Parque Tayrona, also known as Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona (Tayrona National Natural Park), is a popular national park in Colombia located along Colombia’s Caribbean coast that is known for its beautiful beaches and biodiversity.
Parque Tayrona is a tourist hotspot in Colombia that reportedly received a total 395,250 visitors in 2017 and 41,170 just between January 1 and 14 of 2018.
Tayrona National Park was established as a Colombian national park in 1969. And it’s the second most visited national park in Colombia, after the Rosario and San Bernando Corals Natural National Park near Cartagena.
Parque Tayrona includes 150 square kilometers of land and over 30 km of coastline. The park boasts in excess of 60 mammal species as well as 400 species of birds, in addition to countless reptiles and amphibians. It’s a very biodiverse area with two ecosystems between coastal mountains and the sea.
Unfortunately, many of the guides to Parque Tayrona I have seen are out-of-date or missing important information. Also, some readers of the Medellin Guru website asked for a guide to Parque Tayrona. So, here’s an up-to-date guide.
Also, please note that unfortunately Parque Tayrona is currently closed from January 28 to February 28.
The closure was done amid fears that the ecosystems of the park are being adversely affected by the increasing numbers of tourists each year. A similar closure of Parque Tayrona happened in 2015.
Parque Tayrona Beaches
One of the main reasons to go to Parque Tayrona is the beautiful beaches. Here are details on five of the more popular beaches in the park:
Arrecifes Beach – this is the first beach you will come to when hiking from the main entrance to the park. The beach has a backdrop of jungle and coastal mountains rising high above. Warning, it is not safe to swim at this beach, as over 200 people have reportedly downed here.
The area behind Arrecifes has a number of campsites with hammocks and tents to rent. One campsite I recommend if it’s not raining is Camping Don Pedro, which is about a 10-minute walk from the beach. It has a nice restaurant and tents with a mattress rent for about 25,000 pesos per person.
La Piscina Beach – a 20-minute walk along the beach, brings you to La Piscina beach. This is a narrow beach that is protected by an offshore reef. So, it’s safe to swim here. Also, the snorkeling can be good here. Sand sharks, blowfish and turtles can be seen here. This isn’t an accommodation beach – there aren’t campsites.
Cabo San Juan de Guia Beach – another 20-minute walk from La Piscina beach, brings you to Cabo San Juan de Guia beach, also known as Cabo San Juan or El Cabo. This is arguably Tyrona’s most famous beach.
There are actually two beaches here separated by a spit of land with a hut. The smaller beach to the west is normally quieter.
At Cabo San Juan, there is also a large campsite with hammocks and tents to rent. In addition, there’s a restaurant.
Cañaveral Beach – this is another accommodation beach with tents and hammocks for rent. This beach is located to the east of the park and normally has much fewer visitors than the other major beaches. Also, it’s located near entrance/exit, so best for the beginning or end of your trip.
This beach is similar to Arrecifes, as it’s a long beach but much narrower. And like Arrecifes it’s not safe to swim at this beach.
La Piscinita Beach – this small beach is a small cove that can be seen along the entrance hike. It’s basically the small beach for the Ecohabs accommodations and is located near the Cañaveral beach. It’s not a private beach and there are some small tables with a beach bar.
In addition, it is often safe to swim here, depending on the weather. There are lifeguards and red or green flags to indicate if it’s safe to swim.
Along the rest of Parque Tayrona’s coast there are many more small coves and small beaches. Many of these have no official names and you won’t see many people. And there is even a nudist beach located west of Cabo San Juan
Parque Tayrona 2018 Entrance Fees
Parque Tayrona has entrance fees that vary depending on your age and whether you are a foreigner and also that change during peak season. The following are the entrance fees for Tayrona National Park for 2018:
- Colombians between the age of 5 and 25: 10,000 pesos
- Colombians (and foreigners from Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru) from the age of 26 to 64 years old: 17,500 pesos
- Colombians under 5 and 65 and older: entrance is free
- Other foreigners: 44,000 pesos
During peak season from June 15 to July 15, December 15 to January 30, Semana Santa (Holy week) from Friday to the following Sunday (10 days) and weekends with holy days the entrance fees are as follows:
- Colombians between the age of 5 and 25: 11,000 pesos
- Colombians (and foreigners from Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru) from the age of 26 to 64 years old: 19,500 pesos
- Colombians under 5 and 65 and older: entrance is free
- Other foreigners: 48,500 pesos
Location of Parque Tayrona
How to Get to Parque Tayrona
Parque Tayrona is located just 21 miles (34 km) from Santa Marta in Colombia’s coastal department of Magdelena. Note we previously compared Medellín vs Santa Marta to see which is the better place to live.
There are multiple ways to get to the entrance to Tayrona National Park from Santa Marta:
- Bus from Santa Marta – the bus takes 45 minutes to an hour and reportedly costs 7,000 pesos. And you can catch the bus from the Santa Marta bus terminal or from behind the central market in Santa Marta.
- Taxi from Santa Marta – this can be pricy at over 60,000 pesos.
- Private transfer – some hotels and hostels in Santa Marta will organize private transfers but this can also be pricy at up to 50,000 pesos per person.
The primary entrance to Tayrona National park is Canaveral, where any bus to Tayrona or taxi will drop you. Here you will find shops selling food and drinks to take into the park.
Also, you will find the park’s office where you pay the entrance fee. Before paying the entrance fee, you are required to have a ticket confirming that you have listened to a short safety and rules presentation from a park officer.
Once you have paid, you will be given a wristband to wear while in Parque Tayrona. Once you have paid you can continue by bus or taxi to the car parking area. From this car parking area, you can rent a horse or hike the 3.4 km coastal jungle path to Arrecifes beach, which is typically the first camping and beach area visitors go to.
Insider Tip: Go to Parque Tayrona by Boat
It is also possible to catch a boat to get to the Tayrona beaches faster. You can catch a boat from the fishing village of Taganga that is located only 5 km from Santa Marta. On Taganga beach, there are boats that cost about 60,000 COP round-trip to Tayrona.
The trip by boat in my experience is only about 45 minutes and they drop you in the area of Cabo de San Juan in Parque Tayrona (where there may be park officers for the entrance payment).
Keep in mind that the weather can make this trip calm or traumatic, depending on if there is wind and waves. The departures from Taganga are usually about 9 am and the return to Taganga from Tayrona Park is about 4 pm or 5 pm from the beach next to the Cape.
Also, make sure to ask the boatman who takes you there where and when you will be picked up. It’s important to make sure the pick-up point and time are clear.
Where to Stay in Parque Tayrona
May visitors to Parque Tayrona don’t stay overnight in the park and stay in Santa Marta where there are many hotels, hostels and furnished apartments available.
There are campsites in Parque Tayrona near several of the beaches with tents and hammocks available for rent. This is the lowest cost option typically ranging in price from about 15,000 to 25,000+ pesos.
In the park, there is also the Ecohabs huts, which are located only about 800 meters from the parking lot at Tayrona. These Ecohabs huts conveniently have access to the La Piscinita beach and are near Cañaveral beach. But the huts are pricy, starting at $347 USD per night. Each hut has a maximum capacity of four people.
In addition, there are Ecohabs at Arrecifes, which are 6 cabins with a capacity of five people each. Ecohabs at Arrecifes are less pricy at $238 USD per night.
What to Do in Parque Tayrona Besides the Beaches
Parque Tayrona is a huge national park that is more than just the beaches. There is wonderful wildlife to be seen in the jungle with over 60 mammal species as well as about 400 species of birds.
There are some established hikes in the park as well. For example, there is a hike to Pueblito, which is a 2.5 km hike that starts near the Cabo San Juan campsite that is flat for a short while and then uphill. This hike is to the well-preserved remains of Pueblito, which is a former Tairona settlement. It’s currently occupied by a small group of indigenous Colombians.
Another hike that is less known is the “9 Piedras” or “Nine Stones” hike. The stones refer to egg-like structures at points along the trail. This hike is a cliff-top and jungle trail with some spectacular views of the park.
What to Bring to Parque Tayrona?
There is no need to lug your big suitcase or huge rucksack as you hike in the jungle in Parque Tayrona. Here’s a recommended list for Tayrona National Park:
- Some light t-shirts and shorts (regular and for swimming) and lightweight pants and long-sleeve shirts for evenings if staying overnight for possible chilly nights.
- Hiking shoes or boots if you intend to explore inland in the park.
- If planning to stay overnight, a flashlight for bathroom visits, travel pillow and padlocks for lockers.
- Sunscreen lotion, insect repellent and spare toilet paper.
- Food and drinks, including lots of water. If on a budget, water, drinks and food is relatively expensive in the park. So, you can save by bringing lunch and snacks.
- Sufficient cash as credit cards aren’t accepted in the park.
- Your ID.
- Do not bring plastic bags or alcohol, which are banned in the park.
Also, starting in April 2017, it’s required to have a yellow fever vaccination before visiting Parque Tayrona. In addition, take care not to litter and bring out whatever you bring in to the park.
The Bottom Line: Parque Tayrona
Parque Tayrona is an immensely attractive place with its gorgeous beaches backed by coconut palm trees and thick jungle/rainforest. And behind it all are the steep hillsides of the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta, the world’s highest coastal mountain range.
With tourism increasing in Colombia each year, the number of tourists going to Parque Tayrona is expected to also increase each year. The best times to go to Parque Tayrona are not during the peak seasons (seen above under entrance fees) and not during the rainy seasons (April-May and September-November).