A complete travel guide featuring 10 things to know about visiting Cabo San Juan, Tayrona National Park, Colombia (Playa Cabo San Juan del Guía).
Tayrona National Park is a pristine chunk of protected tropical rainforest on Colombia’s northern Caribbean Coast. For many, this park is a must-stop on the Colombian travel route, offering plenty of amazing things to do from wildlife spotting to relaxing on tropical beaches.
If you ask anyone (especially the backpacker crowd) where to stay in Tayrona National Park, the first answer is usually to spend a night camping on Cabo San Juan beach! This is the most popular beach in Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona, and arguably the most beautiful!
So, to help you better plan your trip, I’ve written this detailed travel guide to visiting Cabo San Juan del Guía in Tayrona National Park. I’ll include all the information you need to know, including how to get here, where to stay, what to expect, and of course, 10 useful tips for visiting!
Where is Cabo San Juan Beach
Cabo San Juan beach is located within Tayrona Park on the Caribbean Coast in Northern Colombia. You’ll find it located beside other famous beaches including Playa La Piscina, and Playa Nudista (nudist beach).
Below is the exact location of Playa del Cabo to help you find it.
How to Get to Cabo San Juan Beach
To get to Cabo San Juan, there are two options, you can book an organized day trip from the city of Santa Marta, or get here independently. Below I’ll break down each option in more detail.
Option 1: Day Trip To Cabo San Juan Tayrona
If you’re short on time, in a group of travelers, or perhaps simply just want the most convenient way to experience the best of Tayrona National Park on a day trip, then a private tour might be the best option for you.
There is one day trip that you can book online that includes return transport from Santa Marta, Taganga, Rodadero, Pozos Colorados, or Bello Horizonte. This day trip option includes a hiking guide through the park and all the way to Cabo San Juan Beach.
This is great value as all park admission fees (notoriously expensive) are included in the cost as well. Furthermore, you won’t have to line up in the long lines at the park entrance.
View more: Full-day Tayrona Park Excursion With Guide (includes Cabo San Juan del Guía Beach)
Option 2: Independent Travel to Cabo San Juan (public Transport)
In order to get to this beautiful beach independently, you’ll first have to make your way to the main entrance to Tayrona Natural National Park.
While there are two entry points, the main one is called El Zaino Entrance (Tayrona La Entrada Principal), which is the most convenient park entrance leading to Cabo San Juan Beach.
Cheap Public Bus to the El Zaino Entrance
The best way (also cheapest) to get to the El Zaino Entrance is to take the local green bus running from the Santa Marta Public Market (Mercado Público de Santa Marta).
This bus runs every 30 minutes or so, starting from 8:00 AM, and costs just 8,000 Colombian Pesos. Expect a journey of just over an hour from Santa Marta before stopping at a parking lot just outside the park.
When you’re at Mercado Santa Marta, just ask any local for “Tayrona” and they’ll point to the bus you need.
If you’re coming from Minca, the colectivo takes you directly to the public market, where you hop off directly next to the Tayrona bus.
Tip: Colombia is an adventure traveler’s playground! If you’re planning to rent motorbikes or go hiking, then make sure you have travel insurance for adventurers. The best option currently is WorldNomads, which cater to young adventure travelers. For longer backpacking trips, check out the nomad insurance by SafetyWing.
Coach Bus From Santa Marta Bus Station
For travelers looking to get to Cabo San Juan Beach and Tayrona National Park from other parts of Colombia, you also have the option to take a more expensive, but much more comfortable coach bus to the entrance.
This is a convenient option if you end up at the Santa Marta Bus Station (Terminal de Transportes de Santa Marta), which is approximately 20 minutes outside the actual city. However, if you’re already in Santa Marta, or if you’re coming from Minca or Palomino, this wouldn’t make much sense.
For the rest of you, the best and safest bus company is called Brasilia, and you can book all your tickets in advance using the convenient Busbud website.
Tip: You can also arrange a private taxi from Santa Marta to Tayrona National Park, but expect to pay around 80,000 – 100,000 Colombian pesos for this.
El Zaino to Cabo San Juan Tayrona National Park
Once you arrive at the El Zaino entrance, you’ll undoubtedly be greeted by several salespeople offering you accommodation in the park. If you’re looking to camp on Cabo San Juan Tayrona, then it’s actually easiest to just pay the camping fee here (since it’s the same price anyway).
Afterward, travelers will also need to pay the Taryona entrance fee, which is currently 57,500 COP per person (seems to increase every year). Additionally, it is now a requirement to pay for Tayrona medical insurance at the entrance as well, which is 5,000 pesos per day. You can pay both of these fees with your credit card
Tip: There are no ATMs within the national park. So, make sure you bring enough cash with you to last the duration of the trip.
Once you’re finally inside Tayrona Park, you can start the journey to Cabo San Juan. While you can walk from the entrance, the easiest way is to take the colectivo vans at the entrance to the start of the trail. This is 5,000 pesos per person and takes you all the way to the coast to the start of the trail.
In order to get to Cabo San Juan, you need to hike in. This is a very scenic trail but takes around 2 hours (9 kilometers or 5.5 miles), following a mostly-flat jungle track.
Along the way, you’ll be granted loads of wildlife spotting opportunities and pass some more beautiful beaches, including Arrecifes, Playa Arenilla, and La Piscina beach.
This hike is very easy to follow and can even be slightly crowded. Since Cabo Beach is the most popular in the park, most people will be heading here.
10 Things to Know About Cabo San Juan Del Guia in Tayrona National Park
With all of the logistics out of the way, let’s dive into what I promised. 10 important things to know about visiting Cabo San Juan Del Guía in Tayrona National Park
1. You Have to Hike In
As you already know by now, in order to get to this beautiful place, you have to be prepared to hike in.
This is quite a long walk, especially if you’re not an experienced hiker in the tropics. Remember to bring your own water!
The trail winds its way up the coast, passing sections of exposed beaches, palm tree forests, and dense tropical forests. There’s lots of wildlife on the way too, so keep an eye out for monkeys!
Tip: Since you have to hike in, I highly recommend not bringing a large backpack with all your travel gear. Instead, leave this at your hostel in Santa Marta or Palomino. Masaya Hostel in Santa Marta and Dreamer in Palomino allow this.
2. You’ll Need to Bring Your Own Water
In order to keep this beautiful destination clean, plastic is not permitted inside Tayrona National Park. This means finding plastic water bottles is difficult but also keeps them out of the Caribbean Sea!
As a result, if you’re heading into Cabo San Juan Beach, you’ll want to bring your own water. Just remember to pack them out!
Many travelers purchase large gallon bottles at the entrance to the park. However, I simply relied on my Grayl Purifying bottle to filter the water available at the campsite.
3. You Can Camp on the Beach
Camping on Cabo San Juan is perhaps one of the biggest draws for many travelers.
If you’re thinking about camping, then it’s good to know that you have the option to sleep in a tent or hammock.
The prices are as follows:
- Hammock in the main camping area: 40,000 COP per hammock
- Watchtower hammock: 50,000 COP per hammock
- Tent site (bring your own tent): 20,000 COP per person
- Tent in camping area: 40,000 COP per person
There are basic toilet facilities (1,000 pesos to use them), as well as a cold, outdoor shower.
If you’re going to camp, I recommend spending one-night camping and spending a full day at Cabo San Juan beach the next day. This will give you enough time to enjoy the area.
4. It’s a Great Beach for Swimming
Perhaps the main reason why Cabo San Juan beach is so popular is that it’s the safest in the area for swimming. This beach is in a semi-sheltered cove, resulting in less exposure to currents and large swell. There are also lifeguards on duty and a safety net strung through the crystal clear waters.
However, remember to always monitor conditions and don’t swim anywhere unless you are confident in the water.
5. Cabo San Juan is a Popular Beach!
Yes, you might already know this, but Cabo San Juan is one of the most popular beaches in the region and by far the most popular in Tayrona National Park!
This is especially true in the peak season, where you’ll want to avoid public holidays and even weekends if possible.
For those wanting to escape the crowds, consider camping on Playa Brava instead. This is a less-popular alternative and easily accessible from the Calabazo entrance.
Tip: The high season in Colombia runs between June to July and December to February.
6. There’s a Restaurant At the Beach
If you’re worried about food when staying at Cabo San Juan beach, don’t be! There’s a large restaurant just a short walk from the shore offering big meals at reasonable prices.
There’s also another small restaurant just a little further down, which mostly sells small snacks.
7. Insurance is Compulsary
This is one for those of you who skipped the logistics section above. Tayrona medical insurance is compulsory, even if you have your own travel insurance.
Luckily, this isn’t too expensive, at just 5,000 Colombian pesos per day. You’ll pay this fee at the entrance to the park. I’ve been told that this fee used to be 2,500, so let’s hope it doesn’t keep doubling every few years!
8. There are Lifeguards at the Beach
If you’re worried about safety, it’s good to know that there are lifeguards at the Cabo San Juan beach.
While I visited in the busy season, I was also told that they monitor this beach year-round and are there in the low season as well.
9. Cabo San Juan is Very Safe
Cabo San Juan del Guía is a very safe beach. Unlike in other parts of Colombia, crime is very uncommon here.
So, for nature lovers and photographers, walking around with a camera is completely fine.
10. The Hike to El Pueblito is Closed
Unfortunately, this information wasn’t available to me online when I visited. However, as of 2018, the hike from Cabo San Juan beach to the indigenous village of El Pueblito is now closed. This is a sacred place and is now closed off from tourism.
This happened just prior to the pandemic in 2018 and was due to a request of the indigenous people living in the communities (not a result of Covid). While you can technically still hike from Cabo San Juan along the track towards Playa Brava, it’s best to take the Calabazo entrance instead.
Alternative Accommodation in Tayrona National Park
Most backpackers will tell you that you only need one or two nights of camping at Cabo San Juan Beach. However, I actually recommend spending at least a night in the jungle interior as well.
This will give you the best of both worlds, waking up to a beautiful sunrise over turquoise waters AND spending the night in the forest amongst rare and protected wildlife!
You don’t need to book your camping in advance but I highly recommend booking accommodation in Tayrona National Park online as there aren’t many options available. Here are my recommendations.
- Ecohabs Bamboo – beautiful Ecohabs (bamboo cabins) nestled in the deep jungles and surrounded by wildlife.
- Mirador del Parque – a budget option for staying inside Tayrona National park. Sleep in dorms or private jungle huts high on a hill overlooking the jungle canopy.
- Ecolodge Playa Brava – amazing beach huts located right on Playa Brava beach.
Tip: While you can also stay outside the entrance, it’s worth booking accommodation inside the park since otherwise, you’ll need to pay for multiple entrance tickets (which are expensive).
More Colombia Travel Guides & Blogs
And, that’s a wrap for this travel guide to Cabo San Juan del Guía Beach in Tayrona National Park, Colombia.
Below you’ll find more Colombia travel guides and inspiration for backpacking in South America.