Camping in Tayrona National Park was the main reason we visited Santa Marta in Colombia. We’d heard of its beauty, its unique scenery, and its peaceful campsites. Tayrona is in a fairly remote location and the hike to the campsite is what made it so memorable. On one side you had the jungle and directly on the other was the ocean.
Below, we’ve written our own “ultimate” guide to camping in Tayrona National Park & hope that if you ever find yourself here that our guide below will help you enjoy the camping experience.
How long to stay at Tayrona
There isn’t a time limit to how long you can camp at Tayrona but typically people will spend 1 to 2 nights. If you want to spend longer we would suggest renting the tents over the hammocks, mainly for comfort reasons or you may leave with a very sore back.
Getting To Tayrona
You have a few options for getting to Tayrona… either take a few buses OR a boat OR an expensive cab. Generally, you will leave from Santa Marta or Taganga which is a fishing port about 30minutes away.
From Santa Marta – Grab a map from Santa Marta and walk to the small bus station on the corner of Calle 11 with Carrera 11. It took us a while to find this but we just asked on every corner and eventually got there or you can listen out for the men shouting “Tayrona, Tayrona”. The bus leaves about every half an hour and will cost 6,000 COP (USD $3). Once on the bus, the trip will take about 1/1.5 hours. You shouldn’t miss the entrance (just follow the other gringos, but if in doubt, ask the driver).
Once off the bus, there is a 4km walk to reach Cañaveral, which is the start of the walk/hiking trail but we recommended taking a shared van from the entrance for 3,000 COP (USD $1).
After the short van ride, we began our hike to the campsite. If you have lots of baggage, you have the option to rent a horse, yep a horse for 30,000 COP ($10 USD). It will take you directly to the campsite.
After hiking for about 3 hours, we reached Cabo San Juan, the main campsite in Tayrona. It was one of the most enjoyable walks & every way you looked there was something to see. This whole scenery thing is really getting incredible.
From Taganga – Boats run from to Tayrona directly from Taganga. It takes approx. 1-1.5 hours. They leave fairly early in the morning (anything from 9:30 am) and usually once the boat is full, so we recommend getting there a little earlier. It is more expensive than the bus at around 35,000/40,000 COP one way (USD $12) but is the most direct route. Be prepared for a bumpy ride! On our way back, they crammed so many people on the boat there was not one empty space. Everyone was placed strategically, with the men and the front and women at the back to balance out the weight. It was quite an interesting experience and we are just glad we got back in one piece! The boats return to Taganga at 4:30 pm each day.
The entrance fee is 39,500 COP ($12 USD) for foreigners but only 15,000 COP ($4 USD) for Colombian citizens. This can be paid at the entrance. You will need your passport.
Where to Sleep in Tayrona
There are a few options when it comes to accommodation in Tayrona National Park. The most popular campsite is at Cabo San Juan. Whilst we do recommend this, keep in mind it is also the busiest and the most touristic due to the spectacular beaches so close to and directly in front of the camp. If crowds are not your thing, then camping at Cañaveral or Bukaru, although you are unable to swim at the beaches at Bukaru due to strong currents.
Options to sleep:
- Rent a Tent or bring your own
- Rent a Hammock
- Rent an Eco-Hab
We rented a double tent for 25,000 COP each ($7-8USD). The tents are already assembled so it’s convenient. They also have single sleeping tents for slightly cheaper. If you want a hammock you’ll pay 15,000 COP (USD $5). They have a large selection on the grounds but there are also hammocks available up on the cliff. Room with a view! These are the most commonly requested so it’s best to arrive slightly earlier to claim your spot. If you want the hammock on the cliff, be sure to ask specifically at the check-in.
Eco Habs are also available at Cañaveral but for an outrageous cost (as much as $400 USD a night!!) Hey, if you’ve got the money, why not? But clearly, we didn’t even entertain this idea.
Note: There is nowhere to stash your belongings when sleeping in the hammocks so bring a padlock for the lockers.
What to bring to Tayrona
- Bug Spray – Lots of it!
- Water – If you’re hiking, it doesn’t mean you need to bring water to save your life but bringing what you can carry will save you some $ inside the park. You can buy it there, it’s just slightly more expensive! 4L minimum if you’re doing the hike – it’s super humid.
- Headlamp or if your too cool for a headlamp, an iPhone light will do the trick. There are no lights at the camp after 11 pm.
- Toilet Paper – They did provide a very small amount but it’s not guaranteed so it never hurts to pack your own!
- A towel
- A lock – We were a little worried about what we would do with our valuables when we were swimming, sleeping etc so we just carried them with us everywhere, however, we did see lockers available, so bring a padlock (not too big) so you can be more at ease with your things.
- Your passport – You will need this for check in however we just had a photo of ours and that worked too.
- Cards – Once the sun goes down, there isn’t anything to do in Tayrona, don’t expect to find WiFi. Playing cards or your kindle will be enough to keep you busy for the remainder of the night until the early morning sunrise!
- Snacks – Enough to sustain you but no need to go craaaaaaaazy.
- A sheet or sleep sack (especially if you are sleeping in the tents) – The tents provide mattresses but who knows when they are washed.
- Proper walking shoes but flip flops for the showers… campground showers are always a little questionable!
- Cash – There are no ATM’s inside the park
- Warm clothes, especially if you are sleeping in the hammocks as it gets quite windy.
What not to bring to Tayrona
- Too many clothes – You’re living by the beach, who needs clothes?! All you need is a dry change of clothes, something to sleep in and swimmers.
- Too many snacks – We were told there were “no restaurants along the way” and they were “outrageously expensive” so make sure you “pack a ton of snacks”! I mean we couldn’t go hungry, could we? So what did we do? Packed an entire bag of food enough to feed the campsite alone. Let me tell you, this was not entirely true nor necessary. At most of the campsites along the way, and at the main one, Cabo San Juan, there was a restaurant. Sure, it isn’t your typical Colombian prices but it wasn’t that outrageous either. We shared the huge meals and were more than satisfied. The meals ranged from 20,000 – 30,000 COP ($6-8USD).
- Bad attitude or your thieving behaviours! Unfortunately, our friend left his shirt on a log whilst swimming and within 15 minutes, someone had snatched it. Be careful with your things and if you are alone, bring a lock to lock your things up. You can never be too careful.
What to do in Tayrona
Enjoy the scenery, swim at the beaches (however not all of them are accessible to swim due to very strong currents), snorkel at La Piscina which is a 10-minute walk from the main campsite, hike between the various beaches, make new friends at the restaurant after sundown and most of all relax! Remember doing nothing, is doing something!
Where can I leave my bags?
A lot of people asked us this question. We recommend leaving them in the town of Santa Marta. There, you can (or should be able too) leave your large bags (without valuables in them) with your hotel that you stayed with prior, or plan to stay with. Pack only what you need for the small camping trip! Make sure when you book your hotel, they allow you to do this. There really is no need to take everything with you!
Married days survived: 291