Providencia travel guide

Tiny Providencia is the antithesis of its sister island: a quiet place with a population of around five thousand, where everyone knows everyone else, where most speak an English-based Creole. With a mountainous interior covered with lush vegetation, and the world’s third-largest barrier reef beckoning divers from all over the world. It’s difficult not to fall in love with Providencia; many do, and end up staying far longer than they intended.

How do you get to Providencia?

To reach Providencia, your journey begins with a flight to Gustavo Rojas Pinilla International Airport (ADZ) in San Andres, Colombia. 

From there, you can catch a short 20-minute flight or take a scenic catamaran ride that lasts about 3 hours to reach Providencia. The catamaran ride is a popular choice for its stunning views of the Caribbean.

What is there to do in Providencia?

With its pristine beaches, lush landscapes, and rich Afro-Caribbean heritage, Providencia offers plenty of things to do. 

Snorkel or dive in the coral reefs

Providencia is surrounded by vibrant coral reefs teeming with marine life. Head to Crab Cay, also known as Cayo Cangrejo, a tiny islet off the coast where you can snorkel amidst colorful coral formations. 

For those seeking deeper underwater exploration, the Seaflower Biosphere Reserve offers pristine dive sites with underwater caves, walls, and encounters with marine species such as rays, sea turtles, and colorful reef fish.

Hike to the Peak Forehead

A hike to The Peak Forehead, locally known as El Pico, is a must-do activity on Providencia. This challenging trek takes you through tropical forests and rugged terrain, culminating at the island's highest point. 

The summit of El Pico offers a sweeping view of Providencia's landscape, turquoise waters, and neighboring cays.

Morgan's head rock formation in San Andres y Providencia, Colombia © Shutterstock

Morgan's Head rock formation in San Andres y Providencia, Colombia © Shutterstock

Visit Morgan's Head (La Cabeza de Morgan)

This natural rock formation, named after the notorious pirate Henry Morgan, resembles a human head and is steeped in local legend. Explore nearby caves and cliffs while enjoying panoramic views of the Caribbean coastline.

Water sports

Explore the island's mangrove-lined shores by kayak or stand-up paddleboard, navigating through waterways and discovering hidden coves along the coast. Deep-sea fishing charters are also popular, allowing you to reel in prized catches such as tuna and mahi-mahi.


You'll find here a rich avian diversity characterized by species such as the Magnificent Frigatebird, known for its impressive aerial displays and vibrant red throat pouches during mating season. 

Brown Boobies and Red-footed Boobies frequent the coastal cliffs and rocky outcrops, showcasing their sleek brown and white plumage respectively. Yellow-crowned Night-Herons can be spotted in mangroves and wetlands, while Green Herons hunt along freshwater ponds.

How can you get around?

Due to it's size, getting around Providencia is a breeze. Taxis are readily available and the most convenient mode of transportation for tourists. You can find taxis at popular spots like the airport, hotels, and main towns such as Aguamansa and Freshwater Bay.

Another popular choice for exploring Providencia is renting a motorcycle or scooter. This allows you to explore remote beaches and scenic viewpoints at your own pace.

What should I eat?

As an island paradise surrounded by abundant marine life, it's no surprise that seafood features prominently in Providencia's cuisine. This is a great place to try freshly caught seafood dishes like lobster, crab, and coconut-infused rice known as "Rondón." 

For a taste of local flavors, head to small eateries and beachside shacks where you can try authentic Caribbean cuisine.

For a quick and satisfying bite, look no further than 'pan de coco' or coconut bread. These soft, fluffy rolls are made with grated coconut and often enjoyed with a slather of butter or as an accompaniment to meals.

While exploring Providencia, you'll find a variety of dining options ranging from beachside shacks to cozy family-run eateries.

Cayo Cangrejo in Providencia Island, Colombia © Shutterstock

Cayo Cangrejo in Providencia Island, Colombia © Shutterstock

Provindencia's best beaches

Here's your guide to the top beaches that make Providencia a paradise for beach lovers.

  • Manzanillo Beach: Located on the northern coast, Manzanillo Beach features powdery white sand and calm, shallow waters ideal for swimming and snorkeling. Perfect for families and relaxation seekers.
  • Southwest Bay: Known for its crescent-shaped golden sands and gentle waves, Southwest Bay is a hotspot for kayaking, paddle boarding, and superb snorkeling amidst vibrant coral reefs.
  • Freshwater Bay: On the east coast, Freshwater Bay offers a rugged landscape with dramatic cliffs and striking blue waters. Great for surfers and those seeking a quieter beach experience.
  • Crab Cay (Cayo Cangrejo): A short boat ride away lies Crab Cay, a tiny coral island surrounded by pristine beaches and excellent snorkeling spots with panoramic views of the archipelago.
  • Peak's Galeria Beach: Nestled on the southwestern tip, Peak's Galeria Beach offers tranquility with coconut palms and calm waters perfect for swimming and relaxed snorkeling.

Festivals in Provindencia

One notable event is the Festival del Mar (Festival of the Sea), which honors the island's maritime traditions with colorful boat races, seafood feasts, and lively music and dance performances. During this festival, locals and visitors come together to enjoy freshly caught seafood dishes, such as lobster and crab, prepared in traditional Afro-Caribbean styles.

Throughout the year, visitors can also enjoy religious festivities, such as the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, featuring processions and religious ceremonies, as well as smaller community events.

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Rough Guides Editors

written by
Rough Guides Editors

updated 14.06.2024

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