,Falling asleep underneath the stars, waking up with the sounds of the jungle and watching the sun rise above the horizon early in the morning. Camping in Tayrona National Park is a truly unique experience in Colombia and a popular place to visit for either foreigners as for locals.
About Tayrona National Park in Colombia
Tayrona National Park in Colombia is located on the northern coast of the country, close to Santa Marta. Being a part of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, it’s home to many indigenous tribes who are believed to be descendants of the Tairona people that lived here thousands of years ago, hence the name 😉
Want to learn more about the Tairona People?
Complete Guide to La Ciudad Perdida, Colombia
What to do in Tayrona National Park?
Hiking the walking trails
There are multiple trails to follow in the park. Depending on where you sleep, most people follow the same route to Cabo San Juan. You’ll hike through dense jungle, along beautiful beaches and through stunning palm fields. Along the way you have many viewpoints.
Make sure to download the app maps.me, download the map of Tayrona National Park, so you can use it without wifi/service.
Option 1, if you’re going to Playa Brava (recommended!):
Enter the park at the Calabazo entrance and follow the trail leading to Playa Brava. Stay the night and start hiking early the next morning towards Cabo San Juan. From there, make your way to the El Ziano entrance to exit the park. If you want, stay one more night in Arrecifes to break up the hiking hours and more beach time.
This hike is more difficult then the one to Cabo San Juan and back from the El Zaino entrance.
Option 2, if you’re going to Cabo San Juan
If you’re entering at El Zaino, follow ‘Via Arrecifes’, choose the road closest to the beach as you’re taking the other road on the way back. Follow the road and you’ll come across multiple viewpoint up until Cabo San Juan beach.
Visit the Beaches
- Arrecifes: everyone heading to Cabo San Juan will pass this beach so no matter where you camp, Arrecifes beach is worth a stop! No swimming allowed.
- Piscina: one of the few beaches you’re allowed to swim and it’s located between Arrecifes and Cabo San Juan.
- Cabo San Juan – even though it’s the busiest beach in the park, it’s perfect to swim and relax on this beautiful beach. To get to this beach it’s about a 2hour walk from the El Zaino Entrance.
- Playa Brava – stunning and quiet beach on the left side of the national park. Only go here if you’re spending the night. Unfortunately, you can’t swim here as counts for many other beaches in Tayrona.
Tayrona National Park in Colombia is one of the most visited parks in the country and inhabits a lot of unique creatures. One of them is the Cotton-Top Tamarin, and is one of the 3 monkeys species living here. Because approximately only 6000 of them are left in the world, they’re critically endangered. The other 2 are the howler monkeys and capuchins, who are often seen and heard in the park!
Next to these adorable monkeys, there’s also the chance to see caimans, a wide variety of birds and the famous basilisk aka the Jezus Christ Lizard. Go look for these creatures at freshwater pools, their ability to run on water is one of their unique skills, hence the nickname of the lizard 😉
Tayrona National Park is Colombia also inhabits the jaguar. Even though an encounter with a jaguar is very rare, visitors occasionally see their paw tracks in muddy terrain.
How to get to Tayrona National Park
Santa Marta is the gate way to reach Tayrona National Park and only 45 minutes away. Santa Marta has an airport with direct flights to many parts of Colombia for example, Medellín & Bogotá.
If you’re coming from Cartagena, there are busses from Bolivariano bringing you to Santa Marta in about 5 hours.
The most popular and cheapest way to get from Santa Marta to Tayrona is to take the local bus. They leave from the busstop right in front of the Publico Mercado and it’s the same bus that’s going to Palomino. Tell the driver beforehand where you want to go off, or simply wave to the driver when you’re arriving at the entrance. The busses leave about every 20/30 minutes or when they’re full.
Tickets costs 7.000 COP (€1,45) and you can buy it at the little counter at the bus station.
By Private Transport
Another way to reach Tayrona National Park is to take a taxi. This is not the cheapest option, but could be convenient for a group or a family. This 45-minute ride should cost you around 80.000 COP (€17).
Entrance fees & Times
Tayrona National Park in Colombia is open from Monday – Sunday from 8AM till 5PM. The entrance fee is 68.000 COP for foreigners during high season and holidays. Apparently during low season the price drops a bit, but this keeps changing. You can buy your ticket at the entrance of the park and make sure to come early as sometimes there’s a long line.
Closing dates of Tayrona National Park 2023
Every year, the park has 3 scheduled closings in the same months, to clean and maintain the nature. In 2023 are the following dates:
February 1st – 15th
June 1st – 15th
October 19th – November 2nd
Best time to visit
During the dry months from November – April you chance on sunny days are you the highest. However, around the holidays the park is also the busiest with locals who come to the park with their families, same counts for weekends.
To beat the biggest crowds, visit during shoulder season or on a weekday. March should be a good choice to have good weather and no crowds.
Before and after the closing dates, it’s often extremely busy, so avoid these!
Where to sleep in Tayrona Park?
Cabo San Juan
Most popular place to sleep with hammocks and tents at the beach. Don’t think you’re going to be the only one with the idea of spending the night here. Cabo San Juan is Tayrona’s most famous beach and therefore the busiest campsite.
Despite being busy, there’s a good vibe in the evening and the sunrises from the beach are magical. Also a perfect spot for taking pictures and spending the late afternoon. The campsite offers a restaurant, toilets and showers!
The hammocks on Cabo San Juan start for 40.000 COP (€8) for the cheapest on the mainland. They’re located next to the tents under a shelter.
The other hammocks are 50.000 COP (€10) per night and are located on the little peninsula in a hut. These ones have scenic views, however we’ve heard from many people that it gets incredibly cold up there and people had barely any sleep.
Besides hammocks, there are also tents to rent. We choose a 2-person tent for 120.000 COP, which was surprisingly comfortable. However, they get dirty very quickly if it has rained because of the mud. At the counter we booked our tent with, this was the cheapest tent for 2 people and only had smaller and cheaper tents for 1 person.
Arrecifes – Quiet alternative.
If you entering the park from the El Zaino entrance, it’s a short 1.5hr hike to Arrecifes campsite. The camping has both hammocks and tents available and have more space between them. We’ve noticed a good amount of people to enjoy a fun night but still and private.
Tayrona’s Secret Spot: Playa Brava
For the people hiking the whole loop, staying at Playa Brava is the perfect choice! To do so, entering at the Calabazo entrance, from where it’s about a 4 hour hike to the campsite. It’s not the easiest hike, so make sure to stay 2 nights in the park, before exiting at the main entrance of Tayrona National Park.
Not many people do the hike the whole trail. That’s why you won’t find big crowds at this campsite and give you a more unique and quiet experience. There’s only one place the stay on Playa Brava, which is called Playa Brava Teyumakke. There are a stunning beach bungalows to rent, next to tents and hammocks. Not all accommodation is listed on booking.com, but you can send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve your hammock.
How long to stay in Tayrona National Park?
When you’re visiting Tayrona National Park I highly recommend to stay 1 night inside the park. Only make sure to start hiking early in the morning to escape the intense Caribbean heat.
Staying longer than 1 night is not necessary if you’re only hiking until Cabo Can Juan. However, if you’re staying at Playa Brava, I would recommend staying 2 nights in the park.
If you’re on a big time limit, a day-trip from a hostel/hotel nearby is definitely possible, but will require more hiking hours in one day and not much time to actually explore. Personally, we loved taking it slow and look for wildlife early the next morning before the park opens.
Spending the night gives the the opportunity to explore the park before it opens!
How to book your accommodation?
At the main entrance of the national park, there are multiple stands where you can reserve yourself a hammock or tent. There are several options to choose from, suiting solo travelers, couples and backpackers.
During high seasons spaces on Cabo San Juan fill up quickly so make sure to reserve your tent early at the El Zaino entrance before entering the park.
What to bring to Tayrona?
As you’re only spending one or maybe two nights in the park, leave your big backpack or suitcase at the hostel you’re staying at before entering the park. Only bring a daypack of maximum 30lt with you.
- T-shirt for every day
- 2 shorts
- Underwear for every day
- Extra dry socks
- Basic toiletries
- Waterproof sandals
- Hiking shoes or good sneakers
- Microfiber towel
- Bug repellent
- Passport/ID or copy
- Portable Charger, there’s no electricity in the park beside a few plugs but they’re very limited.
- Reusable waterbottle
- Headlight (optional)
- Camera (optional)
Things you need to know!
There are no ATM’s in Tayrona, so make sure you get enough cash in Santa Marta!
Bring enough water with you, there are no places to fill up your reusable waterbottle.
Avoid visiting on weekends and holidays as many local make their way to Tayrona.
It can get extremely muddy during rainy season, until some parts are barely even accessible. Bring enough rain gear and don’t wear your best shoes!
For those sleeping in hammocks, there are lockers to leave your valuables!
Bring enough snacks, food is pretty expensive in the park so pack up!
Alcohol and plastic bags are prohibited! At El Zaino entrance they even check your bag.
Swimming is not allowed on most beaches, make sure to check this beforehand.