24 Hours in Tayrona National Park

2015-10-11 12.24.27There are a few options when it comes to getting to Tayrona via Taganga. And there are a host of things to take into account when visiting the national park on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. One is via boat. You’ll get quite the shoutouts on the main drag in Taganga. “Tayrona, Cabo San Juan, Playa Brava, Tayrona” to which you reply “No, gracias” and do it again a few feet later. I’ve read from blogs that the boat ride is quite bumpy and wet. And although shorter and probably more of an experience, we opted for the slightly cheaper bus route. A Scottish girl approached us in the same way as the local tour guides in Taganga and spoke to us in English, so we asked her a few questions before booking the bus with her. This was only 20.000 COP one way and would take us to the park entrance where we would then pay the park entrance fee (38,000 COP for foreigners—but if you’re under 26, bring your student ID… you can get a discount that we completely missed) and then be taken a bit further in to start our hike. I’m assuming there are other bus options that are cheaper that take you to the park entrance and drop you off, leaving you to either walk the extra ways or pay for the park’s bus to take you in further to the trailhead. My advice? Unless you’re fluent, the “all-inclusive” bus is your best bet.

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After arriving, getting in and being left to the natural beauty that surrounded us, Chelsea and I started our hike to Cabo San Juan. There are multiple beach and camping options to choose from, but we read and heard that Cabo San Jaun was the most visited and the most beautiful. From the departure point, we started our hike with our day packs (our hostel in Taganga graciously allowed us to keep our packs there for the night for free) in a forested area on a mix between wooden walkways and typical natural trail paths. It was pretty hilly, hard, yet good for us at the time, but only the start of an intense two and a half hour hike. We started with the group from our us, but broke apart due to everyone’s hiking experience and levels. The trail continued through mudded terrain to a jungle-like section where we saw wild monkeys swaying in the branches. Further along we encountered a long stretch of beach. The variety of ecosystems we walked through was incredible and almost seemed like a Hunger Games-esque scenario. We passed through one campsite and three beaches before eventually reaching our destination. Did I mention the heat? We were drenched. And while we were in our hiking boots struggling to carry a four pound backpack, Colombians were wearing flip flops or barefoot with coolers, tents and more.

2015-10-11 14.41.302015-10-11 14.42.48The Cabo San Juan campsite seemed to be the only location for us to stay on the beach. Our options were either that or paying an outrageous amount for the one eco-lodge in the area—there was no middle ground, and we were okay with roughing it for a night—so tent it was. It was 25,000 COP each (about $8 USD) to rent a tent and mattress pads and the campsite had a restaurant for the guests. Many Colombians actually brought their own equipment. But for those feeling more adventurous, you could rent a hammock (without a mosquito net) either under a roof or a bungalow-looking structure on the top of rocks at the end of the cove. The latter definitely a to-do if you can get there in time to secure a spot (they’re first come, first served). Chels and I took a catnap while it lightly sprinkled and went on a walk to find a few more beaches in the area. We ran across some blue crab sidestepping near the beach which was a first for me. It was gorgeous and certainly the type of beach we were expecting versus what we’d encountered thus far in Cartagena and Taganga. Since it was Columbus Day, there were tons of Colombian families enjoying the beach and campgrounds. That night we ate dinner with another American, an Australian and a Canadian and passed out listening to the ocean waves, exhausted from the heat and hike.

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2015-10-11 14.37.07There’s not a typical “to-do” list for the coast of Tayrona National Park. It was pretty much a lazy beach day for all there. You could snorkel or go on a three-hour hike (which is apparently pretty intense as well), but we skipped out since we were only there for a day. I’d definitely recommend staying at Cabo San Juan if you’re in the area. Just know that the hike is strenuous but well worth the views along the way. If I had more time and money, I would have done a day or overnight trip to Minca or the four day hike to La Ciudad Perida—both great parts of Tayrona that deserve some exploration so you can get the full effect.

Cabo San Jaun in Tayrona National Park from Taganga via bus:

  • 20,000 COP bus ride (ask your hostel)
  • 38,000 COP park entrance fee (less if you’re under 26 or a student apparently)
  • 25,000 COP tent rental fee (5,000 for mattress pad included, can get without)
  • 12,000 – 25,000 meal at restaurant (they have a bodega with snacks and you can get typical arepas, empanadas, smoothies along the hiking route)
  • 20,000 COP bus ride back
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