Colombia // San Andrés and Providencia //

San Andrés

Seahorse-shaped SAN ANDRÉS is a lively island with gorgeous (if often crowded) white-sand beaches, surrounding azure waters, fantastic diving and other natural attractions. Budget accommodation is concentrated in San Andrés Town, the capital – a busy whirl of unpretty concrete buildings, duty-free shops and careering scooters.

Though San Andrés Town has an attractive main beach of its own, the best beach is on Johnny Cay, the palm-shaded, iguana-inhabited island visible directly across the water. Numerous boats depart from San Andrés beach for Johnny Cay in the mornings around 9am; a return trip costs around COP$20,000, with the last boats returning around 5pm (make sure you remember on which boat you came). Visits to Johnny Cay can be combined with a stop at Acuario – a sliver of sand off the east coast of the island, where the water is swimming-pool clear – though on busy days you’ll find yourself fighting for space among the other visitors, hawkers selling stuffed crab shells and piña coladas and stalls renting snorkelling gear; trips to both places cost around COP$50,000.

If you rent a bicycle or scooter, you can do an easy loop around the island, following the coastal road. Along the west coast, south of El Cove, you’ll pass Piscinita, a beachside restaurant and snorkelling combo: for COP$2000 entry, you can swim with the many fishes who’ll eat out of your hand. At the southern tip of the island is Hoyo Sopladór – a natural blowhole; when the tide and wind conditions are right, a jet of water shoots up to 20m up out of the hole in the rock. On the east side of the island, you’re often likely to have the white-sand, windswept beaches of San Luis all to yourself.

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