Tayrona is one of the most important, and probably the most famous, National Natural Park in Colombia. Most tourists coming to Colombia pay a visit to this park that boasts spectacular beaches apt for adventure sports and an unforgettable getaway. This is definitely a must–visit destination on your Colombia holiday.
In this post, you will find all the information you need to know to visit the amazing Tayrona Park in Colombia, such as how to get there, the best time to visit, what you can do there, and some recommendations.
Discovering Tayrona Park
Tayrona is a protected area of 150 square kilometers (58 sq mi) in northern Colombia with stunning landscapes and biodiversity. It comprises both the sea territory on the Caribbean Sea and the coasts that plunge into the wild jungle that hosts the highest coastal mountain on earth – the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.
Flora and Fauna at Tayrona Park
In Tayrona, you can find several bays such as Chengue, Gayraca, Cinto, Neguanje, Concha, Guachaquita, white-sanded beaches, and mangrove swamps around them, dry, rain and cloud forests, and marine ecosystems such as coastal lagoons, rocky shores, coral reefs, among others.
In fact, the park has one of the best conserved dry forest in the country. The plant diversity is huge – species such as Ceiba or sandbox tree (Hura crepitans), Trupillo (Prosopis julliflora), Aromo (Acacia tortuosa), Brasil (Haematoxylon brasiletto), Caracolí (Anacardium excelsum), Higuerón (Ficus sp.) and avocado (Persea americana) grow in the park.
Wildlife present in Tayrona Park is also worth mentioning. The place is a paradise for birders since 396 bird species can be spotted, from shorebirds to high mountain birds, among which are the Rufous-vented Chachalaca (Ortalis ruficauda), Blue-billed Curassow (Crax alberti), Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird (Lepidopyga lilliae), Brown-throated Parakeet (Eupsittula pertinax) just to mention some of the forest ecosystem.
As for the mammals, 59 species are recorded, including the Grey-bellied night monkey (Aotus lemurinus), White-fronted capuchin monkey (Cebus albifrons), Howler monkey (Alouatta seniculus), sloth (Bradypus variegatus), armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus), Red brocket deer (Mazama americana), jaguar (Panthera onca), ocelote (Leopardus pardalis), anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla), as well as 40 species of bats and 5 marine mammal species.
Reptiles include the Green, Loggerhead, Hawksbill, and Leatherback sea turtles, the iguana, the American crocodile, and the boa constrictor are found.
Indigenous at Tayrona Park
Tayrona is outside the territory of indigenous reserves, so no indigenous communities live there. However, the 4 indigenous communities that inhabit the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (Kankuamo, Kogui, Wiwa, and Arhuaco) consider the coastal and lagoon zones within Tayrona as part of the sacred ancestral territory.
This land must be respected as part of the cultural heritage of humanity and therefore protected by all visitors. Although a nature area shouldn’t be named an ancestral territory or a protected area for us to preserve it! Check other National Parks in Colombia open for ecotourism
Tayrona Park is 34 km (21 mi) from Santa Marta, in the Magdalena department, on the Colombian Caribbean coast. Access from the city is easy. If you haven’t organized a private transfer, you can take a taxi or a bus (usually leaves from the city’s market) and go on the Santa Marta – Riohacha route (called Troncal Caribe) for about 50 minutes. There are 3 entrances:
El Zaino Entrance
El Zaino is the main entrance and allows you to access the following beaches in this order: Castillete, Cañaveral, Arrecife, Arenilla, La Piscina, Cabo San Juan, the Nudist Beach (Boca del Saco) and Playa Brava.
If you plan a day trip and are not staying in the park, you can get to the Neguanje entrance (kilometer 5 on the same road to La Guajira), from where you can reach Chengue, Gayraca and Playa Cristal beaches.
Last, 2 km before getting to the Zaino entrance is Calabazo. This is the entrance to reach the ruins of Pueblito, after a 3-hour hike. If you continue the hike, you get to Cabo San Juan and Playa Brava.
By Boat from Taganga
Access to the park by boat is also possible. The boats leave from the village of Taganga, 5 km from Santa Marta, and take about 45 minutes to drop you in Cabo de San Juan area.
Best time to visit Tayrona Park
For quieter beaches and easily available accommodation, schedule your visit to Tayrona Park in September, October, and November.
Like all tourist destinations in Colombia and the whole world, Tayrona Park gets really crowded during the peak seasons. Peak season in Colombia occurs from June to July and December to February.
Additionally, the holy week, 8 days, is held in March or April. It is better to avoid these moments and all holiday long weekends if you want to access relatively lonely beaches.
You should also check the Parques Nacionales webpage beforehand because the park closes for one month (usually January or February) every year.
As for the weather, May, July, September, and October are the rainiest months, but rain is occasional and does not greatly affect your plans, while the dry season may restrict bathing on some beaches.
What to do in Tayrona Park
In Tayrona, white sandy beaches with crystal waters surrounded by mangrove swamps and forests are the main attractions. The most visited ones are:
- Cabo San Juan del Guia, which is beautiful and huge,
- La Piscina (large shore and calm waves),
- Arenilla (the small zone between Arrecife and La Piscina),
- Cañaveral (where you find Ecohabs Tayrona, although you cannot swim in there),
- La Piscinita (small zone next to Cañaveral apt for baths), and
- Arrecifes (also not allowed to swimmers but with several campsites).
There are 4 hiking trails that go from low to high difficulty and from 1 to 4 hours.
- Kogui or Knowledge trail from Cañaveral to Arrecifes (low difficulty, one hour).
- Arrecifes– Boca del Saco trail going through Arrecifes beach, the natural pool and Cabo San Juan del Guía (low difficulty, 2 hours).
- The stone road to Pueblito from Cabo San Juan del Guía (high difficulty, 3 hours).
- Calabazo – Pueblito – Cabo San Juan del Guía trail (high difficulty, 4 hours).
For those who are more adventurous, snorkeling and diving are available too. The areas for scuba diving are Isla Aguja and Granate, this activity is managed by the diving schools of the village of Taganga.
You can snorkel in Neguanje, in front of Playa del Muerto, or in the Tayrona natural pool. At Gayraca bay you can dive and snorkel.
As mentioned above, birdwatching in Tayrona Park is one of the best activities since there is a huge diversity of avifauna.
Fauna and Flora observation
Other animals that can be observed here are the howler monkey, cotton-top tamarin, deer, ocelot, and the jaguar, reptiles such as the blue poison dart frog, iguanas, and the American crocodile. Playful dolphins cheer lucky tourists too. Local flora includes evergreen trees, moss, bromeliads, and orchids.
Other activities are observation of cultural and archaeological heritage in architecturally important areas. One of them is Pueblito, where you can find ruins of the Tayrona ancient indigenous civilization, after a hike that takes about 3 hours. Its stone structures such as terraces, paths, and stairs are well-conserved.
Where to stay in Tayrona Park
There are different types of accommodation in Tayrona Park for all tastes and budgets.
- Cañaveral sector: 14 ecohabs (eco-lodges), all for double accommodation, but 11 with an option for extra beds for up to 4 people in family accommodation. Designed like the traditional indigenous houses with views to the Cañaveral beach.
- Los Naranjos: ecohabs in Finca Barvolento, 2 minutes from Los Naranjos beach. 8 cabins with a private bathroom and terrace. There is also a private house on this beach, 5 minutes from the main entrance of the park.
- Arrecife: 2 independent cabins, each one for up to 5 hosts, in Arrecife beach.
Several beaches offer zones to set a tent or a hammock and spend the night under the starred sky. These are:
- Cabo San Juan offers a public bathroom and a restaurant. A small station of the Colombian Civil Defense is located there.
- Playa Brava: a remote beach, 4 or 5 hours walking from Zaino o Calabozo, with public bathrooms, cabins, and a small restaurant.
- Arrecife: the best beach to camp, near the police and Civil Defense stations and with a great restaurant. The camping area doesn’t have views of the sea, though.
- Cañaveral: area without views of the sea, near La Piscinita.
- Castilletes: Finca with large camping zones, public bathrooms, and a restaurant. Bathing in this stretch of sea is not allowed. You can get there directly by car.
- Bahia Concha: the camping zone is shaded by large trees and the sea is calm and crystalline. You can get there directly by car.
Tayrona Park 2020 Entrance fees
The entrance fee to Tayrona National Natural Park varies depending on the nationality and age of the visitors, as well as the season of the year. These are the entrance fees for 2020:
(15 June – 15 July, 15 December – 15 January, Holy Week and long weekends)
- Colombians, resident foreigners, and tourists from Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru (ages 5 to 25): COP 20,000
- Colombians, resident foreigners, and tourists from Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru (over 25 years old): COP 28,500
- Non-resident foreigners (over 5 years old): COP 63,500
- Colombians, resident foreigners, and tourists from Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru (ages 5 to 25): COP 18,000
- Colombians, resident foreigners, and tourists from Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru (over 25): COP 24,000
- Non-resident foreigners (over 5 years old): COP 53,500
- People born in Santa Marta (ages 5 to 25): COP 9,000
- People born in Santa Marta (over 25 years old): COP 12,000
- Children under 5 years old and Colombians over 65 years old have free entrance.
Additionally, depending on the vehicle you enter to the park in, you have a different fee:
- Car: COP 14,500
- Van: COP 37,000
- Bus: COP 78,000
- Motorcycle: COP 10,000
What you should consider when you visit Tayrona Park
- Entry hours are from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.
- The park has a daily capacity of 6,900 tourists, so make your reservations in advance.
- Having yellow fever and tetanus vaccines is recommended.
- Always carry your ID, it is required at the entrance.
- The introductory talk about environmental education is mandatory.
- The climate in the park and surrounding areas is tropical hot, with temperatures ranging from 27 to 35 °C (81 to 95 °F). Therefore, use light cotton clothes, preferably pants and long-sleeve shirts. Also, wear appropriate hiking shoes, water–resistant if possible.
- Bring a cap, sunglasses, sunscreen, insect repellent, and a lantern.
- Only swim in permitted areas. Bathing in the sea is allowed until 6 pm.
- Access to the indigenous sacred places is forbidden
- If you hire a guide, make sure they are certified and preferably local.
- Don’t bring any plastic bags, alcoholic drinks, instruments, and pets to the park, these are not allowed. Also don’t leave garbage (even organics) anywhere.
- #BreatheTayrona – During January/February, the Tayrona Park closes its doors for allowing the restoration of its ecosystems, by the request of the indigenous communities in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Check the status of the park before your trip.
About the authors
Ana María Parra
Current content writer for Sula. Modern Languages professional with an emphasis on business translation. Interested in the cultural adaptation of written and audiovisual content. Passionate about knowing new cultures and languages, tourism, and sustainable living.