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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.