San Andres, Columbia
San Andres is a positive surprise.
As expected it is a beautiful tropical island but several cruisers had said we should not bother stopping as it was so commercialized. Several years ago a Columbian president decided to make San Andres a duty free port and a playground for wealthy Columbians.
The main town is situated on the
north east end of the island and the waterfront has a Malecon, sidewalk, that
follows the coast from Nene’s Marina around the coast to a long white/golden
The clean Malecon
|white sand and hotels|
|kite surfers and shade tents|
|A new lifeguard in town.|
The beach has long expanses of shade tents with chairs rented by the tourists who stay in the large hotels and apartments that line the land side of the shore road and malecon. In the blocks behind, modern high ceilinged, air conditioned, full frontal glazed, immaculate modern stores representing the name brands entice the wealthy tourists to spend, spend. SPEND. Actually, most of the stores have few or no shoppers and the beautiful, young, smart-uniformed staff stand by the open front doors, perusing their cell phones while mildly curious if the passers-by may indeed enter the store. There is a Columbia Brand store where for a mere $1,600,000 Columbian Pesos, now quickly do the math and divide by 3,000 to get $266ish US$, for one of their ubiquitous fishing shirts. I passed.
The beauty of San Andres lies immediately beyond the big brand stores. In the nine days there Mags and I developed our “go to” merchants in the small crowded shops where if they did not have what we wanted they would give us directions to another small, crowded shop that appeared to have everything the previous merchant had plus that one thing we were searching for. Oh, and for a price comparison, I managed to by two pair of soccer shorts for $12 US. We often ate in the small cafes where a large bowl of soup, a quarter of a big chicken or several pork chops, with salad, rice, beans and bread cost $3 to $4. Poor Mags was generally full after the soup.
Balconies on a government office and our
grocery store beyond
The people, shopkeepers and other customers, were incredibly friendly and curious as to where we came from and I think, more than mildly surprised that we had ventured into their side of town. The tourists do not. We did go to a higher end restaurant, The Gourmet Shop,
|The Gourmet Restaurant's pork medallions in sauce and |
chicken on a baked pear sauce
San Andres is very safe, with the exception of the traffic. Timing your crossing of streets to coincide with the flow of motor bikes, golf carts, quads and cars is an art we perfected in Asia and were soon back to using. Just do not change your pace or intention. We rented a quad and drove on every road on the island, first the coastal perimeter and then the various interior roads. We stopped for a ceviche and camarones lunch, lunch, watched the wind from a coastal blow-hole blow the tourist’s long hair vertical and stopped for a very good snorkelling excursion on a deserted lava-lined beach. Well, deserted until the other people in their rented vehicles saw us and decided we were where they should be. Actually, great fun and we were surprised how many of the tourists were from Brazil. We also visited an old wood structure home Museum that had raised generations of San Andreans, with a lovely guide explaining the old implements and furnishings, some of which Mags and I grew up with. In the interior villages the smiles were infectious, from little children to the elderly. Again, we encountered no tourists off the coastal road. So, quite clearly, San Andres is a tale of two places and the very good side so completely outweighs the part that did not appeal to us so we are really happy we stopped.
|Ceviche and Camarones|
The marina staff led by owner, Nene and supported by Antonio and Guillermo were really helpful and friendly as was our agent Rene. Our marina neighbours, Stephan, originally from Belgium, and his wife, Pamela, from Costa Rica, on s/v Coco Prinz were enjoying the drier cooler air of San Andres so much they decided to stay another week or so. They were fun people to be med moored beside. We had been across the dock from them in Bocas del Toro. Cruising can be a small world.