The island of Providencia sits approximately 140 miles off the coast of Nicaragua, but is owned by the country of Colombia, almost 500 miles away.
If you draw a straight line from Costa Rica to Jamaica, Providencia sits just about in the middle. Here’s a map I found online that gives you a better visual idea.
As is common among islands in the Caribbean, Providencia has been ruled/claimed by many…the Dutch, England, Argentina, Spain, and Colombia (with Nicaragua threatening ownership since the 1980’s).
There are approximately 6,000 residents on Providencia, and although the island is part of Colombia, it definitely feels more Caribbean than Colombian. There are many Rastafarians, and the locals mostly speak English or English-based creole similar to what you’d hear in Jamaica, rather than the Spanish of Colombia.
The island has not yet been consumed by mass tourism. There are a few small hotels, along with some cottages and guest houses for rent. Restaurants are few, and bars even fewer. The local people are friendly, and the island is incredibly laid back and safe. It feels like what I imagine the Caribbean must have been like 30 years ago.
Providencia suffers from regular, seasonal droughts and water can be scarce. Tourists are encouraged to minimize their water consumption for the benefit of the local community and the island as a whole. During the dry season (January – July/August), some local people frequently endure weeks without water in their homes. The island tap water isn’t fit for consumption, so all drinking water has to be shipped in.
Providencia has what’s called a tropical dry forest, which is why the hills look so brown. The extensive dry season here causes the deciduous trees to drop their leaves. Because trees lose moisture through their leaves, dropping them allows the trees trees to conserve water during dry periods. The newly bare trees enable the rain that does fall to pass more easily onto the ground below.
After we arrived here, it took us four days to clear in and get our passports back. Colombia law requires you to use an agent when clearing in, you cannot do it yourself. Mr. Bush, the agent here on Providencia, is not in a rush. Needless to say, Scott was “twitterpated.”
The exchange rate is ridiculous here; 3,050 pesos to $1.00! Scott is happy to finally be a multi millionaire! When he goes to the atm, there is a withdrawl limit of 300,000 pesos….or roughly $100.00.
The commercial pier is constantly busy. Unlike Guanaja, or the Bahamas, where a boat comes weekly with supplies, we saw boats come and go daily, unloading all sorts of stuff.
There is no formal public transportation on the island. If you need a ride, your options are either in the back of a pick up truck, or 3-4 at a time on the back of a motorcycle! Here’s the “cab” that took us to the other side of the island for dinner one night.
It was quite a balancing act, as he traveled the curvy island road. The man also had trouble with his clutch, and Scott had to jump out and give him a push into this gas station; there was no reduction on our $6.00 fare.
After dinner, we expected to easily get a ride back to the dock, but this wasn’t the case. By 9pm, the locals aren’t running their “taxis” anymore. Luckily, a worker at the restaurant offered to take us back on his motorcycle, in two runs; first Marina and Kevin and then Scott and me. I am kicking myself for not getting photos of this! It had poured rain while we were at dinner, so the roads were wet, and I was unable to completely get the “road juice” out of the back of Scott’s shirt. It was quite an experience!
We’ve enjoyed our time here, exploring the island and spending time with Kevin and Marina as well as the other cruisers. Here are more photos of Providencia.
“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”