Tayrona National Park is a popular destination for many tourists looking for nice beaches, camping, hiking, and falling asleep in hammocks to the sounds of the ocean crashing on the shores. However, it can be confusing as there are many different stories from many different travelers on what is actually needed and how to actually get there, so here I thought I’d break it down for you all.
Do you need a reservation to enter the park?
No, a reservation is not necessary, but in the high seasons (Dec-Jan, Easter, and July-Aug) there is a limit to the amount of people they allow into the park, so a reservation will secure your guarantee of getting in. Make a reservation here.
If you DO NOT make a reservation, wake up early and arrive at the park BEFORE 8 am. I arrived solo at 7:55 am with no reservation and I was still able to get in, but many people were already lined up to enter.
How much does a ticket cost to enter?
At the entrance in the high season of 2018 it is 54,000 COP, in the low season it is 45,000 COP.
How to Get There
There are several different ways to get to Tayrona National Park: shuttle bus, boat, or local bus.
Shuttle bus 50,000 COP (30 min): If you are in Taganga, you can arrange to have a shuttle bus pick you up from your hostel and it will take you directly to the front door step of the park.
Boat 50,000 COP (30 min): The boat leaves from Taganga beach and will drop you off at Cabo San Juan. The benefit of this is no matter how full the park is, you will always be allowed in. You will still have to pay the park entrance fee when you arrive.
Public bus from Santa Marta 9,600 COP (1.5 hours): If you are starting in Taganga, you will have to backtrack for this one by going back to Santa Marta (1,600 COP) and then taking the bus in front of the Mercado Central (only a block from where you are dropped off) to Tayrona (8,000 COP)
Where to Sleep
Hammocks are provided with a mosquito net and are the cheapest of the options ranging from 20,000-30,000 COP
Certain sites allow you to set up your own tent, but mostly tents are provided. If a site says that you are not allowed to set up your tent, please understand that they have a limit due to the preservation of the park and are not trying to overcrowd every inch of the land they have. They also range from 20,000-30,000 COP.
There are basic rooms only on Castilletes beach for about 40,000 COP for a single room and about 150,000 COP for a room for 3-4 people.
The most luxurious of all the accommodations, a 3 person cabin will be around $100 per person.
Cabo San Juan (2 hour walk)
The most popular and rowdy of all the beaches, Cabo San Juan can get pretty crowded so don’t expect complete privacy at this luxurious beach. Many people strive to sleep in the hammock hut (30,000 COP per hammock) which sits above on a small hill in the ocean, but because it is closer to the water it can get pretty windy. You are allowed to walk up for the view though. Come here if you prefer to be around a lot of people.
Arrecifes (1 hour walk)
There are two different accommodation sites in Arrecifes: Bukaru and Don Pedro, both which are not on the beach, but are less crowded. The options include tents or hammocks as well. The prices are around the same and you can use a credit card to pay for your reservation here.
Castilletes (30 min walk)
The least popular of all the beaches because of its proximity to the entrance, and distance from Cabo San Juan, but actually the most organized and least crowded. The beach is not swimmable, but you are still able to fall asleep to the sounds of the waves crashing on the shores.
Things to Know Before Arriving
There are different options for getting around once inside the park:
Walk from the entrance to the carpark 45 min (Free) or take a shuttle ride from the entrance to the car park 15 min (3,000 COP)
Hike from the carpark to Cabo San Juan 2 hours (Free) or ride a horse from the carpark to Cabo San Juan (40,000 COP/hr)
If you choose to walk, be prepared for hiking up and down hills, sometimes in mud, sometimes in the sand, and sometimes on rocks.
- Cash is king in the park, but I did find a couple of places that take cards. Just don’t depend on it. There are no ATMs so take money out ahead of time.
- Mosquito nets are provided over the hammocks.
- There are two pathways in the park: one for the horses, one for walking. The paths merge after Arrecifes, but separate at La Piscina. DO NOT take the horse pathway here. It is much more difficult compared to the footpath. Only the horses can really handle this path, and if you take it you will waste time and energy (I made this mistake).
Prepare for the cold at night. Wear long sleeves and pants to bed.
- Everything is expensive and overpriced once inside the park, bring food, utensils, and water (most important!)
- Do not bring too much stuff! You will be walking with everything on your back to the campsite and you do not want to overexert yourself.
- There are no street lights, so be prepared for walking around in the dark, bring a head lamp or walk home before it gets dark.
- The wifi that is provided is faulty and mostly does not work, so don’t depend on it.
What to Bring
A couple days worth of clothes
Your lightest camera (phone or GoPro)
Long sleeves and long pants for night
towel/sarong for laying on the beach
Tayrona National Park, when done right, is beautiful. Sunbathe at La Piscina, read a book, then walk back beneath the stars and then fall asleep in a hammock. It can get crowded, but it can also be a nice way to escape the city, and just enjoy the nature.