This jungle paradise is located along the northern coast of Colombia and a must visit on any travellers itinerary. To get to the north, we recommend taking a flight with Viva Colombia from either Medellin or Bogotá to Santa Marta, the closest city to Parque Tayrona. The flights are cheap and, if you book in advance, often cheaper than the 15 hour plus bus to get there.
Santa Marta itself is not a particularly picturesque city so we recommend heading out of the city to El Rio Hostel. By starting your journey here, you can get a good night sleep here to set off early morning and it’s only a 15 minute bus ride to the entrance of the park. You can also fill up your water bottle with the free drinking water at El Rio Hostel as it’s expensive in the park and leave your big packs here for a few days.
We recommend packing light into a smaller backpack as you will be carrying it on the trek for hours in the blistering heat. Remember to pack swimsuits, suncream, hats, comfy shoes and a towel.
How to get there
To get there take a bus from Santa Marta, near the central market (just ask anyone and they will direct you). The bus takes around 1 hour to the main entrance to the park or a little longer to El Rio Hostel, as it’s the same bus.
Once you’ve paid your entrance fee of 52COL and had your bags searched, you will find mini buses offering you a ride to the start of the hike. We decided to forgo this and walk instead which was only around 1km but along the road.
Once on the path, you will be at one with nature (and a few other tourists) as you hike through the jungle and along the coast. The route is well signposted to the first campsite, Arrecifes, and takes around 1 hour, you can chose to stop here and camp or carry on another 40 minutes to Cabo San Juan, where we spent 2 nights and walked between the 2 beaches.
Cabo San Juan
There is a swimming beach at Cabo San Juan and also at ‘La Pisicina’ which is located between the two campsites. We split our time between the two beaches and along the coast, further along from Cabo San Juan is a nudist beach if you dare!
A pre erected tent complete with a mattress costs 60COL which is the cheaper option for a couple but they do get very hot. For a cooler and more picturesque evening take a hammock on the rock overlooking the sea for 50COL per hammock. Food and drink on site is quite expensive with meals starting from around 20COL.
The hike out of Tayrona
The hike out of Tayrona is probably the most fun part, but it’s hard work. It takes 3-4 hours depending on how fast you walk and how many times you stop for photo opps so we recommend setting off early to avoid the midday sun. To begin the hike, walk through the Cabo campsite until you find a sign for Pueblito.
For the initial part of the hike continue to follow signs to Pueblito which include a percentage completed so far. The hike is steep and a literal climb over rocks at some points. It is relatively safe but we strayed off track once or twice and we wouldn’t recommend doing it alone, just in case!
If you happen to hear a loud roaring sound, don’t worry it’s just howler monkeys, not jaguars like we first thought. When you arrive at the indigenous huts of Pueblito there is somewhere to buy drinks and snacks, obviously at an inflated price but it will be needed!
This was our highlight of the hike as it was incredible to see these tribal people going about their daily routine, complete with white robes and machetes. Follow the track through to town of Pueblito to the right and then turn left at the crossroads and from here on, follow follow signs to exit of Calabazo. The remainder of the hike takes around two hours and is much easier from this point.
Where to stay
After a few days of camping, you will be in need of some rest and relaxation and there’s no better place than El Rio Hostel, although you may need to book ahead as it gets fully booked.
After leaving the park and hitting the main road, you can flag a bus and ride another 20mins along the road, asking the driver for El Rio and he’ll know where to drop you. Walk the 1km or take a motorbike taxi into the jungle where you will find this idyllic hostel tucked away by the river.
As soon as you arrive, you’re hit with those good vibes and you’ll quickly realise that you don’t want to leave and as you get talking to the other guests, you’ll realise they’ve done exactly that. Food and drinks are done on a tab so it can get pretty dangerous, especially with the most delicious hummus we’ve ever tried. Make sure to take part in the tubing, drinking beer whilst floating down the river, what’s not to love?
By Hitched hikers