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San Andrés Island is the biggest of a collection of islands in the Caribbean Sea. While Christopher Columbus was the first European to actually discover the islands, English Pilgrims settled them in the early 17th Century. Their ship, the Seaflower, landed at approximately the same time as the Mayflower found its way to Plymouth Rock. Over the next two hundred years, the archipelago was a constant source of conflict, as the European powers fought over which country ruled the islands. In the meantime, the infamous pirate, Henry Morgan, used San Andrés Island as his base for attacks all over the Caribbean. In 1793, the dispute was finally settled, as England recognized Spain's sovereignty over the islands in the Versailles Treaty.
Activities on the island include scuba diving and snorkeling, jet skis, kayaks, wind surfing, kite surfing, horseback riding, submarine tours and many other options. There are also many people that come here mainly for the great duty free shopping and cheaper electronics.
Although San Andrés Island is only eighty miles from Nicaragua, the archipelago is a property of Colombia, which is almost five hundred miles away. The island's economy used to center around cotton until slavery was abolished in the mid-19th Century. Coconuts became the main source of income for the locals, until a plague destroyed the entire coconut crop in 1930. Now, San Andrés Island uses its status as a duty-free port to attract tourism and industry.
San Andres island is one of two islands which make up San Andrés y Providencia. The islands are about 775 km (480 miles) northwest of Colombia and 220 km (140 miles) from the coast of Nicaragua, and eight outlying banks and reefs. Its capital is San Andrés.
San Andres island has beautiful beaches characterized by white sand, red corals, and transparent water that has seven different shades of blue, and for this reason it is known as the "Sea of Seven Colors." Its vegetation consists mainly of coconut trees.
San Andrés Island is only eight miles long, and never rises above two hundred feet in elevation. The Caribbean Sea that surrounds San Andrés is particularly resplendent, with seven shades of blue water easily visible around the island. About sixty thousand people call San Andrés home today. They are blessed with year-round temperate weather, warm water, beautiful sunsets, and a laid-back lifestyle.
Docking & Local Transportation
Cruise ships dock at the Port of San Andrés. There is easy access to road transportation directly from the port.
Taxis are your best option for travel on San Andrés. Makes sure to negotiate your fare ahead of time, otherwise you may be overcharged. Because San Andrés is only eight miles long, you can cover a lot of ground by motor scooter or bicycle. You will find plenty of rental shops along Avenida Colombia.
Things To See and Do
The Oficina de Turismo (Avenida Colombia 5-117) on San Andrés Island is very helpful. They will provide you with maps and brochures, and they are more than happy to help you plan out your itinerary for the day. If you're interested in taking an organized tour, contact Islatur (Avenida Colombia, 098/512-3358).
Downtown San Andrés is where all of the island's business gets done. El Centro, as it is known, is filled with small shops, restaurants and government offices. A stroll down Avenida Colombia will acquaint you with El Centro. The San Luís District used to be the main port area of San Andrés, until the coconut trade was destroyed by a plague about fifty years ago. Now, San Luís is most famous for its gorgeous beaches. Morgan's Cave takes its name from the infamous pirate Henry Morgan. Legend has it that Morgan plotted all of his attacks from the archipelago, and this cave was his hideout. Some people still believe that some of Morgan's treasure is buried somewhere around here! Nearby is a spot so spectacular for sunset viewing, it goes simply by the name of The Cove.
To the southeast of the island, you'll find the Pox Hole, a natural oddity. After thousands of years, the sea has carved a small pool out of the coral rock that surrounds the Hole. This is a great place for underwater exploration. Lastly, on the southern tip of San Andrés is the island's most spectacular natural phenomenon. While the Blowing Hole is no Old Faithful, the geyser blows every day during high tide, when the waves crash through underground tunnels in the coral reef, causing an explosive release of pressure.
This is San Andrés' most spectacular attraction. The Caribbean Sea here turns brilliant shades of blue, earning San Andrés Island the nickname island of the seven-colored seas. Near El Centro, Sprat Bight is always full of people. Almost half a mile of white sand and clear water await you here. From Sprat Bight, you can see the small islets of Johnny Cay and Haynes Cay. Both of these tiny islands boast of excellent beaches.
The Hill (La Loma)
Native sector of the island. Its the highest place of the island (approximate 120 meters above sea level), where you can see the most spectacular views of the caribbean sea, where the contrast of blues and greens make a mixture of colors that is called the “seven colored sea”. For the adventurer and ecologist there are paths, lagoons, sidewalks, roads, horse trips, that make the island a place full of magic. For the historians we have the first church of the island, its a place that you must visit, you will enjoy the most spectacular view of the San Andres bay.
San Luis
This beautiful area is full of history and culture, in the past it was an important port where ships full of coconuts embarked, right now it is a very quiet place, away from the noise of the city, with long and beautiful beaches, typical restaurants and a beautiful environment.
In the Archipelago we have 12 mangrove forests, being this very important for the reproduction and preservation of the flora and fauna, between them we find the red, black and white mangroves, also the visitors can see oysters, crabs, iguana, lizards, endemic and migratory birds, making an ideal place for education and fortifying activities of development such as eco-tourism.
The Pond
It is located in the native sector of The Hill, it’s about 400 meters long and 250 meters wide, this natural beauty takes water from the rains, it is a shelter for bio diversity of animals like white Heron, pigeon, palm trees and fruit trees. It’s possible to see a variety of little alligator, that make the place a obligatory trip to those who love nature and ecology.
The Cove
This quiet bay, it’s in the South East sector of the Island, a must visit if you enjoy beautiful sunsets. this is the place where cruises dock in the Island.
Johnny Cay
This beautiful cay was converted to a natural park in the year 2001, for it’s beauty and beautiful landscapes, and because you can find more than 30 species of fishes that live in this area, its long area has a specie called "beach cedar" that controls the erosion of the beaches because of the effects of waves and strong winds, becoming as a shelter of a lot of beaches birds.
In all around it you can see beautiful beaches and big coral forms, where easily you can observe a variety of species, being an attractive for their visitors to practice water sports, like snorkeling, diving and others.
Haynes Cay
Coral Cay full of palms, with a lot of visitors and natives that practice water sports, you can make delicious BBQ, camping and simply spend quality relaxation time, it has restaurants that offer delicious food from the island.
This beautiful sea contrast in all tones of blue, beaches and palms its an ideal scenario to make weddings, because in San Andres you can make them only with your ID or passport.
Morgan's Cave
Legend has it that the Pirate Henry Morgan, used this cave to hide his treasures. Today is one of the most visited tourist attractions. You can enter the cave and visit the small museum.
West View
Think of a big natural pool, where you can make a lot of activities, like snorkeling, swimming and diving, this is West View, you can easily get in form the edge with a 5 to 30 feet depth (3 to 10 meters), you can go with all your family and taste the typical food that the restaurant offer to the visitors.
Near by Keys
Bolivar Cay, Albuquerque, Roncador, Quitasueño, Serrana, Serranilla, These are small Keys conformed by small islands, some of them are only sand banks, others have a lot of vegetation, they are part of our Biosphere Reserve.
Some of them have a light house that guides ships that come to the island from world destinations, other keys have a military base to defend our nation's sovereignty of the Archipelago.
Bolivar Cay
Before visiting this place, close your eyes and imagine a great beach with white sand touching your feet, palms in your surrounding and no one there, with the noise of the waves, birds and the peace you always want. Only 17 miles away from San Andres you can find this paradise in the middle of the sea, it offers you the possibility to practice water sports like diving, snorkeling, fishing and others.
Albulquerque Cay
This Cay is 50 nautical miles south, surrounded with a big barrier, ideal to practice water sports, like Bolivar Cay, a paradise full of magic.
Water Sports
The clear waters of the Caribbean make for outstanding snorkeling and scuba diving. The Pox Hole on the southeastern side of San Andrés Island is one spot that lends itself to snorkeling and scuba diving. There are numerous dive shops that organize half-day or full-day dive excursions specifically for cruise passengers. One of the better outfitters on the island is Diver's Dream.
Eating Out
San Andres is a food-lover's paradise, with African, South American and European influences. Seafood is the local specialty, and crab soup the "must-try" dish. Avenida la Playa in San Andres city contains a host of good eateries, and is also one of the liveliest places to go at night.
Rondon is the specialty of the island. The dish is a stew made with pork, chicken, carrots, potatoes and bananas. It's a real treat! El Rincón de la Langosta (098/512-9168) is a lobster-lover's dream. The restaurant takes pride in its multiple preparations of lobster, each one more succulent than the last. Casablanca (Avenida Colombia 3-35, 098/512-4115), in the Hotel Casablanca, offers elegant dining and a spectacular view of the sea.
After hours is when San Andrés Island really heats up! Entire blocks are cordoned off for all-night dance parties. Tourists are more than welcome to join in. If you would prefer to go to a nightclub, the Blue Deep in the Hotel Sunrise Beach is full all year long.

San Andres city offers a large pedestrian shopping district selling items at bargain prices, including Colombian gold, emerald jewelry, clothing and leather goods. Native handicrafts are on sale throughout the island. Goods made from coconut shells predominate, but you can also pick up hand-woven palm leaf hats and baskets

San Andrés Island is home to an eclectic bunch of stores. To get a lot of shopping done in a small amount of time, just take a jaunt along Avenida Colombia in El Centro. Almacén President (Avenida Providencia 1-105, 098/512-6579) has a nice collection of women's island fashion. Island artwork is featured at Artesanías Mara (C.C. New Point Local 107, 098/512-7171).

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