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San Andres: A Little Known Colombian Caribbean Island

A few months ago while living in Washington DC, after grabbing food from Nando’s I hopped in an Uber to head back home. As I always do when I hear a foreign accent, I asked my driver where he was from. My constant curiosity for travel always lends itself to learning about the best places to explore from a local perspective. This black driver, who I assumed was from Africa, told me that he was from San Andres, an island I had never heard of it. Once I expressed my ignorance he told me that it was part of Colombia. I immediately pulled out my phone and did a quick google search. What I found was an island 150 kilometers off the coast of Nicaragua and 800 kilometers from the Colombian mainland. I had known there were Afro-Colombians, but I don’t think I ever pictured them looking exactly like me.

It was this interaction with an Uber driver that led me to San Andres on my recent trip to Colombia, well that and a cheap ticket from Jet Blue.

My friend and I set out very very early on Wednesday morning for the first of three flights. We flew from Detroit to Fort Lauderdale to Cartagena to San Andres. In total we traveled about 12 hours door to door. O_O. And when we arrived, we were exhausted.

When we arrived on the tiny island, we were overjoyed to see people that looked like us at immigration. We referred to everyone as our aunts, uncles and cousins. Those who found a special place in our hearts were our sisters.

Day 1

We stepped out of the airport and grabbed a taxi to our hotel which was a short five minute drive from the airport. We checked in then gave ourselves a bit of time to rest and it gave me time to figure out where we would have dinner.

I won’t write about the wild goose chase that I sent us on because I confused a restaurant on another, close, island for being on this one, but we ended up walking around A LOT, before settling on Ile Restorante, on of the best restaurants on the island according to Trip Advisor.

Dinner was fantastic, as was the service. Our waitress – who was a very kind older late that felt more like an aunt than as waitress – didn’t speak any English so I used my ItaloSprench to get us through. It worked. For dinner we decided to share several dishes so that we could taste several things. We ordered a lobster roll with fries. The fries were DELICIOUS, but for me, the lobster roll left a bit to be desired. The shrimp ceviche was sublime. I wanted to lick the plate. It was like to ceviche I had had before. We also had fish tacos which were good and we has tinto verano which seems to be the Colombian version of Sangria.

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Day 2

Our second day on the island was a rather lazy one, but also my friend’s birthday, so I didn’t bother her when she decided to sleep the day away.

In the evening we went to the best restaurant on the island, La Regatta. This very tiny and somewhat undeveloped island surprised us. The restaurant was colorful and had lots of art, most of it was found art made out of recycled bottles of varying sorts. Also adorning the long walkway to the actual restaurant were signs with different sayings that emitted positive energy. The journey to the restaurant was completed by a walk over a small bridge underneath which the crystal clear water showed fish swimming around.

We were met by our hostess and passed off to a waiter for seating. Everyone on this island has been very warm, kind and accommodating. Such wonderful people.

The menu was huge so we used past reviews to guide our selection, as well as the help of our waiters. Again, no one really spoke English so I communicated in French and Italian with a Spanish accent.

As an appetizer they brought us breadfruit, something I had never heard of. If I had to compare it to something I think it is similar to cassava. It was good, something different. My friend had the lobster sea flower which came with a whopping three lobster tails. I had a filet of fish – I think it was sea bass – and it was served with shrimp and calamari. The food was pretty good. We had pina coladas which were supposedly the best on the island. They were very good.

At dinner, we met a Spanish gentleman named Mikael. We finished our dinner then moved to his table to chat with him while he finished his food. After dinner, the staff at the restaurant brought out hats for us to wear as they sang happy birthday to Kerrie. Mikael ordered it for her. After we picked over the dessert, we headed out for another drink. We stumbled upon an small block with three bars. We choose a bar with foosball on the table. After a couple of drinks and dancing like no one was watching, our three person crew took a long walk along the beach where we were able to watch local people dancing late into the night. All and all it was a great day exploring the island.

Day 3

For our last full day in San Andres we finally made our way to the beach. The hotel staff recommended that we go to Rocky Caye which was absolutely beautiful. Before spending a few hours laying on the beach we ate lunch at Gorg restaurant which is on the beach. I had a whole red snapper with coconut rice and it was so damn good! The staff was also pretty amazing.

Laying on the beach really made us realize that we were indeed in the Caribbean. The water was perfect and clear and the scenery was just beautiful. A bonus was also that there were not many other people on the beach as this island does not receive much tourism. We met two fisherman and after talking to them for about 20 minutes we learned a thing or two about San Andres and its inhabitants. The most interesting thing is that they don’t consider themselves Colombian; they think of themselves as islanders. In fact Larry went as far as to say that he didn’t like that Colombians were coming to the island and taking their jobs. I found this all very interesting.

The morning before our flight I went for a two hour walk to take in some last sites of this cute little island.

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All in all I enjoyed my time in San Andres, but as I mentioned this island doesn’t receive a lot of tourism from outside of Colombia, so the options for lodging are a bit dismal. We definitely booked on short notice and not much was available but from my research there are not many 4 star and above places. So definitely read the reviews and manage your expectations for lodging on this island.

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