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TAYRONA NATIONAL PARK, SANTA MARTA, COLOMBIA

The Tayrona National Natural Park (Spanish: Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona) is a protected area in the Colombian northern Caribbean region and within the jurisdiction of the Department of Magdalena and some 34 km from the city of Santa Marta. The park presents a biodiversity endemic to the area of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range presenting a variety of climates (mountain climate) and geography that ranges from arid sea level to 900 meters above sea level. The park covers some 30 square kilometres of maritime area in the Caribbean sea and some 150 km² of land.

It was the second most visited national park in Colombia in 2009, with 211.833 visitors. The most visited park was the Rosario and San Bernardo Corals National Natural Park.
The Tayrona National Park was created by the 191st Law of the Colombian Institute for Agrarian Reform (INCORA), in order to guarantee the protection of the region and the preserving of the ecological environment.

Get in

From Santa Marta take the bus from the corner of Calle 11 with Carrera 11. It leaves about every half hour and costs C$5,000. Ask the bus driver to drop you off at the park entrance, it is about one hour and can't be missed. From the park entrance it is another 4 kilometres to Cañaveral. You can either walk, take a van for C$2,000 or try to hitch a ride. From the entrace to Arecifes is all in all a walk of about 1.5 hours, but you can see monkeys and other wildlife along the way if you walk.

A taxi from Santa Marta might be an alternative for groups of 3 or 4 persons.

With a large number of people it might work out cheaper to rent a boat from Santa Marta or Taganga. You get dropped off at one of the park's beaches and this way you avoid the entrance fee.

There are a few camping areas in front of the park entrance that charge approximately C$3,000 per tent. This is an alternative in case you cannot get into the park the same day of your arrival.

Fees/Permits

The entrance fee is 35,000 COP for foreigners, 13,000 COP for Colombian citizens and 7,000 COP for students and children from the age of 5 to 12. Bags and personal belongings are checked at the park entrances.
Take lots of food and water with you, it's incredibly expensive inside the park compared to Colombian standards. For example a can of coke costs 3,000 COP, a beer 3,000 COP and a 5 liter bottle is 7,000 COP, although prices do vary from site to site (Cabo is a bit cheaper, Arecifes a bit more expensive since many more people stay there).
Officially a yellow fever certificate showing vaccination at least 10 days earlier is required and sometimes it is enforced. The vaccination is free in clinics in Santa Marta.

Get around

A jeep / vehicle can be caught from El Zaino entrance which will take you to the start of the walk / hiking trail. Mules / Donkeys can be hired to transport you and your lugagge to Arrecifes, but are mostly used for transporting groceries (fruit, food, drink and water) to the local restaurants in the park. The walk / hike to Arrecifes is about 45mins - 1 hour, depending on how much you stop to observe the local fauna and flora. It is recommended that hiking boots / trainers are worn for the duration of this walk, as it can get really muddy and slippery during the rainy season.

The walk / hike from Arrecifes to La Piscina is about 15 - 20 mins, the majority of the walk is along the beach and sea edge with some palm forested areas. The walk / hike from La Piscina to El Cabo is another 5 - 10 mins, but well worth it once you arrive.

See

A 3-5 hour uphill walk from El Cabo is El Pueblito. An archaeological site similar to Ciudad Perdida only much smaller in size. (11°19'0.92"N, 73°58'43.38"W)

Do

From Arrecifes (11°18'51.23"N, 73°56'58.24"W), there is a 15 minute walk to the lagoon known as La Piscina (11°19'26.82"N, 73°57'33.01"W). A reef in front of the coast forms a natural swimming pool. It is safe to swim here.
Snorkeling at El Cabo is also a great pastime, provided the visibility is good. A variety of marine life including tropical fish can be seen nearer the rocks and on the reef further out into the ocean. It is recommended to bring one's own snorkeling gear.
Around El Cabo there are a number of gorgeous beaches within easy walking distance. Hanging out and being a beach bum for the day is advisable. There are also many trails to hike around Cabo, including up to the ruins of El Pueblito (an ~2-3 hour hike, lots of uphill).

Sleep

At Cañaveral there are the famous Ecohabs, luxury accommodation in small or big Huts from C$440,000/night/double occupation including taxes and breakfast.
From Cañaveral it's a 45 minute walk to Arrecifes. There are some restaurants and places to sleep here: the Aviatur place and two or three independently run.
A hammock costs C$6,000 per night and a cabaña for 2 costs C$100,000 (Finca Paraiso) or C$300,000 (Aviatur).
At the Aviatur camp site, price is C$11,000 p.P. (small kids free), renting a tent incl. 2 mats is C$15,000.
Another 30 minute walk is El Cabo. One of the most popular spots to stay the night. There are hammocks for rent (C$20.000 - C$22000, depending on whether its tourist season) and a camping area. There is also a restaurant, serving expensive but safe and tasty food. There is only electricity few hours a day and the bathrooms are basic. At night it might get busy which takes away the place charm, but at daytime you find most beaches almost deserted.
Las Pleyades offers also accommodation options outside the Tayrona National park at lower prices, but not more than 10 minutes by bus or car from the main entrance of Cañaveral or Pueblito in Calabazo.
One of the tourist's favourite cabanas next to the Tayrona Park is Finca Barlovento, with an amazing setting between the river and the Sea.

Stay safe

It is prohibited to swim in the sea near Arrecifes due to the danger of strong riptides.

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