PARQUE TAYRONA is a national park that is about 2 hours from the beach side town of Santa Marta. Here you will find a little piece of heaven that will not only challenge your physical abilities but bring you some well needed relaxation from all the little made up problems in your head.
GETTING THERE involves a heavy amount of pushing -- Here's a little rundown of how you can get there.
CARTAGENA - SANTA MARTA - PARQUE TAYRONA
It's a bit of a trip but there are two options of getting there.
You can easily find cheap ways of getting to these beaches through your hostel or hotel. You'll most likely be grouped with other travelers and be sardine packed in little vans shafting people left and right. While you won't see much of the culture with the exception of through the glass windows- you'll find this the most easy and efficient way of getting around. Much like listening to FOX NEWS and letting them decided your vote. Or having your mom pick out your outfit for you. (Also good for solo travelers)
OR if you are with a group of people and would like a sense of adventure / can speak some spanish and are not afraid to haggle! The bus is a much more cushy, VIP style bus with leather recliner seats and is cheaper BUT keep in mind that you will have to pick it up on the outskirts of the wall in Cartagena, so the cab ride that it will cost you go get back into Cartagena might actually equal the cost of simply getting your ride from your hostel.
AM- WAKE UP EARLY.
Visit your local supermarket or walk the towns for breakfast. You'll find lovely snacks like PAN DE YUCA and LECHE from the local panaderias. Try them all, they're delicious and super cheap. Make sure you get tons of fresh fruit for the way there and little snacks - we were big fans of GRANADILLAS. Seriously - get them, and if you go, bring me back some. I had 6 in one day.
TIPS: Get to know your spanish and your numbers well. Dos Mil is 2000, but cinco ciento is 500. People come on the vans and sell things at various points throughout.
4 HOUR BUS TO SANTA MARTA
Santa Marta is a shit show. They'll drop you off on a corner and you'll have to find a place to see and eat in. It is hectic to say the least and you'll soon find that you stick out like a SORE THUMB. There's plenty of hostels to stay at, and everyone will tell you LA BRISA LOCA is the PARTY HOSTEL. I wouldn't recommend staying there as it gets loud and stays loud. You can easily, easily stay at MASAYA or EMERALD HOSTEL next door and walk on over when your done.
There's also a fantastic street market at nighttime. Really, a hub for the locals + tourists alike. Hygiene might be questionable, but the food is totally worth it and amazing. Just ask your reception where the street market is. Check out...SALCHIPAPAS, JUGOS NATURALES, HAMBURGUESAS, EMPANADAS + AREPAS
OVERNIGHT STAY AT PARQUE TAYRONA
The next day you wake up at daylight and hop on a public bus to the parque. Make sure you bring a passport or a copy of your passport and make sure you leave early.
-You'll arrive at the entrance of the national park where you'll have to pay for entry to the park. From there - you'll have to watch a video in spanish where you are taught about the wildlife of the park. From there you can either hike on a path to the entryway which is an additional 2 1/2 hour hike. I recommend going on the mini bus that takes you past the tarmac hike and brings you to the regular hike.
-Finally after the 2 1/2 hour hike - super easy. It's mainly level and by beaches etc..., you will reach the entryway of Parque Tayrona - where they will take down your passport information and give you a hammock rental.
There's a specific amounts of hammocks that you can rent out and they can sell out. The earlier you can get there, the better your choice is. There are higher hammocks with a view overlooking the ocean, and then there are ones beach level. Be warned - it gets cold at night. Freezing cold. Seaside, your nipples will be so sharp - they'll cut through your shirt like a fat kid cuts HS gym class.
No service. No rooms. Just a beach and hammocks. There is nothing for you to do but enjoy. And at nighttime, there's only the restaurant with electricity, (ish) it tends to go off so make sure you have a flashlight. And bring a pack of cards, some alcohol and mingle with everyone from table to table. We became friends with the guys from the shop where you can buy alcohol + various snacks + drinks. There are free lockers but you must bring a lock.
Also - there's really only ONE restaurant in Parque Tayrona in the area we stayed at, and it opens at 7pm. You'll have to wait on line and order from the lady at the desk and pay, then they'll deliver the food to each table. Make sure you get to the stands early and order. Friendly cats + dogs chill around the area too, so you can pet them.
THINGS TO DO:
Hike to Tres Pueblos - SUCH a fun hike. Hopping and jumping from boulder to boulder, climbing under rocks. MAKE SURE YOU WEAR GOOD HIKING SHOES + water. We woke up to catch the sunrise then do the hike.
Horseback riding - On the way back you'll be lazy to do the hike again, so I recommend going horseback riding!! For only about 30/40 Pesos or $12 USD, you can have a horse take you approx halfway back to the entryway. The horses look cared for and well rested, there's a huge amount of horses so they circulate. The view is absolutely gorgeous and you can pretend you're an explorer making their way through the wilderness. Also, if you have never ridden a horse, no worries! They will give you an older, slower horse (or maybe donkey) and walk with you.
Beach, Duhh - While not as calm and beautiful as Playa Blanca - the beach here is still stunningly gorgeous. There's a lot of driftwood though I should mention , but the sand is soft and the sun is warm. Enjoy it here!
THINGS YOU MUST BRING
-Passport or copy of it
-WARM CLOTHES - seriously. Hoodie, sweat pants + clothes. You will definitely feel it at night, especially if you are sleeping at the top - then make sure you bring a sleeping bag.
-ALCOHOL - Hide this well in your bag. They check your bag upon arrival.
-Lock for the free lockers that are at your disposal.