As a Colombian myself being able to discover the Caribbean coast hand by hand with my German partner was a dream come true. Obviously, the Tayrona national park is one of the most beautiful spots and cannot be avoided if you are visiting the country (really, don’t do it), so here it is a comprehensive guide to get all the information you need.
IMPORTANT: By petition from the indigenous communities in the reserve, the Tayrona park will be closed from 28th of January till 28 of February 2018. This has happened also years before, so try to avoid that dates if you plan to visit the place in the future.
On the other hand, we got news that from the 1st of April of 2018 the yellow fever vaccination is needed to enter the park, we do not know if there is any control at the entrance. Nothing we have heard so far.
Understanding the Tayrona National park
First of all, I think is important to understand the surrounds to be able to appreciate fully the nature of the Tayrona national park, and in general, Colombia.
The park is a sanctuary for an indigenous tribe that carries the same name “The Taironas” and more specifically the “Kogui”, in fact, the Lost city in the Tayrona national park was a Kogui city founded in 800 and habited till 1600. Studies say about 2000 people lived there but it wasn’t the biggest city. Pueblito, still accessible inside the park, was home of about 3000 people.
Inside the tairona territory, all the towns are connected through stone paths, these paths are still walkable since are still in use, some of them reach high points of the “Sierra Nevada”.
This is especially important to know since you will be walking around their sacred land, so please, keep your garbage with you and be respectful with the environment and their inhabitants.
How to reach the Tayrona national park
The Tayrona national park is located about 40 Km from Santa Marta, so making a base there is not a bad idea since is also much cheaper than Cartagena -a common destination for tourists- a lot of people chose to stay in Taganga, the nearest town, in my opinion is an overpopulated “party town” full of foreigners, if that’s what you are up to, have fun.
There are three ways to reach the Tayrona national park, fist one by boat, usually from Taganga, the second -and most common- one is known as “El Zaino”, this one is the main entrance since is also the closest to the beaches. And the third and less known “El Calabazo”. There is a fourth entry “Palaganga” but here there are no camping options therefore you will need to leave the same day, also, this entry does not connect with the other 3 (which are connected by that beautiful stone paths we mentioned above).
How to reach the Tayrona national park from Santa Marta
The bus can be taken from Avenida Libertador but is better to take it from the leaving point since will be full by then, this is at the Mercado Central and the ticket is about 5000 COP, a little bit less if you go to Calabazo.
From Santa Marta to El Zaino About 35 Km distance, 1h trip -yap, is slow- and then you will need to walk about 30-40 min already inside the park to reach the beach “Cañaveral”, some meters before you will find “Piscina” and if you want to reach Cabo San Juan it takes about 1h in total.
If you are not in shape you can also rent horses, but honestly, the way is mostly flat and has no major difficulties, I would say anyone can do that way.
From Santa Marta to El Calabazo 30 Km Approx and about 45min on the bus. This entry is the hardest one of all since won’t leave you close to the beach and from here reaching Cabo San Juan will take you 5-6 hours walking.
Is a great entry to discover the park, from here also Playa Brava will be reachable and in any cas,e you will go through Pueblito, one of the old sacred cities we mentioned above. So, Calabazo-Pueblito-Cabo San Juan 5 to 6h, Calabazo-Playa brava more or less the same, then you can do Playa Brava-Pueblito-Cabo San Juan.
If you want to stop here you need to tell the driver beforehand since is not a normal stop.
Boat from Taganga to Cabo San Juan a Taganga (or return): 50.000 COP approx, reaches Cabo at noon and leaves to Taganga about 2pm.
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Tayrona National Park: Entrance fee 2018
These prices have been updated on 25th Sep 2018 but if you experience a different entrance fee please let us know and we will keep it up to date for other fellow travellers.
There are two kinds of prices, for High Season and Low Season, High Season (HS) goes from 15th of June to 15th of July and from 15th of December to 15th of January plus Easter week and national holidays.
Low season (LS) is basically the rest of the year.
|Visitors.||Fee (LS or HS)|
|Elders (65 y.o and above)||Free|
|Kids younger than 5 y.o||Free|
|Kids over 5 years and Students under 25 y.o (showing up accreditation)||$ 10.000 LS or $ 11.000 HS|
|Colombian or Resident in Colombia||$ 17.500 LS or $ 19.500 HS|
|Foreigners no residents||$ 44.000 LS or $ 48.500 HS|
The park has a daily capacity for 6900 people
Tayrona National park: Other prices
Transport from El Zaino to Cañaveral (or return): 3.000 COP one way
Horses from Cabo to Pueblito: 120.000 COP return
Horses from Cabo to Cañaveral: 32.000 COP one way
Horses from Arrecifes to Cañaveral:15.000 COP one way
Tayrona National park: Accommodation
Free camping is FORBIDDEN, and you need to understand this, there is people who can’t behave, and also, as mentioned above this is a living place still for many indigenous communities, so please, respect this rule. If you are looking for camping options you will have:
Accommodation in Cabo San Juan
Hamacas: 30.000 COP – 40.000 COP
Tent: 15.000 COP per person, 50.000 COP if you need to rent one (price for 2 people!)
Accommodation in Arrecifes
There are various accommodations with different prices. Don Pedro is the cheapest one. All this area is in general cheaper since here you can not enter the water and to do so, even if you are in the beach you will have to walk 20 min (is short honestly)
Hamaca: 10.000 to 20.000 COP
Tent: 8.000 to 13.000 COP per person (your tent)
Ecohabs: 180 USD for the night per “room” (up to 5 people) Includes breakfast.
Accommodation in Playa Brava
usually, not a lot of people goes there but since we did we mention it, it as also a super calm spot, we were maybe 5 people while in Cabo San Juan we were hundreds.
Here is possible to stay in Ecohabs or Hamacas (really nice located) from 20 USD per person, this includes Breakfast. Also, camping is possible at similar prices than Cabo San Juan
Food prices around the park
This is an approximation from our experience:
Breakfast: From 10.000 pesos
Lunch or dinner: From 18.000 pesos
Beer: 5.000 pesos
Water bottle (500ml): 5.000 pesos
Drinks: 5.000 pesos
So, I want to enter the Tayrona park from Calabazo
Great then, in that case, please be prepared for it, it can be a hard hike if you are not used to hiking. Also, take in consideration the water intake you will need for the journey, or, if budget is an issue, for the whole stay.
You need to enter the park as soon as possible since the walk will be long and the last thing you want to have is the night on top of you (as we fucking did…) I would say don’t go after 2 pm. If you are planning to do the Pueblito route then do it even early since the habitants of the park will stop you if is too late and they consider you might want to arrive to camp there (where is forbiden).
We love walking and we are used to walking with our 12-15Kg backpacks, empty your bag before the journey and carry only the things you need. For us was not easy and the weather makes it also hard. We were carrying about 10L water since we cook our own food, the first journey we walked Calabazo-Playa Brava.
¡Here is a Tayrona Park Map!
Other important things:
* Early entrance
* Water (a lot)
We recommend the last one, as I mentioned above we had to walk at night and was an ass saver.
The next day we did Playa brava- Pueblito-Cabo San Juan, another 9-10Km walk and you will have to cross Pueblito -that means going up-. Please, don’t do anything stupid, you won’t be the first person that needs to be rescued from the park in a helicopter, don’t be the helicopter guy.
Keep in mind this is a pretty wild environment so do not annoy the animals and keep always an eye for snakes, there are just a few venomous ones but they won’t attack unless you are a thread.
The 90% of the people only visit the beaches -not surprised- so if you want to have some extra adventure just walk!, we were able to explore the park in a way most people never will. Also, keep in mind a trek to the Lost city is possible, it takes about a week and it can only be made with a tour operator.
Bathing in Playa Brava is not recommended, it can be done under your own risk but keep in mind the name comes from somewhere… There is a lovely waterfall about 20 min walk from Playa Brava and even in high season we had the pleasure of being there ALONE.
If you are into nudist beaches there is one some KM away from Cabo San Juan, and oh, yes.. Be ready for the storms at night, they are gorgeous.
What NOT to do in the Tayrona park?
Don’t wild camp, do it only where is allowed.
Don’t leave your garbage in the park, everything you enter take it out with you.
Don’t enter water “bags” you have to enter it in plastic bottles
Pets are not allowed
Music instruments are not allowed
Enjoy your visit, is a wonderful place!
This post is also available in: SpanishSigue leyendo en Guide: Backpacking budget for Colombia »