When people come to the Caribbean Coast of Colombia they usually opt for one of two destinations: Cartagena or Santa Marta.
Most would say Cartagena is the most popular option, however Santa Marta has its own set of wonders to offer to any traveler willing to venture that way.
Santa Marta is located further north
on the Caribbean coast of Cartagena and is the capital of the Magdalena department.
Santa Marta is one of the oldest cities in Colombia (and South American for that matter) and is the city where the famous liberator of South America, Simón Bolívar died in 1830.
The current city of Santa Marta has some historical places worth visiting, such as the Cathedral (Cathedral) of Santa Marta and the Quinta de San Pedro.
The farm where Simón Bolívar died that has now become an impressive museum and events space It is definitely worth a visit.
And, although Santa Marta has the well-known bay area called Rodadero, the true jewels of Santa Marta are the beaches just outside the city such as those of the Tayrona National Natural Park (Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona) and Bahía Concha (Shell Bay ).
Most of the people who travel to Santa Marta actually bypass the city and head straight for Tayrona Park, once you have been, you will understand
To get to Tayrona Park
You can take cheap but slow buses from Santa Marta, near the Mercado (market) in the center of Santa Marta.
These buses cost around $ 1.50 USD / £ 1 and are a good way to see more imposing and rub shoulders with the locals. However.
- If you are pressed for time, you can take a taxi to a gas station in Mamatoco (any taxi driver will know where you are speaking) where there will be several larger.
More comfortable buses waiting to take you to the entrance of Tayrona Park.
These buses can cost between 10,000 COP 25,000 COP ($ 5 USD) -You will have to do a good deal of negotiation to get a good price. Prepare to haggle.
Once you arrive at the entrance to Tayrona Park
You will have to show an official form of identification (passport or ID) to enter the park. They will also charge you according to your nationality / student status.
- A lot of people prefer to camp in Tayrona Park, as the walk to the actual beach surfaces can be long and tiring, and the area is too big to enjoy a day visit.
If you camp, you will get a special arm band at the park entrance.
Once inside, you can choose to walk or take a short bus ride to the beginning of the hiking trail that will take you to the incredible beaches of the park’s hosts.
This interests you:
Be prepared to walk a lot. Bring comfortable shoes (not flip flops) and comfortable clothes for walks.
As you go hiking, you will see amazing plants and animals like howler monkeys, all kinds of lizards, lizards, insects and reptiles, as well as curious mammals.
You will walk through a «coconut forest» and pass boulder like whale-like formations when you approach the beaches.
The first beaches one reaches are a swimming exclusion zone as hangovers are deadly. Please lead the ranger council and do not swim in this area.
After another 30 minutes or so, the start of a low chain of bathing beaches will come.
One of the first beaches you reach is called the swimming pool (the swimming pool), due to its incredibly calm waters.
- In addition to being calm, however, this water is also full of «gold» flakes. You really believe that you are swimming in luxury on this beach.
Beyond the pool, you reach Cabo San Juan, perhaps the most popular beach in the park.
This is where most campers stay and where you can rent a hammock, they shouldn’t want to sleep in a tent.
If you are looking for different options to enjoy the wonderful beaches, you can also book a walk to the Lost City, sometimes called the Machu Picchu in Colombia.
The Lost City is believed to be older than Machu Picchu and was built by the Tayrona indigenous group that still lives within Tayrona Park.
If you are not ready for a multi-day hike to the Lost City, you can take a short hike to a small indigenous community called El Pueblito which is about a ~ 3 hour hike.
- Regardless of what you decide to do, Parque Tayrona is a must-see on any visit to the Colombian Caribbean Coast.
It is a true Colombian treasure that offers a unique vision of nature and indigenous life in this region of Colombia