Tayrona National Park
Tayrona National Park lies on the Caribbean coastline, 34km from the city of Santa Marta, and boasts some of the most stunning beaches in South America.
This guide will give a general overview of what to expect in Tayrona National Park, including:
How to get to Tayrona National Park
You have three main options for getting to Tayrona National Park
- Taxi; or
The bus leaves every half hour and costs 6,000 COP. You can take the bus from the corner of Calle 11 with Carrera 11. The bus to Tayrona joins Calle 15 at the junction with Carrera 16 and takes Avenida El Libertador south-east from the city. You can flag the bus down anywhere along Avenia El Libertador.
You can hail down any bus heading towards Santa Marta and ask them to drop you off at the Tayrona Park Entrance. A bus to Santa marta is about 9,000COP, so it should be around 5,000COP to Tayrona National Park.
Will cost approximately 30,000COP. It could be a good alternative if you have a group of people.
Taganga is just outside of Santa marta. Boats leave from Taganga in the morning, starting around 9:30am and usually wait until they are full before departure. It takes about 1-1.5 hours by boat and costs 45,000COP. The boat will drop you off at Cabo San Juan.
You can also leave by boat from Cabo San Juan around 4:30pm.
Be sure to have all your electronics well protected.
Entering Tayrona National Park
When you have paid your entrance fee you are required to watch a 30 minute video/presentation explaining the park rules and restrictions. After which, you can either walk further to the walking trail entrance along a road (about 30 minutes) or take a shuttle bus (3,000COP and better option).
Fees and permits
42,000 COP for foreigners
16,000 COP for Colombian citizens
8,000 COP for students (student ID and passport required) and children with ages 5-12
The walking trail to Cabo San Juan from the park entrance
The shuttle bus takes you to the beginning of the walking trail and from here it is pretty straight forward. The trails are well marked so no guide is required. After 45-60 minutes of walking along boardwalks and on dirt paths, you will reach a large rock outcrop to your first view of the Caribbean Coast - Arrefices Beach.
Continue following the path through and down the large boulders to the beach. This is the first of three beaches to Cabo San Juan. Arrefices Beach is known to have a strong current and therefore not recommended for swimming. People die trying.
On a lighter note, the trail from here is fairly flat and is therefore easier to traverse than the first leg. For about 30-45 minutes it leads you along a combination of sand and dirt paths through the tree line up to the second beach - La Piscina.
La Piscina is a much more inviting beach to swim as it is protected by rocks and is more like a bay/lagoon, therefore the current is not strong.
From La Piscina it is a further 30-45 minute walk to Cabo San Juan. Again the trail is fairly flat and well shaded under the tree line.
There are other sleeping options along the way, however Cabo San Juan has great facilities and is famous for its hammocks above the sea. More below on how to ensure you get one of the limited spots.
Accommodation at Cabo San Juan
Cabo San Juan is one of the most popular camping destinations in Tayrona National Park. This is due to the picturesque double white sand bay separated by a rock outcrop with a single cabin. If you are lucky you can get yourself a hammock in the cabin which is further outlined below.
You also have the option to stay in tents or cabins at Cabo San Juan. Prices for staying at Cabo San Juan are:
- Cabin: 50,000 pesos ($28)
- Hammock on rocks: 25,000 pesos ($14)
- Hammock by beach: 20,000 pesos ($11)
- Tents: 25,000 pesos ($14)
- Own hammock or tent: 15,000 pesos ($8.50)
How to reserve a hammock at Cabo San Juan
If you want to reserve yourself a hammock on the rocky outcrop, the following information will help you achieve this:
Hammocks on the rock outcrop can only be reserved on the day. Registration for the hammocks only opens at 1pm. Which means if you want a hammock you must be prepared to line up and wait for it. There are 20 hammocks in total, however the people who stay in the hammock on the rocky outcrop or any hammock on the beach the night before have a privilege of re-booking by 11pm. This means there are usually about ten hammocks up for grabs for newbies.
To ensure you are in the first ten it is recommended you start lining up between 10am and 11pm. That´s 2-3 hours before.
Bring a book, sunscreen, a snack and mosquito repellent. Trust me.
After you have reserved your hammock you have the rest of the day to enjoy the beach.
If you don't have a storm or strong winds the experience is worth the wait. It is a perfect place to meet new people as you all share the camaraderie of being the chosen ones. You also have prime views of sunrise, sunset and if you’re lucky, lighting storms on the horizon.
To make the night more enjoyable I would recommend bringing a sleeping bag liner with you. A sleeping bag will be too much, but a sleeping bag liner is usually just enough to keep the mosquitos away and shelter you from a cool breeze at night. You can check out my packing list for more recommendations and I really encourage you to use my affiliate links.
What to bring to Tayrona National Park
The walk to Cabo San Juan is not difficult but can get quite hot due to climate. Therefore it is best not to pack too much. Having said that, you can save money by bringing in your own food and water. The list below is a suggestion of what you should bring to tayrona National Park:
Eating at Cabo San Juan and what food to bring
You can buy food and drinks in the park, but it is expensive for colombian standards. Here is a rough guide of prices below:
- 500ml Water: 3.000COP
- 330ml Beer: 4.000-4.500COP
- Meals: 10.000-25.000COP
- Breakfast: 6.000-12.000COP
If you were to bring in your own food I would recommend getting your supplies from Santa Marta. You will have cheaper prices and more options. I would recommend the following:
- Cans of vegetables
- Cans of tuna
- bottled or bagged water (make sure you pack it well)
- Nuts for snacks
- Peanut butter
- Powdered milk
- Instant noodles
Make sure what ever rubbish you bring in, you take out.
What to do in Tayrona National Park
A 1-2 hour uphill hike from El Cabo is El Pueblito (2.4km distance, 260m elevation gain). El Pueblito is a small archaeological site similar to Ciudad Perdida.
A lagoon/beach halfway between Cabo San Juan and Arrecifes. A great place to swim and snorkel.
Cabo San Juan
A double cove bay with excellent snorkelling. Good facilities and accommodation options.
Yes, there is a nude beach a short 15-20 minute walk from cabo San Juan. Perfect to get away from the crowds at Cabo San Juan and back to your most natural state. Naked.
Cabo San Juan in Tayrona National Park is located below: