These days, you’d be hard-pressed to find a Caribbean island that’s not overrun by tourists. Many have lost their charm and authenticity in the pervasive development of large hotel chains and overcrowded beaches, where locals are outnumbered by travelers and small, family-run restaurants have been put out of business. But there is one island in the Caribbean that has spared itself from overtourism, remaining unspoiled and unquestionably authentic.
Providencia, an eight-square-mile Colombian island off that country’s northern coast, is a flashback to the Caribbean in the days of yore: a tiny undeveloped island where locals run the show. As part of Colombian territory, Spanish is one of the native languages, but English and Creole English are also spoken on the island. There is a warm inclusivity that makes you feel like a kid again: Locals embrace their visitors by proudly recounting Providencia‘s history, with folktales of pirates and treasures. During the day, word spreads about evening activity, be it a baseball game, a cockfight, or a night at Roland Roots Reggae bar and restaurant. There are also the island’s natural wonders to discover, from hiking the tallest peak to swimming and diving in the Sea of Seven Colors, as well as enjoying the local fare and cruising around the island in golf carts. Providencia has everything you miss about the raw Caribbean you never knew.
A view of the crisp blue water.
It’s no small feat to get there, which is likely why Providencia has maintained its mystery. There are no direct flights to the island from the mainland, but as more travelers discover Colombia, their visits are leading them to the island of San Andres, which offers daily transport by way of a puddle jumper plane to the hedonistic island of Providencia. So while the search for the new bohemian beach town is always ongoing, Providencia looks promising.
Where to Stay
The exterior of Monasterio del Viento.