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Providencia’s Parque Nacional Natural Old Providence McBean Lagoon

The Parque Nacional Natural Old Providence McBean Lagoon (office Jones Point, east of airport, tel. 8/514-8885 or 8/514-9003, 8am-12:30pm and 2pm-6pm daily, COP$14,000 non-Colombians, COP$8,500 Colombians, COP$4,000 students) is a small national park on the northeast coast of the island. It occupies about 1,485 hectares/3,670 acres (1,390 hectares/3,435 acres of that is in the sea). Here you can observe five different ecosystems: coral reefs, sea grass beds, mangroves, dry tropical forests, and volcanic keys.

Kayaking in Providencia. Photo © Andrew Dier.
Kayaking in Providencia. Photo © Andrew Dier.

Crab Cay (Cayo Cangrejo) is one of the main attractions of the park, and it’s an easy place for some splashing about in the incredibly clear, warm waters. This is a great place for some easy snorkeling, and, in addition to tropical fish, you may see manta rays or sea turtles. A short five-minute nature path on this minuscule island takes you to the top of the island. A snack bar on Crab Cay sells water, soft drinks, beer, coco locos, and snacks like ceviche. They are there every day until around 1pm.

Boat tours, organized by all hotels and dive shops, motor around the coast of Providencia, stopping at beaches and at Crab Cay for snorkeling or swimming. These tours depart the hotels at around 9am each morning and cost about COP$35,000 per person. Once you disembark at Crab Cay, you’ll have to pay the park entry fee of COP$14,000. Following the stop at Crab Cay, the boats go to Southwest Bay for a seafood lunch, not included in the price of the tour.

Otherwise you can hire a boat for yourself at around COP$350,000 total. Upon arrival at the island, you’ll be required to pay the park entry fee. All hotels can arrange this more exclusive option.

The park’s Iron Wood Hill Trail is a three-kilometer (1.8-mile) round-trip nature trail along which you can explore the tropical dry forest landscape, and will see different types of lizards, birds, and flora. There are nice views from here of the coastline. You are required to go with a local guide arranged by the park’s office (Jones Point, east of airport, tel. 8/514-8885 or 8/514-9003, 8am-12:30pm and 2pm-6pm daily, COP$25,000 pp plus park entry fee).

An additional activity is to hire a kayak and row to Crab Cay or through the park’s McBean Lagoon mangroves. Passing through the mangroves you’ll enter the Oyster’s Creek Lagoon, where you’ll see several species of birds, like blue and white herons and pelicans, as well as crabs, fish, and some unusual jellyfish. This is an interesting trip. Try to go early in the morning or late in the afternoon, as the sun can be brutal. Kayaks can be rented at the Posada Cocobay (Maracaibo sector on the northeastern side of the island, tel. 8/514-8226, cell tel. 311/804-0373, COP$30,000). A kayak with a guide costs COP$50,000, and for snorkeling equipment tack on another COP$10,000.

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