Exploring Tayrona National Park in Colombia

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Exploring Tayrona National Park in Colombia

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Our trip to Colombia continues by discovering Tayrona National Park and its lush rainforest. Here we take a hike through the park and reach one of its beautiful beaches for a relaxing swim in the Caribbean Sea. In this article we tell you about this incredible place and give you some useful tips for planning your visit!

We love... Tayrona National Park!

Our trip to Colombia continues by discovering Tayrona National Park, one of the nation’s most fascinating and visited natural parks. Its lush vegetation and enchanting white sandy beaches make this place a must-see for those visiting Colombia for the first time and wanting to explore not only its urban aspect – in Bogotá or Cartagena – but also its nature.
The park is easily accessible from Santa Marta, a lively and welcoming town on the Caribbean Sea coast that is the perfect starting point for exploring the park. We visited the park on a day tour that gave us the chance to discover the rainforest and take a swim in one of its beautiful beaches. In this article we tell you about this incredible place and give you some useful tips for planning your visit!

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Our visit

Where to sleep for discovering Tayrona National Park

To visit Tayrona National Park, we suggest staying in Santa Marta, on the Caribbean Sea coast. The town is easily accessible by plane from the main Colombian cities – Bogotá and Cartagena – as well as from the airports of Eje CafeteroArmenia and Pereira. We chose to stay at the Hotel Boutique & Spa Casa de Leda, in the centre and just a short walk from the Parque de los Novios, the heart of the city. Although not all the rooms have been renovated, the hotel offers a perfect location, a rich and tasty breakfast and friendly, welcoming staff. If you are looking for something different, on Booking.com you can find all the hotels available in the area.
Some people choose to spend at least one night inside the park. There are not many accommodation facilities here and most of them are campsites offering space to pitch a tent or ready-made tents for guests. If you are looking for something more similar to a hotel, we can suggest the Ecohabs Tequendama Playa Cañaveral or the Cabañas Tequendama Playa Arrecifes Parque Tayrona. The choice is yours!

Booking.com

Hike overview & map

The hike we propose follows a well-marked path that starts from the car park “Cañaveral” and reaches Playa La Piscina. Then after a regenerating swim and a lunch break we return to the starting point. It is thus an out-and-back route that runs mostly on the flat with some short uphill stretches (on stairs) along a wooden walkway. The total distance is about 9.2 kilometres for an elevation of just under 90 metres. Along the route you will find some stands selling cold drinks. It is a route that we found fairly easy from a technical point of view. However, it should be pointed out that the heat and very high humidity levels – which can reach 90% in some months – make it quite strenuous. We suggest that you dress light, wear clothes made of transpiring materials and drink frequently to maintain high hydration levels.

Tayrona-Park-elevation

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For a safe hike, it is important to have the support of maps and GPS. That’s why we plan and track all our hiking routes using Outdooractive, a platform for tracking outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling and more. By subscribing for free to the website you can browse the entire route database, copy our routes, edit them and create your own and of course share them with friends.
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Would you like to use our hiking map?

For a safe hike, it is important to have the support of maps and GPS. That’s why we plan and track all our hiking routes using Outdooractive, a platform for tracking outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling and more. By subscribing for free to the website you can browse the entire route database, copy our routes, edit them and create your own and of course share them with friends. If instead you want to know why you should sign up for a PRO or PRO+ subscription and why we have already done it, we have told you about it here along with 5 other essential apps for hiking in Switzerland.

What to know before visiting Tayrona National Park

As mentioned above, we opted for a guided tour in the park. We did this for convenience, having only one day to explore and not wanting to worry too much about transfers to and from the park and logistics. Whether you decide to opt for a guided tour or a do-it-yourself visit, here we give you some useful information!

ARRIVAL AND PARKING. Although the park has three different entrances, most travellers choose the entrance Zaino, about one hour (and 34 km) from Santa Marta. Many services and ticket counters are available here, as well as car access (only possible up to the Cañaveral car park). The downside is that the entrance is always quite crowded. For this reason, we suggest arriving early in the morning to avoid the long queues and to have more time to spend in the park.

OPENING HOURS. The park is accessible from the entrance Zaino from 7 am until 12 noon. The exit time slot, on the other hand, is from 2 pm to 5 pm. In recent years, the visiting time slot as well as the opening periods during the year have been reduced in order to mitigate the growing number of visitors and to protect the park’s ecosystem. Therefore, in 2024, the park will be closed to visitors between 1 and 15 February, 1 and 15 June and between 19 October and 2 November. More information can be found on the official website.

ENTRANCE TICKETS. Entrance tickets can be bought directly at the entrances. The cost for foreign visitors in the high season (15 June to 15 July and 15 December to 30 January) is COP 87,000 (approx. CHF/EUR 21.00) and COP 73,500 (approx. CHF/EUR 17.00) at all other periods. A compulsory insurance fee of COP 5,000 (approx. CHF/EUR 1.50) per person must be added to the ticket. You will be issued with a paper bracelet that you will have to wear for the duration of your visit. If you decide to drive your car to the Cañaveral car park, you will have to pay an additional entrance fee of COP 19,000 (approx. CHF/EUR 4.50).
To purchase the ticket, you must show your passport and proof that you have been vaccinated against yellow fever. Please also note that some payments – both at the entrance and inside the park – can only be made in cash! More information can be found on the official website.

SAFETY AND PRECAUTIONS. Tayrona National Park is considered a safe destination and is normally attended by park rangers. The biggest risk is the high temperatures and high humidity levels. It is so extremely important to carry sufficient water and not to go off the marked trails. Finally, we would like to point out that the mobile phone network is only available at the edge of the park and along the trail only near Playa Cañaveral. One more reason to stay on the beaten path!

BEACHES. Although the entire coastline of the park offers many white sand and turquoise sea beaches, bathing is not permitted on all of them and some are considered very dangerous due to the strong currents. You will find signs everywhere to remind you of this! Starting from the entrance Zaino, you will pass the beaches of Cañaveral, Arrecife, La Piscina and Cabo San Juan in this order. While bathing is prohibited in the first two, it is possible to swim safely in the beaches of La Piscina and Cabo San Juan (where there is also a well-known campsite).

FOOD AND DRINKS. As already mentioned, we suggest that you take enough water with you to stay well hydrated, given the high humidity levels in the forest. However, water and drinks can be purchased along the trail. In Playa La Piscina there is also a Chiringuito where you can eat hot dishes, mainly fish. All payments are made in cash only, so bring enough money with you!

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How to get there

See the location in Google Maps. The easiest way to reach Tayrona National Park is by plane, flying from Bogotá, Cartagena, Pereira or Armenia. Once at your destination, although it is possible to travel by bus from the city to the park, we suggest that you rent a car or, better still, join a guided tour!

See the location in Google Maps. Tayrona National Park can be reached by car from Santa Marta in about an hour’s drive (38 kilometres). To find the best travel option for you, as always we suggest you use Google Maps. However, we suggest caution: Colombian roads are often subject to works and closures, even unexpected ones. This could significantly lengthen travel time.

Booking.com
Booking.com

Tips

1

For your visit, we suggest you bring a waterproof jacket, plenty of water to drink and the inevitable mosquito repellent!

2

Are you planning a trip to Colombia? Then read all our articles on the subject and if you have any questions or need further suggestions let us know by leaving a comment below and we will get back to you as soon as possible!

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