Ever wanted to have everything the Caribbean has to offer but for a fraction of the normal price? The beautiful and fascinating Colombian island of San Andrés is actually located actually closer to Nicaragua than Colombia right in the middle of the Caribbean sea. The locals are super friendly, the main languages are Spanish and an English creole and the whole island is only a tiny 12km in length. San Andrés Island and its beautiful neighbour Providencia are packed with coral reefs, reggae (and Reggaton) bars, beautiful beaches and such a relaxed vibe you will definitely have no choice but to do some serious chilling out!
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A favourite with holiday makers from Colombia and even more recently Brazil, this underrated Caribbean island has a lot to offer steeped in an interesting history and culture that the locals are desperately trying to hold onto. With the island changing hands many times in the past and Colombia now having a firm hold since the early 1900’s it is not surprising that Colombia being so diverse, has another part of it that is so different from many places you will visit on the mainland.
San Andrés Island
How We Got There
We booked our flight through SkyScanner with Viva Colombia direct from Cartagena which took 1hr 30mins. You can fly from pretty much any major city in Colombia to San Andrés. We paid £100 each for return flights, be sure to play around with the dates / times to get the best deal!
Before you leave – For San Andrés there is a tourist tax to pay of 50,000 COP each for the tourist card which we purchased at the airport before we got on our flight.
What To See
A trip around the island – Although being a small island the only way to really get around is renting one of the many golf carts or scooters that are on offer. We were lucky as our accommodation had scooters to rent but the majority of places to rent are in El Centro the biggest urban part of San Andrés located at the Northern East tip of the island. Walk around El Centro for a little while and you are sure to come across places to rent, there are at least three located along the Avenida Colombia that runs along side the main beach.
Top tip – Definitely ask around as rentals they do vary in prices per day and per hour. If you are on a budget it is definitely worth spending that extra 20 minutes asking around, always remember that prices can be haggled a little! 🙂
You can easily spend a day going round the whole island of San Andrés stopping at the many small beaches that pop up around the coastline and also checking out some of the tourist attractions there, including a botanical garden, blow-hole and a Pirate themed cave with replica ship.
The Primera Iglesia Bautista – is located toward the centre of the island and is definitely worth a stop as you can go into the Church and right up to the top of the steeple and gaze at the panoramic views of the island’s peninsula. On Sundays you can also go to the service in the church there where gospels, chanting and singing are a regular part of the service there!
Snorkeling – There is great snorkelling in and around San Andrés Island. We took a little trip to Rocky Cay located on the half way down the east of the island on beautiful Cocoplum beach, which we would definitely recommend! The reef there is great and bursting with sea life as well as a shipwreck in which you can also swim out to. Probably some of the best snorkelling we have done!
You can also head out to Jonny Cay, a little island located just off the coast of San Andrés to the north east which also has incredible snorkelling! Getting a boat out there is easy with a lot trips going regularly from Tonino’s Marina. Although like any place it can be really busy during national holidays.
The Beaches – Beach day? Why not! One of the first things you will notice after staying in San Andrés is the laid back carefree vibe, our favourite beach to go was Cocoplum to have an awesome day chilling and reading and have one or two cocoloco’s! The beach which boasts a few beachside bars, white floury beaches and crystal blue waters tick every box from a text-book Caribbean checklist!
Sunsets – The south-western part of the island boasts some seriously good sunsets with some little places and benches that you can stop at the side of the road to watch the sun go down. For us Caribbean sunsets are the best!
Other Activities – There are also many more activities to do on the island such as jet skiing, diving, parasailing, paragliding, fishing and speed boat tours easily accessible straight from the beaches, if any of those takes your fancy!
Where We Stayed
We stayed in a great little find called Villa Verde which has both a hostel and camping. Located in the little town of San Luis on the east side of the island. Our host Luis was great and we really were made to feel welcome and at home. If you are camping as we did or staying in the hostel there is a basic outside kitchen and pool located right in the garden area as well as hammocks and deck chairs to relax. As a lot of places in San Andrés are all-inclusive and quite expensive for what you actually get for us this was excellent value and had all we needed, we really enjoyed our stay there!
There is a small beach located opposite Villa Verde and a couple of little shops at the end of the road, just 2 minutes walk way which both stock all you would need to get by. Being only 4km from Cocoplum beach Villa Verde is also well within walking distance with some other small beaches and bars along the way. We spent many a day strolling up to Cocoplum beach for a spot of snorkelling and chilling out.
To Sum It Up
We will definitely be returning to San Andrés Island one day and also to its beautiful neighbour Providencia as we have heard amazing things about it! All in all a great inexpensive way to have Caribbean vibes, sun and beaches without spending a huge amount on a backpackers budget!
You can also checkout the other awesome hostels that are in San Andrés HERE
Thanks so much for reading we hope you’ve enjoyed it & we’ve given you some ideas if you are thinking of going to beautiful island of San Andrés and heading to the Caribbean on a budget!
If you have any questions or comments please add them below!
You can checkout the rest of our Colombian adventures HERE
Adam & Kelly x