The most beautiful beaches I have seen in my life, period. The national park of Tayrona offers landscapes so beautiful you will start crying of happiness
How to get there
If you want to get to the park early, you will have to spend the night in a nearby town first. Your choice is between Santa Martha and Taganga. None of them is excellent but Taganga is more backpacker oriented.
From Cartagena, we took a direct shuttle to Taganga that we booked through our hostel. It was 22 dollars for 5 hours. You can also take the bus for a little cheaper but will have connections.
From Taganga, you have 3 options to get to Tayrona:
1. You can take a boat that brings you directly to cabo san juan in the middle of the park (the nicest beach) for 20 dollars.
2. You can take a bus to Santa Marta (one dollars) then another to El Zeino, the entrance of the park (4 dollars) then a third one to the parking lot (one dollar). From there you will have to walk about an hour to the first place you can camp at (Arrecifes) or 2 hours to the last (cabo san juan).
3. You can take a shuttle that brings you directly to the parking lot for 10 dollars. The rest is as in option 2.
The entrance to the park is 15 dollars.
How to move around
Taganga is very small so you can walk around town easily.
Moving in the park will involve some light hiking in the jungle. Bring closed shoes for the long first walk then do the rest in flip flops as you will want to swim in every beach you see.
La tortugua: this is where we slept in Taganga. We stayed in a dorm for 13 dollars each. The hostel is clean, has a small pool, a decent kitchen and a nice roof top bar (although it may get a bit crazy).
Our rating for this hostel is 4/5.
Don Pedro: this is where we camped in Tayrona. It’s located in Arrecifes and is the best backpacker option in the park. We paid 5 dollars for a hammock. They also serve decent food. There are other options in Arrecifes but not as good value. Note that you cannot swim in the beach there so you will have to walk before you can enjoy the beach.
If you want to spend the night in front of a beautiful beach you can swim at, you need to go in the camp in cabo san juan. This camp however is a little more expensive, their toilets are a bit crowded and you will have to walk with your gear an hour more to get there. Plus they are usually full which means you may have to walk another hour back to Arrecifes with your pack. Their hammocks perched on a rock above the ocean are however dreamy and might be worth the extra money and sweat.
Babaganoush: this amazing restaurant in Taganga served us a 3 course meal with the best steak I have eaten during this trip for 14 dollars. Very well worth the splurge, do not miss it.
Mamacocha: this cozy place in Taganga makes very good sandwiches for 3-4 dollars.
Camping food: on our way to the park, we stopped in a super market and stocked on tuna, bread, corn, bananas and peanut butter. The park has several places to eat but the food is pricey.
The walk between Arrecifes and Cabo San Juan goes through a lot of nice beaches:
Arrecifes: this long beach is not suitable for swimming but offers great views and an incredible sky at sunset.
Piscinas: these little beaches about 20 mn from Arrecifes are very good to swim.
Cabo san juan: this is the most beautiful beach I have seen in my life. Even the sand shines like gold!
Taganga has a very hippy (and not the good kind) crowd that seems to have settled there for some reason.
Tayrona has a mix crowd as it is very popular but overall people are very nice and approachable.
This small village on a beach a bit further from Tayrona is supposed to be very nice. We couldn’t go as we had booked our return shuttle before we heard of it. Make sure to check it out.
Even if you think you have seen enough beautiful beaches and jungle (we had too), you need to go to Tayrona. You have no excuse to miss it, you have been warned!