When researching a trip to Colombia, two small islands are always mentioned: San Andres and Providencia. On photos, these two islands look like true paradise: green overgrown hills, dream beaches and Caribbean feeling. We spent a total of one week on the Caribbean island of Providencia. And we can justifiably say that Providencia was the most beautiful island and closest to paradise of all the places and islands we visited on our 111-day Journey through Latin America.
We were a bit hesitant at the beginning, because the journey to Providencia is not that easy… but that’s what makes the island so charming. Also the prices on the island for accommodation, food etc. are a bit higher than on the mainland. But this is justified in our opinion, because Providencia is located far out in the Caribbean Sea.
In our travelogue to Providencia we want to tell you about our experiences on our trip and also give you some tips. So that you know where the best beaches are on Providencia, where you should stay overnight and what you can do on the small island, we have created this travel guide for Providencia. Let’s go!
We are Sabrina and Andreas, two adventurous travelers who never miss an opportunity to discover the world. Whether by plane to distant countries or with our campervan Bruno, we just love to travel. We hope to give you helpful tips for your next trip on our blog.
Sabrina & Andreas Globetrotters, Travelers, Adventurers
What to expect on Providencia Colombia?
You read this statement in many blogs and about many islands or beaches in the world. Paradise! But what does it mean when it is used as inflationary as it is nowadays? Probably we ourselves use this term too often as well. But at least Providencia was the only place on our entire almost 4-month trip for which we would really put this term in our mouths.
There are a few reasons why we found Providencia so incredibly awesome. These are the most important ones:
#1 The remoteness | Where is Providencia located anyway?
Politically San Andres and Providencia belong to Colombia, but geographically the two islands are much closer to Costa Rica and Nicaragua than to the big South American country. You can clearly see the Caribbean influences on the island, which strongly resemble those in Tortuguero (Costa Rica) or Bocas del Toro (Panama). There are many people of color on the island and the languages English and Creole are widely spoken. Knowledge of Spanish is not necessary (fortunately for us) on Providencia.
To get to Providencia, you will need to board 2 different planes from Colombia or take a ferry instead of the second plane. Providencia is several hundred kilometers away from the Colombian mainland. All this sounds not so easy. San Andres is flown to a lot and very often from various Colombian cities, but most tourists stay there. Only very few fly on to Providencia.
And that is also good! During our scooter trips around the island we really saw only very few tourists and if, then apparently always the same ones. Providencia seems to be the insider tip in Colombia.
#2 Providencia is completely untouristy
On Providencia, for example, there are no souvenir stores, no pushy vendors on the beach or tourist restaurants. Everything is totally original and authentic. You can tell that the island was not built for tourists, but the locals simply welcome you as a visitor for a certain time on their island. We found this great and felt very comfortable. And even though we have read about many places that they are “not so touristy”(e.g. Isla Mujeres) or “untouristy”. At Providencia, this was completely true for the first time.
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#3 The great nature | Little Hawaii
Sabrina didn’t agree with me until the very end, and it might be a little weird because we’ve never been to Hawaii. BUT, Providencia totally reminds me of the hilly islands of Hawaii. At least as I imagine it in my head. I had thought Providencia would be rather flat like many islands. But it is very mountainous or hilly. And all the hills are completely covered with lush green trees.
From top to bottom. It looks totally fantastic. And it’s also because the development of Providencia is concentrated on the ring road that runs along the coast. In the interior of the island there is actually only nature. The best way to see this is from a boat, when you go around the island. Or of course with my drone. Very many batteries I have flown completely empty, because I could not get enough of the view from above.
The nature on Providencia is still very untouched. There are only two official hiking trails that lead to the interior of the island. One of them is the hike on The Peak, which I will talk about later. While I would have liked the interior of the island to be developed with more hiking trails during our stay, I guess that’s the price of flying to an island that has so little tourism.
Another special feature on Providencia is the annual crab walk. Between May and July, within 2 weeks, thousands and thousands of crabs migrate from the mountains to lay their eggs. Afterwards they disappear again into the mountains. 1-2 weeks later the baby crabs hatch and follow their parents back to the mountains.
During this time, Providencia is in a state of emergency. The roads are closed to protect the animals because the crabs are really everywhere. It must be a crazy spectacle if you are lucky (or unlucky) enough to be there at this exact time. If one believes now however the inhabitants protect the crabs in special way or always pay attention that they come also again intact into the mountains: Wrongly thought. The black crabs are considered a delicacy on Providencia.
San Andres or Providencia? What’s the difference?
We were also wondering before our trip if we should go to both islands or just one of them. And if only to one, then San Andres or Providencia? But after seeing both islands, we can make a judgment and also explain the differences. Even though we only saw a small part of San Andres around the capital, we can say that we found the island much too touristy and crowded.
Sure, San Andres also has a beautiful nature and many great highlights like beautiful beaches to offer, but due to the easy accessibility, the island is totally overrun with, mostly Colombian, tourists. There is also the entire tourist program of jet skis, annoying beach vendors, bed castles to lined up umbrellas on the beach.
For us, San Andres was not the paradisiacal Caribbean island it is often described as. In our opinion, San Andres does not come close to Providencia. If you want a paradise island without many tourists and with beautiful nature, then fly to Providencia.
If you want to store duty-free, travel cheap, jet ski and feast to your heart’s content in various restaurants and ice cream parlors, then San Andres is the place for you.
How to get to Providencia?
Getting to San Andres from mainland Colombia is not very difficult. From almost all major airports (Medellin, Bogota, Cartagena, etc.) many airlines (including budget airlines) fly to San Andres. This way you can get to the island from 25 € p.p.. There is only one small airport on San Andres.
So you can look for a connecting flight (2-3 hours should be enough) if you don’t want to spend time on San Andres. If you need to kill some more time, you can walk from San Andres airport to the nearby beach within 10 minutes. You don’t need a cab! The tricky part is getting from San Andres to Providencia. But we will explain that to you now.
How to get from San Andres to Providencia
Roughly speaking you have 2 possibilities to get from San Andres to Providencia. By ferry or by plane.
By ferry from San Andres to Providencia
This is the cheaper of the two options, but also the roughest. We have heard from many travelers that the sea between San Andres and Providencia is often very choppy, which can make for very bumpy crossings. You probably get pills against seasickness by default and there is even supposed to be an employee on these ferries solely responsible for collecting full vomit bags.
Since this reminded us too much of our Norway trip with the vomit ferry, this option was out of the question for us. However, we would like to explain to you how you can take the ferry to Providencia. The ferry takes 3.5 hours to get from San Andres to Providencia and costs 380.000 COP (about 100 Euro) for the round trip. Five times a week (Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday & Sunday) you can start your journey at 8 am. The return trip to San Andres takes place on the same days at 2 pm.
By Plane from San Andres to Providencia
There are 2 airlines where you can buy a ticket to Providencia online. One of them is Satena. But you have to book the tickets for this company far in advance. We therefore chose the relatively new company San German Express, which charters planes from Searca. Here you can still get enough tickets a few days in advance.
Do you want more information on how to get to Providencia? Then read our separate travel report:
Where to stay on Providencia?
We also spent a long time scrolling through the fairly manageable list of accommodations before our trip to Providencia, wondering which part of the island we should stay in. There is hardly an accumulation of hotels at a certain place, but these are almost evenly distributed over the island.
Although there is a main town on the island (Santa Isabel), but there is by no means the hotspot of the island. There is probably an accumulation of houses and supermarkets, but otherwise no reason to stay directly there.
For many accommodations, the reviews said that they are far from the nearest beach, or far from the nearest restaurant or supermarket. We thought about what would be the most important for us during our stay. The proximity to many supermarkets (of which there are not many anyway) or the proximity to a great beach? Relatively quickly, we realized that we would probably spend more time relaxing on the beach than shopping at the supermarket.
So we started looking for hotels that were within walking distance of a beach and preferably not too far from supermarkets. Because we wanted to cater ourselves. Our choice fell on Southwest Bay (Bahia Suroeste) in the south of the island. In this small part of the island there is a beautiful beach, and also some smaller supermarkets and also restaurants.
In addition, this part of town is away from the main road, which gives you even more peace and quiet. If you want to go to other parts on the island, then you need a scooter anyway. But for the everyday you have everything within walking distance and can walk especially to the nearby beach.
Our Accommodation on Providencia
Things to do on Providencia
The main activity on Providencia should of course be relaxing and lying on the beach. That almost goes without saying in paradise. But if you want some action or want to get to know the island, there are a few other activities on Providencia that we’ve put together for you here.
Hike on The Peak
The hike on The Peak is one of the highlights of Providencia and actually the only real hike on the island. You hike up to the highest point of the island and have a wonderful panoramic view of Providencia. We had already informed ourselves in advance about the hike and wanted to do it in any case. The hike on The Peak is done relatively quickly with 1.5 hours and so you have enough time to enjoy the view above.
What is The Peak anyway?
The Peak (sometimes The Hill) is a hike up the highest mountain on the island of Providencia, which offers you one of the most spectacular views of the whole island. The trail is a total of 7 kilometers long and is really very well built, as evidenced by wooden bridges and shelters scattered throughout the trail.
Even if you are surprised by a storm or heavy rain, you can safely shelter. The way to the top takes about 1.5 hours and is not really steep at first. Only later it gets really steep and you realize that you will probably soon have a pretty good view. Most of the time you walk through dense forest, at the beginning even past meadows and fields and pass wonderful landscapes.
Read our travelogue about the hike on The Peak here:
Visit Santa Catalina Island
Santa Catalina is a small island at the northern end of Providencia and is only connected to the main island by a small pontoon bridge (Lover’s Bridge). Therefore you can only get to Santa Catalina by foot. It is not possible to get there by scooter or car. Alternatively, you can of course cross by boat or go on a guided tour by boat to individual sights of the island.
The pontoon bridge is not in the best condition, but you can get to the other side of the bay fairly safely. Once there, there are several restaurants and posadas (accommodations). On Santa Catalina, there is only one path that runs along the southern end of the island. So you can’t walk around the island!
Turn right just after the bridge, you’ll come to an old cannon after a few hundred meters. It’s not that spectacular though. If you go back the way you came and follow it to the end, you’ll come to Fort Warwick after climbing some steps. Of course, this is not a real fort anymore, rather a few old stones and of course the obligatory cannon on top. But the fort offers a great view of the sea and the Providencia opposite.
If you walk a few more meters you will come down to a small but nice beach called Fort Bay. There you can snorkel, relax on the narrow beach and of course swim. From time to time a guided boat tour comes by and there is a barbecue on the beach. But apart from that this small beach is really very beautiful and offers a great cooling.
Supposedly there is still a footpath that leads you further to Morgan’s Head. This is a big rock that is supposed to look like a head of a famous pirate (Captain Morgan) from the sea. We didn’t find a footpath there, but you can definitely get there by boat.
By Kayak to Crab Cay
Crab Cay was certainly one of the highlights of our Providencia trip. Crab Cay is a really small stone island, which is located about 1 km off Providencia and can only be visited by boat or kayak. Alternatively, it would of course also be possible to swim across, but I would really not advise anyone to do that because of the strong current.
Even from a distance, the island looks spectacular, perched there like a small stone pyramid in the middle of the turquoise-blue sea. When you fly over the island with a drone you see countless shades of blue and it looks even more fantastic, as there is really nothing within a wide radius around Crab Cay except the beautiful blue water!
How to get to Crab Cay?
The easiest way to get to Crab Cay (Cayo Cangrejo) is certainly a motorboat that you can hire directly at the Hotel Deep Blue ( Google Maps Link). You’ll pay 35,000 – 50,000 COP (about 9-12 €) per person for the round trip, depending on your negotiating skills. With luck you will also get free snorkeling equipment. Alternatively, you can rent a kayak and paddle there yourself.
It’s a lot of fun and very fast. Also at the Hotel Deep Blue you can rent a kayak for about 30.000 COP (about 8 €) and you will be on Crab Cay in about 20-30 minutes. You should then make a small detour to the yellow buoy, which is located a few hundred meters to the right of Crab Cay. There you can fasten your kayak and snorkel at the surrounding corals. The current is quite strong, but the various colorful fish and the great corals compensate for the small effort.
Do you want more information about Crab Cay? Then read our separate travel report about it:
Diving on Providencia
If you are on Providencia, then you should definitely do some diving. The sea in front of the island is really beautiful and invites you to dive. Directly in front of Providencia is the third largest barrier reef in the world. During our two dives we visited, among other things, an old shipwreck, which is up to 22 meters below the water surface.
The wreck cannot be visited from the inside, but it is still a great attraction underwater. We also visited Manta Point (where there are mainly stingrays and no manta rays) and a place where thousands of tube eels live. These are small worm-like eels that live in the seabed and look out of the seabed like little plants. If you get too close to them, they retract into the bottom in a flash. A very funny spectacle!
Our Recommendation for a Diving School
There are only a few diving schools on the island and many are located near Southwest Bay. Here is a list of good dive schools on Providencia:
However, we chose a newcomer among the dive schools for our dive. At Anda Di Wata you get already for 230.000 COP per person (about 60 Euro) 2 dives and the owners are a super nice Swiss-Colombian couple. They have very modern equipment and each diver even gets his own dive computer. I never had that before. We had a great day on the ocean and got to see the island from a whole different perspective.
Snorkeling is one of the top activities on Providencia. There are a lot of great snorkeling spots on the island, some of which can be reached without a boat. The best place for snorkeling is Crab Cay and the yellow buoy in the middle of the sea. How to get there you can read above. Another good spot is Morgans Head or Fort Bay on Santa Catalina Island.
You can get there on foot (Fort Bay) or best by boat with a guided boat tour (Morgans Head). But you can also go snorkeling from the beach at Southwest Bay Beach. In our opinion, the best way to do this is to walk to the left end of the beach and go into the water there.
Providencia Travel Guide: Overview of All Beaches
There are some really nice beaches on Providencia. The two biggest and also most beautiful beaches of Providencia can be found in the south of the island: Southwest Bay and Manzanilla Beach. But also the other beaches, which are spread over the island, have of course their advantages.
In this section of our Providencia travel guide, we would like to briefly introduce the beaches to you.
Tips for all beaches
On almost every beach there are many mosquitoes and small sand flies. The bites do not hurt very much, but they are very annoying. Therefore you should take mosquito spray to the beach.
South West Bay
In our opinion this is the most beautiful beach in Providencia. And not only because we stayed in walking distance to this beach. The beach at Souhwest Bay is several hundred meters long and lined with palm trees. There are several bars, restaurants and you can snorkel directly from the beach. The best way to do this is to go to the far left end of the beach and swim along the cliffs there.
You can see some starfish and fish. At the left end of the Southwest Bay beach you are almost alone, because most of the other tourists are on the right side of the beach. Including some beach bars that turn up their music a little louder.
By the way, you can drive your car or scooter right up to (and even onto) the beach. Some motorcyclists take advantage of this to jet across the entire beach. Unfortunately, this is a bit annoying.
You can find South West Bay here at Google Maps.
Here, too, is a restaurant and swings suspended from palm trees with which you can swing back and forth over the water. The beach is just under 300 meters long and is sometimes even used as a track for horse races.
You can find Manzanillo Bay here on Google Maps.
The beach at Almond Bay is not really big and also quite far from the road. Of course, this makes the beach very quiet, as the possible road noise is far away. From the road, where there are also a few parking spaces (right next to a big plastic octopus), you have to walk another 350 meters downhill. Because of this fact and because the beach is not so spectacular, this was not our favorite beach on Providencia.
You can find Almond Bay here on Google Maps.
Fresh Water Bay
Fresh Water Bay is another beautiful and very long beach with some hotels, but unfortunately it’s right on the main road. Nevertheless, the beach is very picturesque with many rocks in the water and many shady palm trees. Therefore, this beach is very suitable for taking photos.
Fresh Water Bay can be found here on Google Maps.
Pash Beach is a really really small beach that is also right on the road. There is a small pavilion there and the beach is maybe 100 meters long. So it’s not a beach where you go to spend the day. But if you are doing a tour around the island anyway, then you should definitely pay a visit to Pash Bay.
You can find Pash Bay here on Google Maps.
This beach is located on Santa Catalina Island. To get here, you have to walk over to Santa Catalina and turn left to the end of the path. Then you will inevitably come to this beach. It is also very small and borders directly on the dense green forest of the island. It is very quiet here, because Fort Bay is quite remote. You can also snorkel here very well.
You can find Fort Bay here on Google Maps.
Providencia Travel Tips
Cabs and Moto-Taxis
Cabs are few and far between on the island, and they’re not that easy to spot as a cab since they don’t have a special color or anything. But at least the price is standard, no matter where you want to go on the island. You always pay 25,000 COP (about 6.50 Euro) per ride. With mototaxis it is a bit cheaper. You can usually stop any motorcycle on the road. The costs are 5000 COP (ca.1.50 Euro) per person and there are also 2 persons on a moto cab. You sit then (incl. driver) to three on the motorcycle. A bit strange, but you get used to it.
ATMs on Providencia
There are 2 ATMs on Providencia, both are located in Santa Isabel in the north of the island. During our visit, there were no problems getting cash, as it is often the case in South America.
Currently there is only one gas station on Providencia, which is located just before the main town (Santa Isabel) on the western side of the island.
Renting a Scooter or Golf Cart on Providencia
A scooter will usually be your #1 means of transportation on the small island. It is super fun to cruise around the island and just stop wherever you want. You can’t get lost either, as there is only one main road on Providencia. If you don’t make any stops, you can theoretically drive around the island in about 45 minutes. This shows how small the island actually is. By the way, there are no helmets. So you should drive carefully. You pay about 80,000 COP (about 22 €) per day and can sit on a scooter for two.
If this seems too dangerous or if there are more than one of you, you can rent a golf cart. It fits 4+ people and you can even carry luggage. For one day you pay about 160.000 COP (about 45 €). Your accommodation will be happy to help you if you want to rent a golf cart or a scooter. Most accommodations even have their own scooters, which makes the whole thing even less complicated.
Boat Trips from Providencia
Sometimes you can find information on the net about excursions to lesser known islands around Providencia like Roncador, Serrana and Serranilla. According to our research, however, these are between 100 and 400 km away from Providencia and thus unfortunately not an option for a day trip. However, if you have more time (and probably money), one of these deserted islands could be an option for you. Please ask at your accommodation or at the port.
Do you have any questions about our Providencia travelogue or did you have a completely different experience on the dream island of the Caribbean? Write us a comment!