Updated on 02/22/2024
My name is Frank and I run a tour operator in Bogota, specializing in custom-made and Colombia luxury travel.
At the end of this guide you will find a list of many other helpful travel guides for Colombia.
The island of San Andres is known for the Sea of Seven Colors, which is part of the Archipelago of San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina. With an area of 26 square kilometers (16 square miles), San Andres is the largest island in Colombia.
Curiously, San Andres is closer to Nicaragua than mainland Colombia. The distance to Nicaragua is around 400 kilometers (245 miles), with the distance to its own mainland being over 700 kilometers (435 miles).
This situation has repeatedly caused tension in the past. There have been a lot of legal disputes over which territory should San Andres, Providencia, and Santa Catalina belong. The last discussion that took place with the neighboring country about these islands was won by Colombia and clear sea borders were drawn between Colombia and Nicaragua.
Nicaragua was awarded part of the sea, which aroused outrage among the inhabitants of the islands. The fish-rich waters have a high economic value for the islands and are one of the main sources of income. Historically, San Andres was a pirate and privateer refuge during colonial times. The most famous pirate was Henry Morgan, who hid the treasures and riches he plundered from the Spanish colonies in his large cave. The ”Cueva del pirata Morgan” (Morgan’s pirate cave) is now a tourist attraction.
How tourism also threatens the islands
The islands have experienced a real boom in recent years. The population and visitor numbers have literally exploded. Myopia and lack of awareness have already destroyed some of the natural treasure. In the medium term there is a risk of not only destroying natural resources, but also of losing the main sources of income through tourism.
The economy of the department of San Andres was driven on the basis of a model that promotes tourism. Thanks to the implementation of public policies such as the Declaration of Free Port in 1953 and the implementation of the “Living Islands for All” development plan in 2008. However, these initiatives have marginalized the island community and large corporations like Decameron and On Vacation were preferred. Most of the money flow did not and does not flow to the local culture, namely the islanders, but into the pockets of large companies.
As a tourist, you can support the local culture by, for example, booking communal tourism and staying in local hotels or guesthouses. Such tourist behavior means that resources can be taken in locally, managed and reinvested. Funds do not flow abroad or into tax-optimized structures and benefit the local community again.
Another problem is the amount of waste, especially plastic. Here too, travelers can make their contribution. For example, do without plastic bags when shopping. Ask for recyclable material, do not accept disposable tableware and cutlery.
Tips for more sustainable tourism
- Stay in youth hostels, apartments or local hotels.
- Buy locally (handicrafts, drinks).
- Eat in local restaurants that support sustainable fishing.
- Do not litter.
- Recycle as much as possible, do not use single-use bottles.
- Be careful when choosing a tour. Book sustainable services that do not contribute to the erosion of reefs or the destruction of the environment.
- Avoid campfires on the beach. Animals like turtles use the beach for their reproduction and are thereby disturbed.
- Mangroves or reefs are fragile ecosystems. Boats and jet skies can damage them.
- Avoid buying handicrafts made from animal products (tanks, turtle shells, crabs, etc.)
Things to do and see on San Andres
The island is ideal for hiking, even after the crises in 2020 (Covid-19 and hurricanes).
Kitesurfing: There are now several providers on the island. This area is a veritable kitesurfing paradise in terms of wind and beauty.
Diving: The island of San Andres is surrounded by reefs. No wonder you can find a lot of animals, because the corals are a vital habitat for many species. A dive opens up incredible opportunities to discover this underwater world.
Submarine: This is not a real submarine. The ship has a lower deck, which is equipped with windows. The passengers therefore have a clear view of the entire underwater world while sitting safely in the dry.
One trip costs 75,000 COP. There are two tours a day and reservations are recommended.
Bus island tour: Various tourist spots on the island are visited. The tour lasts 4 hours and costs 25,000 COP.
Underwater Walk: This walk is a very interesting experience. You don’t even have to get into a diving suit. You put on a helmet, which ensures the oxygen supply with a hose to the surface.
The walk takes 15 minutes and you visit various statues under water.
Times: 9:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. / Cost: 120,000 COP (per person).
Pontoon Party: These motorized and floating platforms can be rented by groups. It’s the perfect party fun while cruising the bay.
Tour: Drive to the eastern part of the bay, visit the mangrove area, visit the floating bar of Ibiza, visit the aquarium and finally visit the “marine world” where you can interact with manta rays. Excellent music and drinks are included.
Departure time: 2.30 p.m. / cost: 100,000 COP (per person).
Parasailing: Parasailing is the perfect activity to see the 7 colors of the sea. From a height of 100 meters you can enjoy a wonderful view over the bay, the coral reef and to the northern tip of the island.
Departure times: 9:00 am, 11:00 am, 2:00 pm, 4:00 pm / costs: 160,000 COP (per person).
Ibiza day trip: The floating Ibiza bar is a place to relax all day long with music surrounded by the Caribbean Sea. The bar offers food and alcoholic beverages as well as sunbathing areas.
The return trips to the island are usually at 5:00 p.m.
Wakeboard: a fishing boat and a board. This is the definition of wakeboard in San Andres. Certainly not an offer for experienced athletes, but great fun for beginners.
Subwing: I only got to know this activity a few weeks ago. You are underwater and being pulled by a boat. You hold on to a wing, which consists of movable elements. By changing the angle of attack, all kinds of underwater maneuvers are possible, you can turn like a dolphin. If you can’t imagine that, it’s best to do a quick search on YouTube.
Cost: 140,000 COP (per person).
Tourist places not to be missed
Island House Museum
The museum was designed by locals to introduce visitors to the culture and customs of the islanders. Here you can also learn the emblematic island dance, the “raga”.
Entry: 10 000 COP
Also known as Cayo Algodón, this small island is just off the coast of San Andres. The English colonists used to store their cotton and coconut crops there.
At the southern tip of the island there is a natural hole a few meters from the sea. The underground consists of several coral reefs and underground tunnels through which the water moves. As soon as the tide rises or the wind blows, air and sometimes water is pushed up through this hole.
This islet is connected to San Andres Beach by a series of buoys tied with a rope.
The distance is around 200 meters and you can cover the distance without any difficulties. However, one should watch out for jellyfish.
We mentioned earlier that the famous pirate Henry Morgan used this island to hide the treasures he plundered. One of his favorite places was this cave.
Today there is a theme park with a backdrop and exhibitions and dance shows and of course the cave. However, no one has ever found treasure in it.
Entry: 15,000 COP
First Baptist Church
The Baptist Church, built in 1847, is not only the first on the island, but in all of Latin America. It is made of wood and is beautiful. You can also climb the inside of the bell tower, from where you have a view of the whole island.
Old Point Regional Park Mangrove Trail
This path consists of a wooden walkway over a mangrove area. To reach the boardwalk, you have to leave your vehicle on the main road. The path is overgrown and you have to expect insects.
An entrance fee is required at the entrance.
Lagoon large pond
In the heart of the island is this small lagoon with small alligators. You can go around the laguna in a short walk.
Entrance fee: 10,000 COP (2.5 USD)
La Loma viewpoint
La Loma is home to the largest population group and is located on the highest part of the island. If you are looking for an ideal panoramic view, here we have it.
Entry: 8,000 COP (2 USD)
West View and La Piscinita
At these two points on the island you will find crystal clear water and perfect conditions for snorkeling. There is no sandy beach there, but rock and a kind of beach club with loungers.
Entry: 5,000 COP
Representative figures of the island’s history are scattered all over the island.
Some very representative statues can be found right next to the Morgan Cave.
The best beaches
San Andres is surrounded by water, but not all beaches are perfect for relaxing and swimming.
Sandy beaches and also suitable for swimming can be found on the east side of the island. The west coast, on the other hand, is rockier. However, there are also excellent spots to jump into the sea or take fantastic panoramic photos.
The beach in the neighborhood of San Luis is a popular place for tourists because of its shallow depth, white sand and blue-green sea. Cayo Rocoso is a small coral island about two hundred meters from the island that can be reached on foot.
One of the quietest beaches on the island is on the southern tip. We recommend these families with children, seniors and travelers in general who want to enjoy the sea in peace.
Thanks to the offshore reefs, the current is slowed down and the waves break early.
This is the islanders main beach and it is mostly crowded. The city beach is quite long and you should therefore find a place despite its popularity. Adjacent to the beach is the promenade with many shops and restaurants.
This beach is further south and has rocks and a stronger current. The island’s famous restaurant “Donde Francesca” is also located here.
El Salto del Tigre, West View and La Piscinita
These locations are on the west coast of the island and are perfect for snorkeling and jumping off the rocks straight into the sea. There are also bars with music in West View and La Piscinita.
There are some interesting tours on San Andres. We present a selection of them below.
Traditional fishing tour: tours with different techniques are offered. Cost: 100,000 – 180,000 COP.
V.I.P.-Tour: During this tour you will visit Johnny Cay, the aquarium and a final interaction with manta rays.
Times: 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Visit Johnny Cay Island first. At 1:00 p.m., continue to the Aquarium, an island surrounded by corals, where you can observe and interact with a variety of marine animals.
Price: 78,000 COP (per person)
Sea of the 7 colors tour:
Duration: 1 hour 45 minutes.
On the ecological tour you will learn why the sea around San Andres has 7 colors. You usually see a variety of marine animals on the tour. During the tour there are two stops at different fish and coral banks. The tour takes place with a sailboat and an additional 20 minutes with a kayak.
Departure times: 9:00 am, 11:00 am, 3:00 pm
Cost: 90,000 COP (per person).
Duration: 2 hours.
This tour takes place in the mangrove area of the island. Transparent kayaks give you a clear view of all the animals and plants that are in the water. Led by bilingual guides, there are snorkel masks, snacks (consisting of typical local foods) and plastic boxes to store cell phones.
Times: 9:00 am, 11:30 am, 2:00 pm, 4:00 pm (groups of more than 10 people will be split up)
Cost: 100,000 COP (per person).
White Night Tour: This tour lasts 2 hours and you can have the unique experience of a boat party in San Andres Bay. This tour includes dinner, drinks, music, and live entertainment.
Times: 7.30pm and 11pm
Cost: 130,000 COP (per person).
Be very careful when swimming with manta rays or visiting a starfish area. Interaction with animals always involves a risk of injury. We also recommend not entering the natural habitat of animals.
Hotels and accommodation on San Andres
Places near Rocky Cay or on the white sandy beaches in Spratt Bight, are some of the best places to rest after a long Caribbean day.
For more details and information check out our best San Andres lodging recommendations.
Best areas on the island
When visiting San Andres, one should know a little about the different areas.
“North End” or “The City”.
What is known locally as “downtown” San Andres is also the ideal area to be while on the island. The center is the best place to enjoy, stroll and quietly shop in the opinion of the locals. Here you will find a variety of shops, hotels, restaurants and bars.
You can move around on foot without the need for complicated transportation. This is also where the banking and government areas are located and the area is very safe. Here you will also find the “Zona Rosa”, the nightlife district.
Travelers will note that the center of San Andres is not literally in the center of the island. It is considered the center in the northwest area, near the beaches of Spratt Bight.
Nightlife on San Andres
Since it is a tourist island, there are a variety of clubs and bars. In addition, of course, various activities, such as B. Night boat trips. On San Andres there are also spontaneous parties by and for travelers. All you need is music and of course alcohol.
This nightclub is considered exclusive by travelers. The capacity is up to 1,000 people. In addition, the associated terrace by the sea has become one of the most visited places in San Andres.
Spratt Way pedestrian crossing
In this public area you can watch young and old dancing to the rhythm of merengue, salsa and vallenatos.
Big Mama Original Reggae Bar
Ideal for reggae and piña coladas lovers.
Aquarius Restaurant Bar
A place right on the beach with live shows from the most famous artists of San Andres.
Banzai Cocktail Bar
There are Caribbean parties with reggae and dancehall.
LightHouse Lounge Bar
Without a doubt the most exclusive bar on this list. Not everyone is allowed in.
Like every Colombian department, the Archipelago of San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina have local holidays and various cultural events.
Green Moon Festival
The festival takes place every April and is one of the most famous events.
It consists of the celebration of the Creole culture, the Raizales, and is based on activities within what are known as the “bush culture”, “marine culture” and “coconut culture”. A lot of reggae is played.
Annual competition in March or May. Start is in Johnny Cay. The event is sponsored by Xportiva and attracts personalities from Colombian show business.
Regional choir meetings
This meeting is part of the week of the arts and the choirs of the different churches of the archipelago take part in it. The Week of the Arts runs from September 25th to 29th and is an obligation of the department’s government to organize events for the enjoyment and promotion of the island community and visitors.
National Day July 20th
Majestic patriotic parade in the central sector of the island with cultural presentations of the archipelago. At this celebration, the island’s educational institutions and public organizations march on a certain route, accompanied by soundtracks, it’s quite a spectacle.
Patriotic celebration on August 7th
Patriotic parade in the typical and indigenous sector of San Luis with cultural presentations of the island. Very similar to the celebration of July 20th.
International theater festival “Ethnic Roots”.
This activity is related to the preservation and promotion of recreational and artistic activities among the youth and adults of the department, giving the opportunity to exchange experiences and share the stage with groups from other regions of Colombia and the world. It takes place during the Week of the Arts.
Day of the race
Patriotic parade of La Loma locals with cultural presentations of the island. It takes place in October.
San Andres Patronage Festival
Celebration of the patron saint of San Andres with parades and local cultural presentations of the island during the month of November. As part of these festivities, the Coconut Carnival and the Coconut Queen are celebrated, an event in which several nations from the Caribbean coast and neighboring islands take part.
Shopping on the island
San Andres is a duty-free island. Local shops offer a wide variety of products.
You can find perfumes, beauty articles, groceries, handicrafts, jewelry, watches, clothing, electronic devices and much more.
Beauty articles and accessories
For home and family
What and where to eat on the island?
A popular place for the municipality is for example “La Sandwicheria”, or as it is popularly called “Donde Aristi”.
Other restaurants are:
Typical local dishes on San Andres
The most typical dish on the island. In the past it was only made by men for men. But today women prepare and eat it too. It consists of large pieces of fish, snail, yucca, sweet potatoes, pork tail, plantains and domplines (flour tortillas), bathed and cooked in plenty of coconut milk with pepper.
- Fish ball:
Any type of fish can be used to make these fish balls.
Usually snapper, mojarra, and even black crabs are used. The secret is to remove the bones and season the meat well with tomato, onion, garlic, salt and lemon, then fry it.
- A great side dish is “breadfruit”
This can be fried or cooked as an accompaniment to various dishes. It is eaten when it is still green and unripe to better enjoy its taste.
- Coconut balls
In the afternoon, after lunch, you can find women in the pedestrian zone who display and sell these typical sweets of the island.
- Fruit juices and cakes made from ahuyama, corn and banana
In general, the sea is the direct source for the Sanandresana cuisine, therefore the following ingredients are mainly used: seafood, snails, black crabs, prawns, red and feather snapper, seasoned with coconut water and their pulp.
Everything is flavored with aromatic plants that the English brought to the island, including: ginger, cloves and cinnamon.
Transportation on the island
Various types of vehicles can be rented on San Andres. The island has a total area of only 26 square kilometers (16 square miles) and has a coastal road that leads around the island.
We generally recommend always taking photos of the vehicles received in order to report any existing damage.
Cost: 80,000 COP per day
- Golf carts or mulas
Cost: Around 250,000 COP per day
The advantage of these vehicles is a roof that protects against the sun.
A kind of floating platform with a motor. The prices vary.
- LOCAL BUSES
The island has a network of buses that connect the inhabited centers with the most distant places. Locals usually use these. The price is 4,000 COP (1 USD) per trip.
The taxi fare depends on the distance, time of day, and number of passengers. Taxis in San Andres are usually safe and reliable, but you should always check the meter and agree on the price before you get in. You can also ask for a receipt if you need one.
- RENT A BIKE
Cost: 40,000 COP per day
It is possible to rent electric or traditional bikes on the island, the price may vary.
The best time to visit San Andres Island
The island has become increasingly popular in recent years. The climate of San Andres is typical of the tropics. There are two seasons, winter and summer. The island’s rainy season usually lasts between May and December. The dry season is between January and April. The temperatures (between 26 ° and 29 ° C) are always roughly the same.
We also recommend not visiting the island during hurricane season.
Air connections from San Andres
There are charter and seasonal flights from different parts of America and Europe. The airport operates 24 hours a day, but the administrative offices and shops are only open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day.
Conditions before arrival?
Travelers wishing to enter San Andres, Providencia or Santa Catalina will have to pay an entry fee of 124,000 COP (in 2023) which is normally payable at the gate prior to departure! Theoretically, this tax is used to improve the island’s infrastructure and for social projects.
Shopping in San Andres: A Paradise for Bargain Hunters
If you are looking for a place to buy souvenirs, gifts, or treats for yourself, San Andres is a great destination. San Andres is a duty-free zone, which means you can find a variety of products at lower prices than in mainland Colombia or other countries. You can shop for perfumes, cosmetics, liquor, clothing, shoes, sporting goods, and more from well-known brands or local vendors. You can also find exquisite emeralds, the national gemstone of Colombia, and other jewelry items that will sparkle in the sun.
San Andres has several shopping centers and malls where you can find everything you need. The most popular ones are Centro Comercial New Point, Centro Comercial Unisnandres, and Centro Comercial San Andres. These malls are located near the North End, the main tourist area of the island. You can also stroll along the Avenue of the Americas, where you will find many shops and street vendors selling different products.
If you are looking for something more authentic and unique, you can also buy handicrafts made by local artisans. They use coconut shells, coral, wood, and other materials to create beautiful and original items that reflect the culture and history of the island. You can find these handicrafts in markets, stalls, or shops around the island. Some of the best places to buy them are Providencia and Santa Catalina islands, where you can also enjoy the natural beauty and tranquility of these lesser-visited islands.
Shopping in San Andres is not only fun but also rewarding. You can find amazing deals and quality products that will make your trip more memorable. Just remember to compare prices and quality before you buy, and don’t be afraid to bargain with the sellers. You will be surprised by how much you can save and enjoy while shopping in this Caribbean paradise.
What I like and what I don’t like about San Andres
The island was certainly once an absolute paradise. However, the uncontrolled growth has many negative effects.
Security on San Andres is good, but theft has increased in recent years. Misleading advertising on social networks and inflated costs top the list of complaints on the island. When arriving in San Andres, some of the traveler’s notice that the location and the service are not what is on offer.
Colombia Travel Guides
Here you will find travel guides for the most popular regions in Colombia, which we have put together during our extensive travels around the country.
- Colombia Travel Guide
- Bogota Travel Guide
- Medellin Travel Guide
- Santa Marta Travel Guide
- Cartagena Travel Guide
- La Guajira Travel Guide
- Barranquilla Colombia Travel Guide
- Llanos Travel Guide
- Providencia Travel Guide
- Coffee Triangle Travel Guide
- Amazonas Travel Guide
- Choco Travel Guide
- Santander Travel Guide
- Boyaca Travel Guide
- San Andres Island Travel Guide
- Cali Travel Guide
Travel Guides to Colombia’s Small Towns
Here you will find travel guides for less popular destinations in Colombia. Some of these destinations are even real insider tips and not even known to the Colombians as travel destinations.
- Aguachica Colombia Travel Guide
- Arauca Colombia Travel Guide
- Armenia Colombia Travel Guide
- Barrancabermeja Colombia Travel Guide
- Bucaramanga Colombia Travel Guide
- Buenaventura Colombia Travel Guide
- Canyon Chicamocha Colombia Travel Guide
- El Carmen de Bolivar Colombia Travel Guide
- Caucasia Colombia Travel Guide
- Cucuta Colombia Travel Guide
- Florencia Colombia Travel Guide
- Ibagué Colombia travel guide
- Inirida Colombia Travel Guide
- Ipiales Colombia Travel Guide
- Magangue Colombia Travel Guide
- Manizales Colombia Travel Guide
- Mitu Colombia Travel Guide
- Mocoa Colombia Travel Guide
- Monteria Colombia Travel Guide
- Neiva Colombia Travel Guide
- Palmira Colombia Travel Guide
- Pasto Colombia Travel Guide
- Pereira Colombia Travel Guide
- Popayan Colombia Travel Guide
- Puerto Asis Colombia Travel Guide
- Puerto Carreno Colombia Travel Guide
- Quibdo Colombia Travel Guide
- Riohacha Colombia Travel Guide
- San José del Guaviare Colombia Travel Guide
- Sincelejo Colombia Travel Guide
- Sogamoso Colombia Travel Guide
- Tulua Colombia Travel Guide
- Tumaco Colombia Travel Guide
- Tunja Colombia Travel Guide
- Turbo Colombia Travel Guide
- Valledupar Colombia Travel Guide
- Villa de Leyva Colombia Travel Guide
- Villavicencio Colombia Travel Guide
- Yopal Colombia Travel Guide