History, nature and beaches, all in the same spot: that’s the Tayrona Park. If you want to hike, explore ancient territories, or just relax on the beach, it is all possible in Tayrona.
Santa Marta is getting more attention everyday due to the amazing natural landscapes it has to offer. Weather it is Sierra Nevada or Tayrona Park, the magic of the area lies in the green mountains that are close to the sea. Have you ever seen a beach surrounded by mangrove swamps, bushes and forests? This is your chance.
The first thing you need to know is that the Tayrona Park is a sacred territory for the indigenous people living in the area of Sierra Nevada, the Kankuamo, Kogui, Wiwa and Arhuaco. Even though these communities have chosen to live in the forest to avoid the co ntact with the visitors of the Park, it is still part of their ancestral territory.
Keep in mind that the park is closed three times per year to give the flora and fauna a rest from human activity: first from February 1st to the 15th, then from June 1st to the 15th, and from October 12th to November 2nd.
Why is the Tayrona Park sacred?
As you walk along the beaches or in the forest, you’ll find some of the ruins and vestiges of the Tayrona community that used to inhabit the area. There is for example, one beach called Playa Cristal or Beach of the death, because it used to be the cemetery for some communities.
Also, there are some huts and protected spots in the park, where the communities still perform rituals. So, after learning about the communities and the importance of the park, let us show you three reasons to book your trip now.
The park has a total area of 150 km2 and six beaches to enjoy. Since it covers a lot of area, it has three entrances which lead to different sectors within the park. Also, given the visitors may come from the city of Santa Marta, from Cartagena or Palomino, the entry points are far from each other.
To decide which point is better to enter the park, it depends on what your interests are. In this case, to access the beaches, you can go to the main entrance: Zaino.
To enjoy a full day on the beach, be sure to wake up early and reach the park as early as possible. The Zaino entrance is open from 7 am to 12 pm, and from 2 pm to 5 pm is not available for entering the park, only for the outcoming visitors.
Once you enter, you’ll find two options to reach the beaches where you can swim. You can take a hike through the Nine Stones path or follow the pedestrian path from Cañaveral beach to Cabo de San Juan. From the first beach to the last you’ll have to walk about three hours (12km).
The first hour of walking will lead you to two beaches, Cañaveral and Arrecifes, where swimming is forbidden due to the strong surge of the sea. In the Arrecifes beach you’ll find restaurants, camping areas, and huge rocks that are part of the reason why you can’t enter the water.
The following beach is Arenilla, where you’ll finally be able to swim in its turquoise waters. If you want to spend the day in the area, be sure to arrive early! Given the calm sea and its small size, is one of the most attractive spots. Keep in mind there are no restaurants nor camping zones in this beach, it is only for relaxing.
The next beach is Piscina or swimming pool. There you can swim and also take part in snorkeling activities or short diving courses!
Finally you’ll find Cabo de San Juan del Guía, the most popular beach of the park. The characteristic spot of this beach is the hill in the middle of the sea, which has a hut on top and serves as a viewing point. When swimming be extra careful because the surge of the sea is quite strong in this area.
If you walk past Cabo de San Juan, you’ll find Boca de Saco, a beach where you can often find people without clothes, even though officially it isn’t a nudist area. Nonetheless, is also a great place to enjoy the sea, the palm threes and the breeze.
On the other hand, if you don’t want to walk to find the beaches, you can enter the park by boat from Taganga through the Palangana entrance. In this area, not connected with the area we mentioned before, you’ll find other three beaches that don’t have lodging, but do have some restaurants. Through this entrance you’ll find Playa Cristal and Nenguanje.
Depending on how much of an experienced hiker you are, the Tayrona Park also has walking trails. If you took the Zaino entrance to reach the beaches, you can still enjoy a 3km hike surrounded by tropical forest and amazing views. Also, in different stations of the trail you’ll be able to spot monkeys, guatines (chigüiro-like animals) and amazing flora.
Once you finish the trail, you’ll be in Cañaveral beach, the first of the beaches we mentioned above.
Now, if you wish to hike more than anything else, you must enter the park through the Calabazo entrance. It is the less popular entrance because it leads directly to the hardest hike of the park. It used to be the direct route to reach the Chairama small town, but the town is no longer available for tourist because it is a sacred place where the communities still perform their rituals.
Keep in mind that entering the park through Calabazo will not take you to Cabo de San Juan, but to Brava beach, where you can spend the night in a bungalow. In this beach swimming is also forbidden.
History and adventure
We already mentioned the importance of the park and some of the hiking trails you can find, but there’s still more to discover.
If you have heard about Sierra Nevada, you have probably heard about Ciudad Perdida, the city hidden in the mountains of Santa Marta. Since the communities shared these territories, some of the architecture you’ll find is similar to the one in Sierra.
When you take the longest hiking trail of the park, you’ll walk past Pueblito, a protected area that still holds the architecture of the Tayrona and gives you a glimpse of what can be found in the Ciudad Perdida hike. These are the archeological ruins of a culture that transcended time with their architecture in the middle of the nature.
On the other hand, given the clean waters of the beaches, you can do some Scuba diving and snorkeling with the local experts. Also, as you walk around the park, be sure to keep your eyes open to spot unique birds and special flora, like bromeliads and orchids.
Weather you’re and experienced hiker or just want to relax, the Tayrona Park has activities and landscapes for everybody. If you wish, you can stay in the park to explore more of the trails and beaches, but if you don’t have much time, or just want to relax in paradise, there are beaches for all types of people.