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What to Know Before Visiting Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona, Colombia

Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona, Colombia
Tayrona, Colombia

White sandy beaches, lush landscapes, mangrove swamps and crystal-clear water of the Caribbean Sea, Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona in Colombia is magic.

While many people choose to visit Tayrona for only one day, I highly suggest spending one or two nights here. It’s an approximately one-hour bus ride from Santa Marta, and there are two ways to get into the park: the main entrance or Calabazo entrance.

The park entrance costs 42,000 Colombian Pesos. ($15 USD.)

HOW TO GET TO PARQUE NACIONAL NATURAL TAYRONA

My friend Kim and I chose to hike five hours from the Calabazo entrance to Cabo San Juan de Guia, a beautiful beach where you can camp.  While most people enter through the main gate, the Calabazo route is much less traveled and a long journey.  Two hours into your hike, you’ll pass by a small village called Pueblito.  This village is where the Kogui, the indigenous people live so you’ll want to respect their space and the areas considered sacred.  Once you pass Pueblito, you’ll scale down large rocks to get to the beach.  This part of the trip can be a bit challenging if you aren’t used to hiking, so take your time.

WHAT TO BRING

When you get to Cabo San Juan, you’ll be able to buy water, beer, coffee, and food.  Bring enough water and snacks for the hike and remember to pack light. You won’t need much besides a bathing suit, hat, light clothes for hiking and something to sleep in, sunscreen, mosquito repellant and a towel.  Don’t forget your ID. I brought 4 liters of water with me in a Camelbak and an extra water bottle, which came in handy but you can also purchase water bottles at the restaurant at the beach. (You can’t bring alcohol into the park, but you can buy beer once you are inside.)

WHERE TO STAY

At Cabo San Juan, you can rent a hammock for the night with no mosquito net, or for the same price of 40,000 Colombian pesos ($14 USD); you can rent a small tent which fits up to two people.  The tents are already set up, and they come with two foam mattresses.  Cabins are also available for rent.  There are bathrooms and showers available and a restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  (You can also camp at Arrecifes, but the campsite is located further from the beach.)

The following day, we went for one last swim in Cabo San Juan and then headed to La Piscina, another beach located a 15-minute walk away. Water and drinks are also available for sale here. Cabo San Juan and La Piscina are the only two beaches you can swim in, so take your time and enjoy! I brought my snorkel mask and used it in La Piscina, but you can also pay to go on a snorkel tour.

GETTING BACK

You can either return the way you came through the Calabazo entrance or exit through the main gate to see the rest of the park.  We choose to finish at the main entrance and passed by Arrecifes, the other camping area and other beaches that are too rough to swim in.

A shuttle from the main entrance to the highway is available for 3,000 Colombian Pesos.  Take the shuttle because it’s a long walk to the main road.

PEAK SEASON

June 15 – July 15
December 15 – January 15
Holy Week (Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday)
Park hours are from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.

I had an incredible time hiking to the beach, swimming in the ocean and gazing at the full moon and stars at night. It’s one of my favorite memories of Colombia, and I can’t wait to hear about your experience here!

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With Aloha,

Alex

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