Drawing visitors to the sheer beauty of its natural environment, which makes for the park’s main attraction, Tayrona National Park is among Colombia’s most important and gorgeous national parks. Located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, this park, which mostly comprises tropical jungle, unfolds in a varied scenery, from the south’s rainforest to the arid climate of the west, with its light-brown hills and cacti; the central and eastern parts boasting a more verdant backdrop; its wetland covered with lush rainforest…and, along the coast in the north, as you travel down the marked jungle trails, it is punctuated with openings that lead to splendid white sand beaches. All this, served by crystal waters, a large biodiversity and some impressive options for accommodation, making Tayrona one of the north coast’s most appealing destinations.
Tayrona is sanctuary to over 300 bird species as well as a multitude of exotic animals that include jaguars, howler monkeys, iguanas, red woodpeckers and lizards. Of the park’s total 37,066 acres, 7,413 acres is protected marine reserve that boasts equal biodiversity. You are sure to admire the striking coral formations found here in the reserve, some of these sites available to visit via diving excursion.
The closest beaches to the park’s entrance (approximately a 30-45 minute walk) are the picturesque Cañaveral and Arrecifes. Pricey camping facilities with no shortage of showering and bathroom facilities as well as small eco-lodges, more upscale versions of the traditional accommodations of the area, can be found. However, the waters have some of the most unpredictably-vicious currents (always steer clear of red flags in the water), which means swimming is off limits. In Arrecifes, in particular, where numerous lives have been taken. Beaches like San Juan and the spectacular La Piscina, both a beach and natural lagoon formed by offshore coral, make for excellent swimming sites, but only during daylight. These two spots offer great snorkeling as well.
And, for those seeking a little more stimulation, there is the ancient ruins of Chairama village—seen as a smaller version of “The Lost City”—to hike. Believed to have once been a major settlement of the Tayrona people at one time, its 500 or more uncovered dwellings are presumed to have housed 4,000.