San Andrés Island

Travel Guide South America Colombia San Andrés Island

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Introduction

San Andrés is one of the two principal islands of San Andrés and Providencia. It is 200 km east of Nicaragua. San Andres and Providence belong to Colombia and are located in Colombian waters.

San Andrés is a tourist destination but not as slick and modern as others in the Caribbean. The island specializes in all-inclusive budget vacations that cater towards Colombian tourists. Outside of the downtown area there is a rural feeling, with small houses close to the main circle road, small sidewalks with some areas without any sidewalks at all, and many people hanging out on the streets, even at night. The people are extremely friendly and generally speaking the island is safe.

The sea surrounding the area is known by Colombians as the "Mar de siete colores" (seven-coloured sea), due to the variations of depth. To fully appreciate this, it is needed to go to the highest place in the island, around 70 meters high. Any locals will give directions to that precise spot, which is a normal stop for the island tours.

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Geography

San Andrés is the largest of the island group in the Department of the Archipelago of San Andrés, Providence and Saint Catherine. San Andrés is located in the Caribbean Sea, about 750 km northwest of the coast of Colombia. The island is 13 km in length and 3 km in width. It has an area of 26 km2 within the total area of the group of islands of 45 square kilometres (27 km2 is also mentioned in this reference for San Andrés), making it the largest island in the archipelago. Providencia, the next largest in area, is located 80 km to the northeast. San Andrés has a fairly flat topography with the highest point in the island reported at an elevation of 55 metres above sea level. San Andrés is crossed from south to north by a small mountain range whose highest peak is Cerro La Loma, also known as El Cliff. San Andrés' soils indicate that their formation is due to the eruption of a volcano which threw rocks older than the seafloor to the surface, creating the islands. Despite this, there is fertile soil and the soil is mostly red clay. It is easy to find small deposits of quartz on the island, especially in the neighborhood of La Loma Cove. Aside from the main settlements, the island is almost entirely covered in grass, trees and other vegetation, as well as sand along the coastline rather than rocks. The central area is marked by a chain of hills (Flowers, Orange, Shingle and Lion's Hill). The island has only small, ephemeral streams draining the land area, but no major rivers.

On the southwest coast of the island are some features, namely (from north to south) Bobby Rock, Boobie Rock, Fisher Rock and Tyler Rock. A feature named Rock Point is located on the southeastern coast. Suky Bay lies in the central western part of the island near Cove Sea Side. The northern part of the island has a beach, while the western part of the island has no beaches.

The island is surrounded on its northwest side by a small coral reef (arrecifex) and several keys that are home to varied fauna and flora, and are visited by many tourists every year. The small cay in the San Andrés Bay is said to be the most visited place in the archipelago.[1] Johnny Cay is a small coral islet that is located 1.5 km to the north of San Andrés Town. It is a scenic place with white-sand beaches surrounded by coconut plantations. The sea here is not suitable for swimming as the current of flow could be risky. A natural park was also created here in 2001. Haynes Cay is the place where cruise ships are docked. There are a number of large coral farms here with variety of species. The place is also popular for water sports activities like snorkeling and diving. Diving here with a mask and sandals (protection against sea urchins) colorful fish species can be seen. El Acuario (The Aquarium) Cay is off to the east coast of San Andrés, adjoins the Haynes Cay. It is a popular center for snorkeling since the sea here has shallow and calm waters.

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Sights and Activities

Rocky Cay. Wonderful beach near a little island. You can reach the little island walking!
San Luis. Beach good for kids. Protected by a little coral reef with small "ponds" great for children or relaxing.
West View. Not a beach, but a snorkeling point.
La Piscinita. Not a beach, but a snorkeling point.

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Weather

The island experiences a tropical monsoon climate that borders on a tropical wet and dry climate. Average temperatures range from 24 °C to 30 °C in two periods dominated by dry and rainy spells. The rainy season is from May to January, when humidity is also high here. The trade winds from the north begin to blow in late October and during November and December until mid-January, the wind usually blows from the east, when there are storms in the northeastern Caribbean.

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Getting There

Gustavo Rojas Pinilla International Airport (ADZ IATA). There are flights from Bogota, Medellin, Cali, Cartagena and Panama City, as well as charter flights from Canada (via Air Transat). The lowcost-airline VivaColombia offers the cheapest flights from the Colombian mainland starting at about US$120 for roundtrip. Colombian customs need to be cleared upon arrival to the island. Check with your local travel agency to see what documents you need to travel to Colombia. For many passengers, a tourist card has to be presented on arrival. Airlines flying to San Andrés sell them on the counter for the official price of US$25. If arriving from outside Colombia, exchange currency at the airport, the rates are similar as downtown if not better. Any foreign exchange in Colombia is very formal and a passport is required and a big official receipt handed with the passport details on it, before returning local currency.

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Getting Around

Rent a golf buggy or a scooter. Golf buggies can cost around COP$100,000 a full day. The police do not let golf buggies pass towards the south side of the island (away from downtown) after a certain time, usually 4PM.

Use public transportation. It is very convenient, safe and cheap (bus COP$1700). Ask about the times though, busses may not go around the island (or outside downtown) after a certain hour of the evening.

Take taxis. They will take you anywhere. You can also talk a taxi driver to pick you up other days and move you around. They are very friendly. Prices: COP$11,000 from/to airport; COP$6000 Downtown/Sarie Bay. Prices double after midnight (April/2014).

Be careful with the motorcycles! Most of the locals move around in them, and besides the noise they make, they appear everywhere at relatively high speeds.

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Eat

Most travellers to San Andres have meal plans included with their hotel packages. The variety and quality of the food varies with the hotel choice, but it is in general acceptable. Downtown in San Andres there are plenty of restaurant that serve what they call "almuerzo ejecutivo" (Executive Lunch) or "corrientazo" (short circuit) which is the local term for an economic lunch which may include soup, meat/fish, rice, vegetables, etc. There are also many street spots that sell smaller snacks like "arepas" (thick tortillas) and other local fast foods.

Native cuisine is found downtown, though many foreign travelers enjoy typical islander cuisine found around the "El Cove" bay and San Luis, where the typical dish of the island can be enjoyed: Rondon, which is a soup of crab, fish, pigtail, plantain, potato, breadfruit, etc.

Outside of downtown there are small shops selling everything from produce to beer and liquour. Ask at the hotel desk for the nearest one.

Tap water in San Andres is not suited for consumption. It comes from wells and/or desalinization stations.

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Drink

Tap water on the island is not suitable for human consumption; it comes from wells and/or desalinization stations.

Alcoholic beverages are sold to adults (18 years of age) and are found everywhere around the island; they are very cheap so feel free to bargain and ask around in several shops. Check the caps though, some bottles may have stayed long periods in humid containers and warehouses and develop rust. Beware of counterfeit liquors by purchasing from a reputable store.

Try Coconut Water, or local beverages served in coconut shells: Cocofresa, Cocoloco.

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Sleep

Various large all inclusive chain hotels can be found.

The largest chain is Decameron, with 6 hotels and a beach club: Marazul, MaryLand, SanLuis, Aquarium, Los Delfines, El Isleño.

Other hotels are:

Sol Caribe centro, Sol Caribe campo, Lord Pierre, Bahia Sardina, Casa Dorada, Casa Blanca, Cocoplum, El Dorado, Tiuna, Toné, Sunrise, Sunset, Calipso

Another accommodation option are the guesthouses called "Posadas Nativas" or Native Inns, run by the local Raizal people. These are bed and breakfast style including a homemade traditional island breakfast, and hosts speak English and Creole, which is great for international speakers who speak English and not Spanish.

For more information visit your local travel agency to see what packages are available.

You can also rent apartments for as cheap as COP$130,000 a night. Search for them online, there are plenty.

Nearby Providencia Island also has a variety of accommodation options.

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This is version 1. Last edited at 14:09 on Dec 14, 20 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

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