Just outside of Santa Marta and at the foothill of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, we find the Tayrona National Park.
A beautiful place that offers some of the best beaches, relaxing hikes and breathtaking sights in Colombia and according to many, even South America.
Those who seek a wide range of options will find activities like snorkelling, horse riding, camping, bird and animal watching, visiting archeological sites and why not? nude bathing.
How to get to Tayrona National Park
The Tayrona National Park has an extension of 225 km2 and naturally has many access points (El Zaino, Taganga, Palangana, Calabozo and Bahia Concha).
Most visitors enter via El Zaino or Taganga since they are relatively easy to reach from the other major destinations in Colombia.
Given its proximity to Santa Marta, most visitors leave from here to take the bus to Tayrona, but often also from Barranquilla and Cartagena.
Below we will describe in detail how to reach Tayrona from all three destinations.
Getting in Tayrona
The beauty of Tayrona is loved by all and perhaps is one of numerous reasons to be also a holy place for many of the indigenous people in the area, hence its a protected area and access is restricted during some holidays.
These periods in February, June and October may vary, so we recommend to check with anticipation for the exact dates when your trip falls within these months.
A park ticket must be purchased (Booking online is deactivated at the moment, but in case this changes, the website is https://reservas.parquesnacionales.gov.co if not, the ticket can be bought with cash or cards [only in El Zaino and Palangana]) and prices for foreigners go from 56,000 COP ($13) on low season, to 66,000 COP ($16) on high season, which is from December to January, during Easter holiday and mid-June to July.
Also take into consideration that an insurance is mandatory, which is sold at the park entrance, for 2,500 COP ($0.6) per day.
Like many places in South America, it is also highly recommended to have a yellow fever vaccine certificate to enter.
From Santa Marta to Tayrona National Park
Tayrona National Park is one of the top things to do in Santa Marta for tourists and locals alike, thanks to the variety of open-door activities, exotic fauna and flora and beautiful landscapes.
A visit to the park can be limited to a day for those with hurry, but we recommend a staying multiple days by camping or staying in one of the lodges for those hungry for adventure and with time in their pocket.
When visiting Tayrona from Santa Marta, you can choose from five access points to the Tayrona National Park, each with different buses or even by boat.
Most of them start from the Mercado area in Santa Marta and will take between 40 minutes to 1 hour and 20 minutes ride to the entrance and tickets can be bought on the bus.
Once inside the park, moving is mostly by walk, but horse riding and a small bus exist in El Zaino entrance to get closer to some of the main attractions and camping/lodging sites available.
If you want to use the bus, for 3000 COP ($0.8) after a 10 minute ride, it will leave you around Cañaveral, which is the starting point for most trekking routes in the park.
Below we will share the information on each of the following entrances:
- El Zaino
- Bahia Concha
From Santa Marta to Tayrona National Park by Bus
You can find three out of the four entrances to the park along the same road (Santa Marta to Palomino road), so you can take the bus from Cootransoriente Tayrona to reach them. The buses remain one of the most popular options because they run frequently and are budget friendly.
As for the Bahia Concha area, arriving by bus can be more challenging since it demands changing buses and a road in poor conditions.
You can find below, examples of the time required to get to each of Tayrona’s park entrance and the prices you will pay.
|Arriving||Duration||Costs||Sites of interest|
|El Zaino||1h||$1.70||La Piscina, Arrecifes, Cabo San Juan|
|Palangana||35m||$0.90||Playa Crista, Playa Cinto, Playa 7 olas|
|Calabazo||45m||$1.50||Pueblito, Cabo San Juan, Playa Brava|
|Bahía Concha||30m||$4.20||Bahia Concha|
Arrival Point #1: (Public) Bus from Santa Marta to Tayrona El Zaino Entrance
Duration: 1-1.5 hours
Costs: 7,000 COP ($1.70)
Near the town’s main market the buses from Cootransoriente Tayrona (Corner of Carrera 9 and Calle 11) depart all days of the week with a bus every 20 minutes starting at 6:00 am in their route to Palomino.
You can let the driver know your stop by just referring to it as Tayrona’s Park entrance.
Arrival Point #2: Bus from Santa Marta to Tayrona Palangana entrance
Duration: 35 minutes
Costs: 3,500 COP ($0.90)
Arriving to this entrance by bus involves the same company and route to El Zaino. However, this entrance is mostly used by visitors with private transportation, because the entrance is quite far from attractions in the park like Neguanje and the beaches around, and there is no public transport available from the entrance onward.
Arrival Point #3: Bus from Santa Marta to Tayrona Calabazo Entrance
Duration: 45 minutes
Costs: 6,000 COP (1.5 USD)
Calabazo is another stop in the route from Santa Marta to Palomino, just before Zaino.
This is the entrance for those looking forward to start hikes to the indigenous town of Pueblito and the beaches. A local guide is recommended.
Arrival Point #4: Bus from Santa Marta to Tayrona Bahia Concha Area
Duration: 30 minutes
Costs: 16,800 COP ($4.20)
Bahia Concha is the closest point to Santa Marta, but access requires a transfer at Bastidas.
For the first leg of the trip from downtown Santa Marta, take a bus to Barrio Bastidas and then a carro (shared ride) to Bahia Concha. Below we explain both steps in more detail.
Step 1: Downtown to Bastidas
Duration: 15 minutes
Costs: 1800 COP ($0.50)
Buses can be boarded from Carrera 5 in downtown Santa Marta in direction to Bastidas and then stop at the last stop of Barrio Chimila, where the cars to Barria Concha wait.
Step 2: Bastidas to Bahia Concha
Duration: 15 minutes
Costs: 15,000 COP ($3.70)
Town cars and 4x4s wait in the area. A ride here can be agreed to include the return trip at a certain hour. There are Motorcycle taxis available as well for a cheaper fare, but it is not recommended for the bumpy road ahead.
Santa Marta to Tayrona by Boat via Taganga
Duration: 1-1.5 hours
Costs: 51,800 COP ($13)
Using a boat can be an exciting and quick way to arrive at the main beaches in Tayrona.
Travelers often use this way to hop between beaches in a single day or combine with Zaino entrance to cover more ground in a trip.
There are many options in boat size, speed and price but take in consideration when hiring that these are not easy waters and are not made for those susceptible to seasickness, while others might enjoy the extra adrenaline and the adventure.
The trip requires a transfer, since boats don’t sail from Santa Marta directly, but from Taganga, a nice small town just 7 km away.
Depending on which option you choose, you can either book your boat as a tour or transfer through a travel agency or via the Parque Tayrona website, or get to Taganga and board directly there.
Step 1: Downtown to Taganga by Bus
Duration: 20 minutes
Costs: 1,800 COP ($0.50)
When downtown, look for Carrera 5 where buses with a sign of Taganga pass along every 5 minutes.
Take this bus until the final stop in Taganga and look for the boat stands.
Step 2: Taganga to Tayrona by Boat
Duration: 45 minutes
Costs: 50,000 COP ($12.5)
There are boats from several tour operators departing everyday from Taganga to Tayrona, between 10 am and 11 am.
The boats all follow the same route from Taganga to Cabo San Juan with stops in all the famous beaches like Playa Cristal, Cinto and Chengue on the way.
Expect to pay around 50,000 COP ($12.5) one-way but you might get a better price if you hire same day round trip.
Santa Marta to Tayrona El Zaino by Taxi
|Arriving||Duration||Prices from||Sites of interest|
|El Zaino||50m||$15 - $20||La Piscina, Arrecifes, Cabo San Juan|
|Palangana / Neguanje||1h||$13 - $15||Playa Crista, Playa Cinto, Playa 7 olas|
|Calabazo||35m||$13 - $15||Pueblito, Cabo San Juan, Playa Brava|
|Bahía Concha||35m||$4 - $8||Bahía Concha|
Santa Marta to Tayrona El Zaino by Shared Transfer
With Tayrona Tour Colombia
Duration: 1h to park entrance
Costs: 40,000 COP ($12)
A shared transfer from your a hotel is a good option if you want to avoid the hassle of going to the mercado area to catch the bus.
The shuttle will even take you inside the first 4 km of the park road and drop you off around Cañaveral. You can get tickets for the shared transfer to Tayrona through Tayrona Tour Colombia website
From Cartagena to Tayrona National Park
When travelling the 240km from Cartagena to Tayrona National Park, you have 2 options: You can either take a direct van to Tayrona Park entrance El Zaino for 5 hours or a combined Bus with a transfer in Santa Marta for at least 5.5 hours.
Rates range from 37,000 COP ($9.20) to 88,000 COP ($22).
The Minivan is the easiest way to reach Tayrona National Park from Cartagena. The journey takes 4.5 to 5 hours and you can get a seat starting at 88,000 COP ($22).
|Minivan||5h||88,000 COP ($22)||Check van tickets|
|Bus||5h 30m excl. transfer time||37,000 ($9.20)||Read article for info|
Cartagena to Tayrona National Park by Minivan
Duration: 5 to 5.5 hours
Costs: 88,000 COP ($22)
From Cartagena to Tayrona, minivans take 4.5 to 5 hours depending on traffic and stops along the way. Travelers prefer this option because the agency provides door-to-door service.
Tickets for Marsol Transportes can be booked online or via whatsapp (+57 3008285807 – 3017901553), and you will be asked to be ready 1 h before the pick-up time and to let your driver know.
We advice to avoid picking the minivan that stops in Barranquilla for a faster trip.
Cartagena to Tayrona National Park by Bus
Duration: 5.5 hours
Costs: 37,000 COP ($10)
You need to head to Cartagena’s bus terminal, found outside the city and catch the daily bus from Cartagena to Riohacha, asking the driver to stop at Tayrona’s entrance.
If you miss the previous option, you can easily take a bus to Santa Marta which runs more frequently, and from the bus terminal there find another bus that heads to Palomino or Riohacha and ask the driver to stop at the park entrance.
Cartagena to Tayrona National Park by Taxi
Since the trip can be made by the popular shared minivan, not many people take taxis for the private transfer, but depending on season and operator, you can expect to pay from 550,000 to 730,000 COP ($135 – $180).
From Barranquilla to Tayrona National Park
When travelling the 112km from Barranquilla to Tayrona National Park, you have 2 options: You can either take a direct van to Tayrona Park entrance El Zaino for 3 hours or a combined Bus with a transfer in Santa Marta for at least 3.5 hours.
Rates range from 20,000 COP ($5.20) to 50,000 COP ($13).
The Minivan is the easiest way to reach Tayrona National Park from Barranquilla. The journey takes 3 to 3.5 hours and you can get a seat starting at 50,000 COP ($13).
|Minivan||3h||50,000 COP ($13)||Read article for info|
|Bus||3h 30m excl. transfer time||20,000 COP ($5.20)||Read article for info|
Barranquilla to Tayrona National Park by Minivan
With Marsol Transportes or Caribe Vans
Duration: 3 hours
Costs: 50,000 COP ($13)
From Barranquilla to Tayrona, minivans take 3 to 3.5 hours depending on traffic and stops along the way. Travelers prefer this option because the driver can pick you up from any hotel in Barranquilla or Cartagena and drop you at most hotels in Tayrona.
Tickets for Marsol Transportes can be via whatsapp or phone call (+57 3008285807 – 3017901553) and Tickets for Caribe Vans can be booked via whatsapp or phone call (+57 300 5438797)
Barranquilla to Tayrona National Park by Bus
Duration: 3.5 hours
Costs: 20,000 COP ($13)
A simple and economical way to go from Barranquilla to Tayrona is to take any bus to Guajira region (Palomino and Riohacha) and ask the driver to leave you at the park entrance in El Zaino. You can book the tickets online to Palomino or Riohacha, but we recommend to ask the busdriver in advance to make sure the bus stops at the park entrance.
If the buses won’t stop at the park entrance, you can just buy a ticket to Santa Marta and from this bus terminal, find another bus headed to Palomino or Guajira which run more frequently.