Tayrona Colombia. Two words, almost impossible to dissociate. It’s the main national park – and the most famous – on the Caribbean Coast. A vast green universe which meets an invincible ocean. There are many animals like howler monkeys, parrots, pumas (rare) you can observe. And, it’s one of the 40 reasons why I love Colombia. it’s such a big attraction that I don’t understand why there is so little information about it. I have to tell you something. Many travelers make some “bad choices” while visiting the park.
10 things you should take into consideration before coming to Tayrona Colombia National Park
- A one-day trip is not enough, don’t do it
- You need your passport to enter
- Cabo San Juan is a fantastic beach, but it’s full of people
- Calabazo entrance is the betterway
- Pueblito ruins are not “whaouou” at all
- Don’t go on a weekend or a public holiday.
- Go to Playa Brava if you want to be alone
- Don’t forget your repellent
- No, you can’t book in advance – Except in Playa Brava
- Don’t be stupid, let your big backpack in the storage of your previous hostel
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- A little story
- Tayrona Colombia in few words
- The history of Tayrona
- Where to sleep before going to Tayrona Colombia
- When to go
- How to get to Tayrona Park
- What should you pack
- Safety advice
- Getting inside the Tayrona Colombia National Park
- The distances between the beaches
- How and Where are the beaches
- Where can I sleep in the park
- Other activities in the park
- The most accurate map of the National Park
- Example of itineraries
- Where to go after Tayrona Colombia
You’re looking through the windows of a city bus. There is an intense green all around, and the only path is a straight road. Some drops splash on the glasses, it’s bad timing with the weather. But what the hell, it will probably pass if you kill a rabbit and two ants as an offering – why are you only chocked by the murder of this poor rabbit? Suddenly the bus stops and the driver nods at you. It seems you arrive at Calabazo.
On the side of the road with no rain jacket, – Who would take a rain jacket on the Carribean Coast? – You are already lost. There is no sign. A fruit lady is behind you, brief eye contact, action.
– Disculpa. Donde estas la entrada del Parque Tayrona?
– Alli, corazon.
Indeed, there is a path behind an old house. 5 min later, you see a guard, a little chair – like the old ones in the kitchen – and a tiny table. There is no checked bags, videos or even tourists – All of them are lazy, probably fat and have opted for the main entrance (easiest option).
1 hour later, you meet a cute old couple selling hot coffee. You jump on it. As you’re drinking your beverage, you take time to look around – We always forget to look up when we’re hiking. Your legs are a little heavy, you didn’t do much on the coast, except drinking cocktails on Isla Mucura or eating succulents foods in Minca. It’s not a hard walk, but with your day back and the humidity in the air, it’s not easy neither.
The path is becoming easier. You can focus on the many noises above your head. The huge green branches let you get some glimpses of the inhabitants of Taryona Colombia: A bluish-green lizard, unknown birds, a howler monkey trying to seduce a woman – If we could understand them, we could probably catch some lyrics as: “Despacito, el taxi or mi Corazon”.
Nobody told you about Playa Brava, so you turn right and cross Pueblito. The surrounding is cool, but you can’t call that “Ruins.” However, it’s a great spot to have lunch. 1h30 later, you start hearing the ocean. It’s calling you. At the arrival, a vast beach is waiting for you. Almost nobody is there. Tourists love to be squished like sardines – French expression – on the sand. You take off your clothes and jump in the cold water. The currents are strong. You decide to don’t play the game “Oh! Can I reach this big rock in the sea?”
20 min far away, there is Cabo San Juan. Massive boulders keep the two beaches safe from the dangerous currents. People start leaving as they have to catch a boat or just exit the park. A small cabana with hammocks overlooks this astounding scenery. It’s the VIP area. It’s important to arrive early if your only wish is to sleep there. You grab a hammock in the “Poor area” and go to the beach to watch the sunset: Pink, Purple, Dark blue. Many colors are dancing together to give an unique painting worthy of Felix Valloton
- It’s a vast national park with 150 square kilometers of land.
- There are two entrances, and you need to walk minimum 1h30 to get to the most beautiful beach (Or take a boat from Taganga).
- There are monkeys, birds, pumas, jaguars, caimans, etc… But don’t get too much expectation, it’s hard to observe the 3 last ones.
- It’s a touristy place with a lot of Colombians during the weekend and the public holidays.
- You can do many hikes and it’s not hard to avoid the horde of lazy tourists – At the condition, you accept to walk.
- It’s sweaty, humid and the path can be muddy. It’s not a complicated trip but some people can have little problems to cope with the heat, humidity and the mosquitos. Welcome to the jungle.
- It’s a little pricey compared to other places in Colombia but still worth it – If you stay longer.
- In my opinion, it’s not worth to do it in one day only.
Tairona is the name of the people who were living in Colombia hundreds of years before the colonization by the Spaniards. Some of them could escape the genocide by going more deeply in the Sierra Nevada. Nowadays, the Kogi, Wiva, Arthuacos, and Karkuamo people are their direct descendants.
The most important ruins you can visit is a city named Ciudad Perdida (A five-days trek in the Sierra Nevada) and you can have a glimpse of it by going to El Pueblito.
Kogi and the others (as the Tairona before them) believe in Nature (the great mother, Pachamama). They consider the globalization of our world – and our way of living – is destroying the planet. They have right, no? It’s the reason why the National park closes one month every year, to let Tayrona lives and breaths as before, among its worshippers.
It’s not convenient to hike Tayrona Colombia with your huge Backpack. And it’s not nice to load it on a poor horse neither. You should assume your shits ;). To avoid dying under the weight of your kindness, you should let it at your hostel.
In my opinion, it’s better to choose your accommodation near and in the direction of your next stop.
If you plan to go back to Santa Marta after – Osh god, I don’t like this city – you can decide to sleep at:
It’s a small paradise outside of Santa Marta (Perfect if you don’t want to deal with the city). Great food, swimming pool, bar! In short, you don’t want to go out.
High standing for a medium price with a friendly staff. It’s in the center of Santa Marta. Tasty food and amazing swimming pool. It’s perfect to relax after a trek in La Sierra Nevada.
Around Tayrona Colombia National Park
It can be a smart decision to book a place near the entrance. Thus, you can arrive early, avoid the other tourists and spend more time in the park.
ECO HOSTAL YULUKA
This place will be a paradise, especially after your expedition in Tayrona Park. Awesome restaurant, swimming pool, fair price (around 12 dollars for a dorm), a free shuttle to go to the main entrance, A/C. What do you want more? Ah yes, I forgot, they have hammocks too <3
THE JOURNEY HOSTEL
Friendly staff, Cheap, Social with many trails and beach around. Be careful, it’s a trap. You book for 1 night and 1 week later you are still there 😉
In direction of Palomino
I’m a big fan of Palomino. It’s chill, you can do tubing and you are closer to the desert La Guajira.
LA MAR DE BIEN
Do you think you deserve a paradise after your long trek to the lost city or to Tayrona Colombia? Welcome to La Mar de Bien where everything is perfect. It’s a little pricey for a Backpacker but it’s affordable and worth it! Swimming pool, nature, beach access. Nothing is missing in La Mar de Bien. Piritta and Niina are big fans too!
Big hostel. It’s a chill place with clean dorm and hammocks everywhere. Plenty of activities. You are in the middle of nature on the coast, so don’t expect lots of technology. It’s directly on the beach. There is also Brisa Tranquila hostel next to it.
I guess you don’t like the rain. So avoid doing it in May, September, October, and November. If you’re there during this period, no worry, you can still do it – I did it in May and I’m not dead.
As I said earlier, they usually close one month every year (around January/ February). You can try to send an email to one of this guy: [email protected]
If it’s the case, don’t be sad, there are plenty of other activities to do around. And Tayrona sucks anyway – Just kidding, I was lying to console you. You can pick up some ideas in this article from Sarepa.
Also, I recommend you to AVOID the weekend, Easter holidays, Christmas holidays and Public holidays – Except if your secret dream is to swim among hundreds of Colombians.
Open hours: 8 am to 5 pm
Coming from Palomino
It’s easy. You just catch a bus on the road direction Santa Marta.
Time: 1 hours
Price: 7 000 COP
Coming from Santa Marta
You have to take the bus at Calle 11 con Carerra 11. If you are lost, ask people. They will know.
Time: 1 hour
Price: 7 000 COP
Coming from Taganga
The boat leaves early from the beach and when they are full (Nothing after 9h30 am) – From what I heard. Look for other backpackers. They drop you directly to the most famous beach Cabo San Juan. The returns to Taganga are around 4 pm.
Time: Around 1h30
Price: 25 000 COP to go and 45 000 to come back – Hahaha little bastards.
A list, A list, A list – Ok, I’m your humble servant. As any trek, you need to be prepared. Fortunately, it’s an easy one. You can let your ice pick and bow in your backpack.
- Your passport – You have to show it at the entrance
- Yellow certificate vaccination – They can sometimes ask at the entrance
- 2 L of water – You gonna sweat like crazy
- Some snacks for the energy
- Swimming short and towel
- Trainers – Don’t hike with Flip Flop!
- Repellent – Against mosquitos and sand flies
- No plastic bags – They are forbidden (Alcohols too)
- A trash bag to bring back your garbage
- A blanket – Nights can be coldish
- A Jumper and socks – To survive to the sand flies
- A torch
- Toilet paper
- A lock
- Enough Cash! – No ATM
You should survive. Jaguars and Puma are very rare, go out at night and they don’t attack humans. But, there are still some points you should be aware of.
- You can’t swim everywhere. There are some signs where it’s forbidden because of strong currents. Don’t play with your life but you can still put your legs in the ocean 😉
- Drink water. It’s humid and you gonna sweat. Your body will need water
- Cabo San Juan is a touristy place. It increases the chance to have your stuff stolen. It’s not often happening but don’t be this unlucky dude.
- Bring a lock and ask if there is a locker – I’m not sure
- If not, bring always your valuable stuff with you – A small canvas bag is perfect
- You can still lock your day bag – But keep with valuable with you
- No need to become a crazy paranoid person – Please don’t send a rock because someone is coming to speak to you 😉
- I’m not a big fan of the Malaria pills and you will not stay a long time, so it’s not worth it at all. But do your Yellow Fever injection before coming to Colombia – Just in case.
OK now, it’s the big topic. Crap, did I forget to tell you how long this article was? In the meantime, you can’t have the best-detailed guide about Tayrona Colombia National Park in only 1000 words. Don’t you think?
TWO entrances to the Tayrona Colombia National Park
Ok, if you have to read ONE thing, it’s this one: There are TWO entrances – Now you can stop reading. No please stay! The choice depends on what you would like to do.
Price: 42 500 COP ( in 2017) – It’s increasing every year. You can stay as long as you want.
Main entrance Tayrona Colombia: El Zaino
- You are in a rush and despite all my recommendation you want to do it in one day
- You don’t like walking too much
- You want to horse ride
- You want to try to arrive first to book the hammocks on the rock
If you do not belong to the groups above, you should take the 2nd entrance.
- You have to watch a 20 min video (in Spanish) and wait in line
- They will check your bag
- Then you have to take another small bus (3000 COP) to go to the “real” entrance (Cañaveral). It’s 4km on a dirt road. You can decide to walk but I don’t see the interest – Stop smoking or drinking if you want to save money
- Walk a little more than 1h30 to arrive at the main beach (Cabo San Juan)
It’s the easiest way, so it’s full of tourists
The secret entrance of Tayrona Colombia: Calabazo
- You don’t like tourist
- You want to increase your chance to observe animals
- You like to walk
- You want to visit Pueblito (Or just passing through)
- You are looking for secret beaches
- You want to hike a few days
- You want to go to Playa Brava
- First, you need to tell the bus driver you want to stop at Calabazo – Not Tayrona entrance, Calabazo
- Cross the road and go a little up (and ask people). You will see one guard on a small chair
- It will check your passport and maybe your bag
- No video and no waiting line and probably no map. But I did one for you 😉
- It’s around 4 hours to arrive at Cabo San Juan or Playa Brava
It’s steep the first hours but nothing insane. Most of the Colombians don’t like to walk. Use this advantage to be alone in the jungle!
They close the entrance at 3h30 pm.
In the end, the question matters a lot as my goal is to convince you to sleep minimum one night and opt for Calabazo’s entrance.
- Time from Zaino entrance to Carñaval: 8 min with the shuttle
- Time from Carñaveral to Arrecife: 50 min
- Time from Arrecife to La Piscina: 20 min
- Time from La Piscina to Cabo San Juan: 30 min
- Time from Cabo San Juan to the nudist beach: 15 min
- Time from Cabo San Juan to Pueblito: less than 2 h
- Time from Pueblito to Playa Brava: Around 1h30
- Time from Calabazo to Pueblito: Around 2 h
- Time from Calabazo to Playa Brava: Around 3 h
- Time from Playa Brava to Cabo San Juan: Around 3 h
- Time from Zaino Entrance to Cabo San Juan: Around 1h30
- Time from EcoHabs to Carñaveral: Around 15 min
Now, you’re a little lost because you have no idea where to go. Relax, have a cup of tea. I’m going to explain to you what are the different activities and where to sleep. Then, if you are nice, I will draw a
shitty marvelous map to summarize everything.
You have many choices to get your butt tanned. There is an order, It’s from East to West
- Playa Brava: You are alone on the beach and it’s not forbidden to swim. But still be careful in case of big waves
- Nudist beach: It’s nice and there is nobody too. It’s a good way to escape from the crowd in Cabo San Juan. And it’s maybe the occasion to swim naked!
- Cabo San Juan: It’s beautiful. Big boulders surround 2 little bays. There is no current and you can snorkel. However, it can be crazy full of people. You should wake up early to enjoy it.
- La piscina: It’s a little bigger and still protected by many rocks – It’s like a natural swimming pool. There are fewer people compared to Cabo San Juan but there is no Campsite.
- Arrecife: Beach where you can’t swim – It’s dangerous because of the currents and aggressive mermaids.
First, you have to be ready to sleep in a hammock (or tent). I think you really will enjoy the experience. The only reason why you should take one of the few expensive bungalows it’s because you’re on honeymoon – Congratz!!!
There is a hostel where you can eat and buy water. And it’s the only one where you can reserve a hammock in advance!! The facilities are basics – don’t be surprised, you are in the middle of nowhere – but the food is good.
Email: [email protected]
Price: Around 15 000 COP for a Hammock
Bonus: A cool waterfall 25 min far away
Cabo San Juan
You have the choice between hammock, VIP hammock (on the top of a “hill”), and tent. I’m not a big fan of the tent – I tried once. You need to arrive early to book the VIP hammocks (Check out at 11 am I think) or stay 2 nights (to have more chance to get one).
The facilities are basics and there is a good restaurant – Around 25 000 COP (18 000 COP for Pasta). The sunset and sunrise are sensational.
- Hammock: 25 000 COP
- VIP Hammock: 30 00 COP
- Tent: 30 000 COP – Each
There are many camps, and you can cook with firewood.
You have the choice between Camping Dan Pedro and Búcaru for tent/hammock or Yuluka if you want to have a luxury cabaña
- Hammock: 10 000 COP
- Cabana: 350 000 COP
There are two main reasons why you would like to sleep near the entrance. It’s because you fell in love with the Ecohabs’s picture or because you would like to hike the 9 Piedras trail before leaving the park.
There is the option to sleep in the camping Castilletes also.
- Ecohabs: Around 1 000 000 COP
- Castilletes: There are cabanas (Not a great reputation) around 150 000 COP. And you can set the tent.
There are not only beaches in Tayrona!
- Walking to Pueblito. They are ruins of the Tairona people (Not fantastic) and typical houses where some Kogis are living. The walk and nature around are lovely. It’s 2 hours from Calabazo entrance or from Cabo San Juan. Read the adventure of Claire!
- Horse riding to go to the different beaches between Carñaveral and Cabo San Juan (40 000 COP)
- Snorkelling at La Piscina and Cabo San Juan
- Do the 9 Piedras trail (Big rocks with a hole in the middle) near Cañaveral. There is the best point of view of the Tayrona Colombia and it’s not touristy at all! Chris took some nice pictures
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Excited to go to Tayrona Colombia? Awesome. Now it’s time to decide how long you would like to stay and how can you organize this adventure.
1-day itinerary in Tayrona Colombia
Are you sure you don’t want to sleep one night? Ok, it’s your trip after all 😉
- Sleep in Santa Marta at the Dreamer the night before and let your big Backpack
- Leave around 6h30 – 7h00 am to catch a bus on the road.
- Stop at Calabazo Entrance
- Hike to Pueblito then to Cabo San Juan
- Have lunch in Cabo and enjoy the surrounding (La piscina, the beaches) – You deserve it after your long trail!
- Take the boat at Cabo direction Taganga around 4 pm – Ask the information when you arrive in Cabo San Juan
- Take a bus/taxi to come back to Tayrona
Budget for the National Park: Around 120 000 COP
2 days itinerary in Tayrona Colombia
- Start at Calabazo entrance at the opening (8 am)
- Hike to Pueblito then to Cabo San Juan
- Explore the surrounding and sleep in Cabo or Arrecife
- Day 2: Hang out in the park, have lunch but think to leave Cabo around 3 pm max (The park closes at 5 pm)
Budget for the National Park: Around 130 000 COP
Nb: If you want to sleep on the top of the rock in Cabo San Juan, you need to arrive with the first persons.
3 days itinerary in Tayrona Colombia
- Start at Calabazo entrance at the opening (8 am)
- Hike to Playa Brava – Sleep there
- Day 2: Playa Brava to Pueblito then to Cabo San Juan – Sleep there
- Day 3: Hang out in the park. If you’re not too tired, you can hike the 9 Piedras trail (Around 1 hour) – Exit by El Zaino (Main entrance)
Budget for the National Park: Around 175 000 COP
Costeno Beach/ Brisa Tranquila/ El Rio
Do you want to chill at the beach and do nothing? Eat a delicious meal while your feet are playing in the water? Between Santa Marta and Palomino, you have plenty of hostels on the coast to grant your dreams. You should think to take a repellent; you’re in nature 😉
How to get there: Take the collectivo on the road direction Palomino
Prices and time: Bus from Santa Marta: Around 10 000 COP / 1h30
Where to sleep:
Big hostel. It’s a chill place with clean dorm and hammocks everywhere. Plenty of activities. You are in the middle of nature on the coast, so don’t expect lots of technology. It’s directly on the beach.
Next to Costeno Beach, it’s a little more party mode. The staff too. Go there if you want some good food, crazy party and you don’t care too much for your accommodation. It’s directly on the beach.
It’s the perfect hostel if you prefer to swim in fresh water. Relax hostel, friendly staff, delicious food, comfortable beds and a bar. Sociable place.
Do you want to relax at the beach and do quick/chill activities? Do some tubing on a river with a beer in your hand?
Stop at Palomino!
How to get there: Take the collectivo in the direction of Tayrona and stop at Palomino (1 hour later)
Prices and time: Collectivo from Santa Marta 14 000 COP / 2 hours
Where to sleep:
It’s my favorite hostel. It’s a great deal because it’s cheap but near the beach. The owners are a friendly couple. However, it’s pretty basic. There is always a good vibe and good food.
They don’t accept booking online. You need to get there directly
Yes, it’s the same name than the one in Santa Marta. Great hostel with swimming pool, parties, bar and delicious food. It’s near the beach and quite lovely.
Great hostel on the way to the beach (5 min far away). You pay a good price regarding the quality of the place and the breakfast! There is a swimming pool, and it’s your best chance to have a “good” Wifi.
Do you want to enjoy more the Sierra Nevada, swim in waterfalls, tasting an organic coffee and eat delicious food?
Minca is what you need. I wrote a detailed article about all the things to do in Minca.
Any idea how safe/secure the hammock option is?
There are few lockers in Cabo San Juan. Otherwise, you should always keep your valuables with you in a small bag or give them to someone.
Were there cooking facilities at Cabo San Juan?
No. There are some only in Arrecife (bonfire).
If we have a rental car can we drive into the park all the way to the campsite?
No. You will have to stop at Carñaveral.
Can we reserve/book in advance?
It’s not possible for Cabo San Juan and Arrecife
Do hammocks in the Cabo San Juan campsite have mosquito nets?
Not the last time I was there. Take some repellent and wear long sleeves
Do I need mosquito repellent?
Do I have to take Malaria pills?
In my opinion, no. But I recommend being vaccinated against the Yellow Fever.
Is it possible to visit Tayrona in one day only?
Yes, if you start very early. But it will be a long day and you will not appreciate the place (Beach time)
Is it difficult to hike in Tayrona?
Not really. The climate can make it exhausting because it’s hot and humid. You should take your runners and some water. You will cool in the ocean!
How to avoid the tourists?
Use the Calabazo entrance and don’t go to Tayrona Colombia park during the weekend and Colombian holidays
Do I need my yellow fever proof?
It can be asked at the entrance
Can I bring alcohol?
No, they will check your bag at the entrance
In my opinion, Tayrona Colombia Park is a highlight if you’re doing it well. There are wildlife, beautiful nature and beautiful beaches.
You should absolutely avoid the weekends and the Colombian holidays. The crowdy part will always be Cabo San Juan but you just have to walk 15 min more to find a quiet spot.
The entrance fee is expensive – compared to other prices in Colombia – but you can stay as long as you want. This is why I recommend you to stay more than 1 day. It’s a perfect place to trek 2 or 3 days. It’s simple, you can buy food and water easily and there are many accommodations. Be ready to sleep in a hammock.
Also, your experience will be better if you take the Calabazo entrance. Yes, it’s steeper and longer but there is a high chance that you will be alone on the trail. I think it’s a no-brainer decision.
- Time: 3 days
- Total Budget: 175 000 COP
- Weather: Humid
- Best time to visit: Mid-December to April; July to August
- Backpacker profile: Indiana Jones who likes to tan on beaches
How was your Tayrona National park experience? Now it’s time to chill (again). Let’s go to Palomino!
This entry was posted in Caribbean Region