San Andrés is surrounded by a well-preserved coral reef teeming with marine life that makes it a diver’s and snorkeler’s paradise. On the eastern edge is the windward barrier, 15 kilometers long and 60-80 meters wide, with significant live coral communities. Beyond the reef, the shelf ends abruptly with a vertical wall that drops hundreds of meters. To the west, the windward barrier protects a large marine lagoon that has seagrass cover. The reef on the western, leeward side is a bit less well preserved due to tourism and boat traffic, but it also has beautiful patches of coral and significant marine life.
In all, the waters surrounding San Andrés include more than 40 species of corals and 131 species of fish. It is common to see large schools of brightly colored jacks, tangs, grunts, and snapper, as well as barracudas, groupers, and parrotfish. Other marine creatures include turtles, stingrays, moray eels, octopus, squid, and lobster.
A unique feature of San Andrés is that the dives are very close to shore, which means a 10- to 30-minute boat ride maximum. The water is warm and has excellent visibility year round. The best conditions for diving are January to May, with stronger winds in June and July.
Popular dive sites are: The Pyramids, a shallow 4-meter dive with striking anemones and fish; Nirvana, a reef at about 15 meters, teeming with marine life; Trampa Tortuga, a reef at about 15 meters with great visibility; and Blue Wall, on the eastern edge of the windward barrier, which starts at 6 meters and drops to 300 meters with magnificent corals and large tube sponges.
Most dive operators also offer short (three hours) introductory courses for beginners, costing around COP$155,000 per person, which allow you to do an easy dive without being certified. There are also many opportunities to do full introductory and advanced courses with certification. A three-day Open Water Diver certification course typically costs around COP$800,000.
Recommended diving operators on San Andrés include Banda (Hotel Lord Pierre, tel. 8/513-1080), Blue Life (Hotel Sunrise Beach, Local 112/113, tel. 8/512-5318), Sharky’s Surf Shop (Sunset Hotel, Km. 13 Carretera Circunvalar, tel. 8/512-0651), and Karibik (Av. Newball 1-248, Edificio Galeon, tel. 8/512-0101). Diving excursions typically include two dives and cost COP$170,000. Night diving trips can be arranged by most dive shops.