8 Things to Do in San Andrés, Colombia
- Go Diving
- Try a coconut water
- Rent a shade at Spratt Bight
- Stroll Calle 1
- Rent a golf cart to drive around the island
- Visit the botanical gardens
- Stroll the boardwalk in San Francisco
We dove for three mornings out of San Andrés with Banda Dive Shop. The crew spoke English and were very friendly. Many times, due to the winds, we motored to the other side of the island where many dive companies are based. We picked Banda Dive Shop because we wanted to stay in San Andres with other things to do, but San Andres Divers seemed like another good option for those staying in quiet areas.
Try a coconut water
Vendors sold coconut water on the beach and on the pedestrian street, Calle 1. It felt like a crime not try one at the beach, so we paid for the over priced beverage! The gentleman machettied off the top, poked in a straw, and off we went with a refreshing drink.
Rent a Shade at Spratt Bight
Spratt Bight is a popular sandy beach on the north side of San Andres. It is very busy, thus I didn’t think I’d like hanging out for a restful afternoon there, but I was wrong. We rented a shade which included lounge chairs, and enjoyed a cool breeze as we listened to Latin music and watched all the beach activities.
Stroll Calle 1
Calle 1 is lined with hotels, restaurants and cart vendors. It runs behind Spratt Bight thus provides a nice seaside walk, both day and night. In addition to browsing the vendors’s, check out the I love San Andres sign and the garden complete with outdoor workout equipment across from it.
I’m not much of a shopper, but this island is duty free. There is a shopping street lined duty free shops and benches in shapes of turtles and such in case a rest is needed.
Rent a Golf Cart for the Day to Drive Around the Island
There are two choices of golf carts to rent, one that can only be used on the flat ring road, and one that can be taken on the hills. The less powerful cart was automatic and didn’t require gas fill up at the end, so we picked that one. We took it to explore the island.
While San Andres is chaotic, the rest of the island is much quieter aside from the locals zooming past us on motorcycles. We rented a cart from a place across from Hotel Sunrise on the northeast side of the island just south of the port from which many excursions depart. This was a perfect location as it provided an easy exit out of the city as we got used to the cart in all the traffic.
Our first stop was at the Botanical Gardens San Andres. Admission was only a few dollars and they will provide a free guided tour which I recommend. We followed our guide past a variety of flowers and trees, mostly not native. Soon we reached a tower with spectacular views of the island before finally ending at the small turtle farm.
From the view in the tower, our guide pointed to the small island and said when the tide is low like today, you can walk across the sand bar to it. That sounded fun, so we backtracked just a little to what turned out to be Rocky Cay which is a popular excursion.
We parked at Club de Playa Rocky Cay where we were charged a parking fee. I think free parking was 100 feet down the road. Oh well. We were greeted by a hostess who explained all about the restaurant, lockers, and bathrooms in Spanish. We reached the beach which was absolutely packed, more so than Spratt Bight. In fact, for beach lounging, I’d stick with Spratt Bight eventhough the water is a bit rougher.
We watched people who were “walking” to the island. There was a small section that looked at least chest deep and maybe required a short swim. We weren’t dressed for this, so we promptly left for a quieter place.
Boardwalk in San Francisco
We found a boardwalk similar to the pedestrian street, Calle 1, in San Andres except no one was on it! We wandered to both ends, checked out the tide pools and fortunately found the golf cart key that had fallen out of Eric’s pocket on the wet lava rock after we had walked back to the cart and couldn’t start it!
Lunch was calling our name, so we stopped at Restaurante El Paraiso located just south of San Francisco. We really liked this place. There was only one other group at the restaurant that had indoor and outdoor seating including lounge chairs on the beach at our disposal. My Filete al Ajillo was the best on the island (I think it was the fourth or fifth time I ordered it).
What I found most appealing, had we wanted to stay, we had the whole beach to ourselves with the only drawback being a substantial amount of seaweed in the water and on the sand. Having said that, there were clean areas. Just down the way was also a restaurant called Donde Francesca with less seaweed but more people.
From this point all the way to the southern part of the island, there were a handful of small beaches with virtually no one. These beaches would be great for solitude if it weren’t for the island “highway” which circled the perimeter. The road was in excellent condition and seemed very new. The golf carts, on the other hand are quite loud, so lounging on the beaches wouldn’t be that quiet, but they were quite pretty and in my opinion better options than the over-crowded places.
We likely would have stopped at El Hoya Soplador, a blow hole, except our guide at the Botanic Garden said it wouldn’t be blowing as the seas were too calm. That tip saved us a few bucks! We continued around to the west side of the island which is known for its calm, excellent snorkeling spots such as La Piscina Natural and Aquanatas. We didn’t feel the need to stop at these locations given we had already been diving, but they seemed nice for those wishing to go on a snorkeling excursion.
We attempted to go to the coconut house, mentioned in the travel guide, but we couldn’t find it as we tested out our golf cart up a hill we weren’t allowed to go up. It made it, but on the descent, I’m pretty sure my camera went flying as it was missing by our next stop at another “I love San Andres” sign. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the same luck searching for my camera as we did when we searched for the golf cart key.
Driving the cart around was really fun and it was a great way to spend our last day on land before heading to Cartagena. ETB