Tayrona, Colombia is one of almost 60 national parks in the country. Nestled on the Caribbean coast and butting up against the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Parque Tayrona offers a diverse range of flora, fauna and landscapes.
While the park gets super crowded at weekends and during public holidays – especially on the beaches – it’s still possible to find a secluded sport if you’re willing to put in the effort (and kilometres!).
Our number one tip for enjoying a peaceful trip to Tayrona National Park is to avoid the main El Zaino entrance completely and instead head to the lesser-known Calabazo entry point!
Keep reading for more tips to make the most of your visit, including the best beaches and where to stay in Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona (PNNT)!
Tayrona National Park – Key Takeaways
2. Avoid the main El Zaino entrance, opt to walk in from Calabazo instead.
3. Stay in the park for at least one night.
4. Book your accommodation in advance online – this gives you reliable access to better campsites and options.
5. When leaving or entering via El Zaino, you can opt to take a minibus or walk 4km along the road to the Tayrona National Park entrance.
6. Be careful where you wing. Strong currents mean swimming is forbidden on many beaches.
7. Food is expensive in Tayrona park. If you’re on a budget, bring your own picnic dinner.
8. There are no ATMs in or near the park. Bring plenty of cash if you’re staying for a few nights. Bring even more if you’re heading to Palomino after Tayrona – there are no ATMs there either.
9. Remember to bring your passport – you’ll need to show it when buying your entry ticket.
Tayrona National Park Guide for Visitors
Tayrona National Natural Park Map and Resources
Best Time to Visit Tayrona, Colombia ☀️🌧️
Tayrona is hot and humid year-round. However, the dry season offers some respite from the soaring temperatures thanks to a near-constant breeze coming off the sea.
The best months for backpackers in Colombia to visit the national park are February and March. The weather is still good and the crowds are starting to lessen.
December and January are the most popular months for Colombians to visit Tayrona. The weather is at its best and many locals have vacation from work at this time. However, this means the park can be very crowded.
The rainiest months are May, September, October and November. However, the rain rarely lasts all day and most of the hiking trails are still quite doable when it’s wet – some steeper trails towards Playa Brava and from the Calabazo entrance can get a little treacherous though.
Due to the weather, September, October and November are the quietest months of the year in the park. You shouldn’t struggle to get accommodation or a spot on the beach if you visit at this time.
Where to Stay in Tayrona, Colombia ⛺️🛖
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Staying inside Tayrona for a night or two is the best way to experience the park. Accommodation options range from beautiful palm-roofed huts to rows of tents packed in together – the latter of which looks more like a disaster relief effort!
Staying in the park is expensive by Colombian standards but it’s well worth spending the money.
While it used to be true that you couldn’t book any accommodation online in advance, that’s no longer the case. Many campsites offer tents or hammocks on booking.com and if they’re full online, you can often find a WhatsApp number to contact and reserve your spot that way.
We recommend booking in advance as this ensures you get the pick of the nicer campsites and accommodation options. Some camps leave a lot to be desired! But if all else fails, you can still reserve a tent or hammock from the El Zaino entrance of the park!
Most affordable accommodation options in Parque Tayrona are on, or very close to a beach!
- Playa Brava – A private beach popular with backpackers. It’s out of the way, meaning you need to tackle a steep 2km side trail that leads to the beach – then return the same way. Getting to Playa Brava is much easier from the Calabazo park entrance. We recommend Ecolodge Playa Brava Teyumakke if you want to meet other backpackers and enjoy a social vibe.
- Cabo San Juan – A popular beach with locals because you can swim and the accommodation options are budget-friendly. You can’t book in advance and the tents are very packed in.
- Arrecifes – There are several accommodation providers around Arrecifes beach and some can be booked in advance. Tents, hammocks and bungalows are all on offer. The beach is a few minutes walk from most campsites. For a nice tent or hammock, we recommend Camping Tequendama Playa Arrecifes Parque Tayrona.
- Cañaveral – Located just a 30-minute walk (if you get the bus) from the El Zaino entrance, Cañaveral offers an easy-to-reach location for overnight stays in the park. Both camping and bungalows are available. For a classy night on the beach, we recommend Ecohabs Tequendama Playa Cañaveral Parque Tayrona!
The day before you enter Tayrona, it is best to stay nearby. This means you can be up and into the park early, so you don’t get caught in the queues at the gate. Most accommodation options in the area will store your main bag while you go into the park, so you only need to carry your essentials in a daypack. If you return for a night after visiting the park, this luggage storage is usually free. However, if you just pick it up without staying another night, you may have to pay a few thousand pesos for storage. Well worth it to leave you bulky bag!
- El Zaino – The main entrance into Parque Tayrona, El Zaino gets super busy at weekends. The queue can be up to three hours at times! We don’t recommend going into the park this way but it’s closer to the beaches and the hike is much easier. There are plenty of hostels and hotels around El Zaino but we recommend Eco Hostal Yuluka.
- Calabazo – The quieter entrance, Calabazo offers a more tranquil but much more challenging hike to the beaches. If you’re spending more than a single day in the park, this is the way we recommend. There are plenty of accommodation options close to the Calabazo entrance but we recommend Casablanca Tayrona House.
Things to Do in Tayrona, Colombia 🏖️🥾
No matter what any list on the internet tells you, there are really only two things to do in Tayrona: hiking and hanging out at the beach.
A huge draw to many people visiting Tayrona is the lack of vehicles. Sure, you can get a minibus from El Zaino to the car park or a mototaxi a few kilometres from Calabazo but after that, you’re reliant on your own two feet – or a horse’s four feet but we’ll get into that.
The trails crisscrossing Parque Tayrona are easy to follow and offer a chance to see some of Colombia’s unique wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled as you head down into Playa Brava where howler monkeys laze in the canopy – if it feels like it’s raining seeds, look up, chances are there’s a family of primates enjoying a feast!
Some hiking in Tayrona is easy, some of it’s more challenging. The walk between El Zaino and the first beaches is pretty easy going but after Cabo San Juan, things get more difficult. Bring good walking shoes and hiking poles if you have them – if not, find a good stick en route to help you out! (You can often find these propped up against the fence near the park entrance.)
As well as the abundance of main trails, there are a few side trails that take small detours off the main paths. Of these, the ‘Nine Piedras’ hike between Arrecife and Cañaveral is the simplest and potentially most impressive. Going past nine rocks which hold spiritual significance for the local populations, this trail is just over a mile long and offers a quieter alternative to the main trail.
There’s even a chance to spot caiman in the lagoon, so keep your eyes peeled!
Tayrona National Park is most famous for its abundance of beaches. Each has its charms but they’re all stunning! Whether you want to chill and read, go swimming or soak up a lively local atmosphere with a Club Colombia in hand, there’s a beach for you in Tayrona. Each is accessed by following the main path.
- Playa Arrecifes – A beautiful, windswept beach with plenty of campsites nearby. Swimming is generally forbidden here but is occasionally allowed. Abide by local rules.
- Playa La Piscina – A popular beach for those who want to swim, La Piscina is protected by a rock wall, creating a large calm area of water. There are always people selling food and drinks on the beach!
- Playa Cabo San Juan – The most famous and popular beach in Tayrona, this picturesque spot offers the chance to swim, sleep and eat – thanks to the well-served beach, campsite and restaurant.
- Playa Nudista – Further out from the park’s main entrance, Playa Nudista is naked by name but clothed by nature, don’t go expecting a true nudist beach. Instead, you’ll find a long stretch of empty sand with a few (generally clothed) backpackers chilling out! Swimming is forbidden here.
- Playa Brava – Further still, Playa Brava offers a real escape from the crowds. It can be a chore to get to but the effort is well worth it, especially if you’re staying for a night or two! Swimming is not advised but you’ll generally see a few people in the water. Be very careful if you choose to swim.
Food and Drink in Tayrona, Colombia 🍽️🍹
Eateries in Tayrona are limited in number but there’s a surprising variety of food on offer. From a French-style bakery shack near Playa Arrecifes to Caribbean classics in the restaurants near Cabo San Juan and Cañaveral, you’ll even find people selling sandwiches, snacks and fruit on most beaches.
The prices are inflated compared to the rest of Colombia but don’t expect good service. Staff at these restaurants have a reputation for being unfriendly and unhelpful!
Getting Around Tayrona, Colombia 🥾🐴
The main mode of transport in Tayrona is your own two feet but there are vehicular transport options which cover the first few kilometres from both entrances:
- El Zaino has a minibus that runs whenever it’s full and saves you an exposed walk along the road.
- From Calabazo, you can get a mototaxi for the first few kilometres. This saves you the initial uphill slog but is unnecessary, the walk isn’t unpleasant.
If you opt for the vehicles, they’ll drop you off at the end of the road.
From El Zaino, you can then opt to take a horse or mule if you don’t want to walk. However, the terrain isn’t great for horses and many of them aren’t in the best condition. Please consider this before opting to use one as transport. The trails are well-marked and easy enough to walk.
The route from Calabazo is more physically challenging. There are steep descents and ascents involved – even steeper if you go to Playa Brava. The route from Calabazo to the beaches used to go through the small indigenous village of El Pueblito. However, this was closed to the public in 2018 to protect the way of life of the local populations. Today, you bypass the village on a small trail which although challenging, is easy to follow.
In either direction, when you reach the beaches, the trail is very self-explanatory. You’d have to try hard to get lost in Tayrona Natural National Park!
How to Get to Parque Tayrona 🚌
Getting to Tayrona is simple. If you’re in Santa Marta, simply pick up any bus heading towards Tayrona/Palomino/Riohacha and tell the conductor which Tayrona entrance you want. They all pass both entrances.
From Palomino, get a bus heading towards Santa Marta and tell the conductor which Tayrona entrance you want. Expect to pay 8,000-12,000COP ($2-$2.50USD).
How to Get Into Parque Tayrona 💵
We recommend getting to Tayrona National Park as early as possible to make the most of your time and avoid any queues. The gates open at 8:00 am.
What you’ll need:
- Around 70,000COP entry fee. It’s cheaper for Colombians.
- Around 6,000COP per day insurance fee. This is mandatory for everyone entering the park.
- Around 5,000COP (if entering via Calabazo) as a fee for crossing indigenous land.
- Your passport – they’ll note down your passport number at the entrance.
- Cash – There are no ATMs in the park and very few places accept card payments.
Parque Tayrona FAQs
How hard is the Tayrona hike?
The main Tayrona hike is moderately difficult. It’s quite steep in places and can get slippery in rainy season. However, it’s easy to follow.
Do I need a yellow fever vaccine to enter Tayrona?
In theory, you need a Yellow Fever vaccine to enter Tayrona. However, this isn’t always checked.
Are there monkeys in Tayrona?
Yes, there are monkeys in Tayrona. Howler Monkeys, Tamarins and Capuchins all call Tayrona home.
Are there jaguars in Tayrona?
Yes, there are jaguars in Tayrona. However, they’re almost impossible to see as they avoid people.
Where to Go Next:
Santa Marta – It’s not the most pleasing city in Colombia but Santa Marta is an excellent jumping-off point for loads of locations around Colombia’s Caribbean coast, including Ciudad Perdida – Colombia’s famous lost city.
Palomino – The true backpacker hub of the Colombia Caribbean, Palomino’s unpaved roads attract more dreadlocked hippies than anywhere else in Colombia. Expect a vibrant traveller scene and a bunch of food and accommodation options in this beachside town.
Minca – Like Palomino in the mountains, Minca attracts travellers from all over the world who come for wild nature and laidback vibes!