“You get a strange feeling when you leave a place, like you’ll not only miss the people you love, but you miss the person you are at this time and place because you’ll never be this way ever again” – Azar Nafasi
Tayrona is one of the most beautiful National Parks I have ever seen spanning 15,000 hectares in the North East of Colombia. We had heard about it from friends and decided to stay there for a few nights and camp at Cabo San Juan. The entrance fee to the park for foreigners is 39,000 pesos each. We got the bus from santa Marta to the El Zaino entrance which took about 45 minutes and cost 8,000 pesos) The start is a little bit confusing. We were told that you can’t get there by car – you have to walk. This is true. However we thought this was from the entrance. It is not. We walked for an hour to the “start” before realising. Ah well – more exercise is good! The walk then got interesting. Stunning boardwalk platforms have been built to carry visitors through a variety of beautiful terrains. Rocks, forest, palm trees, and dried up river beds. It was also insanely hot. I can assuringly admit that I have never sweated so much in my life than I did in these 3 hours but the swim at the end is AMAZING!
There are 3 sleeping options at Cabo San Juan. There are cabanas (150,000 pesos per night), tents (50,000 pesos) or hammocks (25,000 pesos). Shower and toilet blocks are shared by all. We had 1 night in a cabana and the other in a tent.
The cabana probably wasn’t worth the money as the room was very basic but it did have incredible views over the water and was perched up on a hill. Sunsets were amazing and it was nice to have the privacy (and where you can stand up!) We enjoyed the deck. The tent consisted of 2 mattresses with protective sheets. No pillows (warning to pillow lovers) and they tents are pitched very close together making it a little noisy but overall – its a good option for a couple of nights.
As it is a UNESCO heritage site, you can’t bring alcohol into the park (although we snuck in a bottle of rum!) however you can buy beers at the local shop. We loved waking up with the sun and walking 50m to the sea. It is very refreshing. We sat on the beach for the entire day. We drank rum, ate cheesy bread, went for long swims, read books and napped. It is a truly magical place.
- Don’t bring too much. The 2 hour hike to get there is extremely difficult in the insane heat so make it easier for yourself! Cabo San Juan has a small shop selling Agua (4,000 pesos) and a restaurant for all meals (ranging between 7,000 – 20,000 pesos – pretty good!)
- Wear hiking shoes! Although beach side camping sounds relaxing – it’s a trek to get there and the ground is very uneven. Hiking shoes will be a godsend! (Plus there are many hiking options to do once you are there!)
- BYO Snoreklling gear. Options to hire the snorkels are expensive (20,000 pesos? but probably range depending on how foreign you look) I didn’t get any, however you can apparently buy very cheap equipment in Santa Marta at the local homewares/kitchen shop.
- SUNSCREEN. Shade can be limited depending on the time of day so I recommend bringing enough.
- Bring more cash than you think you need. There are no ATMS obviously anywhere near the campsite or in the park at all. They also have boat trips and horse riding tours too so make sure you have enough incase you want to do those.
- If you choose to sleep in a hammock, others gave me the advice to ask for the hammocks close to the bathrooms – ironically. The other area of hammocks are perched on the hill under the cabanas and apparently they get quite cold at night. It is pretty hot during the day so I can’t imagine it getting freezing however that was mentioned by a few people we met so beware!
- Careful if you sit under the palm trees (which is generally the only shade you will find) – a man warned us about falling coconuts which are actually really dangerous considering the height they fall from. watch out!