With its dreamy beaches the Tayrona National Park is one of the most beautiful destinations in Colombia. In this guide I tell you my personal tips in order to explore the Tayrona National Park beaches in the best way possible (Last update: May'2023).
If you ask Colombians about the most impressive places to visit in their country, 99% of the time they will answer “El Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona”. The park's popularity is second to none resulting in high demand.
Therefore it is important to plan your stay well in order to avoid the crowds and still see the most beautiful corners of the park. In this post, I'll tell you how to do it.
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1) Best time to visit the Tayrona National Park Beaches
When planning a visit to the Tayrona National Park you should consider two things: the rush on public holidays / local holiday season as well as the seasonal weather differences. I was exploring the park at the beginning of June. At that time we had good weather and little crowds, especially since our accommodation (in the park) allowed us to be on the beaches of the Tayrona National Park before the day visitors.
In terms of crowds you should definitely avoid the following periods: mid-December to mid-January, mid-June to mid-July, Easter and public holidays in general. In terms of weather, May, September and October are considered the worst months. This results in the months of March, April, the beginning of June, as well as the beginning of December and the end of January as the best travel time for your visit to the Tayrona National Park. Since the park is extremely popular with locals try to avoid the weekends in general.
Please note: every year in February, June, October and November (2 weeks each) the entire park is temporarily closed, so you should look for an alternative for these periods (see below). The closure of the park is intended to give the indigenous people and nature time to breathe.
Opening Hours: daily from 07:00 to 17:00, last entry at 12:00. I recommend being at the entrance before 7am.
Use the following overview to plan your visit to the Tayrona National Park Beaches:
|February||Low||Low||from February 16th|
|June||Medium||Medium-High||from June 16th|
|October||High||Low||until October 18th|
|November||Medium||Low||from November 3rd|
2) Hiking routes & map of the park
In order to properly explore the Tayrona National Park you need a certain level of fitness as the beaches can only be reached via hiking trails. Only the first section from the main entrance to the EcoHabs/Car Park is connected by road. In total, you should estimate around 2-3 hours of hiking for the route from the parking lot to Cabo San Juan (the postcard motif). Since the hike there and back alone takes up to 6 hours, I advise against a day trip.
With a longer stay in the park you can enjoy the most beautiful corners of the park before the day tourists and have enough time to explore the lesser-known spots. This way we used the first day to swim in “La Piscinita” and went on a small hike to the viewpoint of Playa Canaveral. The spots that are a little off Cabo San Juan are much less frequented and therefore more idyllic.
Since I'm more the visual type, I made my own map in which I marked the most important hiking trails and sights. The numbers on the map correspond to the sights and Tayrona National Park Beaches featured in the next section:
3) Sights & Best Beaches in the Tayrona National Park
Picture perfect beaches combined with jungle scenery is what draws most visitors to the park. However, the reality is a little different: the beach of Cabo San Juan has now become the go-to Instagram hotspot in the country and triggered a real boom. As beautiful as this beach is the crowds here are reminiscent of tourist hotspots such as Barcelona or Rome.
However, don't get me wrong: Tayrona National Park is incredibly impressive and the beaches are gorgeous. As in Europe you should concentrate on the spots located a bit off the beaten path. This way you will still find the idyllic beauty the Tayrona National Park is famous for. Make sure to treat nature and the locals with respect: keep your footprint as small as possible, observe the park rules and do your part to preserve this beautiful park.
If you stay overnight you can enjoy the park with fewer people. Due to our accommodation inside the park limits we were able to go on the hike right after sunrise and explore all the beaches almost by ourselves. Even at Cabo San Juan there were still relatively little crowds when we arrived.
Please note: due to dangerous currents, swimming at most Tayrona National Park beaches is life-threatening and has claimed hundreds of lives. If you want to swim, please only do so in the areas explicitly designated for this!
a) Playa Arrecifes
This long beach is the first one you come across on your hike starting from the main entrance after about 1 hour. At the beginning of Arrecifes is also the first large, well-equipped campsite. As beautiful as this wide beach may be, swimming is prohibited here (besides currents there are crocodiles!).
Approximately in the middle of the beach a small river flows into the sea which has formed a small, idyllic lagoon. If you are lucky, you can see crocodiles here which also means that you should be cautious in this area!
b) La Piscina (swimming allowed)
In my opinion La Piscona is the best choice among the well-known beaches along the way to Cabo San Juan if you want to swim & relax. La Piscina is located only one bay after Arrecifes – in between is Playa Arenilla where swimming is also forbidden.
Due to its distance to Cabo San Juan the general vibe is relatively relaxed here, with a much smaller crowd. Not to be confused with ‘La Piscinita' (see below).
c) Cabo San Juan (swimming allowed)
As previously mentioned this is the center of interest and by far the most popular of all Tayrona National Park beaches. Thank you Instagram. Truth is: the scenery is really fantastic due to the fact that two beautiful bays with crystal clear water and white sandy beaches meet here…and swimming is allowed.
From midday onwards, however, it gets quite crowded here in the popular months. Reason being is the tourist infrastructure (restaurant, campsite) and a direct boat transfer from Santa Marta. On the vantage point you not only have a fantastic view of the bay, you can also spend the night in hammocks (which we used for a little nap during the day).
My recommendation: if you want to escape the crowds, you should come as early as possible, take some nice photos and then focus on the quieter corners of the park.
d) Playa Nudista
Punta Piedra and Playa Nudista are located only about 10-15 minutes walk from Cabo San Juan. As the name suggests this is a nudist beach. But that shouldn't put you off: naturism isn't compulsory, most visitors don't do it and just enjoy the peace and quiet away from the hustle and bustle.
e) La Piscinita (swimming allowed)
This small stretch of beach is located directly below the EcoHabs at the beginning of the park and thus a little off the main path. Usually it only gets busier in the afternoon.
We relaxed and swam here for a few hours on our arrival day before we went on a little sunset hike.
f) Playa Canaveral
The previously mentioned sunset hike took us along the wide Canaveral beach, which, apart from the previously described bay (La Piscinita), is not suitable for swimming. We were completely alone in this section of the park and were able to fully enjoy the wild beach in combination with the sunset mood.
g) Mirador (viewpoint) & Nueve Piedras hike
Another insider tip that we had completely to ourselves after the walk along Playa Canaveral was the vantage point that is part of the “Nueve Piedras” mini circular hike. The Mirador is located above the beach and offers a fantastic view over the entire beach section including the jungle landscape behind it.
If you stay in a Hotel inside the Parque Tayrona (see below) like we did, you can watch the sunset from here. If not, keep an eye on the time to catch the last shuttle. The walk from the viewpoint back to the shuttle bus parking lot takes about 20-30 minutes. For the “Nueve Piedras” circular hike, which is marked on site, you should calculate about 1 hour.
4) Accommodation in Tayrona National Park
To get the most out of your visit to Tayrona National Park I recommend spending 1-2 nights in the park. This is the only way to enjoy the most popular Tayrona National Parke beaches in the morning and evening in peace (day visitors must leave the park by 5pm). You have the choice of camping, bungalows or small hotels.
The cheapest way to stay is, unsurprisingly, in a tent or hammock at one of the designated campsites (wild camping is strictly prohibited!). You can even reserve some of them online. Due to the high demand, I recommend being at the main entrance as early as possible to make a reservation for the camps that don't offer a booking system:
- Camping Castilletes – is a bit off the beaten path, halfway between the park entrance and the shuttle bus parking lot. Hammock from €8, tent from €10 p.P.
- Camping Arrecifes – located right next to the beach of the same name, it made the best impression of all the camps. The large complex is well maintained and much more recommendable than the surrounding campsites in the area. Hammock (with mosquito net) from €10, tent from €15 p.P.
- Camping San Juan – is as expected the most popular and crowded of all campsites, especially in the high season I would avoid this campsite. Hammock from €10 or €14 (at the viewpoint), tent from €11 p.P.
There are also a limited number of bungalows/cabanas at the campsites, but these are relatively expensive. Make sure to book in advance!
- Camping Castilletes – the rooms make a good impression and each have their own bathroom. Double room from €40, 4-bed room from €55. Unfortunately the management seems to have let up a lack of attention when it comes to maintanance lately, therfore I recommend the next option.
- Cabanas Arrecifes – as mentioned this complex makes the best impression and offers the fairest prices, the bungalows are quite large and can be booked from €20. Therfore this spot is my personal tip for bungalows in the Tayrona National Park.
- Camping San Juan – offers very simple huts for the exorbitant price of 55 €. Rather not recommended.
Hotels in the Tayrona National Park
Contrary to many websites and advertisements on the relevant booking platforms, there are only a handful of hotels within the park. Below I list the best options directly in the park and I strongly advise you to book in advance because of demand. If you reserve via Booking you often even get better prices with early bird and Genius discounts.
- Hotel Jasayma Parque Tayrona (my choice) – this hotel was our pick for a total of 2 nights and is one of the cheapest Tayrona National Park Hotels located within the limits of the park. The house is a few minutes' walk behind the park entrance; if necessary, the shuttle buses will make a short stop here. The manager & staff are very accommodating and will help you get the most out of your stay at the park (there is even a map of the park with places of interest painted on the house wall!). The dishes prepared here are very tasty and a good opportunity to meet other travelers while sipping cocktails to the sounds of the jungle. The rooms are on the 1st floor of the building, which is open to one side (there are mosquito nets). The bathrooms are in the garden. Altogether a great option to stay in the middle of the jungle (it's best to book 2-3 nights!). Payment only in cash on site, so take enough cash with you. Overnight stay in a double room including breakfast for 2 people from €49.
- Hostal Zirumake (NEW in 2023) – This hostel is located near the Jasayma Hotel and has just opened. The value for money is unbeatable, you can choose from a handful of small bungalows, breakfast is included in the price, too. A stay in a double room (shared bathroom) including breakfast for 2 people from €26.
- Ecohotel Yachay Tayrona – Located more or less across from Hotel Jasayma, this Tayrona National Park Hotel is slightly more luxurious (most rooms are ensuite) and offers a beautiful garden. In terms of price, however, the Ecohotel Yachay cannot compete with the Jasayma. A stay in a double room including breakfast for 2 people from €89.
- Ecohabs Bamboo Tayrona (NEW in 2023) – also this one is a new addtion to the Tayrona National Park Hotels within the park limits. It just opened its doors and is located in the same area of the Tayrona National Park as the previous tips. However, the equipment of the bungalows is a bit more upscale (air conditioning), especially as far as the bathroom is concerned (whirlpool). Overnight stay in a double room including breakfast for 2 people from €100.
- Ecohabs Tequendama Playa Cañaveral (Luxury) – if you are looking for something very special, the EcoHabs are the right pick. As previously mentioned, these are right at the start of the hiking trail that leads to all the Tayrona National Park beaches. The location and luxury of the Ecohabs is unique in the park and guarantees an unforgettable time. Overnight stay in a double room including breakfast for 2 people from €160 with an early bird discount (via Booking).
Budget friendly options outside of the Park limits
Around the main entrance there are numerous cheap accommodations of all kinds. This is not only a good option for those who could not get hold of affordable accommodation in the park. If you only have time for a day trip but want to be in the park first thing in the morning, this is the best choice for you.
5) Costeño Beach – the alternative destination to Tayrona National Park
One of my tips for the date the Tayrona National Park is closed or to crowded is to head over to Costeño Beach. This beautiful beach is only 10 minutes from the park and has a small number of hostels and small resorts. In contrast to the Tayrona National Park, things are still very tranquil and relaxed here, but the scenery is quite similar.
Especially when the park is closed, it is advisable to spend 1-2 days here for pure relaxation. Otherwise, you can also combine your visit to the park with a stay here, since the main entrance can be reached easily by moto taxi.
We stayed at Tayrona Tented Lodge (Costeno Beach) and I can highly recommend it. The accommodation is a little more comfortable than the surrounding hostels. The bungalows are large enough for 2-3 people, have their own bathroom and include full board. The staff is friendly and the location is fantastic (right by the beach, also there's a cool bar next door). The package makes it a great deal. Highly recommended!
Colombia offers a rich variety of sights that are difficult to see if you are short on time. If you want to see as much as possible or if it's your first trip to this part of the world and you have some doubts, a guided tour might be the right pick for you.
Having worked with G Adventures in Peru, Costa Rica, and Cuba, I highly recommend the small-group tours. Particularly because of the focus on sustainable, responsible travel. The philosophy of focusing primarily on small local businesses alings perfectly with my travel philosophy. The following packages include a visit to Tayrona National Park:
- Caribbean Colombia Express(8 days) This tour focuses on the highlights of the Caribbean coast with Cartagena, Santa Marta, Minca and Tayrona NP. Hotels, meals, transfers, admission to Tayrona, guided hikes and guides are all included.
- Colombian Culture, Caribbean & Lost City (22 days): This is a big tour of Colombia that includes the capital Bogota, the coffee region, Salento, Medellin, Cartagena, Santa Marta, Minca and the Tayrona National Park, as well as the multi-day trek to the Ciudad Perdida! The tour price includes transfers, domestic flights, hotels, camps (hike), meals, entrance fees, guided hikes and guides.
- Colombia's Caribbean Coast & Lost City (14 days): This is a combination of the following destinations: Cartagena, Santa Marta, Minca, the Tayrona National Park, as well as the multi-day trek to Ciudad Perdida! The tour price includes transfers, hotels, camps (hike), meals, entrance fees, guided hikes and guides.
7) Transport & Admission
Tayrona National Park is located right next to Santa Marta, it's only an hour's drive from downtown to the park's entrance.
From the airport in Santa Marta – it is best to take a taxi to the corner of Calle 11 & Carrera 11 in Santa Marta, from there there is a regular bus service to the main entrance of Tayrona National Park (El Zaino). Look for the sign in the windscreen, it should read “Parque Tayrona” or something similar. The journey costs the equivalent of 2€.
From Santa Marta – it is best to walk to the corner of Calle 11 & Carrera 11 and take the bus as described above.
Private Transfer – if you want to be independent and more comfortable you can also take a taxi from Santa Marta. The ride to the park entrance costs around 10€.
Transport inside the Park – from the main entrance to the main trail you can either take a shuttle (1€) or walk the 4km on the road. We did both and saw monkeys in the trees on our way back, otherwise not too much to see on this section.
Admission: There is a fee of €16 (low season) or €20 (high season) for foreign tourists.
8) My Video
As in the other articles in my Colombia series ( Cartagena , Medellin , Bogota and Cali ), I have also processed my tips for the Tayrona National Park in video form. In addition to the sights mentioned here, I also explore other highlights in the region around Santa Marta in this video:
More tips regarding the Tayrona National Park Beaches?
Have you been to Colombia yourself? What other recommendations & tips for Tayrona National Park Beaches do you know? If you have any recommendations that definitely belong here: let me know![divider] Disclosure: This Guide to the Tayrona National Park Beaches is filled with helpful tips but also contains Affiliate Links for services and products I’m using on my travels. Therefore I can highly recommend them. By using these links you won’t pay any additional fees. All recommendations, tips, opinions, and ironic remarks are, as always, my own.