For the first time in my life, I was travelling abroad – and in a sunny part of the world – on my birthday (also Xmas day). I decided to spend it the best way I could: in the Caribbean!
We took a VIVA air Colombia flight from Medellín to San Andres, 150km from the Nicaraguan coast. Beware the taxi from the city to the airport in pretty long – about 45 minutes and that you will need to pay the tarjeta de turismo in cash at the airport (104 000 pesos). When we arrived there, the queue was soooooooo long. And everything was pretty messy! The flight was also rather chaotic : people didn’t sit where they were expected to, didn’t respect the instructions from the crew, children were standing on seats… We were happy to reach the island after a 2 hours flight!
San Andrés, quite big with its 70 000 inhabitants, was actually not our final destination. We spent one quick night there at the El Viajero Hostel : beautiful view and good vibe at the bar at the top of the hostel. Breakfast and cleanliness were less convincing. Interesting to note: we arrived around 8pm on the island and we had quite a hard time finding a restaurant that was still open.
The next morning we had a flight booked for Providencia, a little WiFi-free paradise of only 5 000 inhabitants. Small island also means small plane : only 17 seats but a very steady flight ! Tip: you shouldn’t take too much luggage as they may charge you if your bag weights more than 10 kg. The views from the plane are just incredible.
Things to do in Providencia:
- Boat tour: I celebrated my birthday in the best possible way! We toured the island on a small boat, having a look at the main landmarks of the island like Morgan’s head or El Pico. We stopped in the National park of Cayo Cangrejo (Crab Bay), a tiny island famous for its 7 different nuances of turquoise and its 3 turtles. The entrance is 17 000 pesos and you can buy cocktails and a bit of food as well as rent snorkels. We then had lunch on the largest beach of the island: Playa Suroeste.
- Tour of the island on a scooter: After the boat tour, time to explore the island from the inside on the next day. We started with the small but lovely beach of Almond Bay, we then stopped in the “capital” Santa Isabel: nothing special except several food shops. You need to leave your scooter there to cross a funky bridge to the green island of Santa Catalina. Nice walk in the mangrove to a small beach right after Fort Warwick. We then drove down on the East side of the island to go watch the sunset on Playa Manzanillo, a Caribbean beach just like in movies.
Hotel in Providencia: we stayed in a lovely cabaña in the largest village of the island – Cabañas Agua dulce. Each cabaña is fairy large with a big bathroom (no warm water!) and a private terrace with a hammock. Good breakfast with a choice of warm sandwiches or pancakes every morning. We also had a nice Christmas eve dinner. There’s also a small bar across the road to watch the sunset .
You can rent a scooter, organise your boat tour or enjoy the swimming pool (together with impressive iguanas).
Restaurants in Providencia:
- Restaurant Miss Elma: a pleasant terrace next to Playa Aguadulce with good food and cocktails
- Blue Coral Pizzeria: if you are fed up with fish, try the pizza here (but don’t order a mojito, I could’t even t-drink it all!)
- Don Olivo: a fisherman’s house on the island of Santa Catalina. Not cheap but handmade and very tasty.
- Resto Arturo: Good fish on Playa Sudoeste
- Roland Root’s bar: suppositely the coolest bar of the island, on Playa Manzanillo. Unfortunately they were kind of closed on 26 December when we went.
I didn’t actually to go away but well…We had planned to go back to San Andres with a ferry, which is cheaper. Unfortunately our hotel warned us on the same morning that the boat was cancelled due to bad weather and we were advised to go to the airport as they may add new flights. After a lot of stress and confusing information, we eventually got on board a few hours later.
My advice if the same happens to you: go to the airport and start queuing as soon as possible!