Difference between revisions of "Providencia"
Revision as of 02:53, 11 May 2013
Providencia  is a Caribbean island, and a part of the San Andres and Providencia Archipelago. It is politically a part of Colombia, but is geographically closer to Nicaragua. It is attached by footbridge to a smaller island, Santa Catalina.
It is a very scenic island, with lovely empty beaches, a typical Caribbean climate, laid back atmosphere and friendly people. While the island depends quite heavily on tourism, it is not at all 'touristy' and only small hotels are present. The hotels on the island resemble more "guest lodges" than 5 star hotels, and everything is very low key. The restaurants and bars are relatively basic, and Providencia does not have any clubs or discos.
The island is remote and, from the Colombian mainland, requires two flights to get to. Most supplies have to be shipped or flown to the island, so costs - of food, drink and accommodation - are relatively expensive.
Providencia is heavily protected by Colombian legislation - no non-native of the island is allowed to own property there, or operate a business. Thus, while many developers may want to "build up" Providencia, it seems unlikely that this will happen in the near future. It is quite unique in its status as an undeveloped and unexploited Caribbean island.
Satena  and the charter airline Searca are the only current air operators, both run a couple of daily flights to Providencia from San Andrés. The flight costs 250,000 pesos (approx USD $150) return and lasts approximately 20 minutes.
There is also a catamaran (named El Sensation ) that makes a return trip from San Andres to Providencia on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. The cost is about 210,000 pesos, and the journey takes two and a half hours.
The island has one principle coastal road (which goes around the circumference of the island), and a few other smaller roads. There is no public transport to speak of, although there are taxis. A taxi from one side of the island to the opposite side, costs no more than 20,000 pesos (USD $12). Hitch-hiking is quite easy.
Another option for tourists is to rent a motorbike or golf buggy. Mopeds can be hired for 50,000 pesos (USD $30) for 24 hours, to hire a golf buggy costs 100,000 - 120,000 pesos (USD $60) for 24 hours. Both Santa Isabel and Aguadulce have places to hire vehicles, alternatively any hotel can have one delivered for you. Providencia is a small island - it takes just 30-40 minutes to drive in a loop around the whole island in a golf buggy, and no drive takes longer than 15-20 minutes. It's great fun to explore the island - allow various days to be able to enjoy all the sites and beaches.
Santa Catalina does not have any roads, there is only one footpath.
Understand - Water Shortages
The island suffers from seasonal, regular droughts and water can be scarce. Tourists are encouraged to minimize their water consumption for the benefit of the local community and island as a whole. During the dry season (January - July/August), most local people frequently endure weeks without water in their homes.
The island tap water is not fit for consumption - all drinking water has to be shipped in.
The local ecosystem is fragile, tourists are encouraged to respect it.
See & Do
Providencia's appeal lies in it's beautiful unspoilt volcanic scenery, white sand beaches, crystal clear waters, scuba diving, snorkelling and fishing. The majority of beaches are unspoilt and undeveloped.
Bahia Aguadulce is the main tourist area of Providencia, there are 5-6 small hotels, a few restaurants and a supermarket - all of which are walking distance to the beach.
Santa Isabel is the main town in Providencia. It has as a couple of Internet cafes, a cafe, bakeries, two banks with ATM machines, a few supermarkets, a variety of miscellaneous shops, a tourist souvenir shop and a couple of billiard halls/local bars. Santa Isabel also various local restaurants. There is a footbridge to Santa Catalina called the Lovers Bridge.
Santa Catalina (population approx 100 people) is a smaller island connected to Providencia, and is considerably less developed. It has one shop, a few beautiful beaches and a couple of restaurants. On Santa Catalina one finds Morgans Head, a large rock formation that resembles a head and is named after the pirate Henry Morgan, who used Providencia and Santa Catalina as a base for raiding the Spanish colonial empire many centuries ago. There are also the remains of an unexcavated Fort that dates from the days of piracy on the island. There are a few beautiful, calm beaches on Santa Catalina island - none of which have any development at all.
Bahia Suroeste has a long calm beach with a handful of simple restaurants and bars.
Bahia Manzanillo is a beautiful beach with the "Roland Roots Reggae Bar", featuring beach-parties and live acoustic music on the weekends.
Almond beach is a beautiful small beach that has good snorkelling and where there are often no people other than the owner of the simple restaurant there.
Crab Caye is a beautiful small island off the East coast of Maracaibo. The snorkelling here is excellent, and the sea an amazing shade of turquoise. Along with the other small, beautiful islands named the Three Brothers Cayes, Crab Caye forms part of the McBean Lagoon National Park. In Maracaibo you can hire kayaks or hire a boatman to take you to visit Crab Caye.
"The Peak" is the highest point on the island - and offers beautiful panoramic views towards the distant barrier reef, which runs along the East coast of the island. Excursions can be arranged by most hotels.
Scuba diving around Providencia is excellent - here one finds the 3rd largest barrier reef in the world.
15km to the North of Providencia, at the top of the barrier reef, lies the remote little island called Low Caye (El Faro), which can be visited on fishing trips. Even further North and East lie other even more remote islands such as Roncador, and idyllic atolls such as Serrana and Serranilla. Such remote islands aren't marked on most maps and are almost never visited by tourists.
One gets a better grasp of the island by seeing it from the sea. As such, boat tours are highly recommended. Fishing is also great fun.
The black mountain crab migration occurs annually, usually culminating in late April / early May, when masses of black crabs descend from the mountains into the sea to lay their eggs. Military personnel are brought in to protect this environmental phenomenon, forbidding driving during late night/early morning along certain parts of the island, which become teeming with mountain crab and their newborn young.
Providencia's carnival occurs in June, normally over the penultimate weekend of that month.
Bush Rum is the local type of firewater.
The vast majority of the food on offer is sea-food - lobsters, squid, fish, crab, and prawns. Try their corn flavour ice cream, made locally.
For a massive bowl of seafood soup visit El Nino on SouthWest beach, where all the seafood is fresh and delicious. Also try Caribbean place in Agudulce, which serves more seafood as well as meat and pasta dishes. On Santa Catalina Island, there is just one restaurant called Restaurant Eneida. Santa Isabel, the capital of the island, has a variety of cheap places to eat, including a pizza restaurant. The most upmarket restaurant on the island is found at Deep Blue in Maracaibo, located with beautiful sea views in front of Crab Caye.
Alcoholic drinks are normally limited to beer, rum and aguardiente.
Normally there is live (acoustic) music every night in one of the beach bars on the island - word spreads of which bar it is by way of posters and word of mouth.
Many of the hotels have their bookings arranged by the all inclusive hotel chain Decameron. In addition it is possible to stay at the luxury hotel Deep Blue , Pirata Morgan Hotel, Hotel Sirius, and Sol Caribe hotel, all of whom take independent bookings. There are a handful of other small, locally run guesthouses in addition.