Because there is almost 0 good information about Tayrona National Park, 70% of travelers make the same mistakes when visiting it.
Do you know which mistakes I’m talking about?
It’s ok if you don’t.
Thanks to this article, you’ll be able to :
- Plan the perfect itinerary for exploring Tayrona National Park.
- Avoid most tourists.
Visiting Tayrona National Park: Important
Where: Tayrona, located in the Sierra Nevada on the Caribbean Coast, is one of Colombia’s most visited National Park.
When: In 2022, the park will be closed from 01/02 to 15/02, 01/06 to 15/06, and 19/10 to 02/11.
Weather: It’s warm and humid. The rainiest months are May, September, October, and November.
Tayrona’s entrances: There are two entrances. El Zaino (7 am) is the main one, and Calabazo (7 am) is the small entrance – our favorite one.
Tayrona tickets: You can buy them at both entrances. Around 62 000 COP (including the insurance).
Tayrona beaches: There are various beautiful beaches in Tayrona National Park. Cabo San Juan is the most famous one. Playa Brava and La Piscina are also 2 excellent spots. You must always be careful because of the strong currents in the Caribbean sea.
Tayrona hikes: You don’t need a guide. Follow the trails. Hiking shoes or sneakers are perfect.
Where to stay in Tayrona: There are various campings and hammocks area inside the park (Cabo San Juan, Arrecife, Playa Brava, Castilletes). You can’t book them on the internet, except for Playa Brava.
Where to stay around Tayrona: Stay near Tayrona the night before, so that you can start early!
- Yuluka is perfect for low budget travelers.
- Quetzal Dorado is a must for medium budget travelers
- Villa playa Tayrona or Senda Casa Tayrona are the best luxury hotels near the entrance. Excelle value for money.
If you wish to sleep by the water before and after Tayrona:
- Choose one of the lovely and affordable cabins at the ecolodge Playa Pikua
- Or live a waking dream by staying at Villa Cayena Beach
Restaurant and Water: You can order food and buy water bottles inside the park. You just have to carry a small day bag.
Tayrona safety: Depending on the beach, you’re not allowed to swim because of the currents. Watch over your belongings.
Duration: 1 to 3 days, depending on your plans to visit the park.
My favorite Tayrona’s tips:
- Avoid going on the weekend and public holidays.
- Bring some cash. You can’t pay by credit card.
- Enter by Calabazo and stay 2 nights inside Tayrona National Park
Best tour in the Sierra Nevada: If you want a fantastic in-depth jungle experience, I recommend you do the 4-day trek to the Lost City.
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Parque nacional natural tayrona: a bit of history
Tairona is the name of the people living in Colombia hundreds of years before the colonization by the Spaniards. Some escaped the genocide by going deeper into the Sierra Nevada. Nowadays, the Kogi, Wiwa, Arthuacos, and Karkuamo people are their direct descendants.
The most important ruins you can visit is a city named Ciudad Perdida (A five-day trek in the Sierra Nevada).
They believe in Nature (the great mother, Pachamama). They consider the globalization of our world – and our way of living – is destroying the planet.
It’s thy the National park closes one month every year to let Tayrona live and breathe as before among its worshippers.
Bogota’s City Paper explains the gains from keeping the park closed for a month.
Where to stay before hiking in Tayrona
It’s not convenient to hike in the Tayrona National Park with your huge backpack. And it would be best if you didn’t load it on a poor horse either. Assume your burden.
Don’t worry. If you don’t want to carry your backpack, there is an easy solution.
Let most of your stuff in your hotel and hike to Tayrona National Park with a day back.
We made a selection of the best hotels nearby the park.
Where to stay in Santa Marta
Although I’m not fond of Santa Marta, you can decide to start your trip to Tayrona National park from there. It’s a 1h bus drive to reach the park entrance.
- Dreamer hostel is an excellent place to meet other travelers and chill after and before your expedition | Best prices here
- Masaya hostel is perfect if you prefer to stay near restaurants and bars. | Best prices here
- Casa Carolina is a lovely and affordable boutique hotel with a pool and a jacuzzi. | Best prices here
- Don Pepe is the best boutique hotel with top-notch facilities. In the center.| Best prices here
2# Where to stay near the Tayrona’s entrances
It’s a smart decision to book a place near the Parque Tayrona’s entrances. Thus, you will arrive early, avoid the other tourists and spend more time in the park.
- Eco Hostal Yuluka is a lovely and affordable hostel with a pool and a restaurant. | Best prices here.
- Eco Hotel Chayrama is an affordable hotel with beautiful exteriors, a pool, and spacious rooms. | Best prices here
- Quetzal Eldorado offers an astounding view of the Sierra Nevada. Excellent value for money. | Best prices here.
- Villa playa Tayrona is a little paradise that you won’t be able to leave. | Best prices here.
- Casa Tayrona is a top-notch hotel with direct access to the beach and the river. | Best prices here.
3# Sleeping by the beach
To fully enjoy Colombia’s Caribbean coast, you must learn to take your time.
For that, nothing better than reserving a nice place to stay by the water.
- Choose one of the lovely and affordable cabins at the ecolodge Playa Pikua.
- Or live a waking dream by staying at Villa Cayena Beach.
Best Time To Visit Tayrona National Park
I guess you don’t like the rain.
So avoid visiting the park in May, September, October, and November. But, if you’re there during this period, no worries. You will still enjoy it – I did it in May, and we had loads of fun.
Also, I recommend you to AVOID the weekends, Easter holidays, Christmas holidays, and Public holidays – Except if your secret dream is to swim among hundreds of Colombians.
The opening hours for Tayrona National Park are slightly different depending on whether you choose Calabazo or El Zaino:
- El Zaino: Entrance from 07:00 to 12:00 | Exits from 14:00 to 17:00
- Calabazo: Entrance from 07:00 to 11:00 | Exit from 13:00 to 15:00
I don’t think the rangers will stop you from going out if you don’t arrive in the right time slot. But you never know!
In 2022, the new closing dates are: from 01 February to 15 February; from 01 June to 15 June; from 19 October to 02 November.
How to get to Tayrona National Park
It’s quite simple.
There is a long road that runs along the Tayrona National Park. Many buses go there and back.
The bus Palomino – Tayrona
It’s easy. Stop a bus on the main road, in the direction of Santa Marta.
Bus Palomino – Tayrona: 1 hour
Price: 7 000 COP
The bus Santa Marta – Tayrona
You must take the bus from Santa Marta’s city center, on Calle 11 with Carerra 11. If you are lost, ask a local for the direction of the Mercado Principal (Market).
It’s easy to walk there. Otherwise, take a cab for 5 – 7000 COP.
Bus Santa Marta – Tayrona: 1 hour
Price: 8000 COP
The boat Taganga – Tayrona
The boat leaves early from the beach and when they are full (No departure 9h30 am). Look for other backpackers. They drop you off directly at the most famous beach: Cabo San Juan. Boats return to Taganga at 4 pm.
Boat Taganga – Tayrona: Around 1h00
Price: Around 50 000 COP – one way
Tip: we recommend the agency Chez Boaz
From December to the end of March, the sea can be extremely rough, and it can be terrifying (and dangerous) to travel by boat to Tayrona. Check the waves before taking your decision.
Cartagena to Tayrona
There are 2 options to get to Tayrona from Cartagena.
1rst option: You can decide to stop in Santa Marta first (buses are more frequent):
- Bus Cartagena – Santa Marta: 5-6 hours | 22 000 COP
- Bus Santa Marta – Tayrona in the direction of Rioacha: 1 hour | Around 10 000 COP
Or you can grab a bus in the direction of Palomino and stop at the Zaino Entrance – Don’t forget to ask the driver first.
In this case, you should:
- Leave early from Cartagena
- Bus Cartagena – Tayrona: 6-7 hours | Around 30 000 COP
Use the 2nd option if you’re in a hurry:
Marsol is a private shuttle company. They will pick you up at your hostel in Cartagena to drop you at your accommodation near Tayrona.
- Private Shuttle Cartagena – Tayrona National Natural Park: 5 – 6 hours | Around 75 000 COP
What to Pack For Tayrona National Park
Tayrona National Park is easy to explore, and you won’t need many things in your day bag. You can let your ice pick and bow at home.
- Your passport – You have to show it at the entrance. A photocopy is enough.
- Yellow fever certificate vaccination – The vaccine is usually not mandatory. However, I recommend being vaccinated for Yellow Fever before going to Colombia.
- 2 L of water – You gonna sweat a lot.
- Some snacks.
- Bathing suit and towel.
- Trainers – Don’t hike with Flip Flop!
- Repellent – Against mosquitos and sand flies.
- Avoid plastic bags
- A trash bag to bring back your garbage.
- A blanket – Nights can be coldish.
- A Jumper and socks – To survive against the sandflies.
- A torch.
- Toilet paper.
- A lock.
- Enough Cash! – No ATM.
- Snorkel gears.
Is Tayrona National Park Safe?
Firstly, nobody gonna tries to kill you. Jaguars and Puma are very rare, go out at night, and they don’t attack humans.
However, there are still some safety points you should be aware of:
- You can’t swim everywhere. There are some signs where it’s forbidden because of strong currents. Be careful.
- Drink water. The weather is humid, and you gonna sweat.
- Cabo San Juan is the most famous beach. More people = More chance to have your stuff stolen. Don’t let your valuables unattended.
- Bring a lock and use the lockers.
- I don’t take Malaria pills. The risk is low in Colombia, and the secondary effects of the pills are annoying.
- Do your Yellow Fever injection before coming to Colombia – Just in case
2 entrances for Tayrona National Park
Ok, if you have to read ONE thing, it’s this one:
There are TWO entrances to get inside Tayrona National Park.
1# How much does it cost to enter Tayrona Natural Park
Tayrona Park Entrance Fee: 57 500 COP (2022) – It’s increasing yearly. You can stay as long as you want.
During the high season (December to February) and the public holidays, the price increases to 66 500 COP.
You also have to pay insurance for 5000 COP.
Sometimes you can buy your Tayrona Park Ticket online. Often, there are technical problems on the website.
2# El Zaino is the main Tayrona park’s entrance
Why to enter by El Zaino:
- You are in a rush, and despite all my recommendations, you want to do it in one day
- You don’t like hiking too much, or you’re too old
- You want to horse ride
- You want to arrive first in Cabo San Juan to book the hammocks on the watchtower
If you do not belong to the groups above, you should opt for the 2nd entrance.
Entrance process for El Zaino:
- You have to watch a 20 min video (in Spanish).
- They will check your bag
- Then you have to take another small bus (5000 COP) to go to the “real” entrance (Cañaveral). It’s 4km on a dirt road.
- Walk a little more than 1h30 to arrive at the main beach (Cabo San Juan)
Most people enter El Zaino because they’re not aware of Calabazo.
El Zaino entrance opens at 7 am, and you can’t enter past 12 pm.
3# Calabazo is the secret Tayrona entrance
Pueblito is now closed to the public but you can still hike from Playa Brava to Cabo San Juan.
Why to enter by El Calabazo:
- You don’t like tourists.
- You want to increase your odds of observing animals.
- You like hiking
- You want to be alone on Playa Brava.
- You want to hike for a few days inside the Tayrona Park
Entrance process for El Calabazo:
- First, you need to tell the bus driver you want to stop at Calabazo | It’s 10 min before Zaino
- Cross the road and follow the short muddy path.
- You will see one guard on a small chair.
- He will check your passport and maybe your bag.
- No video and no waiting line, and probably no map. But I drew one for you 😉
- It takes 3.5 hours to arrive at Cabo San Juan or Playa Brava
The first-hour hike is a bit steep but nothing that can’t be overcome. Most Colombians don’t like to walk. Use this advantage to be alone in Tayrona Park.
Calabazo opens at 7 am and closes at 11 am.
Distances Between Tayrona Park Highlights
- Time from Zaino entrance to Cañaveral: 8 min with the shuttle
- Time from Cañaveral 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 2.5 – 3 h
- Time from Zaino Entrance to Cabo San Juan: Around 1h30 (6.25 km)
- Time from EcoHabs to Cañaveral: Around 15 min
Where Are The Beaches In Tayrona Natural Park
There are beautiful beaches in Tayrona to get your butt tanned.
- Playa Brava: It’s a secluded beach where you can swim. But still, be careful in case of big waves
- Nudist beach: Lovely beach with nobody around. 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 crowded on weekends and holidays. You should wake up early to enjoy it.
- La piscina: Natural pool protected by many rocks. 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.
Where to stay in Tayrona National Park
If you want to find a place to stay in Tayrona National Park, you must be ready to sleep in a hammock or a tent.
Indeed, there is no hostel inside Tayrona National Natural Park.
I’m sure you will love the experience. The only reason why you should take one of the few expensive bungalows at the park entrance is that you’re on your honeymoon.
1# Where to stay in Playa Brava
In Playa Brava, you can stay in Teyumakke.
The facilities are basic – don’t be surprised, you are in the middle of nowhere – but the food is good (and a bit expensive).
You can send them an email to book your hammock in advance: Email: email@example.com
You can swim in Playa Brava. However, you should always be cautious – More than 200 people died in Tayrona.
Average Prices for Playa Brava:
- Hammock: Around 30 000 COP. They give you a mosquito net and a blanket.
- Private cabin: Around 180 000 COP/pers for 2 people | Bad Bed mattress
- Lunch or Dinner 30 000 COP with a juice
- Breakfast: 20 000 COP
2# Where to stay in Cabo San Juan, Tayrona
You can book in advance your hammock for Cabo San Juan at the Zaino Entrance. It’s not the case at the Calabazo Entrance.
There is a large camping area in Cabo San Juan with different types of emplacements. Price 2020 :
- Tent 1 pers: 40 000 COP
- Tent 2 pers: 80 000 COP
- If you bring your own tent: 20 000 COP / Pers
- Private cabin: 200 000 COP / 2 pers | Only 2 cabins
- Hammock near the camping zone: 40 000 COP
- Hammock on the watchtower: 50 000 COP
The facilities are basic, and there is a good restaurant – From 15 to 40 000 COP (Around 20 000 COP for Pasta). The sunset and sunrise are sensational.
3# Where to stay in Arrecife
There are two campsites in Arrecife: Camping Don Pedro and Yuluka.
There, you can choose between hammocks or tents.
The installations are very basic, and the hammocks are extremely close to each other. But, it’s a lot cheaper and less crowded than in Cabo San Juan. There is also a shop where you can buy food and beverages.
Prices accommodations in Arrecife:
- Hammock: 15 – 20 000 COP
4# Where to stay in Cañaveral
There is one reason why you would like to sleep near the Zaino entrance.
You wanna sleep in the Tayrona Ecohabs.
This luxury hotel offers private cabins with a great view of the ocean. During your stay, you can decide to pay for private tours or explore the park independently.
There are all the facilities you need: a Gourmet restaurant, spa, showers, etc.
Price: Ecohab Tayrona: Around 1 200 000 COP – up to 4 people
More things To Do In Tayrona Park
There are not only beaches in Tayrona Park:
- Horse riding to go to the different beaches between Carñaveral and Cabo San Juan (40 000 COP)
- Snorkeling at La Piscina and Cabo San Juan
- Do the 9 Piedras trail (Big rocks with a hole in the middle) near Cañaveral.
My Tayrona National Park Map
EDIT: Pueblito is closed to the public but you can pass nearby to get to Playa Nudista
How to plan your trip inside Tayrona National Park
Excited to go to Tayrona National Park in Colombia?
Now, it’s time to decide how long you would like to stay.
1 day to visit Tayrona National Park
- Sleep in a hotel in Santa Marta the night before
- Leave around 6h30 – 7h00 am to catch a bus on the road.
- Stop at the Zaino entrance
- Hike to Cabo San Juan
- Have lunch in Cabo under palm trees and enjoy the surrounding (La piscina, the beaches).
- Take the boat to Cabo direction Taganga around 4 pm.
- Then, take a cab to your hotel in Santa Marta – Around 20 min.
2 days to visit Tayrona National Park
- Day 1: Start your hike early from the Calabazo entrance
- Hike to Playa Brava and chill
- Day 2: Wake up early and hike to Cabo San Juan. Have lunch there and leave in the direction of the Zaino around 3 pm – Thus, you will arrive before the nightfall
- The 2nd is a long day hike.
3 days to visit Tayrona National Park
- Day 1: Start early from the Calabazo entrance
- Hike to Playa Brava and stay overnight.
- Day 2: Wake up early and hike Playa Brava to Cabo San Juan. Book your hammock.
- Day 3: Hang out inside the park. If you’re not too tired, you can hike the 9 Piedras trail (Around 1 hour)
- Leave in the direction of El Zaino
Frequent Questions About Tayrona National Park
- Should I book a Tayrona Park tour?
There is no interest in booking a Tayrona Park tour. The hikes are easy, and the trails are well indicated.
If you want to make it easier, you can book a boat from Taganga or ride a horse from the Zaino Entrance.
- Any idea of how safe/secure the hammock option is?
There are few lockers in Cabo San Juan. Otherwise, it would be best always to keep your valuables in a small bag or give them to someone.
- Were there cooking facilities at Cabo San Juan?
No. There are some in Arrecife (bonfire).
- If we have a rental car, can we drive into the park to the campsite?
No. You will have to stop at Cañaveral.
- Can we reserve/book in advance?
Yes, there is a counter at the Zaino entrance to book your hammock in Cabo San Juan before entering Tayrona park.
- Do hammocks in the Cabo San Juan campsite have mosquito nets?
Yes. But, take some repellent and wear long sleeves at night.
- Do I need mosquito repellent?
- Do I have to take Malaria pills?
In my opinion, no. But I recommend being vaccinated against Yellow Fever.
- Is it possible to visit Tayrona Park in one day only?
Yes, if you start very early. But it will be a long day, and you will not appreciate the park.
- Is it difficult to hike in Tayrona Park?
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 down in the ocean!
- How to avoid tourists?
Take the Calabazo entrance and don't go to Tayrona National Park during the weekend, public holidays, 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
- Can I let my big backpack at the entrance?
Yes, at the Zaino entrance.
Bottom Line: Tayrona National Natural Park
Tayrona National Natural Park will be a great destination if you’re doing it well. There are interesting wildlife, beautiful Nature and gorgeous beaches.
You should avoid weekends and Public holidays. The crowded 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 stay for more than 1 day. It’s a perfect place to hike for 2 or 3 days. It’s an easy trail, you can buy food and water, and there are many accommodations. Be ready to sleep in a hammock.
Also, your experience will improve if you start hiking from 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.