Visiting Tayrona National Park Colombia

The Official Guide

visiting tayrona national park colombia sunset

Visiting Tayrona National Park Colombia

The Official 2019 Guide


Adventure through the jungle to the Caribbean as you explore one of the most diverse and iconic landscapes in all of Colombia.

Located at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, Tayrona National Park Colombia is often one of the number one activities on everyone’s itinerary and for good reason.

Overflowing with an assortment of alluring tropical seascapes, the Tayrona National Park beaches are some of the best in Colombia and a top attraction for most travelers.

In particular, the illustrious Cabo San Juan, Tayrona’s most popular beach, is certainly a crowd favorite, however, there are plenty of others scattered throughout the park if you know where to look.

tayrona national park colombia

In addition to this, visitors will be exposed to a diverse ecosystem ranging from many tropical birds and frogs all the way to some more dangerous animals like hair-raising Caimans and Jaguars.

No matter whether you are taking a simple Tayrona National Park day trip or if you decide to spend the night in a hammock along the beach, this is guaranteed to be one adventure you will never forget.

Continue reading to discover everything there is to know when visiting Tayrona National Park Colombia.


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WHAT IS TAYRONA NATIONAL PARK COLOMBIA

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Tayrona National Park is one of the most heavily protected areas in Colombia.

It’s one of three national parks in Colombia with coral reefs, with the other two being Old Providence McBean Lagoon in Providencia Island, and the Rosario & San Bernardo Corals.

Inside the national park, you will find a whole lot of jungle, wildlife and some of the most gorgeous beaches in all of Colombia!

With that being said, I recommend for every one of you to take at least day (or a few nights) to visit Tayrona National Park during your Colombian adventures!

WHERE IS TAYRONA NATIONAL PARK COLOMBIA

Tayrona National Park is located along the Caribbean coast just a 30-minute drive from the city of Santa Marta!

Tayrona National Park Colombia happens to be one of the best day trips from Santa Marta as it is so closely located to this city!

Although Tayrona is close to Santa Marta, while you’re inside the park you feel like you’re in a completely remote area and nowhere near a big city!

As you can probably guess, there are no roads or nicely paved footpaths to get around Tayrona National Park.

In order to visit the gorgeous Tayrona National Park beaches, you must use your own two feet to hike through the park or you can hire a horse to take you through some of the way as well!

I know the word ‘hike’ may throw some of you off a tad, but I use that term very loosely.

Although you will be walking on a dirt path sidestepping rocks and tree branches along the way, it’s more of a stroll through the jungle than a hike.

TAYRONA NATIONAL PARK ENTRANCE FEE

The Tayrona National Park entrance fee was COP 66,000 per person when we went in January 2019 during the high season.

However, I believe the price drops during low season!

Pro Tip
Bring your passport or at least a photo of it!
The officials need to see it in order to sell you an entrance ticket into Tayrona.
It would really suck to get all the way there excited to start your Tayrona National Park day trip, only to be rejected and have to go all the way back again.

HOW TO GET TO TAYRONA NATIONAL PARK COLOMBIA

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It’s super easy to get to Tayrona National Park!

Visitors from Santa Marta have three different options of transportation to choose from ranging between, bus, taxi or boat.

If you need help finding a place to stay in Santa Marta click here

BUS

This is the cheapest way to get to and from Tayrona National Park.

The collectivo bus can get quite hot and squishy, but it is the budget option so I would definitely hop on a bus if you’re trying to save a bit of cash!

Keep in mind that the collectivo bus stretches this 30-minute drive up to about 1-hour due to the stops along the way.

The Collectivo Bus only costs COP 6,000!

The bus leaves from the public bus station in Santa Marta Town on the corner of Calle 11 & Carrera 9.

TAXI

The taxi is the quickest option to get to Tayrona National Park.

It is obviously more expensive than taking the Collectivo Bus, and depending on your negotiation skills, can cost around COP 60,000.

The taxi will take you to the entrance to the park so you can pay for your ticket, and then also take you to the trailhead point where you have to start walking through the park.

BOAT

 

If the hassle of traffic jams and walking an hour plus some to reach Tayrona’s parks most popular sound like a drainer, then the option of taking a speedboat directly to Cabo San Juan beach is probably your best option.

Although not the most thrifty of the three transportation options, costing around COP 50,000, it is definitely the fastest way of reaching Cabo San Juan Tayrona.

The travel time from Santa Marta to the beach by boat is typically around from 45 minutes to an hour.

However, be advised although this might seem like the best option at first glance, there are some major drawbacks.

The first being that on most days in Colombia the seas are quite choppy and can feel very unsafe, making the hour-long speedboat journey quite uncomfortable.

The second major drawback is that by choosing the speed boat directly to Cabo San Juan Beach and avoiding the 1.5-hour nature walk you are missing out on one the best parts of visiting Tayrona National Park… The Nature!

Once you have arrived to Tayrona there is then a two-step process of entering the park.

  1. Getting to the entrance to pay for your ticket

Once you arrive at Tayrona National Park entrance you will then be required to pay the park fee and show your passport.

  1. Getting to the trailhead (the furthest point into Tayrona you can go with a car)

After buying your ticket into Tayrona, there is a further 5-minute drive deeper into the park up until the trailhead point where cars can no longer go, and you begin your hike.

Pro Tip

Some people choose to walk from the entrance to the trailhead thinking it’ll be a short walk, but it actually takes about an hour to get there. Seeing as you’ll be walking through the jungle all day, my advice would be to get a collectivo bus or taxi to the trailhead and save yourself that hour!

WHEN TO GO TO TAYRONA NATIONAL PARK

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The first rule of thumb is to circumvent as many tourists as possible by avoiding Tayrona National Park on the weekends!

Although there’s still going to be more tourists than you’d probably like, there will be far fewer locals visiting Tayrona during the week when compared to the weekends.

Another thing to remember is to try and go to Tayrona early in the morning!

The park is open from 8am – 5pm so I’d get there as early as possible.

Arriving there earlier means you can also leave earlier and potentially avoid the traffic jam of tourists who are simultaneously trying to catch the bus back.

Leaving the park at 5 pm means there will be a long line to get onto a bus and you’ll be stuck in horrendous traffic on the way back to Santa Marta stretching what should be a 40-minute drive into a 90-minute drive.

Pro Tip
Tayrona National Park is closed from January 28 – February 28 every year for spiritual and ecological cleansing.
Don’t forget there are still Indigenous natives that live in the park!

WHAT TO DO IN TAYRONA NATIONAL PARK COLOMBIA

TAYRONA NATIONAL PARK BEACHES


Finding all the gorgeous Caribbean beaches is the main activity and best thing to do in Tayrona National Park!

Seeing as Tayrona is roughly 150 square kilometers along on the Caribbean coast of Northern Colombia, you can imagine how many amazing beaches that would be hidden inside.

While the Tayrona National Park beaches may be some of the most incredible beaches you’ll see in this country, do remember that being one of Colombia’s most sought-after attractions, it does get very busy during the day when there are hordes of tourists everywhere.

If you’re looking for a completely serene and tranquil beach experience you probably won’t find it during the day while the park is still open for every tourist.

The park is open to tourists who are not staying the night from 8 am until 5 pm.


Therefore only the mornings and evenings will give you that true serenity you’ve been yearning for.


The only way to experience one of the Tayrona National Park beaches with minimal tourists around is to stay the night and explore the beaches after all the tourists dissipate, and in the mornings before the crowds arrive.

When you look up Tayrona National Park beaches on Google, you’ll most likely see a picture of Cabo San Juan.

Cabo San Juan is the most popular and beautiful beach in Tayrona National Park and is also one of the beaches you can swim in!


Not every beach at Tayrona National Park is swimmable due to strong undercurrents.


Other Tayrona National Park beaches include:

  • Arrecifes – you cannot swim here, but it is a beautiful beach to see.
  • Arenillas – great for swimming and laying on the beach!
  • Piscina – You can swim here, however, there is not much sand to lay on!
  • Playa Nudista – you can’t swim there, but this one is a nude beach about 10 minutes walk from Cabo San Juan!
  • Playa Brava – secluded and remote compared to other Tayrona National Park beaches.
  • Piscinita – this is where EcoHabs is located.
  • Los Naranjos – this is on the west border of Tayrona National Park Colombia! It’s very secluded and there is camping accommodation here.

Pro Tip
Many of the beaches in Tayrona National Park has such rough waters that it is not safe to swim in them.
There are signs saying not to swim there at the dangerous beaches, and I highly recommend you take these signs seriously!

WILDLIFE SPOTTING


visiting tayrona national park colombia bird

Wildlife is not hard to come by in Tayrona National Park!

It’s a scary thought, but there are some seriously dangerous animals that live in Colombia.


You are in South America, after all!


Tayrona’s wildlife includes but is not limited to snakes, birds, monkeys, caimans, spiders, and even jaguars.

You’ll definitely come across at least 5 different wild animals just walking through the park during the day, and you’ll practically be sleeping next to them if you choose to camp there!

HIKING TAYRONA NATIONAL PARK


Hiking Tayrona National Park is almost unavoidable.

Seeing as there are no paved roads, cars or motorbikes to get you around, the only option left is to walk!

Not a bad way to exercise and burn off all those empanadas in my opinion!

However, if getting some exercise in by hiking Tayrona National Park sounds like a terrible idea to you, there is another option to pay for a horse to get you around.

While it won’t be the most strenuous hike you’ve ever done, hiking in Colombia’s tropical heat will certainly make you want to stop at some of the beaches along the way to have a dip and cool off!

Like I mentioned before, adventuring through Tayrona National Park is less of a hike and more of a leisurely stroll through the jungle!

TAYRONA NATIONAL PARK CAMPING


visiting tayrona national park colombia hammocks

Some people opt to go camping instead of just taking a Tayrona National Park day trip.

The people who go camping in Tayrona get to experience what it’s like to sleep under a sky full of stars.

If you want to explore Tayrona in its entirety, you’ll need more than just a day trip, so I recommend camping out if you want to see absolutely everything there is to see there at your own pace instead of packing in a few beaches all in one day.

You can book a room, a tent or a hammock and instead of having your alarm clock wake you up, you’ll be awoken by the sounds of the birds chirping just in time to watch one of the most beautiful sunrises you might ever see!

Pro Tip
If you choose to do some Tayrona National Park camping, you might want to bring your own food and snacks because the food available there is a bit more expensive than usual and there isn’t too much variety when you’re in the middle of the jungle!

WHERE TO STAY IN TAYRONA NATIONAL PARK COLOMBIA

visiting tayrona national park colombia camping

There are a few options when it comes to Tayrona National Park accommodation.

You won’t find extreme luxury accommodation, but what you will find is mostly some hammocks and tenting options that allow you to literally wake up at the crack of dawn in the serenity that only nature provides.

  • Bring your own tent (cheapest option)

The first option is to bring your own tent and set it up at one of the camp sites in Tayrona.

The only downfall of this option is the inconvenience of carrying around a whole tent setup for the entire duration of your Colombia trip.

  • Rent a hammock (still really cheap)

You can go to Tayrona and rent a hammock for around COP 20,000 per night.

As far as I know, renting a hammock is a ‘first in best dressed’ situation, so there’s no real way to guarantee yourself a hammock until you get there.

This can obviously be a little risky if you’re trekking Tayrona with your big backpack only to have to go all the way back again because there are no hammocks left.

For your best chance to secure a hammock then I recommend getting to Tayrona as early as possible!

I believe if you ask your accommodation in Santa Marta, they will be able to help you secure a hammock through Whatsapp or an email they know of.

  • EcoHabs at Canaveral (expensive option)

If you have the money to blow, there’s an incredible accommodation option for Tayrona National Park called EcoHabs.

The rooms are beautiful, and the view is stunning with the hotel being perched up on a cliff that overlooks the ocean.

The only thing is you probably won’t be getting the full jungle, sleeping under the stars experience that you would in a tent or hammock.

This is by far the most luxurious of the Tayrona National Park accommodation options.

TAYRONA NATIONAL PARK DAY TRIP OR CAMPING TRIP?

I personally feel that taking Tayrona National Park day trip is enough.

While Tayrona National Park Colombia is an incredibly beautiful place filled with nothing but nature, I would rather spend those few nights at Casa Elemento or exploring Providencia Island.

Tayrona National Park Colombia is considered one of the best day trips from Santa Marta, and although I had a great time there, in my experience, I am definitely glad it was just a day trip and that I was going back to a comfortable bed that night.

As it turns out, hiking Tayrona National Park all day sure does take it out of you!

Of course, this is just my opinion.

Some people prefer to explore the entire Tayrona National Park at their own pace instead of rushing it all into one day, and these are the people that choose to stay and camp there for a couple of nights.

If you’re going to sleep at Tayrona National Park, I would recommend staying for 1 night, or possibly 2 nights depending on how much of the park you wish to explore!

THINGS TO REMEMBER WHEN VISITING TAYRONA NATIONAL PARK COLOMBIA

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Bring your passport or at least a photo of it on your phone!
The officials need to see a passport when you’re purchasing your entrance ticket to the park.
I would hate for you to get all the way to Tayrona, only to have to drive all the way back to Santa Marta to retrieve your passport. Depending on who is at the front desk you may just be able to get away with memorizing your passport number.

The Tayrona National Park entrance fee fluctuates between high and low seasons.

– Bring bug spray!!!!
You’re in a tropical jungle. There are bugs and insects literally everywhere!
If you want to save yourself from having mosquito bites ALL OVER your legs for the rest of your trip and scratching like a crazy person, then you won’t want to forget the bug spray.

Apart from a couple of overpriced restaurants, the only food you’ll find in Tayrona is some ice-cream, a cold beverage, some sandwiches and possibly some empanadas if you’re lucky.
Bring snacks with you and anything you’ll need for the day, ESPECIALLY if you choose to camp out there for the night.
I’m not kidding when I say that there really isn’t much in Tayrona except beaches and jungle!

While all of the Tayrona National Park beaches may be beautiful, most of them have waters that are too rough to swim in! Keep an eye out for the signs that tell you which beaches are safe to swim in and please listen to them!

– Wear sneakers, NOT flip flops! There is a lot of walking you’ll have to do in Tayrona!

There is a lot of wildlife in the park such as Boa Constrictors, spiders, caimans, and a whole lot more! So be careful…

– Just so you know… You are not allowed to fly a drone in Tayrona as it is a protected National Park! There are police officers there to check everyone’s bags, and while they won’t confiscate it or anything, they will tell you not to fly it.


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