Vacationing on the Colombian Island of San Andres

Scenes from San Andres
Scenes from San Andres

While living here in Medellin I had decided that I would try to see as much of Colombia as possible, and so earlier this month, I set out to visit the small and relatively unknown island of San Andres, Colombia (located off of Nicaragua’s coast, just about 2.5 hours from Medellin by air).

The island was an absolute paradise, and pretty inexpensive (if thinking in US $) which made the vacation one of the best I’ve ever taken.

I stayed at one of the Decameron hotels, Mar Azul, on the island (there were about 4 of them I believe) and I have nothing to complain about.

The hotel grounds were wonderfully covered in local tropical flowers and bright greenery.

The rooms were clean and air-conditioned, the food was great (we were able to use all of the Decameron hotel restaurants, not just our hotel’s), the drinks were strong, and the ocean views were breathtaking.

Although the hotel had tons to offer, I chose to step out and explore the island a bit more, and after seeing golf cart rental spots, I knew exactly how I’d get myself around.

My family and I rented an 8 person golf cart (which only cost about $70 US for the entire day) and we drove around the entire island in one short afternoon making a few highly recommended pit stops along the way.

First we stopped on the beach in front of the Decameron San Diego hotel to snorkel along the coast. I was completely surprised by the amount of vibrantly colored fish living in the shallow and crowded waters.

Then we stopped at the “hoyo soplador” (blowhole) which was located half way around the island. To my disappointment, an overly excited tour guide/ local (not sure which one of the two he really was) told me that the hole wouldn’t be blowing that day because the ocean had been relatively calm.

I guess he saw the frown on my face and so he offered me a local drink called “Coco Loco” (crazy coconut) which immediately cheered me up and gave me quite the buzz!

Other day trips I took while visiting San Andres included boat rides out to two small keys… the Acuario (aquarium) and Johnny Key (visiting both cost about $10 USD).

The Acuario was an amazingly tiny key about 3 minutes off of the shore where we were able to use our snorkels to swim around with the local fish and sting rays.

Johnny Key was a bigger key, just about 10 minutes away from the Acuario, which had the whitest sand and bluest ocean water I had ever seen. Johnny Key also offered cabana rentals, fresh seafood and my local favorite Coco Loco.

Scuba diving in San Andres
Scuba diving in San Andres

On our family vacation we decided to save the very best part of our trip for last, scuba diving.

I had never been diving before but I had always wanted to learn and San Andres made that happen for me and my family. Our scuba instructor drove us on the back of a pick-up truck to the lower end of the island, where most of the island’s coast is made up of rock walls.

We got into our scuba gear and jumped off of the side of a small rock into the bright blue Caribbean Sea.

We were able to swim up to the coral reef and through an underground cave and I had the chance to see plants and fish that I had never even known existed. I would have stayed under there for hours, but after about one hour, my tank was out of air and I was forced to head back up.

San Andres is an amazing place with very friendly and laid-back locals, just as beautiful and rare as Medellin but with an ocean which makes it all the better!


**As a quick end note, San Andres is still an up and coming vacation spot. The island locals and Colombia are working on making it better and better every day so if you’re looking for a Miami, Florida or Cancun, Mexico type vacation San Andres might not be the right vacation for you.

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  1. I LOVE LOVE LOVE San Andres! Such a great vacation spot! I stayed at the Aquarium when I went and loved it as well, however Mar Azul definitely has a better beach front! :)Great post & love the pictures!

  2. San Andres sounds beautiful
    I didn’t know it was that far off Colombia
    it must have been great to enjoy the scuba dive
    and I think it’s even cooler that you were able to take pictures =)
    woo coco-loco lol


  3. I’ve just returned from a 3 week holiday in Colombia and spent 5 days in San Andres. Whilst there are spots of beauty, the Island resembles a shanty town. The streets are dirty, the buildings are in a poor state and if you were there around 3 weeks ago, you would have seen the streets flood.
    I was informed that san Andres was a tax free zone where many Colombians go to buy cheap electronic equipment and spirits that come in from panama. The only cheap things are the spirits. Electrical goods are over one year old which are sold at current market prices, which incidentially and surprisingly are more expensive than the UK where we are based
    If it wasn’t for Johnny Key island and the beaches, I’m afraid San Andreas has very little to offer. My wife, as a Colombian, was very dissappointed with our trip there. thank goodness it was only a few days and we could return to our family home in Cali.

    • Hey Chris, thanks for sharing your experience on San Andres. I haven’t been there myself, though I get the sense that the luxury-style resorts have picked out the prime beach territory and other parts of the island where the locals live may reflect a more typical Colombian standard of living.

    • Well Chris, you sound like the kind of guy who is too buy looking for the fault in places to
      to enjoy the beauty. That is what an A hole, does. and A holes, cant enjoy themselfs anywhere they go