When most Black travelers head to Colombia, they immediately go to Cartagena or even Cali—the country’s ‘Blackest’ city. But, what many travelers often overlook is the chain of islands that sit to the east of Nicaragua. The San Andres Archipelago is a set of islands owned by the South American country, and San Andres is the largest.
Very reminiscent of Miami and Cancun, San Andres is the go-to vacation spot for native mainland Colombians seeking a little bit of island fun. Getting there is pretty easy, too. You can fly from mainland Colombia directly into San Andres, fly from other nearby Central American countries, or even arrive by cruise ship— like Hurtigruten Expeditions.
Once on the island, you’ll quickly see exactly why it's such a sought after destination. From fresh seafood and colorful photo backdrops to a vibrant Rasta culture, here are the must-try things when visiting San Andres, Colombia.
Have a photoshoot at one of the colorful murals or lifeguard shacks
San Andres is a content creator’s dream destination. The entire island is filled with vibrant backdrops that are sure to make any photo stand out. A popular Instagram-worthy spot is the colorful lifeguard towers find on nearly every beach across the island. If you happen to be near the El Dorado Hotel, walk across the street to Johnny Cay beach, where you’ll find a few of the bright-colored stands.
While there, use the bright yellow tour shack as a backdrop, too. The more colors, the better. Trust us! Also, as you drive around the island, you’ll notice that each beach and bay has its own uniquely painted sign. You can thank us later.
Indulge in fresh seafood and coconut rice at Gourmet Shop Assho
The name may throw you off, thinking this is a fancy, fine dining establishment. While the interior is anything but, the food at Gourmet Shop Assho could definitely hold its own against any upscale eatery.
Located on the main strip just 2-blocks from Johnny Cay Beach, this mostly seafood spot initially gives off the vibe that it's super touristy— which usually means bland food. But when you walk in, you’ll see that it’s a quiet local’s hangout with an amazing menu. The coconut rice is absolutely out of this world, and they also have a salad that’s drizzled with a homemade passion fruit vinaigrette.
See amazing underwater life with a snorkel or diving tour
San Andres is known for its underwater life. While most people head to Belize’s Barrier Reef— as they absolutely should— don’t sleep on this Colombian island, too.
There are several tour operators around the island that offer a variety of snorkel and scuba diving excursions. Simply find the one that best suits you and your schedule, and have the time of your life.
Pro Tip: Don’t forget your underwater phone case or an underwater camera like a GoPro.
Shop 'til you drop at the outdoor mall
Yes, you’re on an island, and you’re likely heading straight for the nearest beach. But, don’t sleep on the large outdoor mall, just steps from the beach. About a block over from Johnny Cay is a large pedestrian area lined with retail shops and local boutiques. Depending on the day, you’ll likely even catch a local market set up with vendors selling souvenirs and other handmade items.
The outdoor mall spans a few streets and has everything from well-known brands like Nike to more regional options that you likely won’t find back in the United States.
Rent a cabana and grab an adult beverage from the beach carts
One of the best parts of the beaches around San Andres island is you don’t have to go far to find a refreshing drink or adult beverage. Once you rent your covered cabana, make your way to one of the small, locally-owned push carts selling everything from homemade lemonade to stronger libations like the coco loco.
Make sure you have cash, as most vendors don’t accept credit or debit cards. And, the items are usually very inexpensive. You can even order fresh ceviche, too. Sit back, enjoy your drink, and vibe out to the sounds of reggae, likely playing from one of the cart owners.