In Search of Essential Eats on San Andres Island

A friend of mine from New York moved, quite wisely, to a small island in the Caribbean and sees this view from her bedroom window every day (now you know why I think she’s wise).

Thankfully, this island in the Caribbean belongs to Colombia (which is actually odd because it’s far from Colombia, about 700 km to be exact, closer to Nicaragua). But why I am thankful about this island’s nationality? Because that means flights from Bogota are cheap – just US$50 one way.

And I’m just as thankful that this friend and her husband have a spare guest room and invited me and my husband for a visit. Which we recently took them up on.

San Andres boats

San Andres Island has a fascinating history – the British claimed it centuries ago, leaving a heritage of the English language, and others fought over it, but in time the Colombians were the ones left holding the title deed (although we’ll see for how long). It’s head-spinning to visit an island that belongs to Colombia where you hear more English than Spanish, dance to more reggae than salsa, and eat more crab patties than arepas.

But my husband, Peter (my faithful taste tester), and I were up for the cultural challenge, and decided to eat our way through the island.

In search of the essential eats on San Andres, we crunched on fried fish (my New York friend loves the crispy tails, which makes me think she’s not really from New York). We savored coconut rice and nibbled on fried breadfruit.

Fishy lunch on San Andres Island FlavorsofBogota

We downed plantain patties and carefully tried conch ball sandwiches (they are way better than they sound).

We ate peto – a warm corn dish – made with cinnamon instead of panela, and attacked fair tables, those tables that Islanders put outside their homes on weekday evenings and weekends to tempt neighbors with their best homemade treats.

We gorged on carimañolas and arepas de huevo, the best we’ve had, with enough grease to last us for the rest of the year.

Along the way we explored the island, picked up some Islander expressions, admired the people’s love of spiritual conversations, and of course, we snorkeled in the multicolored waters among fish and stingrays.


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