The Best Tayrona Park Hotels, Things to do, Beaches, and More

The Best Tayrona Park Hotels, Things to do, Beaches, and More

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Planning a visit to Tayrona Park, Colombia, from Santa Marta? It’s a beautiful national park in Colombia, but getting to Parque Tayrona is more expensive and complicated than you might expect! We break down the Tayrona National Nature Park entrance, getting from Santa Marta to Tayrona, things to do in Tayrona National Park, and more. 

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Colombia is proud to be the only country in South America to straddle the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, and Caribbean Sea. Yes, there are miles of coastline in this country and plenty of opportunities to see water, but not all Colombian beaches are considered equal. A Colombian friend assured us that Parque Tayrona was the best place to go for beaches in Colombia, and, after visiting the famous San Andres Island and beaches of Cartagena on an epic Colombia road trip, we have to agree.

What makes the beaches, hiking trails, and nature of Tayrona Park special can be boiled down to the fact that it’s a protected national park in Colombia. Although Colombia has lots of interesting coast line, Tayrona is unique in that development has been limited. Other coastal areas have been heavily exploited by local and national government, and infrastructure and high foot traffic inevitably changes the beach landscape. In Parque Tayrona the lack of city structure keeps the original topography maintained, and the complexity of getting into the park means each person’s experience still feels personal and solitary.

Thank you, Colombia, for preserving this original paradise so well!

 

downtown santa marta colombia directions from santa marta to tayrona park

Santa Marta to Tayrona National Park

Though often lumped in with the coastal town of Santa Marta, Tayrona National Nature Park is not actually in the Santa Marta town limits. It is the largest town near Tayrona National Park with multiple entrance and exit points, so you’ll probably be staying in a Santa Marta. Here are some handy directions on how to get to Santa Marta, and how to get from Santa Marta to Tayrona National Park.

Getting to Santa Marta:

  • By air:
    • Simon Bolivar International Airport (SMR) is the official Santa Marta airport. It is the 7th busiest airport in Colombia, and mainly services the greater Santa Marta area. Direct flights in and out of Santa Marta are provided from
      • Medellin
      • Bogota
      • Cali
      • San Andres Island
      • Bucaramanga
      • Pereira
      • Miami, U.S.A. 
    • The Simon Bolivar Airport is nearly 9 miles outside of Santa Marta. Uber is technically illegal in Colombia and harder to find around Santa Marta, so the easiest way to get to Santa Marta from the airport is by taxi. Taxis are always available from the airport entrance, and a fixed price to town should be around 25,000 COP (around $7.50)
  • By bus:
    • Cartagena: 4-6 hours, 52,000/ person (This is what we did. It’s not the cheapest option, but nice bus and includes pick up from Cartagena hotel) 
    • San Gil: 13 hours
    • Bogota: 18-20 hours
    • Medellin: 16 hours

 

Getting to Tayrona National Park

Once you’re in Santa Marta, getting to Parque Tayrona is pretty easy.

  • By private car:
    • Uber and other private car services exist in Santa Marta and your hotel can help you organize one to take you to Tayrona National Park from Santa Marta. The cost is around 100,000 COP ($30)/ person each way and will take around 45 minutes. 
  • By public bus:
    • Busses run from Santa Marta to Tayrona every 30-60 minutes (or more often. It can be hard to keep organized in Colombia.) from the main bus terminal outside of town or, more conveniently, from the Mercado Publico. Ask your Santa Marta hotel or hostel for directions on walking to the market, which shouldn’t take longer than 5 minutes. You’ll see busses marked across the front and back with their destination, and local helpers calling out city names and gesturing guests inside. We were packed like sardines into a bus headed for Tayrona National Park once we were within sight of the market, and soon on our way to the park. The bus cost 7,000 COP ($1.50) per person and takes around 1 hour.

 

Tayrona Park entrance fee Tayrona National park Colombia

Tayrona Park Entrance and Fees

The bus or car will drop you off across the street from the Tayrona Park entrance. You’ll see a gate cross a paved road with an information office on the right. Stand in line with the other park visitors at the information office to have your identity confirmed and pay the fee.

What surprised us about Tayrona Park entrance was the extreme cost to enter.

Foreigners entering Tayrona Park must provide: 

  • Passport photo and ID number 
  • 55,000 COP ($16.50) in cash 

Once you pay your fee you’ll be given a colored paper wristband, which will be checked at another gate before continuing into the park.

Just beyond the second gate is a small parking area for park shuttle vans. You see, at this point you’ve only covered the street entrance to Tayrona National Park. The real Tayrona Park entrance is still a 30-minute walk into the park. You can save the time, however, by paying 3,000 COP ($1)/ person to take the shuttle van into the park. 

 

Top 3 Things to do in Tayrona National Park

Once near the inner park entrance you have a lot of options for things to do in Tayrona National Park. Go horseback riding, hiking, swimming at La Piscina, and even camp overnight in Tayrona!

1. Horseback riding in Tayrona National Nature Park

riding a horse in tayrona national park colombia visting the colombia's caribbean coast cartagena san andres island and santa marta

Hiking from the inner Tayrona Park entrance to the first of the top three swimming areas can take around 2 hours, so many choose to ride a horse to cut down on the effort.  *When choosing to go horseback riding instead of hiking in Tayrona National Park, keep in mind that the care of these horses is under debate. If you are concerned about their welfare please ask the caretakers for details on their feedings and effort.* 

You can choose to ride a horse to the first of the three main Tayrona National Park beaches, Playa La Arenilla. The ride takes 45-50 minutes and cost 30,000 COP ($9.00).

The horseback riding trail to the Tayrona National Park beaches is a different path than most of the Tayrona National Park hike. You’ll ride over and around rocks and boulders across the interior or the park, while hikers take the long way around by the coastline.

2. Tayrona National Park Hike

Tayrona Park Hike Tayrona National Park Colombia

A 2-3 hour hike will take you to the famous Tayrona National Park beaches. The Tayrona National Park hike is pretty easy, so you’ll see plenty of hikers carrying camping gear on the backs or hiking with children with little effort.

The hike begins at the inner Tayrona Park entrance and follow around a few portable food vendors, a Tayrona National Park hotel, and winds around to follow some of the classic Tayrona National Park beaches.

Though mostly flat, the hike does occassionally follow a wooden path and steps over a few boulders. The only physical hardship for the hike is the heat and direct sunlight. Portions of the hike are underneath tree cover, but eventually you’ll be walking directly underneath strong Caribbean sun. We recommend wearing sunscreen, loose clothing, and bringing water (or buying at one of the portable vendors) to stay safe and comfortable on the hike. 

For the most part, though, this hike is simple and absolutely stunning. There’s no doubt you’ll love the picturesque scenery and appreciate the remoteness of this secluded park while walking around!

 

3. Tayrona National Park Beaches

la piscina tayrona national park colombia visting the colombia's caribbean coast cartagena san andres island and santa marta

Playa La Arenilla

Playa La Arenilla is the first main swimmable Parque Tayrona beach you’ll find whether you’re on horseback or foot. La Arenilla is a wide, open beach with little physical distinctions, making it less popular than La Piscina and Cabo de San Juan. Though not as picturesque and with a bit crazier current, La Arenilla is a great stop for people who want a more private beach experience. Plenty of people will be seen trekking back and forth to the more popular beaches, but La Arenilla provides the best spot to swim and take pictures without hoardes of other people by far!

The other thing we love about Playa La Arenilla is the food. As one of the first stops once you reach the coastline, La Arenilla is prepared to welcome sun-weary travelers with vendors selling cold drinks (even fresh squeezed juices!), freshly made ceviche, and a variety of fried arepas all made to order. Yum!

La Piscina

Pictured above, La Piscina is so called because of the bowl-shaped beach with smooth current. While many of the Tayrona beaches are too rough for swimming, La Piscina is both beautiful and calm.

A giant boulder on one side attracts those brave enough to jump into the water, and natural bungalows made of sticks welcome others who need a break from the sun. In short, La Piscina is a great Taryona Park beach to relax and take in some gorgeous scenery!

Cabo de San Juan

Cabo de San Juan is the farthest beach from the walking or horsebacking riding path, but by far the most popular. After walking an additional 30-60 minutes from La Piscina, you will be greeted at Cabo de San Juan by up to 5x as many visitors.

People are attracted to San Juan beach based on it’s incredible beauty, smooth water, restaurants and food, and Tayrona National Park hotel and camp sites. Like La Piscina, San Juan has a distinct and beautiful topography. Two pools seem to mirror each other across a narrow strip of beach, allowing for double the swim area to the many visitors.

If you’ve made the trek for just a Tayrona National Park day trip, don’t worry- there’s still plenty to enjoy even if you only have a few hours! Simply head straight to Cabo de San Juan and set out your beach gear. You can hit up a permanent restaurant for (slightly overpriced) food any time you need nourishment.

 

tayrona National Park hotel tayrona National park accommodations

Tayrona National Park Hotels

You have a number of options when choosing a Tayrona National Park accommodation. A few Tayrona hotels dot the interior of the park, as well primitive camp sites.

Fancy hotel: Villa Maria Tayrona

Villa Maria Tayrona is a 4-star hotel with an average customer rating of 4.5 stars. Set on the edge of the jungle, guests love that the large rooms overlook the ocean. Villa Maria also offers a private beach, pool, and restaurant. Rooms include air conditioning and a private bathroom. This gorgeous Tayrona hotel will allow you the most relaxation during your journey to the park!

Moderate: Ecohotel Yachay Tayrona

The Ecohotel Yachay Tayrona is a great moderately-priced Tayrona National Park accommodation. The hotel has a great view, is easy to get to, features free wifi, and is rated 4.6 stars by guests. Guests love the friendly staff, the delicious complimentary breakfast (try the authentic Colombia breakfast!), and the rooms. Depending on your price range you can get a room with a private bathroom!

Budget: La Casablanca Tayrona House

If you’re looking for where to stay in Tayrona National Park, La Casablanca Tayrona House is a great budget option! Although just around the corner from a different Tayrona Park entrance, this Tayrona hostel is still quiet. Surrounded by palm trees, jungle animals, and set away from any commercial buildings, this hostel is a great Tayrona hotel for someone looking to get near nature on a budget.

Camping Tayrona

One of the most popular Tayrona Park accommodation options is to camping. Camping Parque Tayrona is a fun, adventurous way to enjoy this beautiful, secluded park.

Those intersted in camping Parque Tayrona can rent a tent or bring in their own camp gear for primitive camping. There are multiple camp sites in the park, and you are required to stay in a designated zone. Wilderness camping is prohibited. Camp sites at the majority of accessible beaches in Tayrona Park will cost between 10-15,000 COP ($3-$4.50) if you bring you own gear, and 20 – 25,000 COP ($6-$7.50) if you rent an available tent. The most expensive and popular Tayrona Park camping sites are at Cabo de San Juan. Follow this guide on Camping in Tayrona for more specific information on where you are allowed to camp inside the park.

 

Traveling around Colombia? 

Colombia is a country on the brink of a tourist take over. You can easily spend weeks and months exploring from coast to coast and love every minute of it. Follow these travel guides to make the most of your time in this beautiful country!