A complete travel guide to visiting Haynes Cay and El Acuario on San Andres Island, Colombia.
Looking for an awesome island-hopping adventure to the outer cays of San Andres? I’ve got you covered.
In this quick guide, I’ll fill you in on how to get to Haynes Cay and El Acuario (also called Rose Cay). These are two small islands that you can actually walk between! I’ll give you the best options for getting here, give you some tips to enjoy an awesome day out, and include some of my photography to get you inspired.
#3 out of 25 Best Things to do on San Andres, Colombia
- About Haynes Cay & El Acuario on San Andres
- Where is Acuario & Haynes Cay?
- What to Expect at El Acuario
- What to Expect at Haynes Cay
- Where to Stay on San Andres Island
- Travel Tips For a Great Boat Trip
- More Colombia & San Andres Travel INspiration
By Olly Gaspar, traveler, travel blogger & photographer for 5+ years with 600+ published travel guides. I visit every place I write about & share real tips from what I learn.
About Haynes Cay & El Acuario on San Andres
After Johnny Cay, El Acuario San Andres is the most popular day trip from town. That's because this awesome sand bar island has some of the clearest water you'll find in the area, which is exactly why it's earnt its nickname, the "acuario natural de san andrés".
The benefit of visiting this cay is that you actually get access to Haynes Cay (Cayo Haynes or Cayo Córdoba / Islote Córdoba) as well. This rocky island sits directly next to El Acuario and visitors can wade through the shallow waters between them on their visit.
While El Acuario is not much more than a long strip of white sand with a few bars and small restaurants on it, Haynes Cay is dotted with palm trees and has a green grassy area with loads of wildlife.
Where is Acuario & Haynes Cay?
Acuario and Haynes Cay are located just 1 mile (1.6 km) from the eastern shores of San Andres Island (Colombia). It's situated in the crystal clear waters of the mar de 7 colores (sea of seven colors) outside Puerto de San Andrés.
However, most boat trips heading to the cay depart from Playa Spratt Bight near El Centro. Expect a roughly 10-minute boat transfer to the cay from here.
Since Acuario doesn't have any vegetation, it's difficult to spot from the mainland. However, you can easily spot the palm tree-lined shores of Haynes Cay from the coast, especially from Rocky Cay and the popular Cocoplum Beach.
How to Get To El Acuario & Haynes Cay From San Andres
While there are many boat tour companies departing from San Andres town, there are two main options that most travelers should consider.
Option 1: "VIP" San Andres Island Hopping Tour
If you have a full day free and want to see all the main activities, beautiful snorkeling spots, coral reefs, sandy cays, and small islands of San Andres, this trip is the most cost-effective and bang-for-buck experience you can book on the island.
This full-day boat tour starts at 8:30 AM and runs for approximately 7 hours. It includes:
- Johnny Cay
- Aquarius (Cayo Acuario, also called Rose Cay)
- Bahia (bay)
- Mar de 7 Colores (Sea of 7 Colors)
- Mangroves Tour
- "Manta Rays" - actually not Mantas but another smaller species of ray
- All environmental fees
Another great part about this tour is that you can book online in advance. This is very useful as you will not have to barter or risk the chance of being ripped off by tour operators. This tour offers a fixed price that is actually cheaper than I was able to find around town.
Additionally, while this is a popular tour, it doesn't depart in big groups, meaning you won't feel like a sardine as you will on the direct boat transfers.
Book: VIP Boat tour (all the highlights)
Option 2: Boat Transfer Option From Spratt Bight
If you just want to visit El Acuario and Haynes Cay, then you can also just pay for a direct boat transfer. The best business is run by "Coonative Brothers" and they have an office in the big yellow building on the shores of Spratt Bight Beach.
The trip costs 30,000 Colombian pesos for two hours, 40,000 pesos for 4 hours, or 50,000 pesos for 6 hours.
Departure times are 9:30 am, 11:30 am, and 1:30 pm.
Tip: Since there is no environmental fee like on Johnny Cay, visiting El Acuario is actually cheaper even though it is further away.
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What to Expect at El Acuario
As soon as you arrive at El Acuario, you'll understand why this is such a popular vacation spot. The water here is a fluorescent shade of light blue with visibility for days! This makes it great for swimming and snorkeling.
The island itself is very small, less than 80 meters by 20 meters. On its shores are some reggae-themed restaurants and bars serving snacks, seafood, beers, cocktails, and coconuts.
There are also some shade umbrellas and beach chairs that visitors can hire for a fee.
The best place for swimming at Acuario San Andres is on the northern sand strip, which reaches out a couple of hundred meters into the Caribbean Sea. Here, there are some small coral patches and you will generally find fewer people.
Furthermore, just to the north is a popular spot where locals feed the "manta rays". In truth, these are not mantas, but a large species of saltwater stingrays. This usually happens daily at around 1 PM.
To the south of this beautiful sandy island is a long roped buoy line leading over to Haynes Cay. You'll often see people crossing between the islands all day since the water depth is only around 1 to 1.2 meters. We crossed a few times during our visits and felt comfortable carrying our bags above our heads without getting anything wet.
What to Expect at Haynes Cay
If you visit El Acuario, then of course you have to cross over to Haynes Cay as well. Honestly, I'm a little surprised that this rocky island is not more famous than its bare, sandy neighbor.
Unlike Acuario, Haynes Cay has a lot of rich, green vegetation. There are plenty of restaurants and bars here also, with a large, grassy area shaded by tropical coconut palms.
In the island's interior, you can walk through a forested track where you will find loads of blue lizards and large iguanas. If you're looking for a place to swim at Haynes Cay, the northern beach is much better, since the other side of the island is rocky.
Below is a list of facilities that you can expect to find on El Acuario.
- Umbrella shades
- Beach chairs
- Snorkel rental equipment
And, on Haynes Cay.
- Tour shop (for snorkeling tours)
- Snorkel gear for rent or to buy
Where to Stay on San Andres Island
San Andres is quite a small island but there are loads of accommodation options available. The best regions are downtown (El Centro), San Luis, or one of the many resorts along the east and west coasts.
Below are my top three recommendations for all budgets. However, don't miss this up-to-date guide to where to stay on San Andres Island, Colombia for more picks and a rundown of the best neighborhoods to book.
- Big V Raizal - an awesome homestay-style hostel run by an incredibly friendly native Raizal family. I stayed here and couldn't recommend this one enough! Great prices, fun people, amazing breakfast, and all-around chill vibes.
- In Di House of Reggae Boutique- Reggae-styled hotel with a large outdoor pool and seating area. An on-site restaurant and colorful rooms with sea views. 1km from Parceras Beach.
- Villa San Miguel - awesome apartments conveniently located in central near the airport and just a 2-minute walk from Spratt Bight Beach.
Travel Tips For a Great Boat Trip
Before you head out on your boat trip to El Ecuario and Haynes Cay, here are some final travel tips.
- El Acuario is very busy, but Haynes Cay usually has fewer people
- Acuario is a better cay for swimming since its shores are sandy
- Try to avoid visiting Acuario on weekends and public holidays if possible.
- The high season on San Andres Island is July and April (especially holy week), which is opposite to other Caribbean island peak seasons like Antigua or Jamaica.
- Try to time a trip with good weather conditions - although you can expect calm waters most of the time, these two islands provide very little shelter from strong winds and seas
- The rainy seasons on San Andres run from September to December and then again from May to June. However, you can expect rain for just an hour or two a day.
- Bring sunscreen (the best is Blue Lizard), water (to avoid plastic bottles), a hat, and reef shoes (it is a little rocky to cross over to Haynes Cay).
More Colombia & San Andres Travel INspiration
I hope you've enjoyed this boat trip guide to visiting Haynes Cay and El Acuario from San Andres Island, Colombia.
Looking for more inspiration for things to do on the islands? Check out some of my other guides to South America and the Colombian Caribbean below.