San Andres is a beautiful place, but to make maximum of it you should prepare. Hopefully the below guide will show you the way. I did endless hours of research on forums like trip advisor, read lonelyplanet as reference, went through lots of other sites searching for, unfortunately incomplete information. Below I hope you will find the quintessential of how-to, when and for how much do the trip there.
Lets start with: when to travel?
In general, the season from June to late November is known for heavy rains, strong winds and occasional hurricanes. So this is not the best time.
Late November till mid-December.
This is a good time (not the highest season yet), but comes with one disadvantage. It is the time when kids 16-17 years old finish their school, and flood the island. Usually in the high season there are 15,000-20,000 tourists in the island, while those high-schoolers can come in groups totalling 5,000-7,000 people.
It means that for instance some places are reserved only for them (one of the best discos – Extasis was reserved for whole week exclusively for them when I was there).
Other than that, no major disadvantages. There are places in hotels, beaches are not too crowded.. It is also rather calm party-wise. I mean that from Sunday to Thursday discos are pretty much dead, end even in the street it is rather dormant after 11 pm.
Mid-December till 10th of January
Highest possible season – in Colombia in general, which also applies to the island of San Andres. Extremely difficult to find accomodation without prior reservation (in good locations), everything is crowded.
Mid January- until May
Recomended time according to all forums (haven’t been in that time though).
How to organize, how to get there?
There are 2 main options to take into account before coming. Either going all inclusive, or organizing everything by yourself (flight/boat, accomodation, food, watersports, excursions, etc).
All inclusive might look horribly expensive at the beginning (talking about good locations – why it is important, in next paragraphs).
I met people who paid 900 K for 4 days all inclusive per person, including flight from Bogota and 4 nights in decent hotel (and that price included 99 K entry to the island fee).
(1 USD = 3 K COP as per the end of 2016, all prices I give here are in COP – Colombian Pesos)
But it was a promotion, more believeable is the price ranging around 1,5 M for such period in decent but not extraordinary hotel, if you make a wise search.
Having all inclusive takes off one of big headaches here – food. Out of my 17 days stay there were 4 days (except Sundays when its a norm) when absolutely everything was closed in the afternoon/evening (restaurant wise), except for fastfood, which was both expensive and horrible. In general the food in the island is hit or miss (more often miss though).
If you went for all inclusive in San Andres – good. Then you can finish reading here and just buy some excursions, snorkel and enjoy the experience.
But if you decided that it was too expensive/wanted to do your own way, keep going.
Coming by plane.
If you travel from Colombia, there are direct flights from VivaColombia (had mixed experience with them, but there were almost cheapest) from Medellin and Bogota.
Mine cost 560 K, but with planning a few months ahead it is possible to get it for 300 K or even less (I got to know a handful of fellow travellers who did it for this price).
Always bear in mind that it will cost you another 99 K – entry fee to the island.
Once here, there are many possible places to stay – San Andres, La Loma, San Luis, Piscinita… I stayed in two, but took the bike for the whole day to ride around the rest of them (to some places several times).
If you want to go out, and have some range of restaurants, the only option is San Andres. And I mean center/close to the beach.
Why? Three reasons:
a) the beaches and water clarity here is as beautiful as elsewhere on the island (except for some places like West View, but there is 1 hotel around there an literally nothing else)
b) the variety of restaurants. As I wrote before, the food here might be good, but its more of miss than hit.
c) the nightlife. If you want to go out, the town of San Andres is the only option on the island.
Now, time to get down to
where to stay & eat
I stayed in 4 places overall, here is the breakdown:
1) El viajero San Andres.
Great place – has a great vibe, very good kitchen and good location (for the price). Every night there are people who are willing to go out/hang out. I paid 54 K including (decent) breakfast. 10 minutes walk from the beach. Only reason why I didn’t stay longer was that the dorms were too noisy and sleep after 7 am hard/impossible
2) Private house (San Andres but 20 minutes from the beach avenida la providencia)- much worse location than before. It was cheap as for private room (70 K, but no restaurants, around, pretty much nothing). Good to sleep, nothing else.
3) Posada Bugry Beach, San Luis. It looked good from outside, but inside was bad. Not working water most of the time, dirty kitchen (that you could get glued if touching something), general mess. No Wifi. No electricity for some time of the night so everything around was dark. Location? One place with decent food and good prices opened in the evenings at the road, and some overpriced restaurants at the beach direction Rocky Kay. Absolutely overpriced for what it was (55 K dorms without breakfast).
4) Posada Gladys place. Reference location. Decent quality and nice owner. Inexpensive for what it offers (90 K a night without breakfast). I was here during most of my stay.
In the same budget there is also Red Cay Hotel (but an owner somehow suspicious type), and Mary May Inn (both next to each other, decent location but not as good as Gladys place).
Best if you have an access to the kitchen, unfortunately only El Viajero had one. If not… More of a miss than hit.
But my favorites that (almost) never let me down:
La pizzeta del Florio. Located nearby main beach – lunch up to 18 K. Good food, decent portions, nice staff. I became regular there.
Don Anibal. Expensive, but some elements good. Surprisingly good Ceviche, Lasagna rather to avoid.
If I was to make a list what to avoid, it would be at least 10 positions. But thats what you get if you want to travel on budget.
And last but not least, budget.
As I mentioned in the beginning, best if you come at all inclusive. But if not:
Average prices for food was around 25-30 K per meal (including drink).
Accomodation easily 90 K.
Bicycle rental: 20-30 K depending on the lenght of time (per day)
Scooter: whooping 70 K or sometimes more per day (in Thailand it is 8 times cheaper).
Club entrance – Coco Loco 15 K, Caribbean (opposite of Coco Loco) 10 K, Extasis 10 K
In total with some daily activities, the budget would be around 200 K per day (if you go diving or other things it can easily go up to 350 + per day).
If you made it until here, I hope the above was useful for planning the trip (or making a decision on going or not) to San Andres.
Please let me know in comments if you would like some more information, and if you agree or perhaps disagree with what was written above.