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Getting to tiny Providencia Island involves flying to San Andres and then transferring to a tiny aircraft (tiny = no checked bags, only carry-on max. 5kg weight) of the only airline (Satena) that flies to Providencia. We were told that there is paid storage at the San Andres airport where you can store your baggage until you come back from Providencia. Since we only had our backpacks, we did not need this. As the plane is tiny and Sabena is a low cost carrier, there is a good chance that they will weigh your bag if it looks heavy and make you pay if it weighs more than 5kg.
The main attractions of Providencia are the beaches, but there is also a hike that you can do to the Peak (El Pico).
We rented an ATV from our hotel to get around the island. Here are the highlights:
We visited Providencia over Christmas, which is the end of the rainy season and we typically had cloudy skies in the morning and afternoon and sometimes rain in the afternoon and evening. In the late mornings and early afternoon we often had clear skies.
Providencia is a small island that you can bike around on its main road in less than a day. Due to its history as a pirate hold-out, people speak English as their first language. We liked the extremely relaxed and friendly people very much and strongly recommend this island to anyone who wants to get away from it all. And I mean that literally. Starting in the evening of Christmas Eve, the telephone net crashed due to people calling their relatives and going online. There was literally no phone and no internet on the island until after Christmas. When we checked out of the hotel on Dec 26, the hotel had big problems getting a signal to process our credit card. Luckily it worked after a long time of scanning my card over and over and moving to different locations on their property where we hoped to get a signal.
The hotel we stayed in was Hotel Posada Enilda (map). It is a short 25,000 Peso (after hard negotiating and threatening to walk away) taxi ride from the airport and 1.5miles or 15-20min walking distance from Playa Manzanillo, which is supposedly the best beach on Providencia. Other than that, the hotel is far away from everything. Close by is only a small grocery store and a tiny restaurant that we did not try. For everything else, you either need to hire a cab rent a bike, scooter or golf cart at the hotel. Our room was small, had 2 beds with firm mattresses, a quiet and efficient A/C and a small fridge. The small bathroom had a small single sink, a closet with a small safe and a shower. The sink and shower had only a faucet for cold water. There is no warm water. There is no wifi in the rooms. The owner uses, I believe, his cell phone (that he leaves in the common area) as a wifi hotspot, but we were unable to connect to it. So, I used my international data plan to get any internet. As mentioned earlier, starting the evening before Christmas until way after Christmas, the phone network crashed as it was completely overloaded. So, we had no internet for about two days.
Breakfast was served (no buffet) in the common area. You could choose between different breakfast dishes (e.g. scrambled eggs, sliced hot dog with sauce). It was served with 2 slices of toast, 2 pieces of pineapple and 2 slices of papaya.
The hotel also serves dinner in the common area. Prices seem to be similar to other restaurants on the island. Dinner selection included different types of pizza and jerky-style meet with fries and a small salad.
The hotel also rents bikes, scooters and golf carts for 3, 8 and 24h. We rented the 2 seater gold cart for 160,000 Pesos per 24h and later on for 8h for 130,000 Pesos. Please be advised that those have to be paid in cash as they are not hotel property but belong to another company. The hotel owners forgot to tell us that and we ran out of cash which led us to spend some significant time at the one ATM machine on the island that was not broken.
Everything else hotel related (room, dinner) can be paid by credit card.
The hotel provides beach towels for free on request.
There were several small flies (smaller than sand flies) in the room and my wife got bitten several times at night.
The owners are very friendly and helpful and, as English is one of the main languages on the island, communication with them was easy.
For Pinterest users, here is a pin that you can use:
Playa Manzanillo is Providencia's best and most remote beach. The proximity to this beach was the main reason why I booked us into hotel Posada Enilda. The beach is not very long, only about 1000ft (300m). The beach in front of the only building - Roland’s Roots Bar – is the busiest part of the beach and it gets blasted by loud music in the evenings as this is one of the few nightlife spots on the island. Farther to the East, there are considerably fewer people and it is much quieter.
The water is supposed to be beautifully turquoise, but it was not, probably because it was the end of the rainy season. From all the beaches we saw on the island, this was our favorite.
South West Bay is Providencia's longest beach. Some of the island's best seafood restaurants are located towards the Southern end of the beach. The Northern end is much more remote and you will see coconut palms, white sand and calm turquoise waters.
This beach, located in the town of Freshwater Bay, is only about 500ft (150m) long. Freshwater Bay is the tourist center ("zona turistica") of Providencia. Here you will find the most restaurants and hotels. Its size and location make it one of the busiest beaches on the island.
This small island is connected to North Western Providencia by a long wooden footbridge called "Lovers Bridge". Santa Catalina has several small and beautiful beaches, such as Fort Bay, that you can walk to. The most popular attraction of Santa Catalina island is probably Morgans Head which can be found by walking past Fort Bay. Morgans Head is named after a subterranean cave, where pirate Henry Morgans hid his treasures. There is some good snorkeling and swimming.
Crab Cay was probably the highlight of our Providencia trip. The turquoise waters are simply beyond believed.
We parked our ATV at a small parking lot near the Deep Blue hotel for free and then took a boat from near the Deep Blue hotel to Crab Cay for 30,000 Pesos per person round trip (cash only) on Christmas Day.
The boat ride to Crab Cay was only 2-3 minutes. Alexandro, the boat operator, told us to tell the guard at the entrance booth to call him when we were ready to go back. The guard seems to have the phone numbers of all boat operators. At arrival at Crab Cay we left the boat and got onto a wooden deck where we had to pay the park entrance fee of 17,500 Pesos per person in cash.
There is no privacy on the wooden deck to change clothes. Behind the deck is a walkway up the hill to a rock that you can climb to see an out-of-this-world panorama of the incredibly turquoise waters. 3/4 up the way is restrooms where you can change. Swimming near the wooden deck is great. We had no big waves and the water was crystal clear. There is OK snorkeling under the wooden platform and, if you are a good swimmer, you can brave the waves along the rocky coast of the island and do some mediocre snorkeling there. I saw some fish there, but there were few and many were not very colorful.
There are also no hard corals and only soft corals and sea grass. Due to the waves and current in this area, the visibility was not too good either.
On the deck are some wooden closets where you can store (not lock) your bags.
Instead of taking a motorized boat ride, we saw some people who kayaked over from Providencia.
We spent several hours on Crab Cay and when we were ready to go back, the guard called Alexandro who arrived within 10min; we took the 2min boat ride back and paid him the $30,000 pesos per person.
Long story short: Crab Cay is great for swimming in crystal clear turquoise waters and for great views of it, but don't expect great snorkeling and there is also no beach.
Next, we flew to San Andres Island. Click here to get more information for San Andres.
Here are more phots from Providencia:
Here are descriptions and tours of the other destinations that we visited: