Tayrona National Park is a must-do in Colombia! It was one of my favorites in South America. At the time, I had limited knowledge on camping and hiking. I love it, but I’m a city girl (recently) turned nature girl. After my 3 day adventure in Tayrona National Park, I realize there were a few things I wish I would have known beforehand.
This a comprehensive guide to Tayrona Park for travelers who have never camped or are newbies like myself!
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Before Your Trip
1. Packing List
- Portable speaker (entertainment)
- Food/snacks (vegetarian)
- Nuts, granola, canned refried beans, canned mixed vegetables, tortillas, hot sauce, bread, jelly, peanut butter, oranges, bananas (only for day 1 because of the heat), Gatorade (for the heat)
- Swimsuit (you can swim in SOME parts of the park, but not all)
- Playing cards (unicorn desk linked)
- Bug spray!!!! (NECESSITY)
- Towel (one for showering and something to lay on the beach)
- Toiletries (shampoo/soap for showers, tooth-brush, etc)
- Hiking boots (trails are muddy) and flip-flops (showers and beach days)
- Warm clothing (If you rent a hammock it might be cold in the middle of the night)
- Journal/books (lots of free time!)
- Reusable water bottles
- Portable charger (there were only outlets in Cabo San Juan, not in the first campsite)
- Hat (for hiking in the sun/beach days)
- Baby wipes
- Hand sanitizer
- Lock (to lock up your tent)
- Rain gear (it rained one night, a poncho would have been nice, you can buy local)
- PASSPORT! (NEED it to get inside!)
Related article: Packing List for Solo Female Travelers
2. Choose an Itinerary
I (mentally) prepared for a two-night stay in Tayrona National Park: one night in Arrecifes and one night in Cabo San Juan. We physically prepared for three nights and ultimately decided on two nights.
Three days was perfect. (I’ve heard one night is not enough.)
Three Day Itinerary – Getting to Tayrona National Park
1. Bus to Tayrona
We took a taxi in Santa Marta to ‘El Mercado’ and hopped on a small hot bus. You can’t miss the bus, there are plenty of people screaming “TAYRONA!”
Cost: Bus is 7.000 pesos to Tayrona National Park.
Once off the bus, there are vendors selling tickets for tents and hammocks in both Cabo San Juan (the further camp site) and Jorge Andres in Arrecifes (the first camp ground). We bought a tent in Arrecifes (first camping site called Jorge Andres) for 30.000 pesos for one night. If you buy it upfront, it’s the same price and reserves your spot.
Entrance fee: 109.000 pesos for two people
Note: Other blogs mentioned that you should not bring in outside booze or drugs, because they check bags. We did not get our bags checked. Also, I read do not bring in plastic bags. Again, they didn’t check us for anything.
3. Getting to the Beginning of the Hike
After getting through the entrance, you’re still not at the beginning of the hike. It’s an hour walk along a road OR you can take a little bus (collectivo). Most people opt for the bus. It’s cheap!
Collectivo: 3.000 pesos, 10 minute ride
Hike To Arrecifes
One hour hike (mas o menos) leads you to Arrecifes.
Upon arrival, there are horses and a nice camping ground. You are not there yet! To Jorge Andres camping ground, it is another 2-5 minutes or so. Once you reach a little camping ground with a bunch of old men sitting around in chairs (on your left-hand side), go to the right! We used our maps.me app religiously to make sure we didn’t get lost. (We still got lost a few times lol)
Tip: Wear hiking boots! I saw people trying to hike in flip-flops. I don’t know how they did it. There is mud and different terrain. The trail is uphill and downhill and also includes climbing up and down huge rocks. It’s not just a stroll in the woods. Also, it is extremely humid and sunny. It’s better to do the hike earlier in the morning and bring water, Gatorade, and snacks!
There are a couple different options for camping. We went with Jorge Andres. It’s a large campground right off the beach. There are tens of hammocks and tents to choose from. The campground has a kitchen, restaurant, and a bunch of tables to prepare your own food, relax, watch TV.
Camping in Arrecifes, Jorge Andres Campground (Day 1)
Cost: 30.000 pesos PER PERSON for a tent OR 18.000 pesos for a hammock OR 15.000 to bring your own tent.
We checked in at around 11am with no problem. There were plenty of open tents to choose from. Other blogs mentioned to arrive before 2pm, but June (when we were there) is not high season. There is no reason to rush besides to beat the heat!
Food is around 15.000 pesos to 38.000 pesos for basic dishes (white + beans + protein). Bottled water is 3.000 pesos and nice and cold!
Accommodation: The tent is a basic two person tent with a futon like mattress inside with pillows. There is a sheet provided but no blankets. It’s hot and humid, no blankets or warm clothes needed for the tent. If you choose a hammock, a long sleeve shirt and pants will do. Remember to bring a lock to lock up valuables in the tent!
Tip: Swimming is not allowed on the beach here. We sat in the lifeguard chair for hours and enjoyed the beach. I recommend going to the beach at night, the stars are absolutely stunning!
Hike To Cabo San Juan
It is an hour hike to the next camp ground. On the way you will find a couple different spots for food. I recommend the Panaderia just after Arrecifes. Super good coffee!
This hike was a lot easier for us, went by super fast!
Camping in Cabo San Juan (Day 2)
Cost: 30.000 pesos each for a tent = 60.000 pesos for both of us. A hammock is 40.000 pesos. It was really hot, so I think a hammock would have been a more comfortable choice.
We arrived at 10am and was able to check in at 11:30am. We chilled on the beach until our tent was ready.
The tent is a two person tent with a thin mattress similar to Jorge Andres. They do not provide a sheet or pillow. We had no idea, so we slept on the mattress and used clothing as a pillow.
Cabo San Juan is much larger. There is a convenient store with snacks, soda, water, toilet paper, etc. There is a juice bar with 6.000 peso fresh juices and a restaurant where we bought a vegetarian meal (rice + vegetables + fresh fries) for 15.000 pesos. They also have vegetarian pasta for 20.000 pesos.
Tours come with a bunch of tourists to the beach midday, so the beach is packed. I recommend walking past the San Juan beach, a short hike through the forest to Playa Nudista. It’s a nude beach. It’s beautiful and fewer people. You can swim in both Cabo San Juan and Playa Nudista.
During the night it rained and the bugs were TERRIBLE. We went through almost an entire bottle of bug spray!
Note: You are protected against the rain in the tents and hammocks.
Things to Do
- Hike to El Pueblo (1.5-hour hike to the indigenous community)
- Hike to Playa Nudista or other beaches
- Hike to La Piscina (beach between Arrecifes and San Juan perfect for swimming!)
- Lay on the beach and read (click here for my current favorite book)
- Play cards
- Do yoga on the beach
- Close your eyes and thank the universe you are in this beautiful place 🙂
Hiking Back (Day 3)
In the morning, we hiked back to town. It took about 2 hours. We accidentally took the horse trail instead of the trail closest to the ocean. It’s only about 10-15 minutes longer, no big deal if you take a wrong turn! We still made it to the end. AND we made a cute horse friend on the way!
Tip: Use Mapsme to navigate!
We opted for the shuttle once again for 3.000 pesos to get to the entrance. We got a freshly cooked breakfast with eggs and patacones for only 8.000 pesos at the restaurant at the entrance.
The bus to Santa Marta comes every 10 minutes. Wave good-bye to paradise!
Thanks for reading! Have any more questions about Tayrona National Park? Any tips for camping in Colombia? Just want to say hi? Let’s chat in the comments. xoxo
For an unfiltered look at our Tayrona National Park adventures, check out my post Hiking and Shit Sandwiches.
This post was originally made for a different blog that has since been deleted. To stay updated on my current adventures, check out my Instagram @courtneytheexplorer <3
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