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San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina: the Colombian archipelago in the heart of the Caribbean

Nearly forty diving sites, some of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean, a blue sea that is sometimes tinged with green and purple, incredibly friendly people… These are just some of the wonders you can discover on the islands of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina in the Colombian Caribbean.

San Andrés (Credit: ProColombia)

The archipelago, located some 230 kilometres east of Central America and about 750 kilometres from the Colombian mainland, was declared a Seaflower World Biosphere Reserve in 2000. This reserve is not limited to the islands and their remote islets; it covers 10% of the Caribbean Sea, over 300,000 square kilometres.

These paradise islands welcome travellers from all over the world, who come to experience the perfection of their sunsets, white beaches and tall palm trees swaying in the breeze, which, together with the carefree smiles of their inhabitants, make this destination an ideal place for a tropical holiday with year-round temperatures between 26 and 29°C.

In this little paradise, the influences of the English, Spanish, pirates, privateers and African peoples have blended together to create a rich culture. You will certainly hear the locals speak Creole, a mixture of Elizabethan English, Spanish and African dialects.

But don’t worry! The people of San Andrés also speak Spanish and English, so you’ll have no problem communicating.

This fusion of cultures is reflected in the local music, which includes reggae, reggaeton, soca, calypso, merengue, vallenato and salsa.

 

What to do in San Andrés?

(Crédit : Gobernacion Departamental de San Andres y Providencia)

(Credit: Gobernacion Departamental de San Andres y Providencia)

From your porthole, you can admire the seven-coloured sea, one of the wonders of San Andrés. The archipelago was voted best Sun and Beach destination in the World Travel Awards 2014, 2015 and 2019.

Among the best beaches in San Andrés, you can discover Spratt Bright, which is bordered by a pier where you will find a multitude of restaurants, hotels, bars and shops. The beach is more than two kilometres long and is a great place for swimming and sunbathing, as well as for kitesurfing and jetskiing.

You can also visit Sound Bay, a beach away from the hustle and bustle of the city, right in the heart of the area where the native inhabitants of the island live.

Cocoplum is also worth a visit: protected by a coral reef, it offers calm, crystal-clear waters that make it the ideal place to spend a quiet day with your children. Its shallow waters also allow you to walk to Rocky Cay, a rocky islet around which marine life thrives, some 200 metres from the shore.

Don’t miss the Aquarium, a group of islets comprising Haynes and Rose Cay. On the former, which is of coral origin, you will find restaurants serving typical local cuisine and you will see specimens of Caribbean fauna. The second is a sandbar that widens and narrows with the ebb and flow of the tides.

Its crystal clear waters make it a natural aquarium. You can snorkel from the shore, even if you have never snorkeled before.

In the evening, in the moonlight, in front of the islet, you can feed the manta rays, which come by the dozen, but also swim with them during the day only!

You can also visit the Botanical Garden, an eight-hectare area located in the centre of the island, where the air is fresh and pure. Here you can observe the island’s endemic flora.

On the west side of the island, you can discover the Westview Park, opposite the La Piscinita area, an ideal diving site: the Mermaid Cave and the famous coconut huts. Here you can swim and walk through the ecological park where fruits such as mango, tamarind, pineapple and plum are grown, as well as the breadfruit tree. These fruits are used in the preparation of sweets and desserts typical of the archipelago.

Finally, don’t miss the island’s attractions, such as Pirate Morgan’s Cave, where, according to legend, the treasures stolen from the Spaniards were hidden.

Unique experiences

Puente de los Enamorados, Providencia (Crédit : Colombia Travel)

Puente de los Enamorados, Providencia (Credit: Colombia Travel)

Enjoy a unique experience by visiting Johnny Cay. You can disembark after a 15-minute trip on a boat that sails on the calm waters of the San Andrés Sea.

Johnny Cay is famous for its beaches, such as Bahía Sardina, where the white sand meets the green of the palm trees, under whose shade you can enjoy delicious fried sea bream with bananas, and delicious cocktails, such as the traditional “cocoloco” to the rhythm of raggae. Walk around the island along the beaches, sometimes with exotic corals that create beautiful pools in the water.

You can also discover the islands of Providencia and Santa Catalina, whose natural beauty and marine wealth have earned them the name ‘Hidden Treasure of the Western Caribbean’.

To get to Providencia, you can take a 20-minute flight from San Andrés, or board a catamaran that travels the same distance in about three hours.

Once there, you can easily make your way to Santa Catalina, crossing the Puente de los Enamorados (Bridge of Lovers), a 150-metre floating structure that, according to legend, ensures eternal love for couples who cross it together.

Source: Colombia Travel

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