Nuestra Aventura at Tayrona National Park + Tips!

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!

Amy admiring Cabo San Juan

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). 

Cachorro relajando

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.

COP $25,000 lunch!Mojarra frita!

  • 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. 

Source: Ucros Travel

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. 

Fun fact!Bomba Estereo's "Somos Dos" music video was filmed here.


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. 

View from top hut!

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!

New friends!

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!

Ella lo que quiere es Salsa!

Let's talk Salsa in Colombia! Salsa is one of the main reasons I wanted to visit Colombia. A mi me encanta la salsa but unfortunately is it my weakest area when it comes to dance (maybe #2 weakest next to Samba!kkkk!). But only because I am not great at it does not stop me from trying to dance it anywhere I go. I always learn a thing or two from a new dance partner. Well here I am in Cartagena thinking, "oh!I know the basics...i'll be okay. Right?" Wrong! Salsa en Colombia is on another level!!!We got most of our Salsa dancing on at "Cafe Havana," located in Getsamani. We loved that place so much that we moved hostels to be closer to it!There was a live band every night that we went (Wed-Sat). The cover to get in was 15,000 pesos (~$5) which is actually considered expensive to someone that lives in Cartagena. So after learning that it explained why it was really an older bougie crowd. At Havana I got my first glimpse of Cali style Salsa! It had me so dumbfounded that I sat down at the bar and observed how people danced it for almost an hour. After a few daiquiris I asked one of the girls to teach me. She was a great instructor but I was a horrible student!I could not get the double- front- back step down! She taught me other stuff  and commented that I was really good! But I think she was just being nice. Nonetheless the nights spent at "Cafe Havana" were very memorable. The club is dimly lit, decorated with pictures of Cuban Salsa legends, a big bar, and a small stage up front where the Salsa bands play. Not once was I disappointed by the live music!

Other Salsa clubs we visited were "Quiebra Canto" and "Donde Fidel." Both locations were also very unique. Quiebra Canto had a mixed crowd!The club was made up of two floors and the best part...balconies!My friends and I danced all night on the small balconies with the clock tower view in front of us!

 Torre del Reloj 

Torre del Reloj 

 

"Donde Fidel" is located inside the walled city. Right by the clock tower entrance. This salsa club was recommended to us by all the locals and I could see why!Salsa clasica clasica clasica!Bien bacano! The crowd at this place was a lot older but man did everyone there have clean dancing skills! The place is so far from a being a hip bar that the lights are all on! But nothing is wrong with a place not being new and hip. You could really tell that "Donde Fidel" is highly appreciated and loved by the locals! There are dozens and dozens of photos of the famous salseros that have visited the bar! 

 Donde Fidel por fuera

Donde Fidel por fuera

I don't have video of myself dancing Cali style Salsa lol (Thank God!) But here is a good one of an awesome couple on YouTube!Maybe one day I will get it down!

Cafe Havana - Esquina, Cra. 10, Cartagena, Getsemaní, Colombia - Open till' 4 a.m.

Quiebra Canto - Carrera 5, No.17- 76, Cartagena, Colombia - Open till' 4 a.m.

Donde Fidel - Cra. 4, Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia - In between De los Coches Square and Aduana Square - Open 24 hrs? haha!

Las caras que conoces...

Do you ever think about the many people you open up your road to when you are traveling? I'm sitting here in my bed in LA thinking about the many many awesome people life has gifted me with crossing roads with. From the students I met at the UES in San Salvador, to the many wonderful people I met while studying in Brazil, and in my most recent trip to Colombia I met so many awesome people with very amazing life stories! I met these individuals at the hostels I've stayed at, on random hammock spaces, on the beach, on the street, on the bus, dancing, the list goes on. And I have learned new things about life from each one of them. So hello to all of you beautiful souls that I've crossed paths with!

Policarpa Salavirrieta

 Policarpa Salavarrieta on the 10,000 pesos bill

Policarpa Salavarrieta on the 10,000 pesos bill

Policarpa Salavirrieta (c. 1795- 14 November 1817), also knows as "La Pola," was a Neogranadine seamstress who spied for the Revolutionary Forces during the Spanish Reconquista of the Viceroyalty of New Granada. She was captured by Spanish Royalists and ultimately executed for high treason. She is now considered a heroine of the independence of Colombia.

Source: Wikipedia

Don Oscar

Eran las 11 de la mañana y nosotras hibamos corriendo por el medio del mercado de Santa Marta para pegar el bus hacia Tayrona. Por fin llegamos al local y el bus ya estava llenisimo. Mis dos compañeras encuentran dos asientos vacios y atras de ellas estava un asiento vacio a la par de un señor con una gorrita en la cabeza, jeans sucios, de blusa beige, y sudando a la par de la ventana. La verdad que parecia que nadien queria sentarse a la par de el. Pero yo no recibi ninguna vibra mala de el y le pregunte si me podia sentar a la par de el y me dijo, "claro señorita." Paso el cobrador. A mi me cobro 7,000 pesos para Tayrona, al señor le queria cobrar 6,000 para su destino. El señor le dijo una retajila que la verdad yo no entendi y le pago 5,000 pesos. Se intercambiaron mas palavras entre ellos por el costo pero al final el señor gano la batalla. Pasaron algunos minutos y me pregunto a mi cuanto me cobraron y yo le dije que 7,000 pesos. "Te vieron cara de turista. Yo voy mas lejos que usted y a mi me querian cobrar 6,000 pesos pero yo no me dejo, no señor!" Desde alli la conversacion con el señor no paro. Aprendi que el hiba en camino para su finquita donde cresce diferentes frutas y vegetales. Tambien queria ullir un poco del calor que hacia en Santa Marta. El pasaria el medio dia llenando su bolsita con comida cual llevara de regreso a su familia a Santa Marta esa misma tarde. Me conto que tiene una hija de 7 años, quien es linda y muy inteligente. El hablo mucho sobre la educacion y como el se esforza mucho para darle la mejor educacion a su hija. "La educacion es la cosa mas valiosa para una persona. Es la unica cosa que ellos no nos pueden quitar. Y ademas de salir adelante con ella, tambien te puedes defender. Le aconsejo que siempre busque una manera de seguir aprendiendo." Intercambiamos mas palabras sobre mi viaje, politica, problemas de nuestros paises, musica vallenata (le encanto hablar sobre vallenato!), y nuestras familias. El tenia mucho interes en aprender mas sobre El Salvador. Mi parada llego despues de una hora. Intercambiamos nombres, le di la mano, y nos decimos adios! "Disfruta la playa! Bebe mucha agua!" Gracias por las palavras Don Oscar!

 


It was 11 a.m. and we were running through the mercado of Santa Marta to get to the bus that would take us to Tayrona. Finally we get to the bus and it was extremely packed! My two friends find two empty seats and behind them was an empty seat next to an old man with a little hat on, dirty jeans, beige shirt, and sweating next to the window. It almost seemed like anyone getting on the bus was avoiding sitting next to him. But I did not get any bad vibe from him and asked him if it was okay to sit next to him and he responded with “of course miss.” The fare guy passes by. He charged me 7,000 pesos to Tayrona and he wanted to charge the man 6,000 pesos for his destination. The man said a bunch of things I did not understand and he paid the fare guy 5,000 pesos. They interchanged more words over the fare but in the end the man won the battle. A few minutes pass and he asked me how much I had been charged and I told him 7,000 pesos. “ They saw you with a tourist face. I am going farther than you and they wanted to charge me 6,000 pesos but I don’t allow that, no señor!” From there the conversation with the man with the hat did not stop. I learned that he was headed towards a little field he owned where he grows his own fruits and vegetables. He also wanted to escape the heat in Santa Marta. He would spend the afternoon picking and filling up his bag with food which he would take back to his family in Santa Marta that same evening. He shared with me that he has a 7 year old daughter whom he described as beautiful and very intelligent. He spoke a lot about education and how he works really hard to give his daughter the best education possible. “Education in the most valuable thing an individual can obtain. It is the only thing they can not take away from us. And aside from better opportunities you can also defend yourself. I advise you to always look for ways to keep learning.” We exchanged more words about my trip, the different problems in our countries, vallenato music (he was very passionate about this subject!), and our families. He was very interested in learning more about my country, El Salvador. We got to my stop after an hour on the road. We exchanged names, shook hands, and said our goodbyes. “Enjoy the beach! Drink lots of water!” Thank you for the words Don Oscar!