San Andrés, Colombia – Travel Guide

Palm trees blown in the window and a white beach on San Andres Island, Colombia

More than 700 kilometres off the north coast of mainland Colombia sits Isla San Andrés. Owing to its position, this small island has a different feel to the rest of the country with a distinct Caribbean character. 

San Andrés is hugely popular with holidaying Colombians, and it’s easy to see why with its blue water, white sandy beaches and tropical weather. While the main town doesn’t give the best first impression, beyond the development and plethora of duty-free shops, San Andrés provides a slice of relaxed Caribbean life. 

Seeking some chilled island vibes, I went to San Andrés for a few days and ended up staying for two weeks! If you’re also looking for a place to soak up some sun and want to enjoy a dose of Creole culture, San Andrés should be on your Colombia itinerary.

Backpacking San Andrés, Colombia – Travel Guide 🎒

San Andres Map and Resources

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Best Time to Visit San Andrés, Colombia ☀️

December to May is the dry season and the best time to visit San Andrés. The island has a tropical climate and the temperature hovers around a pleasant 27oC year round.

The wet season runs from June to November. This is also the Caribbean hurricane season. Thankfully, San Andrés sits outside the hurricane belt so is rarely directly affected by these storms, although they are not unheard of.

People walking along promenade San Andres
San Andrés is a popular holiday destination for Colombians.

Know Before You Go: Island Tax and Onward Travel

Visitors to San Andrés are required to pay an island tax of around 137,000COP (approx. $35USD). This needs to be paid before arrival and can be purchased at your departure airport’s boarding gate.

On arrival, you will also need to let the authorities know your planned departure date. Some airlines may not even allow you to board without proof of a return or onward ticket, so it’s best to plan your onward travel in advance. If you prefer to stay flexible, consider using a ticket rental service, such as onward ticket, which you can use as proof of an onward journey. Note that these tickets are usually only valid for 48 hours so make sure you don’t purchase it too far in advance of your flight.

Where to Stay in San Andrés, Colombia 🛌

San Andrés is a small island, at around 13 kilometres long and 3 kilometres wide, so nowhere is ever far away. However, where you stay on the island can affect your experience.

  • Centro de San Andrés

The main town is located on the northern tip of the island. This is also where you will find the busiest beach (Playa Principal). The beach itself is very pretty with soft sand and calm waters, but it is backed by lots of development. The town itself leaves a lot to be desired. There is a lot of traffic and nothing of interest to do, unless you want to indulge in some duty-free shopping.

  • East Coast 

The island’s best beaches can be found along the East Coast, including Playa San Luis and the beach near Rocky Cay.

  • West Coast

The shoreline around the West Coast is rockier, with little in the way of sandy beaches. However, what it lacks in sand it makes up for with beautiful vistas of water that is as clear as glass in a dazzling array of colours. 

Rocky shoreline and Caribbean Sea
The water around San Andrés is known as the Sea of Seven Colours!

Best Accommodation in San Andrés, Colombia

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Dreamer Beach Club

The popular Colombian hostel chain goes all out with its San Andrés offering. The site features two pools, an onsite restaurant and bar, pool tables and plenty of places to chill. Dreamer offers mixed dorm rooms as well as privates and is located a stone’s throw from the main beach.

People drinking and relaxing at Dreamer Beach Club
Pool party time at Dreamer Beach Club.

Viajero Hostel

Another favourite amongst backpackers in Latin America, the Viajero chain has an outpost in Centro de San Andrés. If you’re looking for a budget bunk and a social atmosphere, you can’t go far wrong with a Viajero. There are both female-only and mixed dorms as well as privates.

Villa Sunny Days

Situated on the East Coast, just steps from one of the island’s best beaches, Villa Sunny Days’ budget rooms provide excellent value for money. Run by friendly local, Pablo, the rooms in a converted traditional house are comfortable and exceptionally clean.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at Villa Sunny Days. The room was immaculate and the price can’t be beaten for the excellent location.”

Lisa Barham – Writer at South America Backpacker

Cocoplum Beach

Sitting directly on one of San Andrés’s white sandy beaches, Cocoplum enjoys one of the best locations on the island. Guests can choose from a double room or junior suite and enjoy the restaurant that looks out over the Caribbean Sea.

Miraflores Boutique Hotel

For a touch of luxury, Miraflores provides spacious and comfortable rooms set amongst lush, green gardens. Its West Coast location makes it perfectly positioned for sunset views and, while there isn’t a beach nearby, the crystal clear sea is accessible and ideal for swimming.

Things to Do in San Andrés, Colombia 🐟

1. Explore the Island 🏍️

San Andrés is surrounded by the Sea of Seven Colours, crystal clear waters that shimmer in every shade of blue from aquamarine to deep cobalt! The island is ringed by one main road that hugs the coastline and provides scenic views over the sparkling sea. Hire a buggy or a scooter (or even a bicycle) for the day and take to the road, making regular stops along the way to soak up the scenery, take photos and grab a refreshing drink at one of the beach bars.

Coastal road with palm trees on San Andres
Enjoy views like this on a road trip around the island.

2. Dive in the Caribbean Sea 🤿

The sea around San Andrés is home to the third-longest coral barrier in the world. This, along with the excellent visibility thanks to the spectacularly clear waters, makes the island one of the best places in Colombia to scuba dive.

3. Relax on the Beach 🏖️

If you’re looking for some of the best beaches in Colombia, San Andrés won’t disappoint with its soft white sand and calm warm waters. San Luis Beach and the beach near Rocky Cay, both on the East Coast, are two of the best. Grab a coco limonada, sit back, relax and enjoy island time.

White sandy beach on San Andres
San Andrés’ beaches feature soft sand and warm waters.

4. Enjoy Some Watersports 🚣‍♀️

San Andrés is a playground for those who love watersports. The transparent water is perfect for snorkelling, or, if you’re looking for something more active, you can hire a kayak to explore the island’s coastline. Adrenaline junkies can enjoy a parasailing session or jet skiing. When the wind whips up, San Andrés is also a great place for kitesurfing and you can find schools dotted around the island.

Fish swimming in clear water
Spotting the sea life is easy in water as clear as this!

5. Spend the Day on Johnny Cay 🏝️

Just off the northern tip of San Andrés lies the minuscule island of Johnny Cay. This tiny speck of land is covered in palm trees and surrounded by some of the bluest waters you’re ever likely to see. Yes, the beach gets very busy with day-trippers, but it’s still worth the short boat ride to enjoy a relaxed day on the soft sand.

“The sea around Johnny Cay is the most incredible colour and the few hours we spent on the island weren’t enough. Despite being busy, the beach was beautiful and a great place to relax and swim.”

Lisa Barham – Writer at South America Backpacker
Boat next to Johnny Cay island
Taking a boat to Johnny Cay makes a great day trip.

6. Get Blown Away at Hoyo Soplador 💨

On the southern tip of the island, you’ll find Hoyo Soplador, which is a small blowhole near the rocky shoreline. When the tide is high you can witness the spectacle of seawater gushing up through the blowhole and several feet into the air. When the water level is lower you can still enjoy the strange sensation of strong winds being forced through the hole. Make sure to hold onto your hat!

7. Watch the Sunset at Reggae Roots 🌅

No island visit would be complete without watching a sunset or two. Head to Reggae Roots bar on the West Coast, grab a drink and soak up the atmosphere as the sun sinks below the horizon, painting the sky seven shades of orange and red.

People enjoying the sunset over the sea
Reggae Roots bar is a great place to enjoy a sundowner.

8. Step Back in Time at the Casa Museo Isleña 🏡

Visit the small museum of Casa Museo Isleña to learn a little about Creole culture and the history of life on the island. The museum is an old home, dating back 150 years, housing furniture, artifacts and traditional dresses that give an insight into the ways islanders once lived. You can also enjoy a demonstration of calypso dances.  

“The small but informative museum was a great way to spend an hour and learn about the culture of San Andrés, which is so different to the rest of Colombia.”

Lisa Barham – Writer at South America Backpacker
Antique furniture in Casa Museo Islena
Learn about Creole culture at Casa Museo Isleña.

9. Walk Underwater 🌊

Fancy walking on the bottom of the sea with a weighted helmet to explore an underwater sculpture? Who doesn’t?! You can try this unusual activity on the island’s West Coast with Aquanautas. 

Willing participants are fitted with a special weighted helmet that allows you to breathe naturally before being lowered to the seabed, 6 metres below the surface. You’re then free to stroll around amongst the fish and admire the statue of Poseidon. A 25-minute session costs around 140,000COP (approx. $36USD).

10. Visit Morgan’s Cave 🏴‍☠️

Henry Morgan was a notorious pirate who roamed the seas around San Andrés during the early 17th century. After looting ships he would hide his treasure in a cave, which is now known as ‘Morgan’s Cave’. Today, it has been turned into a rather tacky tourist attraction and isn’t really worth the 25,000COP (approx. $6.50USD) entry fee, despite the interesting history.

Pirate statue near the coastline, San Andres
Some pirates of the Caribbean used San Andrés to hide their loot!

Food and Drink in San Andrés, Colombia🦐

Sadly, San Andrés lacks a good food scene and enticing eateries are hard to come by. There are still some decent options though, and below are a few of the best. It’s also worth noting that eating out is more expensive than most places on the mainland and prices are on a par with Cartagena rather than the cheaper cities further south.

Bali Smoothies & Juices

With healthy smoothies and refreshing juices and (less healthy, but delicious) waffles, this is a great spot for breakfast or something fresh and tasty on the go.

Juice and waffles
Fresh juice and sweet treats make a waffley good combo!

Dreamer Beach Club

There is good variety on the menu at Dreamer’s restaurant, including local and Western options. The bowls are healthy and satisfying and the pizzas are also recommended.

Sea Watch Caffe

A beachside café that makes a good spot for breakfast. The Double Berry pancakes are particularly yummy.

Capi Beach Restaurant

Fresh, local food served in generous portions right on the beach. There’s a lot to like at Capi’s.

Eat Alley

Despite the unappealing name, Eat Alley serves up some of the tastiest food on the island. Its offerings include pasta, burgers and pizzas.

“The pizza at Eat Alley is the best thing I ate during my time on the island! I highly recommend eating at this friendly, family-run restaurant.”

Lisa Barham – Writer at South America Backpacker
Pizza at Eat Alley San Andres
San Andrés stole a pizza my heart.

La Regatta

To sample some of the best seafood on the island, head to the popular La Regatta restaurant.

Getting Around San Andrés, Colombia 🛺


The most popular way to get around San Andrés is to hire one of the motorized buggies widely available on the island. Looking a little like a golf buggy, these all-terrain-vehicles fit between two and six passengers and are a fun way to drive a circuit of the island. Two-seater buggies cost around 250,000COP (approx. $64USD) per day and larger ones, 300,000COP (approx. $77USD).

People driving a buggy on San Andres
Buggies are a popular way to get around San Andrés.


If you prefer two wheels, scooters are also available. Expect to pay around 80,000COP (approx. $20USD) for a day hire or 100,000-150,000 (approx. $25-$38USD) for 24 hours.


The island is small enough to travel around by bicycle. A full circuit of the island should take about 3-4 hours. Hire costs around 7,000COP (approx. $1.80USD) per hour.


Taxis are readily available to hire from the airport or main town to take you anywhere on the island.

How to Get to San Andrés, Colombia ✈️

The only way to reach San Andrés is by plane. Flights from Cartagena take around 1 hour and the flight time from Medellín or Bogotá is around 2 hours. Tickets can be found for as little as around $50USD, but can be more than $100USD during high season.

Clear waters around San Andres Island
With water like this, this Caribbean island is worth the trip!

Where to Go Next: 🛫

  • Providencia: San Andrés’ smaller and quieter sister, Providencia has all the makings of a perfect tropical island getaway.
  • Cartagena: One of Colombia’s most popular destinations, Cartagena’s vibrant, multi-coloured streets are a must-visit.
  • Medellín: Swap island life for city life and spend a few days in Colombia’s hippest city.


South America Backpacker is a ‘travel diary for everyone’. This article has been written with the help of backpackers and local experts. We would like to thank the following for their input to this article…

🙏 Sheena and Wendy | Dreamer Beach Club
🙏 Pablo | Villa Sunny Days

Lisa Barham

Lisa is a writer and traveller who left her nine-to-five in London for life on the road. Today, she spends her time solo backpacking, navigating through life and unfamiliar streets. After eating, hiking and surfing her way through Southeast Asia, she headed for a new adventure in South America, to travel through the continent learning Spanish, and a few other valuable lessons along the way!

Follow her on: Instagram

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