Tayrona is a National Park located in the north of Colombia and composed of more than 15,000 hectares of protected area covering the slopes of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and the adjacent Caribbean coast. Do you want to discover how to visit this paradise on your own? Keep reading to find out some useful information.
How to get to Tayrona
1. By bus
It´s very easy to reach Tayrona by land from the main coastal cities of northern Colombia such as Cartagena, Barranquilla and Santa Marta. Just hop on any of the buses heading towards Riohacha and ask the driver to stop at the Zaino entrance of Tayrona National Park. See below a list of prices/duration of the bus journey as per March 2019.
Santa Marta (40 min, 8.000 COP)
Barranquilla (3 hours, 18.000 COP)
Cartagena (5 hours, 30.000 COP)
2. By boat
It is also possible to access the park by boat from Taganga to Cabo San Juan for 50,000 COP round trip. The trip takes about 40 minutes, leaving at 10:00 and returning at 16:30. The entrance fee to the park must be paid upon arrival at the beach.
There are also travel agencies that organize private transfers to beaches only accessible by boat such as Chengue, Neguanje, Gayraca or Cinto from COP 90,000 round trip.
The predominant climate in Tayrona Park is tropical with high humidity and temperatures ranging between 25 and 38 °C. Any time of the year is a good time to visit Tayrona, although the rainy season is from May to October.
Be aware that the park closes to the public every year in February for cleaning and ecosystem restoration.
There are very limited facilities such as restaurants and shops inside the park, so it is advisable to bring the goods you might night during your stay.
The entrance fee for foreigners is 56,000 COP during the low season and 66,000 COP in high season, which are the weekends, the colombian bank holidays, Easter, everyday from June 15th to July 15th; and from December 15th to January 30th.
You can buy your ticket online or at the Zaino ticket office. It is necessary to present the printed purchase ticket and passport to obtain the access bracelet to the park.
How to get around Tayrona
You can take one of the many tourist vans that connect the Zaino ticket office with the Cañaveral beach, this section of the park can be easily covered by foot in about 2 hours.
There are pedestrian trails that connect the main beaches of the park, as well as some viewpoints. This pleasant walk along the coast and through the jungle presents minimal difficulty, although there are some small slopes to access the viewpoints. There are sections of the park that can be covered on horseback with a guide.
Where to stay in Tayrona
A day trip feels too short to visit Tayrona, so if you have time I recommend at least a couple of days to enjoy all the beaches accessible from Zaino.
There are several lodging options within the park: campsites, bungalows and luxury hotels. The cheapest options are hammock rentals (from 15,000 COP) and tents (from 30,000 COP) at the Castilletes beach campsite, Donde Jacobo or Don Pedro campsites in Arrecifes; or the Cabo de San Juan camping area.
If you are looking for a bit of comfort during your stay, other lodging options are the Ecohotel Yachay and Jasayma hotels, near the Zaino entrance; and the Ecohabs bungalows in Cañaveral.
What to do in Tayrona
Among the attractions of this natural park are its palm-fringed beaches of crystalline waters, perfect for swimming or snorkeling; its trails through tropical forests, mangroves and lagoons, and its rich biodiversity.
The most common mammals in the area are the jaguar, tigrillo, anteater, howler monkey and squirrel; among the birds are the white eagle and macaws; while in the seabed there are more than 50 species of coral reefs, as well as gogó turtles, hawksbill turtles and parrot fish, among others.
From Zaino you can visit the beaches of Castilletes, Cañaveral, Arrecifes, Arenilla, Piscina, Cabo San Juan and the populary known as nudist beach.
The beaches of Castilletes and Cañaveral are not suitable for bathing due to their strong currents; Piscina del Cañaveral, Arrecifes and the nudist beach have moderate waves; while Arenilla, Piscina and Cabo de San Juan are very calm.
Tayrona indigenous communities
The Tayrona community had settlements in the national park area, although none of their four descendant ethnic groups inhabit it today. The Koguis, Kankuamos, Arhuacos and Wiwas have settled in the upper parts of the Sierra Nevada.
Until the end of 2018, it was possible to visit the ruins of pueblito Chairama, archaeological vestiges of the Tayrona civilization accessible through forest trails that, at the request of the indigenous communities, were closed to the public in March 2019. The closure of these trails has meant the closure of access to the park through the Calabazo, being the Zaino the only land entrance for visitors to the park.