Colombia

San Andres Island – The ultimate guide

Everything you need to know when travelling to San Andres, Colombia.

When we start to think about going around South America, San Andres was always in my dreams. Turquoise water, Caribbean vibes and affordable prices was one of the few things I got excited about.

The island is small, therefore I didn’t do too much search before going, but it would be really useful if I did so. Since you are smarter than me and are here, searching for everything you need to know about San Andres, I’ll make sure the information is concise and useful to you. Let’s start!

How to get in San Andres

Getting around San Andres

San Andres accommodations

Where to eat in San Andres

Best things to do in San Andres

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Johnny Cay beach – San Andres Island, Colombia

How to get in San Andres

There are direct flights from the main cities in Colombia, as well as Panama City in Panama. We flew from Cartagena (1 and a half hour) with Viva Air airline and paid 183,600 COP per person; at the airport, at check-in, you will also need to pay the island entrance fee which in December 2018 was 109,000 COP (around £25) per person.

Getting around San Andres

Public transportation

There are public buses in the island, they’re not in the best condition but do serve the purpose. From the airport we took a taxi to our accommodation, because it wasn’t close to the city centre, but when going over there, we would take the coobus (that’s how buses are called). It costs 2,400 COP and stops anywhere you ask, there are no specific bus stops and when you need to drop off just yell “parada por favor”. Make sure you check at your accommodation what time is the last bus from the centre; ours was only until 8pm.

Taxi

Different than Bogotá I felt pretty safe getting official taxis in San Andres. In general you either go to a taxi zone (there’s one right next to the city centre’s beach) or ask at the reception of your accommodation or at the restaurant to call one for you.

As I said, taxis are safe in the island, however pretty expensive. From the airport to the city centre (no longer than 5 minutes’ ride) you will pay 15,000 COP; anywhere out of this zone, the price will start from 20,000 COP

Golf cart

Yep, in San Andres you can rent your very own golf cart to go around the island, how cool is that?! We rented ours next to a super market called La Estacion, not far from the Spratt Bight beach. A cart for the day costs 130,000 COP, I didn’t see any reason to have it for more than one day as there’re specific places for parking, but if you are too far from the buzz, it may be worth it.

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Golf cart – San Andres Island road, Colombia

San Andres accommodations

So, here’s the important bit. As I said before, San Andres is a small island, it won’t take longer than an hour and a half to drive around the entire thing, however everything from restaurants, boat tours and nightlife is in the city centre.

We were in the island for 5 days and the first 4 we stayed in La Loma; kind of in the middle, not too far from the city centre but not to close neither – around 20 minutes by bus. On the last day it was more convenient to change and stay in the city centre as we would like to enjoy our last day without a rush, before going to the airport.

Staying a bit outside of the centre will obviously drop the costs of your trip, but if you are likely to be going to the city centre for food, tours and night life you will have to add up the costs of transportation.

Coconut paradise lodge

This was our first accommodation, one of the oldest houses in the island, it reminded Greg of a Louisiana house style.

The house has many rooms; ours had a private bathroom. If you’ve never been to Colombia before, you may be surprised that hot showers and budget accommodation don’t come together. We didn’t have good water pressure nor hot water – but you have to remember, it’s 28 degrees during the night, you may enjoy some cold water. Although it isn’t the end of the world, I had hard time adjusting!

Janete is the manager of the place (perhaps the owner, not so sure) You will be amazed by her hospitality, she will do anything to make you feel at home; I do think part of the reason we stayed for the 4 days was thank to her.

The location of this place is a bit far from city centre, but only 15 minutes walking from one of the best beaches in the island – Rocky Cay. We would definitely recommend it if you not too much into boat tours or do not mind getting buses/taxi to go out. Everything happens in the city centre, have that in mind.

90,000 COP per night

Hibiscus house

We decided to have our last night in the city centre of San Andres. We looked for accommodation within walking distance from it, perhaps with a hot shower and affordable price. That was the Hibiscus House – a room with private bathroom in the heart of the Island, with the only downside being the noise. It’s very central and has a night club right next to it. We woke up few times with loud conversation outside, but it was definitely not a problem for us.

Other than that, it’s a very modern and clean room, with a giant bed, hot shower, small fridge, a toaster and a supermarket right in front. In terms of cost and convenience (and also, if it’s your first time in the island) this is the accommodation I recommend.

135,000 COP per night

Cocoplum hotel

I wish, but no, we didn’t stay in this sort of resort, but as we had lunch here on one of the days, I think is just fair to say, I loved what I saw from outside. It’s literally in the Rocky Cay beach and if you have money to spare, that’s a really nice treat.

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Coconut Paradise Lodge – La Loma, San Andres, Colombia.

Where to eat in San Andres

If you coming from Bogotá, you will definitely notice the difference of food prices here, after all it’s an island. There are for sure some budget restaurants around the island and the city centre, but we sticked to the medium to high budget ones.

Breakfast

Sea Watch

This is a high end restaurant in the Spratt Bite beach promenade. We had a difficult time trying to find a restaurant that had big portions, this one wasn’t so small, but the price was definitely high. I wouldn’t recommend just because of the price, but if you can treat yourself, go for it!

Coffee Break

A tiny coffee shop that besides breakfast, serves lunch and dinner. The price here was a little better than the previous one, 15,000 COP for a combo breakfast (main + juice/coffee). I had fajita mexicana and orange juice, nothing special, but pretty ok to start the day.

Gourmet shop assho

This restaurant is high end rated, however the breakfast wasn’t that expensive. I had a omelette, toast and orange juice for 18,000 COP and Greg had his with coffee so it was only 15,000 COP. There’s a nice decoration and the food is good, you should give it a go!

Market shop

This will for sure be your cheapest way of having breakfast in San Andres; you can also try to find some empanadas from the vendor carts (if your stomach is pretty sensitive to deep fried food, I would only try with a recommendation). Overall, if you have the facilities at your accommodation, save money on breakfast by buying some bread, cheese and ham in a market shop.

Lunch/Dinner

Miss Celia

Quite famous medium budget restaurant in the island, Miss Celia has a nice maritime decor and great traditional food! One main dish was around 40,000 COP.

Beer Station

Greg and I came to this place couple of times, as some restaurants close between shifts, leaving us with just few options. You won’t find many traditional dishes here, but it will be a safe alternative when you don’t know what to choose. They have burgers, shared platters, fish and chips, chicken, onion rings; everything that you will definitely feel familiar with! The location is a plus – a deck at the sea with Johnny Cay view. They will have pop music going on and maybe a DJ during the weekend. Average price of meal + beer 35,000 COP

Bocca de Oro

I really like the Bocca de Oro restaurant, they had live music going on on Saturday. It’s a big place, kind of opened/terraced to an extend and food was lovely! Make sure you come here at least once. Average price for a meal + drink is 50,000 COP

Cocoplum hotel

If you are looking to have a nice meal on the beach, this is the place. I’ve talked about Cocoplum hotel before in the accommodation bit. Food here won’t be as expensive as you think and the view for sure pays it off. The service wasn’t the quickest, it’s not a huge meal, but it’s really tasty. We stayed here for more than two hours, drinking, eating and enjoying the view. If you decide to pay this place a visit, please do order a Pina Colada, I can’t even describe how great it was. Average price for a meal + beer is 50,000 COP

Hamburguesas El Corral

We came to this fast-food once, looking for something different than what we were eating for the last 4 days. They have huge burgers and nice salads, it’s right next to the Beer Station, so the location isn’t bad. Average price of a combo meal is 30,000 COP

Eat Alley

When we found this place, we were trying to down the price of our meals. It’s a mix of Italian and Colombian restaurant, not too far, but also not close to the beach. It’s hidden in between streets, you can eat outside and the pizza has a descent size. Pizza average price is 26,000 COP

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Lunch at Cocoplum hotel – San Andres Island, Colombia

Best things to do in San Andres

 
Now that you are all set for transportation, accommodation and food, it’s time to get some fun!

When searching about San Andres you will find a handful of amazing pictures with incredible beaches and turquoise water; and it is exactly like this! Have in mind you are in South America and infrastructure is still developing here, so you will find some disorganization on some tours. Every place has two sides, and if you not in any resort, you will see the poor side of the island as well.

These are the best things you can do when in San Andres!

Renting a golf cart

This was our favourite thing to do in San Andres, renting a golf cart and driving to the best spots in the island was priceless. We’ve seen amazing beaches and breath taking scenarios. Here are the few places we stopped when going around:

Rocky Cay beach

I’ve already told you, but why not tell you again: this is one of the best beaches in the island, a little bit less touristic than the city centre beach, nice for swimming with not too many waves.

San Luis beach

If you looking for the least crowded beach, this is the one. However the waves here were huge.

Hoyo Soplador

The Hoyo Soplador is a hole that depending on the size of the waves, sprouts water up. According to locals, if weather permits, you can also get inside the hole and slide to the sea. Pretty fun!

West View

A sort of water park, West View has some slides, a board to jump from and restaurants: it’s an open sea and it’s like a natural swimming pool, you can do some snorkeling here as well, they even give you some bread to attract the fishes. It’s 20,000 COP to get in and spend the day. We’ve been there for only an hour, but I’m sure you will enjoy much more if you go early morning and stay until lunch time. Don’t worry if you don’t know how to swim, for 5,000 COP you can get a life jacket.

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West view “swimming pool” – San Andres Island, Colombia

I love SAI sign (I love San Andres Island)

Right after you leave the West View, you will find the San Andres sign, nice view for a great picture!

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I love San Andres sign – San Andres Island, Colombia

Johnny Cay

20 minutes away from the main island, we have the beautiful Johnny Cay, a tiny islet. There’s no accommodation here, it’s a tourist attraction where you can see some wild life and some more turquoise water. The tours leave from the marinas in the city centre, you can find one that suits you the most. We’ve done it with Expedition tours and it was 50,000 COP for both of us, however we saw a cheaper one with the Cooperative. We didn’t feel particularly safe, but also didn’t have any problems. I’ve noticed that in all of the boats everyone is using a life jacket, that’s a plus right?! Over there they have some beach beds/chairs and kiosk selling food and drinks. We just had drinks and the price was similar to the one on the island. Not sure if there are days the sea is calm, but when we were there, the waves were strong. It’s a nice place to see, but it will be overcrowded!

Acuario

From the Rocky Cay beach you can see this other really tiny island called Acuario San Andres, over there you will have the opportunity to see tiny fishes or if you lucky like us, you can catch a manta ray swimming by. From the acuario, if the weather permits, you can walk to the neighbor island called Cordoba, really cool experience. San Andres acuario it’s another touristic spot, so as you can guess, really crowded as well! We’ve done it with expedition tour again and paid 20,000 COP per person.

There are many tours and water activities to do in the island, from jetski to kitesurfing, going around the island by boat, or simply going island to island in different days. You won’t get bored in San Andres. I’ve put together all the main activities and prices for things that a first time traveller should do when visiting San Andres.

If you need any specific tips that I haven’t mentioned in this guide, please do let me know by commenting on the post!

I hope you have enjoyed and have got enough information to prepare your trip!

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