How to visit Tayrona National Park in one day

In COLOMBIA: How to visit TAYRONA NATIONAL PARK in one day

This park belongs to the Colombian people. Some are already dead. Some of us are still living. But most haven’t been born yet

- as seen on at board at the entrance of Tayrona NP


When I was researching how to visit Tayrona National Park in northern Colombia, I came across all sorts of varied info. While some fellow travel writers insisted that you must stay in the park for a few solid days in order to make the most of it, others advocated that a day trip is best. But everyone agreed on one thing: Tayrona National Park is a stunning place and it surely deserves to be visited!

Because we only had a few days in the area and we wanted to make it to other places too, we finally opted for a day visit. Some would call you crazy if you attempt to do all of this in just one day, but this is how you can visit Tayrona National Park in one day:


From the city of Santa Marta, you can take a bus to the entrance of the park. Go behind the Central Market (Mercado Central, in Spanish) and listen to the guys who advertise “Tayrona! Tayrona!!” near a few parked buses. The ride takes about 1,5 hours and it costs 6000 Colombian pesos (around USD3), while it also gives you a good opportunity for people watching as there are many locals who commute to the city and back to the countryside on this route.

Once in the park, you may have to wait in line to purchase your entrance ticket. The price is COP 38,000 (USD19) for foreigners and COP 14,000 (USD7) for Colombians. Whether you come for a day trip or wish to stay longer, the rate is always the same.

There are no vehicles inside the park. You may only take a ride until the first camping area, located about 5Km from the entrance – this would cost COP 2000 (USD1) and saves some serious time for those wishing to visit the park in just one day.

Entrance of Tayrona National Park

Entrance of Tayrona National Park


Cabo San Juan beach is considered the highlight of the park. So during a day trip, you goal may be making it there… but remember you still have to come back before dark and you must walk everywhere! Mules can be rented for the day if you are in the mood of burdening some other creature with your weight or stuff, but keep in mind that this will only save you a little time. If you have luggage, this may be recommended, but as the mule paths are different than the trekking ones in some parts of the park, you might miss on the scenic beauty of some stops on the way, and frankly, this is what this trip is all about in just one day.

Tayrona National Park map: the intermittent brown represents the trek covered in this article

Tayrona National Park map: the intermittent brown between Canaveral and Cabo San Juan represents the trek covered in this article


The weather in Tayrona is hot and humid. Be ready to sweat and bring your own supplies of water for the way – shops and a few restaurants are only to be found in 3 points of the park, along with the camping facilities for those who wish to stay for longer.

Inside Tayrona park, the path for trekking is well marked and there are viewpoints all along the way

Inside Tayrona park, the path for trekking is well marked and there are viewpoints all along the way


The beautiful landscapes and inviting water will lure you into taking a refreshing dip in the sea, but beware!! Some of the beaches you will cross, like Arrecifes, are not safe for swimming. You will come across boards preventing you for doing so. There are rip tides in the area and many people have lost their lives here and like the signs in place say “do not be part of the statistics”.

Arrecifes Beach in Tayrona

Arrecifes Beach in Tayrona

Views of a large stretch of beach, to be enjoyed while trekking in Tayrona NP

Views of a large stretch of beach, to be enjoyed while trekking in Tayrona NP


Drama and heat aside, the trek along the well marked path in Tayrona is a very enjoyable one. It helps that most of the time you are under the shade and, when you are not, the stunning views make up for it.

A&Z trekking in Tayrona National Park

A&Z trekking in Tayrona National Park


In order to be back on the same day, you must keep in mind how long it takes to get somewhere in the park. Knowing this, you can plan how long your pauses at each beach (or other spots you like) can take.


Walking times inside Tayrona National Park are as follow:

- Entrance to Arrecifes – about 1 hr walk

- Arrecifes to Piscina – 20/30 minutes walk

- Piscina to Cabo San Juan – 15/20 mins walk

Clear waters at a small bay before La Piscina

Clear waters at a small bay before La Piscina

La Piscina, a good beach for swimming in Tayrona

La Piscina, a good beach for swimming in Tayrona


Although known as the prettiest area in the park, I can’t say Cabo San Juan was my absolute favorite. The double bay shape is indeed beautiful but, I guess no longer being a secret between travelers, the “crowds” do take away from the idyllic feeling.

Nevertheless, it is worth the trek. For the swimming possibilities, for the sake of chilling under the trees and to recharge energies with a chocolate bread – look for the lady with a cooler box in the sand. Such an affordable, yummy and much deserved treat!

Cabo San Juan in Tayrona National Park

Cabo San Juan in Tayrona National Park


From Cabo San Juan back to the camping area closer to the gate should take you a good couple of hours. From there, the last rides back to the entrance gate usually depart between 5.30pm and 6pm.

Once on the main road, you can head back to Santa Marta on buses that pass by and stop here briefly. There is a bus at 6pm and, on most days, another one at 6.30pm. I would recommend being there at 6pm, just in case!

Some buses with AC will announce trips to Santa Marta but they actually take passengers back to Taganga or Rodadero (touristic towns near by), for COP 12,000 (USD6). They can drop you in an area which is technically Santa Marta, but way outside the city center (taxis are available there). Make sure to take the correct bus to Santa Marta instead – that would be the “local”, non touristic bus. No AC, half the price, double the fun!

A&Z: sweaty but happy!

A&Z: sweaty but happy!


And this is how you can visit Tayrona National Park in one day.

With a little bit of rush involved, yes, but a lot of fun too!

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  • Hi Zara,

    What stunning shots, and what a feat. Covering that much ground in 1 day is something else. We’ve done a few national parks around the world but most are really small, like ones we visited in Koh Lanta, Thailand and Penang, Malaysia.

    I hear you on the crowds bit. Some of the prettiest areas get overrun when the word gets out. Always fun to find the quiet, beautiful spots, to step away from the crowd and explore serene areas in total peace.

    Columbia is on the travel list and Tayrona National Park is right on it too.

    Thanks so much Zara.

    Tweeting through Triberr.


    • Zara Says

      Thanks Ryan!
      Tayrona has plenty of quiet spots, so don;t worry about that if you plan to visit sometime. It’s just that quite often, the most hyped up places, aren’t necessarily the highlight of the place. But there’s plenty to love in the area!

  • teresa Says

    hi, planning to do a day trip in Dec. What time did you leave Santa Marta in the morning and what time did you leave Cabo San Juan to get back to the entrance. I read the park closes at 5pm? Many thanks

    • Zara Says

      Hi Teresa,

      We didn’t end up leaving Santa Marta very early.. it was probably around 10AM or a little after. There was plenty of time to do the trip, but I’d suggest leaving a couple of hours earlier to have more time inside the park. If I remember correctly, we left Cabo San Juan a little before 4pm in order to get one of the last buses back to town, which departed at 6pm. The park may close at 5pm for entrance… but you can make it out even after that, well.. at least we did! ;)

      Have fun in Tayrona and let us know how the trip goes!

  • What a lovely place! You guys keep adding places to my bucket list!!!

  • Zara, excelente articulo, como siempre capturas la esencia del entorno. Que chevere que hayan provado el pan relleno de chocolate, espero que este pan no tuviera levadura
    Un abrazo para ambos

    • Zara Says

      Muchas gracias Olinto!
      El pan de chocolate estaba buenisimo (sobretodo despues de tremenda caminata)… y el paseo por el parque no hubiera sido el mismo sin vuestras sugerencias! ;)

  • Juan Says

    Hola! Muy buen blogpost. Cuando dices “entrance” te refieres a cual de las entradas? Escuche que hay varias. Es la q esta a la altura de Calabozo?
    También escuchaste algo de lanchas que te llevan a Santa Marta desde Tayrona. Gracias! sds

    • Zara Says

      La entrada a la que me refiero no es la que esta cerca de el Calabazo. Esta es la que esta pasando el pueblo de El Zaino – creo que los buses de Sta. Marta son generalmene hacia esta entrada.
      Si escuche hablar sobre las lanchas, aunque no tengo detalles. Si he leido que es un viaje bastante agitado..Puede que encuentres alguna informacion util aqui:
      Buen viaje! :)

  • João Says

    Thanks for such a descriptive post!

  • Nele Grootjans Says


    I just wanted to say thank you!!! Finally a site that describes what to visit and how in this park. I’ve been looking for days to find this.

    Great job!

    • Zara Says

      Hi Nele!

      I’m glad you found this useful. I couldn’t find much info online prior to our trip to Tayrona either, that’s why I then decided to put this article together.

      I hope you enjoy your time in Tayrona! :)

  • Almy Says

    Hi Zara,

    This information has been very helpful! I will be visiting Colombia in April but we will be in Cartagena. Tayrona was on our list of places to visit, however time is an issue. Do you have any recommendations on traveling from Cartagena to Tayrona. We were planning on staying overnight as well.

    • Zara Says

      Hi Almy,
      I’m glad the info came in handy for you!
      We were already closer, in Santa Marta. Coming from Cartagena I guess you’d have to catch a bus to Santa Marta and change for the local Tayrona bus there. Or maybe you could even connect via Barranquilla too.
      Have fun!

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