The BEST Place to Stay in Tayrona National Park – A Guide for Travelers
Tayrona National Park is arguably the most beautiful national park in Colombia. In this guide, I explain everything you need to know before you go, including the best place to stay, entrance fees, facilities and more! (This post was updated in March 2019, so you’re sure to have the most relevant information!)
Tayrona National Park (Parque Tayrona) is a place where pristine beaches meet palm trees in the stunning rainforest area of Northern Colombia.
It sounds too good to be true, but it isn’t – this is the reason why any trip to Colombia couldn’t be complete without a day or two in Tayrona.
But the one question everyone has when it comes to Tayrona is “where to stay in Tayrona National Park?”
Well, we have the answer. There is, in fact, ONE place that is better than all of the others.
In this blog, I not only reveal WHERE TO STAY in Tayrona National Park (because it has the best beach) but I also reveal some other great money saving tips, how to get there, and just some important general info you really should know before you go!
How long should I stay in Tayrona National Park?
Spending more than one day at Tayrona National Park is ideal, so 1 or 2 nights would be enough. Any less and your trip would be rushed!
Our 2 days at Tayrona National Park were perfect!
But this means you need to find somewhere to stay overnight! In this blog, I include information on camping in Tayrona National Park, accommodation within the park itself, as well as options of places to stay nearby (just outside of Tayrona National Park!)
Only about 45 minutes by bus from Santa Marta city center, Tayrona National Park is Colombia’s Carribean paradise.
Visitors come to check out the jungle and hang out at the beautiful beaches.
There is accommodation in Tayrona National Park so many people stay overnight to have a chance to really take in its beauty,
The hike and beaches
The overall experience is essentially a gorgeous hike to some really beautiful beaches. You cannot just drive to the beaches as there are no roads. Instead, a couple of hours of walking is needed (or horseback riding) in order to reach the most beautiful beaches.
The hike itself is also the special part though, so take it all in! (Keep reading for more info on what to do in Tayrona National Park!)
Tayrona National Park Entrance Fee
It costs foreigners COP 54,000 ($16 USD) to enter Parque Tayrona. This is a one-time entrance fee but will cover you for any length of stay in the park. For Colombians, it cost COP 16,500 and for students COP 8,000.
The park opens at 8 am and no one is allowed to enter after 3 pm, however, it still remains open to let day visitors out of the park until 6 pm!
You also need your passport at the entrance you be sure to bring it with you!
Entrances to the Park
There are two entrances (El Zaino at one end, and Calabazo at the other) into Tayrona National Park. Each one is at either side of the park as shown on the map above.
The main entrance is called El Zaino (to the East). This entrance gate is between Santa Marta and Palomino (further from Santa Marta than the other entrance). This is where you’ll want to enter from if you want to see most of Tayrona National Park.
The other entrance is called Calabazo (to the west). This entrance is used to access Playa Brava. This entrance is closer to Santa Marta but from Cabo San Juan it is 4 to 5 hours of walking (as opposed to two hours from El Zaino.)
Unless you are going to Playa Bravo (a lone beach in the west) you will want to access Tayrona from El Zaino.
Swimming in Tayrona
Many of the beaches in Tayrona National Park are unsafe to swim because of the strong currents. I didn’t know this before coming to the park so I was glad I didn’t pick a place to stay where you couldn’t swim!
However, others aren’t so lucky so be sure to read the where to stay section carefully to find out if the place you wanted to stay is even safe for swimming!
Bookings in Tayrona
This is easily the most annoying part about Tayrona National Park – you can’t book 90% of the accommodation inside the park online or in advance.
I know what your thinking… how am I suppose to book a holiday without a booking?
Well, the only way to secure yourself one of the cheaper options in the park and a great beach to spend the night is to arrive early and book at the entrance gate!
I know this sounds horrible, and to be honest I was not a fan! But unless you plan on staying in the luxury cabins (mentioned below) for $450 USD a night, then this is the only option.
Freedom Camping in Tayrona
You are not allowed to bring your own camping gear and camp wherever you please within the National Park, you must stay at one of the places we mention below.
That being said, while we were there we saw a few people freedom camping, and while this is cheaper, it could get you into serious trouble if you got caught.
Keep reading to find out about the cheapest (legal) ways to spend the night in Tayrona National Park.
The BEST Place to stay in Tayrona National Park – Cabo San Juan
Cabo San Juan is where I stayed, and in my opinion, the best all-around place to stay in Tayrona National Park.
The water here was calm due to the rocks that protect the beach which made it the best beach in Tayrona National park for swimming.
Where you sleep at Cabo San Juan is only a minute walk from the gorgeous beaches. So your never far from the Caribbean – which is always a good thing!
It takes around 2 hours from the El Zaino entrance to walk to Cabo San Juan. But once there, you are very close to other beaches such as La Piscina (another beautiful beach) and the nudist beach (if that’s what you’re into).
I’ll be honest though, Cabo San Juan is not a luxury option even with the most expensive accommodation (read below). So, if you want a luxury Caribbean getaway then read below and I’ll tell you where you’ll get that – I’d hate to see someone on a honeymoon sleeping in a tent!
Facilities at Cabo San Juan
There are lockers available for hire which are great for security (especially if you plan on sleeping in a hammock.) Hot tip – if you bring your own lock it’ll save you having to buy/rent one!
Electricity is available between 6pm-10pm but plugins are very limited. Be sure to bring your power bank!
Cold showers are available and shared between everyone at that camp. Even the cabins do not have their own bathrooms or showers.
On-site there is also a restaurant (meals priced between COP 13,000 and 35,000. ) For the best value meal get the rice with vegetables, it was good and it even comes with chips for COP 13,000! Nothing is better than carb-loading after a day of hiking and swimming.
There are ice creams and snacks available to purchase on the beach as well as a bar serving beers.
Cabo San Juan is the perfect setup of facilities, accommodation, and beach all in one place!
Only cash is accepted so be sure to bring some along with you.
Money saving tip* Bring as much water as you can carry with you! The water for sale at Cabo San Juan was RIDICULOUSLY overpriced and there is nowhere to fill up along the trail.
Accommodation at Cabo San Juan
Cabo San Juan is a two-hour walk from the main gate so I would recommend staying the night. You can still visit for the day, just be prepared for four hours of walking round trip.
In Cabo San Juan you can choose from a few different types of accommodation: a hammock, tent, or cabin.
I chose a hammock.
Hammocks can be rented for COP 25,000 on arrival at Cabo San Juan. You can also reserve a hammock at Cabo San Juan at a booth at the park entrance for COP 28,000 (3,000 extra). Due to the high demand of hammocks, I recommend reserving one at the front entrance gate so you don’t miss out. The hammocks sell out nearly every night.
There is a white tent set up just in front of the entrance gate that offers bookings. You pay there and they give you a booking confirmation which you present once you arrive at Cabo San Juan at check in.
Tents are the next budget option and cost COP 30,000 per person (two people per tent regardless if you’re a solo traveler.) However, reviews say they are in bad condition, moldy, and really dirty. These can also be booked at the park entrance however they book less quickly than the hammocks and getting one upon arrival should be just fine.
Cabins are another option. They cost COP 200,000 for two people and another COP 50,000 for an extra person. We didn’t see the inside of the cabins, but from the outside, they were extremely small and looked like sheds that were completely falling apart. Definitely not worth the COP 200,000 at all if you ask me!
Other Places to Stay In Tayrona National Park
If Cabo San Juan doesn’t sound like a good option, there are a few other choices for places to stay in Tayrona….
Arrecifes (Bukaru & Don Pedro)
Arrecifes is a beach closer to the park entrance (El Zaino) than Cabo San Juan. The beach is only a one hour walk from the entrance, however, you CANNOT swim at the beach here due to extremely strong currents.
At Arrecifes beach there are a few different campsites to choose from, two of the most popular are Bukaru and Don Pedro. I didn’t stay at either however I did some recent research (2019) and Bukaru has terrible reviews. Don Pedros is much better so I’d recommend staying there.
Accommodation options offered are also a hammock, tent (you can’t rent a tent in Don Pedro and need to bring your own), or cabin. Prices are also more or less the same as Cabo San Juan. However, the quality of the campsite is said to be much nicer, cleaner bathrooms, nicer food, just all around a better facility than Cabo San Juan.
For us, the facility was less of an issue than not being able to swim in the nearest beach, that is why we chose to stay at Cabo San Juan over Arrecifes.
The benefit of staying at Arrecifes is that there are fewer people and it is less of a walk from the entrance (carrying your bags.) It is still walking distance to Cabo San Juan and other beaches. This area provides a more relaxing atmosphere and would be nice for people staying more than one night or looking for a bit more luxury.
You cannot book these sites in advance online. But you could try at the entrance gate!
Cañaveral & Castilletes
This campsite can be accessed directly by the shuttles in the park because it is so close to the entrance. The camping here is half the price of other spots (cabins are only COP 40,000 per person.) There is also an option that is even cheaper if you bring your own tent.
But once again, the sea is very rough here and swimming is not allowed. This campground would be used strictly for sleeping and as a base for exploring the park from. It could be a good option for those staying more than one night as you could spend a few full days exploring from here.
The downside to this campground is that it doesn’t feel remote at all. It is right next to the road and the beginning of the trail where hundreds of people walk by every day.
The facilities are rumored to be good with lots of bathrooms and a decent restaurant.
One of the great things about Camping Castilletes is that you can book it in advance on booking.com! During the busy season, this is an excellent option to avoid disappointment. Click here to check prices, availability, and to book!
The Eco Habs – The Best Luxury Option
The Eco Habs are the most luxurious option in Tayrona Park and perfect for those on a honeymoon in Colombia. There are 14 of these bungalows in the national park that can sleep up to 4 people. A room here goes for $450 USD a night!
These bungalows are still very close to the entrance but more secluded and on the coast. You cannot swim at the beaches here but La Piscina is only a 30-minute walk away!
Another great thing is you can book the Eco Habs in advance!
Accommodation NEAR Tayrona National Park
If camping or sleeping in cabins IN Tayrona National Park sounds a little bit too much like “roughing it” for you, then consider staying in one of the hotels or hostels right next to the park!
Although you won’t wake up to an ocean view, you will be a stone’s throw away from the park entrance allowing you to easily explore and get there before most of the people visiting on day trips from Santa Marta.
Some great options for places to stay near Tayrona National Park are:
We have carefully hand-picked the BEST accommodation near Tayrona (none of the below options are sponsored or paid advertisements.) If you found this blog helpful then consider booking through the below links. This won’t cost you a thing more but we will make a small commission. This keeping this blog going. Thanks a million!
The Shark Hostel (low budget)
The Shark Hostel is located only a couple of minute bus ride from Tayrona National Park entrance. They offer free WiFi, free breakfast, and have air conditioned rooms. You can also rent bicycles here to get to the park!
For those traveling on a budget, The Shark Hostel is a great option near Tayrona National Park!
Check out prices and availability for The Shark Hostel!
Recuerdos del Tayrona (mid-range budget)
This place is the ideal place to stay near Tayrona National Park as it is affordable and in the perfect location. From Recuerdos del Tayrona the park entrance is only 200m away making it the perfect base for exploring the park!
Rooms are more comfortable than accommodation offered directly in the park (larger rooms with televisions and private bathrooms!) WiFi is available and prices are very reasonable!
Check out prices and availability at Recuerdos del Tayrona!
Villa Playa Los Naranjos (high budget)
If you want luxury then this place is for you! It is technically located outside of Tayrona National Park but sits right on its border on the ocean! Rooms have ocean views, access to a beautiful sandy beach and a huge pool onsite!
For relaxing, enjoying the views, and exploring Tayrona Villa Playa Los Naranjos is perfect. Expect to pay a couple of hundred dollars a night for a room, but also expect to be impressed!
Check out prices and availability for Villa Playa Los Naranjos!
How to get to Tayrona National Park
By local bus – COP 7,000 (cheapest option)
I chose Santa Marta as my base for exploring Tayrona National Park because it’s located only located 1 hour from Parque Tayrona. Another cool place to stay is Tanganga which is only another 10 minutes from Santa Marta.
In Santa Marta, the bus leaves from the corner of Calle 11 and Carrera 11 (see map below for location) which is in Santa Marta city center.
Getting to where the bus to Tayrona leaves from was easy via a short taxi ride. From Taganga it will cost COP 10,000 and within Santa Marta about COP 5,000 to 12,000.
Bus times are about every half an hour starting at 6 am. When we arrived it was easy to find the bus as there was a guy screaming “PARQUE TAYRONA” at the top of his lungs. Local taxi drivers know the spot too and can point out where to go.
The bus journey was 1 hour long to the front gate.
I caught the 7:30 am bus and it was a good time as the park entrance gates open at 8 am and you want as much time as possible on the beach. Don’t go much later as a massive line-up develops at the entrance booth around 10 am!
On my way back I took the same bus, and like before, there will be people calling out Santa Marta at the park entrance. The last bus leaves at 6 pm so if you’re not staying overnight be sure to leave enough time to catch the last bus.
If you are staying anywhere between Santa Marta and Parque Tayrona you can catch the same bus along the main road, Calle 30, by just standing on the side of the road and flagging down any bus with a sign “Tayrona” in the front window.
In my opinion, a taxi to the park is really expensive as it will cost between COP 60,000 and COP 90,000 depending on your negotiation skills.
Go on a tour
If you are very limited on time and can only spend a day in Tayrona National Park, then I would recommend booking an organized day tour that departs from Santa Marta. This way, you waste less time on public transport, standing in line buying tickets, and reading a map to navigate around the tour.
Things to do in Tayrona National Park
Parque Tayrona is for those wanting to relax! The hiking in the park is easy and the beaches are beautiful, so for me, it was just about chilling out by the water.
If you’re feeling up to it then check out the nudist beach or snorkel in the amazing bays – otherwise just sit back and enjoy nature’s beauty!
If you want to explore beaches, consider checking out these ones listed below:
This little beach is located between Arrecifes and Cabo San Juan. Here, there is no accommodation but for anyone planning a day trip, this beach is a nice place for a swim.
They say this beach gets busy, but I went in the morning and I just about had it to myself. The water is really calm here because rocks create a calm bay perfect for swimming and snorkeling.
The wildlife in the bay also makes snorkeling the area very interesting, Sand Sharks, Blow Fish, and even Turtles are just some of the animals that visit this area.
This beach is unknown to most tourists as you have to walk four hours to get there. But, if you are wanting to escape all of the tourists then this beach would be perfect!
Playa Brava could be a good option for a day trip from Cabo San Juan, or a place to spend a night or two. Playa Brava has a restaurant, toilets and also cabins. Swimming is allowed here although I heard the waves are still a little rough.
The Nudist Beach
Yep, you read that correctly! Tayrona has it’s own nudist beach for anyone who’s had enough of their bathing suit or just didn’t bring one.
This beach is located only 10 minutes from Cabo San Juan by simply following the little sand path at the end of the beach. I didn’t go so I’m not sure what crowd it attracts, I guess you will have to find out for yourself.
Our Best Tips for Visiting Tayrona
- If you are wanting to sleep in a hammock and not a tent (the condition of the tents were bad) it can be wise to book it at the entrance as they can sell out. This can be done before you buy your entrance ticket at a little white tent near the road.
- Take snacks! A small bread roll is COP 6,000 in the park, so if you eat a lot this adds up quickly.
- Bring plenty of water, it may be tough carrying it out there but a half liter bottle is COP 3,000 at Cabo San Juan!
- Bring lunch for the first day, especially if you go to Cabo San Juan. The reason for this (other than cost) is that the restaurant is extremely busy for lunch and you can wait for hours to eat.
- If it has rained the night before or in the morning be aware that it gets extremely muddy! Don’t wear your best shoes! And, bring rainproof gear in preparation for a storm during the rainy season.
- Bring your passport or a copy of it, this is needed to enter the park!
Thanks for reading! If you have any comments please leave them below!
Traveling more in Colombia? Check out some of our other blogs here:
- San Gil – the adventure capital in inland Colombia
- San Andres Island – one of the most beautiful places in the Caribbean Sea
- Medellin – a city full of history and culture
- Cartagena – colonial buildings with the ocean as the backdrop
- Taganga – a relaxed backpacker beach town
- Guatape – a huge rock to climb that offers a lookout over the most colorful little town
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May 29, 2019