(Re-edited and updated December 2018)
The Parque Tayrona – what can I say: Enchanted trails in a lush jungle. Exotic birds, bizarre critters, huge butterflies in bright colors, and curious monkeys. Halfmoon bays with turquoise waters.
|Sneak peek from the jungle trail at the ocean.
To get a foretaste of paradise, just take the local bus to El Zaino, the main entrance to this protected garden Eden on the Caribbean coast of Colombia.
Taganga, a dull. suburb-ish town about 10 minutes from Santa Marta, is actually already the Parque’s southernmost point. This gives you an idea how close you already are once you reach lovely Santa Marta.
|Taganga – basically a dumpster, but a good stop for reaching Parque Tayrona by boat.|
There is a public bus leaving the stop next to the Central Market on Calle 10 with Carrera 9 where any cab takes you for as little as US$1,50. From here, there goes a local public bus towards La Guajira. You can just tell the driver where you want to get off – we went to the main entrance El Zaino in Cañaveral, but if you are more adventurous, it’s also possible to enter the park at Calabazo.
As we planned on going further east to Palomino the following day, we booked a hotel next to the main entrance to spend the night. It also came in handy since we where able to leave everything we didn’t need for the visit to our room; later, you’ll understand why this is a big advantage.
There are also accommodations at the park, but they are either quite rustic – like hammocks, tents, beds without real walls – or pretty expensive; whereby the open air beds are quite costly, too. On the other hand, if you spend the night at the park, you have to pay the entrance fee of about 15 $ only once; so you need to do the math yourself according to your interest.
It’s important that you have your documents with you, i. e. an ID or, even better, your passport. Yellow fever vaccine is not indispensable but recommended.
|Like an enchanted forest: Not every creature makes itself visible. We also heard something gallop in the underwood – no clue what it was.
Don’t forget to use sun protection and take more with you. Repellent is optional – probably recommended if you spend the night.
Good sneakers or preferably hiking shoes are crucial – this is a national park, a jungle, not an English garden.
Clothing should be sensible and hardwearing and fast-drying.
At least for the first two hours, you should have enough drinking water with you. Again, although this is not an expedition, the climate makes a visit really demanding.
We visited the park only for one day, but to make the most of your visit, I would recommend at least two or three.
It’s starting harmless on a straight trail of wooden planks. What’s the big deal?! But soon, you’ll start to climb up and down quite steep stairs and dirt trails.
|This is how they suck you in: The first part is an even wooden walkway.
You are hiking through a really impressive jungle with some rough and mountainous parts to secluded, unspoiled beaches which is very nice, but in the heat and humidity exhausting. The variety of the flora and fauna is amazing – some of this biodiversity is even endemic to this region.
|Hiking from bay to bay.|
Coming from El Zaino, the first beach, Playa Cañaveral, looks very inviting – especially after the exhausting hike, but do yourself a favor and take the warning serious: The waves and the undercurrent here are really dangerous. Just clench your teeth and postpone your dip till you reach the following bays – you’ll enjoy it so much!
|I can see ¡the beach!
As always, the way back seemed much easier – also because it was later in the day hence cooler.
One might think that at night you’d have the chance to get a better look at the wildlife; thus while we hiked back, loud Salsa and Reggaeton was blaring from the campground, so I’m not sure in how far that actually attracts wildlife.
Like I said, you can also enter the park at Calabazo. Then, you’ll have to walk much longer to reach the beaches, but you hike the hills covered by a lush rainforest. It’s nice, but really hard – with a capital H.
The easiest way, however, is to come by boat from Taganga: You hop on a boat and after about 40 minutes, they drop you off on one of the beaches. However, you still have to buy an entrance ticket.
|Behind all the green is some amazing blue.|
Best place to sleep:
The Recuerdos del Tayrona guest house is about three minutes walk from the El Zaino entrance. The rooms are rather simple and rustic, but clean and the owners are super-friendly and welcoming. It’s a great place to leave everything you do not urgently need for your visit to the Parque.
Best place to eat:
To be honest, there aren’t that many options where to eat so that the best place was not difficult to pick – and we picked Restaurante Las Acacias.
However, food was good – and the seating on their terrace next to the river was nice.
Then go to the main post and take your pick!