Maaji Swimwear Designer Juliana Londoño's guide to San Andrés
We talked to Juliana Londoño, head designer of Maaji swimwear, about her favorite things to do in San Andrés Islands. Based in Medellin, Colombia, Juliana has the dream job: designing colorful, fun & beautiful bikinis while travelling to beaches around the globe.
Covered in coconut palms and surrounded by crystal clear Caribbean waters, San Andrés is a paradisiacal island. Visiting very often, Juliana always takes her Maaji swims and relaxes at her favorite spots in the Island.
- Where did you stay?
I visit San Andrés very often, this time I stayed at Playa Tranquilo, a pretty boutique hotel near The Cove Bay. Even though it is mainly for guests who are going diving, you can also stay here if you want to take a break in one of the most beautiful and peaceful places in the Island.
I will definitely come back to Playa Tranquilo! Each room has a balcony with the most amazing view to one of my favorite parts of the Island. The sea in front of the hotel is perfect for diving or snorkelling without having to take a boat. I specially loved the pool, it's a little corner surrounded by nature (made me think about what I have seen of Hawaii in photos and TV) with a Buddha sculpture that gives the place a special touch.
- Where would you like to stay next time?
If I'm going diving, I would stay at Playa Tranquilo again. But if I'm in the mood for sunbathing and chilling by the beach I prefer Cocoplum, a colorful villa in San Luis, where you can have a spectacular beach just steps away from your room
- Your top restaurants?
There are not many restaurants in San Andrés, but places like Donde Francesca, La Regatta and La Barcarola are so good you won't even want to look anywhere else. Spend a whole day at Francesca, it's not just about amazing food but about the experience. Get here early so you can rent a tent with sun beds, and enjoy one of the most beautiful and quiet beaches of the Island. You can go swimming, and wait for lunch time while they serve you cocktails, beers or picadas... Top treats would be octopus ceviche, fruto del pan, shellfish salpicón & coconut rice.
- Best place to have breakfast?
I loved the breakfast at my hotel, Playa Tranquilo. Have your breakfast served by the pool, with a tasteful menu offering eggs, toast, pancakes, coffee, fresh juice & fruits.
- To celebrate?
At La Regatta, one of my favorites! Not just because of the quality of their food, but the place makes you feel like you are in a fairytale. The ambience is spectacular from day to night (better at night!). Because it's just next to the Nautical Club, if you get lucky you can get a table in the dock and eat surrounded by string rays and fishes. A top treat would be muelitas de cangrejo, the coconut dessert and sangría. Make sure you make a reservation
- Best place to take a nap?
Definitely look for a hammock, every hotel has at least one! ;)
- Best bars?
I am not a huge party girl, but you can't miss El Bar de Kella, in the southern part of the Island. It's a rastafari kiosko by the beach, perfect for hanging out in the afternoon, try the famous Coco Loco, listen and dance to Reggae and Calypso. You get served by Kella himself, or by one of his friends. I love hearing Islanders speak in Creole, the language of the region, which is a mix between english and african languages.
- Best shops?
The Island is a free port so you can find perfumes, liquors and more at a very good prize. However, if you're looking for hand made goods and traditional craftsmanship ask for Casa BazArte, you will love what they offer, and you will like the place even more!
- Best part of the island? Any hidden spots?
Every inch of the Island! The best way to get to know it is by renting a scooter if you're solo or with your couple, or a "mulita" if you're a group. This way you can move around freely , explore and find your own favorite spots. Wander around the Island, see the tiny coloured houses, go up to the Mirador del Campanario and enjoy the view of the Seven Coloured sea. The Island is small, so in about and hour you can make the full tour!
- Where should we go if we want to see the most beautiful beach?
To me, the sea in front of the Sunset Hotel is magical, it's unquestionably my favorite. It's very rocky, but you will find stairs that take you straight to the gorgeous turquoise water (just be careful with the sea rchins!). The sea is crystal clear, the color is unbelievable, so it's great for snorkelling.
- Best spot to watch the sunset/sunrise?
In the south-west of the Island there are kioskos (mostly tourist-free) where you can watch the breathtaking sunset with a drink on your hand. Be patient, the last time I was here I got very lucky and had a beautiful show of dolphins swimming in front of me.
- Best time to visit?
From mid-December to April. Avoid visiting in October or November. Also, on bank holidays the Island gets really crowded, so I would avoid it!
- What to avoid? (Any tourist death traps?)
The "hoyo soplador" is always full of tourists and I really think it's not that big of a deal.
- What to pack?
Pack light, you won't need much! A few Maaji's, light clothes, a good book, camera or smartphone, and sun block.
- Best spot to wear a Maaji bikini?
Everywhere! At the beach and under the sea.
- Any other tips we should know?
Take note that you need to buy an entrance ticket to the Island that costs around 30 usd, you have to keep it the whole trip and present it at the airport on your way back home. Transportation in the Island is really easy, so if you decide not to rent scooter or mulita, fear not, there are buses around the whole time with really cheap rides.
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