Tayrona is kind of a secret paradise, where you can sweat and swim at the same time.
Bahia La Concha
Bahia La Concha is absolutely beautiful and like every other beach around here it is a perfect spot for your laid-back moments. The access to the beach is possible through the rural villages of Santa Marta, from where we needed about forty five minute-drive with our rent-a-car.
The gas prices are cheaper in Colombia, comparing to European prices, but you can easily take a bus as well, which is also not expensive and there were two of them waiting directly on the beach. If you want to go by boat, you can easily arrange that too in Taganga village.
There are lush green mountains around it, but the minor minus was, that there was one bar at the beach, but it was closed when we came. One guy was offering ‘ceviche con camaron’ at the entrance on the beach. We surely would have stayed longer, if there was a possibility to sit down in the shade of a tree and sip a refreshing drink, but nevertheless it was stunning.
Tip: Make sure you get there before the locals and the tourists do, because after 12 o’clock a.m. the beach was crowded with people, mostly families and the atmosphere quickly changed from peaceful to loud. But there is one solution, if you want to have a cozy quiet afternoon: we came there at 9.30 a.m. and walked till the end of the beach. There you can hide from the sun under a tree and probably you will be totally alone. It was nice to swim as well - the gorgeous white sand and clear blue refreshing water were all we needed.
The next day we visited the fishing village of Taganga and it took us only about 10 mins drive from Santa Marta with a car. We wanted to have lunch there, so we aet ‘ceviche con camaron’ and we noticed that the prices were cheaper than in Santa Marta and even more cheaper than in Cartagena. The service was also okay, so we had no complains whatsoever.
As we were walking down the main street, we bumped into a guy, who offered us all kinds of boat trips, so we arranged a boat trip to Cabo San Juan for the next morning.
Cabo San Juan
Our most wanted boat trip in Tayrona National Park to the breath-taking beach, called Cabo San Juan, turned out to be my most memorable Colombian experience. The beach is a bit harder to reach, but we desperately wanted to see it. There is no road to get there, so you have only two options: by boat or by foot through the jungle, which means walking about two hours, if you walk normally, otherwise it is better you count for two and a half.
We started from Santa Marta with our rent-a-car and in about 10 mins we came to the lovely Taganga village. We found the boat and we left Taganga port at about 9:30 a.m. We were excited and in the beginning everything seemed okay, but when we found ourselves in the open sea after about 10 mins ride, the huge waves appeared out of nowhere and the skies started to look like just before a big storm. Everything became grey in a matter of minutes and all I could see were those enormous waves upon us and our boat, floating on the surface like a fragile feather. It took us about an hour and a half to get to Cabo San Juan. Usually it takes about 40 mins. I am laughing now, as I am writing this, but I was really scared back then in that wooden boat with ten people. I had a feeling we were flying through the rage of the wind and I am not trying to get dramatic, but it looked like we were going to tip over or crash into the huge rocks, which were jutting out of the sea. I got a bruise on my elbow, beacuse I held the wet and slippery edge of the boat as tight as I could. Usually I am not afraid of the sea and I am used to sailing, but in my opinion, this time the waves were way too high to go out on the open sea with the tourists. Even when we came to the bay, the skipper couldn't reach the shore that easily, but luckily some people from the beach pulled us ashore, so we could step off the boat safely. I remember no one was swimming, because it was almost impossible to swim. When we got there, we had to pay the entrance fee for visiting the beach and it costed us 40.000 Colombian Pesos (around 15 USD) per person.
There was one restaurant, where we shared a table with four girls, because there was not enough space for everybody to sit. The food was so-so, but we were in the middle of the jungle, so we had no complains whatsoever. The toilets are separated from the restaurant, just a few metres away. There are also basic accommodations available (camping, hammocks or ecohabs), if you decide to stay there overnight (we didn’t, but some of the girls from the boat did).
After a while, like usually in the Caribbean, the weather suddenly cleared up, so we managed to finally relax and went for a swim, like we planned.
We decided to return to Taganga village by walking through the jungle. You can go on foot or you can rent a horse. In that case it would take you approximately an hour less. We had to hurry a bit, so the night wouldn’t catch us. The walk from the Cabo was beautiful. If you are lucky, you can meet some monkeys, but unfortunately we didn’t. After about half an hour walk the path got really muddy and it was best to go through it bare foot, plus it felt like a gentle massage and we absolutely enjoyed it! The jungle was also not so easy to pass, as it was 31 degrees Celsius at one o'clock p.m. and it looked like it will rain. Luckily it didn't, but the humidity was very high. Fortunatelly we brought a lot of water along.
Every now and then, when the path reaches the beach, it gets a bit hotter, but it is worth every step of the way. I surely have more beautiful memory on that walk than on the ride with a boat.
When we reached the end of the jungle of Tayrona National Park, we were not quite finished yet. Firstly we had to get to the main road and when we got there (with a taxi), we were still about an hour away from Taganga, where we left the car. There are taxi drivers waiting at the exit of the park and of course the buses. Since we were really tired, we took a cab and surprisingly it costed us only about 20 USD (for approximately 35 km), plus I am not sure the driver had more than fifteen years, but he drove perfectly. Our car was waiting for us in Taganga as we left it and we drove another 10-15 mins back to our hotel in Santa Marta.
Tip: I would advise you to check the weather report the day before you go to Cabo. Most of the tour guides will probably go no matter what and in that case maybe you won’t be able to enjoy the ride. I remember the night before was very windy, but we didn’t pay any attention to it and neither were our tour guides, I guess. All the time we spent in Colombia the weather was great, even though we were there in December. Only the day we went to Cabo was stormy, but in the end it didn't rain at all.