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Old Providence Island (or Isla Providencia
in the Spanish language) is one of the few remaining Caribbean islands
that has yet to see mass tourism. There are approximately a dozen small
hotels on the English speaking island, and various beaches that are
beautifully unspoilt and largely devoid of both people and buildings.
Providencia is an empty, tropical, coconut
palmed paradise, perfect for a relaxing few days beach vacation in
Colombia. It's a stunning island of beautiful beaches that are, on the
whole, totally undeveloped. Mass tourism has yet to hit Providencia and
thankfully the locals are determined to keep the island this way. The
native language of Providencia is Creole, which is a kind of twisted
form of Caribbean English (so almost all the locals speak proper
English). The culture is similar to that of nearby Jamaica, and very
different from that of mainland Colombia. That means Rastas, reggae and
a very laid back lifestyle - this is how all the Caribbean was 50 years
ago, before most of the Caribbean region was spoilt by mega resorts and
package tourism (neighbouring San Andres Island included). Providencia
thankfully remains very unspoilt, and is a unique island to visit. Many
people come to visit for a few days and end up staying weeks or even
months, reluctant to leave this idyllic and peaceful paradise.
Providencia is also one of Colombia's best
scuba diving destinations. The snorkelling is also wonderful, and the
sea a multi-shaded turquoise almost everwhere one looks.
Most people travel to Providencia to either
experience the beautiful palm fringed beaches
or to go scuba diving. The worlds third
largest barrier reef is found in Providencia. The snorkelling
is great and the sea almost always very calm - most hotels can organize
snorkelling tours, plus various other excursions and activities. It's
highly recommended to visit Crab Caye
(Cayo Cangrejo), a spectacularly beautiful little island off the East
coast of Providencia. Another great activity is to go kayaking
in the calm, crystal clear waters - this is the best way to experience McBean
Lagoon National Park, of which Crab Caye is a part.
It's also well worthwhile to spend a day
visiting neighbouring Santa Catalina Island,
which has a couple of lovely peaceful beaches, two of which can only be
accessed by kayak / private boat. On Santa Catalina one also finds a
couple of old forts, remnants from the days of piracy on the island.
Rumour has it that the pirate Henry Morgan hid huge amounts of treasure
on Santa Catalina, and it's easy to visit the cave where some of it was
another great activity in Providencia - one could happily spend a few
days hiking and admiring the amazing views. Towering volcanic peaks
covered by lush rainforest descending into peaceful mangrove swamps and
lagoons, combined with small offshore Cayes, an amazing multi-coloured
sea and a distant reef with crashing surf make the views from the hills
of McBean Lagoon National Park particularly unforgettable. Most
tourists hike to El Pico (3-4 hours return - spectacular views from the
top), which is the highest point of the island. However, the hike (3
hours) around the National Park is far more scenic.
The sport fishing
around Providencia is excellent (yet almost no-one fishes these
waters). There's a variety of fishing options, including fly fishing
for bonefish and tarpon and deep sea fishing for the likes of wahoo,
dorado, kingfish, tuna and blue marlin. For fly fishing or deep sea
fishing you'll probably need to bring your own rods. Otherwise it's
possible do inshore artesanal fishing with hand lines as the locals do.
It's best to allow 7 nights to fully
appreciate the range of activities and tours available on Colombia's
Scuba Diving in
There's various scuba dive operators on the
island. Sonny Dive Shop is found in
Freshwater Bay. Also in Freshwater (right on the beach) is the highly
rated Felipe Diving. In South West Bay,
Hotel Sirius specializes in scuba diving packages and have their own
scuba dive centre called Sirius
Dive Centre. In Old Town Bay, a 20 minute walk from the town
centre, is Scuba Town (no website - tel
0057 8514 8481 or 0057 3173722738 or jerodive@ yahoo.com - ask for
Master Scuba diver/instructor Jeronimo), who are PADI certified. All of
these dive operators are very professional and I only hear good things
about them all.
Flights to Providencia
The section on flights to Providencia has
become so extensive that it now has it's own sub-page. See the
page on flights to
Providencia for comprehensive information and advice about
how to get to this remote backwater (it's actually very easy to get
here) by either plane or super fast catamaran from neighbouring San
Almost all hotels in Providencia
will try to sell you a package including all your meals - my advice is
to avoid packages as many of the best restaurants are those not
attached to the hotels. Responsible tourism etiquette advises that one
should spread their tourist dollars out amongst many when visiting a
small community, and Providencia is certainly a small community in need
of responsible tourism. See my pdf
file for some tips on where to eat.
There's about 20 hotels, posadas and
guesthouses on the island of Providencia. Just about all of them have
air conditioned rooms, but very few have hot water. The greatest
concentration of hotels (and restaurants) are found in the "tourist
zone" of Freshwater Bay (Bahia Aguadulce), though there are places to
stay all over the island.
Hotels on islands are always more expensive
than those on the mainland - and the same is true for Providencia. You
have to pay a premium to visit paradise....
There are various independently owned /
operated hotels on Isla Providencia. To book these independently owned
hotels you'll need to either email or call them (they almost all speak
English on this Colombian island). Some of these hotels don't have
- with a dreamlike
coastal location in front of Crab Caye and with views towards the
National Park, this 12 room hotel recently re-opened following a
complete renovation. The stylish boutique/luxury hotel is one of the
most stunning hotels along Colombia's Caribbean coast.
from approx USD
Aguadulce - There's about 20 spacious, clean, air conditioned
rooms that are found in individual cabanas in Freshwater Bay. There's
no sea view from the hotel itself, but there is one of the islands'
finest swimming pools here. It's a few minutes stroll to the beach in
- an economically priced option that specializes in scuba diving
packages and is located just back from the beautiful beach at South
West Bay Cabanas is another reasonably priced larger hotel
located in South West Bay, about a 5 minute walk from the beach there.
Hotel Pirata del Morgan
(tel 0057 8514 8067/ 8514 8232; morganhotel@ hotmail.com) is found
above a tiny supermarket in Freshwater Bay, and has a small swimming
pool and pleasant rooms (about 30 in total), some of which are
overlooking the sea. Be sure to request a sea view room if booking.
Hotel El Encanto (tel
0057 8514 8295 or 8514 8082; cab-el-encanto@ hotmail.com; b.angel2008@
hotmail.com) is a brightly coloured hotel with pleasant, well furnished
rooms (some have a sea view - so request one on the top floor) that are
a short walk from the beach in Freshwater Bay.
Hostal Flaming Tree
(tel: 0057 8 5148049), has simple but clean air conditioned rooms for
just 45,000 Colombian pesos (US $22) per person, and is found v.close
to the centre of town (ie. Santa Isabel) - travellers on a tight budget
might consider staying here.
Old Providence Hotel,
above Erika supermarket, also has similarly priced simple, clean, air
conditioned rooms right in the centre of town.
Sol Caribe is a
Colombian chain hotel with a division in Providencia. There's about 30
rooms in total at the Sol Caribe in Providencia. It's expensive at
$200+ for a double. One of the few places with hot water.
Posadas Nativas aka.
Posadas Nativas often offer the best value
for money when it comes to visiting Providencia. Posadas are always
much smaller than hotels, and may or may not include breakfast. Posadas
in Providencia vary in style and standard, I'll mention a few of my
Posada Betito's Place
(email: betitobritton @ hotmail. com ; tel: (0057) 3144715574) - this
is Providencia's newest (2011 renovated) Posada Nativa and it's also
one of the finest. The owner Betito is a real character, and the
posada's decor, much of which he has collected from local shipwrecks,
reflects the fact. Five rooms are clean and comfortable and the sea
views towards Crab Caye are spectacular. The price of 80,000 pesos per
person is very reasonable considering that return trips to Crab Caye
are included in that price (Betito has a smart modern boat). Breakfast
costs a little extra. A great place to experience island life!
Nativa Sunshine Paradise (tel: 0057 8 5149031 or
0057 3112270333; email: franciscarobinson @ yahoo.com). When I need a
hotel in Providencia, this is where I often choose to stay. This lovely
little posada is found on Santa Catalina Island and has a beautiful
setting overlooking Providencia Island. The super clean, modern,
air-conditioned rooms are of good quality, the posada has a lovely
location and the price of 60,000 pesos (US $30) per person is very
reasonable. Recommended - this posada is a good choice for those
is beautifully located and found on the East side of the island at
Maracaibo Bay. Cocobay has a lovely seaside setting looking towards
Cayo Cangrejo (Crab Caye) and the multiple shades of turquoise waters
that surround it. The 3 room family run hotel Posada Cocobay has simple
but spacious rooms (nothing fancy) and costs about 100,000 pesos (US
$50) per person. To book Posada CocoBay you'll need to call - (0057)
311 804 0373 or (0057) 8 5148903, ask for Atanasio.
There are many other posadas
in Providencia - there's really not enough space to
mention them all on this limited Colombia travel guide. A lot of the
posadas are best booked on arrival as many of the local people don't
really do email reservations. I'll briefly mention a couple of such
ones - Miss Lupe is found almost on the beach in South West Bay, Miss
Orfe, Mr Mac and Cabanas Sonny (contact Sonny Dive Shop) are all found
in the "tourist centre" of Freshwater Bay, Miss Enilda is a 15 minute
walk from the blissful Machineel Beach, and you can see official
website Posadas Turisticas de Colombia for
plenty of more information about other places to stay.
The all inclusive Colombian hotel chain
Decameron has affiliated itself with 5 hotels on the island of
Providencia. These Decameron affiliated hotels remain independently
owned, but bookings are handled by Decameron offices in Bogota or San
Andres. Note that it is only possible to book packages including
flights from San Andres (or the Colombian mainland) with Decameron. It
is not possible to book just the hotels.
Miss Mary -
this small posada has a lovely setting on the beach in South West Bay.
Ensure you request a beach view room.
Posada del Mar
has about 20 fine rooms, all of which have balconies and sea view rooms
in Freshwater Bay.
El Recreo has
various simple but comfortable cabanas on or close to the beach in
has about 8 rooms. While it has no sea view, it does have the advantage
of a swimming pool. Relax usually costs slightly less than the other
Decameron affiliated hotels in Providencia.
In 2010, Decameron launched a new website
whereby packages at these hotels can be booked online - see Decameron.co.
Accommodations - Renting / Self
Catering, or Camping?
Rather than staying in a hotel in
Providencia, you might prefer to rent a house/cottage.
There's a handful of options - you'll find some simple self catering
places in Freshwater Bay (Aguadulce) for example. Alternatively, try
emailing Clemencia, who owns the excellent Il Postino restaurant
(email@example.com; tel: 0057 3153898862; English, French, Italian and
Spanish spoken). She has 3 small neighbouring sea view cottages (double bed +
extra bed in each cottage - please don't bother emailing her if you're
a large group) in San Felipe that she rents to
tourists. Prices are from 150,000 pesos (US $75) per night. She also
helps her neighbour Mac rent out his beautiful cottage, which has a
really cosy almost Mediterranean feel to it - great option at 200,000
pesos per night and the sea views are particularly lovely (see photos). San Felipe
is about a 10 minute walk from the "tourist centre" of Freshwater Bay.
There are other simple self catering options
all over the island, but these are best sorted out upon arrival.
is rarely undertaken in Providencia and there is no campsite on the
island. There are, however, a couple of great places where
can pitch a tent on/next to a beach. On rustic, unspoilt
Beach, Alfonso has a simple new (April 2012) bar with shower, toilets
etc. and is happy for campers to pitch a tent by the beach. Next door,
the super friendly guy called Delmar has a simple restaurant where you
can eat. Its all simple stuff but an idyllic place to camp.
An alternative camping spot on Providencia Island is Richards
Place (a rustic bar run by a rasta named Richard) on South West Bay -
its a less remote choice than Almond Bay.
Traditional Raizal Posada, Providencia,
Miss Mary Hotel.
Sol Caribe Hotel, Providencia, Colombia.
On PaisaTours.com I don't normally offer
advice about restaurants, but as I spend so much time in Providencia I
will do so in this case. See the pdf
file for some advice.
How to Book an
Independent Trip to Providencia
This section is not relevant if
you prefer to stay at a Decameron affiliated hotel, as Decameron only
book packages including flights.
1. See the Aires, Avianca or Aerorepublica
websites for details and prices for flights from Colombia's mainland
(or Panama) to San Andres Island. You can pay online with a foreign
credit card with no problems now (previously you couldn't). All these
airlines have English speaking reservation staff if you prefer to call
(no need though - Avianca and Aerorepublica websites are in English
now). Alternatively, you can book flights to San Andres on websites
such as www.Travelocity.com
- this may well be the simplest option for many, and often the price is
very similar to booking direct. I find that a return flight from the
mainland of Colombia to San Andres normally costs between 500,000 and
700,000 pesos (US $250 - $350) - if you're flexible with your dates it
helps reduce the price, likewise if you book well in advance - remember
that this is a 2 hour flight from most places - hence the price. You
are, after all, flying to the middle of the
2. Book your onward flight from San Andres
to Providencia online with Satena.
Alternatively, call Decameron (see the Providencia flights section
for details) and book one of their charter flights. Otherwise, you
might prefer the catamaran. Unless you have your own yacht, Providencia
is only accessible if you travel to San
Andres Island first.
Note re flights to
Providencia - it's actually very simple to book these
locally, a few days before you plan to travel. When you arrive in
Colombia, head for a Satena office (Satena is the government owned
airline, and they have offices absolutely everywhere - in every city,
in almost every airport and in almost every major shopping centre in
the larger cities there is a Satena Office). You can pay on the spot
with a credit card easily. Even in the high season (Christmas to mid
January, Easter week and mid June to mid July) there's almost always
space - in the low season it's a real rarity that the flights are full.
And if the ideal flight is full, just book the subsequent one - you'll
get here! For more info about flights to Providencia, see the
comprehensive section flights
3. Decide which hotel you want to stay in
and call or email them - they all speak English as Providencia's first
language is English. They normally will ask you to make a deposit into
their bank account to confirm the reservation, or they might ask for
credit card details.
For more Information
See the Map of Providencia I designed (see
the Google satellite version). See also the tourist
information pdf file that is designed to supplement the
information above (it's a printable file designed for tourists to print
and bring with them to optimize their stay and plan their days on
Providencia Island). For more info if anything isn't covered here,
contact the Providencia Tourist Office on 0057 8514 8054.
For an idea of what Providencia is really
like, see the excellent, professionally done short video by Scott Sporleder. Finally, see also
the page on volunteer
work in Providencia, Colombia.
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