedrooms keep up the rustic decor of the public spaces, with vendeaguja thatch roofs woven by artisans in the Sinu Valley and hand-carved headboards. Little touches such as flowered pillowcases and armchairs made of natural fibers add to the beachy vive, though LCD TVs and high-thread-count sheets remind you that you’re not exactly roughing it.
The hub of activity is the open-air ground floor, particularly the restaurant and bar area, which is sandwiched between reception and the pool. A full juice bar and a list of tropical cocktails (you’ll sample fresh fruit juices at checkin) set up a diverse menu of regional plates with eclectic touches, such as lulo ceviche, octopus carpaccio with chimichurri sauce, and fish cooked inside a bijao leaf — all available poolside at your intricately carved Balinese daybed. Though small, the spa has a surprisingly long list of specialty treatments, which are given in bamboo cabins facing the hotel’s wide expanse of beachfront.
How to Get There
The brand new Melia Cartagena Karmairi is around 15 minutes in a cab from the Walled City (COP 45,000 or under $15). The hotel itself has two sections: one has a more modern style and the other (the Level building) is a more bungalow feel, though both are new and nice.
The Level building is smaller, with a dining area that has a menu, not a buffet. The service in both areas was excellent. I wish I got all of the names, because everyone was great, but I certainly remember Caterini and Elsa, who took great care of me at the Level dining room. I also remember Enrico, who made amazing juice drinks.
I only ate at the Level dining area, so I can't speak to the quality of the main building dining room. The quality of the Level dining room was outstanding for an all inclusive experience. One of the chefs, Jon Bareto (I might have the name not quite right), cooked some things for me that were extraordinarily good. Honestly, I would return just for his cooking.
So for me, the location was a mild issue in that nothing was near, but it was easy to get inexpensive taxis. The other minor issue was that after it rained, there were some mosquitos in the pool / dining area. It was not awful, but I did get mosquito bites. The hotel should consider some of those mosquito candles or other repellant after a rain.
The food and service were so good that any shortcomings were not relevant to me and I mention them only because they are easy to address.
Be careful when reading the reviews of the new hotel as it's only been open two months and the new hotel falls far short of the original boutique hotel, reviews of which are included in reviews of the new hotel.
Plus points - rooms well appointed, sound proofed and with very comfortable beds, some with distant views of the sea; friendly staff working hard to please customers, beach club bar (open until 6pm), mostly good cocktails and wine. Good bar snacks (better from the beach bar). Adults only.
Minus points - if you are staying in the new hotel you are not allowed to use the pool or bar area of the original hotel (renamed The Level). We were offered an upgrade to suites in the The Level at $300,000 a night per room when the price differential on the Melia hotel website was only around $100,000!! The pool of the new hotel is too deep (1.6m) for most people - there is no shallow area and only tall people like me can stand up in it - others have to keep moving! View from the new hotel pool is of the apartment block opposite, still under construction. Food quality was variable and very poor on the first day, when there were so few guests we were given a la carte, but the grilled seafood was still cold in the centre, and steaks so overcooked it was like eating leather. Food got better with the buffet. No free shuttle service unlike the other all-inclusive hotel on this beach. Return taxi to Cartagena is at least $90,000.
We asked if we could use the public area of the original Karmairi hotel due to noise from the building site opposite the new hotel, but even though only one couple was staying at the original hotel, we were told no. It is not clear on the hotel website that we would be excluded from the original hotel area (renamed The Level)
The hotel is recently opened (within the last couple of months), and is in great shape. The amenities are a cut above the average for an all-inclusive hotel. Here, you don't find buffet dinners full of fillers like rice and potatoes and breads, but rather, all-inclusive order-from-the-menu meals and tapas throughout the day whenever you please, as well as drinks to your heart's desire. The food is served with an elegant touch as if you were at a high-end restaurant. The Service was perpetually impeccable, and the staff went out of their way to make everything as carefree as possible for us. This is a place you go not to be busy, but to relax and think about absolutely nothing. The beach bar is a nice little area with private loungers. The beach in this area is not very busy, unlike other beaches in the Cartagena area. Although it is not the white sand of Isla Baru, there are absolutely no hawkers trying to sell you junk while you relax. Rooms are great as well, with classy modern decor. Floor selection is a matter of taste, but as another reviewer stated, if you choose second floor or above you'll have a bit more privacy and the potential for ocean/sunset views if you request a room on the back side of the hotel. We were originally placed in a first floor room and requested a move to an upper floor with a view out the back and although the room was slightly smaller, the view and privacy was worth the move. The staff readily accommodated our request with patience and professionalism. Also, if you aren't a Melia Rewards member, join the program before arrival, which gives you the opportunity for space-available room upgrade.
Bottom line: If you're looking for a quiet, professional, classy, restful, no-kids atmosphere to relax for a couple of nights, this place cannot be beat. It is away from the bustle of Cartagena, so should not be considered if your goal is to spend lots of time in the city, but if you're just here for a reasonably-priced quick relaxing getaway to recharge, book this place!