San Andres Island, Colombia, is a place of Caribbean beauty. Take a short, cheap plane ride from Cartagena and you’ll be splashing in the crystal clear, aqua blue waters, snorkeling or scuba diving with the most colorful fish and coral reefs and taking in sunrises and sunsets on the pristine sandy beaches.
Located just 90 miles off the coast of Nicaragua, San Andres is a piece of pure and relatively untouched paradise. There aren’t many Americans that visit this tiny island, and it’s almost like it’s been kept a secret from the entire world.
Aside from a few tips you should know before visiting San Andres, there is soooo much to do on this tiny, 10-square-mile island in the Caribbean. Let’s get started with the 12 Best Things to Do in San Andres Island, Colombia!
1. Scuba Diving (Or Snorkeling)
A few hundred yards into the aqua blue waters, right off those sandy beaches and rocky coastlines, lies an underwater wonderland full of some of the most colorful fish and vibrant coral structures you’ll see in the Caribbean.
Tourists come from all over the world to dive in the crystal clear, calm waters that are warm year round. Many people on the island recommended Blue Life Dive.
Since it takes a few days to get certified and I failed to get my certification before the trip, I couldn’t dive down to the depths I had hoped. So it didn’t really matter which dive shop I went with.
There are a few handfuls of dive shops to choose from anyway — and most people I talked to seemingly went to a different shop.
I chose Scuba San Andres. They were very reasonably priced, helpful, nice and spoke English, which is a huge plus when you haven’t dived in about 10 years. It cost me about $90,000 COP ($30 USD) for the dive and a slew of GoPro photos.
If you want to dive all day, expect to pay anywhere from $130,000 COP to $150,000 COP ($42 USD to $48 USD). If you arrive on the island looking to do an open-water PADI certification, you’ll need at least three days and about $750,000 COP ($250 USD).
If you’re a scuba diver and want to learn more about all the dive spots San Andres and Providencia have to offer, check out Chronic Wanderlust’s detailed post.
- Cost: $30 to $250 USD
- Address: All Around the Island
2. Rent a Scooter or Golf Cart
Renting a scooter or golf cart for at least one day is a must. San Andres is only 10 square miles, and there’s a scenic main road that leads around the exterior of the island and keeps you on the ocean almost the entire time.
I highly suggest you take this road. I highly suggest taking it slow. And I highly suggest you make a few stops along the way and soak in every square inch of the breathtaking beauty you’ll see on this island.
If you go nonstop around the exterior of San Andres Island, it’ll take you about an hour and 30 minutes to complete it. But renting a scooter or golf cart opens up so many places on the island you can’t walk to and would be too painstaking to take a cab to.
After haggling the guy at Esmeralda Rent-a-Car and securing the scooter for $80,000 COP ($25 USD) for the whole day, I picked up Karina at the Blue Almond Hostel and we were off.
We made a stop at Rocky Cay, continued on to Playa de San Luis, found ourselves outside an old professional basketball stadium, drove on the sidewalk of the promenade and took in the I Love San Andres sign and then stopped off at a popular shack for lunch that was serving freshly caught whole fish.
After lunch, we made our way down to the southern tip at the Reggae-themed small town outside of Hoyo Soplador, continued through the desolate west side up to La Piscinita and then made our way back through the pouring rain.
If that’s not pure paradise, I don’t know what is.
- Cost: $25 to $40 USD (depending on how well you can haggle)
- Address: a 1a-205, Cl. 1 #169, San Andrés, San Andrés y Providencia, Colombia
3. La Piscinita
Known on the island as the natural pool, La Piscinita provides your fix of swimming among some of the most colorful fish on the island in crystal clear waters. It’s located in West View, which is the west side of the island and is about 200 feet from Aquanautas.
At La Piscinita, you’ll find it to be pretty crowded with tourists and locals every day of the week. It’s a watery wonderland, equipped with a diving board that flings you off the side of a small cliff and a water slide that gracefully drops you about 20 feet down to the water. You can take the ladder, too, if those two don’t float your fancy.
It costs $2 USD to enter and there are many picnic tables there to sit and enjoy a nice meal in this watery paradise.
Don’t forget to bring your snorkel and GoPro for an awesome time! If you don’t have snorkeling gear, you can rent it there — but you’re better off buying a set in one of the many tax-free shops on the main part of the island.
- Cost: $2 USD
- Address: 01, San Andrés, San Andrés y Providencia, Colombia
4. Rocky Cay (Cayo Rocoso)
Located about a half mile off the mainland on the east side, Rocky Cay is only accessible by walking or swimming through ankle-to-chest-deep water (don’t worry, crossing is easy and you walk through pure sand in the ocean).
It’s a tiny island created by — you guessed it — an extremely rocky formation that barely breaks the ocean’s surface. Rocky Cay is the only spot in San Andres, Colombia, where you’ll actually need water shoes.
Once you arrive at the beaches, you can pay $2 to $3 to rent a locker with a key if you need to store items. You’ll see a beach with lawn chairs and servers running drinks and food to customers who wish to dine and drink on the sand.
You can chill on the beach or make your way out to Rocky Cay, which is surrounded by more rocky structures in the water and beautifully colored fish that are equally as curious of people as we are of them — so be sure to bring your snorkeling gear!
If you want to be even more adventurous, you can swim another quarter-mile from Rocky Cay to the shipwreck of an old cargo tanker. You can’t touch the ground at any point, so you must be a confident, strong swimmer to make it safely.
The old shipwreck is eery. It’s entirely rusted with its walls and floors hollowed out by the ocean’s salty air. One wrong step could leave you seriously injured and one false floor could leave you in need for a tetanus shot.
To get to the first floor, you must climb up the side with your feet and arms in old rusted out holes. The second floor requires careful foot movements on the 4-inch tips of rusted out steps.
Getting from the second floor to the top of this old rusty ship is the toughest. It requires you to put your hands on the ledge above and pull yourself all the way up to the top, using pure upper-body strength.
If you dare to go and eventually make it to the top, you will be left in awe. The view is spectacular and breathtaking. I actually cut my arm and foot, which left me needing a tetanus shot when I got back to the States. Well worth it.
- Cost: Free
- Address: Isla de San Andrés, Colombia
5. Catch a Sunrise and Sunset on the Beach
Colombia was the first place where I successfully caught a sunrise and a sunset on the beach in the same day. It was magical. The funny part about that is I caught the sunrise in San Andres and sunset in Cartagena. Waking up at 5:30 a.m. while on that trip just didn’t sound too enticing.
Don’t make the same mistake as me and potentially miss your opportunity to see the sunrise and sunset in a single day on the island, though. The alarm went off and I thought about going back to sleep. I chatted a friend I met the night before on WhatsApp who said she’d go with me. We put on our sandals and walked gracefully out the door.
Outside, the sun was quickly rising from the depths of the ocean, deep purple and magnetic pink filling the sky. So we began running down the sidewalk at 6 a.m. to the northeast side of the island, which was about 1 mile from the hostel’s front doors.
We ran and eventually caught up with the sunrise on a stretch of grassy shoreline with palm fronds adding to the view. The sun was gently poking out of the water, shades of purple, pink and yellow glowing in the sky. It was truly magical, I tell ya!
- Cost: Free
- Address: Anywhere on the east side of the island
6. West View
West View is pretty much the entirety of San Andres Island’s southwest side. It’s desolate and feels like the most remote place in all of the Caribbean.
Maybe it is. But maybe it was just in my head. On the left, deep blue waves crash ashore. On the right, hand-built houses made of bamboo and trees sit in front of what looks like a never-ending tropical jungle.
Dirt roads connect the paved, two-way main street to the life of the locals. It’s a beautiful part of the island that you must drive really slow past.
Take in the scenery, take in the history, take in the cultural similarities and differences you share with the island’s locals and, most of all, take back with you everything you saw on the island and don’t take for granted what you have and have been given in your everyday life.
- Cost: Free
- Address: Entire southwest side of the island
7. Stroll the Waterfront Promenade (I Love San Andres Sculpture)
I briefly touched on this earlier, but the promenade is a small stretch of walkway on the ocean on the east side of the island. It navigates in front of the “I Love San Andres Island” sign and then the old pro basketball stadium.
There wasn’t a soul around during our short stop at the sign, which allowed us to take some pretty cool, uninterrupted photos.
- Cost: Free
- Address: Cr1 Este 2-81 Ap 3, San Luis, San Andrés, Providencia, Colombia
8. Johnny Cay Natural Regional Park
Located about a mile north of Playa Spratt Bight Beach, Johnny Cay offers up an opportunity to lounge like locals on a gorgeous, less densely populated beach on the main side of San Andres.
You can choose a half-day or full-day trip to the island, which features about a mile of beautiful beaches surrounding the small island, drinks, food and a few water activities, such as jet ski rentals and banana boat rides.
The island is draped in Rasta red, green and yellow, as the natives are the only people who work on the island and they’re far more Caribbean than Colombian.
Oh ya, don’t buy the water shoes they try to sell you. You won’t need them. The beaches are mostly sand. The parts that aren’t can be easily traversed through or around.
- Cost: $5 to $7 USD
- Address: North of Playa Spratt Bight Beach
9. Hoyo Soplador (Blowhole)
Hoyo Soplador is a natural blowhole that shoots ocean water high into the air when it catches a wave that’s large enough. It’s located on the south end of San Andres, situated in a thriving Jamaican-like small village that sells drinks, food and souvenirs.
The best time to go to the blowhole is during high tide, which occurs first thing in the morning and at night.
Unfortunately, I went during low tide so there was no water blowing through the natural hole. There was, however, extreme gusts of wind that funneled through the hole when a big wave went by.
- Cost: Free
- Address: F7J9+HG San Luis, San Andrés, San Andrés and Providencia, Colombia
10. Playa Spratt Bight Beach
Playa Spratt Bight is the main beach on the island’s northeast end. It’s packed with tourists and locals from dawn to dusk — and all hours of the night as well.
On the beach you’ll find crystal clear waters, smooth sand, restaurants lining the boardwalk directly behind and many locals selling coco loco and various drinks, eats and novelties.
I’m not too sure how much the chairs cost because I simply went up and sat down on one. Nobody came up to me telling me to pay, so I utilized it for the day.
There are also a bunch of stray dogs on the beach that just relax and bother people far less than the locals who are trying to constantly sell you something.
- Cost: Free
- Address: a 2-244, Cl. 1 #2-24, San Andrés, San Andrés y Providencia, Colombia
11. Playa de San Luis (San Luis Beach)
Playa de San Luis is located on a long stretch of coastline on the east of San Andres Island, Colombia. While it’s not anything too special, it’s the biggest beach on the island so you’ll find it to be far less crowded than any other beach.
Its location and lack of density, in terms of tourists, make it the perfect spot to catch a beautiful sunrise.
- Cost: Free
- Address: San Luis, San Andrés, San Andrés and Providencia, Colombia
Aquanautas provides a unique alternative to scuba diving, allowing non-certified divers to walk the bottom of the ocean with a space-like helmet on their head, funneling pure oxygen into their lungs, while 30 to 40 feet below the surface.
I must admit that I didn’t put the helmet on and go myself. It’s located beside La Piscinita, and it takes you to an underwater Zeus, which I desperately wanted to see. Since my scuba diving partner was having trouble (I think he legitimately blew out his eardrums), we had to surface before we got to the underwater Zeus.
A few days later at La Piscinita, I shit you not, I attempted to swim about 100 yards out to Zeus and 40 feet down with my crummy snorkeling gear I had bought a few days before.
Did I mention a storm was brewing and the current was strengthening? Let’s just say it didn’t go exactly as planned. About 15 feet down, my mask began to let water slowly seep in. When I hit 20 feet, that seep turned into a waterfall.
I closed my eyes, floated back up to the surface and swam my happy ass about 50 yards back to shore. Good thing I decided to test it half way out.
- Cost: $30 USD
- Address: Sector el Cove, San Andres, San Andres Island 880008, Colombia
La Loma is the highest point and one of the oldest villages on the island. Its iconic red and white Baptist church is like a sight out of a movie.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to visit due to being on a scooter in the middle of a lightning storm. Didn’t wanna risk it. I heard from many people on the island that the small village is worth a look. Its hints of colonialism will give any history buff their fix.
- Cost: Free
- Address: La Loma, San Andrés, San Andrés and Providencia, Colombia