A Nice Escape for Young Kids in Cartagena: Parque Espíritu del Manglar
Tucked into a surprising location in Cartagena is this hidden gem of a park, the Parque Espíritu del Manglar. In an area of otherwise dirt lots and general disarray, the city has managed to preserve this beautiful nature sanctuary along the lagoon in the Chambacú neighborhood. The park is made up of beautifully maintained gardens, a shaded snack area, a play structure for the kiddos, numerous bronze sculptures of famous Colombian artisans, and an outdoor amphitheater.
Don’t Miss the Entrance
The park is located in the area south of the Edeficio Inteligente (Intelligence Building) and kitty corner from the Mall Plaza El Castillo. It is accessed by using the roundabout at the Intelligence Building, and the driveway into the park is just before you are about to merge onto 90A (Avenida Pedro de Heredia). Be sure you do not miss their driveway, or it is a convoluted drive to get back to it.
Parking and entrance to the park itself are free. The park is also completely stroller accessible, which is very uncommon in Cartagena. As you enter through the turnstiles at the entrance, you are met with smooth meandering paths under towering shade trees through manicured gardens and over bridges spanning small creeks. It is so unexpectedly pleasant.
Climb Through a Pirate Ship
The main draw for the littles is the huge pirate ship play structure on the north side of the park. Complete with areas to climb, slides, and various other parts to explore, it is clearly a main attraction. However, we did learn that you need to be 100 cm, or a little over 39 inches, to enter this area. If your little is too short for the pirate ship area, there is a separate area filled with playhouses, small slides, and balls for them. There are also two trampolines to romp around in too.
Bring socks for your kiddos to play in these play areas. No shoes are allowed, and the area is covered in fake grass, which gets very hot, very quickly. There is also no shade in the play areas, so bring water, sunscreen, hats, etc. to protect the littles (and you) from the blazing sun of Cartagena.
We arrived to the park on the day that two school buses filled with kids from a preschool decided to have a field trip too. However, there was plenty of space for everyone throughout the park and even in the play areas.
Enjoy the Wildlife and Art While You Meander
The park is also home to numerous large iguanas and turtles, which were seemingly everywhere and added a major cool factor to our visit. Along the path in the park are many bronze sculptures of famous Colombian artisans including the writer Gabriel Garcia Márquez, a baseball hall of famer, a boxer, musicians, singers, and dancers. The sculptures are life-size and impressive.
The snack area is quaint with little tables and chairs under shade and is well-stocked with drinks and snacks. The paths in the park also lead to areas of permanent, green metal exercise machines to work out, in case you suddenly feel the need to do so.
The park also has three large buildings. One of them is an outdoor amphitheater. The other two appear to be a “toy library” for kids from 0 to 5 years old, and a “playhouse” for kids from 6 to 15 years old. Neither of these buildings were open during our visit, but they appear to hold various planned activities in both. The park has an active Instagram account which provides information on the numerous activities the park hosts including puppet shows, mimes, clowns, arts and crafts, dancers and magicians.
I now keep an eye on their Instagram page for upcoming events. The park and its activities are geared to a slightly younger crowd than my middle-schoolers, but are perfect for preschool and young elementary aged kids. It’s definitely a place I’ll keep in mind for visiting youngsters.
Location: Next to the Intelligence Building in the Chambacú neighborhood of Cartagena.
Entrance cost: Free.
Parking cost: Free. As is not uncommon in Cartagena, when we returned to our car after visiting the park we were met by a gentleman who expected some payment for watching our car during our trip into the park. So, I always keep a cupholder full of loose change in my car, and a few pesos is all he desired for his time.
Bring: Socks for the play areas. Water, sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses for the heat.
Another source of information and photos: A short article in Donde Cartagena by El Universal, the local newspaper https://donde.co/es/cartagena/articulos/atractivos-del-parque-espiritu-del-manglar-37849