I was exposed to hiking late in life whereas beaches were a big part of my family's vacations from before I can remember. The idea that the two could be combined has always been intriguing but aside from a hike along the Abel Tasman Trail in New Zealand, I hadn't done any. Sure, I'd walked on beaches, for miles in fact but not with any gear. So, Tayrona National Park was my first go at backpacking on the beach and must say it was surprisingly nice. I guess the main reason this was so stems from the trails not being strictly on the beach. There are nice stretches along sand but there are many that go through the dense jungle that runs just behind it and some over rocky headlands. It was a lot more varied than I had imagined and not boring in the least. In fact, we did the trail between Arrecefes and Cabo San Juan de la Guia three times! This was without our packs which we left at Arrecefes. The hike from the park's entrance to Arrecefes is entirely through the jungle and is nice once off the road and on the at least slightly more narrow footpath. You can get a shuttle for the road portion of “the hike,” but it wasn't running as regularly as we had been led to believe and definitely not exactly when we arrived so we just walked. It was pleasant enough and not much traffic. It's about an hour tops and since the walk all the way to Cabo is less than three hours, there isn't really a need for a shuttle unless of course you're not coming here to hike but just for the beach.
Equipment: Though you can hike the entire park in decent strap sandals, there are times when having your boots with you will be greatly appreciated. We were carrying full packs and the support of a real boot makes a big difference especially when climbing over rocks which you will do a lot in getting to the beaches.
Parque Nacional Tayrona with its stunning beaches right next to the exuberant jungle is a true tropical paradise. It is not surprising that it's one of the most visited national parks in Colombia. There are plenty of trails to hike. Most of Tayrona park is dry tropical virgin forest with many species of birds, mammals, reptiles as well as deer, eagles, iguanas and monkeys. By leaving the beaches you enter the complex system of stone paved paths which connect a whole network of indigenous settlements from the coast to Sierra Nevada.
We took a full day hiking excursion to enjoy the beauties of the country's most scenic area. Starting from Cañaveral, a 45 minute hike through the tropical jungle took us to the first beach, Arrecifes. From here the trail continues along the coast and shoreline with some palm trees forested areas. A 20 minute walk took us to La Piscina and then it was another 20 minutes to the most beautiful beach, Cabo San Juan. We continued along the coast and came to the solitary nudist beach. We returned following the same trail. Since we only had one full day in the park we had no time to visit El Pueblito, the remains of the indigenous culture, similar to what is found at Ciudad Perdida, but much smaller.
We had to pay special attention not to tread on the many leafcutter ants crossing the trail in orderly lines, carrying bits of leaves to their ant house. Apart from some birds and colourful lizards we did not spot any animals but it was a very rewarding and enjoyable trip nevertheless.
more pics in the travelogue
Equipment: The trails are not really difficult and suit almost everyone. The weather is generally good but the jungle keeps most of the sun. It can get slippery at some places. You'll need hiking shoes or sandals. If you are visiting the park with your backpack, donkeys can be hired to transport your luggage.