Maracaibo Bay, San Andrés and Providencia

Photo: Caribbean Colombia

The sun is starting to set over the Seaflower Biosphere Reserve. It’s making every shade of blue—from azure to cyan to sapphire—imaginable appear in Maracaibo Bay. No wonder it’s called the Sea of Seven Colors. The coral reef under the water looks like dark black spots. The moving ones might be sea turtles. While the dock and the palm trees on Cayo Cangrejo (Crab Cay) are starting to blend in with the rocky island in the distance. Old Providence McBean Lagoon National Natural Park—just call it McBean National Park—is breathtaking.

You have a perfect view of the quickly changing colors in the bay, the national park, and the biosphere reserve from the wooden dock of your hotel. It has sun loungers with gold cushions and a round wicker chair facing the water. A few small boats are tied to the end. Tables and umbrellas line the deck behind it. Plus seafood—fish and lobster and squid—is grilling in the restaurant connected to it. You’ll probably eat crusted red snapper and garlic-drenched lobster later. Right now, all you need is another rum-filled cocktail.

This picturesque spot is at Deep Blue on the northern tip of Maracaibo Bay. The small hotel, which underwent a complete renovation a few years ago, looks like it cascades down the hillside into the water. Twelve rooms, all with sea views, are stacked at the top. Your jacuzzi suite even has a jacuzzi (what, you expected something else?) on its balcony. The restaurant, the pool, and, of course, the dock are below them.

Photo: Ecoteles Colombia

The hotel doesn’t have a beach, but a shuttle circles around the island’s beach circuit each morning (and returns later in the afternoon for pickups). You have lots of pristine swaths of white sand from which to choose. Then there are kayaks and the hotel’s 18-foot cruiser to explore the national park. You drifted between Cayo Cangrejo and Cayo Tres Hermanos (Three Brothers Cay) earlier. Audubon’s shearwaters and royal terns flew overhead. Huge manta rays drifted below you as you snorkeled. While the captain promised that the restaurant’s chef would cook any fish that you caught from the boat.

So where is this paradise? You know it’s on Maracaibo Bay and McBean National Park. But where exactly are they? Both lie on the northeast coast of Isla de Providencia. Old Providence is one of the islands that make up the archipelago of San Andrés and Providencia in the Caribbean Sea. The island certainly feels Caribbean, since it lies halfway between Costa Rica and Jamaica. It also has colorful houses, a laid-back vibe, and English-speaking people, thanks to the Puritan colony that was established here in 1629. But Providencia lies off the coast of Central America. Nicaragua is just 140 miles to the west. The group of islands—San Andrés, Providencia, and Santa Catalina—are actually part of Colombia, though.

The Spanish took control of the islands in the late-17th century; control was passed to Colombia upon its independence. The Nicaraguans and pirates—there’s still rumored to be treasure hidden on Providencia—fought their claim over the years. But the islands have remained the country’s only English-speaking province. (Spanish and an English-based Creole are spoken, as well). Neither the language nor the country really matters to you, though. You found a gorgeous spot with fresh seafood, local rum, warm water, and lots of sunshine. Fingers crossed that this little corner of the Caribbean manages to remain undiscovered.

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