Beach Days and Hammock Stays: 9 things to expect from Tayrona National Park

With its stunning iridescent waters, soft white sands and peculiar boulders lining the ocean side, it is no doubt that Tayrona National Park is one of Colombia’s top tourist attractions. Tayrona is situated on Colombia’s Caribbean coast just a 1 hour bus ride from the city of Santa Marta. If you are interested in spending a few relaxing days in Tayrona National Park here are 9 things to expect during your trip to make it run a little smoother.

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  1. The Journey is hyped up to be a tough trek…it’s more of a friendly hike

The journey into the park as far as Cabo San Juan is rumoured to be a lot tougher than it actually is. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a 5-6 hour rock climbing high intensity trek.  It is more of a 2 hour leisurely walk through heavily manicured jungle paths. I know I was expecting much more but ended up trading my hikers for flip flops half way through as we walked along wooden board walks, up and down stairs and even along the beach. It is a hot and sweaty walk, but then again, what’s not in Santa Marta. You can grab lunch in restaurants along the way, stop for fresh squeezed juice or take a swim at another beach, but there is no reason to expect physically demanding intensity on this walk.

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  1. Take the Mini Bus into the Jungle entrance

Once you arrive at the park entrance and pay your $38,000 pesos, the entrance to the actual jungle path is a 45min to 1 hour walk down a paved road. If you are carrying heavy backpacks and are not that interested in exploring asphalt, you can take a mini bus.  These are located 100 meters from the entrance for $3,000 pesos which saves some time…and your feet.

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  1. If you are social, head to Cabo San Juan

There are a few different camp sites along Tayrona’s jungle path, one being only a 30 minute walk in. If you are a social person however, then Cabo San Juan is the camp for you. The other 3 camps are very, very quiet and with limited electricity, a little extra quiet. If you are interested in beach games, meeting people and a restaurant, then head to Cabo San Juan.

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  1. There is a restaurant, it is expensive and you will eventually get tired of fried food

Do your best to be camping prepared. That means bring PLENTLY of water and pack some food. You can buy 5 litres of water in Santa Marta for the same price as 1.5 litres in Tayrona. Although there is a restaurant at Cabo San Juan, it is fairly expensive, charging about 10-15USD per meal, and it is all deep fried. Your stomach will likely get tired of having fried fish/chicken next to fries next to patacones for every meal. Pack a dinner or two, some sandwiches for lunch and some granola for breakfast…I promise you, you will not regret it. There are absolutely no cooking facilities available so remember to prepare it all before you get there. It is also wise to bring some snacks for the day.

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  1. If you want a hammock in the gazebo… you must arrive really early

You know the iconic picture of Tayrona National Park. It shows a gazebo up on top of rocks overlooking the ocean with 360 ° view.   You can stay in a hammock up there if you are aware. Hammocks in Tayrona are given on a first come first served basis. So if staying in the gazebo is important to you, you must arrive very early. You have around 30 minutes after 9:00 check out to arrive if you want a spot up there.

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  1. It’s cold in the Gazebo…dress warm…and there is nowhere to pee

 Yes, you are on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, and yes it is face melting hot during the day. However, it is very windy and exposed up in the gazebo making for a pretty chilly night. The ocean breeze gets cold so if you’re staying here, bring layers for the night. Having a sweater, pants, and socks will make for a better more comfortable experience.

Also if you are staying here you should know, the bathrooms are really far away. So if you need to use the bathroom at night, it is a long dark walk down the stairs, across the beach, through the restaurant and behind to get to the facilities. Although lacking that 360° ocean view, staying on the grounded hammocks might be a more comfortable option and you can head into the gazebo and deck to enjoy the view on your own at any time of day.

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  1. Bring a light with you, the electricity goes out at 11:00 at night, and its dark in the jungle

The electricity in the park is limited from 10:00am to 11:00pm and when the lights go out at night, it is dark. This makes for great star gazing, but for everything else it is wise to bring some kind of light with you. It will provide a way to light up the table to finish card games or to find the bathroom at night and maybe even also help to find your hammock/tent.

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  1. Bring a book or cards, there is not much else to do in Tayrona but beach nap

Tayrona is beautiful. It is quiet, serene and relaxing. However, there is only so much laying on the beach one can do during the day until you start to feel like you’ve been in bed sleeping for 48 hours. Bring a good book to enjoy whilst you are in your off the grid surroundings. Cards are also a great idea for night time when it’s dark and everyone is hanging around. Tayrona is all about the beach, there is really not much else there. Shop my store to find things I use to occupy my time when I am all out of zen and the lights are out.

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  1. Don’t bother bringing alcohol, they often check and take it from you at the gate as it is not allowed.

That is right. I am sorry to say but you are not allowed to bring outside alcohol into the park. They check your bags at the entrance of the park and there are also check points within the park. Occasionally people manage to sneak it in or make their entire hike without being checked. It is up to you to decide if the risk of having your alcohol confiscated is worth the reward. Alternatively, you can buy beer from the small stores within the park for $5,000 pesos each.

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35 Comments

  1. Good article, Kim. I did the water taxi from Taganga (for people too lazy to hike) and spent a half day at Tayrona. I got my fill with the half day, because as you point out, it can get a little boring, eh?

    1. ahaha I guess yea It can get a little boring… 3 days was about my happy Max methinks. I saw the water taxi come in.. I herd it was rough waters, howd you like it?

  2. These are all helpful things to note. Thanks for this! 🙂 just sad there is no proper place to pee; it might just contaminate the area if everyone just find his place.

    1. AHAH we all wish. unfortunately if you have really bad luck..they take your booze and give you a ‘fee’ payable to them by debit 😛 unfortunate and unspoken realities

    1. The tourist or ‘gringo’ trail in Colombia is so big and busy it makes it pretty safe. As long as you stay where tourism peaks you will always be fine 🙂

  3. That looks like a wonderful park to visit! I have only had a very brief stay in Columbia, but would love to go back and explore. Thank goodness you went before the outbreak of the Zika virus!

    1. I love Colombia..its one of my fav countries in the world. As for the Zika virus…I have been in South/Central Am for 2 years….so Im just assuming I have it ahaha. but I am not looking to having kids anytime soon 😛

    1. yes absolutely! You can also take a water taxi in for a half day.. but the hike is simple enough for kids and the beach area is very calm and perfect for kids swimming.

  4. It really looks amazing and sometimes it’s good to be back to basics. I was just wondering, did you manage a spot on a hammock? Did you arrive early enough? Seems like a bit of a struggle if you have to get there right after check out, but in the end, if it’s worth it, why not 🙂

    1. It is absolutely stunning if im honest. and no, actually we arrived to late to get a hammock on the top in the gazebo. We talked to the guy about switching over in the morning (we stayed a few days) and it was fine..but when we saw how cold it was up there and inconvenient…we actually just decided to stay in the normal hammock dorms…it ended up being more comfortable. I am happy to have not gone in the Gazebo when all was said and done ahaha

  5. Great advice on staying in this location. Love to read that it is camping-friendly. Columbia is really all the rage this year!

  6. I love the Tayrona National Park! But then, I had really bad experiences in sleeping in a hammock. There were a lot of mosquitos and it will really hurt your back! The hammocks at the top are recommended because they offer a fantastic view!

  7. Very useful tips right there especially on the wind and the bathrooms. This looks like a lovely spot to do nothing, even if sometimes too much of nothing can also be too much

  8. So many great tips! I might just visit here for the day as I’m not a huge fan of camping, and I have tendencies to get bored after one day on the beach 🙂 But it looks beautiful so maybe I wouldn’t get tired of it!

  9. Thanks so much for this article, we just came back (day trip) and this helped knowing what to expect!
    The prices already increased in the meantime.
    42 000 cop entrance fee for foreigners
    3 000 cop for the minibus from the entrance (100% worth it, just about everyone takes it)
    4000 cop for 1 L water bottle inside the park
    7 000 cop for the direct bus (cheapest) between Tayrona and Santa Marta center (near calle 11 & carrera 11 but not quite there – rather 11a I think?)

    1. hey Sophie!

      Thank you for writing in! did you go for the boat trip in from Taganga? or make the hike there and back in 1 day?
      Omg I cant believe they already increased it that much….we paid only 6000 for the bus from calle 11/11 …they move fast I guess. Did you enjoy the experience? Things you liked/didnt?

  10. Yes, we did the roundtrip hike in one day. The boat doesn’t look good, plus we were staying in Santa Marta anyway and not Taganga, I think the boat only goes to Taganga.
    Tayrona is a really nice place, but in my opinion a daytrip is enough (starting not too late, like 8 am from Santa Marta), I can’t imagine having to carry a big backpack on the hike… A lot of people do it, though 🙂

    1. Hey Ashley!!! Thanks for writing in! One of the coolest things about Colombia right now is the strong backpacker and traveler trail! Meaning that if your visiting touristic places such as cartagena, santa marta and Tayrona you are most definitely safe…even travel between them is easy!

      Tyrona is super safe for solo travellers. You will most certainly meet people and make friends there as well. The sleeping areas are full of other travelers, there are restaurants around, and the walk through and bus ride from santa marta are also very safe! I hope you enjoy your time!

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