Visit Tayrona National Park in Colombia
So you have plans to visit Tayrona? Then this guide to Tayrona National Park is perfect for you! Whether you are going for a day hike, or you are planning to stay the night: I have all the tips and recommendations for you. This guide to Tayrona National Park will make sure you start your trip fully prepared.
And now: the guide to Tayrona National Park. Let’s get right into it.
Table of Contents
What is Tayrona National Park?
Let’s start this guide by explaining what Tayrona National Park actually is. It is a National Park (as the name suggests), on the northern coast of Colombia. It is a protected area with high mountains, jungle-like nature, and Caribbean beaches.
If you are planning to travel on the Caribbean coast of Colombia – which lots of backpackers do – you will come across Tayrona too. You can go for a hike as a day trip, or you can spend a night in the park. In this guide to Tayrona National Park, I will discuss both options and my recommendations.
GOOD TO KNOW: in some periods, the park is closed. You can easily google this. Please do, to prevent disappointments.
Although the hike is not that hard, you might want to prepare for it in some ways. Don’t worry about the hike itself. I have seen older people and kids do the hike, and everyone was fine. You can do it at your own pace and enjoy the views on the way.
Decide on the type of trip
First, you need to decide on what kind of trip inside Tayrona National Park you want to go for. As I’ve mentioned before, you can do a day hike in the park, or you can stay the night. You could even stay multiple nights if you want to, but I haven’t met any backpackers who do this.
In the text to come, I will (whenever applicable) divide the information in “Day hike” and “Stay the night” sections. Personally, I stayed in the park. I would not necessarily recommend this, as I think that a day hike will be sufficient.
Book accommodation near Tayrona National Park
In any case, you want to book your stay at a hostel nearby the entrance of Tayrona National Park. A very popular accommodation and also my personal recommendation is The Journey Hostel. This is an amazing hostel with a beautiful infinity pool and delicious food. From this park, the walk to the entrance to the park is 20-25 minutes.
This is entrance El Zaíno. I understood that this is the most popular entrance.
If you plan on doing a day hike, you can just book two (or more!) nights in a hostel close to the entrance. On the day of your hike, you walk to the entrance in the morning, buy your ticket and start the hike. In the afternoon, you hike back to the entrance and walk back to the hostel.
If you want to stay the night, you book two nights in a hostel, with one night not booked in between. For example, I booked the night of Tuesday-Wednesday, and of Thursday-Friday. On Wednesday-Thursday, I stayed in the park.
You might want to know what to take with you to the park. Of course, it might vary from person to person, but this gives you a pretty good idea.
For staying the night:
*Honestly, I did the Tayrona National Park hike in my denim shorts and a crop top (with sports bra though), and it was fine. In hindsight, I would have preferred a short sports legging, but it was not a necessity.
Also, I put headphones/earplugs on there for the following reason. I was just about to fall asleep, when someone near me started snoring. I couldn’t fall asleep then… until I just put on music and dozed off. The same technique worked for me when I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t go back to sleep.
Good to know before you visit
Before you visit, there are a couple of things that are good to know. This guide to Tayrona National Park wants to prepare you as well as possible on your trip. It’s nothing major, but read through it
Go early to the entrance of Tayrona National Park
It can be quite busy when you want to enter Tayrona National Park. There is a limit to how many people can visit the park every day. You want to make sure to get your ticket in and claim your spot. I recommend being there at 7.45 a.m.
If you want to stay the night, you need to reserve your hammock or tent at the entrance of the park. You cannot do this in advance, so be on time!!! They might be fully booked if you are there too late.
I was lucky and came on a really quiet day. But I have also heard stories about hour-long lines. This is why a hostel near the entrance is so important: you beat busses and day trips from further villages to the entrance.
Food and drinks in Tayrona National Park
Of course, you want to bring some food and enough water into the park with you for your hike. Along the way, you will also find some spots with people who sell juice or drinks. After a while, you will even find a little restaurant for some food.
You don’t have to carry liters of water with you! You can buy water during the hike.
Cross water in Tayrona National Park
There are some spots along the hike where you might have to cross water. As I said before, I stayed the night in the park. I walked the exact same way to and from the camping site. On the first day, there were multiple spots where I had to cross water; on the second day, there was only one shallow place. It depends on the weather.
Take flip-flops with you just in case. On the first day (the day after a heavy rain), some spots were actually quite deep and you couldn’t cross without getting your feet completely soaked. On the second day (with no rain in between), I could do the whole hike in my trainers.
Visiting Tayrona National Park
Now that it is time to actually visit the park, here is what to expect.
Book your night in the park
You have arrived early to the entrance of Tayrona National Park (around 7.45 a.m.) and you are ready to go. If you want to stay the night, you need to reserve your night at the entrance. You do this by reserving a hammock or tent.
In my case, a woman approached me and my group, and asked us if we wanted to. Otherwise, just ask at the entrance. I choose a hammock at the time, for which I paid 40.000 COP (€9,50 or $10,01). Hammocks come with a mosquito net (even though the woman told me it didn’t) and a small locker.
However, if you decide to spend the night in the park, I would recommend a tent rather than a hammock. The hammocks were not very comfortable to sleep in, in my opinion. It was also quite cold: not because of the temperate per se (I went at the end of April), but because of the wind. I feel like a tent would be more comfortable.
Enter Tayrona National Park
Now, it is time to go to the actual entrance. Here, your bag gets searched first. It is a routine search, don’t worry about it. I will say this though: one of the girls I was with is convinced the man who searched her bag, stole some money from her. She heard the zipper of her wallet but couldn’t see (he was doing this behind her bag, out of her sight), and after that, some bills were missing. I’m not sure if this really happened (it didn’t happen to me, even though I let him open my wallet while I watched), but it’s always good to pay attention.
Then, you go to buy a health insurance. This is mandatory to enter the park. I’m not sure if this is a COVID-measurement, or if it has always been in place. It only costs you 5.000 COP (€1,19 or $1,25). You get a paper wristband as proof.
Then, you go to the ticket booth to but your ticket in, which is around 60.000 COP (€14,25 or $15,01). I was with three other girls, and we understood that if we bought the tickets together, we would get a group discount. I’m not sure of this though, and I’m also not sure what the regular price for one person would be.
Walk or drive the first part
For the first part, you have the choice to either walk or drive with a van. If you decide to go with the van, you pay 5.000 COP (€1,19 or $1,25) for this.
I went with the van, and I would really recommend it. The part you do with the van is not really part of the hike yet, even though it is inside the park. It will save you an hour of walking, which is a lot since you still have a hike of about two hours to go. The van simply drives on the first part, which isn’t that special nature-wise.
The hike in Tayrona National Park
Most people hike from the entrance to the park (El Zaíno) to Cabo San Juan.
The first part – from the entrance to Carñaveral – is the part you can do by car. The walk would be about an hour, but the car ride is 8 minutes.
After that, you go from Carñaveral to Arrecife, which takes about 50 minutes. Then you hike from Arrecife to La Piscina in 20 minutes, and from La Piscina to Cabo San Juan in 30 minutes. This means that in total, you would spend about 100 minutes hiking, which is 1 hour and 40 minutes.
Honestly, we did the hike on the first day in about 2.5 hours. This is because every once in a while, you will want to stop. You will want to take pictures, or you will want to take a small break and have a sip of water. Also, we stopped at La Piscina to have a drink in a restaurant.
On the way back, though, I think the ±1.5 hours was pretty accurate. This time, I didn’t stop for pictures or for a drink at a restaurant. You can also take a van back from Carñaveral to the entrance.
Staying the night in Tayrona
If you decide to stay the night in Tayrona National Park, there are lots of options to choose from. Most backpackers go for either a hammock or a tent. The people at the entrance told me that the tent is only for two people, and so I would have to pay for two people if I wanted a tent. I chose a hammock.
The hammocks do have a mosquito net, which is really nice. You will need it. Especially when I went (at the end of April), there were lots of bugs. You also get a small locker where you can store valuable stuff. You have to bring your own lock for this.
I would recommend going for a tent, though, if you can. Hammocks are – at least for me – not the most comfortable to sleep in. Also, just as I was about to fall asleep, someone started snoring. This made it harder to sleep. The hammocks were also kind of cold, because of the wind.
Personally, I chose to do the hike with whoever I would meet at the hostel. This turned out great, because I met some great girls! It is quite an easy hike, and you don’t necessarily need a guide to hike with you.
I know guided tours to hike Tayrona National Park are offered as well. This could be a great opportunity to meet other people who are on the tour. The guide would also be able to tell you a lot about the nature and the wildlife in the National Park. I think that is a big plus!
There are also sailing tours to Tayrona National Park that you can do! Again, I didn’t do this myself, but it seems like a lot of fun. I didn’t even know this was an option, and I definitely would have considered it if I knew! It is a total different way to experience the park.