Imagine a beach with perfect aqua water, endless palm trees, and a hammock overlooking the scenery. There is no cell phone signal and the only way to get to this paradise is by foot or speed boat. Well my friends that place certainly exists and it called Tayrona National Park. It it located in the state of Santa Marta in Colombia. Within the past few years its became a popular destination within Colombia and the number of visitors increases every year. I can see why. Ese lugar es un paraiso encantador! Getting there is an unforgettable adventure that I wish to share and I hope it helps those of you planning to visit this beautiful place!
My friends and I landed at the airport in Cartagena on a Sunday evening. We took a “puerta a puerta” micro bus, which is literally what it is called, a minivan that picks up people at their front doors and leaves them at the front door of their destination (except that did not happen with us, more about that in a bit). We were skeptical about hopping on a van right outside of the airport, when our original plan was to take another source of transportation to Santa Marta, but after seeing a few more locals inside the van we felt more at ease. The “puerta a puerta” cost from Cartagena to Santa Marta cost COP$45,000 (USD $15.48). The trip non-stop is about four hours but because this ride made numerous stops for others passengers in Baranquilla, it took us about 6 hours to get to the Santa Marta but not quite to our destination’s puerta. In part this was our fault for not having enough information on where our hostel was located. Lesson learned: never assume that drivers know where your destination is located. The driver thought that our hostel was located in an area called “El Rodadero” so he dropped us off at the entrance of this town where he said we could grab a taxi to the hostel. The name of the hostel was unknown to the taxi driver and after calling the hostel we discovered that we were still about 30 minutes away! That was an additional COP15,000 (USD $5.16) taxi ride. Pero por fin!Six hours later we made it to our hostel, “La Brisa Loca.” Most travelers headed to Tayrona stay at hostels or hotels on Santa Marta, given that it is only about 45 minutes away through public transportation. You can take the bus to Tayrona from the main market in Santa Marta which cost us COP$7,000 (USD $2.41).
Some important things you should know before you enter the park!
- Water is very expensive inside the park. Water is precious and crucial for your journey!
- For environmental reasons plastic bags are not allowed in the park!Most of the water sold in Santa Marta came in big plastic bags. We filled up three 2L hydration packs and a gallon of water to take with us inside the park .
- If you are specifically going to Cabo San Juan Beach know that there is only ONE restaurant and it is quite expensive. The cheapest meal, spaghetti and crackers, cost COP$12,000 ($4.13), the most filling meals cost anything between COP$22,000 and $25,000 (USD $7.50 - $8), and all natural juices were COP$5,000 (USD $1.72). Under Colombia standards this is considered expensive. Therefore if you are on a budget I suggest you pack some sandwiches :)
- Your personal alcohol is not allowed inside the park and beer cost more than water…
- Entrance cost is COP$49,000 (USD $16.85) for turistas or COP$8,000 (USD $2.75) if you have a student identification card.
- Pack toilet paper.
- We were told that our bags would get checked for unauthorized items but we never got checked. Maybe we got lucky.
- The hike to Cabo San Juan takes about two hours, wear comfortable shoes. I wouldn’t recommend doing the hike in sandals. There are also horses you can rent to take you to your destination. That was about COP$25,000 (USD$8.79). Or if you are feeling risky you can take a motor boat from the fishing village Taganga. I believe that is about COP$50,000 (USD$17.57). I mention risky because I have heard it is a bumpy ride! I highly recommend the hike though if you are in for a physical challenge.
Along the coast of Tayrona you will find many beautiful beaches. The main ones from the main entrance of the park being Cañaveral, Arrecifes, Piscina, and Cabo San Juan. Please pay close attention to the “no swimming” signs at certain beaches. We starred at the the waves from afar and they were pretty massive. It was a beautiful sight to see!I had never seen waves that big!I certainly wouldn’t want to die in the middle of those. Be cautious. Seriously.
The hike to Cabo San Juan was one of the most challenging hikes I have ever done but it had to do with the fact that we started the hike at noon. The sun was high and bright beating against our backs for two hours, while we were carrying our daypacks and water. You will walk through a very well preserved jungle. Keep your eye out for wildlife! If you are lucky you might see a crocodile or a snake! We saw neither but we met people that did encounter them. The most action we got was geckos and strange insect noises.Try to enjoy the hike as much as possible! I promise the end point is worth it.
At Cabo San Juan you have two options for your overnight stay, hammocks or rent a tent. I choose a hammock anywhere I go! I’m sure if you have researched Tayrona you have seen the very popular picture of the hut that sits on top of a hill overlooking the ocean. Well that hut houses twenty-five hammocks! If you want the best chance to get a hammock up there you have to get to San Juan by 1 p.m. in order to get in line to check in. By the time my friends and I arrived, at about 2:30 p.m., all the hammocks at the hut were rented out and we got hammocks at another location. A few people were in camping tents but it seems like sleeping inside a tent would be hot and stuffy. Remember you are in a jungle after all and it can get a bit humid. We got a chance to sleep in the top hut on the second day we were there. Although the top hut option is a bit more expensive it is worth everything! I can’t explain the feeling of serenity I felt being woken up by the sounds of the waves below me. I opened my eyes in the morning to look out to the aqua water. It was truly a priceless morning.
Take playing cards, books, your camera, and anything else you think would entertain you on a beach with no phone signal. During the day time you will probably lay out on the beach or choose to do more hiking. We found two more beaches when we walked up the hiking trails. The first one was semi-nude beach and the second one is a full-nude beach but they were pretty empty. At night time everyone hangs out at the restaurants tables or benches that face the ocean. We made friends with awesome English guys (Hi Tom and Henry!) whom we played UNO and Heads Up! with. They liked us so much they hung out with us some more on the beach the next day haha! I was so envious that they were staying another night and sleeping at the hut!
After 2 nights and 3 days at Tayrona I only ended up spending about USD$120. (But this was because that is literally all I took with me to Tayrona. I miscalculated the conversion and thought I had enough. Which I did…but I only had a meal and a half a day haha!Talk about travel budgeting!) You will hear different opinions about Tayrona National Park from the locals but it truly is a place that you have to experience for yourself in order to form your opinion. I personally absolutely loved it! I would love to go back one day and this time take enough money to eat three times day haha!
I hope the post was helpful!If you have any questions don’t hesitate to leave a comment or shoot me an email!