If you are traveling to Colombia, your visit wouldn’t be complete without seeing one of the most beautiful parks in South America.
Tayrona National Park is famous for its richness in fauna and flora, great hiking trails and Caribbean beaches.
Exactly on the western side of Colombia, you will find Caribbean towns and one of the most beautiful beaches in Colombia.
And if Tayrona National Park is not on your Colombian itinerary, then you should add it right away.
ABOUT TAYRONA NATIONAL PARK
Tayrona National Park is located in the northern part of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.
If you look at the map of Tayrona you will mostly see lots of green. Tayrona is a huge National Park that covers an area of 12.000 acres.
You can already sense how can you see everything in Tayrona in one day? Well, you obviously can’t, but it is definitely possible to see the most famous places. And don’t know worry, we will show you absolutely the best spots where are totally freezable in a day in Tayrona.
SEE MORE: If it’s your first time in Colombia, make sure to check all our 22 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW BEFORE YOU TRAVEL TO COLOMBIA
FAUNA AND FLORA OF TAYRONA
Tayrona Park is a fascinating place, and for me, definitely one of the most beautiful places in South America. It has many beaches, and it is home to many different animals with diverse fauna. With over 3.000 marine hectares, you can spot much tropical fish and more than 50 species of coral reefs.
During our hike, you can listen to over 350 species of birds, look for Cóndors and white eagles. You might meet jaguars, fox dogs, guartinajas, and more. Monkeys and squirrels are also around. Not to mention, walking around Tayrona is like walking in a green paradise. Jungle vibes, tropical forests, and the endless palm trees will take your breath away.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU SEE A JAGUAR?
We read in Lonely Planet, that if you see a jaguar, you should never run. Rise your hands, spread your legs and try to make yourself big.
Apparently, this scares jaguars. We haven’t seen any, so if you do, we hope that this tip will help. Definitely, let us know. But you do not need to worry, with the number of people around, all jaguars are hiding deep inside the jungle.
HOW TO GET TO TAYRONA PARK
Coming further up from Cartagena we were looking forward to visiting Santa Marta and Tayrona. Santa Marta is not the prettiest town, but there are nice spots as well. Taking into account that Santa Marta is one of the oldest cities it is definitely worth checking it out (one day is enough tough). However, make sure to spend a couple of days in Cartagena, one of the most colorful towns in South America.
READ MORE: THE BEST PHOTO SPOTS IN CARTAGENA AND AWESOME THINGS TO DO
Tayrona National Park is located just 34 km from Santa Marta and many travelers are coming to visit Tayrona on a day trip from Santa Marta. Please be aware that you need to start very early, so you can make the best out of your day in Tayrona Park.
We made sure to come to the entrance when they open.
BUS FROM SANTA MARTA TO TAYRONA PARK
A bus from Santa Marta to Tayrona takes around 1 hour (34 km) due to traffic in Santa Marta. Buses to Tayrona leave frequently and almost every 20 minutes.
Depending on where you are staying in Santa Marta, you can hop on the bus in Santa Marta from several bus stations. We came to the Public Market at Calle 11 & Carrera 9 in the morning and the bus was already waiting for us. The bus will take you directly to the El Zaino entrance. Just make sure to hit the bell (of there is one), or tell the driver if you are the only tourist on the bus.
EL ZAINO ENTRANCE
Once you come to El Zaino entrance you need to get an entrance ticket. Make sure to grab a free map of Tayrona. Then you can either walk 4 km to your first stop at Cañaveral or take the shuttle bus. The shuttle bus takes 10 minutes and costs only COP3.000, so it is definitely worth it. Just know that the shuttle bus leaves once it’s full.
If you are thinking about walking, we just want to point out that it is not the most spectacular walk as you will be walking on the road and there is not much to see. And if you have only one day in Tayrona National Park, then this will save you a lot of time and energy.
Before we start with the jungle trail to Cabo Juan Beach, we just want you to know some important and interesting things.
HOW MUCH IS THE ENTRANCE TO TAYRONA NATIONAL PARK?
The entrance fees to Tayrona vary for international and domestic visitors. As you can see the entrance fee for the tourists is more than doubled. Also, the prices vary during the peak months.
|NORMAL TICKET||PEAK SEASON|
|INTERNATIONAL||$ 18||$ 21,30|
|DOMESTIC (from 26 to 64 years)||$ 8,55||$ 10|
|Everyone between 5 and 25 years||$ 6,61||$ 7,25|
|DOMESTIC Under 5, over 65 years||0||0|
Please be aware, that the prices might change, so have a look at the official website of Tayrona to double-check pricing. During our visit (2018) we paid COP 54.500 per person.
Tip: You can’t pay with credit card, so bring enough cash.
Hike in Tayrona Park is definitely not the cheapest thing to do in Colombia, but you won’t regret it. Once you get the permit to Tayrona, you can stay as long as you like.
If you are thinking of coming to Tayrona in high season, we highly recommend you to get a permit in advance, as there are a certain amount of people per day, that can enter the park.
Make sure to bring your ID with you, as it is necessary for registration.
SEE MORE: HOW TO SPEND 2 WEEKS IN COLOMBIA
THINGS TO DO IN TAYRONA IN ONE DAY
Now that you know all the essential information about Tayrona, let’s start with what you can actually see and do during your a full day in Tayrona.
This jungle hike will take you from Cañaveral to the most famous beach in Tayrona: Cabo San Juan Beach. It took us around 4 hours to get to Cabo Juan, as we often stopped on the way to take photos and enjoy the beaches.
Have a look at the map and see all the stops during your hike in Tayrona Park.
The hike is not very hard, but there are many hills and steps. And if you are walking at an average pace, you should be able to make it faster. It is mostly a jungle hike, and you will pass by several beaches: Arrecifes, Punta las Gaviotas, Playa Arenilla and Pristina Beach. There is also the possibility to hire a horse.
Accept of hiking, observing wildlife, and chilling at the beaches, there is not so much to do in Tayrona Park.
I know, it sounds horrible, right?
TAKE THE SHUTTLE BUS TO CANAVERAL
The Tayrona hike will start at Cañaveral. This is where you can spot the first beach nearby Castilletes. You need to walk down through this stunning sandy path in order to get to the jungle.
Your next stop is at Arrecifes beach, so sit down and enjoy the view. Because of the strong currents and waves, you can’t swim at every beach in Tayrona. If you see a red flag on the beach, do not go in as it might be dangerous. Especially here at Arrecifes, swimming is forbidden.
Our second stop is La Piscina Beach. La Piscina is in between your starting point and Cabo Juan Beach. La Piscina is a wonderful white sandy beach with the possibility of swimming. You can also snorkel here, just be careful and watch out for the signs.
WALKTHROUGH THE COCONUT TREE HAVEN
After about 40 minutes from Piscina beach, you will end up on this path. This is such a stunning palm tree walk and you are almost at your last stop at Cabo San Juan beach.
CHILL AT CABO SAN JUAN DEL GUIA
Cabo San Juan del Guia beach is definitely one of the most famous spots in Tayrona National Park. This beach is typical for its golden sand and palm trees and an impressive 360-degree panoramic view. And even though, you are at Tayrona for one day, you need to come here. This is where our jungle trail ends.
We spent around 2 hours here. Cabo Juan is a lovely beach, and there is a small store where you can get snacks, food, and water. Make sure to walk to the little hut that is so iconic for this place.
If you get into the water, you might be covered with some sparkle. Unfortunately, it is not really gold but golden mineral flakes. Therefore, it’s called fool’s gold.
WHEN TAYRONA PARK CLOSES?
If you do not want to stay overnight at Tayrona, you need to leave the park at 5 PM. If you are coming from Cabo Juan Beach, make sure to leave before 4 PM to make it back in time. We left a bit later, and we had to hustle a lot.
Looking for another Caribbean escape? Then make sure to head to San Andres.
WHERE TO STAY IN TAYRONA?
Most tourists are staying in Santa Marta and there are many accommodations to choose from.
However, we choose to stay as close as possible to Tayrona Park at Hostal Monte Verde. We choose this place as it is only 10 minutes by car from the park entrance of Tayrona.
Our hosts were so kind and drove us there in the morning. Not to mention, that this hotel looks amazing. You will have your wooden hut with straw roofs, this view and breakfast included. So picturesque!
CHECK FOR ALL HOTELS IN SANTA MARTA
You can also check Viajero Hostel Tayrona & Ecohabs which is 13 km away from Tayrona Park and has a ton of awesome activities you can do there. And the best thing is, it is right next to the beach.
CAMP AT TAYRONA NATIONAL PARK
Camping in Tayrona National Park is one of the most popular ways how to enjoy this beautiful park. So if you have more than one day in Tayrona, make sure to stay overnight. There are a couple of camping spots with either tents or hammocks. However, the most popular campground is at Cabo Juan Beach.
We didn’t have much time to stay in Tayrona, and we were also reluctant to sleep one night in hammocks or tents. We have to be honest, back in a day we weren’t into camping much. But after camping for five months in Australia, everything changed. And we definitely regret our decision, and we wish to go back and camp in Tayrona for one or two nights.
Sleeping in hammocks is definitely the cheapest option, but you can also bring your tent or rent one. Most of the campgrounds have cold showers, safety lockers, small store, and a small restaurant with basic food.
At Arrecifes campground, to rent a tent costs around COP72.000 per night, and if you bring your tent, then you pay around COP30.000.
The other advantage of coming here for a night is that you will have some spots in Tayrona just to yourself as most of the tourists will leave at 5 PM. Also, you have more time to explore and you will have the possibility to do more hikes in Tayrona Park.
WHERE CAN YOU CAMP IN TAYRONA PARK?
Except for the famous/popular Cabo Juan campground, you can also camp at several other beaches in Tayrona. These are more secluded than Cabo Juan, so if you are looking for calmer settings, then head to Playa Brava, or at Bahia Concha where you can swim as well. There are a restaurant and access to public bathrooms. There are other spots available at Arrecife, Canaveral, and Castillettes, but here you can’t swim.
If you have more budget to spare for your accommodation in Tayrona, then you can also stay at the “luxurious” wooden chalets at Ecohabs at Cañaveral area. Just make sure to book in advance as they book out fast.
TAYRONA WILL BE CLOSED 3 TIMES THIS YEAR (2020)
Tayrona is not just any park, but also is home to four indigenous communities of the Sierra Nevada Arhuaco, Kogui, Wiwa, and Kankuamo and together with National Parks of Colombia they decided to give Tayrona a break. Which is absolutely amazing.
So before you book your trip to Colombia, make sure to check for the dates:
- 1st till 29th of February.
- 15 days in June (no dates specified)
- From the 19th of October till the 2nd of November.
This is to make sure that the ecosystem recovers gets some rest from people. Also, during that time, indigenous people pay their respects to Mother Earth. They visit sacred sites and ask for the recovery of the environment.
WHEN TO VISIT TAYRONA?
Regarding the weather, the best time to visit Tayrona is during the dry season, which is from December till April, when the weather is mostly humid, dry and very tropical.
The raining season starts from April till mid of December, so at that time you will get more rain but the park will be less crowded.
The high season lasts from the 15th of June to the 15th of July and from the 15th of December till the 15th of January. Also, avoid Holy Week (Easter) as well. This is when the entrance fees are higher, and the hotels are more expensive.
Colombians love to go on weekend trips, so if you can, make sure to avoid weekends as it can get crowded.
SAFETY IN TAYRONA
We felt very safe walking around in Tayrona Park. If you decide to sleep in Tayrona and do not want to take all your belongings with you when you are going for a hike, you can use safety boxes in the camping spot.
However, what I would say is to really watch out for falling coconuts. Especially when you are at the beach. Never lay down under a coconut tree.
Did you know that falling coconut kills more people than shark attacks? In any case make sure to read our post on SAFETY IN SOUTH AMERICA.
WHAT TO PACK FOR YOUR DAY IN TAYRONA
- Good hiking shoes: Please do not come for a day trip to Tayrona (only) in flip flops. For the jungle hike in Tayrona, you definitely need some sturdy trekking shoes. Remember it is a full day hike.
- Light clothes: Some people prefer long sleeves shirt and long pants to stay protected from the sun and mosquitos, but we went for a tank top and short as it was crazy hot.
- Swimwear: Naturally, make sure to wear your swimwear, either underneath your clothes or bring them in your bag.
- Lots of water: It gets super hot at Tayrona so make sure to bring enough water with you. There are small stores on the way, but a bottle of water is more expensive than in Santa Marta.
- Sun lotion: Definitely make sure to put on sun lotion before your hike at Tayrona. We were hiking during cloudy weather, yet we got a bit sunburnt. Don’t apply lotion before you go to the water to protect marine life. If you are looking for great reef and chemical-free lotion from Raw Elements (use Gigi10 for 10% off).
- Sunglasses & Hat
- Mosquito repellent: don’t forget that you are in the jungle and mosquitos are everywhere. It wasn’t awful during the day, but at night they definitely pop out more.
- Tent & sleeping bag: If you are camping at Tayrona and do not want to rent a tent, make sure you bring your own gear.
DO I NEED A YELLOW FEVER VACCINE TO ENTER THE PARK?
Yes, you do, so make sure to have your vaccination card with you to prove that you have the yellow fever vaccine. We just found out after our visit that after the 1st of April, you need to have that. We visited in 2018, and no one asked us to provide any proof, which is very interesting.
That is all from us, and we hope that you will enjoy your day in Tayrona National Park and that you won’t see any jaguars. We were just kidding, again. Please let us know if you have any questions.
If you are wondering how we plan our trips, make sure to check our 20 simple steps on HOW TO PLAN A PERFECT TRAVEL ITINERARY.
Are you heading to Tayrona park? Make sure to pin our Tayrona guide to reading it later
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