Whenever we spoke to friends about our trip to Colombia everyone said that we had to visit Tayrona National Park, in the North Coast of Colombia’s Caribbean. A destination for camping, hiking and beach-bumming it’s a favourite on the gringo trail.
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT TAYRONA
FROM SANTA MARTA BY BUS/HIKING
Santa Marta is often used as the central hub to get to many places on the north coast of Colombia, including Tayrona National Park. The cheapest way to get to the park is by hiking and busing it. First, you will need to make your way to the Mercado in Santa Marta to catch a collective bus (which departs when full). This will cost you around 7,000 pesos (roughly $2-3). You will get dropped off at the entrance of the park where you will need to buy your parks pass. The pass will cost 40,000 pesos (roughly $20- which is ridiculously high). From there I recommend catching another bus (the walk will take you an hour).
If you plan on camping at Cabo San Juan, which is the most popular choice, you will then need to either hike roughly two hours or hire a horse for around 30,000 pesos ($10-$15).
FROM TAGANGA BY BOAT
We chose to go to Tayrona from Taganga instead. Two years ago Taganga was a beautiful and quiet fishermens village where backpackers loved to escape. Now it’s a bit of a sad, overdeveloped place (Lonely Planet describes it perfectly here). Despite it’s drab appearance their is some great benefits of visiting Taganga, like the cheapest place to get your PADI in all of South & Central America and Babaganoush Restaurant, one of the most delicious meals we have ever had- a three course meal overlooking the best views of Taganga at sunset for 30,000 pesos ($10-$15).
Taganga is also where you will need to go if you want to take the quick and hassle-free boat ride to Tayrona. Departing at roughly 10am (more like 11am/Colombian time) the boat ride will take you directly to Cabo San Juan in less than an hour. The seas can be a bit rough and you and your belongings will likely get wet so be sure to wrap your things/bag in a plastic bag to try and protect them. The boat costs 89,000 return ($40), you will then also have to pay the mandatory national park fee of 40,000 pesos upon entry.
CABO SAN JUAN
Cabo San Juan is the most popular beach of choice for two reasons- the campgrounds and the two calm, swimmable beaches (many beaches in Tayrona have very strong currents and the beaches are strictly closed for swimmers). If you are planning on spending a night or two in Tayrona (which I recommend doing), you will want to make sure you are at Cabo San Juan no later than 1pm to secure your hammock/tent for the night as it gets very busy. A hammock will cost you roughly 20,000 pesos per night. Their is a restaurant on site and a bowl of pasta for dinner will cost you 10-15,000 pesos which I thought was quite reasonable considering their are no other options. I would recommend taking at least three litres of water with you as water will cost you more once inside the park. Their is cold water showers (which run at night) and toilets on the site (don’t forget to take toilet paper).
WHAT TO TAKE
- Swimmers (of course!)
- A towel
- A sarrong (to lie on on the beach, and for a light sheet to sleep with)
- Sunscream (we sat in the shade for an entire day and still got SO sunburnt)
- Insect Repellant
- A light jumper for the night
- At least three litres of water
- Snorkels (you can buy these pretty cheap at Taganga. If you have a clear day at Cabo San Juan you’ll be glad you have these)
- A torch
- Toilet Paper
- Enough cash for how many days you intend on staying
- A book, you’ll have a lot of downtime
- Flip Flops and Joggers, if you plan on hiking
- A small backpack… leave your big pack in Santa Marta or Taganga
Note: You will need to take your passport with you. I have also heard of people needing to show their yellow fever certificate to be allowed entry.
Their you have it. I hope you found this article useful in planning your trip to Tayrona National Park and that you have better weather than my two days of grey skies.