Columbian Islands

Teeming with exceptional diving and snorkeling opportunities, the islands of San Andres and Providencia are part of the Columbia archipelago just east of Nicaragua. Both islands (along with Santa Catalina) are also part of the Seaflower Biosphere Reserve. Thanks to its establishment in 2000, the area boasts well-preserved mangroves swamps and healthy reef ecosystems.

Seahorse shaped San Andres, the larger of the two, is the commercial center of the islands. Bustling commercial and hotel development in the northern part of the island means more people and larger crowds.

However, if lively nightlife and robust shopping are diversions you seek, you’ll be sated here. Head to the eastern coast for the less tourist impacted part of the island. There, you’ll find the town of La Loma, comprised almost entirely of natives. Here is one of the best areas to appreciate the island’s traditional architecture. In addition, mesmerizing vistas of the “seven colored sea” can be achieved from the hill. Visit the island’s first church, built in 1847, which is also in La Loma.

Located in the nearby town of San Luis waits the popular beach Cocoplumbay. Its shallow, blue-green waters and white sand lure tourists.

Though small in quantity, the quality of restaurants is strong on San Andres. Savor local dishes like rondon and stewed crab and fish at Miss Celia O’Neill Taste. Support local fishermen when you enjoy a meal at Fisherman Place, a cozy beachside seafood restaurant. In addition, the waterfront location of Mahi Mahi is appealing, as are their Thai offerings.

Providencia, also known as Old Providence, is an ideal spot for folks seeking a more low-key getaway. Strict zoning laws equals less development, which creates quite the idyllic environs.

Crab Cay, a small island situated within the Biosphere Reserve, provides spectacular snorkeling among the blue-green hues of the reef zone. Views from the island’s hilltop are nothing short of enchanting.

Restaurant options include Café Studio, an island favorite; and Restaurant Eneidy, for a relaxing, open-air dining.

You’ll appreciate that it’s less expensive to vacation here, but don’t expect posh results you’d find in more developed Caribbean countries. However, whether you prefer high-rise hotels, hostels, or bed and breakfasts, you can find accommodations to fit every style and budget on either island.

To avoid the wet season, you should book your vacation between January and April. A tip: cool island breezes can deceive you. Make sure to be diligent with sunscreen application, as the sun is quite strong here.

If you seek a destination relatively unfazed by tourism where you can experience incredible beaches and prime snorkeling, Columbia’s San Andres Island and Providencia Island are ideal.