I think summertime holidays are my favorite, it’s awesome because : you have time to travel for a long holiday, and you can enjoy the warmest weather everywhere in the world (except Australia, sorry folks).
As you may know almost every year we go to Colombia for a month (you can check out last year’s Colombia Travel Diary ), to visit my mother’s side family there, and we always try to visit a different place of the country !
This time, we decided to go visit Providencia Island. This island was part of the British colonies that were later recuperated by the Spanish, which explains why they speak a local form of English here in addition to Spanish. This is the kind of dreamy Caribbean destination island, with turquoise aquamarine waters and white sand beaches.
So let me guide you on what you’ll find there !
❂ How To Get There
First things first, how do you go to Providencia Island ?
Well first, you have to go to San Andrés, there is no other way. Once you’re there, there are two options : by boat or by plane.
Boat is a bit cheaper but not much, and according to my sister you definitely will puke on board (it’s a catamaran boat, the type that goes up and down a lot). It’s also quite long, since it takes 3 hours !
Plane is more expensive but it only takes like 20 minutes to go there, and it’s a puke-free experience. Also, you get to see a gorgeous sight of the sea from above :
❂ The Hotel
First, the hotel : We stayed at Cabañas de Aguadulce, a nice looking place with various bungalows for each group. The inside is all in wood, a bit dark but cozy. There’s conditioned air, and a fridge where you can put the drinks you buy to refresh them. You can by food and basic hygiene items at the only store around the hotels, situated in the (slow) wifi zone. Careful : there’s no ATM there, you’ll have to go to Santa Catalina Island to find one.
The hotel houses are cleaned everyday such as the swimming pool (yes there’s one). The water of the pool is warm at the end of the day, because the sun heats it really well, and they don’t use much chemicals in it so it doesn’t irritate your eyes. Breakfast is included in the booking price, you can have cereal, coffee, tea, eggs, bread, ham & cheese sandwiches, fruit, juice …
The lady in charge of the hotel is very nice, and did everything to answer our demands and help us. I really recommend this hotel, the only bad point would be that there’s no wifi there, but you can go to the wifi zone which is not far at all.
Now let’s talk prices. It’s actually a bit or very expensive to go to Providencia, depending on your local salary of course. First the hotel, we stayed from Monday to Friday, as a group of 8 people, and that cost $ 830 000 pesos (= 239€ or 273$). From a French point of view, it’s not that expensive but from a Colombian one it’s really not cheap.
The food is pretty expensive for a Colombian salary too, a dish is around $ 30 000 pesos (= 8€ or 10$), and you can find breakfast for 0,5 cents in the mainland. Some food related prices were even as expensive as in Paris, for example a cup of coffee is $ 5000 pesos (= 1,5€ or 1,7$).
Also, some activities inside the island also cost money, for example to entry to visit the stunning island of Cayo Cangrejo alone costs $ 16 000 pesos for Colombian citizens, but it’s more expensive for foreign nationalities : $ 30 000 pesos per person (= 9€ or 10$). Plus you pay for the boat to get to the island, they will tell you the price is $50 000 pesos per person (= 14,50€ or 17$) but you HAVE to negotiate, since the price for the entire island tour in boat is $ 60 000 pesos for 8 people (=17€ or 20$). So we talked a bit with the guy and got to pay $ 25 000 pesos per person (= 7€ or 8$), but it might only work if you speak Spanish or look Colombian !
And, final additional fee that we didn’t even know existed : at the airport we had to pay a $ 100 000 pesos fee per person (= 29€ or 34$), just to enter San Andrés, which is the only way to go to Providencia island. It was actually kiiiind of not cool because the flying company didn’t say anything until we were there doing the luggage check out, but fortunately it wasn’t that expensive for us, but it would definitely be a ding move for someone with a Colombian salary.
Public transportation here is like typical Colombian organization : flawed. There are almost no buses, there are bus stations but don’t expect for a bus to pass (I never saw one).
To visit the island I recommend other means, such as Taxis (car or moto). It’s a bit expensive but useful, don’t hesitate to ask for the driver’s number so you can call him when needed. From the airport to the hotel, which was a 20min drive, the taxi charged $ 25 000 pesos (= 7€ or 8,5$).
You can also rent a mini golf-like car that doesn’t go faster than 50km/h, which is really useful because you can go wherever you want. It costs $ 200 000 pesos for 8 hours, but since going around the island is only 15 km you don’t need more for the day to go visit Cayo Cangrejo or Santa Catalina !
You can also rent motos if you prefer, but I didn’t look the prices.
❂ Southwest Beach
This was the first beach we went to, I recommend it because you can go by walking from the hotel area (it’s like 2km), and there are really few people, when we arrived there was literally no one. There are restaurants there, so don’t worry about food. The water is nice and the beach clean, there are hammocks to take a nap under the trees. The only problem is that there are a lot of sand wasps in some parts, but you just have to not go there and you’ll be perfectly fine.
❂ Cayo Cangrejo
This is the place with the most beautiful waters, Cayo Cangrejo (Crab Cay in english) is a small piece of island right next to Providencia. The water is crystal-clear, so you can see many many colorful fishes with a diving mask. If you go into the island and reach the top of it’s small hill, you’ll be able to take awesome pictures of the turquoise panorama. The only downside to this place is as I said in the prices part, the fact that you have to pay to go there. But people say that you didn’t really visit Providencia if you didn’t see Cayo Cangrejo, and I kind of agree honestly ! It’s just so beautiful :
❂ Santa Catalina
Santa Catalina (or ketlina, as written by the locals), is not that far from Cayo Cangrejo if you rent a car or moto, so we did both the same day. This is another island around Providencia, but you have to access this one by walking on a bridge, so no cars allowed here !
Here you can just walk around looking at the colorful houses, or you can do the Morgan the Pirate mini hikes, where you get to see spots where Morgan supposedly did stuff (such as “Morgan’s meditation rock”), and it ends with “Morgan’s Head”, which is basically a very big rock in the sea that kind of looks like a head. In my opinion the Morgan thing isn’t that interesting, but it may be fun for kids since the hike is not hard. There’s also a pretty beach on the way, perfect to swim after being al sweaty from the walk !
Mangos are literally everywhere on the ground, just pick one and eat it ! :
❂ El Pico
If you like hiking, you can go walk to the highest point of the island : El Pico ! This is a hard hike, especially if you don’t hike as a hobby (like me).
The path goes through the dry forest, with lots of big roots and rocks, and as you go higher it will get more and more sloping, you’ll have to do some “semi-climbing” at the end. Wear hiking shoes or good sneakers, my sister had vans-like shoes and unfortunately she sprained her ankle. The elderly won’t be able to do it, and it’s only suitable for (not small) children who like walking and climbing. We did it in 1h, but the time announced for most people is 3 hours.
It’s definitely worth it though, since from up there you can see all around the island !
Manzanillo beach has the most beautiful beach/sea combo, it’s a true Caribbean place. The water was also the warmest here, it’s soooo pleasing to just jump in without that awkward “omg there’s ice on my belly” moment ! There was a group of cute puppies, but they might have grown up when you’ll visit there. There are also hammocks to rest right next to the beach, and it seems like you can do some horse riding ; i’ve seen people on horses along the shore.
❂ The Food
About the food, all the restaurants serve fresh fish and shellfish from their sea, which all my relatives said were delicious. Personally I hate every seafood including fish (unless it’s specifically salmon in nigiri sushi … go figure), so I can only tell you that there was always at least a meat, chicken, pasta, or vegetarian option at the restaurants we went to (except at Don Olivo’s … but we’ll talk about it later).
➢ Here are the restaurants where we ate :
- Aguadulce Hotel : The hotel restaurant had lots of varied food, there were fish dishes but also meat, chicken, & pasta. Among the dishes that I liked were : The 7 colors salad, the ham sandwich, the basil & tomato arepa, and the feta salad. My mother even asked for a custom arepa with shrimp, and my family liked it so much that the lady decided to add it to the menu calling it “Arepas a la Amparo”, meaning “Amparo’s Arepas” (Amparo is my mother’s name). I’d be curious to know if she actually did it, if you go there please ask and let me know ! 😉 They also offer mango juice, you should definitely taste it since mangos are EVERYWHERE on the ground because of mango trees, they’re extra fresh. You should also be careful, since they fall from the trees and can knock you out. The pasta was also good according to my brother, they even season it with their own basil plant.
- El Divino Niño : This restaurant is situated on Southwest Beach, in front of the sea. The meat was actually good, and there’s also a vegetarian option. They also have ice cream, which is nice in such a warm weather. I have no complaints about the food, only about the wasps : there are SO MANY earth wasps, that fly around in front of the restaurant that has no walls, and some were even making their nests on the sand, right under my seat. Definitely unsafe and not cool, since I’m scared as hell of wasps. But there was a cute nice kitty that I got to share my food with, so there’s that.
- Roland’s Restaurant : Many good food options too, no complaint here. Just be aware that the boss is very nice, but VERY relaxed. He will forget about some of your group’s order, and you’ll have to ask again. Ask fast, because around 4 PM the boss and servers start to relax in hammocks and eventually nap there. But overall it as a very nice place to be, it’s chill and conveniently situated on the beach, at 4 steps from the waves.
- Pizza Place : I can’t remember this one’s name sorry, but it’s the only place around the hotel that serves pizza. So if you crave some, you can go there ! Their pizza is very basic, mostly pepperoni, meat, margarita, or seafood ones. The service is also a bit slow, but it was good.
- Don Olivo : I won’t make a long paragraph, but to sum it up : the owners were very rude and unsanitary, the food was presumptuous. I am actually baffled because we went there since we saw the restaurant in the Michelin guide, which is supposed to be a guarantee of quality. It wasn’t. If you ever go to Providencia skip this place !
❂ Lizards & Iguanas Everywhere
I swear, Providencia island is lizard heaven. Every place you go, you know you’ll find a lizard or an iguana ! There are regular green or brownish grey lizards, but also vibrant blue ones. They were gorgeous to look at :
You can even find some iguana skin at the beach, the scales are so mesmerizing :
Here’s a picture of me on the last day, I got pretty tanned !
I also got a typical “tourist shirt” at the shop (sometimes I love kitsch stuff), I love that warm color:
Would you like to go to Providencia Island ?