San Andres is a beautiful paradise island. And for us it belongs to one of the most beautiful places in South America. San Andres located in Colombia has one of the best beaches we have seen and even tough it is a small island there many awesome things to do. Surrounded by Caribbean waters the beauty of this island blew our minds. San Andres is very close to Nicaragua, yet belongs to Colombia. For us, as beach addicts this place is the jackpot. San Andres is a true paradise with water that has so many different shades of blue and turquoise, that you get confused when you try to count the shades. In fact the waters around this island have 12 shades of blue. Can you see a few of them in the background?
ABOUT SAN ANDRES
San Andres is located 750 km northwest of the Colombian main land. The Archipelago San Andres consists of San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina. San Andres is the largest island among them. It is surrounded by small coral reefs and several keys, which make home to diverse fauna and flora. We spent one week in San Andres and we recommend you to come here for at least 4 days. Even though San Andres is a small island, 12.5 km in length and 3 km in width, you can do a lot of interesting things. Here are the best things to do in San Andres, Colombia.
ENJOY BEAUTIFUL BEACHES
As an absolute Caribbean paradise, you won’t be disappointed with what you will see. We guarantee it. The beaches are so stunning. As we mentioned already, San Andres waters have 12 shades of blue and is surrounded by sugary perfect white sand and has a laid-back atmosphere.
CITY BEACH, PLAYA PRINCIPAL
We are not fans of city beaches. But we have never seen a city beach as beautiful as this one. We didn’t mind people walking around selling drinks and other things. In fact, you don’t even need to get a beach chair. Just find an “available” palm tree and you have shade for free.
SAN LUIS BEACH
Many locals recommend to go to San Louis Beach, which is more remote than the city beach. At the time of the year we visited there was sea weed at the shores. We still liked it a lot.
This place we found by accident when we were driving around. We liked it that much, that we almost moved in into our little palm tree house. You can still go swim and snorkel here, just make sure you wear shoes for the sharp rocks. The place doesn’t really have a name but is easy to find in the south if you drive around the island.
RENT A SCOOTER AND DRIVE AROUND
It is not cheap to rent a scooter in San Andres. But we did rent it and paid for half a day a whopping $20. Yet we had a really nice time as we were very flexible and could stop wherever we wanted. We love to drive around ourselves. For us it’s the best way to explore a place. Driving around San Andres is so much fun. There is not much going on, so you barely see a car driving by. It is also pleasant as the road is nearby the sea.
THE BAPTIST CHURCH
This is the first baptist church built in South America. You can watch a little video about the history of the church and then you can go up to the tower and have a beautiful view on the island.
Many guides mentioned this attraction as one of the must-visits when in San Andres, but honestly we didn’t go as we read so many bad reviews about this place. Basically it is a place about the story of Captain Henry Morgan. There are several fake pirate buildings and a pirate ship replica. The admission fee is 45.000 Pesos which is a lot for such a thing. I would rather go for the boat tour again for this kind of money. I wouldn’t call it as one of the best things to do in San Andres Colombia, but some people like this kind of tourist things.
WHERE TO WATCH SUNSETS
I don’t think we have to write a lot on this topic. Watching sunsets is one of our favorite things to do and San Andres is a wonderful place to do it.
DIVING AND OTHER WATER SPORTS
San Andres as a Caribbean island with warm waters and 12 mangrove forests is a perfect spot for diving, snorkeling or outdoor adventures. San Andres is surrounded by a diverse ecosystem of reefs, mangroves and cays. Diving is quiet expensive in San Andres. For 2 dives (2 full tanks) without equipment you would pay around 170.000 Pesos, equipment such as googles, fins and BCD costs an additional 50.000. This is the first time I heard that you need to pay extra for your equipment. You can also hire a kayak and enjoy your time around the Mangrove forests. We were snorkeling next to Acuario and saw baby manta rays and many other tropical fish.
ISLAND HOPPING BOAT TOURS
When you come to San Andres you have to do the day trips to the islands near by. I can guarantee that you will love it and it is one of the best things to do in San Andres, Colombia. San Andres is beautiful itself and you can spend a few days just wandering around the island. But there are also very beautiful islands around. They are not to far away and very easy to reach. Be aware that some of the islands have several names. Spanish and English versions. Plus the locals pronounce the English names at times incorrectly. We try to use the names the locals mostly used to refer to the different smaller islands.
So what are the best snorkeling/ island hopping tours you can do from San Andres? You have a few possibilities. You can do the full day tour to see all the islands in 1 day. That is Johnny Cay, Cordoba Island, Natural Aquarium with a Manta Ray spot, and a quick boat ride through a mangrove forest. Actually we wanted to do it, but as we were the only ones not speaking Spanish, tour guides didn’t get what we wanted and we ended up doing a different tour. Which, in the end was much, much better. They charge 50.000 Pesos per person to see all the islands in one day: It is a full day day trip, you start at 9:00 a.m. and come back around 5:30 p.m.
The boat tours to the islands are the only activity which to us seemed to have fair prices on San Andres. An you don’t need to book anything upfront. Just come to the pier in San Anders and book your ticket at one of the booths.
This is where the port is located.
ISLAND HOPPING TOUR TO ACUARIO ISLAND, SAND BAR AND CORDOBA ISLAND
This is our one of our most favorite island hopping tours ever. The price for one person is 40.000 Pesos. You will go to Acuario, Manta Ray spot, and a mangrove forest. We stared at 9:30 a.m. and came back around 3:00 p.m. Acuario is an incredible paradise and we loved it there. We arrived around at 10:00 a.m. and could stay till 2:30 p.m. Usually we feel rushed during such tours. So we were happy that here it was not the case. We could take many photos at different locations and really enjoyed it. And yes we took indeed many photos.
Acuario San Andres Islas/ Sandbar and Cordoba island with a quick stop at the Manta ray spot and mangrove trees.
I was so excited about a small sand bank in the middle of the sea. I don’t know why, but I always dreamed about to be on one. And this was the first time in my life. I was sooooo happy. Nico thought I will get a heart attack, because I was just running around like I have never seen water before. We have seen many beautiful beaches, but the Caribbean sea is a VERY SPECIAL PLACE TO ME. The water is so crazy blue that you just can’t stop looking at it.
From Acuario you easily can walk to Haynes Cay, just use your water shoes as the ocean floor is rocky. You can walk to the other island called Cordoba, where you can find some shade under palm trees and a few cute bars. We absolutely loved the Jamaican bar (I think it was called Bibi’s Place). We had some beers (1 beer 5.000 Pesos) and listened to Reggae music with this AMAZING VIEW.
Just note that you won’t be alone there. The amount of people varies and many people leave around noon as they were going to Johnny Cay. We were so glad that they made a mistake with our tour because after, there were not many people left. This picture was taken during the peak time.
I am very glad we didn’t do all the islands on the same day. It was so hot, that we couldn’t have done it. And we got burned anyways 😀
A BOAT TOUR TO JOHNNY CAY
This is the only island which we didn’t do during our first island hopping tour and I am happy we didn’t. We wouldn’t have had enough time so we highly recommend you to split it. And to be honest we didn’t like Johnny Cay as much as Acuario and Haynes Cay. Johnny Cay is even more touristy and for some reason everyone wants to go there. It was quiet hard to take this photo without a million people walking by. But we still liked it there and enjoyed our time. The west coast of this tiny island is not as busy as the beach where the boats land. We came there around 10:00 a.m. and the boat back to San Andres was picking us up at at 2:00 p.m..
You can also do a day tour to an island called Cayo Bolivar. However, at the time of our travels, the island was closed due to reconstruction, basically said: due to TOURIST OVERLOAD. We were told that the government closed the island to fix the canalisation and other things. The island has been closed for over a year. Let us know once its reopen so we can update our information for other travellers.
WALK AROUND THE CITY CENTER
The Lonely Planet guide describes the city center as something terrible and rather unpleasant. But we don’t understand why. It is a normal beach town with several cute shops, many other convenient stores and a somewhat nice atmosphere.
Hope you like our ideas on the best things to do in San Andres Colombia. We had a really great time in San Andres and I hope that you visit this place some day as well.
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If you are planning to go to South America you can get inspired HERE. We wrote an article on the most beautiful places we have seen in South America.
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