Santa Marta to Tayrona National Park

What to expect in Tayrona National Park

Just outside of Santa Marta, sitting on the foothill of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, you will find Tayrona National Park.

A beautiful place that offers some of the best beaches, breathtaking hikes and unparalleled sights in Colombia and according to many, even South America.

Here, you’ll find activities like snorkelling, horse riding, camping, bird and animal watching, visiting archaeological sites and why not, nude bathing.

Tayrona National Park covers 225 km² and has many access points. Most visitors enter via El Zaino or Calabazo since they are relatively easy to reach from other major destinations in Colombia.

Some travellers visit the park for only a day, but if you have the chance, consider staying in Taryona National Park for a night or two. In and around the park, you’ll find some of the best places to stay in Colombia. A guaranteed unforgettable stay.

When is Tayrona National Park closed?

It’s important to know that Tayrona National park is closed for a proportion of February, June and October every year.

The indigenous communities living in Tayrona request this so that they can physically and spiritually clean the area, allowing the plants and wildlife to return.

In 2022, Tayrona National Park will be closed: 

  • 1-15 February
  • 1-15 June
  • 19 October – 2 November

The dates vary slightly every year, so make sure to check out Parque Tayrona for the latest information.

Entrance into Tayrona

A ticket for Tayrona can be bought with either cash or card (card is accepted only at El Zaino and Calabazo). The price for foreigners during the low season is 57,500 COP ($12) or 66,500 COP ($13.50) in the high season – December to January, during the Easter holiday and mid-June to July.

Also take into consideration that insurance is mandatory, which is sold at the park entrance, for 5,000 COP ($1) per day. This has to be paid in cash.

How to get from Santa Marta to Tayrona National Park

Given its proximity to Santa Marta, most visitors chose to hop on a bus from here. If you are coming from further, you can also travel straight from Barranquilla to Tayrona National Park or straight from Cartagena by minivan or bus.

When travelling from Santa Marta to Tayrona National Park, you can enter via four different access points, either overland, by bus or by taxi. El Zaino and Calabazo are the two most popular entrances.

  • El Zaino
  • Calabazo
  • Palangana
  • Bahia Concha

Most journeys start from the Mercado area in Santa Marta and will take between 40-80 minutes to reach an entrance at Tayrona. You can buy your tickets on the bus.

It’s also possible to get from Santa Marta to Tayrona National Park by boat. This boat leaves Taganga, a small town 7 km from Santa Marta.

The advantage of the boat is that it stops at famous beaches like Playa Cristal, Cinto and Chengue on the way. It’s a beautiful landscape to enjoy when the waters are calm. However, the Caribbean ocean can be quite rough. When the weather turns bad, it’s better to avoid the journey by boat.

Santa Marta to Tayrona National Park by Bus

Three out of the four entrances to the park can be found along the same bus route (Santa Marta to Palomino road) – El Zaino, Palagana and Calabazo.

The buses, run by Cootransoriente Tayrona, leave frequently and are a budget-friendly option from Santa Marta to Tayrona National Park.

If you want to arrive in the Bahia Concha area, then the bus can be more challenging because you’re required to change buses and the road conditions are poor.

Below are the journey cost and duration for the park entrances that can be accessed by bus:

ArrivingDurationCostsSites of interest
El Zaino1h$1.70La Piscina, Arrecifes, Cabo San Juan
Calabazo45m$1.50Pueblito, Cabo San Juan, Playa Brava
Palangana35m$0.90Playa Crista, Playa Cinto, Playa 7 olas
Bahía Concha30m$4.20Bahia Concha

Entrance #1: El Zaino

Duration: 1-1.5 hours
Cost: 7,000 COP ($1.70)
Duration: 1-1.5 hours
Cost: 7,000 COP ($1.70)

This is Tayrona National Park’s most popular entrance. It provides access to the hiking route that takes you past a number of popular beaches and to Cabo San Juan after 2.5 hours of hiking.

The Cootransoriente Tayrona buses depart every day of the week from 06:00, running every 20 minutes or so. These buses wait by Santa Marta’s main market (corner of Carrera 9 and Calle 11) and head in the direction of Palomino.

If you want to double-check the schedule times from Santa Marta to Tayrona National Park, check out the bus company’s website or better, their Facebook page because their website is often down.

You can let the driver know your stop by just referring to it as Tayrona Park entrance.

Entrance #2: Calabazo

Duration: 45 minutes
Cost: 6,000 COP ($1.50)
Duration: 45 minutes
Cost: 6,000 COP ($1.50)

Calabazo is another stop on the same route from Santa Marta to Palomino, just before El Zaino.

This is the entrance for those looking to hike to the indigenous town of Pueblito, more off-the-beaten-track hikes and the beaches. The hike to Cabo San Juan takes around 3.5 hours from this entrance.

Entrance #3: Palangana

Duration: 35 minutes
Cost: 3,500 COP ($0.90)
Duration: 35 minutes
Cost: 3,500 COP ($0.90)

The bus journey to this entrance is run the by the same bus company as the El Zaino entrance, Cootransoriente Tayrona.

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 surrounding beaches. Plus there is no public transport available from the entrance.

Entrance #4: Bahia Concha

Duration: 30 minutes
Cost: 16,800 COP ($4.20)
Duration: 30 minutes
Cost: 16,800 COP ($4.20)

Bahia Concha is the closest point to Santa Marta but access requires a transfer at Bastidas.

To get to Bastids, you’ll need to board the bus from Carrera 5 in downtown Santa Marta in the direction of Bastidas. You’ll need to ride the bus until the last stop at Barrio Chimila, where carros (shared cars) to Barria Concha wait.

A bus ride costs only 1,800 COP ($0.50) and takes just 15 minutes to Barrio Chimila. Here, town cars and 4x4s will be waiting in the area and take you in about 15 minutes to Bahia Concha entrance. One way costs around 15,000 COP ($3.70), but many travellers also negotiate with the driver to include the return trip at a certain hour.

There are also motorcycle taxis available for a cheaper fare, but it’s not recommended because of the bumpy road ahead.

Santa Marta to Tayrona by Taxi

A taxi is a more expensive option, but certainly the most convenient from Santa Marta to Tayrona National Park. If you want to skip the hassle, book a taxi from your accommodation straight to the entrance gate.

Here are estimates for the different entrances from Santa Marta:

ArrivingDurationPrices fromSites of interest
El Zaino50m$15 – $20La Piscina, Arrecifes, Cabo San Juan
Calabazo35m$13 – $15Pueblito, Cabo San Juan, Playa Brava
Palangana/Neguanje1h$13 – $15Playa Crista, Playa Cinto, Playa 7 olas
Bahía Concha35m$4 – $8Bahía Concha

Santa Marta to Tayrona El Zaino by Shared Transfer

Duration: 1 hour
Cost: 40,000 COP ($12)
Duration: 1 hour
Cost: 40,000 COP ($12)

Perhaps a more convenient option too, compared to the bus, is getting a shared transfer from your hotel in Santa Marta to Tayrona National Park. Again, you’ll get to avoid the hassle of going to the Mercado area to catch the bus.

The shuttle, run by Tayrona Tour Colombia, will even take you inside the first 4 km of the park and drop you off around Cañaveral. You can get tickets for the shared transfer to Tayrona through Tayrona Tour Colombia website.

Santa Marta to Tayrona via Taganga by Boat

Duration: 1-1.5 hours
Cost: 51,800 COP ($13)
Duration: 1-1.5 hours
Cost: 51,800 COP ($13)

Using a boat can be an exciting and quick way to get from Santa Marta to Tayrona National Park’s main beaches.

At least when the weather is calm. On stormy days, it’s better to avoid this way to get to Tayrona because the ocean can be quite rough, making the journey a far less pleasant experience.

Thereby, there are many boat sizes available, offering a range of choices in terms of speed and price. In general, bigger boats are more resistant to rough water. If you’re prone to motion or sea-sickness, it’s better to avoid the boat at all and take the bus.

Travellers often use this way to hop between beaches in a single day or combine with the El Zaino entrance in order to cover more ground in one trip.

This trip does require a transfer because the boats depart from Taganga instead, a small town 7 km away from Santa Marta.

Depending on which option you choose, you can either book your boat as a tour through a travel agency or via the Parque Tayrona website, or get to Taganga and buy a ticket there.

Step 1: Downtown to Taganga by Bus

Duration: 20 minutes
Cost: 1,800 COP ($0.50)
Duration: 20 minutes
Cost: 1,800 COP ($0.50)

Once in downtown Santa Marta, look for Carrera 5 where you’ll find buses with a sign saying Taganga. They tend to drive past every 5 minutes.

Take this bus until the final stop in Taganga and then look for the boat stands selling tickets to Tayrona.

Step 2: Taganga to Tayrona by Boat

Duration: 45 minutes
Cost: 50,000 COP ($12.50)
Duration: 45 minutes
Cost: 50,000 COP ($12.50)

Boats are run by several tour operators departing every day from Taganga to Tayrona. However all of them depart between 10:00-11:00, so we’d recommend getting there before 10:00 to make sure you get on a boat.

Note that the indicated travel time of 45 minutes only applies when the ocean is calm. It’s not recommended to take the boat on a stormy day because the boat trip can take up to 2.5 hours. Thereby, the bus will be a much safer option when the ocean is rough.

The boats all follow the same route from Taganga to Cabo San Juan with stops to all of the famous beaches like Playa Cristal, Cinto and Chengue on the way.

Expect to pay around 50,000 COP ($12.50) one-way, but you might get a better price if you hire a same-day round trip.

February 2022 Update: According to a recent traveller’s experience, prices for the boat tickets are now between 100.000-150.000 COP ($12.50-$25).

Getting around inside Tayrona

Once inside the park, getting around is mainly done by walking, but horse riding and a small bus exist at the El Zaino entrance. We recommend taking the bus because it skips 30 minutes of walking along a road, and it takes you straight to the start of the trail – that’s where the fun begins.

The bus from El Zaino to the Cañaveral area, a 10-minute ride, will cost 5,000 COP ($1).

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