Old Providence Island (or Isla Providencia in the Spanish language) is one of the few remaining Caribbean islands that has yet to see mass tourism. There are approximately a dozen small hotels on the English speaking island, and various beaches that are beautifully unspoilt and largely devoid of both people and buildings.
Providencia is an empty, tropical, coconut palmed paradise, perfect for a relaxing few days beach vacation in Colombia. With a population of just 5000 people,it’s a stunning island of beautiful beaches that are, on the whole, totally undeveloped.
Mass tourism has yet to hit Providencia and thankfully the locals are determined to keep the island this way. The native language of Providencia is Creole, which is a kind of twisted form of Caribbean English (so almost all the locals speak proper English). The culture is similar to that of nearby Jamaica, and very different from that of mainland Colombia.
Tourism to English speaking Providencia remains low key and small in numbers. UNESCO has declared the island and it’s seas as the Sea Flower Biosphere Reserve in recognition of the area’s immense natural biodiversity, and those tourists who do experience Providencia are treated to stunning white sand beaches lapped by the tranquil Caribbean sea. And with the world’s third largest barrier reef, Providencia Island is a scuba divers dream. beautiful, peaceful, friendly and unspoilt.
Providencia, destination of nature and culture
The eye is stunned by the seven hues of blue that have made the waters around this island famous, The colors are due to the volcanic origins of the rock and the brilliance of the coral reef.
Everywhere you look Providencia and Santa Catalina are bursting with every shade of every color, on the surface and under the water, full of life; and the mangroves add their green to the display of the tiny brightly-flashing fish that nestle in their roots.
In 2000 UNESCO declared Old Providence Mac Bean Lagoon Nature Park to be a Sun FlowerBiosphere Reserve.
The Old Providence y Mac Bean Lagoon Nature Park was made a Biosphere Sea Flower Reserve in 2000. The islanders have limited construction and own all the hotels in order to reduce the environmental impact of tourism, alongside the travelers who are familiar with the marvel of nature.
One of the greatest experiences on the trip is to get to know the people of Providencia. Cheerful and charming, lovers of music and good food, and always ready to share the island life with tourists.
Creole culture and music
Children smile cheerfully at tourists / Photo: Natalia Gómez Carvajal.Children smile cheerfully at tourists / Photo: Natalia Gómez Carvajal.
The most enchanting thing about Providencia is that everywhere you go, you will meet smiling people, standing at the doors of their houses as the tourists go by, looking after jet-black children with sparkling white teeth, playing in the sea that plays such a large part in their lives.
The islanders live mainly from fishing and tourism. The seas brings them food, scenery and amusement. With their history of colonization by the English, the Dutch and the Spaniards they have mixed traditions: they drink tea, speak the Caribbean English version of creole and love their music.
The music and dances of the people of Providencia and Santa Catalina are full of a sense of fun.
They still dance the traditional dances of their past: the waltz, quadrille, schottische, mazurka and polka, and, with even more enthusiasm, reggae, socca, calypso and some Colombian styles such as vallenato, salsa, merengue, and others.
Their culture is also reflected in the style of their buildings, which has stayed the same as it was in colonial days. Local wood, colorfully painted with carvings of fish and crabs as a tribute to the sea. No skyscrapers!
A perfect paradise for rest and relaxation
Tour of Providencia and Santa Catalina: by land and sea
Beach at Providencia, the jetty / Photo: Carlos Sueskún.Beach at Providencia, the jetty / Photo: Carlos Sueskún.
The most important road in Providencia is the Circunvalar, a ring-road round the island. The first place to go, so that you can get used to the transport system and stock up with supplies, is Santa Isabel.
There are several shops and the Tourist Office. The road then continues to the south-west until it reaches Old Town, the oldest settlement on the island.
Then carry on to Fresh Water Bay, where there are some cabins and a few restaurants. The road then goes to Bottom House, a hamlet at the mouth of Manchanel Bay (Manzanillo), with the best beaches on the island.
Morgan´s Head is one of the main tourist attractions / Photo: Carlos Sueskún.Morgan´s Head is one of the main tourist attractions / Photo: Carlos Sueskún.
This trip will take any nature-lover´s breath away. It starts at the jetty at Santa Isabel and goes out to Morgan´s Head, a rock sculpted by the wind and the sea, to look like a human face.
Then you go round the evergreen mass of Santa Catalina, separated from Providencia by an artificial channel, made by Captain Henry Morgan, as a defense against invaders.
Then you go out to Crab Cay, with its colorful little dock which marks the entrance to Mac Bean Lagoon Nature Park. Like Tres Hermanos, Cay, this is a superb place for snorkeling, with a huge variety of fauna.
The boat then goes to Manzanillo where you can try the wonders of the local food. Then you return across the spectacular waters of the Caribbean with your face fanned by its fresh breezes.