Guide to San Andres Island in Colombia

Most visitors that consider going to Colombia don’t even know about San Andres Island. In fact, I hadn’t even heard of it before I stumbled upon it while looking for an alternative destination in Colombia. I’m glad that I found out about this tiny island as I would have missed out on a lot by not going.

Despite being a Colombian territory, the locals don’t look like Colombians, but rather like people from the Caribbean. Not only that, the culture of the island is also more Caribbean than Colombian.San Andres Colombia

Things to Know Before Traveling to San Andres Island in Colombia

San Andres is a tiny island that belongs to Colombia, although geographically it is closer to Nicaragua and Jamaica. The tiny island is a diverse mix of African descendants who actually prefer to speak English due to the island’s early history.

It’s also inhabited by Colombian immigrants who have come here to work in the tourist industry and a very small group of indigenous people.

Due to the fact that it’s a Colombian territory in Costa Rican and Nicaraguan waters, San Andres is a duty-free zone. It makes it great for shopping! Goods there are cheaper than at any airport I’ve been to.

Apart from the cheap shopping, San Andres is not a cheap place. For one thing, you need to pay an entry fee as the island is considered a national park.

Also, accommodation on the island is way more expensive than anywhere on the mainland. But trust me – it’s worth the price!San Andres Island

How to Get to San Andres Colombia?

Your best bet would be to fly from any Colombian airport. The cheapest flights usually connect through Panama City.

San Andres streets

What to Do in San Andres Island?

San Andres is a great place to chill for a few days and experience a different side of the Caribbean. The best part of the island is obviously its beaches.

The sands are almost pure white and the water is so clear you can easily spot fish swimming around. None of the beaches are overcrowded, despite the whole island being no larger than 26 km2.san andres colombia beach

If you’re looking for something a bit different, San Andres offers a lot of boat cruises. You need to make sure you know which cruise you’re booking because I thought I was booked to go on a pirate ship, but somehow I ended up on a small boat.

The easiest way is to walk to the port and jump on a cruise straight away, rather than booking with your hotel. The best cruise is a trip to Johnny Cay Isle, a great spot to hang out with exotic fish. I loved interacting with the manta rays and snorkeling in the nearby coral reefs.

isla de san andres colombia

If you get a bit tired of the beach, you can easily rent a quad or bike to discover the island on your own. It’s a nice way to interact with the locals and eat homemade arepas, which I personally adored. I could eat them with chipotle every day! However, I must say that people who dislike seafood and cheese may experience some difficulties in San Andres.arepas

One attraction that’s not in the guidebook is the local church. Before you scroll down and skip this part because you don’t think a church is interesting enough, let me tell you something. It’s one of two churches I know of (another in Ecuador) that you can actually climb on.

My friends and I went to the church by accident only to discover that by using tiny ladders. We were able to climb to the top of it! While I was sitting on the roof I had the chance to see a beautiful panoramic view of the whole island. It was totally worth the visit!

For more activities and organized tours check Viator here.

top of the church san andres

Where to Stay in San Andres, Colombia

I’m really glad I went to San Andres as it’s a destination off the beaten path and it’s gorgeous! If you’re wondering where to stay on the island here are my recommendations:

One of a few luxury properties in San Andres. It has a spa, gym, jacuzzi and a lot of other amenities that properties rarely offer on the island.
Check out prices on:
Right on the beach, this hotel has high standards for an affordable price.Check out prices on: | HotelsCombined | TripAdvisor

Aptos Sol y Mar Islas II

Conviniently located near the beach, equipped with everything you might need.

Check out prices on:

El Viajero

Centrally located affordable and clean hostel. You can book sailing trips and other excursions directly at their front desk.

Check out prices on: | HotelsCombined | TripAdvisor

Looking for Travel Insurance?

In case you don’t have one yet, you might consider buying World Nomads Travel Insurance covers Colombia – it’s the best out there.

Don’t forget to explore other great destinations in Colombia as the country has a lot to offer. Spend a day or a few in Bogota, go to Santa Marta, experience the vibrant city of Medellin, or head to Tayrona National Park near Cartagena.

Alternative Options of Tropical Islands Around the World:

Guide to San Andres in Colombia
Guide to San Andres Island in Colombia

Any questions about San Andres Island? Please ask in the comments below!


  1. Kevin
    Jun 1, 2015 / 8:10 pm

    the people there do no “look Colombian”..? pray tell, what does a “Colombian” look like?

    there are the white ones that predominate around Bogota, the black & mixed people from Valle Cauca & Cali, and many other “types” ..indigenous people.I don’t think tah you look “Polish” especially with the hair dye job..

    for that matter,please advise as to what an “American” from the USA looks like, or a “Canadian”, or a British person..Colombia has as much diversity as any of those places

  2. Jun 2, 2015 / 9:52 pm

    Niesamowite te zwierzątka morskie. Niesamowite mieć coś takiego w dłoniach, wygląda to wspaniale! Kadr z łódkami sprawia, że jeszcze bardziej chce mi się jechać nad morze!

    • Jun 2, 2015 / 10:02 pm

      Zapraszam do Kolumbii w takim razie 😉

  3. Jun 2, 2015 / 11:23 pm

    And where’s a picture with your hair done? ;>

    • Jun 2, 2015 / 11:27 pm

      Hehe, it didn’t look as cool as I thought it would 😉

  4. Jun 3, 2015 / 5:49 pm

    So excited I found this article. Planning to visit in August. Any suggestions for hotels?

  5. Jun 3, 2015 / 7:43 pm

    I’ve never heard of that Island and it surely looks and sounds amazing! you’ve found a gem!! 😀

    • Jun 3, 2015 / 10:58 pm

      I love these semi-undiscovered places 🙂

      • Rose
        Jun 2, 2017 / 5:13 am

        Undiscovered? I have been going for years 🙂

        • Anna
          Jun 2, 2017 / 5:45 am

          Comparing to Cartagena 😉

  6. Jun 4, 2015 / 1:30 pm

    2 tyg. temu miałem okazję posłuchać trochę o Ameryce Południowej i podobno Kolumbia to najlepszy kraj na tym kontynencie 🙂

    • Jun 5, 2015 / 2:33 am

      Ja bym glosowala jednak na Ekwador, ale Kolumbia tez zla nie jest!

  7. Jun 5, 2015 / 8:18 pm

    Anna, a perfect place for trip for someone like me. I am a marine biologist :).

    • Jun 5, 2015 / 8:23 pm

      Right after Galapagos Islands I think 🙂

  8. Jul 29, 2015 / 9:12 am

    Świetnie. Pozdrawiam 🙂

  9. Jul 31, 2015 / 1:11 am

    I one heard my neighbor talk about the island of San Andreas. His description of the city leaves you with nothing other than a burning urge to visit the place. Last year, I decided to travel to the place and I found it very amazing. The lovely sandy beaches, beautiful sea creatures and the Columbian culture are killers.

  10. Carolyn
    Jan 21, 2017 / 6:50 pm

    Where is the church located? Is it just the one church?

    • Jan 21, 2017 / 6:53 pm

      There’s just one. Head uphill from downtown and you’ll see it. The easiest way would be renting a golf kart, but you can also take a cab.

  11. John Coppinger
    Mar 23, 2017 / 3:04 pm

    Does the island still belong to Columbia or Nicaragua?

    • Anna
      Mar 23, 2017 / 3:31 pm

      San Andres belongs to Colombia

  12. Fab
    Jul 19, 2017 / 1:59 pm

    do you think is important to book in advance an accomodation? I usually don’t book and in this places many people wait you at the airport offering cheap rooms to stay.
    What is your experience?

    thank you

    • Anna
      Jul 19, 2017 / 7:55 pm

      During high season for sure!

  13. Emma
    Jul 24, 2017 / 2:01 pm

    Great guide. I just landed so will be checking out all of this!

  14. Emma
    Jul 24, 2017 / 2:03 pm

    Also which beach/beaches would you recommend visiting?

  15. Coralie Watson
    Sep 9, 2017 / 1:02 pm

    Hey, great post thanks! Are there hostels on the island? We’re doing a combination of hotels and hostels to keep it cheap enough but see everything we want it 🙂

    • Anna
      Sep 9, 2017 / 7:54 pm

      When I visited there was only the one I mentioned: El Viajero. Wasn’t cheap for a hostel, but was clean and awesome.

  16. Kent
    Jan 12, 2018 / 6:17 pm

    Dear Anna,
    I recently (1/18) returned from San Andres Island and as a traveler who has sailed (personally) and flown to numerous (18+) Caribbean islands, my feelings bordered on disappointment. Overcrowded, dirty, littered, crumbling, potholed streets and in need of a good coat of paint are a few personal observations which were takeaways. We were careful not to stay out much past sunset, so luckily, we did not become crime victims. No island water is potable, we were expected to take cold showers from a cistern at our four-star AirB&B. The island has a population density equal to Washington D.C. with a third-world infrastructure which fails it’s populace miserably. Yes, the water is clear, but the island dumps its raw sewage into the ocean, which by mere luck of its physical geography is able to be absorbed by the wide expanse of the ocean. On the north side of the island in a north (onshore) wind, the effluent stench reminds me of Rio.

  17. Ron Cryer
    May 1, 2018 / 6:01 pm

    Dear Anna,
    There are all kinds of people on this planet and all at different stages of their evolution. Some have motives for saying what they say that are hidden from us and we will never know the real reason behind them. It is very easy to criticize even the most spectacular places on the planet, depending on your present state and overall persona.
    Rest assured that San Andres is known as a world-class beach resort and I assure you that you have fallen of a real gem. Thaks for your charming report. 🙂

  18. Geovanni Iglesias
    Jul 10, 2018 / 2:19 pm

    Hi Anna,

    What would be the best way to take a trip to San Andres from the USA?

    • Anna
      Jul 10, 2018 / 7:27 pm

      Fly to Panama City or Cali, then connect to San Andres.

  19. Morgan
    Nov 6, 2018 / 2:56 pm

    You can climb on the top of a huge cathedral/church in Leon, Nicaragua 🙂

  20. Marianne Waterstradt
    Nov 19, 2018 / 9:26 pm

    Are there any good Spas? We would like facials and massages when we go but I am having a hard time figuring out how to book any. Most of them are in the hotels and don’t have the option to book online. Any advice?

    • Anna
      Nov 20, 2018 / 11:45 am

      I haven’t seen any. It’s more of a local island vibe than a very touristy spot, so I’d assume spas are mostly at hotels.

  21. Angela Lok
    Nov 21, 2018 / 3:50 pm

    wow, this is absolutely amazing, it really makes me put San Andres as my top destination for next year! I have a friend who recently went diving there, she absolutely loved La Piramide, said the whole area both above and under water was the experience of a lifetime ( I so want to get there myself and explore everything!!!!

  22. Rence McDeed
    Jan 13, 2019 / 2:23 am

    Hi Anna,
    Thank you for your time and this article 🙂
    I am heading St Andres next week. I’m wondering, did you get the chance to spend any time on Providencia? If you did, what might be some of your thoughts/suggestions?

    • Anna
      Jan 13, 2019 / 7:01 am

      Unfortunately not.

      • Rence
        Jan 13, 2019 / 7:12 pm

        Thank you for your reply…..I’ll suffer through it 😉

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