A gem on the Caribbean coast. We had been looking forward to visiting Tayrona National Park throughout our travels in South America. It was to be at the end of a 4 month travel period and ‘paradise’ sounded like the ideal way for our travels around the continent to end.
The Park is a protected area on the Caribbean coastline of Colombia and is said to be the home to the best coastline in the whole of South America. The very concept that you have to hike a minimum of 3 hours through wilderness to get to it (or hire a donkey!) is what makes it special.
We were super prepared. We had all the necessary gear, pre-bought food, warm clothes for the hammock sleeping, headlamps for finding our hammocks, books and swim wear. The journey from Santa Marta to the start of the hike was easy enough and once we had watched a video at the entrance gate on park preservation we purchased our tickets and began the walk into the jungle.
Making sure we kept distance between the other hikers we managed to stay quiet enough to see much wildlife on our hike. We saw many brightly coloured lizards, frogs, huge bright blue crabs and and the critically endangered Colombian tapir!
I really enjoyed the walk and when we first had sight of the sea we felt like we had reached a paradise. Slightly jealous of the ludicrously expensive Eco huts we carried on our walk along the coastline to our camp, Cape San Juan. This is one of the few beaches in the park where it’s safe enough to swim, hence its popularity.
When we did arrive, after a fantastic walk, I was quite underwhelmed by the camp. Maybe I had high expectations, maybe I had seen too many pictures and done too much research, but I didn’t like the vibe of the place. It felt like a touristy holiday park.
We opted to stay in the high up hammocks (on top of the rocks jutting out into the ocean) as we were told there were less bugs and the view is spectacular. In reality, it was freezing cold once it got dark and the weather was unfortunately terrible so we didn’t wake up to the most incredible view.
I found the whole thing a lot of effort. The hammocks were just hammocks. There was no where to put your bags and the bathrooms were the other side of the restaurant, a ten minute walk away, making simple tasks like brushing your teeth extremely inconvenient. Also there is no kitchen available, so there’s nowhere to cook your own food.
The weather did put a downer on things, leaving us more disappointed than we would have been otherwise. But even so, we spent a lot of time reading and chilling out, we walked up and down the coastline and we treated ourselves to the restaurant meals which weren’t as overpriced as we were expecting.
The walk to the ‘Pueblito’ (little town) was quite tough on the knees but we really enjoyed it. An uphill jungle climb on huge stone rocks, some of them needing Paddy to push or pull me up, through caves and over streams for two hours ended at a cute little village. There isn’t much there beyond a few huts and native ruins but it was a fun trek and made a change to just lounging around on the beach.
We absolutely adored the iguana who came out to play and pose for pictures everyday.
Click to enlarge.
It was definitely worth the visit to the park. It is stunning and the exclusive feel you get on the journey there makes it a truly unique beach destination. It’s just a shame it doesn’t feel at all exclusive when you get to the camps…maybe I will get treated to an Eco hut next time…cough cough.
For a comprehensive guide on taking a trip to the Park we recommend reading this blog by Discovering Ice. The prices are a little out of date, so beware of inflation, but the information is thorough and prepares you well.