San Andres, Colombia
Located in the Caribbean Sea off the coast of Nicaragua, San Andres is the largest island in an archipelago that was included in UNESCO’s 2000 inscription of the Seaflower Biosphere Reserve. Although first mapped by the Spanish in 1527, its history includes serial colonization by English, Dutch and Welsh parties during the ensuing centuries. In the 17th Century, the famous Welsh pirate Henry Morgan used the island as his base of operations, and fortune hunters still seek legendary treasure supposedly cached on the island. Today travelers arrive to swim, dive and snorkel in its warm, clear waters and enjoy the traditional Caribbean charm of towns including La Loma, with a picturesque 19th Century Baptist Church and superb views of the spectacular “seven-colored sea,” as well as colorful, but laid-back San Luis on the western coast. Although it belongs to Colombia and the most common language spoken on the island is Spanish, the population is predominately protestant, mainly Baptist. The island’s flora and fauna are protected by a number of national and regional parks and preserves, and coral reefs and shallow coastal lagoons such as the one dubbed “El Acuario” provide excellent snorkeling and other water sports. At Hoyo Soplador, a system of submarine channels under the coral reef traps Caribbean swells and spews a geyser upward as much as 60 feet through a blowhole vent, depending on the tide and sea conditions.