How to make the best of Tayrona Park, Colombia – 26/07/2018)
My bad luck……. (Sometimes)
Do you ever have the feeling that when you decide to do something or attend somewhere, circumstances do not work in your favor? In other words, that you have bad luck (or at least not the same luck than others?)… Sometimes I do.
And this is one of the things I am trying to burn in this trip….. because it isn’t true and because, in any case, the universe works its way for us and everything happens in the way is supposed to happen. But despite knowing that, I still feel wound up when everything conspires against.
The Tayrona Park is without a doubt a must see place in Colombia. So when you travel to Colombia, make sure you allow yourself sufficient time to visit the place. As well, it is very important to get all the information correctly, so you make the best out of the place.
Minutes after my arrival to the hostel in Santa Marta, one of my roommates gave me information about the park. But unfortunately this information was incomplete and without you having the correct and accurate information, you will make your experience at the park more complicated, as they are quite few restrictions in place in order to preserve the purity of the park. So this post will try to give you better understanding on the choices and what can you do.
Buses from Santa Marta go to the Park every 15 min. And cost is 8000 COP.
The park stretches over a vast area of the North Caribbean cost of Colombia, although only 1/4 of the park is accessible for tourists. The rest is protected and sacred land.
So in the area open to tourism, you will find numerous beaches and places to stay. However, we could say that there are mainly two areas for staying: San Juan and Arrecifes. Both have different atmosphere.
San Juan is the most famous one and, therefore, the busiest place. It is right by the beach, so you will sleep seeing and hearing the waves. That is a wonderful thing. It is also, the place for partying and socializing. So San Juan is packed with young backpackers all over the world. The downside of this is the quality of the facilities (more backpacking standards), the noise and the difficulty to get a place. It gets filled quite quickly.
Arrecifes instead has more options, including a higher rating lodge-camping ground with a good restaurant. It is also quieter, and the hamacs have mosquito nets (not present in San Juan), so for those looking for a good night of rest and quieter mood, Arrecifes is better. The dowside of Arrecifes is that is not by the beach, but slightly inland. So you don’t see or feel the sea close.
Obviously, despite I always tend to to go for a good sleeping place, I was preferring San Juan. I wanted to sleep right next to the sea. I was told you could not prebook your accommodation in the park.
When travelling from Santa Marta, you will find two entrances in the park. The most remote one is the official entrance and it is on the eastern end of the park. But there is a nearer and a small entrance in a place called ‘Calabazo’, which is a bit inland but aligned with San Juan if you walk straight towards the sea. The Calabazo entrance is poorly equipped, so you will not benefit from all the infrastructure you have in the main entrance. The advice given was to enter through Calabazo and walk straight to San Juan, so I could arrive earlier than the others, as they were coming from further distance.
I wanted to secure my place in San Juan, and despite the walk from Calabazo to San Juan is through a steep hill/little mountain, I decided to do this route, assuming it will get my faster to my destination.
Calabazo should better be name Calabozo….. You have a pretty good 3.5h hike in a torrid, sticky, hot and humid environment. So it is not easy, neither you can walk fast.
In the middle of that hike you will visit a indian settlement (Pueblito) which is half way to San Juan. Usually people go there from San Juan and come back. The path is quite rocky and challenging, so if you do it from a relax mood (rather than rushing through it as you want to get to San Juan quickly to get your space), it is quite enjoyable.
After 4h, and sweating my own body weight, I arrived to San Juan. I queued at the reception to get to my hamac, just to be told they are fully booked. But right after me, some Argentinian girls claimed their reserved hamacs for the evening….. Reserved????? – ‘I was told accommodation in the park could not be reserved!!!’
Here is when my insistence in getting the right information is key to ensure a pleasant experience. Apparently, when you get off the bus from Santa Marta at the main park entrance, some people are selling you spaces in San Juan Lodge, so before you enter the park you have your space. Booom!!
Even worse, once inside the park there is a shuttle service from there to an internal parking area, very close to the beach La Piscinita. So people entering from the main entrance, walked half the time with a secured place. And myself, I had to walk 5h at the end to get a space which was not by the sea.
So, I hope this prevents you from making the same mistakes and you can make the most of the Park. Despite that, doing the hike through Calabazo was an experience. Did not get what I expected but got something else that other people could not enjoy. An undisturbed hike at the heart of the park where I could probably feel the energy of the place, whereas the rest of the crowd were just following the designated route for tourists.
I admit I can be very grumpy sometimes and not see the good happening. Trying to control things in a trip like this one, and even more in life, only spoils the experience. So just relax. And allow yourself few days to stay there and finish your visit in Palomino (few kilometers beyond the Park), one of the most beautiful nature preserved beaches in the area.
Pictures of the Tayrona Park and Palomino are in the video below.