Thinking about visiting Tayrona National Park? Here you will find all you need to know about Tayrona National Park, its hiking trails and hotels near the park for your visit.
- How long time?
- Key Facts
- Trip Report
- Wildlife & Vegetation
- Weather and Conditions
- Plan your trip to Tayrona National Park
We have created the Trip Report: 4 days in Tayrona National Park with pictures, and a brief story of our experience around the park, just so you get an idea about what to expect and what to do in the park.
If you already decided to go, and you are ready to start this adventure, you might find useful the section Plan your trip to Tayrona National Park. There you will find information about what to pack, how to get there and where to sleep.
The majority of the trails in Tayrona National Park, except the trails to “Pueblito”, are short, and easy.
Here is the list of the trails, with the estimated time and its level of difficulty.
- Cañaveral – Arrecifes / 1 Hour / Easy
- Arrecifes – Cabo San Juan / 1 hour and a half / Easy
- Cabo San Juan – Pueblito Chairama / 4 hours (round trip) / Moderate
- Calabazo entry – Pueblito Chairama – Cabo San Juan del Guía / 5 hours / Difficult
Note: The times may vary according to your level of fitness and the weight of your backpack.
How long time?
To hike and enjoy Tayrona National Park, we recommend between 3 to 4 days for your trip, according to your budget.
- 1 Night at Arrecifes, camping or hammock
- 1 Night in Cabo San Juan, camping or hammock
- 1 Night in a Ecohab or in a hotel near to the Park
Tayrona National Park was declared protected area in 1964. It has about 19.257 hectares, which corresponds to 12.692,2 in the landside and 6.564,4 in the ocean side.
Tayrona National Park is the second most visited park in Colombia. In 2016 got a record of 391.442 visitors.
This vast territory has been object of constant conflict for the use and ownership of the land. The government estimates that 90% of the property is owned by privates. .
Due to this complex situation, the ecoturism services are provided by different groups. Canaveral and Arrecifes areas are managed by Aviatur, a well known Colombian travel agency and, other areas of the park are managed by small TSP (Toursim Services Providers).
Trip Report: 4 days in Tayrona National Park
If you don’t know yet what to expect from your visit to Tayrona National Park, we hope that this trip report written by our adventurers Andrea Rincón and James Kaiser, will help you to clear your doubts and will inspire your to start your adventure towards this paradise.
Day 1 – Santa Marta – Zaino – Arrecifes
We flew from Bogota to Santa Marta in the first flight of the day, and from Santa Marta’s airport we took a taxi towards the central market. There, we had a snack and took a public bus to El Zaino, the park main entrace.
The entry was relatively easy, as we have made reservations and bought the entry tickets in advance. In high season the line entry can be a mess!. Just so you have in mind, you will need to pass a policy control and watch a park video. The control is to avoid alcohol or drugs into the park, and the video is for visitors to know the park’s rules.
At the entrance, we were offered a jeep ride up to Cañaveral for just $1 dollar. We didn´t hesitate about it, because we knew there were 5 km of hiking ahead, and the weather was very humid and sofocating.
Once in Canaveral, we started the real hike to Arrecifes, with our backpacks on our backs. The hike wasn’t that bad, but as soon as we started it, our clothes got swamped in sweat.
In Arrecifes, we did the checkin and were assigned 2 hammocks with mosquito nets. After the hot hike, we rested for a couple of hours, and afterwards wandered along the beach.
After sunset, we had dinner in Arrecife’s restaurant and went to bed soon because we wanted to start our hike early next day to Cabo San Juan. Unfortunately, James has a back problem since very young, and the night at the hammock was a real torture for him.
Note: If you suffer from back pain, it’s better to spend the night camping or in a hotel near the park and plan a day hike to Cabo San Juan.
Day 2 – Arrecifes – Cabo San Juan
On the second day, we started around 6 am. After a basic breakfast at the restaurant, we strolled along the beach and enjoyed the peace and relaxing vibe around us.
We didn’t jump in to the Ocean because we saw some signs warning visitors about the rip currents and the fatal destiny some people have found on these waters
At 10 am, after a lazy early morning we started our hike to Cabo San Juan. On the way we stopped at “La Piscina”, the pool, to enjoy “arepas de huevo”, corn cakes filled with a fried egg. They were very tasty, but a little bit greasy. Nothing to eat everyday, but to enjoy once in a while.
After having those delicious arepas, we continued our hike, stopping along the way to enjoy some beautiful beaches and gorgeous views of the Caribbean Sea.
Finally, just before arriving to Cabo San Juan, we hiked through a palm plantation, and what looked like a coconut graveyard.
When we arrived to “El Cabo”, it was past lunch time. So, we had shrimp rice and a whole fried red snapper with a view of the Ocean at the restaurant. After lunch, we strolled back and forth the beach, took pictures and read a book under the palms.
Day 3 – Hike to Pueblito – Night at Ecohabs Arrecifes
On the third day of our adventure, we had an early start again because we wanted to hike up to “Pueblito Chairama”. We knew this was a hot strenous hike all the way up.
The trail was made of big pile of rocks in a staircase shape. The weather was so hot, that we had to stop several times along the way to rest and dry off the sweat. After 2 hours we arrived to Pueblito.
Once there, it felt really good to have the chance to see the Tayrona Culture remains and to imagine how they lived in the Sierra. After 15 minutes walking around the site, we signed the book that accredited our visit.
After wandering around, we started our way down hill enjoying the views of the Ocean along the way. Our goal was to get to the Ecohabs in Canaveral before sunset.
We were looking forward for a night full of comfort and luxury with an Ocean View.
Day 4 – Ecohabs – Santa Marta
The night at the Ecohabs was amazing. After having hiking all day long, we deserved a refreshing shower and a nice dinner at the Restaurant.
The next day, after waking up, we open the windows immediately to feel the breeze and see the waves of the Caribbean Sea coming back and forth.
Around 8:30 am, the breakfast arrived to the room, and we enjoyed a tropical breakfast with fruits, eggs, coffee and a view.
After breakfast, we went down to the beach and enjoyed the jacuzzi and the beach bed.
Finally, for the way back, we hired transportation to the main entrance and then took a public bus to Santa Marta.
Tayrona National Park was declared protected area in 1964, and was ratified as a National Park in 1969 after the Executive resolution 269, by the formerly INDERENA, National Institute of Renewable Natural Resources and Environment.
According to the archeologic research done in the area, the Tayrona culture inhabited the territory of Tayrona National Park and Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta National Park between 200 a.d and 1600 a.d.
Between the years of 1100 a.d and 1600 a.d, the Tayrona society prospered and founded 250 villages around the area. Researchers believe the archeological site known as “Pueblito” in Tayrona National Park, corresponds to the ancient indigenous villa of Chairama, burned by Pedro Fernandez during an expedition.
Researchers have also found other archeological remains in Concha Bay, Neguange, Guachaquita and Palmarito and some ritual places in Concha, Chengue, Gayraca and Cinto.
On December 17th of 2004, National Parks office divided the park in 25 zones and created rules to guide the use and activities permitted on the different areas of the park. From the 25 sections, only 13 are authorized for recreational activities. Canaveral, Arrecifes and San Juan del Cabo are among the most known and visited areas.
Wildlife & Vegetation
Tayrona National Park is a rich mix of marine and land ecosystems, with a total of 12 types of ecosystems, according to the National Parks office.
In the land side, the park has dry forest, rain forest, cloud forest and scrub forest. In the marine side, the park has coral, mangrove, rocky coastline and sand beaches, among others.
Thanks to its ecosystem diversity and thanks to the amazing work of Alexander Von Humboldt Institute, to this day there are registered 71 species of mammals, 42 species of reptiles, 428 species of birds, 1176 of molusk, 773 species of fish, 289 species of coral and 1086 species of plants.
Unfortunately, some of the land and marine species like howler monkeys, titi monkey, marine turtles and nurse sharks are endangered.
So, next time you visit Tayrona National Park, be aware about all the plants and wildilife you can see, besides the paradise beaches typical of Tayrona postcards.
Weather and Conditions
Trails are mainly rocky, with a lot of tree roots and mud. In the trail from Canaveral to Arrecifes, there are footbridges to avoid hikers to get stuck in the mud.
In the trail to Pueblito, the trail is steep and features stone steps. You will probably need your hands on the way up.
The average temperature is 80F. From December to the end of April, the weather is mainly dry and from August to September, the weather is rainy. The remaining months it rains intermittently.
When to go?
Tayrona National Park normaly closes its doors in February. During this time, the park do maintenance jobs on the trails, and the local indigenous perform ancestral rituals. We strongly suggest to check the website of National Parks to verify the closure dates.
Also, be aware that Easter week, and the vacation period between December and January are very popular dates for colombians to visit the park.
Our suggestion: Plan your trip between March and May, or July. But please, don’t go on Easter week or New year’s Eve!
Currently, the area is safe, but keep in mind that you need to get personal accidents insurance in advance.
Although it is not a requirement, it is strongly advisable to get the yellow fever vaccination prior to starting a trip to this zone. In the region there are tons of mosquitos waiting for fresh blood!
Also, we strongly suggest you to hike along the authorized trails while in the park. There are some sacred indigenous areas around the park where access is restricted.
Please be aware of the rip currents while in the ocean. Access to the ocean is restricted in some beaches, and in others is restricted until 6 pm. Unfortunately, there are not lifeguards around and some people have drowned there.
In past high seasons, when there are a lot of people, there have been some robbery incidents into the park. Please use the lockers available in Arrecifes and Cabo San Juan to store your belongings.
Also, please have in mind that is responsibility of everyone to protect the natural environment. Please do not make campfires and do not throw cigarettes butts on the ground..
The weather in Tayrona National Park is humid tropical, and the hikes are pretty much in the jungle. So, be sure that there will be plenty of mosquitoes along the way.
We suggest using insect repellent with 15% DEET minimum. And please, don’t forget to check for thicks after your trip!
There are not restrooms on the trails, so please use the restroom at the campsite or in the Ecohabs before starting your hike.
In Cañaveral, Arrecifes and Cabo San Juan the showers are shared. Please, pack a toiletries kit with soap, toothpaste and toilet paper.
If you are staying in the Ecohabs, don’t worry, each one has a nice bathroom just for you!
In Arrecifes and Cabo San Juan, there are limited power outlets. You wont be the only one looking for power outlets to charge the cellphone and cameras, so you should pack extra batteries for your camera and an USB charger to your cellphone. Also, a solar charger could be useful while hiking during daylight.
The water in the campsites is not safe to drink. Please treat it before using it, or buy bottled water.
Note: If you buy bottled water, please carry the plastic bottles with you, Don’t leave them in the park!. Unfortunately, the park doesn’t have enough infrastructure to manage the garbage adequately.
Plan your trip to Tayrona National Park
Things you should know
Tayrona National Park is divided in different sectors. Among the sectors authorized for visitors, Canaveral, Arrecifes and Cabo San Juan are the most famous and visited.
There is a maximum of visitors permitted per day on each sector. We strongly suggest buying admission tickets and booking lodging way in advance.
Admission tickets can be purchased online in www.parquetayrona.com.co (website, just in spanish!)
Admission tickets for Colombians are USD $7 ($21.000 COP) per person. For international visitors admission tickets are USD $16 ($47.000 COP) per person. The prices may vary according to the season and the exchange rate.
There are also admission offices in El Zaino and Calabazo entrances.
How to get to Tayrona National Park?
Santa Marta is the closest city to Tayrona National Park, it is just 20 miles (32 km) away. Although you can get to Santa Marta by airplane or ground transportation, the easiest and fastest option is by airplane.
To visit Canaveral, Arrecifes, Cabo San Juan and Pueblito areas into Tayrona National Park, you must get to “El Zaino” or “El Calabazo” entrances.
“El Zaíno” is the main entrance, and is located 20 miles (32 Km) away form Santa Marta, along the Caribbean highway towards Riohacha. “Calabazo” entrance is on Km 20 over the highway.
If you buy your tickets in advance, it is better to enter the Park by “El Zaino” entrance. From Santa Marta is just one hour away.
To get to either of the 2 entrances, you can take a public bus from Santa Marta, or book a private shuttle transfer through Aviatur or any other local travel agency in Santa Marta.
Public buses leave from the central market of Santa Marta every 30 minutes. You can take a bus direct to Tayrona, or Palomino. Let the bus driver know the entrance your are going to, and ask him to let you know whn you are getting closer. The bus ticket is USD$3 ($6.000 COP) aprox.
What to pack?
Although you can hire a mule to carry your backpack, our suggestion is to pack just the necessary and carry it yourself.
A backpack with about 5 Kg is just enough.
Here is our pack list for Tayrona National Park!
- 1 pair of sneakers or hiking sandals with good grip
- 1 pair of beach sandals
- 2 short sleeve t-shirts. Quick dry fabric is desired!
- 1 to 2 shorts
- 2 to 3 pairs of underwear. Quick dry fabric is desired!
- 1 pair of light pants for the night and to protect form the mosquitoes
- 2 swimsuits
- 1 rain jacket
TOILETRIES AND FIRST AID KIT
- 1 quick dry towel
- 1 microfiber towel
- 1 small bottle of liquid biodegradable soap
- 1 small bottle of hand sanitizer
- Toilet paper
- 1 small bottle of sunscreen 50 SPF
- 1 small bottle of insect repellent 15% DEET
- 1 pair of band-aid
- Anti diarrhea pills (just in case!)
- Water purification tablets
- 1 Backpack with rain protector, 30 Liters is enough!
- 1 headlamp
- 1 drybag
- 1 hat to protect from the sun
- 1 solar charger
- 1 pair of sunglasses with UV protection
Where to sleep in Tayrona National Park?
Although there are several options to sleep into the Park, here we share the options that we know and have used.
Lodging in Canaveral
In this area, there are the famous Ecohabs. Luxury and exclusive wooden bungalows located on a forested hillside just above the Caribbean Sea. There are a total of fourteen Ecohabs. Three of them offer accommodate up to 2 people, and eleven of them up to 4 people.
To book the Ecohabs you have to contact Aviatur and ask for a quotation for the desired dates. For your reference, the average price for an Ecohab for 2 people is about USD $285 ($850.000 COP).
Regarding the camping zone, there are one hundred camping sites, with four sets of restrooms and showers, distributed around the sites. To book a camping site in advanced you must contact Aviatur as well.
Note: Aviatur website is just in Spanish!
Lodging in Arrecifes
In Arrecifes, there are three options for lodging. Six bungalows with a capacity for 5 people, sixty hammocks with mosquito nets and lockers, and one hundred camping sites. To book any of these options, please contact Aviatur.
If you decide to stay in Arrecifes, please have in mind that you will need to walk for an hour. It is recommended to arrive early to avoid to walk in the dark. In fact, the latest you can get in to the park is by 4:00 pm.
Lodging in Cabo San Juan
This is the place for the best views! .
In Cabo San Juan you can either camp, sleep in a hammock or in a private room in the second level of the viewpoint (although is booked most of the time). Bathrooms are shared for everyone, including people staying in the private room.
If you want, you can take your own tent and pay just USD$7 ($20.000 COP) per person. Or you can rent the tent, mattress and locker for just $40.000 for 1 person, or $60.000 por 2 people. It doesn’t include the pillow!
The hammocks in the lower level cost about USD$13 ($40.000 COP) and USD$17 ($50.000 COP) in the higher level. These prices include mosquito net and locker.
The private room in the viewpoint has a maximum capacity for 4 people, and the prices start in USD$70 ($200.000 COP) por 2 people. Each extra person cost USD $17 ($50.000 COP). There is not private bathroom.
To book any of these options, you can contact Cabo San Juan, directly.
If you want to stay extra days around Santa Marta area, you might want to check our page with the list of the best hotels in Santa Marta and nearby.