Hi, Friends -
I've just returned from a vacation on San Andres Island. Here is some information that I hope you find useful:
1) I stayed at Playa Tranquilo for eight nights. My positive review of this hotel should be posted by TripAdvisor very soon.
2) The tourist card for San Andres Island is $25, and needs to be purchased at the blue service desk in the circular Copa Airlines boarding area at Tocumen Airport in Panama City, Panama.
3) Taxis on San Andres Island cost 20,000 COP to go anywhere. The price increases to 25,000 COP starting at midnight, but I was changed the 25,000 COP rate by some taxi drivers as early as 10:30pm.
4) You need to purchase a ticket for Johnny Cay at Tonino's Marina for 4,000 COP. The round-trip boat ride to Acuario, Haines Cay, and Johnny Cay is 15,000 COP, with boats departing between 8:30am and 9:30am. A boat ride to ONLY Johnny Cay costs 12,000 COP and leaves the marina at 10:00am.
5) You can rent water shoes (needed because of the coral) at Acuario for 5,000 COP. You can rent an umbrella with two chairs on Johnny Cay for 20,000 COP. Fried fish or grilled meat/beef with shredded cabbage, coco rice, and fried plantain patties at La Islena Restaurant on Johnny Cay is 20,000 COP. A can of Coke Zero on Johnny Cay is 3,000 COP.
6) San Luis: At San Luis Village Hotel, beside Donde Francesca Restaurant, it is possible to rent a cabana with 2 chairs on the beach for 40,000 COP. However, you are then given a credit of 30,000 COP to use in their La Pergola Restaurant for drinks and meals. Coke Zero = 3,000 COP. Chicken with rice and fried plantain patties = 22,000 COP.
7) Great meals were had at Mister Paninos, Miss Celia's, Gourmet Shop Assho, and La Fondita Islena. At Miss Celia's, try the Tipico Montanero. At Gourmet Shop Assho, try the angus steak entre. At La Fondita Islena, try the rabo (cow's tail).
8) There is a small supermarket in El Centro to buy almost anything: Super Exito. The La Fondita Islena restaurant (entres for around 12,000 COP) is located almost directly across the street, and is owned by the same folks who own Miss Celia's.
9) Cocoplum Beach and Rocky Cay: Hidden gems of San Andres Island! A great snorkeling alternative to Acuario. Chairs/tent rental for 15,000 COP, lockers to store your stuff for 4,000 COP. Good food available and also jet ski rental available.
10) I did have some insect bites around my ankles on the beaches of San Andres Island.
11) I exchanged USD for COP at the airport on San Andres Island. I received 1730 COP for each dollar, and had to provide my passport and give a thumbprint. That exchange rate wasn't too bad, considering that the official exchange rate was around 1800 COP for each dollar, as given by oanda.com.
12) There is an exit survey conducted in the terminal while you are waiting for your flight to leave San Andres Island. The survey is voluntary and not mandatory, and you can choose not to participate.
13) There are three houses of ill repute on San Andres Island: Sexy Bar, The Reef, and Elefante. I was told that Sexy Bar was the best and that rates were 70,000 COP for 1 hour at Sexy Bar. However, I found the rates to be between 100,000 COP and 150,000 COP for 30 minutes, with prices much higher to take a lady to your hotel. A fun little place with beautiful ladies from mainland Colombia (Cali, Medellin, Bogota, etc).
14) A special thanks goes to Raizial and playa4u, who both provided great advice to make my vacation to San Andres Island a great one. Vincent, I'm sorry I didn't call you when I got to the island, but once I got on the island my head was spinning with how beautiful your home is out there. I hope every American someday gets to experience the beauty of San Andres Island and the wonderful friendliness of the people who live there.