The archipelago of San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina overview

It is a Colombian department located in the middle of the Caribbean Sea, 775 km northeast of the coast. The capital of this department is San Andrès. It is considered a paradise with the most beautiful beaches of Colombia and the Caribbean. The archipelago has been declared a Biological Reserve of marine flora, and the Natural National Park of Old Providence and McBean Lagoon has been created to protect its biodiversity. The population of this archipelago is estimated at 70,554 inhabitants. The main languages are Creole, Sanadresano, Spanish and English.

The reggae culture is very important. The island of San Andres is the seaside resort par excellence of the Latin American continent. The island of Providencia is much more typical, and its buildings are limited to two floors and must be built in the local style. This island is much more natural: beaches, mountains, lagoons for diving…

History of the archipelago

The San Andrés archipelago was first colonized by the English in 1629. Before that, the archipelago was occupied in an ad hoc manner by indigenous tribes from Central America. These islands, located near the route of the Spanish galleons loaded with gold and silver, were the scene of fierce battles. Pirates and privateers still keep the legends of San Andres alive. For 200 years, the English, Dutch, French and Spanish fought over the possession of the Caribbean islands. In 1793, England recognized Spain’s sovereignty. In 1822, the South American colonial territories being free, San Andres was attached to Colombia.

On your trip to Colombia, you may want to relax on a sandy beach to the sound of Colombian music. The archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina will be perfect for this. There you will discover incredible snorkeling spots, the most beautiful turquoise waters of Colombia and a rich Creole culture.

San Andrés or the Sea of Seven Colors

Colombia has a very large number of islands whether in Pacific or oceanic waters. The archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina is one of the most popular island destinations in Colombia. Located off the coast of Nicaragua in the Caribbean Sea, this archipelago holds 91% of Colombia’s coral reefs and its waters are nicknamed, The Sea of Seven Colors.

A priori discovered by the Spanish around 1500 and then colonized by the British in 1629, these islands will serve for centuries mainly as a military base and will be the scene of many clashes between pirates and settlers. At times British, Dutch, French and Spanish, the San Andres archipelago was not attached to Colombia until 1822.

A colonial and Creole heritage

The legacy of these various European conquests has left characteristic traces that make the charm of these Colombian islands: a mixed population (Afro-Colombian raizal, Mosquito Indians, Colombians and Europeans), who speak three languages (an English-speaking Creole, English and Spanish), and very british traditions and surnames.

The San Andrés archipelago consists of the island of San Andrés, capital of the department, with a total area of 26 square kilometers, the volcanic island of Providencia with 17 square kilometers and numerous islets such as Santa Catalina, Albuquerque, Serrana, Roncador, Quitasueño, East South East.

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San Andres, capital of the department

We will not lie to you, the island of San Andres has crystal clear waters but it is not here that you will find the most beautiful beaches of the archipelago. Indeed, the island has undergone intense tourist development and its coast has been enormously concreted. However, it is a paradise for shopping as you can buy all kinds of souvenirs or duty-free products. It is also the starting point for some nicesnorkeling or boat trips. For example, you can go to the island of Johnny Cay and sunbathe on beautiful white sandy beaches (we advise you to do it on weekdays and outside school vacations as the place is highly touristy). If you like snorkeling, reach the center of the island and go explore the seabed from the rocks of la Piscinita or Cove Bay.

The peaceful village of San Luis will give you a glimpse of old-time life on the island of San Andres. Its colorful wooden houses are very typical of Caribbean architecture. And then enjoy the nightlife of San Andres, where reggae and cocktails go hand in hand.

Providencia, an eco-tourism paradise

Just a few minutes by plane or a few hours by boat from San Andres, you will discover its sublime neighbor, Providencia. Here nature is king, Providencia is an example of environmental preservation! Its inhabitants are very proud of their islands and of having fought against the large hotel constructions planned by the city council 25 years ago.

Providencia being a volcanic island, you will be able to go on beautiful hikes on the hills of the island especially the one that will take you to the highest point of the island, The Pico, at 360 meters. Don’t forget to take plenty of water and sunscreen! Lovers of lazing around, snorkeling and diving will be delighted because there too, coral reefs are legion and the turquoise waters and white sand beaches are more enchanting than the others. You can also take a trip to the small island of Santa Catalina, connected by a bridge to the island of Providencia.

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