Cabo San Juan, Parque Tayrona
Colombia Latin America

Parque Tayrona: How to Maximize Your Stay

July 27, 2018

Parque Tayrona is a national park in Colombia’s Caribbean coast just east of Santa Marta. With its teal blue water, lush forest, and rows of palm trees, it’s truly a tropical paradise.

Parque Tayrona, Colombia

Getting into Parque Tayrona, though, is not simply a walk in the park (pun intended). It’s a moderate hike in and out, and if you forget any of the essentials (like cash), your trip will be cut short.

Here are some tips to maximize your stay:

1. Stay overnight close to the park (before and after your visit)

Parque Tayrona opens at 8am. You’ll want to enter the park as early as possible to beat the heat and ensure you can rent one of the hammocks (see below). I’d suggest staying overnight at a hostel or hotel close to the park so you’re not in a rush to get there. I personally had an amazing stay at Eco Hostal Yuluka and highly recommend it. You’ll get to stay in a lovely tropical hut and swim in a pool with a waterfall and slide. (Yes, that’s right — a slide!) It’s the perfect retreat. They also offer a morning shuttle to the entrance of Parque Tayrona and can store away your luggage during your stay in the park.

Eco Hostal Yuluka

I’d recommend staying another night after your visit to Parque Tayrona so that you can relax before moving on to your next destination. Believe me, the pool will feel sooo good after a long journey from the park!

2. Bring plenty of cash

I was shocked by how quickly things added up in Parque Tayrona. The entrance fee was $44k pesos (for non-Colombians), the van ride to the entrance itself was $3k pesos, and the hammock costed $50k pesos. The food at the main restaurant in Cabo San Juan was also not the cheapest. It’s possible that the prices change every year or season, since some websites and travel blogs I referenced had outdated values. Before your trip, double-check the prices listed on the Parque Tayrona website.

I brought a little less than $400k for myself and my friend and we quickly ran out of cash after one meal. We barely had enough money to buy water for the hike out. We didn’t even have enough money to catch a van ride (and believe me, it’s a longggg walk). Don’t make the same mistake!  I would have brought at least $300k per person, per night. Personally, I thought staying one night at the park was enough, given how expensive everything was.

3. Pay for the van

After you pay for the entrance fee, there are vans waiting outside to take you to the first beach, Cañaveral, for $3k pesos. Go ahead and take the ride. Otherwise, it’s a long and uneventful 4km walk on a paved road. Save your energy for later.

4. Rent the horses

You’ll get inside the park faster if you rent horses to take you in. The horse trail is on a separate path that goes further inland than the hiking path by the coast. The horses are very well trained, so you don’t have to do much to guide them. You can either pay to rent them right outside the park entrance, or where the van drops you off in Cañaveral. The price depends on which beach you want to get to. We requested a ride to Cabo San Juan, the park’s most iconic beach featuring the hut by the water. It took about 1.5 hours to get there and costed $40k pesos. Otherwise, it would have been a 2-3 hour walk.

The hike by foot is actually quite scenic, but you can enjoy that when you leave the park (and have less time pressure). If you’re lucky, you might see some monkeys!

Scenic Hike in Parque Tayrona

5. Rent a hammock

In Parque Tayrona, you have the option to rent either a tent or a hammock (or a ecohab, if you’re willing to splurge for the comfort!). We opted for the hammock since it seemed like a tent would trap a lot of heat and possibly smell (to be confirmed, though). We chose the hammocks with a view in Cabo San Juan (hamacas mirador), which costed $50k pesos. It’s right over the water with a refreshing ocean breeze and a gorgeous sunrise view. You can request the hammock at the info kiosk by the entrance to the beach. Checkout is at 11am, so be sure arrive before then.

Sunrise at Cabo San Juan, Parque Tayrona

6. Go beach hopping!

We stayed in Cabo San Juan for most of our visit, mainly because the police stopped us from going toward the other beaches when it started to rain in the late afternoon. Only as we were leaving the park did we get a chance to see some of the other beaches like La Piscina (which I highly recommended — the water is warm and clear and you can swim in it!). There are plenty of other beaches like ArrecifesCañaveral, and Castilletes that are worth a visit. If you’re on the way to Arrecifes, you can stop by Panadería Bere, a little bakery in the middle of the jungle!

Panaderia Bere

7. Bring the essentials

Aside from cash, you should take the following items with you to Parque Tayrona.

  • Passport (they’ll check when you purchase your ticket)
  • Plenty of water
  • Swimsuit
  • Quick drying towel (I bought this one and I really liked it)
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug repellant
  • Light blanket (if you’re staying in one of the hammocks by the water)
  • Headlamp
  • Lock for locker
  • Yellow fever card

Yes, you should get the yellow fever vaccine if you’re traveling to this area. The Parque Tayrona website lists the yellow fever vaccine as mandatory. They actually didn’t ask for my yellow fever card while I was there, but I would still err on the side of caution. The yellow fever vaccine is currently in limited supply in the U.S., so be sure to request it well in advance. Keep in mind that it takes about 10 days for the vaccine to kick in, so at minimum you’ll want to get the vaccine 10 days before your trip.

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