Tayrona National Park is one of the most popular and prized possessions of Colombia. It is North Caribbean coast park, 12,000 hectares of land below the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains, and hugging the Caribbean coast across 3000 hectares.
Tayrona is 34 kilometres from the northern coastal city of Santa Marta. We decided to stay in Minca, a mountain town up in the hills, 24 kilometers from the main entrance gates from the park. (El Zaino Entrance)
It is an enormous park, and there is so much to do there, but a day trip is possible, even if you are short on time.
Take a look at our video attached and find out!
A day trip starting at the main gates gives you enough time to do the Ruta del Conocimiento hike for a 2-2.5hour hike each way to explore the park, tour some of the beaches, grab lunch, swim, relax and hike back to the main gates, before 5 pm. Important note that if you plan to leave the park for the night, you must be at the gates before 5 pm or you will be locked in. We elected to swim and enjoy the beach, so we went only as far as Piscina beach, instead of walking to Cabo San Juan de Guia beach.
The hiking is relatively easy. There are well-manicured paths (stilted wood paths) that guide through the changing landscape from rainforests, towering rows of palm trees, mossy covered areas, dry arid hills, and the only challenging part, a few large rocky climbs to see the icy blue coastline.
Bus: From Santa Marta, buses depart from the central market for reasonable 6000 COP, each way. (Approx. $2USD, 3200 Colombian Pesos to the $USD at the time of this post) Several buses leave during the day, or tour companies arrange mini bus trips. If you stay in Minca, you will need to get a taxi down the mountain and either take a bus from Santa Marta or cab directly to Tayrona. You can also arrange a mini or large bus service from Cartagena, but plan to stay overnight as that is a 5-7 hour journey each way.
Drive: We split the cost of a car with our friends to explore the area on our own time.
Boat: There is an option to boat from Taganga port town into the park: We don’t recommend this option. Local boats will drop you off for 35-40,000 COP (3200 Colombian Peso to the $USD at the time of this post) each way, in an uncomfortable boat, with high winds and currents. We asked several people for their advice on this option, and everyone commented on the high cost, inflexibility in times, and uncomfortable trip.
Entrance to the park: The entrance fee is 38,000 COP per person, per day, if you drive into the park: Parking cost is 20,000 COP per day to main gates
Open times: 8 am- 5 pm (strict gate closure at 5 pm if you plan to leave)
How to make your trip more meaningful:
For more about Tayrona National Park details, the park service has an informative website of relevant information you need to know here.
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Troy is an ex-TV editor and producer originally from Canada. He quit his 20+ year career to pursue a life of long-term, slow and transformative travel. Now with his wife Dorene, he helps people who want to redefine their midlife by making conscious changes at TravelLifeExperiences. He also works with travel and hospitality brands to create and share their video stories at TravelLifeMedia.com