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Guide to Visiting Tayrona National Park in One Day

Cabo San Juan Tayrona National Park

Tayrona National Park is a protected area in Northern Colombia located near the city of Santa Marta. Tayrona National Park offers a mix of lush forest and breathtaking beaches. Most of the park is closed to car traffic, so it is the perfect place to enjoy a quiet hike through the forest to many beaches. When planning your trip, try to visit the park outside of the busiest time which is December through end of January. Follow this guide for how to visit Tayrona National Park in One Day.

How to Get to Tayrona National Park from Cartagena

The easiest way to get to Tayrona National Park from Cartagena is to take a bus to Santa Marta and then take either a bus or a taxi from there to Tayrona. We took Berlinas bus to Santa Marta for 40,000 COP. Berlinas is more expensive than the public bus but it is worth it because it is faster and leaves from right outside the old city of Cartagena. The public bus to Santa Marta is about an hour away from the Old City, so the taxi is more expensive to get to the bus station. The Berlinas bus leaves from the Berlinas Marbella station which is located at Cra. 18 #57 in Cartagena. The busses leave about every 40 to 50 minutes but it really depends on when the bus gets full.  

The bus ride took us about 4.5 hours and that included a flat tire that they had to change. It is possible for the bus to take longer, I would estimate 4-6 hours depending on traffic and any other problems. The busses are more like small vans and they have strong air conditioning, so make sure to bring layers. There is Wi-Fi available but it didn’t work well during our trip. The bus will stop soon after leaving for an inspection check, and then stops again at the other end of Baranquilla which is about half way to Santa Marta. In Baranquilla the bus stops near a couple restaurants so you can quickly use the bathroom here for a small fee. These bathrooms usually don’t have soap or toilet paper so make sure to bring some with you. The bus driver didn’t say anything to us, he would just stop and get out, so make sure you are quick so he doesn’t leave without you. The bus will drop you off in the center of Santa Marta. From here you can take a taxi to to Santa Marta public market where you can take the public bus to Tayrona. The other option is to take a taxi directly to Tayrona National Park from where the bus drops you off in Santa Marta, which will cost 80,000 COP. It takes about 1 hour to drive from Santa Marta to Tayrona without traffic.

How to Get to Tayrona National Park from Santa Marta

From Santa Marta there is a public bus to Tayrona National Park which leaves from the public market and from the main bus terminal. The bus can be very busy so you might get stuck standing during the one hour drive to Tayrona. If you don’t want to deal with the public bus, you can take a taxi from Santa Marta to Tayrona for 80,000 COP. The ride from Santa Marta to Tayrona National Park takes about one hour without traffic.

How to Get to Tayrona National Park from Bogota, Medellin, or other cities in Colombia

The closest airport to Tayrona National Park is in Santa Marta, called Simon Bolivar International Airport (airport code SMR). There are cheap flights from Bogota and Medellin to Santa Marta with Avianca, Viva Air, and Latam. From Santa Marta Airport you can take a taxi to the Santa Marta bus terminal and take a public bus from here to Tayrona, or take a taxi direct to Tayrona National Park.

How to Get Around Tayrona National Park

Most of Tayrona National Park is only open to foot traffic or horses. From the main entrance, el Zaino, you can take a shuttle bus for 3,000 COP to El Carñaveral Beach. This is a great alternative to walking 5 km on the road where there are many cars and busses driving fast and a lot of horse poop. The shuttles run often so you can easily catch one at the entrance of the park, and catch one on the way back from where you got dropped off.

Tayrona National Park Entrance Fees

There is a daily maximum capacity in the park so I recommend making your reservations online ahead of time. You can purchase your tickets on the national park site. This also allows you to carry less cash with you since you have already paid for your tickets. The Tayrona National Park website is in Spanish, but you can copy and paste what you don’t understand into google translate. The ticket costs 56,000 COP for non-Colombians, and an additional 2,500 COP a day for insurance. The park will give you a wristband that you will need to wear during your time there.

Things to Know Before Visiting Tayrona National Park

Tayona National Park Overall Map
  • Tayrona National Park closes in February every year for the indigenous communities and the nature.
  • The official park hours are 8 am to 5 pm.  
  • Bring your passport as your form of identification for purchasing tickets.
  • It is recommended that you get a yellow fever vaccine for Tayrona. Make sure to bring your vaccine booklet incase they check, but no one asked for ours. 
  • Many sites say that plastic bags are not allowed in the park. We entered the park with all our bags because we were staying in a hotel there overnight, and we had re-usable plastic bags for our shoes, laundry, etc. Our bags got searched briefly but no plastic bags were taken.
  • You are not allowed to bring alcohol into the park, but they do sell it there.

Tayrona National Park Weather

It is humid and hot in Tayona National Park. If you have naturally curly hair like me, don’t even try to tame it, it is a lost cause. Make sure you wear very light clothing. It always feels like it is about to rain in Tayrona, and it really is always about to rain. In Tayrona it suddenly starts storming, so make sure you are prepared with a rain jacket and waterproof gear to protect your camera and valuables. Try to start hiking earlier in the day because the storms are extremely common in the late afternoon.

Where to Stay in Tayrona National Park

Hotel in Tayrona National Park

Yachay Tayrona Ecohotel

If you want to stay comfortably in the park but not spend too much money, I recommend staying in Ecohotel Yachay Tayrona. This hotel is located in Tayrona National Park, only a 10 minute walk from the entrance of the park. The hotel has rooms with private bathrooms and rooms with shared bathrooms. The price varies depending on the time but is usually about $40 USD a night to $100 USD a night depending on the room and the season. The rooms are comfortable and clean, there is a great restaurant, amazing views, and hammocks around the property where you can relax. The staff is so nice and some of them speak English. It is so relaxing to spend time on the property of Echotel Yachay Tayrona, swinging on the hammocks and enjoying the incredible views. If you stay here I would still recommend bringing snacks with you because the restaurant only has food during set hours for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you decide to stay here, know that you can catch the Tayrona shuttles down to Carñaveral outside of the hotel, just wave one down. You should spend the night before you hike in Tayrona National Park at this hotel to make sure you have a full day to enjoy the park and can start early. 

Hotel or Hostel Outside of Tayrona National Park

There are many hotels and hostels right outside the park that are walking distance or a short drive from the park. Most will be cheaper than the hotels inside the park but still close enough so you can easily start your day in the park.

Budget: 
Quetzal Dorado Eco-Lodge: Features a pool and a restaurant. Located less than a mile away from Tayrona National Park.
Hostal Monte Verde: Has a pool and is located just over a mile away from El Zaino entrance.
Tayrona’s Angel Lodge: Very cheap option located walking distance to El Zaino entrance. Breakfast is included.

Splurge: 
Maloka Barlovento is an incredible hotel across the river from Tayrona National Park, located right on the beach.

Search in booking.com to find more accommodation options near Tayrona National Park

Tents in Tayrona National Park

Tents Playa Cabo San Juan

You can stay in a tent right on Cabo San Juan beach, with 50 of your closest friends. We didn’t stay in the tents but saw them when we were at this beach, and unless you feel like really roughing it I would not recommend it. There are only about 5 bathroom stalls and showers which are not clean. You have to pay 500 COP each time you use the bathroom. The tents often get wet from the rain and it is so humid that I don’t think it would be possible for them to ever fully dry. There is one restaurant on Cabo San Juan but they only offer food at specific hours. There are many people staying here and visiting for the day, so during lunch time there is a huge line that forms to wait to eat. The food isn’t cheap and doesn’t look great. There is also a booth that is open during more hours that has water bottles, beer, snacks, and some necessities. 

Hammocks in Tayrona National Park

Hammocks Cabo San Juan

Here you would have the same bathroom and food options as the tents above, since the hammocks are also on Cabo San Juan. One benefit here is that it will be cooler and if you are on the aerial hammocks you might get a breeze. If you’ve always wanted to sleep on a hammock with a view and 15 other people right next to you, here’s your chance. If you want to get a good night of sleep, I recommend booking a hotel.

Tayrona National Park One Day Hiking Route and Best Beaches

During your one day in Tayrona National Park, start the hike from El Carñaveral Beach (where the shuttle drops you off) to Cabo San Juan Beach early. The hike from el Carñaveral beach to Cabo San Juan takes about 2 hours, but as you will most likely stop to enjoy the views and the beaches along the way it could take longer. The hike is easy to moderate, with some climb required particularly on the way back. If you have more time you could continue a little further from Cabo San Juan and checkout other beaches such as Playa Nudista.

Carñaveral Beach, Arrecifes Beach, and more

Carñaveral Beach Tayrona
Beach in Tayrona

The first beaches you will get to are El Carñaveral Beach and Arrecifes Beach, along with a few other small beaches you will see on the way. Note that you should not swim at these beaches because the waves are strong and it can be dangerous.

La Piscina

La Piscina

About an hour and a half into the hike, you will get to La Piscina. La Piscina is a nice beach that you can swim at. Although small, is a lot less crowded than Cabo San Juan. Take a break from the hike for a cool swim.

Playa Cabo San Juan

Playa Cabo San Juan Tayrona
Caba San Juan Beach Tayrona National Park

About 15-20 minutes walk from La Piscina, you will arrive at Cabo San Juan. Cabo San Juan is the most popular beach in Tayrona National Park. The beach is made up of two coves and has a cabana in between where you can climb for great views of the beach. The east part of Cabo San Juan tends to be more crowded because it is right near the tents, restaurant and bathroom. There isn’t much shade so you will see a lot of people beside the trees trying to stay in the little shade there is. The water is beautiful and clear and feels really nice. You can spend time relaxing here after your long hike and if you are hungry you can eat lunch at the restaurant. Note that the restaurant has set lunch times typically starting at noon. Make sure to ask people working there when lunch is and sit down early before a large line forms and you have a long wait. There is also a kiosk at Cabo San Juanwhere you can get water, beer, snacks, and necessities. 

Playa Nudista

Tayrona National Park Playa Nudista

If you want to continue a little further past Cabo San Juan, you can walk 10 minutes to Playa Nudista. This beach will be a lot quieter than Cabo San Juan, and is a great place to relax without the crowds. It is known to be a nudist beach, but when we were there most people were clothed, so don’t worry. 

What Animals Can You See in Tayrona National Park

Monkey in Tayrona National Park
Lizard Tayrona

While you hike through the park, stop and listen for animals and then try to spot them. We saw monkeys, iguanas, lizards, and toads. It was fun to spend time seeing the monkeys climb around.

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links for products and services I recommend. At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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