Where to go

San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina

Three jewels in the Caribbean that make the perfect beach destination

The collection of 10 or so small coral atolls that form the San Andres Archipelago are known as the West Indies department of Colombia and, at approximately 230kms from Nicaragua and 750kms from the Colombian coast, there has been a long running dispute between the two countries as to the true ownership of these beautiful Caribbean jewels.

San Andres is the largest of the island group in the Archipelago of San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina. It and the other islands have had a chequered history with links to both Colombia and England. (English is still one of the official languages spoken together with Spanish and Creole). The main use of the islands during the 1600s was as initially for cotton and tobacco off the back of which it quickly became a centre for the slave trade as well as a pirate hideout for raiding the Spanish merchant ships and the coastline of Colombia.

Today these stunning coral islands offer the best option for those that are looking to relax on a beach for a week or so after exploring the mainland. It is also worth noting that the islands are also the location for one of the largest barrier reefs in the Caribbean and, as such, it is also a true paradise for those looking to dive and snorkel with plenty of dive operators operating in amongst the small islands.

As the largest island, it can be argued that San Andres offers the best range of accommodation but, for us, the nearby island of Providencia, once the main English stronghold, offers a more peaceful retreat from it all with some of the best diving in the Caribbean on offer.

Getting to and from the islands can be easily incorporated into an itinerary with short flights daily from both the capital, Bogota, and from Cartagena these days.

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    At a glance... San Andres Archipelago

  • Population: 75 000
  • Size: 26 square kilometres
  • Time: GMT -5
  • Recommended time: 3 - 5 days
  • Time to visit: From December to March and from July to August
  • Go here for: Nature and wildlife, beaches
  • Further reading...

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