San Andres Island

Kitesurfing in San Andres Island

The island of San Andres due to its small size and geographic location is definitely one of the lesser known kiting destinations and you might have only come across its name since its wind statistics in December to March are insane; let me tell you, staying during this time and you will be guaranteed to return home with a great smile after your trip.

The island itself is fairly isolated and from a geographical point of view much closer to Costa Rica and Nicaragua as to Colombia. Being isolated, it is spared all the usual problems of the region and as a Colombian promotion says: “the only risk is wanting to stay”; hitch-hiking by one of the vast number of golf carts on this island will be part of your habit to access the various kitespots available on this island. So it can be said the island is very safe, the people are very friendly, the Colombian and Argentinian tourists happily fancy a chat and compared to most other Caribbean islands you will find this place quite inexpensive, even for longer stays.

Despite its small size, the city in the north, el Centro, holds more than 60 thousand people, so if you were worried coming to a small island without any shops and parties you will be surprised by the vast things the island has to offer. So you are guaranteed, even in the odd one day when there is no wind you won't get bored neither during the day nor in the night. You should definitely try the kiting here before everyone finds out about this place!


Wind statistics

The best time to be on this island is during the European winter, especially the time between December and mid March will never leave you disappointed (a 80kg rider with 9m and 12m kite can kite >80% of the days). If you are a regular user of windguru it can be said that it works very reliably for this island (the same accounts for the wind statistics), but as the wind in warmer regions is less dense you have to subtract around 2-3 knots from the windguru prediction to obtain the windspeeds you might be used to in colder regions, but no worries the wind is still enough.

The strongest breeze usually comes in the morning, reliably starting around 9am, so if you are here purely for the kiting, skip the party night out and make your way early to the beach. The late risers don't need to be worried, the wind usually blows until the sun goes down, but usually takes a bit of a blip during midday and picks up again in the later afternoon (around 2-3pm).

The best kite sizes to bring for heavy riders 80-90kg are 8-10m for the stronger days and 10-14m for the weaker days, lightweight girls can easily subtract 2m of the above.

80kg rider with 12m kite:

  JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC
% 80 80 75 30 20 40 75 40 20 20 40 75

Kite Spots

Kitespot Chamey's Nautica

On the east side, you'll find Chamey's Nautica, one of the most popular spots to kitesurf. It is man made, but a paradise: A huge playground with flat to choppy water, and waves further out. At low tide, the water is standing-depth until almost 100m from shore, so a great place for beginners. The kite launch takes a little getting used to (as the beach is only 25m long with palm trees close to the shore), but the locals will happily advise you; and after a couple of days you'll be laughing. The wind here is usually side-onshore and is stronger further out since the beach sits in a slightly protected corner.

If you are a beginner kite lessons are offered for around $120.000 COP (approx 60 USD). The place also holds beach chairs, lounge chairs, a little shop to buy a sandwich and a soda and offers as well rental for kayaks, stand-up paddle boards and many more. A compressor for inflating the kite is also provided, so no pumping required, but be aware if you spend most of your day there (which you most likely will) the owner will charge $10.000 COP (approx 5 USD) for using the chairs, compressor and the remaining facilities.


Kitespot Playa Central (Downtown Beach)

Another very popular kitespot is the main beach in the north, which is usually quite packed with tourists sun bathing, so starting and landing here will sometimes be a bit interesting too, but at least the beach has more depth than Chamey's place. Locals from Lago Calima started offering also kite lessons here during peak season for around $100.000 COP (approx 50 USD).

Despite its popularity (possibly for showing off the tricks to the crowd of tourists and its location) you should be prepared for a mix of boats, jet skis and tourists in the water, it can get crowed from time to time. The water here is fairly choppy and I personally do not recommend this spot for beginners. Nevertheless it is the perfect spot for starting one of the beautiful downwind sessions and it has also a flat water spot close to the hotels.
Missing: Picture

Other spots

If you are more into wave riding you have to either ride all the way out to the reef (2-3km) or stick around more in the south of the island, as the outer reef does not protect this region and allows for the swell to come to the shore. The first waves you will usually encounter around Rocky Cay and can pick your preferred spot along the remaining south-east coast. The next larger sandy beach will be in San Luis, further south there is also a shop that offers windsurfing lessons, so I wouldn't be surprised if it is a decent place for wave riding as well. If you feel like a change for once you can also book a boat to Cayo Bolivar (two uninhabited small islands 20km east of San Andres), the boat operator will also happily take your kite equipment.
Missing: Picture


Downwind Session

If you are experienced and confident enough to go 2-3km offshore this is a must do. The normal tourist usually pays for this stunning journey, but it cannot be explained how beautiful it is take this journey with your kite. Starting from the main beach allows you to visit the popular Jonny Cay first, afterwards you can take your kite downwind along the reef over the luminescent turquoise water until an old ship wreck which hit the reef a couple years ago.

The view of the island from this distance is a view most tourists won't get as part of their trip. In addition, you can go further downwind to visit el Acuario and stop afterwards in the mangroves next to the harbour which is in short distance to Chamey's nautica. If you want to stop here you won't be charged the $10.000 COP fee just for landing, but I recommend to continue to go further south past Rocky Cay, after which unprotected of the outer reef you will be able to ride in the waves.

I personally used to stop around San Luis (but you can easily go further south), self-land the kite, pack up, and hitch a free ride with one of the golf carts back to el Centro.


3 Days Wind forecast on Wind Guru


In August 2016 the Blue Almond Hostel adquired a weather station that measures wind speeds in the vicinity of the hostel among other useful data for planning your kitesurfing day.

Unfortunately there's no good way to embed the data from the weather station into a native form in this website, so all the info can be seen on this Website in readable form.

 

 


Stefan The author of this article initially discovered San Andres in December 2012 with the intention of improving his Spanish and fine tuning his latest kitesurf tricks during the European winter. After having experienced the beauty of this island first hand he happily returned a year later; he spend in total three months over the course of two years in San Andres, of which he stayed for the majority of his time at the Blue Almond Hostel.

He claims that he particularly enjoyed the more homey atmosphere of the hostel, comparable to a shared flat with house mates, which especially made longer stays very pleasant. He is happy to see that the Blue Almond Hostel has started promoting kitesurfing in 2013 as he started donating his well earned money to windguru's advertisement platform, renting out Go Pro Cameras for making stunning videos from your kite and pushing his hot girlfriend Jenniffer to kite surf courses instead of going to a boring gym.


Blue Almond Hostel

Our hostel, the Blue Almond was the 1st hostel open in the Island (OCT 2010), we started with 4 matresses on the floor and currently have 24 bed between privates and dorms; from the begining we knew that wanted to focus on providing budget services for divers, surfers and kitesurfers. 8 years later of fun, great stories, sweat, blood and tears have paid off and our hostel has stayed one of the top raking accomodation in the island. Also we are happy to say that more than 70% of our guest are people that fit our original vision!.

Endless Summer Hostel & Camping

Eyeing an increased interest on kitesurfing In NOV 2017, we decided to rent a property 2 minutes walk away from one of the best places to Kitesurf known as "Chamey Beach", this is a extremely small house with a HUGE frontyard. In this house we will only offer an 8 bed dorm in the main house and we plan to have a couple of tents for the hardcore budget kitesurfers!

 

About San Andres Island

San Andres Island is situated in the Caribbean Sea north of Colombia west of the coast of Nicaragua. It forms an archipelago together with its neighbors, small islands and keys that line the coast Providencia and Santa Catalina among many. These islands are more popularly known as a single unit, named the Archipelago of San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina, with San Andres as its capital and the bigger of them all.

An Array of Activities

Contrary to the popular belief, there are plenty of things to do while in San Andres. For sightseeing, a walk up El Cliff allows for a pleasant stroll for a great view of the coral reefs and the whole town. There are natural wonders to discover, including the "El Hoyo Soplador" (a seasonal sea water geyser), over 40 scuba diving spots with great visibility, 3 great surf spot and plenty of wind and kite surf air currents.

Of course, a trip to the island won’t be complete without a proper party. Here, everyone takes it all in with beats of salsa and reggae in the background. Suffice it to say San Andres, along its people offers the opportunity to create fun, lasting memories.

Culture

San Andres Island boasts of a rich, colorful, multi-ethnic history, owing greatly to its geographical circumstances and its particular history and events that have shaped the Archipelago. Thus, tourists can expect a vivid cultural experience, ranging from the cuisines embraced (made up mostly of fish and vegetables, with coconut, Conch shell, breadfruit, plantain, and spices and pork) to the language spoken.

Getting to San Andres

Due to connectivity issues getting to San Andres used to be hard, nowadays you can get here from pretty much everywhere in the world.

By Plane from Colombia

Numerous airlines fly to San Andres with Daily flights, Copa Colombia formerly known as Aerorepublica flights from daily from Bogotá, Cali and Cartagena they also flight from Barranquilla 3 days per week. Another airline that flights to San Andres is Avianca, mistakenly considered pricier than Copa Air flights 3 times daily from Bogotá.

Lan Airlines flights daily from Bogota and 3 times a week from Cali at some really crappy times.

A new low cost airline named Viva Colombia started flying to San Andres from Medellin and Bogota, they offer some extremely cheap deals if you book in advance, but expect to be nickled and dimed for everything. As an example your carry on can weight a maximun of 6 Kilos and they are very strict about it. People holding foreing credit cards always have a hard time booking with this airline on their website as they only accept reservations done in their call center, if you are already in Colombia they give you an array of options to pay offline, like bank deposit and at Balloto tellers.

By Plane from Abroad

COPA airlines is the only airline that flights twice daily from Panama making it easy for international travelers to reach San Andres. Several airlines flight seasonly from Abroad, that is the case of Air Transat and some European Airlines, you might also want to check with your local travel tour operator as we receive many charters from Peru, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Salvador among others.

Most airlines flying from abroad will have connecting flights in Bogota, generally the layovers are around 6 hours which give travelles plenty of time to go and explore La Candelaria which is the old district of Bogota that's close to the airport.

By Boat

If you are traveling the Colombian or the central american coast and you happen to be a really lucky person, you might be able to catch a ride in one of the many yacht that come to the island, in my lifetime I have only seen 2 people pull this stunt, try your luck.

If you are not that lucky you may want to try the cargo boats, they sail bi-weekly from Cartagena and Barranquilla to bring goods to the island check with the dock, I cant really assure you you can do this, but I have met a couple of people who have done it.

Where to eat in San Andres

We have compiled and categorized a bunch of places to eat in San Andres. Depending on your budget make sure you check them out!

Low Budget

Donde Pochet: Fast food restaurant with a surprisingly large menu

Hot dog stands: You will see lots of hot dogs stand in the form of trucks (similar to ice cream trucks) everywhere around town, they are cheap, unhealthy and pretty good.

La Cordobesa: Very famous Deep fried parlor, it specializes in egg patty "arepa de huevo" and Yuca Carimañolas. is right behind the police station.

Arepas stands: As you stroll around you will see a lots of Arepas stands, these are corn arepas usually filled with delicios things like cheese, ham, chicken and beef.

Donde Aristi (front of the barracuda): Famous for its natural juices and cheap sandwich.

Donde Lulu: Small menu restaurant, ideal for a cheap lunch.

El Parqueadero: Av 20 July front of Supermarket Super Todo. This is where the working class goes for lunch.

La Fondita Isleña (diagonal antiguo modelo adventista): I have actually never eaten here, but Fabian insisted that we put it in the list

Paradise restaurant (Front of the sunrise beach hotel): Not to be confused with the "Restaurante el Paraiso" this one offers 2 course meals for cheap prices.

Medium Budget

Captain Mandy: Seafood budget restaurant, the owner is the brother of the owner of the Regatta Restaurant, plates are pretty much the same, but in a less romantic setting and way cheaper. This is one of my favourite places and I highly recommend it.

Miss Celia: Typical food and not overly pricey.

Fishermen's place: Also typical food, the location and the food of this place are great, plus the prices are really good for the side of the dishes, they offer a lot of islander food like Crabsoup and Rondon aditionally you can pick your own fish to be fried for you.

Interstate 80's: American 80´s themed restaurant with a decent menu. Go for the ribs.

Lupita: Mexican themed restaurant, the food here is not what you would expect as the prices are higher than the portions you actually get, noneteless is still suitable for a medium budget backpacker.

Banzai: Banzai is run by a good friend of us, they are famous for their sushi thursdays and their Nachos which are gigantic and feed 2 people.

West View: This one is right by the natural pool AKA West View as the 2 restaurants above West view offer typical islander food.

Sandwich Cubano: Cuban Sandwich are basically the mother of all sandwiches, think of Subway, but Cuban version.

Sea Watch Cafe (Casa Blanca Hotel): This is a very nice cafeteria right on the boardwalk, their menu is pretty good, but the portions are not very filling

Mahi Mahi: Right by the Sea Watch Cafe it offers colombianized Thai food at not so reasonable prices.

High Budget

Gourmet Shop Assho (Besides the Barracuda): As it name implies this is a gourmet restaurant with an insanely big menu and pretty steep prices, great for a night out as they offer a big wine menu. On Saturdays they generally have live music.

Donde francesca (formerly "El Pirata"): You can't beat the location of this restaurant as its right on the San Luis beaches plus the food is amazing.

Restaurant el Paraiso: This is one of my favorite restaurants of all time, the food is all right and the beach is simply amazing.

South End or Punta Sur: As it name implies this restaurant is located on the southest point of the island, if you are a fan of watching amazing sunsets this is the place to go. This was formely owned by an artist and the art work left there is simply amazing.

La Regatta: A dreamed dinner in the middle of paradise Where the wind and sea bring the sailors to enjoy the pleasures of the magic and charm of the Caribbean........... Don't be confused by their cheesy lines, this is an excellent and romantic restaurant. It is build right on the ocean and offers a great panoramic of the main bay. Reservation required.

Don Anibal: This is a pizza place, just like any other except for its prices.

Oceans Gourment: This place is okay, they are very inconsistent with the quality of the dished, sometimes they are amazing and sometimes they are okay. Pasta and salads here are pretty good, but the slushies are the best.

Margarita eh Carbonara: Real Italian restaurant owned by a real Italian guy.

Cafe Cafe: This is yet another pizza place, with great lasagna and a big menu.

Presto: Presto is the Colombian equivalent of a McDonalds they offer what every other junk food place offer, but twice the price.

Sunday Mesitas

On Sundays many islander families in San Luis and La Loma take out what we call the "mesitas" which means "Little Tables" which are basically that, tables with fresh typical food made right in their houses. It is known that each "mesita" has their own specialty, it would be really hard to document or eat in all the mesitas as there's probably more than 100.

*Some restaurant are highlighted in blue as that denotes a link to their Websites.

10 things to do for free

Traveling to San Andres island on a tight budget? Along with other locals We have compiled a list of 10 things you can do in San Andres without any money.

Keep in mind that some of these activities are done in the south and west side of the island and to get there without paying you will have to either walk or hitch-hike on one of the many golf carts driven by tourist that go around the island.

is also worth noting that although most locals are friendly and talkative, you have to be on the lookout for overly friendly people specially if they don't get off your case, these are people that at some point or another will ask you for money, do however note that is very common that locals invite someone to their house for food, be prepared to cash in for the price of the food or be expected to pay for the drinks.


1. Snorkeling.

One of the most attractive thing about San Andres is the beauty of its underwater life conveniently and surprisingly 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 don't mess up your feet when getting in and out of the water, these are:

  • Sunken Ship AKA Blue Diamond (200 meter swim from the shore) Right in front of a hotel named "Playa Tranquilo"
  • Nirvana (200 meter swim from the shore)
  • El faro (The light house)

2. The Blow Hole

The blow hole is a natural rock formation created by the erosion of the million of years of waves pounding against the rock. Think of it as a snorkel that when it gets hit by waves canalizes water 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

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 pond itself is not that big and can be surrounded on foot in about 15 minutes. One of the main attractions of the pond 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, arguing that his family owns all the terrains where the pond is; She is easily thrown off when you agree to pay her only if she gives you a legal 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 Baptist 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 and although not necessary, is better if you are dressed accordingly.


 5. Morgan’s Jump

This is very little known attraction among the tourist, but very well know among the local adventurous 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 and the rocks, make sure you bring your flip flops or water shoes. Morgans Jump


 6. Bumming at the beach

One of the beauties 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 sector with a nice view of  Johnny Cay, this beach for the most part of the year 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 excellent 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 Syrian Lebanese descent which to date own most of the shops around the island. To this date San Andres is excepted 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 who 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 off 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, but we find this is to be a very silly idea as the ship has been there for more than 30 years and is overly rusty and unstable, if you don’t die from the fall, you will die from the tetanus, you have been warned. Make sure you bring your snorkel gear if you are planning on swimming all the way to the ship as you will be able to see schools of fish and reef sharks.


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 the "we only have coffee or water trick" and try to trick them into letting use the pool.
Currently there are 3 time share sellers resorts in the Island. Success rates vary, an it really depends how good of an actor you are. You know you are good if you can get a buffet meal for free!.


10. Make a local friend

In San Andres, making friends is not as difficult as it seems. Since we have been a tourist destination for so long; most, if not all local people are friendly to tourist. Best places to meet locals are Kella's bar, Caribbean, Extasis Club and Banzai Cocktail Bar and Swell Bar since these places 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 chatting with you in no time!.

Although i personally don't like it, there's a place called "aquarius" on the main beach where locals and tourist hang out, this is one of the few places in San Andres that opens everyday, you can sit on the beach and listen from their music without steping in.

Women: Keep in mind that dancing is a very important South American bonding activity, guys will take out out dancing without even having talked to you, this is normal and it does not necessarily means they are hitting on you.

Men: Do not lose your time with local women if you are wanting to be outside the friend zone. We are a small closed community and is rare for a local girls to hook up with a tourist.

  • San Andrés
  • Providencia

Important Information

  • Looking far into the future? Most of our guests are spontaneous travelers, so we only open up availability 1-2 months prior to arrival date.
  • We don't take 1 night bookings in neither hostel(they are not profitable for us) and we ONLY take online reservations.

Important Information

  • Looking far into the future? Most of our guests are spontaneous travelers, so we only open up availability 1-2 months prior to arrival date.
  • We don't take 1 night bookings in neither hostel(they are not profitable for us) and we ONLY take online reservations.

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