Tayrona and Cabo San Juan Camping
Tayrona National Park is located in the north of Colombia. It offers wonderful hikes, views and hot weather all year-round. Therefore it is a perfect addition to any Colombia adventure! Keep reading to find out how to do some awesome Cabo San Juan Tayrona camping! But first things first!
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How to get to Tayrona National Park?
Starting off in Cartagena
The second the aircraft opens its doors in Cartagena, heat rushes through the airplane. By the time my foot touches the tarmac, my shirt is already soaked.
We found a hostel online which is cheap and cozy. Our fan-cooled dorm room squeezes 6 people into 4 square meters. So, the battle for the fan goes on through the night.
The ensuite bathroom is even tinier. The door can only be locked if you first walk all the way in, straddle over the toilet, lift one foot to reach the door, … It’s too small in these burning conditions. Just going to the toilet is so exhausting and claustrophobic that we decide to move to another hostel the next day.
The old town of Cartagena is definitely worth a visit. This part of the city has cobblestone streets and historic buildings. It is shielded from the Caribbean by a thick wall which has great views.
If we ever return to Cartagena we plan on booking this hostel other travelers were bragging about.
Cartagena to Tayrona National Park
Early in the morning, our arranged minibus arrives. It takes us to the center of Santa Marta. Lots of fellow travelers flee the crowded van, scurrying into the streets of what seems to be a tropical paradise. Why aren’t we staying here? Oh that’s right, we have our minds set on the fishermen’s village of Taganga. That’s exactly where we get dropped a short ride later.
When traveling from Cartagena to Tayrona National Park, Santa Marta and Taganga are the two major hubs to travel through. Most of the hostels here are without air conditioning, so look out for a room with a big fan!
Taganga is a small town with a few surrounding beaches.
There was this great hostel with a nice backpacker vibe to accommodate us a few days. Read this guide to Taganga to optimize your stay in this little beach town.
Since we stayed in Taganga, we had to take care of transportation from Taganga to Tayrona. It ended up being a taxi, but you could also get a shuttle or a bus.
Tayrona National Park – The first steps
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!
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. This place just feels pure and untouched (anno a few years ago). Another hour later we finally reach Cabo San Juan Tayrona.
Entrance fee for Tayrona National Park is 42.000 COP or around 12€.
Getting from the entrance of the park to Cabo San Juan might take you a few hours.
First of all, you take a minibus to get you from the entrance of the park to Playa Arrecifes. This part of the park is asphalt road and we didn’t feel like walking asphalt for an hour. The real fun starts at Playa Arrecifes.
This is where you start hiking the jungle paths and beaches. On your way to Cabo San Juan, you encounter one more stop: Canaveral. We had a quick break to get rehydrated and continued hiking.
Both places, Playa Arrecifes and Canaveral, offer accommodation options as well. But what about Cabo San Juan Tayrona camping?
Cabo San Juan Tayrona camping
Cabo San Juan in Tayrona National Park is an iconic place and loads of tourists are traveling there these days. It’s a beautiful place and you can easily spend a night or two there, as long as you choose your sleeping option wisely… not like we did! Let me first tell you how not to do it. Then I’ll explain the better options!
These are the camping options at Cabo San Juan
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 cabana are 25000 COP or 7€
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.
Bring your own tent
Just don’t! Go for the hammocks! I wouldn’t give this a second thought, knowing what I know now! This is the option we chose and this is what happened!
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. 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!
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.
Tips and things to know for Cabo San Juan Camping
If you want a hammock on the peninsula, make sure to be at the reservation desk early. These hammocks sell out fast and they’re rented at a first come, first serve principle.
Don’t forget an extra layer if you manage to get a hammock on the peninsula. It can get windy at night. For the other sleeping locations, you probably don’t need many layers.
Bring mosquito repellent.
Take your flashlight. The power generator is turned off at 23h.
The beach at Cabo San Juan is one of the only beaches in Tayrona where you can swim safely.
There is, however, a nudist beach where you can swim just a little further West.
Cabo San Juan is the busiest accommodation spot in the entire park.
The Story Continues
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.
Leaving Tayrona by boat
After visiting Tayrona National Park, you can either chose to walk back exactly how you arrived. But if you had a terrible night of sleep, you might be open for other options, like we were.
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! 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 limbs 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.
Are you up for some Cabo San Juan Camping?
After reading this post, you know more about camping in Cabo San Juan than we did before we went! So you’re lucky to know you should definitely not sleep in a tent and you shouldn’t forget your flashlight and bug repellent!
We’re very curious about how your trip to Tayrona National Park went and if you liked it as much as we did! So don’t hesitate to comment below and let us know about your experience.