Parque Tayrona has become a super popular place to visit at the Caribbean coast in Colombia. We can see why since it’s a beautiful and scenic beach destination and we loved it a lot our self!
If you want to go camping in Parque Tayrona, you’re probably scouting for the best places to do this. We had to do some research before we went too and our eye quickly caught the beauty of Cabo San Juan Tayrona.
This beach, with camping ground, can only be reached by foot, horse, donkey, or a very bumpy boat ride. So you can’t just grab a cab and expect to be dropped off in front of the campground.
No, you have to work (read: sweat) for it!
In this article, we explain all the steps you have to take in order to make the very best of your precious time camping in Tayrona National Park.
Getting to Cabo San Juan Tayrona
Let’s presume you’re already in the area, in Santa Marta or Taganga, the main hubs to use for traveling to Tayrona.
These are pretty easy and there are lots of transportation options.
You can either take care of a shuttle in your hostel, which should be easy because you won’t be the only one going in that direction. There are multiple shuttles taking passengers to Tayrona every day.
So ask for that in Your hostel and they will take care of your transportation on the day you want to go.
We stayed in Taganga and took a taxi to the entrance of the park… so that’s also an option. But it is a little bit more expensive than a shuttle.
At the entrance of Tayrona National Park
The entrance fee for Tayrona for foreigners is 53.500 COP – 14,5€ during low season.
It’s 63.500 COP – 17,5€ during high season.
The park entrance is open from 8 to 17h.
There’s a daily visitor limit of 6.900 people. So it could happen that access to the National Park is declined.
From the entrance to Cabo San Juan
This hike lasts around 2 to 3 hours, depending on your pace. The journey consists of stretches of beach where you get some great views and the feeling of sand between your toes. Other parts are walks through the jungle via nice paths and wooden walkways.
En route, you pass by a few other tourist settlements before reaching the actual campground at Cabo San Juan.
Getting back out by boat
After visiting Tayrona National Park, you can either choose to walk back exactly how you arrived or get a boat. The skipper convinced us to take the boat back to Taganga during lunch.
We took the offer but didn’t realize how many people can actually fit into these small boats.
The boat ride is super bumpy and the sea might look quiet from a distance, but once you’re there… in your tiny boat… it feels kinda rough after all.
It was a super cool trip and I’m happy we did it, but it was a bit scary at times! Read more about our journey at the bottom of this article.
You can take this option for leaving Tayrona, but you can also use the boat in the other direction: from Taganga.
Camping options at Cabo San Juan
So there are a few options when camping in this area of the National Park
Rent a tent in Cabo San Juan! This is your second option, but it’s not recommended. We eventually slept in a tent that was larger than ours, but it was still too hot for me.
Also, many travelers complain about available tents. They’re moldy and smelly.
Until the campground purchases new and better tents, this is not the best way to go.
Renting a tent costs 40000 COP – 11€ per person
Bring your own tent
Just don’t! Go for the hammocks!
Unless you have a large and airy tent, don’t do it.
You have to carry it the entire way, along with a sleeping mat and other stuff to arrange your tent.
We chose this option and regretted it a lot! Go for the hammocks!
Setting up your tent at Cabo San Juan costs around 20.000 COP – 5,5€ per person
There aren’t too many cabins available and they work with a first come, first serve principle. So if you want to get a cabin: be very very quick!
Private cabins at Cabo San Juan cost: 200.000 COP – 55€
The best option: Hammocks
This is the best option to go for!
The Tayrona National Park hammocks that are available at the campgrounds are your best option. I definitely recommend them over getting a tent. You might think a tent will be more comfortable, but it’s not!
You can either rent a hammock on the beach near the campground or rent a hammock in the cabana on the peninsula.
In my humble opinion, the hammocks on the peninsula are probably your best choice. It’s a windy spot, which is great for keeping cool and keeping the mosquitoes at a distance. You also get a 360 degrees view over the surroundings. But obviously, these hammocks are more expensive and they sell out very quickly!
Hammocks in the peninsula cabana cost 50.000 COP – 14€
Regular hammocks cost 40.000 COP – 11€
Check out this short video for more Colombia inspiration
The camping at Cabo San Juan
The campground at Cabo San Juan doesn’t have a website nor booking platform.
It’s a first come first serve kinda place. So don’t arrive too late.
We pitched our tent in the morning, decided it wouldn’t work and wanted to get a hammock, but we were already too late as everything was sold.
Don’t be like us… make smart choices to start with 🙂
Extra features of the campground
- There are lockers to lock away your valuables
- You can eat at the campground restaurant and the food is good
- It’s also possible to cook your own meal. This is inconvenient since you have to carry everything
- There are showers and bathrooms available, but loads of people use them so they might be disappointing at times
Other camping options in Tayrona National Park
Cabo San Juan is not the only place where you can rent hammocks, cabanas, or set up your tent. It is, however the most popular destination within the park.
You can also find accommodation in El Zaino, Arrecifes, and Canaveral. Most of these campgrounds have a first come, first serve principle.
There is one camping in El Zaino that can be booked in advance and a beautiful lodge with cabanas a few kilometers past Cabo San Juan, which is definitely worth checking out!
Know before you go
Before taking off or even planning your trip, check out these important things to know about Tayrona National Park and Cabo San Juan
Tayrona is a super popular destination
Tayrona National Park has become super popular and touristy in recent years. Tourists, as well as Colombians vacation at the Caribbean beaches in this park. So don’t expect to be all alone, because there will be other people… lots of them.
Tip: weekend tend to be busier than weekdays
Cabo San Juan is the most popular place to camp inside the park
The park itself is super touristy, but the most popular place of all is… Cabo San Juan.
This stretch of the beach must have something magical because everyone wants to come here. We did too, so it’s kinda logical. All the pictures you find online are just too inviting!
So this is an interesting fact to know. If you want to escape the crowds, you might need to dig a little deeper in the different areas where you can stay inside the park.
It is super hot and sweaty
Temperatures in this area of Colombia are pretty high. We already noticed this when we arrived in Cartagena and we couldn’t reach a comfortable body temperature until we finally left the coastal area of Colombia.
The combination of high temperatures and humidity is the part that slows you down all the time.
The long walk to Cabo San Juan
In fact, the walk/hike isn’t that long. It’s just the sweaty weather and humidity, which make the walk heavier than it should be!
When we read that the hike to Cabo was a few hours, we were like: meh! We can do that!
And we could, but we lost a few liters of sweat along the way!
Don’t take all your luggage into the park
Take only what you need for the days you’re visiting the park.
Leave your big backpack in a luggage storage room somewhere and only take a small backpack with your swimming stuff and some extra clothing.
We found a decent stowaway spot for our luggage in the hostel we stayed at.
At Tayrona, you will meet loads of annoying mosquitoes, especially during the evening and at night. But they’re present all the time.
Don’t forget to take bug repellent!
You’re not allowed to swim everywhere
Most beaches at Tayrona have a strong riptide. Those beaches are treacherous and dangerous places to take a dip. So you better don’t.
These are the 2 main beaches where it’s safe to swim:
- Cabo San Juan beach
- La Piscina beach
What to pack to go camping in Parque Tayrona
Don’t pack too much, because you have to carry all your stuff through the blistering heat. So you should not take your entire luggage for backpacking.
Keep in mind that your bags get checked upon entering the park. You’re not allowed to have alcohol, drugs, or weapons with you.
Instead, pack these things:
- Bathing suit
- Decent shoes for walking
- Water shoes (optional)
- Mosquito repellent
- Hat or cap
- Your passport or identification
- Proof of Yellow Fever vaccination
- Water, water, water!!
Are you ready to go camping at Cabo San Juan in Tayrona?
Some questions are better left unanswered when backpacking in Colombia. Like this one!
This is exactly the type of adventure you just have to step into and let it all happen.
We loved the trip to Tayrona National Park a lot and it one of these experiences I won’t quickly forget, especially since we didn’t make the smartest choices!
Our wrong choices!
The taxi takes us to the entrance of Tayrona National Park: Playa Arrecifes Tayrona. From then on, you can only proceed by foot. Like donkeys, we walk the trail that follows the beach. Some parts of the trail go through the forest, where we enjoy the cool of the shadow and see millions of crabs and ants.
The other parts of the trail are stretches of beach, where you can only walk in the sun and the hot sand. It’s not a difficult hike, but it’s just very hot!
Getting our own tent
So we discovered that the Exito supermarket sells cheap tents. They were actually cheaper than the Tayrona National Park hammocks. So, being budget travelers, we bought it straight away.
Carrying our camping equipment
Inside the park, we’d only need to carry it for four hours in the blistering sun. And don’t forget about the sleeping mats! We’d be carrying these too. No problem at all! See us suffer from near heat stroke in this picture!
After two hours of plowing the beaches, we arrive in Cañaveral, the first accommodation option. Our actual destination is Cabo San Juan, where the views are amazing and the beaches to die for. We continue our journey and walk over the most beautiful beaches we ever saw, unspoiled by roads, buildings, and masses.
There’s nobody but us during the early morning hours. This place just feels pure and untouched (PS. this was a few years ago). Another hour later we finally reach Cabo San Juan Tayrona.
Unpacking our baby tent
By the time we finally arrived at the Cabo San Juan camping spot, we were so happy to get the tent out of the package. Of course, this was only to discover that nobody could sleep in that thing. It barely had room for two people when they were lying on top of each other. And believe me, it was too hot for that kind of action. Even before we actually set up the thing, it was already a sauna. If it was 38 degrees Celsius outside, inside the tent is was 50 degrees. No way we could sleep in that!
Obviously, all the hammocks had already been rented and for us, there was no other option than to sleep in our mini sauna.
Two cute Colombian boys were eying us and the had a slight smile on their lips while watching us unpack the mini-monster. Without hesitating for even a split second, they offered us their large tent.
The morning after
The intense heat wakes us up at 5 AM. We can’t stand it any longer and escape the tent for the slightly cooler morning breeze. A short walk later, we discover a deserted beach.
While the sun comes up, we’re sitting on this unspoiled Tayrona beach, just doing nothing but breathe and enjoy.
It’s a pleasure to watch the crabs appear, weary-eyed, looking out for a few seconds, before shoveling sand out of their sandy caves and disappear again. Before us stretches the Caribbean sea, breaking on the reef in front of the beach, waves shattering into the curvy rocks on the shore. Behind us lies a vast, dense jungle and the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
What a wonderful place to be and feel surrounded by the power of nature. There are more beaches, which can be reached by hiking through the jungle and mountains without any coastline to follow.
The boat from Tayrona back to Taganga
During lunch, a skipper sells us tickets for his boat to Taganga. We need only a short look at each other to make a decision. Choosing between a sweaty 3-hour hike and a relaxing boat ride isn’t really choosing. We would take the boat anytime.
The boat is, of course, delayed and we just sit on the beach, waiting to leave. The only thing I can focus on is a comparison of the size of the baby boat we’re about to embark and the size of the waves breaking into the rocks. The skippers address everyone on the camping. They’re scouting for more passengers.
Finally, we’re ready to go. “Twenty-two passengers!”, I overhear the skipper telling his companion. 22! Do Twenty-two people have to fit into that tiny sloop?
Apparently, the boat was perfectly equipped for 22 people.
We don’t like to push for better spots. So that’s how we got the worst possible spots. Everyone gets a life vest and off we go. We’re all sitting on top of each other, grasping the limbs of strangers and holding on to other people.
The waves are higher than the boat and the skipper fiercely cuts through them while we get catapulted into the air. We navigate by rough rock formations, sandy beaches and steep slopes of lush vegetation. Although I like a nice boat ride every now and then… in this case, I was very happy to recognize the Taganga beach and get out of this matchbox-sized boat.
Learn from our mistakes 🙂
This story is included in this article, not only to tell you how memorable our experience was but also to help you make better choices.
Don’t take your own tent unless you know you’re up for it and you know your tent is good!
We really hope you have an awesome time exploring Tayrona National Park and camping at this wonderful place.