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15 Best Things to Do in Tayrona National Park, Colombia

15 Best Things to Do in Tayrona National Park, Colombia

Olly Gaspar

By Olly Gaspar, full-time traveler for 6 years. I visit every place I write about & share real tips, photos, & advice from my trips.

Discover 15 awesome things to do in Tayrona National Park on the Caribbean Coast of Northern Colombia.

Tayrona National Park is a world-renowned natural paradise with travelers from all over the world flocking to this park every year to witness its pristine beaches, lush rainforests, abundant wildlife, and stunning views of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range.

But, if you were like me and traveling around South America, you might initially be a little confused about how to plan a trip to Parque Tayrona.

That’s why, after spending a few days in this rich and unique park, I’ve written this travel guide featuring the top activities and things to do in Tayrona National Park.

Quick Things to Know About Visiting Tayrona National Park

Before you dive into this Tayrona National Park travel guide, here are some quick things you need to know.

  • Tayrona National Park is closed starting February 15th for the remainder of the month for ecological restoration and to allow indigenous communities to perform traditional rites. Dates can change yearly.
  • There are 2 park entrances - these are El Zaino and Calabazo. read my guide on how to get to Tayrona National Park for the best options. You need your passport at the gate.
  • Entrance Fee - the current entrance fee is 62,000 COP, the same at both gates, and you can pay this in cash or with a credit card at both gates. This increases to 73,500 COP in peak season (December to January) and public holidays.
  • It's best to bring your own drinking water - I swear by my Grayl Purifier bottle and haven't purchased a plastic water bottle since buying it four years ago!
  • Plastic bags are banned in Tayrona - don't bring any in
  • There are no ATMs - bring enough cash
  • You can camp on the beach or stay in cabañas - I have loads of recommendations below
  • You can't swim at many of the beaches - strong currents and waves have resulted in many drownings in this park
  • Tayrona NP Travel insurance is compulsory - limited insurance is compulsory for 6,000 COP per day at the entrance.
  • If you're camping, don't bring large backpacks - instead, leave them at your accommodation (Masaya Hostel in Santa Marta & Dreamer Hostel in Palomino allow you to do this).
  • Tayrona Park gets busy in high season - it's busiest in December & January and on weekends & public holidays

Awesome Things to do in Tayrona National Park

Okay, now with the logistics out of the way, let's dive into this list of unmissable things to do in Tayrona National Park, Colombia!

1. Hike to the Beautiful Beaches

While I came to Tayrona for the wildlife, most visit for a chance to see its pristine beaches.

And, it's no wonder, since the beaches on the Tayrona Park coastline are undisputed as the most beautiful in Colombia.

Picture endless stretches of palm tree-lined white-sand beaches with crystal clear waters backing onto dense, tropical jungle. There are no roads connecting the beaches, meaning you'll have to get here on foot! Luckily, there's a long and well-established hiking trail running the length of the coast and connecting all the best beaches.

Cabo san juan beach in tayrona national park

Some of the best include

  • Cabo San Juan del Guía (most popular)
  • Playa Brava (alternative camping beach via the Calabazo entrance)
  • Playa Cristal
  • Arrecifes
  • Castilletes and Canaveral
  • La Piscina

While there are many more picturesque beaches to visit here, you should know that many are not safe for swimming. That's because the strong currents and large swell that can occur on this stretch of coastline have led to several drownings in the past.

Make sure to monitor and follow the signs. Visitors will find large red "no swimming" signs throughout Parque Tayrona.

Beach in tayrona national park, colombia

2. Spot Wildlife

For nature lovers, the absolute best thing to do in Tayrona National Park is to go wildlife spotting!

This national park is extremely rich in biodiversity and is home to a wide range of mammals, birds, insects, and reptiles, some of which you'll find nowhere else on Earth.

The main reason why I came to visit Tayrona National Park was for a chance to spot the elusive and extremely rare cotton-top Tamarin. This particular monkey is one of the most critically endangered primate species on earth and only lives in this tiny slice of forest in Northern Colombia.

Cotton top tamarin in tayrona national park, colombia
Cotton top tamarin monkey

More animals you can see in Parque Tayrona include:

Colombian red howler monkey
Colombian Red Howler Monkeys
Capuchin monkey eating a mango
Capuchin Monkeys
Three toed sloth in a tree
Three-toed sloths
Northern tamandua
Northern Tamandua
Crimson crested woodpecker in front of a red howler monkey in the forest
Crimson Crested Woodpecker
Toucan in sierra nevada de santa marta
Keel billed toucan
Central american agouti (ñeques)
Central American Agouti (Ñeques)

In addition, here are some more interesting animals that I wasn't able to spot on my visit but roam the park

  • Crab-eating fox
  • Jaguar
  • Oncilla (Tigrillo)
  • Ocelote
  • 350+ different bird species
Olly gaspar wildlife photographer

3. Go Birding

Tayrona National Park is a birdwatcher's paradise.

With over 280 species of birds, it is one of the most biodiverse parks in Colombia. From colorful parrots like the Blue-headed Parrot to rare hummingbirds, spotting or photographing birds is one of the funnest things to do here!

Travelers and nature lovers will find birds all throughout the park, including on the nature trails, main roads, and beaches.

Toucan in colombia

4. Camp on Cabo San Juan

Cabo San Juan is by far the most popular beach in Tayrona National Park, and it's easy to see why. The white sand and turquoise waters are simply breathtaking, and the beach is sheltered by a lush forest.

However, what really draws the crowds to Cabo San Juan is the opportunity to camp right on the beach. There are various options, from hammock camping to renting a tent, or just simply paying for a site and bringing your own.

If you've got a bit of time in Tayrona Park, I'd recommend camping one night on the beach, and then staying in one of the huts in the jungle. This gives you the best of both worlds, from watching the sunrise over the Caribbean Sea from your tent to immersing yourself in the deep forests of Tayrona.

You'll find the camping area directly in front of the beach, and you can book your tent when you arrive at the park entrance or when you get to the beach.

Tip: Remember to bring your own mosquito nets!

Sunset at cabo san juan in tayrona national park, colombia

About the Lost City Trek: The 4-day hike to Ciudad Perdida is by far one of the most amazing things you can do in Northern Colombia. If you're in the region, make sure to include this on your itinerary. You can find out more information and book your trek at GetYourGuide.

5. The 9 Piedras Hike

Looking for a short loop hiking trail in Tayrona National Park? Make sure to check out the 9 Piedras trail.

This is an approximately 1.15 mile (1.8 kilometer) track near Cañaveral and Arrecife.

9 Piedras translates to "9 stones", and the trail basically follows a path connecting nine large boulders that are culturally significant to indigenous groups in the region.

Since you'll detour off the main beach trail, this short hike offers an excellent opportunity to avoid the crowds and spot more unique wildlife. Along the path, you'll pass a large lagoon, where it's sometimes possible to spot alligators.

Large boulder in colombian rainforest

6. Visit The Nudist Beach (Playa Nudista)

If you stroll down the popular Colombian tourist beaches of Rodadero or Taganga, there's no doubt you'll be asked by tour operators to take a boat trip to the "nudist beach", or playa nudista.

I'm not sure why this is such a huge selling point, but in reality, the infamous "nudist beach" is far from a beach sprawling with naked bodies. In fact, this is one of the longest stretches of sand on the coast, and there's almost always nobody here.

Also, it's impossible to swim at this beach, since the currents and swell are quite dangerous. However, if you're hanging around crowded Cabo San Juan and wondering what to do to escape the chaos, simply walk the short 10-minute track to Playa Nudista for a relaxing vibe.

Boat at tayrona national park

7. Spot One of the Rarest Primate Species in the World

Okay, you already know that Tayrona National Park is renowned for its pristine beaches, lush jungles, and abundant wildlife.

Visitors come from all over to experience the park's unique ecosystem, but one of the most unique things to do in Tayrona is to go on a monkey-spotting expedition. Deep within the park's jungle canopy lives one of the world's rarest primates, the cotton-top tamarin. This tiny monkey is endemic to the region and can be difficult to spot, but visitors who are lucky enough to catch a glimpse of one are sure to never forget it.

As mentioned above, the best place to get a chance to see these monkeys is actually on the main road in! Instead of taking the shared colectivo van, walk the length of the road from the entrance. Move silently and keep your eyes peeled on the canopy for any movement.

Cotton-top tamarin in tayrona park, colombia
Cotton-top tamarin in tayrona park, colombia
Cotton-top tamarin in tayrona park, colombia

8. Walk Among the Palm Trees

For many, an escape to the Caribbean is an elevating change from the hustle and bustle of city life. If this sounds like you, I'm sure you'll be stoked to hear that the beaches in Tayrona National Park are lined with beautiful coconut palms!

After camping on Cabo San Juan, get up early the next day and snap some awesome vacation photos under the beautiful palm trees on the way back to El Zaino!

Palm trees in tayrona park, colombia

9. Witness the Snow Capped Peaks of The Sierra Nevada Mountains

For me, one of the most amazing attractions in Tayrona National Park is the chance to witness the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

The best time to see the mountains is early in the morning when they are illuminated by the rising sun. Visitors can hike to one of the many lookout points in the park, for stunning views of both the mountains and the coastline. Whatever you do, make sure you don't miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime experience

What you’re seeing is the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, which is the tallest coastal mountain range in the world. The highest peak, Pico Cristóbal Colón (Gonawindua), reaches a whopping 5,775 meters (18880 feet) above sea level.

Sierra nevada snowy mountains from caribbean sea

10. Take a Boat Ride

If you're not yet in Tayrona Park but looking to visit on a day trip, then one of the best options is to jump on board a full-day sailing trip with Luis and his team!

While there are several boat trips departing for the famous Tayrona beaches from Santa Marta, Taganga, and Rodadero, this is by far the best.

Visitors will set sail for the natural park aboard a 17-meter (56-foot) sailing yacht. This trip is a small-group adventure, with just 25 maximum passengers. You'll get snorkeling equipment and lunch included as well!

Sailing boat near the beach in colombia

11. Camp on Playa Brava Instead

As I quickly touched on above, Cabo San Juan beach is one of the most popular beaches in this Colombian National Park. For those who'd prefer a more chill experience, I have an alternative for you.

Instead of entering at the main El Zaino entrance, enter at Calabazo, which you will find just a little earlier on the road.

From here, it's the same deal. You can walk the length to the coast, or take a shared van to Playa Brava. This is a much quieter beach and also a great one for swimming.

Similar to Cabo San Juan, you can simply bring your own tent, or pay per night for a hammock or one of the existing tents. Alternatively, travelers will also find one of the best places to stay in Tayrona here, called Ecolodge Playa Brava.

Hammocks on the beach

12. Enjoy Fresh Coconuts

Among the most refreshing things to do in Tayrona National Park is to drink fresh coconuts! As you might expect, the park is full of coconut palms, which means the supply is never-ending.

However, I'm not sure how the locals feel about you climbing the palms to pluck your own. Instead, pay one of the indigenous community members who you'll see selling coconuts along the popular hiking trail to Cabo San Juan del Guia beach.

The going rate for these fresh drinking coconuts is just 5,000 pesos each, which is approximately $1.30 USD!

Drinking coconuts

13. Go Snorkeling

As you can tell, there's absolutely no shortage of things to do in Tayrona National Park! Snorkeling is just one of the many activities on offer and can be a great place to spot a diverse range of marine life.

In fact, many people seem to forget the fact that the park contains a huge 30 square kilometers (12 mi²) of protected maritime area as well!

Of course, you'll need to get lucky and visit on a calm day for the best visibility. But, if you do, you swim amongst reef fish, turtles, and even dolphins.

Unfortunately, the seas were a little rough during my time exploring the park and therefore I don't have many great photos of the underwater scene.

14. Sleep in a Hut in the Jungle

Those who are short on time and wondering if they should camp or stay in the jungle, you've got a difficult decision to make. Again, I highly recommend trying to squeeze at least two nights to get the most out of the experience.

However, if I personally had to make a recommendation, I'd choose a jungle hut over beachside camping. That's because it's possible to camp on the beach in many destinations around Latin America. But, to be able to sleep in the middle of the jungle rainforest, surrounded by rare animals and tropical wildlife is a truly unique experience.

I chose to stay at the Mirador del Paraque, and I absolutely loved it. The owners have a long lineage in the area and are super friendly. The great part about this hut accommodation is that it's situated on top of a small hill. As the name suggests, this means guests will get to experience amazing views over the canopy and the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Hiking in tayrona national park

15. Make New Friends

Did you know that Tayrona National Park is one of the best places in Colombia for backpackers and adventure travelers to meet like-minded people? This is especially true if you decide to camp at one of the beaches.

At sunset and even into the night, there's usually a great vibe happening on the beach. So, grab a cerveza and enjoy!

Girl at cabo san juan beach
Marinka lower waterfall, colombia

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What About El Pueblito?

If you read an older, outdated article about activities and things to do in Tayrona National Park, you'll often find a visit to El Pueblito listed.

However, the truth is that this small indigenous village and the archeological site have been closed since late 2018. This was a decision by the local authorities to protect the indigenous culture.

While you can still hike from Cabo San Juan beach to Playa Brava via El Pueblito, entering the small village is no longer permitted.

Indigenous people of wiwa walking on the road in tayrona national natural park, colombia

Where to Stay 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 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 tayrona accommodation

1. Ecohabs Bamboo Eco

Beautiful Ecohabs (bamboo cabins) nestled in the deep jungles and surrounded by wildlife.

Bed in a hut in tayrona national park, mirador dento del parque tayrona

2. Mirador del Parque Budget

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 huts on the beach in tayrona national park, colombia

3. Ecolodge Playa Brava Beach Huts

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).

Tayrona Packing List - What to Bring

Wondering what essential items to bring to Tayrona National Natural Park? Below I've got you covered!

  • Bug repellent (bug spray) - okay, this is probably the most important Tayrona travel tip. Bring bug repellent! I've stopped using deet and now swear by the natural alternative from Sallye Ander
  • Bug cream - something to treat the inevitable bites. Again, the Sallye Ander cream helps reduce itching.
  • Hat and sunscreen - I'm Aussie so I might be biased, but Blue Lizard makes the best natural sunscreen on earth.
  • Grayl water purifier - No, you can't drink the tap water in Tayrona. Except if you have this water-purifying bottle. I've used it all over the world (including tap water in India), and saved thousands of plastic bottles from landfill in the process.
  • Camera or GoPro - this amazing biological park is totally safe, meaning you can have your camera out!.
  • Travel quick-dry towel - a must have travel essential for quick-dry convenience
  • Imodium - trust me, you might want to bring some, just in case.
  • Headlamp or flashlight - useful for nightly expeditions to spot rare wildlife
  • Flip Flops - embrace the beach life!
Hiking in tayrona national park, colombia

FAQs About Visiting Tayrona National Park

Is Tayrona open all year?

No, Tayrona is closed for the month of February every year.

Who is Tayrona National Park named for?

This national park is named after the ancient “Tairona” people of Northern Colombia. These tribes settled this land thousands of years ago and its modern descendants are now the indigenous Kogi people.

How many days do I need in Tayrona National Natural Park?

I recommend staying at least two nights here. This way, you can camp one night on the beach, and stay in the jungle for another.

Where do you put your luggage in Tayrona?

Bringing big heavy bags into the park is a big no-no! You'll have to do a lot of walking. Therefore, it's best to stash your bags at your accommodation in Santa Marta or Palomino.

Why is this park so famous?

Tayrona National Park is world-famous for its incredible Caribbean Beaches and its unique wildlife.

How far is Tayrona National Park from Cartagena?

Tayrona Park is over 130 miles (200 kilometers+) from Cartagena. It takes at least 4-5 hours to get to the park by bus or car from your hotel in Cartagena. Alternatively, fly to the closest airport at Santa Marta

Is this park worth visiting?

By now, you already know the answer– of course, it's worth visiting! In fact, it's one of the best places to visit in all of Colombia!

My Wildlife Photography from Parque Tayrona

I hope you've enjoyed this travel guide! This is currently up-to-date and reflects accurate information. I'll continue to update this guide in the coming years so that my readers always have a reliable source of information for their adventures in Colombia and South America.

Before you go, here are some more examples of wildlife photography that I was able to capture on my trip.

2 capuchin monkeys in the trees
Capuchin monkey
Rare cotton-top tamorin of tayrona park, colombia
Cotton-top tamarin in tayrona national park
Hanging monkey in the trees
Monkey in colombia
Howler monkey
Capuchin monkey in tayrona national park, colombia
Monkey in colombia
Colombian red howler monkey
Two cute capuchin monkeys in tayrona
Tayrona national park primate wildlife

More Colombia Travel Guides

And that's a wrap for this ultimate travel guide featuring 15 amazing things to do in Tayrona National Park, Colombia!

Below are some more travel articles and adventure inspiration for Colombia and South America. If you're up for an amazing hidden gem after Tayrona, check out Palomino!

  • Medellín Travel Guide: Discover fun activities and top highlights in Medellín
  • San Andrés Island: Guide to Colombia's best Caribbean Island
  • Minca Travel Guide: Discover incredible hikes, beautiful fincas, epic jungle waterfalls, and all-around relaxing vibes.
  • Things to do in Guatapé: Travel to Colombia's most scenic Antioquian town, known for its vibrant streets, traditional street art, and the famous Piedra del Peñol.
Girl and sunset at coffee plantation in minca

Colombia Accommodation Guides

Find the best places, areas, and accommodation picks across Colombia.

Thanks for Reading

I'm Olly Gaspar, adventure traveler from Australia. I’ve spent the last six years traveling the world full-time, sharing my first-hand experiences & photography in over 700 travel guides on We Seek Travel. I visit every destination I write about to bring you unique travel itineraries, epic hiking routes, fun tour ideas, travel & photography gear ideas, & interesting places to stay.

I only make genuine, worthwhile recommendations based on my experience, expertise, & research. If you buy through my links, I may get a commission, supporting this website at no extra cost to you. Read my Publishing Ethics Statement.


Sunday 18th of February 2024

Tayrona isn't closed for all of Feb, just til the 15th

Olly Gaspar

Sunday 18th of February 2024

Thanks for the update, I'll update this post to reflect the new changes! Cheers Kevin


Tuesday 7th of November 2023

Woaw, I am big birder and wildlife photographer, any recommendations on where to see all fauna in the park??! I'm spending this weekend there!

Olly Gaspar

Tuesday 14th of November 2023

Hi Ed,

You're in for a treat this weekend at Tayrona! Here are some spots I’d recommend:

Start at the Canaveral Sector near the entrance. It’s a hotspot for birds, especially in the early mornings or late afternoons. and, Don’t miss the Arrecifes Trail as well, you can find howler monkeys there.