If you’re looking for an island paradise in the Caribbean that hasn’t been thoroughly commercialized or stripped of its natural resources you might have a tough time. Most of the popular destinations like Jamaica, the Bahamas, and the Virgin Islands have seen too much irresponsible tourism which does more harm than good. But…there are still a few beautiful places to be found in these crystalline waters. One of which is Isla Providencia.
Isla Providencia is a small island that is owned by Colombia, but closer to the coast of Nicaragua. Most of the locals speak Spanish though English is their native language with the Caribbean Creole being most prominent. Here’s what we found during our week long stay.
The world’s third largest barrier reef encompasses Isla Providencia and this makes for amazing diving and snorkeling. I am thrilled that I worked past my fear of snorkeling enough to take advantage of what this island’s coast had to offer because it was astounding! The live coral and multitudes of colorful fish made it feel like we were swimming in a giant aquarium, but so much better because everything was in its natural environment.
The waters also provide a bounty of food for the villagers. Popular fare includes fried fish (grouper, snapper, blue runner, or whatever else is swimming about), caracol (conch snails), lobster, and shrimp. Quite often the seafood is cooked with a coconut based sauce and if you love seafood, you’ll love Isla Providencia!
The other thing the water offers is amazing views. They say there are seven shades of blue in the ocean surrounding Providencia and my eyes never got tired of looking at those brilliant azul hues.
This island has a unique and fascinating history. From Puritan beginnings to Pirate hideouts to Drug Lord mansions, this place has it all. The locals still share plenty of stories of the old Caribbean days (though it’s up to you to decide if the tale is true or not) and the people are proud of their heritage.
As in many places the locals are friendly and happy to share their knowledge and resources with you. We hitchhiked everywhere on the island as it was perfectly safe and most people never asked for anything in return. In addition, though many houses were small and simple, there were no slums and no signs of poverty. Most people seem to live well off the land and they earn a bit from tourism. Though the Decameron corporation has quite a few beachfront hostals and restaurants there are just as many, if not more, locally owned hotels, posadas, restaurants, and other tourism-based businesses.
There were tourists, but nothing like you see in the highly promoted Caribbean destinations. Most of the tourists were from Colombia though we also met people from London, Buenos Aires, and one other American couple.
I’ll be doing some more detailed posts about different aspects of Isla Providencia in the coming days, but for now you can get a glimpse of why we chose this idyllic spot for this year’s family vacation.