Traveling to San Andres island on a tight budget? Juan Velasquez from the Blue Almond Hostel and his friends have brain stormed a list of the 10 things you can do for free in San Andres.
One of the most attractive thing about San Andres is the beauty of its underwater live conveniently and surpringly close to the shore. San Andres has over 40 diving spots many of them close enough from the shore that even novice swimmer should have no problem getting to them. The really famous spots even have stairs so you dont mess up your feet when getting in and out of the water, these are:
o Sunken Ship AKA Blue Diamond (200 meter swim from the shore)
o Nirvana (200 meter swim from the shore)
o El faro (The light house)
2 Blow Hole
The blow hole is a natural rock formation created by the erosion of the million of years of waves pounding againts the rock. Think of it as a snorkel that when it gets hit by waves canalizes pumping it over 10 meters high. This is considered by many a tourist trap and rightfully so as this is a must stop for all the tours doing the city tour. If you hate the crowds and the pushy vendors this venue is definitely not for you.
3 Big Pond
Although most locals are friendly and talktative, be on the lookout for overly friendly people specially if they don't get off your case.If you like nature and don’t mind mosquitoes you will find the Big Pond a great place to spend some time. Although its name implies otherwise the the ponde itself is not that big and can be sourrounded on foot in about 15 minutes. One of the main atractions of the ponde is the little creatures that live in it like caymans (Cocodrilus Fuscus) , the Swanka turtles and the hundred of birds that visit the pond everyday to drink water. In the entrance of the pond there’s a lady who will try to charge you $10.000 COP to get in the pond, arguing that his family ows all the terrains where the pond is; She is easily thrown off when you agree to pay her only if she gives you a receipt!. Also be on the lookout for the friendly guides around the pond, if you do want a guide make sure you agree to a price before the start of the walk, otherwise you will be most certainly overcharged.
4 Listen to Gospel music on a baptist church on Sunday
Unlike mainland Colombia, San Andres island is full of different religions and temples that cater to an array of believers. One of the predominant religions within the islander community is the Baptist one characterized by Gospel music which is written to express either personal, spiritual or a communal belief regarding Christian life. Gospel music is praise, worship or thanks to God, Christ, or the Holy Spirit this is sung every Sunday in all the baptist churches along the island, some are better than others with the First Baptish Church Choir in la Loma leading the parade.
If you do go to any of these churches at the entrance you might be asked for your name and then in the ceremony they will thank you for attending the service although not necessary is better if you are dressed acordingly.
5 Morgan’s Jump
This is very little known atraction among the tourist, but very well know among the local adventourous youngsters. Morgan’s jump is a small bay with a rock formation about 5 meter high. In the late 90’s the Colombian army used to train their soldiers there. Is a fun jump, but to exit from the water is a little tricky because of the sea urchins.
6 Bumming at the beach
One of the beuties about Colombian law is that no beach can be private, this means that unlike many destinations in the Caribbean, in San Andres you have access to all the beaches available.
Spratt Bight also known as the downtown beach located in the northern part of the island, near the main hotel and tourist sectorwith a nice view of Johnny Cay, this beach for the most part is crowded, specially over the weekend with tourist and locals
San Luis Beach is located a mere ten minutes away by car or bus from downtown. This is an excelent option for resting in a more isolated and tranquil atmosphere, a nice place to bum around is the Paraiso Beach, located right in front of the Paraiso Restaurant. Also fairly close from this beach is the Rocky Cay Beach, a hidden beach which seems to belong to a big chain of hotels, but in reality and by law is not.
7 Window Shopping
The creation of a free trade zone in 1954 along with attempts to develop tourism brought a flood of immigrants to the island, especially after 1970; many of this immigrants were of Sirian Lebanese descent which to date own most of the shops around the island. To this date San Andres is excempted of all taxes, meaning that most imported goods are 16% cheaper than in mainland Colombia. Some of the goods that are way cheaper than in Colombia are Alcohol, perfumes, candy and fancy brand name clothing.
8 Rocky Cay
Rocky cay is a small hidden beach located on the east side of San Andres, is difficult to see it from the road, to get in to the beach you have to go through the Decameron Beach Club or the Cocoplum Hotel they usually won’t give you a hard time if you are tourist looking. The beach gets its name from a small key with a couple of palm trees about 100 meters from the shore, you can actually walk to this key and the water won´t cover your head unless you are really really short.There’s an abandoned half ship that was supposedly sold for scrap and left there a long time ago some locals climb it to jump from the top, this is a very silly idea as the ship is overly rusty and unstable if you don’t die from the fall, you will die from the tetanus, you have been warned.
9 Rip the rip off
You may actually have some fun making the time share sellers on the street lose their time and leeching a drink or two from a resort.
These people will approach you on the street inviting you for a drink and a tour at one of the resorts around the island if you are not interested you can politely ask them to go and hump a goat, but if you are bored and don't mind losing a couple of hours of you vacation visiting of the resorts tell them that you are highly interested on visiting the resort as you have heard wonderful thing about time sharing make sure you fake real interest as you are more likely to get more goodies. These people will walk or pay a cab for you, they will hand you to another person who will give you a tour of the resort, make sure you tell them you are thirsty and that you would love a Piña Colada, don´t fall for coffee or water offer and try to trick them into letting use the pool.
10 Make a local friend
In San Andres, making friends is not as difficult as it seems. Since we have been a tourist destinarion for so long; most, if not all local people are friendly to tourist. Best places to meet locals are Kella's bar, Extasis Club and Banzai Cocktail Bar since these place are where we locals hang out. If you are a guy with an accent, play the "I wish I could dance" card, if you are a girl, just sit by yourself for about a minute and i can bet money on it that a local will be chating with you in no time!.
Please keep in mind that dancing is a very important South American bonding activity, guys will take out out dacing without even having talk to you, this is normal and it does not neccesarily means they are hitting on you.