Cayo Boliviar

Colombian paradise- San Andres and Providencia

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.Cayo Boliviar 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. P1140839-16There 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?

  1. 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)
  2.  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)
  3. For entering the islands you need to buy a tourist card at the airport which costs 49 000 pesos (around 14 euro)
  4. 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
  5. 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)
  6. 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.
  7. 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:

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. Felipe's Place- great canyon dive, again lots of sharks and fish
  4. Tete's Place- similar to Manta's Place, also a shallow dive with lots of coral and fish and some sting rays


Finca el Mirador, Filandia, Colombia

Two tea drinkers in THE coffee region of Colombia

All my life I thought that coffee should always be Colombian and that they were the first producer in the world. And here I am reading about coffee production and finding out that Colombia is actually only the 3rd biggest producer in the world after Brasil and .... Vietnam!!! I could imagine Indonesia being on the list with their coffee beans being pooed out by a wild cat of some sort but Vietnam! I am still hoping that the Colombian coffee is the best:)

So there we were in Filandia, little town in the heart of the coffee region which we have never ever heard about before. To be quite honest we went there by total coincidence. Before going to Colombia we went through all volunteering opportunities on Workaway and we found one that captured our attention. A young couple running a hostel. They seemed like warm, nice people with a dream and bad web page:D so we thought we would help and we ended up in a charming little town, full of colorful colonial houses, welcoming locals and a few lost tourist. The town offered actually more than we expected. It was really alive, with bars and restaurants and good supermarkets. And just outside of it there was an unbelievably green nature... We were surrounded by coffee beans, bananas, waterfalls, monkeys, hummingbirds, toucans and amazing people. Perfect paradise! We wanted to learn and explore so we visited one of so many small coffee farms. Colombian hospitality- the owner came to give us a tour. Colombian guy, working in the US and coming back for the weekends for his passion- his farm. Buying it he actually wasn't a huge expert on coffee but well, it seduced him. He walked with us for a few hours showing us his trees, beans, explaining the process. and he made us realize that: Colombian coffee is picked up by hand... So how could we resist and not try the produce made with love... We tried to taste it all, organic, cheap- drunk by the locals. It all tasted good. But it is widely known that the best coffee doesn't stay in Colombia and the farmers cultivating the best don't try their own produce.

Finca el Mirador, Filandia, Colombia

In Filandia, except of strong coffee aroma, we felt the power of Christmas. 1st of December is a strict deadline for everyone to put their Christmas lights on.... As they say Christmas in Colombia lasts only one month...:) obviously we couldn't be worse than the rest so our Camilo (Colombian part of the couple) was running around buying lights. It was the highest priority. Higher on the list than fixing anything.
As the more the merrier, we had also two other volunteers coming... Entering our dorm we saw a guitar and a tiny little guitar-like instrument with stickers on it... "Great, hippies" we thought. Absolutely not excited we went to say hello and it turned out Dominic and Sarah were a positive, crazily twisted couple of music teacher and knitting master. No dreadlocks, no dirt (not visible at least) and no funky piercings. Sigh of relief. It turned out that they were actually amazing people and our future "Christmas family". So it won't be a totally lonely Christmas. We gonna visit our "hippies" in the countryside of Medellin:)

Mini guide- hikes in Filandia:

1. Double Waterfalls- short bike ride and short but adventurous (since there is no path just grass) walk down to the hidden waterfalls. Very calm place, perfect to enjoy beauty of nature and some natural spa treatment in the waterfalls' basin.
We didn't want to kill ourselves or the bikes so we left them by the house indicated on the map.
One way bike plus walk time: around 45 min
On the way back we took a jeep that was passing by the main road since the way back it's all up.

Double Waterfalls.kmz and Double Waterfalls.kml for your Google Maps or
2. Finca el Mirador- coffee farm that we visited with a passionate guided tour by the owner himself (20 000 pesos per person). It offers not only views of the coffee but also a nice cafe with stunning views over the valleys. Only around 20 min from Filandia by bike.
Finca el Mirador.kmz and Finca el Mirador.kml  for your Google Maps or
3. Way to Quimbaya- one of those trips where not the destination is important but the way. The town is less than special but the views on the way to it are spectacular, coffee, birds, valleys, all green and inviting.
One way time: around 1.5 hrs by bike
On the way back we took a jeep because as usual it was all up hill
Route to Quimbaya.kmz and Route to Quimbaya.kml  for your Google Maps or
4. Salento- touristic little town which probably once was charming, now it was for us just a start point to get to Cocora Valley to see the tall wax palms and as it turned out also a bar which feeds people and hummingbirds (entry 5000 pesos per person) so it's a perfect spot to see both species: birds and people. A hike that we did cost us 3000 pesos per person for entering private property and it was around 11 km.
Cocora valley,kmz and Cocora valley.kml  for your Google Maps or

5. To the river- another hike that we did was going to the river which was supposed to be breathtaking. It might have been on the way back but only because we got tired going up. Nothing special but if someone would be bored and had 55 minutes one way....:)
Roble river.kmz and Roble river.kml  for your Google Maps or

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