Shortly before leaving Santa Marta to travel around Colombia, Miriam and I spent a weekend at Tayrona National Park. We already visited it a year before, but only for a few hours, so we wanted to go back and stay overnight.
There are different ways to get to the park, either by boat from Taganga, by public bus from Santa Marta, or with an organized bus tour. We would definitely recommend to take the public bus early in the morning, which is the cheapest option, costing only about $5 and taking the same amount of time as any other bus. We headed out there early in the morning, it is recommended to get to Cabo San Juan, the nicest and cheapest place to sleep at, before 2pm in order to assure you’ll get a hammock or tent for the night! The bus dropped us at one of the main entrances. There we got a quick introduction how to behave at the park! It’s strictly forbidden to litter or to bring plastic bags, and the guards will make sure to check your luggage. We wouldn’t recommend bringing all your stuff there, maybe just a daypack and leave the rest in Santa Marta. From the entrance it is still quite a way ahead to the actual trails, so we hopped on a minibus the rest of the way. After taking the minibus we finally started hiking on the trail! It is an incredible trail, taking you through the rain forest and eventually leading to the beaches. The vegetation changes a lot during the way!
After 45 min or so we saw the first, amazing looking beach! It was huge but completely empty as the currents are super strong there and a lot of people have drowned in the past.
After enjoying the views for a little bit we moved on. Soon we got to another camp site, where they offer food and also possibilities to set up your own tent. As we wanted to stay at Cabo San Juan we only stopped for a minute to look around and then headed on, walking along another nice and empty beach. To our left sight we saw a small lagoon where a bunch of people stood around. We were curious and walked over there. The people were watching two little local girls from one of the native tribes playing in the shallow water. We then noticed they were catching fish with their bare hands!!! It was incredible, but what happened next was even more astonishing. Instead of keeping the fish to themselves, they where throwing them back into the water. Soon we saw why, they were feeding a huge crocodile with the fish! The little girls didn’t seem to be afraid at all, they tried to make the crocodile come even closer to them.
After about two and a half hours we finally reached Cabo San Juan, passing by Playa Piscina on the way, another lovely small beach.
At Cabo San Juan we had to line up for bit in order to get our hammock for the night (for about $10). Unfortunately we couldn’t get one of those up a little wooden cabin right above the beach, as they are very limited. Also don’t forget to bring your passport with you, otherwise they won’t give you a hammock, as some people in front of us had to learn. We had a quick look at our hammocks, which seemed quite comfortable, just all a little close to each other (so no crazy swinging possible). Then we went to relax at the beach and swim in the sea for the rest of the day.
At Tayrona the main attractions are the beaches and the rainforest, there is a little native village Pueblito up in the mountains, where people can hike to. We unfortunately didn’t to it, but other backpackers there highly recommended it. So we stayed at the beach till the sun went down and then lined up to take a shower. While waiting we got bitten by mosquitos so badly, so definitely bring a ton of repellent.
There is only one restaurant with a limited menu at Cabo San Juan, and almost no lights anywhere but at the seating area of that restaurant, so finding the toilets at night can be challenging if you don’t bring a flashlight or headlamp. The food at the restaurant is pretty overpriced, due to them not having any competition and not very good to be honest. I would recommend you chose a vegetarian option, we saw the fish laying out in the sun the whole day and my friend felt horrible the whole night after eating pasta bolognese. After dinner we stayed up for a little longer and played card games, but only til 10 or so and then we headed to bed (hammock) like a bunch of old people. Spending one night at a hammock isn’t so bad in general, but it is very noisy. Snoring people, crazy mosquitos and some horses that ran around just next to our hammocks made it a little hard to get a good night of sleep. We woke up super early and had a small breakfast at that restaurant. I also bought some homemade chocolate bread from a guy running around selling them, those were very tasty and cheap!
During the day we went to some other other beaches a little left of Cabo San Juan, those where great, almost no people around and also very clean. Unfortunately we head to head back to Santa Marta in the afternoon. The day before we already booked our boat ride to Taganga. You can just by the tickets at the beach with the boat drivers. It’s a more expensive than the bus, but a very great experience, and a little faster.