The Island of Providencia and Santa Catalina in the Caribbean Sea

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The island of Providencia is part of the San Andres archipelago in the Caribbean Sea. It is a tropical paradise which also has an interesting history.

If you are looking for a tropical Caribbean paradise with a laid-back atmosphere and stunning beaches, you can't do better than the island of Providencia or Providence and Santa Catalina, Colombia. Providencia is the second largest island of the San Andres archipelago which includes eight atolls. The islands are located in the western Caribbean Sea, about 140 miles from the coast of Nicaragua. Providencia measures 17sq km and there is also a small island off the north coast of Providencia called Santa Catalina which extends for 7.1 km. A bridge connects the two island, known locally as lovers bridge.

Providencia is still relatively unaffected by tourism as compared with its neighboring island San Andres, 90 miles to the south. Most people head for the town of Aguadulce on the islands west coast; as that is where most of the islands tourist infrastructure is located. The archipelago is considered one of the best scuba diving and snorkeling locations in the Caribbean Sea as it has the worlds third largest barrier reef. Although for Providencia you will only need a snorkel, if that, as the waters are shallow. The types of aquatic life you could see around the island are sponges, starfish ,cardinal fish, angelfish, squirrel fish, parrotfish and anemones as well as reef species like grouper and bream.

The History of Providencia and Santa Catalina. 

The first people to settle the archipelago were a group of English puritans who named the island Providence, after their company. They arrived in 1629 and their group included Robert Rich, 2nd Earl of Warwick, William Fiennes and Robert Greville. They founded plantations, brought in slaves and also became privateers, using the islands location to plunder the Spanish main. Today the islands inhabitants, which number about 5,000, are a mixture of Afro-Caribbean, many of which are Rastafarians, and people from mainland Colombia. Until the 1960’s the main language of the region was an English-Creole dialect. However over the years the influx of people from the mainland has made Spanish the predominant language, although Providencia differs slightly with English being more widely spoken.

The puritan colony was eventually ousted by the Spanish in the 1640’s, despite protest from the government of England. From 1670 to 1689 the privateer Henry Morgan and his buccaneers established a base in Providencia, from which they sacked the Spanish main of Panama and other Spanish colonial territories.

In 1803 the Spanish crown made the San Andres archipelago part of New Granada. When the territory of New Granada gained independence form Spain in 1810, it become the Republic of Gran Colombia. With the agreement of the islands inhabitants, San Andres and Providencia joined with Gran Colombia in 1822, and were placed under the administration of the department of Magdalena. (its capital city being Santa Marta) In 1912 Colombia administered a local government in the Islands.

Since 1822 there has been a dispute over ownership of the islands between Nicaragua, Colombia and Honduras. Honduras signed a treaty with Colombia in 1999 which excepts Colombian sovereignty. Colombia also signed a treaty with Nicaragua in 1928, but the treaty was repudiated in the 1980’s by the Sandinista government, who claimed that the treaty had been coerced through military pressure from the US. Colombia denies this claim, stating that US forces were already leaving the territory by the time of the treaty, which gave them sovereignty. In 2001 Nicaragua filled a claim with the International Court of Justice, and in 2007 the ICJ ruled in favor of Colombia. However Nicaragua did not except the ruling and continues to dispute the islands sovereignty.

Top; the bridge to Santa Catalina Island and middle Alan Bays Beach, Providencia.

All images from with creative commons licence and from

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