Tayrona National Park – A Detailed Guide
August 6, 2017
Tayrona National Park (Parque Tayrona) is a place where pristine beaches meet beautiful palm trees right next to the thick green jungle. It sounds too good to be true, but this is the reason why any trip to Colombia couldn’t be complete without a day or two at Tayrona National Park. For me, I was so excited once I found out that this place existed that I put it at the top of my list! However, with all of it’s beauty Tayrona National Park can be pricey if not done right – so in this blog I will tell you our money saving tips as well as where to stay in Tayrona National Park (at the best beach in Tayrona.) Our 2 days here were perfect! In this post we will be writing for people staying in Santa Marta or the surrounding city of Taganga.
Tayrona National Park Entrance Fee – COP48,000
How to get to Tayrona National Park
Bus COP 7,000 (cheapest option) – I chose Santa Marta as my base, located 1 hour from Parque Tayrona (but it doesn’t matter if you’re staying in Taganga it is very easy to get the local bus to Tayrona.) The bus leaves from the corner of Calle 11 and Carrera 11 (see picture below for map location), bus times are about every half an hour starting at 6am. When we arrived it was easy to find the bus as there was a guy screaming “PARQUE TAYRONA” at the top of his lungs.
The bus journey was 1 hour long to the front gate, I caught the 7:30am and it was a good time as the park opens at 8am and you want as much time as possible on the beach (and you won’t have to wait in a massive line that develops around 10am!)
Getting to where the bus to Tayrona leaves from was easy via a short taxi ride. From Taganga it will cost COP10,000 and within Santa Marta about COP5,000 to 12,000. I spoke to other travelers who took the local buses however they said it takes about an hour, this delay could mean getting to the park late and not having enough time to enjoy yourself.
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 6pm 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.
Taxi – In my opinion, a taxi to the park is a rip off as it will cost between COP60,000 and COP90,000 depending on your negotiation skills.
Where to Stay in Tayrona National Park
Regardless of whether you’re staying the night or just visiting for the day, below I will explain the different beaches to spend your time. Conveniently, the best beach in Tayrona is where to stay in Tayrona National Park.
Cabo San Juan (our recommendation) – This is where I stayed, this place is really special and in my opinion the best beach in Tayrona. Cabo San Juan is a two hour walk from the main gate so I would recommend staying the night here, however you can still visit for the day just be prepared for four hours of walking round trip. The water here was calm due to the rocks that protect the beach, there are lockers available, a restaurant (meals between COP 13,000 and 35,000) and electricity between 6 to 10pm. There are ice creams and snacks available to purchase on the beach as well as a bar serving beers. For the best value meal get the rice with vegetables, it was good and it even comes with chips for COP13,000!
In Cabo San Juan you can choose from a few different types of accommodation, I chose a hammock. At the beach they can be rented for COP25,000 and at the park entrance COP28,000, due to the demand of these I recommend booking at the gate ( there is a white tent set up just in front of the entrance that offers bookings.)
Tents are the next budget option and cost COP30,000 per person (two people per tent regardless if your a solo traveler) however reviews say they are in bad condition, mouldy and really dirty. These can also be booked at the park entrance however they book out last and getting one in the park upon arrival should be just fine.
Cabins are another option that cost COP200,000 for two people and another COP50,000 for an extra person. We didn’t see the inside of the cabins however from the outside they where extremely small and not something worth COP200,000.
La Pacina – This little beach is located between Arrecifes and San Juan, here there is no accommodation but for anyone planning a day trip this beach is nice place for a swim. They say this beach gets busy but I went in the morning and just about had it to myself. The water is really calm here because rocks create a calm bay perfect for swimming and snorkeling. The wild life 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.
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 San Juan by simply following the little sand path at the end of the beach. I didn’t go so im not sure what crowd it attracts, I guess you will have to find out for yourself.
Arrecifes (Bukaru & Don Pedro) – Essentially three sites run by different companies, the same accommodation is offered here as San Juan and prices are also more or less the same as San Juan. Arrecifes is only a one hour walk from the entrance however you CAN NOT swim at the beach here due to currents so for anyone going for the day this is not an option. The benefit to staying here is less people and it is still walking distance to San Juan and other beaches closer to the entrance. This area provides a more relaxing atmosphere and would be nice for people staying more than one night.
Cañaveral & Castilletes – This campsite can be accessed directly by the van’s in the park, the camping here is half the price of other spots and offers restaurant and toilets. The area for tents is huge, but once again, the sea is very rough here and swimming is not allowed, they also offer cabins for COP40,000 per person. Not recommended for people going for the day!
Playa Brava – This beach is rather unknown to most tourists as you have to walk four hours to get there, if you are wanting to escape all of the tourists then this beach would be perfect – I suggest going for more than one night though as it is far to walk! This place has a restaurant, toilets and also cabins. Swimming is allowed here although I heard the waves are still a little rough, I was unable to get information on the prices here.
What to do in Parque Tayrona
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 bay’s – otherwise just sit back and enjoy nature’s beauty!
Our Tips for Visiting Parque 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 COP6,000 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 litre bottle is COP3,000!
- Bring lunch for the first day, especially if you go to San Juan. The reason for this (other than cost) is that the restaurant is extremely busy for lunch and you can wait hours to eat.
- If it has rained the night before or in the morning be aware it gets extremely muddy, so don’t wear your best shoes! And, bring rain proof gear in preparation for a storm during rainy season.
- Bring your passport or a copy of it, this is needed to enter the park!
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