So, you want to visit the beautiful Tayrona National Park in Northern Colombia. The closest city to the park is Santa Marta. If you are not in Santa Marta you can get a shuttle from Barranquilla or Cartagena. The two main ways to get to Tayrona are by land or sea!
We recommend spending a night in Santa Marta before going to Tayrona, so you can arrive at the park early in the morning. You can get there either by boat, car or bus.
Tayrona By Car
If you choose to go by car please plan ahead and research the best time to go. The entrance fee to Tayrona is 12,500 Colombian pesos.
The National Park is starting to have backlogs to refresh the ecosystem and if you arrive too late and it is crowded you will not be allowed to drive in. Our research told us to arrive before 11AM by car, but it turns out around New Years you actually need to arrive by 9AM. Tayrona National Park is about a 75 minute drive from downtown Santa Marta.
Tayrona By Boat
If you choose to be more adventurous you can get to Tayrona by boat. Go to Taganga, which has a beautiful viewpoint and take a boat that goes to different beaches in the national park. The ride is quite an experience, as the waves are really high.
The cost of the ride is 65,000 colombian pesos and it includes the entrance fee to the park. We do not recommend to go to Cabos San Juan, the most popular beach and camping area in Tayrona via boat, as we encountered waves as tall as 10 feet and only covered half the distance to this beach.
It is up to you how you get into the national park; boat, car or bus. Keep in mind that if you take the bus you will have to walk 5km from the main entrance to the trailheads and from there 2 more kilometers to the beach.
We did not spend the night in Tayrona, we did a day trip from Taganga to Playa Cristal making a quick stop in Bahia Concha.
Best Beaches in Tayrona
The best beaches to visit in Tayrona are Playa Cristal, Cabo San Juan and Piscina. Do not spend a day in Taganga (Playa Grande), we read that it is a must and the boat operator confirmed, but it was terrible. It was packed and the beach is all rocks with no sand. Go straight to Tayrona National Park.
We left around 9AM by boat from Taganga to Tayrona. It is a half an hour boat ride to Bahia Concha and an hour ride to Playa Cristal. Both beaches have restaurants, chair and snorkeling rentals. Playa Cristal has a beautiful spot at the far end of the beach on the left, where you can snorkel and enjoy many colors of fish. It is also a great secluded spot from the crowd.
Food there is a little bit pricey so bring your own snacks and drinks. A dish can cost you 30,000 pesos, but it is delicious! Several hours at the beach later and we were back on the boat headed towards Taganga.
More info about Tayrona National Park is available on their website.