The Island of San Andres
After experiencing the delights of Cartagena we packed up again and headed to the airport, this time to the little known coral island of San Andres, much closer to Nicaragua than Colombia. There is a much more distinctive Caribbean feel here compared to the mainland. The natives to the island speak English as their first language, while there has been a large influx of Colombian nationals in the last 30 years, San Andres stays true to its routes.
The island only has one ‘proper’ town, this is mainly made up of resort hotels, tax free shopping, bars and restaurants, the south, where we had booked to stay is a much more laid back affair. We stayed at the Sunset hotel on the South West of San Andres which is about a 25 minute drive from the airport. We were charged 30,000cop but were later told we could have probably got it for the 20-25 mark, but at 1 am your options are limited I guess.
During the drive down we could not see anything of the scenery so were delighted to awake to the picture below. I know right?
Once we'd had breakfast we there were two choices, North or South to explore. The hotel owner told us that there were a few bars to the South of the Island along with a hole in the rock which spits out water when there is a good enough wave, so yeah, we’ll head to that we thought. Walking around the South of the Island is an absolute pleasure; as we worked our way around the curve of the island we were greeted with the view below and I felt genuinely moved, genuinely lucky in the fact I could see this scene. It looks like a Pirates of the Caribbean cliché but you’re there. All-in-all the Blow Hole wasn't that impressive, I mean; its a hole, in all fairness, it’s a 50 sq. mile island, not everything can be amazing.
The island really sells itself once you get in the sea. The water is crystal clear, it's like bath water once you get in; to the point where I'm sure every time I get into the sea from here it will be a painful reminder that I'm not in San Andres.
On the west of San Andres there is not much in the way of beaches, where the rock ends the sea begins, this is however where the best shore accessible snorkelling is, so you will find little ladders into the sea dotted up and down the island. While the east of the island is beach central.
As the island is so small getting around is pretty painless, you could realistically cycle from the south to the north in around an hour, but being a bit lazy I opted to hire one of the many Kawasaki Mules you see roaming around the island. For the less motor inclined like myself the best way to describe these are golf buggies on steroids; obviously these are a ton of fun and don't fail to bring out the child in me!
However, the absolute highlight of the trip was a snorkelling tour out of San Luis beach, advertised as two hours it lasted well more than three and during that time we saw such a diverse range of wildlife, from giant starfish, to jellyfish, urchins, a huge array of fish and then the pinnacle; swimming with around 30 wild stingrays, which can be viewed in the video above. A stingray managed to sneak behind my back and because of the current being so strong I was worried about drifting over the top of it ala Steve Irwin and promptly shit myself. Not a proud moment but it makes for a funny video! I'm not really sure what to tell you about the tour because we didn't get a company name. All I know is that one of the operators is called Jackson and the trip costs 75,000cop pp. Good Luck!
The one draw back with the south of the island is that 90% of places shut around 6pm, so unless you travel to the north you might be stuck for evening options. The early finish is not a problem if you've been swimming all day, as you are shattered! Although the Sunset Hotel does serve food until around 9pm.
While we're on the topic of food, the one the stand out place I would recommend is the Grog, the food is outstanding and they have a very varied menu, especially when it comes to seafood.
I honestly can't do the beauty of San Andres justice, I'm just not that good of a writer. It's a long way to go for such a small island but if you're in the area you will be doing yourself a massive favour by factoring it in to your trip. If you are a keen diver or snorkeller this might be the perfect place for you - the whole island and the neighbouring Providencia is ecologically protected!
Cheers for reading,