Tayrona National Park is located in the department of Colombia and was named after the Santa Rosa Volcano. This national park covers an area of 19,000 hectares bringing together some of the most beautiful scenery in the country. The park offers visitors a chance to enjoy hiking, camping and swimming as well as visit some of its natural wonders.
The nearest city to Tayrona National Park is Santa Marta. There are daily flights from all over Colombia to Santa Marta. I was flying from the United States so I opted to fly into Barranquilla and take a 2 hour drive to Santa Marta.
From Santa Marta there are 3 main ways to get to Tayrona National Park: by bus, taxi, or boat.
Bus – The most budget friendly option is going to be the bus from Santa Marta to Tayrona National Park. The bus runs about every 30 minutes from the square of Santa Marta and takes about an hour to arrive at the entrance. We paid 8,000 COP/person ($1.83 USD).
Speedboat – A second option is to avoid roads and take a speedboat from the nearby town of Taganga. Although it takes about the same time as the bus you will avoid any sort of traffic. The waters can be rough, and it isn’t the most comfortable seating. We took the boat back from the beach and it cost 80,000 COP/person ($18.30 USD).
*Taking the boat from Tayrona to Taganga is a great option if you want to avoid hiking out of the national park*
Taxi – This is going to be your fastest option from Santa Marta to Tayrona National Park. It will take about 45 minutes from the city center of Santa Marta. Although I did not take a taxi, we were quoted about 190,000 COP ($43 USD) for a one way trip. Honestly, if you are traveling with a few people this isn’t too bad of an option.
When to visit Tayrona National Park
Tayrona National Park is not open year round, it is usually closed for a few weeks in February, June, and October or November. The park website will give exact dates as it seems to change occasionally from year to year.
Rainy season in the Santa Marta area runs from March to November, which makes for a difficult time to hike some of the trails within Tayrona National Park. The tropical climate of Colombia usually makes for short quick rainfalls.
I visited in August, and although quite warm it was a perfect time for me to visit.
Where to stay in Tayrona National Park
Depending on any time constraints you have a few different options when visiting Tayrona National Park. If you are just planning on doing Tayrona National Park I recommend staying in the Santa Marta area, it is just a little easier to get in and out of.
Another option is if you have the time you can actually stay within Tayrona National Park. Now, you can not just camp anywhere there are designated spots.
The first campground you will come across is Don Pedro, and because it is the first one most people come across it is very popular. This campground has showers (restrictions) and a restaurant on site. The major downside is that it is not located on the beach and if you want to go to a swimming beach it will be another 20-30 minute hike.
If you are looking for something a little more on the luxury side then give Ecohabs a try. These little cabins have a great view of the beach and have all the comforts of home. They also even have a spa on site.
There are additional campgrounds throughout the park similar to Don Pedro, all with different amenities.
What to see and do in Tayrona National Park
The main reason for visiting Tayrona National Park is for the beautiful beaches that the park offers. These beaches are among the top beaches in the whole country of Colombia and bring tourists in from everywhere. Throughout the park there are 5 main beaches that you are able to visit. Depending on how long you are planning on visiting the park you can visit all of them or you can just visit a few.
Not all of the beaches allow swimming, there will be signage if swimming is allowed. The most popular area is Cabo San juan de Guia. Here you will find plenty of restaurants, drinks, and water activities. It is definitely a great spot to socialize, I spent most of my time at the beach before this one that was a little less active.
Cabo San juan De Guia is also the area where the speedboat picks up and drops off passengers from Taganga.
One of the highlights of visiting Tayrona National Park that I feel is a bit overshadowed by the beaches is the wildlife. I didn’t expect to see any sort of wildlife, but I was completely wrong. There was a lot of good bird watching, but also monkeys! Throughout our hike we came into multiple areas where monkeys were swinging right around us.
Additional tips for Tayrona National Park
Entry into Tayrona National Park is 60,000 COP ($13.73 USD) for non-Colombian citizens.
Health insurance is required to enter Tayrona National Park (yellow wristband), and although it is super cheap they do not tell you this until you’re trying to enter the park. You can buy the insurance across the street at the restaurant.
Plan on getting to Tayrona National Park early! It took us about 2 hours to get our tickets and finally make it into the national park. The system is… well needs improvement, let’s leave it at that.
Take the mini-bus from the entrance to the hiking trail. It only costs 3,000 COP ($0.69 USD) and it will take you to the main hiking path. Trust me, you aren’t missing much by taking this bus instead of hiking.
Bring cash, drink stands and restaurants within Tayrona National Park do not accept cards as a payment method.
Water and drinks are available, but at a cost. As you go deeper into Tayrona National Park vendors that sell water, beverages, and snacks increase the cost.
Tayrona National Park can be seen in a day. A lot of blogs I came across recommended at least a night in the park. Although I see the reasoning behind this, I was more than happy with my day trip and didn’t feel rushed.