Tayrona National Park is a remarkable national park in northern Colombia, known for its palm-shaded coves, coastal lagoons, rainforest, and rich biodiversity. The national park covers an area of15,000 hectares, 3,000 of which belongs to the marine zone.
Tayrona or some variation of it has probably been photographed a dozen times. Because Tayrona continues to grow as the nation’s top tourist destination, its undisputed status as a symbol of Colombia increases accordingly. Because Tayrona National Park (or Parque Tayrona) is the place to go if you’re looking for a wonderful beach in Colombia, it’s actually possible to find several of them.
A Destination for All the Tastes
While Tayrona is a regular stop for almost any Colombian traveler, it’s not exactly a stroll in the park. Although walking in Tayrona is a pleasure, the crowds, the costs, and the confusion of what a visit actually entails can leave the average person in a daze. For a ‘first-timer,’ this means the same mistakes are made, and many people leave feeling a little underwhelmed by the whole experience.
This personal guide to Tayrona National Park will provide you with the information and answers to any questions you may have about what to pack, where to stay in the park, or how much time the whole trip will take. You may be able to swim in some of these, which, if you have already visited the Colombia Caribbean coast, you will appreciate is not always a given.
It’s no wonder, then, that Tayrona is regarded as something of a treasure since it’s all set within a lush, tropical national park with tropical forests and a number of secret trails. As a Colombian or South American, if you have no hiking plans elsewhere other than Lost City Trek, you can take the necessary but sweaty trails along the park’s coastline and trails, which are the only access to the beaches – other than by boat.
What Are the Most Beautiful Beaches in Tayrona?
During our time in Tayrona, we visited several different sections of Tayrona National Park, which includes much more areas than the beaches we saw. The park covers 150 square kilometers and 58 square miles. That the truth is there are a great many beautiful beaches in Zambia that cannot be found in or reached from the main Zaino entrance. There are hundreds of beaches like Playa Cristal, Neguanje, Playa Brava, and Playa 7 Olas, but few people visit them.
You shouldn’t be discouraged, though, because several of the 6-7 beaches you’ll visit on your hike will be stunning. There are several beaches in Tayrona that are dangerous if you try to swim there due to strong currents. Several signs will indicate when you visit that hundreds have died, ignoring this warning, so it is imperative that you heed this warning. Generally, travelers can visit these beaches when they travel to Tayrona.:
A lot of backpackers only use the Castilletes and Canaveral beaches because they are in the front of Tayrona, which a lot of backpackers do not use. Rather, the long stretch of sandy beaches attracts more Colombians as they enjoy a holiday. You will be close enough to visit if you stay at Ecohabs or complete the 9 Stone walk. It is not safe to swim there, but there is a small section called La Piscinita where it is possible.
Cabo San Jua
Cabo San Juan has the most famous and the most popular beaches of Tayrona here. It has the famous double-mirrored viewpoint, sandy beaches, that Caribbean blue, and clear waters that are safe to swim in. A holiday in Tayrona would not be complete without a stay on the beach, possibly even swinging in the sea breeze at the hammock hut perched atop the rocks.
Many travelers love this little gem called La Piscina. There are few people on this crescent-shaped beach, and the space is perfect for swimming in the calm waters. It’s a far better place than the coves of Cabo San Juan.
Best Time to Visit
Shortly speaking, there will always be a lot of people at various points along the trail and on the beaches (especially on weekends), but at certain times of the year, it will be more crowded. During the winter, Colombians absolutely adore their holidays at Tayrona, so a few nights in the resort is a very popular option. When the high season comes around, Tayrona will be at its busiest, possibly even to capacity.
Generally, the weather in Colombia differs greatly from region to region; however, Tayrona is visited throughout the year by locals and visitors alike – though it is clearly best experienced when the sun is shining.
Let’s Save the Nature
It might come as a shock to some of you, but Tayrona park closed completely in both February 2018 and 2019. The practice will likely continue every year. Mainly, these closures allow the ecosystems, flora, and fauna within the park to rest and replenish themselves, especially after December and January’s crowds have taken a toll. Two other reasons include allowing the four indigenous groups – who have lived in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta since ancient times – to perform their traditional cleaning rituals and ceremonies. In the face of increasing demand in the Colombian tourism industry, we believe this is a good and necessary initiative. We hope it is sustained.
For tourists, this means you can’t visit Tayrona National Park in February, and previously they’ve closed in the last couple of days in January as well (usually from the 28th). A lot of people we encountered on the road had not planned their Colombia itinerary this way and were extremely upset, which caused them to miss out on Tayrona – so plan ahead!
8:00 a.m. is when the entrance is open for Tayrona Park. The final time to enter the park is 4:00 p.m. During the month of February, Tayrona is closed to the public.
How to Get There
Tayrona is best experienced early in the morning (around 8 a.m. – 9 a.m. is ideal), so you avoid long queues, qualify for entry into the park, beat the tour groups, and enjoy a comfortable bed at night. Also, Tayrona’s extreme popularity is attributed to its proximity to and great accessibility from Santa Marta, only one hour away. Our recommendation is that you stay directly at one of the various accommodations near Tayrona to really enjoy Tayrona at its best. In the case that you’d want convenience instead of making your own way, a Tayrona tour can be arranged through Santa Marta.
Travel By Bus From Santa Marta to Tayrona
The bus departs from the corner of Calle 11 & Carrera 11 in the center of Santa Marta if you’re staying in the center of town. Approximately every 30 minutes, they depart from the terminal, starting at approx. A bus will leave at 6 a.m., but if you don’t see it waiting, then ask a local to make sure you’re in the right spot as they can also leave by the corner of Calle 11 & Carrera 9, which is very close by. No matter how full the bus is with gringos, make sure you tell the driver that you’re going to Tayrona (also known as El Zaino).
The taxi service from the Santa Marta bus terminal outside the city limits is usually quite good. Just make sure you take a bus to Riohacha or Maica, and it will drop you off right at the entrance. Buses run by hostels are also extremely popular, but obviously, they cost more.
A Boat From Taganga
Although Colombia is well-known among the people, Taganga is not a famous place since it has a pretty bad reputation nowadays (but it is still cheap and good for diving). Although just 15-minutes from Santa Marta, it is still visited by many who then take the daily boat service, which comes to Tayrona.
They leave the beach between the hours of 10 a.m and 11 a.m. it’s often cheaper to take a cab to Cabo San Juan rather than the entrance – this is why Cabo San Juan is still a very popular, albeit expensive, option. However, keep your stuff dry while you are on your way!
On the beach, guys waiting for passengers will shout out for passengers between 4 p.m. and 4.30 p.m. You can get to Santa Marta with a quick taxi or bus ride in less than 15 minutes from Taganga if you’re not interested in taking the boat but don’t want to stay in Taganga.
Taxis in Costeño
Having completed a lot of research to find the best way to incorporate Tayrona into our Colombia itinerary, you will be thrilled to discover this option.
There are a few resorts and a few backpackers hostels at Costeo, and that’s about it. This restaurant has a chilled-out social atmosphere but also has a less crowded atmosphere than Palomino. Moreover, the fact that it’s near Tayrona means that it’s an ideal spot to set out from and return to, especially if you’re about to spend more time exploring the Colombian coastline rather than returning to Santa Marta.
In the morning, you can take a private moto-taxi from the hostel door to the Tayrona entrance after leaving our bags and valuables in the lockers there for the night. It means you will arrive at the entrance before 8 a.m. without any stress and could go out for breakfast and get supplies. Another popular hostel that has won numerous awards in the past but is a little more distant from Tayrona is El Rio Hostel.
Where Can You Stay
The most popular option is to stay inside Tayrona National Park; however, it is important to know that accommodation in Tayrona National Park often sells out in high season; arriving at the entrance fast is important.
Also, if you’re 99% sure to spend the night in a hammock or a rented tent – and there are no hostels or hotels within the park except for Ecohabs. Many blogs and booking websites will deceive you into thinking you are staying at Tayrona when it is outside the park, so don’t get tricked! The third thing? Despite the quality staying the same, the prices continue to rise each year. And lastly, Campsites are not permitted in the wild.
Several information points stand at the park entrance before you reach the ticket booths, and their main purpose seems to be to get your accommodation booked and explain the park’s layout. Previous visitors of the park had said that before they entered the park, they discussed reserving and paying for their accommodation and received a consensus, and it seems to be the best option, so we did this. An experienced group of visitors said:
“Normally, we would be really skeptical about this arrangement, but it was clear that the operation was a genuine one, so we paid for two hammocks, received a receipt, and a reservation was confirmed. Please be aware that payments will be made in cash, so take this into account before staying in Santa Marta. “
That’s something you might like to keep in mind.
After arriving in Cabo San Juan for the night and seeing people being turned away because all the hammocks had already been reserved, you will feel vindicated. Accommodations inside Tayrona park are mostly not available online, so don’t waste time checking them online.
Is It Worthy of the Price?
There is no doubt that Tayrona was once an incredibly spectacular, secluded, and special place. Although the experience of being there for two days is unforgettable, your overriding feeling would be frustration and disappointment at how crowded it is.
While it is undeniably beautiful and does tend to seem like a secluded paradise in parts and moments, the number of people permitted to visit needs to be reduced in order to restore some of its sense of isolation and uniqueness.
Thus, we are not saying you should totally skip visiting Tayrona; just make sure you are realistic about it so you can decide if it is the place you truly want to go to instead of simply following the crowd.