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Providencia Island, Colombia’s Caribbean hideaway

by on 10th July, 2020

 

Colombia meets the Caribbean on the beautifully laid back and remote island of Providencia.

Providencia, a 17sq km volcanic cone, rich in history and replete with turquoise waters, is perfect. Relax, snorkel and swim, as well as take in some rum and history.

 

Read our quick guide to this marvelous destination.

 

Local characters

The island has a character of its own and there are many local personalities to be known.

Everyone knows someone who knows someone to help you out.

That person may speak to you in English, Spanish or Criollo.

Fresh fish? Try Nelson in the south west of the island – although don’t be surprised if he only has a five foot barracuda to offer.

Maybe you won’t find the tonic to add to your gin as the shops’ supplies are sporadic, but you’ll get soda and limes for a gin fizz or two.

Ivan will help you charge your phone. Trinidad and Sylvester have the taxis to get you about. Natalia and Israel are local tour expert and are keen to show you the hidden parts of the islands.

Rolands bar Manzanillo beach Providencia Colombia

Things to do on land

With just 6,000 people and not being huge, Providencia has a surprising number of pursuits.

Divers – from experienced to learners – will love the pristine reefs.

Horse ride around the island or bet on the Saturday and Sunday bareback horse race on Manzanillo beach. This is the best beach the island has, with turquoise waters and fine white sands.

Rolands’ famous bar is on the same beach and is the perfect lunch place.

Most beaches have areas for swimming, and although there are currents to be aware of, the sea is much friendlier than along Colombia’s northern coastline.

El Pico (360m) is the highest point on the island and offers fantastic views. Hire a local guide to hear the old stories and about the old personalities.

El Pico walk, Providencia, Colombia

El Pico walk

Snorkelling

You can hire snorkels for a few USD and snorkel at Cayo Cangrejo or near Morgan’s head, named after a Welsh pirate that used Providencia as a base.

Better still is to hire some local fishermen to take you to snorkel near to the pristine reef . Margarita, The Surprise and Paradise are the best spots.

You may well see nurse sharks, trumpet fish, spotted eagle rays and eagle rays plus an aquarium of other fish, squid and beautiful corals.

The reef landscape, Providencia, Colombia

Reef landscape

Things to eat

Lo de Martin (aka Caribbean Place) is the best place to eat on the island, in Aguadulces (Freshwater Bay) and has either traditional dancing or live music every night.

Hire a scooter (around USD 15 a day) and zoom around, you’ll smell fish frying and hear calypso music from within the houses you pass.

If you can’t drive, hop on a motorbike taxi and for a dollar or two you can get to every part of the island and its many restaurants.

There is a lot of coconut rice to enjoy, as well as fried plantain and fish, plus conch and crab and feel free to apply as much spicy aji as you wish.  Most dishes are served with beer, rum, delicious fruit juices and cocktails.

Cayo Cangrejo, Providencia, Colombia

Cayo Cangrejo

When to go

Heavy downpours can start at any time as the moist Caribbean air mixes around, although the protection means the island escapes the worst of any September/October hurricanes that arrive.

January to July is the best time to go in terms of sunshine and beaches, but the weather is good year round.

There is a visible Colombia army and police presence on the island, and Baptist and Catholic churches form a strong part of the local identity.

Going to a church on Sunday is well worth having a look, for non-believers, too, as religion forms as much the community as it does a belief system

Traditional house, Providencia, Colombia

Traditional house

Getting to and from San Andres and Providencia

To get to Providencia, you have to fly first to neighbouring island, San Andres, from Bogota, Medellin, Cartagena and other large Colombian cities.

From San Andres, you can take a 20-minute flight to Providencia or the 3-hour catamaran.

Sailing San Andres-Providencia can be bumpy as you go against the current. Providencia-San Andres is smoother, and the boat captain will give you seasickness pills. Take blankets / jumpers – the air conditioning makes it freezing.

 

 

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