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San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina



San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina are a world apart from Colombia. The traditional culture is Afro-Caribbean. The native Raizals speak Creole English and are Protestants. The civil strife that affects mainland Colombia is absent here.



The Archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina is located 800 kilometers (497 mi) from Cartagena and a mere 100 nautical miles (185 kilometers) from Nicaragua, in the southwestern Caribbean. Colombia's largest department covers 250,000 square kilometers (96,526 sq mi), or one-tenth of the Caribbean basin.



The archipelago itself spans a total land area of 57 square kilometers (36 sq mi). It consists of the three major islands (San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina), several eight atolls, including Southwest Cays (Cayos de Albuquerque) and Courtown Cays (Cayos de Este Sudeste), and six outlying shoals and coral banks. Because of the increased mainland Colombian population, many places now have Spanish, as well as English names.



In 2000, UNESCO declared the island group, The Seaflower Biosphere Reserve. It is the largest marine protected area in the Caribbean, protecting 65,000 square kilometers (25,097 sq mi) of ocean, coral reefs, mangroves and land. Planned oil exploration threatens the reserve.



The islands offer pristine beaches, great scuba diving, aquatic sports, gnarled volcanic hills, and remnants of pirate and Puritan culture, as well as boutiques and dance clubs for when sun and travel become too much.


By Richard McColl
With over five years travelling and working in Latin America, Richard feels most at home here in the big Continent. From the former Scottish...
09 Aug 2011

VIVA Colombia

Things to do in San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina

The Blue Diamond wreck dive

106520 According to local lore, the Blue Diamond was impounded in the 1990s by the Colombian government for running drugs before being scuttled to create a dive attraction. Whatever its history, this ...
San Andres, Colombia

Morgan's Cave/Pirate Museum/Coconut Museum

106534This unassuming freshwater cave, believed to once have been a hiding place for Captain Morgan\'s pirate loot, has been transformed into one of San Andrés’ main tourist attractions. A visit starts ...
San Andres, Colombia

Museo Casa Isleña/Island House Museum

106535Casa Museo Isleña (Island House Museum) is a restored home, an example of traditional functional island architecture. It is decorated as it would have been decades ago, with family portraits on the ...
San Andres, Colombia

West View

106537 West View, also called La Piscinita, is one of San Andrés\' best snorkeling spots. A short pier juts into the ocean. Water-shy tourists toss bread (included in the entrance fee) into the sea, ...
San Andres, Colombia

The Blowing Hole

106592Only on a small Caribbean island in the middle of the ocean could a hole in the ground which occasionally blows a strong puff of air be a major tourist attraction. On the southern end of the island, ...
San Andres, Colombia

La Loma

106595 Many San Andrés Island tours will take you to La Loma (129 meters / 394 feet), the central hill of the island. A hotel there has the best views—you can see the beautiful Caribbean, known for its ...
City Walk
San Andres, Colombia

Hike to El Pico, Providencia

120032Check the skies, consult the weather forecast, speak to some islanders and then choose the ideal day to hike up to El Pico (360 meters/1,181 feet). The highest point on the rugged island of ...
Providencia and Santa Catalina, Colombia

Santa Catalina

120040 The tiny island of Santa Catalina was connected to Providencia at one time, but it is believed that pirates—possibly Henry Morgan or the Dutchman Edward Manswelt—may have cut a 100-meter ...
Other Activity
Providencia and Santa Catalina, Colombia

Diving in Providencia

Arguably having clearer water that its larger and more frequently visited neighbor, San Andrés, Providencia is a scuba diver’s dream. The island has calm, crystalline waters and an abundance of ...
Providencia and Santa Catalina, Colombia

Johnny Cay Regional Park

One of the most popular tours in San Andrés is boating to Johnny Cay, a four-hectare (11-ac) island 2 kilometers (1.6 mi) off San Andres’ north coast. Since 2002, the islet has been a regional ...
Other Activity
San Andres, Colombia

Old Point Regional Mangrove Park

Old Point Regional Mangrove Park embraces two bays on San Andrés Island’s east coast: Hooker and Haines. The reserve protects the largest and best-preserved expanses of red, black, white and ...
Other Activity
San Andres, Colombia
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