Hiking Tayrona National Park – Great Hikes of Colombia

Hiking Tayrona National Park – The Best Hikes in Colombia

Hiking in Tayrona National Park is our third guest post and our first guest post in South America.

Follow Anne-Charlotte Passera as she takes us on a true adventure exploring some of Columbia’s best hikes.

Guest Post

by Anne-Charlotte Passera from Carlota’s Web

Have you ever hiked to a beach?

Tayrona National park is the second-largest park in Colombia after Chiribiquete with an area of 150 sq. km.  It’s located on the coast of the Caribbean Sea in the North of Colombia.

There are two ecosystems that exist within the park due to its location between the sea and mountains.  Moreover, Tayrona Park gets its name after an indigenous group. 

The Koguis that live in the surrounding area are actual descendants of the Tayrona and continue to carry out some of the same traditions as their ancestors. You might encounter some within the park.

In fact, you’ll even pass by one of their village (Pueblito) on a trail inside the park which can sometimes be visited.


To get there, you’ll need to take a bus from the nearby town of Santa Marta.  This is the most affordable option.

The entrance fee for foreigners is 63500COP for your whole stay and 3000COP for insurance per day (2019).  A yellow fever vaccine is required to access the park, but the rangers don’t necessarily check your papers.

You can pay by credit card at the El Zaino entrance. Otherwise, inside Tayrona Park, it will be cash only.

In order to hike to the beaches of Tayrona Park, you’ll need decent walking shoes and plenty of water.  It’s a tropical climate and it can get very hot.

On the trails of Tayrona Park

There are two main entrances to Tayrona Park: El Zaino and Calabazo.  The trails that lead from them are complete opposites in terms of scenery and level of difficulty.

Although both are worth exploring, if you’re only going to Tayrona Park for the day, just take the El Zaino trail.

In both cases, however, you will be walking through a tropical forest which is an experience in itself.

El Zaino Trail

The El Zaino trail is relatively flat with a few steps.  Some parts of the trail have a little boardwalk. You don’t necessarily need hiking shoes as a decent pair of sandals will do.

 If you hear noise coming from the trees, look up! It’s the monkeys greeting you to the park.

Without stopping, the walk takes roughly two to three hours leading you to a couple of different beaches.  The most popular one is Cabo San Juan. It’s where the water is calmest as it’s protected from the crashing waves by huge boulders. Cabo San Juan is a great place to relax after a long walk and the water is the perfect temperature.

 Another spot to swim is at the Piscina (Pool) which is roughly 20 minutes from Cabo San Juan.  It makes for a nice pit stop to freshen up in the sea with a luscious and dense jungle right behind you.

Since this trail is relatively easy, it is the most popular one.

If you are willing to add an extra hour to your hike, take the Trail of the Nine Stones.  You’ll walk along a hilly path surrounded by huge boulders fighting for their spot within the jungle.  

These boulders actually mean something to the Tayrona people which you can read about as you walk the trail. The path takes you to a beach where you can’t swim but where you just might encounter some crocodiles. So be careful.  

Not many people take this trail as they just want to get to the beach.  Therefore, if you’re looking for a little more peace and quiet and not a completely flat path, you should check this trail out.

The Calabazo Trail

Hiking Tayrona National Park to the Beach

If you are more of the adventurous type, this trail is for you.  It goes up, zig-zags through a dense jungle and when you think you’ve reached the top, there is another hill waiting for you. The climbing will seem endless.

For this trail, you will need a good pair of shoes and a lot of water.  This trail is not as airy as the El Zaino trail.  It gets tight in some parts and you just might have to crawl your way up at some point.  Pack as little as possible.

One of the benefits of taking this trail is that you’ll barely encounter anyone because no one is crazy enough to hike it.  This is particularly true if you are only going to Cabo San Juan for the day.  This is the longest way to get there as it will take you approximately 3h to 4h.

The main reason people take this trail is not for the views as you’ll constantly stay in what feels like a never-ending jungle but to reach Playa Brava.

Playa Brava is a secluded beach about 2h30 to 3h walk from Cabo San Juan.  It’s pretty but you can’t swim there as the water is too rough.  

You can however sleep and eat there at a very low cost. Your choice of lodging will be a hammock or a hut on the beach. One night there is plenty as there is nothing to do and the commodities are at their strict minimum. It’s the perfect place for a digital detox, if that’s what you are looking for.

It’s possible to take the Calabazo Trail to Cabo San Juan and then El Zaino back out but you’ll need to plan for a whole day to do that.  Arrive early as the park closes at 5pm.

The Tayrona Park hike is a unique experience as it will make you work (hard) for a spot on one of its pristine beaches. 

But walking amidst huge palm trees, boulders trying to break free from tree roots, or what looks like gigantic Monstera Deliciosa will definitely be a walk you won’t soon forget. 

Now after all that effort, where should you go next?  Check out the towns of Palomino or Santa Marta.


Wrap Up

We want to thank Anne-Charlotte for contributing her post. If you want to know more about exploring Colombia, be sure to visit her website Carlota’s Web.

More Great Discoveries in South America

For more great hikes in South America, be sure to check out our round-up of some of the best on the continent.

The Best Hiking in South America discovers just that to help you find the perfect trail.

To get more specific, here are the best hikes in Peru put together by a group of some other great travel writers.

And if you’re searching for the some great camping in the area, check out The Best Camping in South America.

We haven’t forgotten about the Best Road Trips in Central and South America, some of these writer’s favorite ways to discover the continent.