The ultimate guide to visiting Tayrona National Park

A journey along the Caribbean coast of Colombia is incomplete without a visit to Tayrona National Park. Here, you'll discover stunning beaches, dense jungles, and an abundance of wildlife. It's no wonder that this is by far the most visited national park in Colombia. However, a visit to Tayrona National Park requires some preparation, as there are numerous choices to make and factors to consider. To make the most of your visit to Tayrona, this article provides you with all the information and tips you need!

From where to visit Tayrona National Park?

When planning a visit to Tayrona National Park, it's crucial to decide where you'll stay the night before. You can opt to stay in Santa Marta and take a bus or taxi to the park's entrance in the morning, which takes about an hour.

However, we recommend staying close to Tayrona National Park. This way, you won't have to travel far in the morning, allowing you to arrive at the entrance early and avoid the crowds. There are many nice hotels near the entrance, or you can choose to stay by the beach. Just east of Tayrona National Park, about a 15-minute drive away, you'll find several pleasant accommodations by the beach.

In the center of Santa Marta, local buses depart from a small bus stop behind the central market (Mercado Central), fairly close to the city center. You can find the exact location here. Buses operate from early morning until 6:00 PM. They depart when the bus is reasonably full, typically with a waiting time of 15 to 30 minutes. You can ask the bus to stop near your accommodation, so make sure to pay attention to your location when you're approaching.

The entrances of Tayrona National Park

Tayrona National Park has two official entrances: El Zaino and Calabazo. El Zaino serves as the main entrance and is utilized by almost everyone entering the park. The trails here are well-maintained, and it is close to the most beautiful beaches. If you're planning a day trip to Tayrona National Park, this is undoubtedly the best entrance to take. From Calabazo, you'll need to hike longer through the jungle to reach popular attractions. Additionally, if you plan to stay overnight in Tayrona National Park, El Zaino is the preferred entrance as you can reserve a tent or hammock for the night. This is not possible at Calabazo, but more on that later.

Both entrances are located along the main road and are easily accessible. If you are dropped off at Tayrona National Park by a (motor)taxi, they will assume you are heading to El Zaino. If you intend to enter the park through Calabazo, be sure to communicate this clearly.

Entrance fee Tayrona National Park

The entrance fee is increased every year, and there is a separate fee for the high and low seasons. The entrance fees in 2024 are:

High season (December-February) and national holidays: 73,500 COP (approximately 19 USD)

Low season: 62,000 COP (approximately 16 USD)

In addition, you are required to purchase mandatory insurance for the park, even if you have travel insurance. The cost for this is 10,000 COP (a little over 2 USD).

Opening hours Tayrona National Park

The opening hours of Tayrona National Park depend on the entrance you choose.

El Zaino
Entrance: 7 AM to 12 PM
Exit: 2 PM to 5 PM

Entrance: 7 AM to 11 AM
Exit: 1 PM to 3 PM

Additionally, it's essential to know that Tayrona National Park closes its doors to travelers for several weeks each year. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, the park is home to various indigenous tribes. During the periods when the park is closed, they can perform certain rituals without being disturbed by tourists. Moreover, it provides an opportunity for maintenance, such as trail upkeep, and allows the natural environment to recover from the influx of visitors. The park implemented this practice for the first time in 2017, and the immediate positive impact on the environment was notable.

In our opinion, this approach is commendable. It's essential to take this into account when planning your trip.

Closure dates for 2024
February 1 to February 15
June 1 to June 15
October 19 to November 2

As far as we can ascertain, the closure dates in 2024 are the same as in 2023. We regularly check for updates and will revise the article if there are any changes.

Best time to visit Tayrona National Park

The majority of rainfall in Colombia occurs from May to October, and Tayrona National Park is no exception. Due to the tropical climate, short but intense rain showers can also occur outside of this period.

More crucial than considering the rainy season is planning your visit to Tayrona National Park around weekends and national holidays. Colombians often have extended weekends as many national holidays fall on a Monday. During these times, they frequently embark on family outings within the country, leading to potentially high visitor numbers.

Make sure to arrive at the park entrance early in the morning. The park gates open at 07 AM, but there is often a significant line by then. If you want to be among the first to enter, consider arriving around 06 AM. We recommend being at Tayrona National Park by 08 AM at the latest to get ahead of most tourists.

How many days in Tayrona National Park?

We recommend staying at least one night in Tayrona National Park. This allows you the time to explore not only the most touristy areas but also the less-visited spots and embark on an exciting jungle hike. A day trip to Tayrona is certainly possible, but you'll only cover the busiest route. Below, we further discuss the best route through the park, depending on the number of days you plan to spend there.

What are the distances between the highlights?

This is the starting point of the hike to Cabo San Juan beach. From the El Zaino entrance, it's a 10-minute shuttle ride or a 1-hour walk.

This is the first beautiful beach you encounter during the hike. Unfortunately, due to the strong currents, swimming is not allowed here. It's about an hour's walk from CaƱaveral to Arrecife.

La Piscina
This beach is called 'La Piscina,' the pool, because it resembles a natural pool surrounded by numerous rocks. With fewer people compared to Cabo San Juan, it's a good spot if you want a quieter beach experience. It takes 20 to 30 minutes to walk from Arrecife.

Cabo San Juan
This is the most famous beach in Tayrona National Park and consequently, it is the busiest. Large rocks encircle two small bays, and the water has little to no current, making it ideal for swimming and snorkeling. On weekends and holidays, it can get crowded, especially with locals. To have the beach more to yourself, it's advisable to arrive early. It takes 20 to 30 minutes to walk from La Piscina.

Playa Nudista (Nude Beach)
This is a beautiful beach with fewer visitors, offering a chance to escape the crowds of Cabo San Juan. It is also an option for nude swimming, although swimming with swimwear is allowed. It's a 15-minute walk from Cabo San Juan.

Pueblito is an indigenous village in the national park. Unfortunately, visiting this village is no longer possible. The indigenous tribe does not want tourists in their village, likely because it was significantly impacting their way of life. You will pass the entrance to the village during your hike towards Playa Brava or Calabazo. We also saw two indigenous girls walking through the jungle near the village. It's slightly less than a 2-hour walk from both Cabo San Juan and Playa Nudista to Pueblito.

Playa Brava
From Pueblito, you can decide whether to go to Playa Brava or skip this beach and walk to the Calabazo exit. Being more secluded, this beach is quieter. Swimming is possible here, but caution is needed during high waves. It's about a 1.5-hour walk from Pueblito to Playa Brava.

From Pueblito and Playa Brava, you can exit Tayrona National Park through the Calabazo exit. It's about a 2-hour walk from Pueblito and approximately 3 hours from Playa Brava.

Visiting Tayrona National Park in 1 day

If you want to visit Tayrona National Park in 1 day, follow the busiest route from the El Zaino entrance to Cabo San Juan. Along the way, you'll pass by the beaches Arrecife and La Piscina. From the entrance, you can take a shuttle to the start of the hike in 10 minutes. From there, it's about a 2-hour walk to Cabo San Juan if you don't make any stops along the way. Make sure to arrive early at the park so you have enough time to relax at the beaches and take a swim. In the late afternoon, you'll walk back the same route to the El Zaino entrance. You need to exit the park by 5 PM.

Visiting Tayrona National Park in 2 days

If you spend a night in Tayrona National Park, you can take things at a more relaxed pace. There are various options for accommodation. After 5 PM, all day visitors leave the park, creating a much calmer atmosphere. This provides a perfect opportunity to enjoy the beautiful sunset from one of the beaches. Find a comfortable spot on a rock and soak in the view! The next morning, you can listen to the jungle come alive during the sunrise. On the following day, you can either walk back to El Zaino or decide to hike towards the other exit.

Visiting Tayrona National Park in 3 days

If you want to extend your stay in the national park, you can choose to sleep for two nights. This allows you to take the hike to Playa Brava, the most secluded part of Tayrona National Park. You'll encounter fewer tourists here, and the trail is more challenging than the others. The only accommodation available in this area is Ecolodge Playa Brava Teyumakke. You cannot book this at the park entrance, and due to the limited options in this section of Tayrona National Park, it tends to get fully booked quickly. Therefore, it's advisable to make reservations well in advance online if you plan to stay here.

Staying overnight in Tayrona National Park

If you want to stay overnight in Tayrona National Park, you can arrange this right before the El Zaino entrance. This way, you secure a place to sleep and eliminate the risk of it being fully booked. Regarding overnight options in the park, there are several choices: a tent, a hammock, or a bungalow/cottage. Additionally, there are a few more luxurious accommodations within the park.

Most people stay near the beaches of Arrecifes and Cabo San Juan. The largest and most visited camping site is located at Cabo San Juan. While some may find it a bit too crowded, it is the best place if you want to witness the sunrise at the most beautiful beach in the park. Another option is sleeping at El Mirador, the cottage you see at Cabo San Juan. There are 50 hammocks lined up here. If you want to wake up with the best view, this is the place to be. Keep in mind that it can be windy, and nights can get quite cool in Tayrona National Park.

We stayed in a small, simple hut at EcoCamping LUI, near the beach of Arrecifes. It's recommended because there are few other travelers around, and it feels like you are in the heart of the jungle.

Packing list for Tayrona National Park

To make your preparations for Tayrona National Park as easy as possible, we've created a packing list. Not in Colombia yet? Also, check out our packing list for Colombia to ensure you don't forget anything before your departure.

  • Your passport (You need to show it at the entrance. A copy is sufficient.)
  • Good shoes
  • Turkish towel (hamamdoek)
  • Swimwear
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat/cap
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • Rain gear or poncho
  • Blister plasters
  • Power bank
  • Camera
  • Toilet paper
  • Adequate water
  • Snacks
  • Sufficient clothing (if you're staying overnight in the park)
  • Warm clothing for the night (if you're staying overnight in the park)
  • Toiletries (if you're staying overnight in the park)
  • Sleeping bag liner (if you're staying overnight in the park)
  • Padlock/small lock (for lockers at your accommodation)
  • Headlamp (if you're staying overnight in the park)

Do you want to read more about Colombia?

See all our articles with the best tips to discover all beautiful places in Colombia.

Do you want to read more about Colombia?

See all our articles with the best tips to discover all beautiful places in Colombia.

About the authors

How nice that you are on our website and that you have read this article! We are Mirte and Matthew, two Dutch adventurers with a passion for traveling, discovering cultures, and gaining new experiences. We've translated our love for the world into this website. We hope our articles inspire you to go on adventures! You can learn more about us through the button below.
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram