To prepare ourselves for Christmas we decided to start December with a vacation. As ridiculous as it sounds, as some people think we have been on vacation for 10 months already. But this time we wanted an oasis of peace, stuff booked, no searching, just chill, relax and diving. Miraculously (as December-January are super busy, summer months when everybody has vacation) we found cheap flights to Colombian islands just off the coast of Nicaragua...San Andres y Providencia.
San Andres was well... Busy, a bit too party style and definitely it did not look as anything even close to a paradise, well maybe after few piña coladas... Diving was also not really anything special, it was more a search for a reef then admiring it. But from there we took an organised trip to Cayo Boliviar which is a tiny island only reachable by those trips or a private boat. We still haven't won any lottery so there was only one way to get there. To say adventurous is an understatement. Boat was jumping up and down, hitting the water so hard that I was sure it was our last trip. Even more dramatically, everyone was screaming possibly because some of the beauty queens were trembling for their make-up. But after an hour we arrived in paradise.... 50 shades of blue water, sandy beach, perfect place to snorkel and even the crowds when spreaded were not that bad. While snorkeling we even saw some nurse sharks, only because they were fed by the guides but still beautiful too see. But the best was yet to come... Providencia.
Providencia is a smaller island, close by San Andres. The only way to get there is by boat or by plane from San Andres. Many think it's too big of a hassle so there are not that many tourists and the island is more virgin in every way. Own language, Creole is omnipresent. It's a weird version of English. And the cuisine is just superb, only place in the world where we ate only lobsters, crabs and fish and all delicious, fresh and ridiculously cheap. The island has also an amazing architecture, traditional wooden houses painted as cheerful as possible. The sight immediately lifts the spirit if the views or diving doesn't do it.
To get there we decided to go by boat, we both love the sea, waves and cheaper options:) but on that catamaran we couldn't see anything as the waves were hitting all the windows constantly. But the worse was the puking party. There were bags with content flying everywhere. Even a special vomit master appeared to take care of the content and make sure new bags were ready so that no other passenger was endangered by the flying liquids. And like that for 4h. All worth it. The island was what I had in mind thinking about paradise. Unbelievable sea, shades of blue, food, architecture and polish vodka on the shelves of the shops (!). Thank god there is even one hostel on the island otherwise we would need to sleep on the beach which could be painful as there are sooooo many crabs walking at night. Actually the island closes their roads twice a year for a crab migration. Basically first they have to close the roads because of black crabs coming from the mountains to lay their eggs and later when the little crabs come out they have to close them again to make sure they can go safely to the mountains.
But going back to our the hostel it's worth saying that it was not a real hostel. I mean it was actually just one of the huts rented from a resort and I could easily see that concept of sharing space by 6 foreigners seemed absurd to them. White people who are not rich enough to rent a whole hut and need to share it? Weird:) But thanks to that little hut we met an amazing Swiss guy Nico and a one of a kind Canadian- Gabe. We immediately became friends and to my surprise soon our group was joined by another polish living in Amsterdam- Natalia. And so the days went on diving, eating crabs, lobsters and the evening went by with rum, polish singing and long discussions. It all felt like a true vacation, vacation in paradise. And the diving made it all really special... Sharks, sting rays, coral reefs, variety of fish... all there. And underneath a few pics from paradise to make you all guys feel jealous in the European winter.
How much does it all cost?
- To get to San Andres you can buy pretty cheap flights from all bigger Colombian cities- we went from Medellin and we paid around 100 euro per person (return ticket) with checked in baggage (flying with Viva Colombia)
- To get to actual paradise, so to Providencia there are two options: catamaran (164 000 colombian pesos for return so around 47 euros), plane (162 000 colombian pesos one way so around 47 euros)
- For entering the islands you need to buy a tourist card at the airport which costs 49 000 pesos (around 14 euro)
- There is one hostel on Providencia which costs 45 000 colombian pesos (around 13 euro) per bed per night, there are actually plenty of other, affordable accommodations that can't be found online but the locals will make sure you find them as soon as you get off the catamaran/plane
- Diving is actually not that expensive- 160 000-180 000 pesos (around 45-51 euros) for a two tank dive (you go to the spot with a boat)
- Eating out: on San Andres we actually had a kitchen in the hostel so we cooked but on Providencia we had to eat out and there is something for every budget. Main meals are between 18 000 (around 5 euros) and 60 000 (around 17 euros) colombian pesos and 60 000 being a lobster with salad etc at the best restaurant. Actually the cheaper food was also pretty yummi and good quality.
- It's good to rent a Kawasaki Mule, or motocycle to drive around the whole island and to go to Santa Catalina which is a tiny island joined with Providencia by a colorful bridge. To rent a motorcycle or scooter is around 50 000- 70 000 pesos (around 14- 20 euros) per day and a mule is around 110 000 pesos per day (around 31 euros)
Best diving spots:
- Manta's Place- quite shallow dive (up to 12 m) but absolutely beautiful and we saw a few big sting rays over there, that I'm not going to mention the coral and the variety of fish
- Piedra Tortuga- an amazing place, full of sharks (but sharks are literally everywhere on deep dives around Providencia), beautiful coral, actually we went between two walls of coral which was stunning
- Felipe's Place- great canyon dive, again lots of sharks and fish
- Tete's Place- similar to Manta's Place, also a shallow dive with lots of coral and fish and some sting rays