Lighthouses of Colombia: San Andrés and Providencia

This page is for lighthouses of Colombia's island territories in the southwestern Caribbean Sea, including the inhabited islands of San Andrés and Providencia and a wide scattering of uninhabited banks, reefs, and cays.

The islands of San Andrés and Providencia were settled by English sailors, and English is still spoken commonly in the islands as well as Spanish. The islands have a population of about 60,000. They were formerly isolated and poorly known, but in recent years they have become a regular stop on the Caribbean cruise ship circuit.

Nicaragua formerly claimed all these islands but surrendered its claims in 1928 in return for Colombia's recognition of Nicaragua's sovereignty over the Islas del Maíz (Corn Islands) and the Mosquito Coast of the mainland. Later Nicaragua attempted to renounce this agreement, but in 2007 the International Court of Justice upheld the 1928 treaty establishing Colombian sovereignty. Colombia incorporated all the disputed banks into its Departamento del Archipiélago de San Andrés, Providencia y Santa Catalina.

The Quitasueño, Serranilla, Serrana, Bajo Nuevo, and Roncador Banks were formerly claimed and occupied by the United States. The U.S. gave up its claims to the Quitasueño, Serrana and Roncador Banks in a 1981 treaty with Colombia. The U.S. claims to Serranilla and Bajo Nuevo are technically still in force although the U.S. is unlikely to pursue them.

In November 1993 Colombia and Jamaica signed a maritime agreement establishing a zone of joint control around Bajo Nuevo and Seranilla but recognizing Colombian sovereignty over the two reefs themselves. Finally, on 19 November 2012, the International Court of Justice issued a final judgment in the dispute between Colomibia and Nicaragua, establishing a maritime boundary between those countries and confirming once again Colombia's sovereignty over the disputed islands. This is very close to a complete resolution of the territorial disputes.

Aids to navigation in Colombia are owned by the Autoridad Marítima Colombia and maintained by the Dirección General Marítima (DIMAR). The Spanish word for a lighthouse is faro. In Colombia, this word is used for the larger light towers, while a smaller light is called a baliza (beacon).

ARLHS numbers are from the ARLHS World List of Lights. DIMAR numbers are from DIMAR's Lista de Luces de la República de Colombia. Admiralty numbers are from volume J of the Admiralty List of Lights & Fog Signals and U.S. NGA numbers are from Publication 110.

General Sources
Derrotero de las costas and áreas insulares de Colombia
An informative site posted by DIMAR's oceanographic and hydrographic center (Centro de Investigaciones Oceanográficas e Hidrográficas, or CIOH).
San Andrés - Señalización and Providencia - Señalización
From CIOH, two lighthouse slide shows.
Online List of Lights - Colombia - Islands
Photos by various photographers posted by Alexander Trabas.
South American Lighthouses
Photos taken in December 2008 by Rosalie Beasley; the last 14 photos are from San Andrés.
Lista de Luces
Official Colombian light list, available for download in pdf format.

Faro Serranilla
Serranilla Light, Banco Serranilla
DIMAR photo

Northern Banks Lighthouses
Bajo Nuevo (2)
2008 (station established 1982). Active (?); focal plane 22 m (72 ft); two white flashes every 15 s. 21 m (69 ft) square skeletal tower with gallery, painted with red and white horizontal bands. A DIMAR photo is at right, another photo (halfway down the page) and a somewhat fuzzy closeup are available, and the Living Oceans Foundation also has a photo, but the reef is only a blur in Google's satellite view. Bajo Nuevo is a complex of two reefs far out in the Caribbean southwest of Jamaica. Although NGA has a listing of this light under Honduras (NGA 110-16482), Honduras gave up its claims to Bajo Nuevo and Serranilla in a 1999 treaty with Columbia. Located on Low Cay, the largest islet of the reef. Accessible only by boat. Site and tower closed (special permission required for landing). ARLHS SAP-001; DIMAR 289; Admiralty J6020; NGA 15818 and 16482 (duplicate entries).
Serranilla (2)
1996 (station established 1977). Active; focal plane 33 m (108 ft); two white flashes every 20 s. 33 m (108 ft) tower, including a square pyramidal skeletal tower mounted atop a 3-story concrete crew quarters. The crew building is now painted in the colors of Columbia's flag: upper half gold, lower half with one blue and one red horizontal band. The skeletal tower is painted with red and white horizontal bands. A DIMAR photo is at the top of this page, another good photo and a portfolio of photos are available, there's also another photo and a view from the sea, and Google has a satellite view. The lighthouse was designed by Guillermo Fonseca Truque. Banco Serranilla, a reef about 110 km (70 mi) west of Bajo Nuevo and about 350 km (220 mi) northeast of the Honduran coast, is claimed by the U.S. and Nicaragua. Located on Beacon Cay, the largest islet of the reef. Accessible only by boat. Site and tower closed (special permission required for landing). ARLHS SAP-013; DIMAR 290; Admiralty J6024; NGA 15816.
Quitasueño Norte (Banco Quita Sueño Norte) (2)
1977 (station established by the U.S. in 1919). Active; focal plane 23 m (75 ft); two white flashes every 15 s. 23 m (75 ft) square skeletal tower, painted with red and white horizontal bands and mounted on a square platform supported by piles. A closeup photo is available, and a 2010 Colombian postage stamp shows both Quitasueño lighthouses, but Google's satellite view does not show this reef at all. Banco Quita Sueño is a reef about 110 km (70 mi) north northeast of Isla Providencia and 70 km (45 mi) west of Banco Serrana; the reef has no dry land. Located at the north end of the reef. Accessible only by boat. Site and tower closed (special permission required for landing). ARLHS SAP-009; DIMAR 291; Admiralty J6028; NGA 15820.
Quitasueño Sur (Banco Quita Sueño Sur) (2)
2008. Active; focal plane 20 m (66 ft); white light, 2 s on, 10 s off. 20 m (66 ft) square skeletal tower, painted with red and a white horizontal band and mounted on a square platform supported by piles. An aerial photo is available, and a 2010 Colombian postage stamp shows both Quitasueño lighthouses. Located at the south end of the reef. Accessible only by boat. Site and tower closed (special permission required for landing). DIMAR 292; Admiralty J6030; NGA 15821.
Bajo Nuevo Light
Bajo Nuevo Light, Bajo Nuevo
DIMAR photo
Serrana (2)
1977 (station established by the U.S. in 1919). Active; focal plane 24 m (79 ft); white flash every 10 s. 25 m (82 ft) square skeletal tower, painted with red and white horizontal bands. Concrete keeper's quarters. Victor Sepulveda has a photo, CIOH has a photo in its lighthouse slideshow, and Trabas has a distant view by Capt. Theo Hinrichs, but the lighthouse cay is only a blur in Google's satellite view. Banco Serrana is an atoll about 360 km (225 mi) east of Nicaragua. Located on Southwest Cay. Accessible only by boat. Site and tower closed (special permission required for landing). ARLHS SAP-012; DIMAR 293; Admiralty J6034; NGA 15824.
Roncador (2)
1978 (station established by the U.S. in 1919). Active; focal plane 24 m (79 ft); white flash every 11 s. 24 m (79 ft) square skeletal tower, painted with red and white horizontal bands. Wikipedia has a distant view, and another very distant view is available, but the lighthouse cay is only a blur in Google's satellite view. Wolfgang Schippke reports the original (U.S.?) lighthouse stands abandoned nearby, but there's no sign of this in available photos. Banco Roncador is about 215 km (135 mi) northeast of San Andres. Located at the northernmost point of the reef. Accessible only by boat. Site and tower closed (special permission required for landing). ARLHS SAP-010; DIMAR 294; Admiralty J6038; NGA 15828.

Isla Providencia Lighthouses
Low Cay
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 20 m (66 ft); white flash every 10 s. 20 m (66 ft) square pyramidal steel skeletal tower, painted with horizontal red and white bands. A closeup photo is at right, Enzo Molinari has posted a good photo, and a distant view is available, but Google's satellite view does not show the cay. Located on a low reef about 14 km (9 mi) north northeast of Isla Providencia. Accessible only by boat. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS SAP-006; DIMAR 295; Admiralty J6041; NGA 15832.7.
Cayo Palma
1993. Active; focal plane 25 m (82 ft); one long (1.5 s) white flash every 10 s. 18 m (59 ft) square pyramidal steel skeletal tower, painted with horizontal red and white bands. CIOH has a photo in its slideshow, and Bing has a satellite view. Located on an islet off the northernmost point of Isla Providencia. Accessible only by boat. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS SAP-007; DIMAR 296; Admiralty J6041.5; NGA 15832.5.
Isla Providencia
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 67 m (220 ft); two white flashes, separated by 4 s, every 14 s. Approx. 20 m (66 ft) square pyramidal steel skeletal tower, painted with horizontal red and white bands. CIOH has a distant view from the sea, and Google has only a distant satellite view. Located on the heights at the southern tip of Providencia. Site status unknown. ARLHS SAP-005; DIMAR 297; Admiralty J6042; NGA 15832.

Isla San Andrés Lighthouses
* Punta Sur (Hoyo Soplador)
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 20 m (66 ft); white flash every 9 s. 20 m (66 ft) square pyramidal steel skeletal tower, painted with red and white horizontal bands. Julio Rueda has a photo, a second photo is available, CIOH has a photo, and Google has a satellite view. Hoyo soplador (blowhole) refers to a nearby occurrance of that phenomenon. Located at the southern tip of the island. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS SAP-008; DIMAR 285; Admiralty J6043.6; NGA 15835.
* El Cove (Cove Rojo)
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 21 m (69 ft); red flash every 5 s. 20 m (66 ft) square skeletal tower with gallery, painted with red and white horizontal bands. CIOH has a photo, Beasley has a photo, and Bing has a satellite view. El Cove (The Cove) is a section of the southwestern coast of San Andrés where there is deep water close to shore and larger vessels can anchor. Located on the beach about 8 km (5 mi) north of Punta Sur. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS COL-039; DIMAR 284; Admiralty J6043.7; NGA 15835.5.

Low Cay Light, Providencia, January 2008
Flickr Creative Commons photo by Maqroll
* Punta Evans (Cove Verde)
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 21 m (69 ft); green flash every 3 s. 20 m (66 ft) square skeletal tower with gallery, painted with red and white horizontal bands. Beasley's photo is at right, a closeup is available, and Google has an indistinct satellite view. Located on the beach at a promontory about 2 km (1.2 mi) north of the El Cove light. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS COL-041; DIMAR 286; Admiralty J6043.8; NGA 15835.7.
Haynes Cay (Cayo Cordoba)
1990. Active; focal plane 23 m (75 ft); yellow flash every 5 s. Approx. 20 m (66 ft) square pyramidal steel skeletal tower, painted with red and white horizontal bands. Diego Azuaga has a good 2007 photo, CIOH has a photo, a portfolio of photos is available, and Google has a fuzzy satellite view. Located on the highest point of Haynes Cay, off the east coast of Isla San Andrés. Accessible only by boat. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS SAP-002; DIMAR 282; Admiralty J6043.5; NGA 15834.

Southern Banks Lighthouses
Cayos del Este Sudeste (Courtown Cays, Cayo Bolívar)
1968. Active; focal plane 37 m (121 ft); white flash every 15 s. 29 m (95 ft) tower, presumably skeletal, painted orange. Trabas has a photo by Capt. Theo Hinrichs, and a portfolio of photos is available, but the reef is barely a blur in Google's satellite view. Located on Cayo Bolívar, one of several small cays in the Cays del Este Sudeste (Southeast Cays) about 22 km (14 mi) east southeast of Isla San Andrés. Accessible only by boat. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS SAP-004; DIMAR 283; Admiralty J6044; NGA 15840.
Cayos de Albuquerque
1980. Active; focal plane 30 m (98 ft); two white flashes every 20 s. 29 m (95 ft) square skeletal tower with gallery, painted with red and white horizontal bands. CIOH has a photo, and a view from the sea is available, but the reef is not shown in Google's satellite view. Albuquerque is a reef about 35 km (22 mi) southwest of Isla San Andrés. The lighthouse is on Cayo del Norte, the larger of two small cays at the south end of the reef. Accessible only by boat. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS SAP-003; DIMAR 288; Admiralty J6045; NGA 15844.
Punta Evans Light
Punta Evans Light, San Andrés, November 2008
photo copyright Rosalie Beasley; used by permission

Information available on lost lighthouses:

Adjoining pages: Northeast: Jamaica | Southeast: Northern Colombia | West: Nicaragua

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Posted February 13, 2004. Checked and revised January 1, 2015. Lighthouses: 16. Site copyright 2015 Russ Rowlett and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.