Tayrona National Park is situated in northern Colombia along the Caribbean coast. It is a beach-body’s dream with plenty of shoreline to explore as you trek around the park. It has beautiful jungle terrain that you navigate to reach the palm-shaded coves and turquoise beaches.
Getting There From Cartagena
We were collected by a mini-bus we booked at 4am from our hostel Media Luna for the five hour journey to Tayrona National park. I had my friend Simon visiting me for 10 days and we met a lovely Australian couple who came with us. We went to Tayrona for three days and it was top of my list for Colombia. In fact the only reason Colombia even came up on my radar was because somebody told me about Tayrona, how you trek through this beautiful jungle to beaches and when you wanna sleep you hang up your hammock and climb in. It sounded idyllic and I was so excited that I was finally going to see it! We arrived at Tayrona after seven hours, it should have been five but with all the stopping to pick up and let off others in addition to the Empanada ladies who get on and off to sell you some delicious snacks we clocked up an extra 2 hours.
Entering Tayrona National Park
We were dropped to the gate where we queued to get our tickets, the entrance fee for Adult foreigners is about $13. Your bag is searched for alcohol/drugs and plastic bags so do not bring any of those prohibited items. A short walk from the entrance you can get a horse to Arrecifes beach or trek it, its only 3.2KM but feels like double with the blistering heat and humidity. The humidity is on another level, I felt like Monica from friends on the episode with her hair (if you know you know)!I would still recommend walking as it is beautiful and you can always stop to take a break.
What To Bring
I left my big rucksack at the hostel in Cartagena and just took a few pairs of clothes, my passport, swimwear, snacks (avocados, tins of tuna, crackers, cereal bars, mangoes and 3 litres of water), my hammock, a book, flip-flops, sun-screen, mosquito spray, a towel and a lock for locking up your belongings if you have valuables. Water is quite expensive to buy in the park and only available at campsites so its a good idea to take as much as you can carry comfortably. If you are planning on sleeping in a hammock then make sure you pack something warm as it gets super -windy at night (yes I learnt that the hard way)!
Arrecifes beach is absolutely gorgeous, it looks like a scene from Lost to your left hand side and then you have the gorgeous beach to your right. I wanted to swim at the beach but it has extremely dangerous currents that have claimed the lives of many so we continued walking until we got to Cabo San Juan. That is the beach everyone shows you in their pictures of Tayrona National Park – turquoise water, white sand and the distinct hut on top of the rocks. I wanted to stay in the hut! Unfortunately it was fully booked for our first night but we slept there on our 2nd night. You pay $5 for a hammock space and even if you have your own you pay to book a space as they are limited.
They had a restaurant at Cabo San Juan which was super expensive for a campsite restaurant, approximately $20 per meal which was ridiculous as it was very basic food like pasta and rice dishes. We ate their together the 2nd night and also charged our phones after queuing for the power socket for over an hour. The rest of the time we combined all our snacks and made meals out of them. It was absolutely fine as we were just chilling most of the time and the 2nd day a storm came so we literally just sat under the shelter playing cards. The storm comes almost every afternoon, the sky suddenly goes dark and the heavens open, well its still warm, I actually went swimming in it and it was fine
My favourite part was looking for new species to add to my list! I would leave the camp to go into the jungle with my camera and ran after the vibrant coloured lizards to try and get the perfect shot. There were lots of blue crabs in the coconut mangroves and also a black and yellow frog. We saw plenty of leaf-cutter ants, there is something very therapeutic about watching them trudge along in a line carrying leaf parts. They can carry 3000 times there body-weight which I find fascinating!
In the thickest part of the jungle we spotted monkeys and at one point we saw a really fast snake slither past. In fact a snake came into the camp restaurant and one of the park rangers killed it which I found awful!! They should have caught it and moved it away from the camp, it seemed so wrong for officials to kill a snake with a spade in a nature reserve! They should be trained to removed them safely from the vicinity.
I really embraced that beach life sleeping in hammocks and soaking in mother natures gifts. 3 days and two nights was enough, there were other beaches/camps you could walk to however we just enjoyed relaxing at Cabo San Juan. ! I absolutely loved Tayrona National Park and would go back in a heartbeat!