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Three weeks ago I was lucky enough to spend some time in the Parque Natural Nacional de Tayrona on Colombia’s Carribbean coast. I first heard of it when it was featured in a Top 10 Beaches list in the Guardian a few years back, and within hours of arriving in Colombia, fellow travellers began talking about it as one of the places to see whilst here.

La Piscina, Tayrona

And, of course, they were dead right – it’s a wonderful place; wild, beautiful, unspoilt, unique and utterly charming. If you are in Colombia it should definitely be on your list and to help you here are some tips based on our experiences there to help you get the most from your visit:

  • a bus from Santa Marta to the park entrance costs 5000COP – if you are staying at the wonderful Dreamer Hostel, you can pick the bus up from the main road a couple of blocks away
  • entrance to the park costs 34000COP for non-Colombians, 12000COP for the locals
  • from the entrance a minibus to the start of the trail costs 2000COP
  • there are 3 official places to stay – Canaveral, El Paraiso (Arrecifes) and Cabo San Juan plus a private campsite about 10 minutes walk from Arrecifes
  • only Arrecifes and Cabo San Juan are actually on a beach, and it’s only safe to swim at Cabo San Juan (a sign at Arrecifes reminds you of this by telling you over 200 people have drowned there!)
  • Arrecifes is roughly an hour from the start of the trail, Cabo San Juan another 45 mins from there – both trails are rough and involves a fair bit of scrambling and clambering
  • prices for Cabo San Juan are 15000COP with your own tent or hammock, 20000COP to rent a tent or hammock, 25000COP to rent a hammock in the outlook, 50000COP in a room in the outlook (all per person, per night)

The Outlook, Cabo San Juan

  • having spoken to 3 people who slept in the outlook it can get very windy and cold at night, take a sleeping bag if you can or just try it for one night and see how you get on!
  • food is available at both Arrecifes and Cabo San Juan, but is expensive – 8000COP for a breakfast, 20000-30000COP for a lunch or dinner
  • the best swimming is at La Piscina between Arrecifes and Cabo San Juan
  • the sun is STRONG – wear sunblock at all times – especially when swimming / snorkelling (this is from painful personal experience!!)
  • keep an eye out for the blue landcrabs in the last 200 metres before getting to Cabo San Juan
  • bring a torch / flashlight and mosquito repellent
  • there is a boat to Taganga which leaves at 2pm and costs 40000COP, otherwise you have to walk back and get either a taxi or the bus back to Santa Marta

I think that’s about it – the most important thing is plenty of money – it was more expensive than we were expecting (and we’d been told it was not cheap) and we had to leave a day earlier than planned because of this. These tips are all personal opinions and the prices are correct as of March 2010 when we visited. I really cannot recommend Tayrona enough, it is absolutely amazing and unspoilt place and a highlight of any trip to Colombia!