While the Colombian mainland offers an incredible range of historical places to visit, natural landscapes to enjoy, and delicious food to taste, the islands of Colombia also offer a world all their own for you to visit and experience. Today, we are going to tell you about some of these islands and what you can do on each one of them.
Located in the Caribbean Sea, San Andrés is one of the most well known Colombian islands, and also the one that has most recently been in the spotlight. San Andrés is a beautiful island, famous for its seven-colour ocean and idyllic beaches. A UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, San Andrés offers you amazing snorkelling and scuba diving sites, areas for surfing, sea caves for exploring, as well as some shopping and historic areas to see, too. San Andrés is also known for its unique culture—a mix of English and Colombian, as the island was originally colonized by the British. Thus, on the island you’ll hear English, Spanish, and Creole. It’s definitely a unique island!
Lying very close to San Andrés, and in the same archipelago, is the island of Providencia. Providencia is more off the beaten path than San Andrés and offers a much more private experience while still offering a wide array of things to do and see. Having the world’s third largest barrier reef1, Providencia is also an extraordinary place to scuba dive and/or snorkel. It also has many enchanting beaches, and has its own set of historic sites worth seeing—many involving stories about the famous pirate Henry Morgan. Likewise, Providencia offers you the chance to get more familiar with local culture. There are no large resorts, no sprawling restaurants, and no tour groups roaming around, which opens up space to really see local life and culture.
About 45 minutes to an hour from the city of Cartagena, Barú Island is not actually an island at all. It is technically a peninsula, separated from Cartagena by the Dique Canal. Even so, it is popularly known as “Barú Island,” and we can assure you no one calls it “Barú Peninsula”!
Regardless, Barú Island is a beautiful stretch of land covered with magical beaches, traditional Caribbean edibles, popular music, and both relaxing hammocks and luxury resorts. That being said, you have the option of visiting Barú Island as a backpacker on a budget or as a luxury traveller looking for all the comforts of a five-star resort. Whichever option you choose, you’ll have plenty of things to keep you busy: you can lounge on one of the most popular beaches—Playa Blanca, you can enjoy freshly cooked traditional food—fried snapper, fried plantains, coconut limeades, coconut rice, and several Caribbean sweets, as well as hang out with locals and tourists enjoying the beaches.
Islas del Rosario
Not far from Barú Island, you’ll find an archipelago called the Islas del Rosario, part of Colombia’s National Natural Park network. These islands are located a mere 45km from Cartagena, and they are easily reached via boat from Cartagena. Each island in the archipelago offers different landscapes, marine environments, attractions, activities, and options for overnight stays. Even so, it is easy to program scuba diving and snorkelling sessions, trips to the islands’ aquarium, and even boat trips that allow you to see a little bit of all the islands before returning to Cartagena from any of the islands. One thing you’ll especially want to look out for on the islands is the plethora of brightly coloured coral—the coral reefs around the islands are one of the main reasons many people flock to these majestic lands.
Gorgona Natural Park
Gorgona is a small island and a Natural Park located in the Colombian Pacific. Gorgona has only been receiving “willing” visitors since 1983, and even so, due to its location, not many people actually choose to make the journey to this Galapagos-like island. Before 1983, the island served as a sort of maximum security prison—some say it was the Colombian version of Alcatraz.
Not to worry, though, nowadays, anyone can visit this beautiful island. Gorgona is home to “147 bird species, over 100 insect species, [and] more than 500 species of marine fauna.”It hosts the largest reef system in the Colombian Pacific and is purported to be one of the best preserved reef systems in the Eastern Tropical Pacific. In addition to the incredible reef systems, Gorgona also hosts a unique very humid tropical rain forest ecosystem where you can find endemic species such as the Blue Anole and the Red-Legged Honeycreeper. It really is the perfect destination for any nature enthusiast to explore an exclusive set of flora and fauna, still virgin to many eyes.
It is worth nothing, however, that to travel to Gorgona, you’ll need to get previous permission. For more specific information about that, check out the government website:
The Uncover Colombia Team
- Cartagena and Islas del Rosario (www.uncovercolombia.com)
- Cartagena and Islas del Rosario tour (www.uncovercolombia.com)
- The Colombian Caribbean Coast vs the Pacific Coast (www.uncovercolombia.com)