If you’re heading to Tayrona in Colombia, then we think the best option is to spend two full days and one night within the famous national park. Lots of people come here for a day-trip, but that’s going to be a rushed experience and, if you’re on a budget, it’s not terribly good value.
Based on our own experience, we’ve detailed a two day itinerary for Tayrona, with the key information on walking the trails, which of the beaches to visit, and where to stay - this is based on entry at the main Zaino entrance and ticket booths. For more information on how to plan your visit, costs, what to bring, and transport connections from Santa Marta or Taganga, then you should read our comprehensive Guide to Tayrona National Park next.
The times below are based on our own casual walking speed, and so could take a little longer or a little less time.
8 a.m. | Arrive at the Main Entrance
Queues get long after 9 a.m., so you should arrive at the Zaino entrance close to when the ticket booths open at 8 a.m. Alternatively, you can purchase your advance ticket online.
Also, if you plan on staying at Cabo San Juan, this is where you should reserve and pay for your hammock or tent.
8.30 a.m. | Shuttle Bus to Time from Zaino entrance to Cañaveral
Regular departures from the spot just after the ticket booths, on the right hand side. Cost is $3,000 per person, with a travel time of 10 minutes. It’s not worth walking this route.
8.45 a.m. | Start The Walk to the Beaches
The shuttle bus will drop you off at Cañaveral. Take the road straight ahead towards Zona de Parqueo / Arrecifes, which sees your start the 50 minute / 3.2 kms walk along the Ruta del Conocimiento. Stop for a freshly squeezed orange juice along the way!
9.45 a.m. | Arrive at Arrecifes
This is the first beach you’ll reach within Tayrona National Park. It’s long and wild, and you absolutely should not swim in it due to the currents. There are also a few campsites here which are generally cheaper than those you will find further along the trail.
Visit the beach or continue walking, following the signs which clearly mark the route.
10.15 a.m. | Walk from Arrecife to La Piscina
Through the palm tree forests, it’s a pleasant 15 minute / 1.5 kms walk to La Piscina, which is a lovely beach. You can either take the path to the left which avoids the sand, or walk along the beach to connect back up with the trail. Our advice is to save your visit to this beach for the next day.
11. 00 a.m. | Walk from La Piscina to Cabo San Juan
Passing another lovely sliver of beach on the right hand side, continue on the trail towards Cabo San Juan. You’ll arrive in 30 minutes or so, and should register at the small office at the entrance to get your assigned tent or hammock.
11.30 a.m. - 1 p.m. | Hang out in Cabo San Juan
Cabo San Juan is incredibly popular, but there’s a good chance you’ll have worked up an appetite now. Sort out your tent / hammock, and then head over to the restaurant for lunch or find a spot at one of the beaches if you’ve brought your own.
Day One Afternoon | Your Choice
Depending on the weather or crowds, you can either walk a little further to Punta Piedra and the nudist beach (15-30 minutes) which are stunning and less busy, or decide to hang out at the two beaches right next to the campsite. It’s not possible or safe to swim at several beaches in Tayrona, due to very strong currents (people have died not paying attention to this), but you can swim at the two beaches in Cabo San Juan - just pay attention to signs and warnings.
Day One | Evening
As we mention in our Tayrona National Park guide for travellers, the crowds will die down from around 4 p.m. onwards, so you can enjoy a bit of a more peaceful vibe. The sunsets are incredible, so take that in with a cold bottle of Aguila and then either grab dinner at the restaurant or prepare your own.
7.00 a.m. | Wake Up
The chances of having a good night’s sleep in the hammocks and tents here are next to zero, but the benefit is that you can at least wake up to enjoy Tayrona at its very best - with the soft morning light, peaceful silence, and hardly any crowds.
7.30 a.m. - 10.30 a.m. | Explore Cabo San Juan
This is the ideal time to go out and explore, take photos, laze on the beach, meditate, do yoga, whatever you like.
11.00 a.m. | Start the walk to La Piscina
There are of course variants here, and you could opt to hang out in Cabo San Juan if you like. However, we think the best option is to go back to La Piscina to grab a spot as the new arrivals for the day are all making their way closer to San Juan.
La Piscina and the little beach next to it (not sure if it’s the same name) are lovely and you can also swim safely here.
12.30 p.m. | Lunch
If you’ve skipped breakfast like us, then grab an early lunch from the nearby restaurant or two stalls on the beach.
13.30 - 14.45 | Beach Time
Continue to hang out at the beautiful beach or move on to another one.
14.45 - 16.00 | Walk to Arrecifes + Cañaveral
Start your walk back to Arrecifes along the same trail as yesterday, continuing on to Cañaveral.
16.00 | Shuttle Bus to the Ticket Booths
Wait for the next shuttle bus for the 10-minute journey back to the entrance. We don’t know when the last one leaves, so you could actually leave a little later in the day if you know that it’s possible to leave later, and depending on your onward connections.
16.30 | Leave Tayrona for Santa Marta / Costeño / Palomino
Once the shuttle bus drops you off, you’ll be offered private taxis and shuttles, moto-taxis, or can simply wait for the next bus to your next destination in Colombia.
What about the hikes?
The main reason people come to Tayrona is for the beaches, however there are two hikes called Pueblito and Nine Piedras.
Despite hiking a lot during our time in South America (including the Lost City Trek in Colombia) we don’t think that it makes sense to try and fit in one of these hikes if you’re only visiting Tayrona National Park for two days. If you’re dead set on it, then you could set off for Pueblito from Cabo San Juan on the second morning as your main activity for the day - just make sure this is possible with your timings for exiting the park.