The Tayrona National Natural Park, or Parque Tayrona, is a vast region of jungle, mountain and beach on Colombia’s Carribean coast. Tayrona is known for having some great beaches hidden in the jungle and is popular with locals and tourists alike, especially those who choose to camp there. Found to the east of the city of Santa Marta, the beaches can be visited either as a long day trip or overnight for those willing to camp out by the sand.
Arrival at Parque Tayrona
The park is accessible from the city of Santa Marta by bus, or by speedboat from the town of Taganga. The bus drops you at the park’s front gate where there are trails through the jungle to the beach, while the boat drops you directly at Cabo San Juan del Guia beach. We ended up taking the bus in from Santa Marta and came back by speedboat which allowed us to see a lot more.
Walk to Playa Arrecifes
At the entrance to the park, you have to sit through a video explaining the park’s layout and rules of entry. Once you’ve bought tickets your bags will be searched, particularly for alcohol which you’re not allowed to bring in. When all that’s done, you can either walk along the road or take a shuttle to the start of the trails. At the start of the trails proper there’s also the option to ride in on horses. The walk through the jungle to Cabo San Juan del Guia will take roughly 2 hours. The first beach you reach is Playa Arrecifes.
Into the Jungle
After enjoying the views of the beach, we made our way through the beachside thicket and back into the jungle. As entrance to the park is relatively staggered, we soon found ourselves alone on the paths through the incredibly vivid jungle. At some point we must have taken a wrong turn as we soon found ourselves climbing up away from the coast and running into groups on horseback heading the other way. Thankfully, we did eventually make it back to the right path.
The first of the swimmable beaches we reached was La Piscina, with a lot of local families sunbathing and swimming. The shore is sheltered by a ring of rocks which means the water is quite calm and easy to swim in. Not to mention warm! This is definitely a good spot if you’re looking for a gentle paddle or somewhere to relax.
Cabo San Juan del Guia
After spending some time in the water we headed back into the jungle for our main destination, the beach of Cabo San Juan del Guia. Relative to the walk from the park’s entrance, getting to Cabo San Juan didn’t take very long and the paths had a lot more traffic on them. The first sign that we had reached Cabo San Juan del Guia was the field of tents and a line of people registering to camp.
The beach here is shaped like a ‘v’ with a rocky point in the middle, at the top of which is a lookout with hammocks. It was on the beach here that we bought tickets for out boat back to Taganga – which later on would run out of fuel leaving us floating for 30 minutes while the owner tried to flag down boats passing by. Anyway, we spent the rest of our afternoon relaxing on the idyllic beach.
All in all, visiting Parque Tayrona was a really fun, restive day and certainly unlike any other beach day I have ever had. I thoroughly recommend this little slice of paradise in Colombia if you’re in the area.
Have you been to Parque Tayrona? Did you camp there overnight? Please share your experiences in the comments below.