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La Loma is a little town in the central hilly region of San Andrés where traditional island life continues. It's where the natives (Raizal people) live. The Raizales are a Protestant Afro-Caribbean ethnic group speaking English Creole language of the archipelago. Most inhabitants live on agriculture. La Loma is one of the places where you can appreciate picturesque English-Caribbean achitecture: traditional wooden houses, simply framed and airy, with wooden shutters. From the top is a great view of beautiful Caribbean, known for having seven shades of blue and green.
Most visitors head to La Loma to visit its pretty Baptist Church, the first to be founded on San Andrés, in 1844. This red-roofed whitewashed building stands on the top of the hill and its spire once served as a landmark for sailors, a kind of unofficial 'lighthouse' that guided ships into San Andrés. Despite being partially rebuilt in 1896 the building still provides a fine example of the traditional architecture of the island.
Updated May 23, 2009
Visitors seeking a quiet alternative to the tourist-focused capital of San Andrés will enjoy San Luis. Located on the island's east coast, the so-called town has no centre and is in fact just a small village, a simple 3 km string of houses along the coast. This is a tranquil place where the sound of the waves can lull you to sleep, and most of all, far from the noise of the city. San Luis is a native area of the island and has nice and relaxed feel.
This former coconut-shipment port is notable for its wooden houses and pretty English-Caribbean architecture. It has some of the best beaches on the island, including Cocoplum Bay, Jenny Bay and Sound Bay, and superb snorkeling. There are some tourist facilities, characterized by harmonizing with their surrounding. Visitors keen to interact with the locals will find it an ideal place. Frequent buses connect San Luis with San Andrés town via a 15-minute journey.
Updated May 23, 2009
If you like snorkeling, don't miss the west coast of San Andrés. I think it's the best spot on the island to snorkel. Make sure to stop by West View at La Piscinita, a natural pool formed by island cliffs, where you safely swim among colourful fish. The place is described by the locals as a sea-bath due to its calm warmth. There is no beach; you either jump from the rocks or use staircase that lead to the water. A nearby restaurant serves as a changing room and snorkel-rental joint. It also serves variety of local cocktails and a decent menu of seafood.
The water is bright blue and very clear and the sensation of swimming surrounded by a rainbow of tropical fish, from blue, orange to black and yellow ones, was magical. I will always remember my last day of the year 2008 which I spent greater part underwater :))
To get from San Luis to West View, I took a bus to San Andrés (El Centro) first and then changed it to one that went to El Cove. On the way back I made a stop in La Loma and had a very pleasant walk through the village which was already in festive mood. The longest night was supposed to begin soon. I had to wait quite a long time for a bus to San Andrés but was more lucky with the connection to San Luis.
Updated May 21, 2009
Johnny Cay, sometimes called Islote Sucre, is the nearest small island to San Andrés and the most beautiful. It's a joyful place with coconut palms, famous for its calypso, reggae and socca music as well for its fresh fried fish and rum and coconut cocktails. It offers white sandy beach and transparent waters though the sea can be rough. You can walk around the island in 15 minutes and there are some excellent reefs off the eastern coast.
Most people visit Johnny Cay to hang out and have a picnic on the sand. As a popular day trip it can often be packed with tourists far beyond its capacity during peak season. However, when it is quiet, sunbathing on Johnny Cay must be a fun place to spend the day. Unfortunately, the island was packed with Colombians when I visited as it was just two days before the New Year.
Updated May 20, 2009
A tiny layer of water (only about 60 m) separates Haynes Cay from Acuario so you can walk there on foot. Dense thickets of coconut trees provide plenty of shade not far from Acuario. This pretty, palm-covered islet is often part of a standard boat tour around San Andrés, usually a short stop-off for a spot of snorkeling. Sharp exposed coral make water shoes essential for swimmers and divers.
Its shallow waters have a significant coral reef where the diversity of marine species live, including the abundance of conch and variety of other shells. Both, Haynes Cay and Acuario, are surrounded by all the colours of the San Andres sea and most aquatic sports are practiced around these islets.
Updated May 17, 2009
Acuario is a sandbank surrounded by shallow and calm water with the abundance of fishes that swim around you. The snorkeling here is very nice. If you forget to bring your snorkeling gear you can rent some on the beach. It is necessary to wear water shoes because there are lots of rocks and coral. You can also rent them here or even better buy as you'll most probably need them again elsewhere on the island. Other facilities are pretty basic, but include toilets and a collection of small lockers for rental by the hour.
Frequently visited by tour boats and a popular spot with holidaying families, Acuario is packed to capacity at weekends and during peak season, so stick to midweek if a more chilled-out vibe is your thing.
Updated May 17, 2009
Visiting the nearby islets is one of the most popular things to do on the island. Numerous small independent tour companies offer boat excursions, most of them depart from San Andrés town. As I was staying in San Luis I had to get to El Centro first. Getting out of the bus near the harbour I soon sighted a kiosk of one of the companies. I booked the tour and they told me that we were going to live in about half an hour. While waiting outside I met a friendly family from Bogotá with whom I then spent the rest of the day.
It was a whole day tour. First they took us to Acuario (a sandbank surrounded by shallow water, good for snorkeling) and the nearby Heynes Cay, followed by a beautiful tiny islet Johnny Cay where we had a delicious fish lunch in a coconut grove and enjoyed a lovely white-sand beach and crystal clear water of the sea. All the islets that we visited are breathtaking but unfortunately packed with tourists during the New Year time.
After arrival in San Andrés town I walked with the family along the beach to their hotel and then took a bus back to San Luis.
Updated May 17, 2009
San Andrés town lies on the island's northern tip and is surrounded by beaches and packed with hotels, restaurants and shops lining the waterfront. It is the main town, commercial and administrative centre, known locally as El Centro. Being a duty-free zone, the town often gets crowded with Colombian shoppers who come from the mainland looking for foreign-made goods at duty-free prices.
Playa Sprat Bight is the main road and follows the coast. Also known as the town beach or simply referred to as la playa, this sandy stretch in Bahía Sardinas is the island's main beach. It faces the Johnny Cay and the reef that protect the island. Proximity to the town centre means this 450-m white-sand stretch can get crowded, especially during the high season (December). Those looking for sand to relax in tranquillity should head to the island's eastern shore.
The first day I visited the town with Caselita, the owner of the homestay in San Luis. We also walked the side streets, where the locals live, which I found much more interesting.
Updated May 16, 2009
The only thing on the tour that we actually saw was this church which was founded in 1844 and which the cab driver was very proud of. He said the wood was brought by horses to construct it. It was founded when evangelical missionaries from the south of the United States came to stay.
We went into the church. On a good day you can see all over the island, and the steeple is a landmark for sailors.
It is in the small town of La Loma. Nearby, several older homes still show the traditional island architecture: wooden houses, simply framed and airy, with wooden shutters.
Updated Mar 4, 2009
One of the things we were supposed to visit was Morgan's Cave. In common with other Caribbean islands, these islands were visited often by pirates. Between 1670 and 1689, the English corsair (Henry Morgan) took over the islands and used them as a base of operations and, according to legend, as a hideaway for his much acclaimed treasure.
We decided not to visit here because it was rainy and it didn't look very appealing. There would have been no place to park and we would have had to walk a long ways. It was a very narrow road and hard to turn around.
Updated Mar 4, 2009