Tayrona National Park // Colombia
The National Park is located on the Caribbean Cost of Colombia, close to Santa Marta and surrounded by the mountains of Sierra Nevada. The National Park is named after the Tayrona Indians, who lived there until the colonial rulers killed and expelled them in the 16th century. Luckily, some indigenous groups like the Koguis, who are direct descendants of the Tayronas, are living in this area today and upholding their traditions.
The National Park was established in the 1960ies and is a popular destination for tourists and locals who enjoy the fascinating landscape of this tropical area. A diverse flora and fauna, as well as a picture-perfect beach are waiting to be explored!
- Hiking in a diverse landscape
- Relaxing on a beautiful beach
- Spending a night in hammock next to the ocean
Posada Villa Margarita: A little Paradise close to the Tayrona National Park
Before going to the National Park we stayed for one night at Posada Villa Margarita. We planned to hike and stay in the National Park for one night and didn’t want to take all of our luggage with us. So the initial idea was to stay there to leave our luggage with them. But the guesthouse turned out to be a quiet paradise in the middle of the nature, only a few walking minutes from the beach which we had almost for ourselves. The double rooms have a nice terrace with hammocks to relax and to enjoy the view over the sea and surrounding landscape. They have a restaurant where you get fresh fruit juices, yummy dishes and (seriously!) the best coffee in Colombia! From the guesthouse it only takes 5 minutes with the bus to the main entrance of the Tayrona National Park. It is a bit pricy for backpackers, but totally worth it: a double room is 48 €.
Hiking in the Tayrona National Park
The main entrance of the National Park is located between Santa Marta and Palomino – it’s less than 1 hour with the bus from each side. The busses stop directly in front of the entrance, just ask the bus driver to drop you there. The entrance fee for foreigners is 13 € (45.000 COP). After entering the National Park there is an asphalted street until the starting point of the trail. You can either take a minivan for 1 € (10 minutes) or walk. I recommend taking the minivan because the street is not really nice to walk.
The trail is easy; it’s more walking than hiking. We even changed our shoes and walked with our flip flops. The only thing that makes the trail exhausting is the oppressively hot air and humidity. The first part of the trail is a walking way made of wood and after climbing up a lot of stairs you reach a bay with a wonderful view over the ocean.
What fascinated me about the National Park was the immense diversity in such a quite small place. The Park itself is huge, but the main trails for tourists only take a few hours and there you can find tropical rainforest, dry forest and beaches surrounded by huge rocks and palms. We decided to walk to El Cabo San Juan to spend one night there. On this 2 hour walk the vegetation was changing every 20 minutes and it felt like being in different places all the time. The ground is also pretty diverse: you walk on sand, earth, wood and stairs, through a little river, mud and narrow paths between big rocks. And you will meet indigenes who are living in the park, selling fresh fruit juices and coconuts along the trail.
The Beach in Tayrona National Park
After 2 hours of walking we reached the beach El Cabo San Juan. There are 2 bays which are separated by a huge rock. On top of the rock is a little hut where we spent the night in hammocks. The beach is very beautiful, surrounded by palms and big rocks.
Sleeping in a Hammock in the Tayrona National Park
One thing you should not miss is spending a night in a hammock on the beach! El Cabo San Juan is the main camping area and you can choose between two kind of hammock sleeping places: There are 10 “Upper hammocks” for 9 € (30.000 COP) in a small bungalow on top of the rock between the two bays, directly on the beach. The bungalow is open (no walls), so it can get a bit windy and chilly at night. It was not the most comfortable night but one of the most memorable ones: In your hammock you have an amazing view over the ocean and the sunrise and sunset was stunning! Plus, you will fall asleep to ocean sounds in the background.
There are also “Lower hammocks” on the camping meadow behind the beach, but there you won’t have sea view.
We did some research before going there and read about rats, insects and other animals in the hammock area. Don’t believe that! We got insecure if we wanted to stay there, but there was nothing of what we read: no rats, no insects, not even a lot of mosquitos.
On the campsite there are only 4 showers and 4 toilettes for all (I guess 150) visitors. Try to avoid the typically crowded times and you don’t need to wait in line. Everything is basic but totally fine for one night and they even have lockers for your valuable things. There is one restaurant which offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. The food is okay and the price is fair (eg. Pasta with tomato sauce and cheese for 4 €). During the day there are vendors on the beach, selling sandwiches and sweet croissants for 1,5 € (5.000 COP). There is even a small shop on the beach which sells drinks and basic stuff for reasonable prices.
The Check-Out time for camping and the hammocks is at 11 am. This is when the cashier starts giving away the sleeping places. I recommend getting there early to make sure to get one of the “Upper hammocks” and to avoid the heat around midday. It’s totally worth it!
- Stay close to the National Park the night before you go to the Park & plan to arrive early on the beach in order to get an “Upper hammock”
- Pack light – you can buy food & drinks for a reasonable price in the park
- Wear light clothes & drink a lot of water – the air is very hot and humid
- Bring long clothes for the night, it can get a bit chilly
- Bring for example a book or playing cards or make new friends if you need entertainment. There is only light in the restaurant after sunset and no Wi-Fi.