If you’re looking for a slice of paradise in Colombia, look no further than San Andres. Situated in the Caribbean, almost 800 kilometres from mainland Colombia, the island boasts some of the country’s best beaches. Surrounded by beautiful crystal-clear waters, Colombian’s refer to the ocean as ‘mar de siete colores’ – the seven coloured sea. As a result, there’s a number of great diving and snorkelling spots, or the opportunity to sunbathe to your heart’s content if you’d prefer! Despite being named South America’s leading beach destination in 2015, many visitors to Colombia miss it off their itinerary. Don’t make the same mistake yourself. With flights from Bogota, Cartagena and Medellin all less than two and a half hours, San Andres is the perfect spot for a few days of relaxation when in Colombia!
How to get to San Andres
With no scheduled ferries, you’ll need to take advantage of one of the flights to San Andres, Colombia. Flights are available from most major cities in Colombia – with Avianca, Copa Colombia, LATAM Colombia and Viva Colombia all servicing the island. Costs vary depending on where you’re flying from/to, but a return from Bogota will generally cost upwards of 200,000 pesos. International flights are limited but are available from Panama. From San Andres airport you’ll need to catch a taxi to your accommodation.
Before boarding your flight you’ll need to pay for a tourist card – costing 105,000 pesos. It’s not always possible to pay by card so make sure to have enough cash available to cover the cost. Without the tourist card, you won’t be able to board your flight so ask about it when checking in. We weren’t told anything about it until we went to board so be prepared! Keep the card safe during your stay too, as you’ll need to present it at the airport before departing the island.
When to visit
Being close to the equator, San Andres is blessed with beautiful weather year round – a welcome change from some of the colder parts of Colombia. Rainy season spans from mid May to early December, but even then most days will only see an hour or two of rain! With an average temperature of 27 degrees Celsius year round, you can’t really pick a bad time to visit. We’d recommend either April/May or November/December – right before or right after the rainy season.
Easter and Christmas tend to be particularly busy times – so if you’re planning to visit then, book in advance!
By bus – A number of bus routes run on the island, but unfortunately there is no set timetable for these. They come fairly regularly, but the lack of structure means it’s hard to plan getting round the island this way. A single trip costs 2,000 pesos and your best bet regarding routes and times is to ask a local!
By taxi – Taxis are available to take you round the island, with costs dependent on how far you’re going. Mototaxis are also available and are generally cheaper – although negotiate a fare in advance to avoid being overcharged.
By golf buggy – Renting a golf buggy is popular amongst tourists – costing around 100,000 pesos per day. It’s a convenient way to visit a number of points of interest around San Andres. Police often don’t allow vehicles to the south side of the island after 4pm, so head there earlier in the day if you want to go!
Things to do in San Andres
Head to the beach – As a Caribbean Island, there are a number of beautiful beaches. Take shade under palm trees and enjoy the pristine waters of Spratt Bight beach. Found adjacent to San Andres town, this is the most popular beach on the island. Alternatively, there are a number of quieter beaches found around San Andres. In particular, San Luis beach is considered to be one of the best on the island – with the advantage of less people to share it with!
Island hop – Take a day trip to the islands of El Acuario and Johnny Cay for more gorgeous beaches. Make the most of the chance to snorkel in clear, refreshing waters or simply soak up the sun! At El Acuario it’s also possible to swim to the nearby island of Haynes Cay. Trips to both El Acuario and Johnny Cay can be arranged from San Andres pier – either combined into one day or as separate days. Many tours include lunch at Johnny Cay, although it’s best to confirm exactly what your tour includes before paying. Expect to pay around 19,000 pesos for a combined tour – which will include a 4,000 pesos ecological tax for visiting Johnny Cay. We recommend speaking to a number of operators to get the best deal – and avoid booking through your hotel or hostel, as they’ll often charge more in order to earn commission.
Go diving – Thanks to the incredible water clarity, San Andres is one of the best places to dive in Colombia. A number of dive sites are found around the island, with scuba shops located in the south as well as the main town. At approximately 165,000 pesos for a two-tank dive, it’s very reasonably priced!
Go snorkelling – If you aren’t a certified diver, snorkelling is a great alternative to check out what’s beneath the waves. One of the island’s best snorkelling spots is La Piscinita – a natural pool formed in between rocks. For a small 4,000 peso entrance fee, you’ll be completely surrounded by fish in wonderfully clear waters. Upon entrance you’ll also be given bread to feed the fish, however for most fish consuming bread isn’t healthy so we recommend not to feed it to them.
See caimans – Known as Laguna Big Pond, this small body of water is home to a number of Caiman. There’s not much else to see in the area so we’d only suggest visiting if you have spare time. Just before you reach the Laguna, a number of locals will demand payment (normally 5,000 pesos), however this isn’t an official entrance fee. If you continue past you can access the area without paying, although they will shout aggressively at you. Guides have also been known to scam people by charging but offering no information at all.
Where to stay
Accommodation is generally more expensive here when compared to mainland Colombia. There’s variety to suit all budgets in San Andres – from dorms to hotels to all-inclusive resorts.
When deciding where to stay, it’s best to weigh up your options with a comparison website. We recommend Agoda, as they have a great selection for different price ranges and rank properties based on customer reviews. Click here to see the best accommodation options in San Andres.
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