We set off from the Finca Carpe Diem hostel in Paso del Mango at 9am in the direction of Tayrona National Park which is located at the foot of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. We were lucky that Bram from Carpe Diem was heading into Santa Marta so we got a lift with him in the hostel’s 4×4. After a bumpy Indiana Jones-style adventure down the hill, Bram left myself, Natalia from Venezuela and Karen from France off at the bus stop to catch the bus going to Palomino from Santa Marta.
The public bus from Santa Marta to Tayrona National Park
After about 5 minutes and many beeps from the passing cars, we boarded a big white bus which we asked to drop us off at Tayrona National Park. The bus journey took about 30 minutes and after getting some cash at a restaurant nearby (for a commission of 10%), we entered the park. There was a 15 minute explanation of the map of the park and then we queued for the entrance ticket which cost 40,000 COP. Our bags were searched for any alcohol, drugs etc. The park security guy looked at my make-up bag curiously but laughed when I told him I was looking for a boyfriend so I needed the make-up!!
The bus journey to the entrance of Tayrona National Park took about 30 minutes and after getting some cash at a restaurant nearby, we entered the park. There was a 15 minute explanation of the map of the park and then we queued for the entrance ticket which cost 40,000 COP.
Hiking Tayrona National Park
We took a taxi bus for 3,000 COP into the start of the rainforest. During the bus ride, we formed a friendly group with an Argentinian couple, a Colombian-Russian couple, a guy from Spain and a guy from Costa Rica. They were all very helpful in explaining things when I didn’t follow something in Spanish and fighting amongst themselves about which country was the best in Latin America! The trek into the rainforest was fantastic. It is so peaceful, well sign-posted, clean and when the path opens up at the first views of the sea, I was in heaven! It is advisable to get to the park early as the walk through the unshaded parts of the trek can be tough in the baking heat. We decided to head to Cabo San Juan as we could sleep and eat there and be right on the sea, especially as we all wanted to get up early and see the sunrise from the beach. The walk to Cabo San Juan takes about 2 hours but with photo and water stops, it took us about 3. There is also an option to get a horse to carry you to your destination.
Hiking Tayrona National Park
Beaches of Tayrona National Park
Three lovely ladies in Tayrona National Park
Cabo San Juan, Tayrona National Park
The park was getting busy with young people when we arrived around 3pm and we opted for the tent option for 25,000 COP per person as it was only 5,000 COP more than a hammock and we were afraid of mosquitos! The beach in Cabo is just beautiful. The water is incredibly warm and not too salty. We all had a try at snorkelling as the Argentinian couple (who were on their honeymoon!) had brought a snorkel and goggles. I got to see some fantastic coloured fish. We went up to to the wooden beach-house where you can rent hammocks and have a first-class view out on the sea.
There are only 4/5 showers and 4 toilets so be prepared to queue. Is it advisable to bring your own water and snacks as they can be expensive in the park. I did not see any options to cook so most people ate in the restaurant that night with pasta dishes starting at 15,000 COP and meat and fishes averaging around 22,000 COP. Beers were 4,000 COP. At around 10pm most of us retired to our tents. Some managed to sleep, others didn’t!
At 6am, we caught an amazing sunrise then panned out on the beach before breakfast which ranges from 6,000 to 10,000 COP. After breakfast, some of the group lay out on the beach and some of the group set off for the 3-4 hour steep trek to see the ruins of El Pueblito, which is considered to have been one of Tayrona national park’s major pre-Hispanic settlements. I on the other hand, joined the Colombian-Russian couple who were heading towards Palomino.
At 6am, we caught an amazing sunrise then panned out on the beach before breakfast which ranges from 6,000 to 10,000 COP.
Hiking out of Tayrona National Park
We set off for the exit taking in once more, all of the beautiful rainforest and its beaches, trails and inhabitants which included snakes, lizards and frogs. There were some native indigenous children selling coco water also. We stopped for an ice cream along the way and took a swim at another beach called La Piscina. At the exit, we boarded a taxi bus which dropped us back at the park entrance. If you want to walk this, it will take you around an hour. There was a bus waiting at the entrance and we asked the driver to drop us at closest point to Costeño Beach hostel.
Costeño Beach, Colombia
Costeño beach is an eco-surf hostel with a beach-front location with uninhabited, empty beaches as far as the eye can see! This part of Costeño beach was previously owned by a guy who used the area to grow and ship cannabis but is very slowly becoming more populated though it is still very peaceful. After a week’s volunteering in Finca Carpe Diem, I was looking forward to being a beach-bum for a day or two!!
The beach is secluded, not a street seller in sight – I felt like I was at the edge of the world!! There was an option to do yoga and get a massage. The food at Costeño beach hostel was amazing and I met an Irish couple and a Dutch guy so we all had dinner together. After dinner, we took our beers and sat on the beach and watched the stars. The Costeño beach hostel was showing a movie as well.
In the morning, I took a surfing lesson for 2 hours for 50,000 COP. The surf is good but the currents can be a bit tricky for beginners. After an amazing pizza lunch, I lay out in the sun and read my book. There was a bread baking lesson going on but I was happy to read my book and watch the waves!
After an amazing pizza lunch, I lay out in the sun and read my book. There was a bread baking lesson going on but I was happy to read my book and watch the waves!
Back to Hostel Finca Carpe Diem
At around 4pm, I stuck in my earphones and walked 30 minutes up to the main road to catch the bus. You can get a moto-taxi but I was happy to walk! After about 20 minutes and more car beeps, a bus flew past shouting Santa Marta. I jumped on. The bus had a TV on board and everyone was was watching a movie. There are two customs checks on this route but they don’t bother with tourists…..in my experience!
You need to ask to be dropped off at the entrance to Bonda, Santa Marta. From there you can ask at the shop to hail you a moto-taxi. This should normally cost around 10,000 COP. I was super lucky because just I was asking for a moto-taxi, our good friend Gato was passing by. Gato does the moto-taxi runs for Finca Carpe Diem hostel and had been wondering when I might arrive! Gato took me up the hill back to the Finca Carpe Diem where I rejoined my friends. I would highly recommend Costeño beach for a peaceful rest and relaxation by the beach!!
Norma Is an adventurous traveller from Ireland. She spent two weeks volunteering in the garden, farm, and hostel here at Finca Carpe Diem. Her duties included moving and peeling trees, moving rocks, and helping close the restaurant at night.
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