This week I will be flying out to San Andres, Colombia. San Andres is a small island in the Caribbean Sea that is under the administrative control of the Colombian government. I had never even heard of the island prior to landing in Colombia, but according to many of the locals that I spoke to, it is and extremely popular vacation spot for Colombians. After googling the island, I just had to make a trip out to see its pristine white beaches with crystal blue water. I was fortunate enough to find an affordable hotel for the week through Airbnb as traditional hotels go for over $150 USD per night. The island is pretty small so there won’t be much diversity as far as activities go but I am sure it will be a memorable experience.
Arriving to San Andres Islands- After my last experience traveling to an island via ferry (here), I was glad that San Andres had an airport. I bought my plane ticket to the island about three weeks ago making it pretty affordable. The ticket cost about $40 USD for a one way flight. Unfortunately, I had to come back down to Cartagena to take advantage of the deal. I left Barranquilla around 10:30 A.M using the Berlinas shuttle. The trip to Cartagena took about 2 hours and I was back at the Cartagena International Airport by 1 PM. I had to wait about 3 hours for my flight but the airport was pretty comfortable especially once I made it through security. I almost had a repeat of my Mexican nightmare (seen here). As I was going to board the plane, the airline employee stopped me and said “Señor, no puede abordar porque no tiene la tarjeta turística”. To translate, I couldn’t board the plane because I didn’t have a tourist card. Turns out, in order to get to San Andres, you have to purchase a “tourist card” from the airline company which supposedly goes towards the islands upkeep. Fortunately, unlike my Mexico experience, I did not have to go all the way outside security to purchase the card. However, the $33 USD price for the card was extremely expensive by Colombian standards. After buying the tourist card at the gate, I was able to board the flight. I arrived in San Andres at 5 PM, about an hour after takeoff. The San Andres airport was extremely small and could barely handle the heavy traffic which flowed through it. To make matters worse, all travelers were required to go through a customs check point. The windows were not that bad but there was literally one luggage scanner for everyone to put their luggage through. It took me half an hour to get out of the airport once my flight landed. Unlike my previous stops, I was staying in an Airbnb and not a hotel. While cheaper, Airbnb’s are often harder to find because they are at someone’s house and not a commercial property. I put what I thought was the address in Google Maps only to end up at an intersection in the center of town. Luckily, I had just enough power in my phone to WhatsApp the owner to ask him to send me a map. Turns out, the place was less than 200 meters from the airport. The Airbnb was a privately owned hotel-apartment which had six separate rooms. After a long day of traveling, I was finally settled into San Andres.
San Andres-The island had the best of both worlds. On one hand, there were plenty of duty free shops, restaurants, and casinos. In addition, many of the beach front properties were run by five star resorts which provided their own forms of entertainment. Despite being very “touristy”, the island maintained a laid back vibe which took me back to being on the North Shore in Oahu, Hawaii. The main beach was in walking distance from my Airbnb, and I basically hung out there for the week. The water was crystal blue and the beach was well maintained. Outside of sharp rocks being underwater in some places, the beach couldn’t have been any better. Most days, I paid 7K Colombian Pesos (COP) or $2 USD for a beach chair and sat on the beach for hours on end reading and swimming. The only thing that stopped me from actually living on the beach that week was the weather. Unfortunately, it did rain for a good part of the week which kept me from exploring more outside of the city.
Playa San Luis- One the things that I did do was take the public bus to the southern tip of the island to visit Playa San Luis. Given the island’s size, the public transportation is simple and efficient as there were very few places to see outside the central area. I paid a little under 3k COP (.80 USD) to go across the islands. While the buses were not luxury, they were comfortable enough for the short trip. Outside the central area, the island was very rural and consisted of long stretches of trees and trash. However, there were also great views of the Caribbean Sea to balance it out. It took me about 45 minutes to get to Playa San Luis. The beach itself was right off the highway and very isolated. I also went early enough to were I got my own beach chair after paying 5k COP ($1.75 USD) for a coconut. The views were the same as the central beach with less noise and traffic. I enjoyed the silence for about 3 hours before hopping on a passing bus back to town.