Fondest memory: The next day we hiked up the coast and had a wonderful day swimming at the various beaches we passed along the way. Though the beach at the end was stunning, that campground was even more crowded, more expensive and the bathrooms were even dirtier if that was possible. We were quite happy with our decision to remain at the campground closer to the entrance, saving us lots of time and energy. That it meant we would do the coastal walk more times actually seemed like a bonus as we saw countless birds along the way including an incredible kingfisher and many herons. But what made not only our staying at the same campground such a good move but also the entire trip worthwhile was while having dinner our second night, I spotted large birds in a palm tree right next to our picnic table. I couldn't quite believe my eyes. We had done a jungle trip in Ecuador and never got this close to what was obviously two toucans next to our tent! It was just light enough and they let me get just close enough that I got the best toucan pictures I'd ever taken including at that Ecuadorian jungle lodge. A trip that seemed to have no real purpose now was looking like one that would have been a real loss not to do, and we were sure glad that we overdid the trekking portion of our Colombian adventure.
Fondest memory: Sometimes the photos you remember best are the ones you didn't take. I was laying on the beach at Tayrona, much like everyone else but the difference was I rarely did this. True, I'd grown up at the beaches of New Jersey but my time on the beach was always active. I was not one to lay around, beach or no beach. But here I was actually laying there, and enjoying it no less. I was looking up at a strand of towering palms that reached towards the sky right from where we had planted ourselves. They were a pretty sight in themselves, set against a perfect blue sky. With my muscles relaxed from a very recent swim, salt water running off me into the sand, and my beautiful wife beside me, it was about as paradisaical as it gets. Then out of nowhere, my perfect vision was disrupted. A flock of pelicans was now the backdrop for my palms into infinity motif. Not that this wasn't incredibly beautiful too. It was just that I now started thinking about taking a photo of it rather than just enjoying the moment. Oddly, I just laid there and before I knew it, they were gone and I was left with my original vision. My wife had missed it as she was sleeping. I just missed the shot. The image of them flying seemingly through the towering palms is something I often think about. Though I used to think about how I wished I had captured it, now I mostly think about how nice it would be to be that relaxed and content again.
It's hard to pick one thing at Tayrona as so many things stand out. True to reputation, the beaches are killer. Not only gorgeous but also functional with warm water to swim in and comfy beaches to lay on. Oh, and it's nice to hike through a jungle to get from one to the next. Monkeys? They got 'em. But the one thing I guess that surprised me the most was the great birding in the park. From wading birds to birds of prey, and finally to toucans.
Fondest memory: While Tayrona was always on our radar, even in the earliest planning stages of our trip to Colombia, it was not particularly high on my list. Even though I had spent the first thirty years of life a confirmed beach bum, I had grown away from the sea and sand life years earlier and rarely did I vacation near a beach. I'm more drawn to mountains and the El Cocuy massif was the thing that got me to Colombia. That trek had finished a month ago. To be honest, after seeing photos of the pristine beaches of Tayrona, even my jaded eyes were doing double takes. There were lush green mountains as their backdrop and to reach most of it, you had to hike along a coastal trail. This all sounded great until this part of the trip followed another arduous hike to La Ciudad Perdida. In fact, we had just finished that six-day hike the day before and with only one night to recoup in Santa Marta, it was easy to see why we were less than enthusiastic when setting off up the coast with backpacks attached. After two very successful but tiring treks, another one seemed a bit like overdoing a good thing.
We had gotten a late start and though the trail was relatively flat, we found ourselves quickly wishing the hike was over despite the very pretty jungle setting. We were particularly disappointed when reaching the campground which amounted to a small open grassy area with tents seemingly clustered too close together. We somehow managed to find a spot with an unobstructed beach view and no neighbor too close. Once set up, we began to think this was not too bad at all and that we would just stay there for the two nights we had rather than pack all the gear up the next day to hike to the next camping area. The bathrooms were pretty grotty but it was only two days and I guess after the Ciudad trek, they were certainly more modern. We cooked up a meal and enjoyed the ocean breeze and view, happily falling asleep to the sound of the distant waves. (concluded below in Fondest Memory)
The main entrance to Parque Nacional Tayrona is at El Zaino which takes you to beautiful bays and unspoilt beaches surrounded by lush vegetation of the rain forest. A jeep takes you from the entrance further in the park to Canaveral where the hiking trail begins. It costs 3.000 COP. Donkeys can be hired to transport you and your luggage but they are mostly used for transporting groceries to the restaurants in the park.
The park is open 8am-6pm. We only had one whole day for the park and wanted to make the most of it. We found it 8am quite late so the previous evening we arranged with the guy at the entrance to let us in already at 6am. He even arranged the transportation to Canaveral with a motorbike (jeeps only start running at 8am) and explained us about the trail. How very kind of him!!
The entrance fee was 31.000 COP for foreigners and 12.00 COP for Colombians (January 2009). You need to show your passport. I heard that sometimes a yellow fever certification is also required but in our case they did not ask for it.
The Tayrona national Park lies at the Caribbean coast near Santa Marta/Taganga and it's well known for its lovely coastline and beaches, and for its proximity to the pueblito archaeological ruins. It's a great place to visit, and the best part of it is that there's no road that leads you there... these amazing beaches need some effort to get to: 45 minutes to Arrecife, 65 minutes to la Piscina and 90 minutes to Cabo San Juan.
Fondest memory: Your walk there is most enjoyable and there is so much to see: exotic trees and vegetation, colourful birds (and a not very colourful woodpecker), blue and green lizards, pink and red forest flowers, the odd lost crab, monkeys and eagles, and some funny mushrooms. All in all, everything is spectacular in Tayrona.