Located on a sand bar and reef formation not far off the coast of San Andres, the San Andres Aquarium is a great attraction to visit. It is a natural aquarium where you can snorkel and see lots of fish. You can also wade across to the palm tree covered island of Haynes Cay. Read on to learn all about it in this guide to the San Andres Aquarium.
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Guide to the San Andres Aquarium – Contents
- Where is the San Andres Aquarium?
- How to Get to the San Andres Aquarium
- What to See at the Aquarium in San Andres
- Practical Tips for Enjoying the Aquarium of San Andres
Where is the San Andres Aquarium
The Aquarium of San Andres (or Acuario de San Andres) is located off the eastern coast of San Andres a bit north of Rocky Cay and south of the North End or San Andres. Note that this is not an inside aquarium where you will see fish in tanks, but a natural aquarium where can see fish swimming in their natural habitat.
The Aquarium is located on the far side of a sand bar where you can find a couple small buildings. It is about 200 yards from the island of Haynes Cay (also seen on maps by its Spanish name Islote Córdoba). That is the island with the red and white light house on it.
How to Get to the Aquarium of San Andres
Well, you have to take a boat to get here. It is most common to go to the aquarium with a tour, and this is one of the most popular activities on the island, so you should have no problem finding a tour.
Tours to the Aquarium
You have a few options for how to do a tour to the San Andres Aquarium. We did a tour that was called Tour Bahía (bay tour), that included a tour around the bay in addition to a visit to the aquarium.
It started by going out to the edge of the barrier reef, the third largest in the world. There you can see a ship that got stuck years back. It’s a neat and kind of eery sight with the waves crashing all around the abandoned ship, and you can appreciate just how much the reef keeps the beaches of the island calm. Then it stops at the aquarium for a while (I want to say we had about 90 minutes there). Then it makes a stop to see manta-rays not far from the aquarium before going up in the mangroves and even making a quick starfish sighting stop.
There was a morning and an afternoon schedule for this 3 hour tour, and I thought it was a pretty good value. We had a good boat driver and guide too that explained a lot about the history of the island and had a fun attitude. A bit more time at the aquarium and Haynes Cay may have been nice as we felt a tad rushed and just got to walk over and see Haynes Cay for a few minutes, but overall it was a good tour.
Of course, you can also do a tour that goes directly to and from the aquarium. Another option is to book one of the “VIP” tours that includes all of this and Johnny Cay. We did Johnny Cay (read about it here) separately, but I think one of these tours is also a decent value and has you hit the main places you need a tour and boat to visit all in one day. While you may be able to get this cheaper on the island, you can book ahead and pay online here via Viator (that price is actually pretty good for Viator!).
Finally, it is also possible to rent private pontoon boats and do a boat party similar to what people do in Cholón here in Cartagena. The boats park in the little bay created by the sand bar between the aquarium and Haynes Cay. You could easily just swim over to the aquarium and see all the fishes. It was only the two of us, so we didn’t look into the private boat thing, but I’m sure any of the little tour agencies, hotels, or hostels on the island can arrange it.
*Speaking of hotels and hostels, if you’re looking for a place to stay, our favorite place was the Sweet Island Apartments, which are a great value. If you want something downtown and beachfront, check out the Hotel Casablanca.
What to Do at the San Andres Aquarium
Snorkel and See All the Fish
This is the main thing to see at the San Andres Aquarium. Out in the water off the sand bar, there are a few long, I am assuming man made, barriers amongst the reefs. You can see quite a bit of fish here, gathering around them and the coral. The water never gets deeper than about chest deep, although it is a good idea to have water shoes for the rocks and coral.
There was a guy who has a neat little sign set up under the water where lots of fish go by where you can take a picture for a fee. Unfortunately, he covers the sign when he isn’t taking pictures.
Here are a few of the pictures we got snorkeling:
Chill Out on the Little Beach
The sand bar here makes a neat little beach with waves on either side. There is also a neat view of the North End of the island. It’s not the best spot for swimming given all the boats coming and going, but it’s a good spot for pictures.
Walk Over to Haynes Cay
You can walk all the way over to Haynes Cay from the aquarium. It takes 5-10 minutes, and the water never gets deeper than about chest high here either, although there are some rocks and parts where it gets a bit deeper. On Haynes Cay, there are a few little beach bars and restaurants and a small little beach amongst the palm trees.
Keep a look out on the walk. We ran into a couple looking at something, and it was a big manta-ray! I got a cool video of it. Very pretty and neat animals (don’t worry, these aren’t dangerous like sting-rays).
Enjoy a Coco Loco
Well, it isn’t San Andres without Coco Locos for sale! If you have any time left, you can get one from the vendors on the little sandbar island where the aquarium is or on Haynes Cay. You can also get lunch in the main little kiosk, although I would discourage it since you will pay more here than on the mainland, and most tours give you pretty limited time.
Practical Tips for Enjoying the San Andres Aquarium
- I think they used to rent snorkeling gear, but due to Covid, they were not when we went, and I would think that will be norm for at least the near future. There were snorkels for sale here, but you can get them cheaper in the shops downtown. Or you can get a good snorkel kit ahead of time. My dad raves about these full face snorkels, although I’ve never used one myself.
- We took the photos of the fish and the video of the ray above with an Eken H9R cam, a cheaper version of the much nicer GoPro.
- It’s really a good idea to have water shoes here to walk along the barriers in the water and avoid stepping on any sharper rocks or corals.
- There are lockers available to rent (they cost 10,000 pesos) which are pretty handy. It’s still not the worst idea to have a dry bag for the boat or if you would prefer not to use the locker.
- Be sure to have cash on hand for the locker if you want it and anything else you wish to buy.
- This can get crowded, so it may be best to try to avoid weekends if your schedule permits.
Ready to visit the San Andres Aquarium?
There you have it, a complete practical guide to the San Andres Aquarium. I hope it helped you plan, and if you do go, you see lots of fish and enjoy it! If you are planning a trip to San Andres, be sure to check out my guide to all the best beaches of the island, or just see my complete Practical Travel Guide to San Andres. Let me know in the comments if you enjoyed the aquarium!
Cheers and Happy Exploring!
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