My next stop took me to San Andres, a small island (about 27km²) in the Carribean sea at the hight of Nicaragua and 1,5 flight hours away from Cartagena.
First I need to tell you a thing I haven´t heard about before, so I will mention it first: there apparently is some kind of tax for entering the island of 100.000 COP – quite much and even more if you find out in the airport during the check-in and you are asked to pay directly and in cash. I haven´t read this in the internet nor in my travel guide but its true – so just that you are forewarnd of the extra costs.
I decided to stay there 6 nighs as I eventually wanted to visit Providencia, another Colombian island 4 hours away by ferry. After all I didn´t went but stayed more time in San Andres. The island is small and hasn´t too much to offer but plenty of nice beaches with white sand and blue water (in 7 different colors as my travel guide says – anyways at least I managed to see 5 by myself which already was amazing).
It´s low season but still there are many tourists. It rained about once a day of about half a hour but the rest of the day it´s warm and perfectely sunny.
I first was afraid that due to the importation needs this trip will end up being more expensive than expected but after some days you find out that there are local menus for about 5.000 – 15.000, the fruit is still affordable and that you should buy water in normal 1.5 liter bottels (I ended up spending 4.500 for one bottle in the supermarket!) but buying them in 5 liter bags and just refilling the bottle.
The first two nights I stayed at the famous El Viajero hostel which I read was the first hostel on the island and it´s a classical. The facilities are good though I had a bit of bad luck with some disrespectful roommates who kept switching the light on in the middle of the night and sang… This is kind of a party hostel I would say. Too many rooms and party every night in the rooftop bar. Which is cool – but not for every night.
I moved to a place close to orange hill and didn´t really pay attention on the location. Rating was fine and the owner even picked me up at a set time in my old hostel. Imagine this scene: I´m waiting having a backpack, normal daypack, 5l of water and my yoga mat bag with me – and the guy arriving in a motorcycle. No problem – of course not – he already did this. So packed everything and went out of town. I ended up in a small local town close to La Loma. I wanted it more calm – I got it more calm. Not even that I was the only guest in the hostel but also so far I see the only tourist in the whole town. Not that this haven´t happenend before, just remember my last trip in Sri Lanka. But I wasn´t expecting this to happen on this island. Well, here I got the authenticity I wanted. All in all the best decision – the hostal dorm was under maintainace so I got a whole apartment for myself paying only 40.000 per night as the hostel would have cost. This is such a luxury – I got a real bed, a living room with kitchen. A bathroom. ALL for myself!
And it became better and better – Rocky Beach is 45 min walk (though so far I managed to get free rides) and the brother of the owner rents deck chairs there. The day before on another beach I rented two with sunshade for 30.000 and as being guest in the hostel I got them for free. Ok, I´m out of town not having company but actually I really enjoy having my private place so much. There will be enough nights in hostels upcoming anyways. I just need to learn better how to place wishes. Wanting some calmness didn´t ment to imply being completely alone in the whole house.
Anyway the owners are pretty cool, when I told them I also listen to reaggae music the first thing they showed me was their plant of mari. We talking a bit about different groups and ended up listening to one of my all time favorites eek-a-mouse. I have to say for those that haven´t been here yet: it´s a Colombian Island but the natives are actually a mix of African, English and Carribean people which you notice in their taste of music (reggae and dancehall everywhere – super cool!), the skin color and the language. Some speek better English than Spanish and some only some kind of criollo mix which is not really unterstandable. For me having not been to Jamaica yet I assume this was a small glimpse to what it could feel like being there.
And me not being up to date music wise is not noticed here. Looks like the islands are more of the classicals so I actually know most songs and no-one needs to listen to music on the phone if you lie on the beach and have reggae playing loudly all the time. I´m in heaven.
What to do?
On the island
I you can effort it, rent a golf car and go around the island for yourself (we paid 90.000 and shared between three). Not only is it fun to drive but you can also stop wherever you want. I wouldn´t hire it to just go to the beach as there are cheaper alternatives but for one day it´s nice and you will be able to see all the highlights such as Rocky Cay, a mini island you can walk to (try out to snorkel backyards of the island close to the broked ship: the corrals there are mostly dead but at least you see some fishes); San Luis white sandy beaches, West point and Piscinita (entrance 4.000) but quite nice. You can snorkel and feed some fish with bred or just swim with them. It´s open sea so it´s not ideal for people who cannot swim. At Hoyo Soplador you need to be carefull as they try to charge you seeing this attraction even so it´s for free. In general they try to get parking fees for the car but usually you always find a free parking if you are ok walking 2 minutes.
Another nice place is reserva natural de mangale where you have a walking path through mangroves. At the best – the day I was there, there were actually no turists there.
One day I was so brave and went to Johnny Cay Island. Brave in the sense as it looked super touristy as everyone at least goes there once. But as its only 5 minutes away by boat I thouht I might as well give it a try. And luckily I arrived there so early I had – with about 20 other people – the island for myself. Walking around the whole island is said to be 1.5km but I felt it was even less. Still it is a pretty nice place (which changed when an hour later the island got growded…). Here again, crystal clear water, I managed to see two colibris, lots of iguanas and small lizards in deep green or an amazing blue though unfortunately they were all to quick to be taken a good foto off with my mobile.
Later in the water, close to the ships, I swam with three mantas, two quite big ones and a smaller ones – passing by me with only a distance of less than 2 meters.
And here we go, of course one of the most famous things to do in San Andres and surroundings is scuba diving. I never tried it out so didn´t went for it but from the people that did – its recommended. The snorkeling I did wasn´t such a spectacle but I guess you have to get out more into the deeper sea to find some spot that is still alive. The one´s I saw close to the coast weren´t worth it. And yet what could one expect if the tourists can even walk to those spots, open for everyone and unprotected. It´s a pity but only our humans fault.
There was no yoga in the whole island.. which is such a pity. Imagine doing yoga on those beautiful beaches.. But I douple checked with some locals and there is no such thing as a studio. Some people practice at home which was what I did – and luckily in the apartment I had enough space. And now and then of course I used the beach as a playground..