San Andres Island

San Andres Island is a popular tourism destination and diving attraction. The island is actually part of the San Andres Archipelago that includes San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina. San Andres lies off the northeast coast of Colombia more than 400 miles and sits adjacent to Nicaragua. Colombia gained control over the islands in 1928 as part of the Esguerra-Bárcenas treaty with Nicaragua. The territory has been a hot topic of debate over the last decade as Nicaragua has attempted to regain control over the area through legal protests in international courts.

The archipelago was declared the Seaflower Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 2000. The approximate population of the archipelago is 85,000. The local inhabitants are descendants of English Settlers, African Slaves and mainland Colombians.

Location of the Archipelago of San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina

san andres island colombia

Historical Notes

The San Andres and Providencia Archipelago has a rather curious and strange history that began as early as 1510. The debate over who actually discovered the archipelago is a matter of contention. On one hand, it is said that Spanish Conquistadors discovered the islands while traveling from Jamaica to the  Miskito Cays. Other reports say ancient fishing expeditions by Central American natives prior to the Pre-Colombian era were responsible for the discovery of the islands. Many historians, however, link the second voyage of Columbus with the actual discovery of the territory including most of the other islands nearby. Some authors have even written that the first conquerors to set foot on the island were actually Alonso de Ojeda and Pedro de Nicuesa.

The archipelago is approx 17 miles long.

One hundred years later, according to the records of Dutch and English buccaneers, pirates and smugglers, there was a group of cays and islands that was surrounded by a Sea of Seven Colors. In fact, the tourism minister and travel agencies in Colombia still utilize the Sea of Seven Colors slogan and name in their promotion of the vacation spot to this day.

Incomplete information has been put in place recently recently by writers including Colombian novelist Fanny Buitrago stating the islands were colonized in 1629 by wealthy English Puritans including Lord Brooke (the viscount of Saye-Sele), John Pym and the Count of Warwick. The partners set up the slave trade enterprise known as the Providencia Company that colonized both Providencia and San Andres as well as neighboring Tortuga Island near the northwest coast of Hispaniola. The area was eventually coordinated by both the Dutch and English. Cotton, Maize and tobacco were the main crops and export items at the time. The area was conquered by Spanish Conquistadors in the second half of the 17th century in the year 1641.

Under Spanish rule the islands were subsequently recaptured by the English pirates Morgan and Manswelt. In 1793, England recognized Spanish sovereignty over the archipelago but by 1806 the islands were once again controlled by the British. Since 1868 the archipelago has belonged to the Republic of Colombia.

How to Get There

San Andres and Providencia are serviced by multiple cities in Colombia including Bogota, Cartagena, Medellin and Cali. International flights from Costa Rica and Panama city are also available. The airport is San Andres is Gustavo Rojas Pinilla.

Annual Events

April: The festival of the Green Moon brings together the different musical expressions of the region, Other important event is The Crab Festival (San Andrés).

May: International Triathlon (San Andrés).

November: The Coconut Carnival – The Parade of Colonies brings together the different national and international groups living on the island with a parade showing their typical customs and traditional meals from the different regions. International and national scuba-diving competitions also take place at this time as well as some other cultural and folk events (San Andrés).

Additional Maps

San Andres Island Map | Providencia Island Map

map of san andres and providencia islands colombia

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