The Complete Guide To San Andres 

San Andres is an island that attracts tourists with amazing diving spots, white sand beaches, and clear blue water. There are many opinions about this Colombian island: some say that it’s a paradise, and others say that it is just an overpriced swamp. For those who want to determine if a trip to San Andres is worth your time I wrote the complete guide to San Andres with all the pluses, minuses, and many useful tips.

Is San Andres For Me?

San Andres island is often described as a paradise island in the Caribbean sea that is overlooked by tourists. However, it is not entirely true. 

First of all, San Andres might be overlooked by international tourists, but the island is full of local tourists and, in fact, it can get really crowded. 

The Complete Guide To San Andres

Also San Andres is not this secluded paradise island you might imagine it to be. As I mentioned already, the island is full of tourists, therefore traffic, gas pollution, and trash are the major drawbacks which are often present in touristy places. 

Another important thing that you should know is that the internet is bad. Of course, if you are going to a Caribbean island you should spend your time exploring this island and not the internet. However, for digital nomads, the internet is important, so you need to figure out how long you can afford to be away from a good internet. 

The Complete Guide To San Andres

Compared to mainland Colombia, San Andres is quite expensive, especially accommodation. Be ready to pay $50/night  for basic comfort. 

All that said, San Andres does have a beautiful exotic island with some amazing nature and interesting things to do, which you can read about below. 

The Complete Guide To San Andres

The blue water, white sand, beautiful coral reefs and perfect weather makes this island a very popular vacation spot. Especially if you are into diving or snorkeling. 

The Best Time To Visit San Andres

San Andres island is a perfect place for a vacation all year around (in terms of weather). No matter if it’s a dry (December – May) or a rainy (June – November) season, the temperature here is comfortable all the same (25 – 27°C). In the rainy season it actually rains just for a few hours a day, so it won’t prevent you from having a good time.

The Complete Guide To San Andres

San Andres is an island that mostly hosts Colombian tourists. Therefore, you should probably stay away from this island during big Colombian holidays, especially Easter and Christmas. 

The Complete Guide To San Andres

How To Get To San Andres

San Andres is a Colombian island that is located near Nicaragua. The only way to get to this island from mainland Colombia or even Nicaragua is by plane. 

You can fly to San Andres island from most major cities in Colombia. If you are flying from Bogota it will take you 2 hours, from Cartagena and Medellin around one and a half hours. 

How To Get To San Andres

The plane ticket from any of these cities would cost you between $30 and $60 per person, one way, without luggage. Expect to pay around $30 if you need to check in your suitcase. 

Many travelers before going to San Andres leave their big suitcases at a hotel or hostels for the time being and pick them up after the trip to the island. It is a known practice, so many places would gladly help you with your stuff. 

If you are in Star Alliance’s frequent flyer program and you have gold status, then you can just fly with Avianca and get your free check-in luggage. It’s a nice way to save money plus you get to go to the Avianca lounge before the flight. 

Important!

There are two things that are important for you to know before going to San Andres:

  1. Before flying to San Andres you need a return ticket from the island. Without this ticket you won’t be allowed on the plane. If you are planning on leaving the island by using a different airline, then book the ticket more than 24 hours before. Often there can be an issue with checking your booking. 
  2. Before boarding the plane to San Andres you will need to pay an island Entry tax for non-Colombians.  The tax is 112 500 COP per person. This can be bought at your gate before you get in a different line to board the plan. Credit cards are accepted so you don’t need to worry about paying in cash. 

Tips:

  1. You can’t drink tap water on San Andres island. And I don’t mean it like: “ehh…you probably shouldn’t drink tap water”! You ABSOLUTELY can’t drink tap water on San Andres. 

Here and there you will see self-serve vendor stands where you can pay a fee and fill up your water bottles, or you can just buy water from the store. 

  1. Carry Cash. I found that a lot of places in San Andres still only accept cash. So, you really do need to keep cash with you. Unfortunately the ATMs on San Andres island are sometimes out of cash, or service, therefore it makes it an annoying and difficult process to withdraw money. We tried 5 ATMs until we found one that had money in it. 

Bear in mind that the island is quite small and there are not a lot of ATMs to begin with. The vast majority are in San Andres town, and if you are staying far away at one of the more secluded beaches, chances are you will have to go into town for an ATM.

Public Transportation VS Rented Vehicles 

San Andres is quite a small island with one main ring road around the whole island. Therefore it is easy to get to any beach you want by public transport or driving yourself. 

To take a bus you will have to pay 3600 COP per person. It is a really convenient way to explore the island, since you can just hop in and hop off of the bus at all the best beaches on the island. However, buses can be really crowded and they don’t have an air conditioner inside. So as you see it is pretty convenient to use a bus, but not that comfortable. 

The most popular way to explore San Andres island is by golf cart. There are many places that rent them out in different sizes and for different prices. Expect to pay 100 000 COP and more for a day. 

For those who want to rent a vehicle, but a golf cart is a bit too expensive, you can rent a scooter for 60 000 – 70 000 COP per day. 

Things To Do In San Andres

Diving 

Diving is one of the main reasons international tourists come to San Andres. Same as with Taganga, San Andres is a great spot to get your diving certificate or do a few fun dives. 

You can find a few dive shops in the center of the city. Instructors usually speak Spanish and English, so you don’t need to be worried about the language barrier. 

San Andres island offers many great diving spots (including shipwreck, coral reefs, interesting rock formations, and more) and a wide variety of fish you can see underwater. The visibility here is high and the water is quite warm, so you don’t need to wear a thick wetsuit, or any wetsuit at all. 

For two fun dives (in two different spots) expect to pay around $65. To get certified (Open Water) costs $325. Click here to check one of the scuba dive shops.

Johnny Cay Island

Johnny Cay island is a tiny island that was declared as a regional park. This island reminds me a lot of …… in Thailand. It is gorgeous with white sand and clear blue water that attracts a lot of tourists. 

The ecosystem of this place is fragile and is getting destroyed by tourists. Due to that, Johnny Cay regional park was closed to tourists for a while. Nowadays the island is mostly open, except for a few days every few months.  

Johnny Cay Island

To get to Johnny Cay island you can do so by taking a boat from the main beach of San Andres ($5 per person). The regional park is located just 1,5 km away from the North of San Andres.

On Johnny Cay island you will find lots of small stalls that sell coconuts with rum and play reggae music. You can hide in the shade of coconut trees and snorkel in the shallow water. 

Johnny Cay regional park is a must visit place, although I understand the irony of us tourists, from one side supporting local business, and from the other ruining this park’s ecosystem. 

Visit Providencia

Providencia is another tropical island that is located 90 km away from San Andres. It is a more secluded, less touristy spot that you might enjoy way more than San Andres. Providencia offers superb diving and snorkeling, stunning beaches and crystal blue water, cute cafes and restaurants, and many other things.

Although, you must know that the main reason that Providencia is not overcrowded with tourists is that it is quite difficult (expensive) to get here. 

To get to Providencia you can go by boat, or a small plane. Round trip on the boat will cost you $110 per person and it will take around 3 hours. If you prefer a flight, there are a few flights a day from San Andres to Providencia. In the low season there are usually 2 flights, and in the high season there can be up to 5 flights a day. The plane that takes you to Providencia is tiny (just 20 passengers), so book your flight in advance. The flight time is just 20 minutes. Expect to pay around $100 for such a flight. 

Your stay at Providencia island will depend on your budget, but I think that 2 – 3 days of relaxation in this paradise is enough. 

Explore The Island 

San Andres is an island full of beautiful beaches. Some of them are more developed than others, so you really can find a place to your own liking. 

Explore The Island 

To explore the island you should start from El Centro (main town of San Andres). 75% of the whole island population live in this town. This is the place to do your shopping, find a dive shop, or organize your excursions. 

Explore The Island 

El Centro also has a pretty great beach. It can get a bit crowded, but overall the beach is nice; it reminds me of Taganga main beach. 

After El Centro rent a scooter/golf cart or hop on the bus and explore the rest of the coast. You will definitely find a few cute spots. 

Explore The Island 

I definitely recommend you visit Playa San Luis and Playa Rocky Cay. I would say that Playa Rocky Cay is more developed than San Luis, but both places are stunning and you will find some great restaurants along them. There are also many small deserted beaches around the coast that you can hang out at. 

Snorkeling

Snorkeling is the second most popular activity after diving on San Andres island. One of the best spots for snorkeling is the Eco Parque West View. Here you will have to pay an entrance fee (around $2 in cash). 

The place is great actually and totally worth $2. You can spend a whole day (they work until 5 pm) snorkeling and relaxing at the cafe. You just need to bring your snorkeling equipment and a towel, food and drinks you can buy there. 

Before going snorkeling they will give you a piece of bread for feeding fish. A really fun activity, since there are tons of fish that come to you. It also helps that the water is crystal clear and you can see all the beautiful colors. 

Cayo Bolivar

Cayo Bolivar is yet another great spot that you can get from San Andres. It is a tiny island, kinda like Johnny Cay, but way less crowded. To get there you can go by booking a day tour, or renting a boat by yourself. 

Cayo Bolivar is a place to disconnect from the world. You won’t find vendors, or cafes…. just white sand, blue water, and palm trees. Therefore bring water with you, but do not litter!!! Same as Johnny Cay, the Cayo Bolivar ecosystem has to be preserved, so be respectful!

Shopping On The Island

For those who didn’t know, San Andres is a duty free zone. That is why lots of local tourists usually combine their beach vacation with shopping. 

El Centro has a big variety of boutiques to please your shopping cravings. If you are looking for some fancy sunglasses or a watch, you definitely can use this opportunity to find a good price. 

Eat Rondon

Rondon is the local island specialty. In fact, it is popular in a lot of the Caribbean, so it makes sense San Andres has their version. 

Eat Rondon

This dish is a very hearty and heavy stew, and is usually only sold on weekends. We actually got ours from some local family cooking it along the side of the main ring road near Playa San Luis. 

The dish can have different ingredients, but ours had fish, pork, plantain, yucca, dumpling, and cassava all cooked in coconut milk. Served on the side was a very popular San Andres specialty, pickled Scotch Bonnet (basket) peppers. 

The Complete Guide To San Andres 

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