The Caribbean Island of San Andrés, Colombia

July 14-21, 2019 San Andrés, Colombia

I had never even heard of San Andrés until recently. My friend in Cali, Natalia had mentioned to me that San Andrés was her second favorite place in the world. Like me, her favorite is Buenos Aires 🙂

So after spending two amazing weeks in Cali, I decided to take the short two hour flight to this Caribbean paradise. The island of San Andrés is Colombian territory, but it is actually closer to Panama than Colombia. I was excited to be by the beach and was curious about the place.

I arrived at 10:00 pm Sunday night and checked into my hotel which was really close to the airport. San Andrés is actually really small and everything is close by. The beach was barely a ten minute walk from my hotel. I decided to stay in, my first night, and rest. After a lazy morning of working on my blog the next day, I finally left the hotel around lunchtime and had lunch at “Maru” an amazing local place just down the street. You can pick from a variety of freshly prepared food and the dishes come with coconut rice, fried yucca and salad. I had the beef ribs. Yummy!

Lunch at “Maru” and first dip in the water – not a bad afternoon

After lunch I finally headed to the beach. And it was paradise. The water was so clear that I could spot beautiful fish every time I took a dip. And the water was warm! It was awesome! I had come to the right place to close the first chapter of my South American travels (Chapter Two would take place below the equator as I would head back south to an Argentine winter).

Things were about to get better in this Carribean gem. Somehow Bastien and I would cross paths again here just for one day. He was arriving from Providencia, an island nearby and the next day he would take his flight back to Paris, ending his one year voyage across the world. I was just at the beginning of my journey. What an interesting cross-roads for us – two completely different perspectives. We’ve been reflecting on life ever since January 3rd, about six months ago, when we first met in a cabin of the MS Expedition bound for Antarctica. Along with Marvin our third cabin-mate, we explored the icy continent, philosophized, yoga-ed the Drake Passage (how is that even possible?!) and took the Polar Plunge (look for a future post on Antarctica). Our cabin number 209, firmly etched in history.

I felt privileged to be able to celebrate the end of Bastien’s voyage with him. We had a farewell dinner and the next morning we would do some yoga in paradise – I can’t think of a better way to seal all that is gained during a year of travel (Sorry, I can’t help the yoga teacher in me!). As Bastien returns to “la vida cotidiana” I wish him bon voyage once more, because I am sure his journey of self-discovery will continue as he is confronted with city life once again in Paris.

Last night in Paradise for Bastien

Yoga in San Andrés

Last cup of Juan Valdez for Bastien – one for the road to Paris

The next day in Paradise I felt a bit of a lull – my bro was gone. And there was a finality to his trip that gave me food for thought. I spent most of the day writing, inspired by the feelings and emotions, brought on by this place. Of course I went for another dip in the water. But all in all, I had a pretty quiet, contemplative day.

But for my third day here I decided to be a bit more active. I went on a tour of the Sea of Seven Colors by Catamaran Velero – little sailboats tied together, pulled along by a small boat. I took a taxi to Playa De San Luis. There I was dropped off at La Nautica de Chamey. From here we took off for an amazing ride through El Mar de Siete Colores (The Sea of Seven Colors). A jet ski ride was also included to top off the day!

Port of Chamey in Playa San Luis, Sea of Seven Colors

Plenty of Marine Life

Catamaran Veleros

Getting ready for the jet ski ride

The last stop was the Mangroves. I was fascinated by these forests in the sea, especially since I’m from Bangladesh which is home to the largest Mangrove forest in the world. Sadly I still have not visited my own Mangrove forest, but this winter I plan to.

Sea of Seven Colors, our guide and Mangroves

All in all, I had a great afternoon and was glad that I got out and took this tour.

Day four on the island (Thursday) I had a completely different strategy – beach bumming! For about $10 I rented an umbrella at the beach along with the reclining chairs. All day long, I just lounged.

After a few hours a dog with a collar that read “adopt me”, decided to stop in. She gave me that puppy dog look and just decided to join me under my umbrella. Little did she know that she had adopted me. I was feeling a tad lonely and was glad that she kept me company – all day! Every now and then she would sun a bit and then come back under the shade. Thanks to her, I was not alone and it was nice to have company.


I also chatted with two young folks from Bogota, Angie and Cristhian. It was one of those chance accidental meetings which result in great friendships. We would end up spending tons of time together over the next few days.

Cristhian and Angie from Bogota

Day five (Friday) was finally here! My friend Cindy would be arriving from Cali and I was looking forward to it! She arrived at 5:00 pm and we went straight to the beach!

With Cindy

We had dinner at Rosas del Mar, a Mexican restaurant with great food but horrible service.

The next day, Saturday, we had a huge day planned. We were doing a tour of Isla Johnny Cay, the Acuario (the natural aquarium at Rose Cay), Hayes Cay, swimming with Manta Rays and sailing by the Mangroves. It’s called a VIP package (there is nothing really VIP about it 🙂 ).

We spent 2 hours at Isla Johnny Cay – a small island you can see from San Andrés. It was great to lounge under an umbrella and go for dips in the ocean. We also enjoyed some fried fish for lunch.

The next stop was the Acuario (the Aquarium) at Rose Cay – a number of natural pools with tons of multi-colored fish everywhere.

After swimming around in the Acuario for a while we waded over to Hayes Cay – the island adjacent to Rose Cay. It was really different from the Acuario at Rose Cay – there was quite a bit of vegetation and it was very rocky. Cindy and I walked around the entire island in less than 30 minutes. But it was very picturesque.

At about 5:00 pm we left Rose Cay to spot Manta Rays and see the Mangrove Forests. The Manta Rays did not disappoint! Our last dip in the water for the day was amazing.

With a Manta Ray

The last site on this VIP tour was a sail by of the Mangroves.

Mangroves in the San Andrés Archipelago, Colombia

Later that evening Cindy and I met up with Angie and Cristhian. It was our last night on the island and we would celebrate in style. After a dinner of fish and chips we found ourselves at the entrance to the Coco Loco, a dance club, and we danced the night away! To my relief it was not a “Salsa Only” place and I was able to keep up with three expert Colombian dancers (I can dance, but when it comes to ballroom dancing and steps, I have very little experience. It was nice not to have the added pressure!) On my to do list: “Take Salsa lessons”.

Moonlit last night in San Andrés

Sunday morning we hit the beach again one last time. It was a perfect Caribbean day! And once again we had lunch at “Maru” my favorite local spot and the Sunday specials were amazing! Especially the Salmon.

We would soon be saying goodbye to the paradise in the Caribbean as we got ready for our respective flights home. I was sad to say goodbye to Cindy who would head home to Cali and Angie and Cristhian who would be returning to Bogota. As I reflect on my one week in San Andrés I feel grateful for the people who I cross paths with. We should cherish chance meetings as life’s little unexpected gifts. Bastien, Cindy, Angie and Cristhian. I feel fortunate to know you all. Love you all.

3 responses to “The Caribbean Island of San Andrés, Colombia”

  1. Damn Nabeel, I really enjoyed reading this one. It sounds like you’re having the time of your life. Antartica? Wow, can’t wait to read about that one. Salud!

    1. Thanks Roberto for the kind words. Yes, I will have an Antarctica post in a few months, I promise. I really like your podcast by the way. Keep up the great work!

  2. Wow the sea is really stunning! Thanks for sharing this with us we have been inspired. Keep up the great content.

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