When doing your research on what to do in Colombia, I’m sure you’ve come across the beautiful pictures of Tayrona National Park. We read blog posts about how it was the most memorable part of their trips, how it was so amazing etc. so we decided to go and camp overnight in a tent. I’m here to give you the truth about camping in Tayrona National Park experience, based on my recent experience in late July 2017.
Ok let’s get started:
Getting to Tyrona from Santa Marta.
You could take a bus or take a taxi. To save time and energy we opted for the taxi but definitely paid a lot more than we should have.
Time: 1 hour
Cost: 20k COP each (40k CP total). Tayrona National Park is about an hour away from Santa Marta, but still that’s pretty expensive seeing as we split our tiny cab with two other people who also paid 20k COP each.
Arrive and reserved tent.
We arrived at the Tayrona National Park and then waited in line to reserve our tent. There are tree camping options: hammock, tent and hammocks in the hut. We didn’t want to do the hammocks because of the bugs, so we opted for the tent. You could reserve it at the front like we did or wait til you actually reach Cabo San Juan to decide but its first-come, first-served so your spot isn’t guaranteed. We knew we were gonna stay, so we reserved ahead of time so we didn’t have to worry about it.
Cost: 66k COP for a two person tent or 28k COP for a hammock.
Time: 15 mins
Entrance Fee for Tayrona National Park
After reserving our tent, we waited in line to pay the entrance fee to the park and get our wristbands.
Tip: You need to bring your passport in order to be allowed into the park.
Time: Approx. 30 mins
Cost: 49k COP each
Bus to the start of the hike
Woohoo! Yes! Got it, we’re in!! But no… we just missed the bus that takes you to the start of the hike. So now we wait again until there is enough people and another bus.
Time: 15 mins
Cost: 3000k COP each
By taking the bus in we shaved off about an hr of walking time. Since the road is paved, it makes sense to just pay and save your time and energy for the actual hike.
Hike in to Cabo San Juan Beach
The hike itself was really beautiful. We walked through a bunch of different terrains, secluded beaches, rain forest-like areas, sunny palm tree areas and rocky areas. I loved how the scenery kept changing as we inched closer and closer to our destination: Cabo San Juan.
The sun was hot and our bag was heavy – not extremely heavy but still it was hot and we had to walk really far.
Stopping for photos and taking in the scenery made the hike feel even longer.
By the end of it I was so exhausted I just wanted to jump in the water!!!
Time: 2-3 hours depending your pace and on how often you stop for photos etc.
Cost: No cost to hike as you paid already but you may be feeling hot and there are some vendors along the way selling popsicles/icecreams ranging from 2-3k COP.
Made it to Cabo San Juan
Yes!!!! We made it!!! But then again…everyone else did too. Yet again, another line!!!! It was past 1pm and we started our hike at 10am. This waiting thing was really starting to get annoying.
Pro Tip: if you’ve already your tent or hammock and there’s a long line at check in then walk to the locker area, lock up your stuff and go enjoy the beach or have lunch instead of waiting in line then go back later when the line is gone.
Time: 30-40 mins
The tent was a good size for two people and had two twin mattresses inside. It was pretty comfortable but felt really gross as the mattresses look super dirty and used. It was really hot and stuffy at night so some people had their tent open with their legs out. Not us though, we just suffered in the heat because we didn’t want bug bites! Can you tell we’re not campers?
Pro tip: Bring a bedsheet for the tent!
We were starving by this time and of course it was lunch time so there was a line for lunch. There’s only one restaurant on Cabo San Juan and one convenience store which sells everything for way more than you would get anywhere else.
Time: 40 mins – 20 mins in line 20 mins waiting for food to arrive
Cost: 52k COP for two people, no drinks, and it was basic chicken, salad and fries.
Enjoy Tayrona National Park beach
Finally! Everything is locked up, our bellies are full, and we bought overpriced beer for 5000p each and go to the beach.
We walked along the sand, went up to the top of the hut to see the view from up there. Tayrona National Park is beautiful, but if you don’t hike the other trails and just stay in Cabo San Juan like most people do then it’s just a beach.
The water wasn’t crystal clear and it had some debris in it. But we enjoyed we relaxing on the beach, took some awesome photos and enjoyed watching the sunset from the top of the hut.
Pro tip: Shower early to avoid the lines as there are only 4 showers and over one hundred people staying over night usually.
Lined up again to place our order and the food came out pretty quickly.
Time: 30 mins
Cost: 55k COP
I woke up around 11:30pm and stuck my head out to see the stars and it was awesome. There were sooo many stars and it looked like we were right under the milky way. I left the tent to sit out by the sea and just sat there listening to the waves and looking at the stars. It was awesome.
The next morning we woke up to watch the sunrise but the colors weren’t too impressive. Very misty and subtle colours. Andrew was ready to leave ASAP so after relaxing on the beach for a bit we paid for the horses to take us back to the start of the hike to skip the 2+ hour hike back.
Time: 45 mins
Cost: 40k COP each
Getting back to Santa Marta
We had to do the same thing as getting there initially. We paid for the bus to bring us to the front and then 40k for the taxi back to our hostel.
Time: 10 mins + 1 hr
Cost: 3k COP to get the ride to the front of the park + 40k COP
To be honest after all the hype about Tayrona I was expecting to see something amazing, mind blowing and magical but all I got was a secluded beach where there’s only one choice of restaurant, basic living arrangements and everything was overpriced. If you’re just going there for the beach, then I don’t think it’s worth the time or money to be there. Especially if you’re only going for the day, it takes way too long to hike into the beach and then you’re only left with about two hours to relax before rushing off to catch the last bus or boat. You’re better off going to Playa Blanca and being a beach bum for the day. It’s cheaper to get to, there’s way more beach, more choices for food and it’s much cheaper for everything.