It took me a while, but I am back. This time, I am bringing you a bit of the Caribbean Sea from one of my favourite countries, Colombia. I have been to this country twice, but this was my first time travelling with a female friend. Her name is Camila and she’s Colombian, from Bogotá. I met her a few years ago in Buenos Aires.
The Archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina, consists of several island groups about 775 km northwest of mainland Colombia. San Andres covers an area of 26 km², so it is really easy to wander it. The island of Providencia is accessible via flight or a 2.5 hour boat journey.
First of all, I must tell you that you have to buy a tourist card at the airport to get to the island. It costs 35 USD approximately.
San Andrés is a tourist destination, but not as slick and modern as others in the Caribbean. Surprisingly, there is no drinkable water on the whole island, so you have to buy it at supermarkets.
Outside of the downtown area there is a rural feeling, with small houses close to the main road, tiny sidewalks, and many people hanging out on the streets. The population is only about 60,000 inhabitants, and one particular group garnered our attention – the Raizals. They are an Afro-Caribbean group, who speak San Andrés-Providencia Creole. Its culture fills the island up; I loved the colours, clothes, music and also the language. I highly recommend you take the local bus at midday; sharing the bus with children who are going to school is amazing.
The beaches are beautiful! Sometimes, you have to pay few pesos, but it is really cheap.
The waters around the island offer dozens of dive sites, from beds of sea grass to coral-strewn vertical walls. There is also excellent snorkeling, especially to the southwest of the island. Popular sites include the large shipwreck, Blue Diamond, which can be found 200m offshore at KM8.3. A little bit further south from the lighthouse, in front of Bucono’s dive shop, is an excellent area for snorkelling – swim out a bit and there is a small drop-off to about 10-12 m, perfect for freediving. Many “discover scuba” dives happen here, as well as beginner dives part of open water courses. There is also an underwater statue of Neptune at West View (KM11); there is a charge of 4,000 COP to enter the restaurant, view the statue, use the waterslide & jump off the 4-5 m diving board.
We were obsessed with “La Piscinita”! This spot is a few miles south of San Andres town, so you will need a taxi, golf cart or scooter to get there. We rented a golf cart with 3 friends and it was super cheap. There is again an entrance fee which gives you access to their diving board and ladders. I have never seen so many beautiful fish in the surrounding waters. Better yet, swim down a ways, away from the main cove. To be honest, this is a bit of a tourist trap, but the marine flora and fauna are worth it. My best advice – go early! By 10 a.m. it is packed as tour buses drop off loads of people.
If you love Scuba diving, there are many scuba shops in town and to the south of the island. Most of the dive sites are very close to shore, so no boat is required – this keeps costs down. 2-tank dives for certified divers cost just 180,000 COP. A single try dive is around 160,000 COP – well worth it! As always, shop around and bargain for the best price.
OMG the fruit, yes the fruit! Guys, you must try everything! Colombian fruit is the best. Sometimes (depending on the season), it is a bit difficult to find them on the island, but do not worry, you can always order a Maracuya (Passionfruit) or Lulo (Naranjilla/Little Orange) juice. Actually, they’re my favourites!
If you like beautiful beaches, palms, sunny days- this is your island. For me, five days were perfect and more than enough.
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