If you’re reading this then you’ve probably already heard something about Tayrona National Natural Park, Colombia’s beautiful tropical gem located on the Caribbean coast.
While being overcrowded and over-visited during some parts of the year Tayrona is still very much worth a visit for its incredible beaches, lush jungle hiking, indigenous culture and a chance to sleep in a hammock right on the beach to the sound of the waves.
Two days is the ideal amount of time to visit Tayrona National Natural Park and to get a glimpse of its incredible flora and fauna. After visiting the park twice already, I’ve finally worked out the perfect two-day active itinerary for Tayrona National Park.
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I should mention here if you are new to Roam & Thrive that we focus on active and wellness travel. That being said this itinerary is the perfect mix of at times steep jungle trekking as well as relaxing on the beach. Please note that there are parts of Tayrona National Park, that this itinerary takes in that are quite steep and therefore I would recommend this itinerary for those that have a good level of physical fitness.
I did this itinerary entirely solo and would also recommend this to any solo traveller.
Not sure what to pack or how to get to the park? Click here for the Essential Guide to Tayrona National Park.
HOW TO GET TO TAYRONA NATIONAL NATURAL PARK
Most visitors come to Tayrona National Natural Park from Santa Marta, Taganga or Palomino.
By bus – From Santa Marta, Transport Terminal take any bus towards Palomino or Riohacha and get off at Tayrona/El Zaino. You can also get a local bus too from the ‘Mamatoco’ roundabout which traverses the Caribbean coastal road every 15 minutes.
Get off at Tayrona or get dropped off at your hostel. Many hostels in Santa Marta can also arrange private transfers and tours to Tayrona so ask at your accommodation. From Barranquilla take a bus to Santa Marta first. From Palomino simply flag down a local bus on the main highway going towards Santa Marta and get off at Tayrona.
By boat – it’s possible to get into the heart of Tayrona National Park by boat from Taganga. Boats leave Taganga beach between 10-11 am every morning and drop you off right in the heart of the park, at Cabo San Juan beach. For the return ride, make sure to be at Cabo San Juan between 4-5 pm and look out for the guys shouting out for passengers back to Taganga. If you’re not interested in staying in Taganga as it does have a pretty grimy reputation nowadays, it’s only a 20-minute bus or taxi ride back to Santa Marta.
By moto-taxi – If you’re staying relatively close to Tayrona National Park, moto-taxi is also a great and cheap option to get to the park entrance. Simply ask your accommodation to call one for you. I would highly recommend you stay in one of the many hostels or lodges close to the entrance of the park before visiting. This will ensure you get in early, which is crucial for a tranquil experience, especially during the high season.
WHAT TO PACK/BRING
Head torch – essential for bathroom trips in the middle of the night and walking around after dark. Many accommodations don’t have electricity or it’s very minimal. Shop mine here.
Bikini/Swimwear – you are at the beach after all.
Walking shoes/ Trainers – You’ll be doing a lot of walking so comfortable shoes are a must but hiking boots aren’t needed. Shop my favourite warm-weather hiking boots here.
Travel towel – For bringing to the beach and for evening showers. Shop my beach/travel towel here
Rain jacket & waterproof backpack cover – The weather in Tayrona National Natural Park is extremely varied and a rainstorm can hit you at any time. Shop my rainjacket here.
Snacks – Stock up on snacks before entering such as mixed nuts, dried fruit and bananas. My go-to snacks are these GoMacro bars. You can’t buy them in Colombia but you can stock up before leaving home.
Water – fill up your water bottle before you come into the park and then fill-up at various restaurants and vendors as you go. Click here for the ultimate water bottle that filters through 99.9% of bacteria, meaning you can refill it anywhere- even from the Tayrona rivers.
Bug Spray – At certain times of the year mosquitos can be a real nuisance and so are the sand flies. To ward off sand flies just apply a thick layer of coconut oil to your skin- works like a dream! The worst time for mosquitos is during the rainy season so when visiting then make sure to bring repellant. Shop bug spray here – I’m normally all for the natural stuff but it doesn’t work here in the Colombia jungle.
Toiletries – make sure to bring the basics you need for one or a couple of nights.
Sunscreen – for those hot, shade-less beach hours. If you intend to go swimming make sure you’re sunscreen is ecological and reef-friendly. Shop my favourite vegan and reef-safe sunscreen here.
Hand-sanitizer + tissues – not all the campsites have well-stocked bathroom amenities so it’s always better to have a few of your own.
Battery pack – As most accommodations have limited or no electricity there’s almost no chance of you charging personal items. If you’re using your phone throughout the day for photos and videos, make sure to bring a backup battery pack to charge it ready for the next day’s adventures. Shop mine here.
MORNING – ENTRANCE TO PLAYA BRAVA
Start at 8 am at the Calabazo entrance of the park.
Continue up from the highway and pay your entrance and begin the trek to Playa Brava, the park’s most isolated and quiet beach.
Playa Brava is one of Tayrona’s most beautiful beaches and it remains extremely uncrowded due to the tough trek it takes to get there.
From the road, it will take you about three hours on the long and winding path, through thick jungle, past indigenous villages and along jungle streams. You won’t be able to experience thick jungle-like this anywhere else in Tayrona and it feels like such an authentic experience, listening to the unique jungle noises.
On arrival at Playa Brava, check in to the accommodation for the night Playa Brava Teyumakke (this can be booked via Booking.com prior to your arrival, and I recommend you do so due to it filling up fast).
This property has lovely but simple cabins right on the beach, ensuring pure rest and relaxation. You can also book a hammock too.
AFTERNOON – RELAX ON PLAYA BRAVA
For the rest of the day relax on Playa Brava and enjoy your surroundings. The best things to do here are a stroll down the long beach and take photos, relax in a hammock and read a book and even sunbathe. You can also walk to a pretty jungle waterfall nearby too, which takes just 25 minutes following a dried-up riverbed.
There is barely any wifi here so make sure to bring something to keep you occupied offline.
Playa Brava Teyumakke serves dinner from 6 pm in their restaurant which is quite a communal affair and a great opportunity to meet some other travellers. The food is nothing to rave about but they are filling- perfect post-trek. There is always a vegetarian option, which could be made vegan depending on what it is.
Note that there is barely any electricity after dark and it’s used just to light the communal/dinner area. For reading and everything else after dark bring a headlamp. Shop mine here.
MORNING – PLAYA BRAVA TO CABO SAN JUAN
Have breakfast and leave at 7.30 am (or even earlier) for Cabo San Juan beach. Due to the popularity of this beach try to get there as soon as possible, before all the day-trippers arrive.
The trek will take you up and over the high hills of Tayrona, through the jungle and back to Pueblito (ancient pre-Colombian ruins in the park) and down again to the beaches. Keep beaching hopping along until you get to Cabo San Juan.
Once there, enjoy and take in one of the most beautiful beaches on this entire coastline. Relax, take photos and make the most of the swimming-friendly waters.
AFTERNOON – BEACH HOP AND LEAVE TAYRONA
After enjoying an early lunch in the restaurant at Cabo San Juan, continue on towards the rest of the beaches. From Cabo San Juan, it’s a solid 2-hour walk to the main car park inside the park where you can get a minibus that will take you to the entrance for $3,000.
Bearing in mind that the park closes at 5 pm, spend the rest of the afternoon beach hopping and enjoying all the beaches along the way to the car park which include La Piscinita (another beach great for swimming), Arrecifes and Cañaveral.
Just make sure to get to the main entrance before the park closed at 5 pm. To be on the safe side, I’d recommend being back at the shuttle bus park at around 4 pm.
Once at the main El Zaino entrance, you can take a moto-taxi, private shuttle, or public bus on to your next destination.
Any comments or questions about this Tayrona National Natural Park Itinerary? Leave them below, I’d love to hear from you!
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