Tired, mouth drier than a desert, the sound of last night’s reggaeton still pumping through my ears, I opened my eyes halfway to see the sun creeping through the paper-thin curtain of El Viajero Hostel’s room 21 on San Andres Island.
My alarm sounded swiftly at 7 a.m. A mere four hours had passed since my head hit the pillow, and it was time to get up to start all over again.
Johnny Cay Natural Regional Park, an island in Colombia off the north shore of San Andres, was the destination.
We were going over on the first worker’s boat of the day, which was still two hours before the first tourists would step foot on the white-sand, slightly-rocky beach just a short boat ride off the north coast of San Andres Island, Colombia.
San Andres natives run the small isle of Johnny Cay. It’s their sanctuary. A seven-day-a-week paradise merely a half mile from the mainland.
There is no running water. No electricity. Only the strong scent of a burning blunt, alcohol, food, peace, love and happiness. Caribbean English rings through the air, with hints of Spanish thrown in occasionally.
“We ain’t fucking Colombian, mon,” one of the workers spouted after a few drinks.
Although the nearly 2,000 natives that remain on the isle are citizens of Colombia, they don’t associate as Colombians. They don’t partake in the government. They don’t vote in the elections.
They only speak Spanish if they have to. They drink Caribbean rum, listen to reggae and participate in the peace, love and happiness that’s associated so closely with Jamaica.
The trees, tables and shacks on their tiny island are painted Rasta red, green and yellow. Reggae flows through the speakers. Freshly cut coconuts spew water and the intoxicating mixture of Coco Loco, which is fresh coconut water and rum.
The ride over will cost you $15,000 COP, which, at the current $2,900 COP to $1 USD exchange rate, is a mere $5.17 USD.
Whatever you do before you visit this majestically beautiful island 90 miles off the coast of Nicaragua, do not, I repeat “DO NOT” buy anything online in advance. They’ll try to charge you up to $32 USD online.
Paying in COP while you’re visiting San Andres, Colombia will save you a bunch of money. Like many South American cities, most things are negotiable. You don’t like the price? Haggle until you do.
When it comes to enjoying Johnny Cay island, you’ll want to put your best foot forward. OK, that was a terrible analogy for the water shoes they try to sell you. Don’t buy the water shoes. You don’t need them.
Even if you walk the roughly half-mile around the circular island, which I highly suggest you do, you can easily navigate your footing around the slightly rough rocks that protrude from the Caribbean sea.
Walking around the island, you’ll find white sand beaches, leafy green fauna, beautiful rocky structures and packs of iguanas. Not to mention, distinctly delicious and gorgeous gigantic plates of food and cups of ceviche.
When you’re in San Andres, Colombia, don’t miss out on the chance to lounge like locals on this enigmatic island, taking in an ounce of cultural knowledge and a few gallons of cold liquid refreshments.