The paradise island of Providencia might be part of Colombia, but it's laidback vibe and location just 124 miles off the coast of Nicaragua mean it has much more in common with its Caribbean cousins than mainland Colombia. Providencia's nationality and relative remoteness mean it has remained blissfully unspoilt, with beaches and barefoot luxury reminiscent of the Caribbean 50 years ago.
The island actually comes as part of a pair of Colombian Islands, and its larger partner San Andres acts as the access point for visitors to both. With a swelling population and a growing number of international flights now landing on San Andres, much of the islands authentic charm has been sadly lost. We recommend avoiding the tourist hotspots here altogether in favour of Providencia's quieter hideaways, which are just a 20-minute propellor plane flight away.
Landing on Providencia the carefree lifestyle is immediately apparent, and almost everyone you meet seems to happily intermingle in this melting pot of South American, African and West Indian influences; there is no rush to compete for tourist dollars, or anything else for that matter. Banish images of all-inclusive resorts and in-your-face watersports companies for small brightly coloured cottages and the odd hammock tied in the trees. In this day and age, deserted white-sand beaches with vivid blue water lapping at their shores and palms swaying gently in the wind are a fantasy hard to come by, but that's exactly what you'll find on Providencia.
In fact, Providencia is the epitome of less is more. That is, until it comes to life under the sea. The island is surrounded by the world's third largest barrier reef, with visibility of up to 30 meters. You'll need your snorkel and underwater camera here, with waters full of sea-turtles, lobsters, parrotfish, angelfish and starfish so big you'll swear your mask had magnifying lenses. We can recommend and book the best snorkelling and diving excursions the island has to offer to ensure you go home with plenty of underwater adventures to brag about.
When it comes to wining and dining on the island, the attitude is (surprise, surprise) very relaxed. Expect full Caribbean flavours, South American portions and plenty of freshly caught seafood. One of our favourite spots for a real taste of authentic island life is Roland's Roots Bar on the southern Manchineel Bay; something of an island institution, Roland's plays roots reggae music while Roland himself doles out cold beer aplenty to be enjoyed around the fire.