Since the time I have been living in Medellin, the second biggest city in Colombia, I kept hearing how awesome the Tayrona National Park is and how it was the best experience of the country for my fellow travelers.
Naturally, I wanted to go see it with my own eyes! I included it into my Colombian bucket list and started to plan the trip.
If you were ever curious what is special about the park, or better – you are also planning your adventure to Tayrona, keep reading, there will be some useful info for you in the post!
Where Tayrona is exactly located?
Park Tayrona is located on the Caribbean coast, 1 hour bus drive from the city of Santa Marta.
Why is it so famous?
The natural park is a treasure for those interested in nature, it has fascinating wildlife.
If you are not big fan of animals, you will still love the park! Tayrona is also a great gateway for those who simply want to relax on some of the loveliest South American coast lines, have digital detox and get closer to nature. And it is just a fun adventure by itself!
I read some articles before going, and, while I found them really useful, some of the info there is a bit outdated.
That is why I decided to wrap up my own experience and write a more up-to-date post.
Here are some practical things that you should know before visiting the Tayrona National Park:
Entrance price to the park
The entrance fee is 39,500 COP (12 $) for foreigners. It quite pricy for Colombian standards that is why it makes sense to stay longer than 1-2 days.
PRO TIP: Do not forget to take your student card, if you are less than 25 years old! If you are a student, the entrance will be just 7 000 COP for you (a bit more then 2$). Good save, huh?
Don’t forget your passport!
I do not know what would happen if I would leave my passport in my hotel in Santa Marta (which is what I usually do if I go on a hike). Fortunately, I have read this notice before. The cashier requires it on the entrance when you buy your ticket. Do not forget it, please!
What about the food?
- Bring it yourself for whatever amount of days you will be staying;
- Eat from local cafes that are there in each camp;
- Combine the above 2 options.
If you are traveling on budget, you can bring your own food in your backpack.
Remember, though, you will have to carry it!
You can also eat in one of those camp cafes. All other blogs I read said that it is very pricey to eat there.
However, either that was many years ago and the prices are outdated, either the guys were on a very low budget, but I found the price to be quite affordable.
I will let you decide if it is affordable or pricey by leaving here the prices that I found when I visited in January 2016:
- 5 000 – 8 000 COP for breakfast (~2$),
- 15 000 – 22 000 for dinner (5-7$),
- 5 000 – 6 000 for beer.
Update 2018: 12,000 – 14,000 COP for breakfast (~4$)
PRO TIP: For those who are staying longer than a couple of days, there is no need to carry 5-10 liters of water/bread all the way from Santa Marta, you can buy canned food right at the entrance of the park (10% more expensive than in Santa Marta).
Oh, and do not take alcohol with you! You can drink it inside the park, but you can only buy it in one of the cafes inside. You will not be allowed to enter the park with your own beer. There is security staff who will be checking your bag at the entrance.
What to bring to Tayrona park:
Packing smart is very important!
You don’t want to be eaten by mosquitoes and get a sun burn, do you?
But you also don’t want to over pack and bring unnecessary things that will kill your back afterwards.
Here are the things that you should definitely pack in your backpack:
- Water (you might buy some later, but you need at least 1l to get to the place)
- mosquito repellent;
- swimming suit;
- long sleeves;
- canned food;
- a torch;
- a camera!
Oh, and in case you are wondering, no, there is no Internet in Tayrona national park,simply relax! 🙂
“I surely can swim in Tayrona park, right?”
No, my friend, even if I told you to bring the swimming suit, you can’t really swim in the Tayrona Natural Park as the Carribean Sea is rough there!
I understand you, you went all the way and you really want to swim in that turquoise water, I hear you. But please keep in mind that there is a strong riptide, extremely dangerous under-currents and many people have died there.
There is one place in the park where you can swim, however, it is called La Piscina. But, please, keep in mind that it can get quite crowded during high season. The weather is always pretty good on the Caribbean coast, but it tends to be the busiest in January and February.
If you are looking for Colombia “beach and sea” destination, I recommend you flying over to San Andres, you will find your paradise there!
How to get to Tayrona National park from Santa Marta
Santa Marta is the closest city to the National Park.
There is an airport in Santa Marta, or, you can also get there by bus. VivaColombia is really affordable, especially if you book it in advance, thus, I would suggest flying.
The bus to/from Santa Marta is 7,000 COP (2.27$) and it will only take on hour to arrive. On returning to Santa Marta, if you get off at the Mercado you can get another bus to Taganga for $1,600 (o.5$)
Once inside the park, there is an optional shuttle bus for 3000 COP (1$) that will take you to the starting point of the hike.
You do not have to take the bus, you can walk yourself to the starting point, but I recommend taking it. It is nothing spectacular on the road and you will save about an hour of your time!
Now, the map is not exactly accurate, but I could not find anything in the internet, so I made one myself (you are welcome!)!
It aims to give a general understanding where things are geographically located and how long it will take from one place to another.
I have also heard that there are boats that can take you to the park (to El Cabo San Juan entrance) from Tarranga (located 20 minutes from Santa Marta by bus).
Note: If you are going from Cartagena to Tayrona (like me), you can either take a flight (recommended) or go by bus (approximately 5-6 hours).
Where to stay in Tayrona park – a hummock, a tent or a hotel room?
And now, the big question is – where do you stay there?
The park is too big and pretty hard to reach, so it does not make sense to see for only a day. I stayed for 2 days, but I could easily stay longer.
Your sleeping options are a hammock in the common room, a tent – rented or your own, or a hotel.
Let’s talk about each one in a little more details.
1) A Hummock
Hummocks, such a romantic way to stay in the park – lazy sipping your beer in a hummock under a palm tree, waking up with the noise of waves…
If this is how you imagine it, let me change your mind a bit.
Let’s start from the fact that all the hummocks are located in one big communal room (NOT in front of the sea) separated from the outside by a mosquito net. Some of them were not washed for a long time (if ever).
Even if I really wanted to try out the hummock option, I reconsidered when I saw how the hummock looked.
So, I decided to change my mind for the tent.
PRICE: 10 000 – 13 000 COP (3,5 – 4,5 $)
Update 2018: Hammocks in San Juan now cost 40,000 COP (around 13$) for one night.
2) A Tent
I decided to go for a rented tent (bring yours if you have one) and had no regrets!
Hummocks and tents are located in the campsite and have toilets and showers. Facilities are basic, but enough.
Note that the shower is open only during specific hours and I think it only had cold water, brr!
Answering your question, there are no hostels (for now) in Tayrona park.
Note: If you want to stay in the camp, I strongly advice you arrive as early as possible. First of all, because the sun is strong and it will be unbearably hot, and secondly, chances are, by 3 pm, there will be no free spots available for you.
Where to stay: Camping sites where you can stay: Arrecifes and Cabo San Juan (take a look at the map above). I stayed in Arrecifes and I quite liked it, but I have heard that San Juan is nice too, just that a bit more crowded.
PRICE: 25 000 – 30 000 COP (9 -10$) for 2 people
3) A Hotel
If you are not feeling like a great adventure with tents etc., no worries, I totally understand you!
Here are Tayrona park hotel options:
There are a couple of VERY expensive Tayrona National Park Eco hubs inside the park, but to be honest I find them a bit overpriced for what they are. (from 150 usd a day)
If you are searching for an affordable great hotel right on the beach that you have just for yourself, I know a great solution for you!
Sometimes we just need to relax and enjoy, and that is what you want, I have a perfect place in mind for you!
Tayrona Tented Lodge is a small hotel consisting of 6-7 bungalows. I had to book it in advance and only could get it for 1 night (I’d gladly stay way longer).
This place was my personal paradise!
Technically, it is not in the park (only the eco hubs are inside, but they are located right at the entrance in any way)
Tayrona Tented lodge is a fantastic place to be, just relax, read your book on that hummock (yes, near the beach!) and simply enjoy the moment, you will always have a chance to come back to the “real” busy life!
It is perfect for both romantic getaways (even honeymoon!) and family vacation. When I was there, I met guys from UK who wanted to come back with all their close friends one day and rent all the 7 bungalows.
The places has some of the best beaches in Colombia!
I think that is a great idea as the location is so perfect, you have all the beach for yourself. You just forget about all the world’s problem and immense with the nature.
And oh yes, unlike Tayrona Park, you can swim in the Carribean Sea!
How to get: It is just 20 minutes ride from the main entrance to Tayrona National Park. All the information can be found on their official website.
PRICE: Ecohubs are starting from 200$, Tayrona Tented Lodge from 60$ for 2 people
Watch the video below. Even if it is in Spanish, it will give you a great understanding about the place:
Tayrona National Park is a great place to visit if you are a nature lover. It is with no doubt one of the best national parks in Colombia.
In this post I gave you recommendations of how to get there, what you should definitely take with you and what is better to leave home.
We talked about the prices and considered different accommodation options.
I hope it was helpful. Let me know you have any more questions, I will gladly answer!