Out and about in nature is one of the few things in life that can cost literally nothing and at the same time be the most enjoyable thing you can do. All you need is a sense of adventure and some good shoes on your feet. I was close to forgetting why I chose to come to the north of Colombia and not further inland or down south where the climate is more enjoyable, but the coast is far from sight. I love the sea and the beach. Palm trees, coconuts and the breeze. Although I don’t have time for beach bummin’ everyday I know it’s right there if I ever want it. What’s great about Santa Marta is its proximity to all sorts of beautiful nature nestled along the caribbean coast. One of these gems is Tayrona National Park just an hour north-east of the city, a tropical rainforest stretching 150 sq. meters and home to some of Colombia’s most gorgeous beaches.
The park itself have two or three points of entering, but the main entrance can be found at El Zaino. We caught the bus from Santa Marta’s market (Calle 11/Carrera 11) and it took us about an hour and the cost was 7000 pesos one way. At the entrance you will have to watch a video before entering as it gives you information and guidance to the park. After, you just line up to buy your ticket at 39,500 pesos (8000 pesos if you are a student under 25 years old, bring passport and student ID) and get ready for some hiking!
Tayrona is open for entry and exit from 8 am to 5 pm every day and although we only went on a day trip the best thing to do is to pack up your camping gear and spend a night or two on one of the camp sites to get the most out of the park. Don’t forget to bring proper shoes for walking as well as food and drink supplies as it is all very limited and expensive when you get there. It can be quite a fair bit to walk with all your gear, but you can pay the locals who have mules to help you carry the weight if it gets too much.
The first stop and also the last stop for vehicles is Cañaveral. It’s a 10 minutes ride from El Zaino with a minivan and costs 3000 pesos. We decided to walk it and it took us about an hour. To be honest it’s better to take the van.It gives you more time in the actual park instead of wandering along the paved path. Once in Cañaveral the real hiking begins. Through jungle tracks with coastal views you work your way through to Arrecifes. It’ll take you about 1 1/2 hour to get there. Camp here or continue on to La Piscina, which is more or less just a nice beach to hang out at for the day, or El Cabo further along on the coast that offers sleeping in hammocks, tents or basic rooms. To walk from Cañaveral to El Cabo it’ll take you a bit more than 2 hours of walking. If you decide to spend longer in the park you can walk to El Pueblito, which is a small indigenous village further uphill in Tayrona. About 2-3 hours walk from El Cabo will get you there. Supposedly, it’s a much smaller version of the Lost City that you can hike to in the Sierra Nevadas.
It was a great day. We decided to hike to La Piscina and relax at the beach as a well deserved treat after hours of hiking. Sipping some fresh orange juice and swimming in the beautiful turquoise water made our break just right and around 2 pm we headed back towards El Zaino. Unfortunately we didn’t see any monkeys or a lot of birds, but it was still worth the walk to enjoy the nature that surrounded us. At around 4 pm we got on another bus and were heading back to Santa Marta.