From Cartagena we took a flight to an island in the Caribbean sea to the northernmost point of our 7 month journey. The islands of San Andres, Providence and Santa Catalina are a Colombian national park which is located off the shore of Nicaragua. The islands used to be inhabited by English settlers (during Colonial times) and nowadays the locals speak an English based Creole but learn Spanish at school.
San Andres is the biggest of all three islands (big meaning you can circle the island in 50mins by scooter and walk to the airport) with large hotels and duty free shopping. It attracts package tourists from Colombia and Brazil and is also called Colombia’s Las Vegas. We spent three nights in San Andres upon arrival but two nights should be sufficient. We rented a golf cart and found great beaches and snorkelling spots.
From San Andres we took a catamaran ferry to the islands of Providencia and the adjourning island Santa Catalina. It takes about 2.5 hours by boat and costs 100 USD per person. Compared to San Andres, Providencia is so small and family like. Within a day you get to know all tourists on the island. The island is surrounded by the world’s third largest coral reef which makes it a popular spot for divers. Most of the times we were alone on one of the island’s white sand beaches with crystal clear water and palm trees. We found a cosy cottage style room along the Freshwater Beach just 10 metres from the sea. There are three main beaches: Freshwater Beach (our house Beach), Southwest bay(long beach with restaurants and small beach bars, very shallow) and our favourite Manchineel Beach.
The islanders live of tourism and the sea and everyone on the island organises tours. We went for a 1 day snorkelling tour to three spots and saw many exotic fish, turtles and even had a bit of an awkward encounter with a barracuda.
Another day we decided to hike up to the peak of the island’s highest mountain (300mtrs) – the sweat was worth it – from the top you have amazing views over the island, the sea and the reef.
It’s location also makes it a great and affordable place to enjoy seafood and fish – if you don’t like fish, eating out can get a bit boring. We really enjoyed the chilled, Rastafarian vibe with beach bars, reggae music and absolutely no stress.
Cabañas El Recreo: right at Fresh Water Beach(the smallest of the three beaches). Negotiate rate in spot and make sure you check room before booking. Breakfast included.
Sea star gourmet: For us the best place to eat on the island. Not yet discovered by tourists this small restaurant on Santa Catalina offers seafood and fish. The owner prepares all meals herself and her spicy sauce is to die for.
Caribbean place: wide choice of dishes prepared by Chef Martin. Also offers meat and pasta dishes (unlike most places) and even wine. Every night a different social offer from dances to live music.
Divino Niño: renowned for its huge seafood platters. Basic restaurant at Southwest Bay. A seafood platter for 1 is around 13€, for 2 it’s 18€. The platter includes lobster, lionfish, shrimps and seashell.
For drinks head to Roland’s bar with reggae music and campfires or to the small bars on Southwest Bay for sunset.
Bahia Sonira: Eco-tourism hostel. 15mns walking from center or airport. A/C in privates. Good rooms and shared spaces including a garden. Very helpful staff that also organises ecological projects and collaborates with young local artists. Way better than most places in San Andres (do not stay in Blue Almond!).
Cabo del Sur: in the South of the island. Great view and good choice of juices and seafood.