Parque Tayrona, Colombia – beaches, bugs, and encounters with soldiers

Parque Tayrona, Colombia, header

Parque Tayrona is worth seeing for it’s wild, rugged beauty. Isolated, you can walk along its beaches and not see anyone. The surf in many places is violent, the breeze strong. The coast is made up of many bays, usually separated by huge round boulders. Some of these bays are safe for swimming. Looking inland you see the heavily wooded hills of the Sierra Nevada which further adds to the sense of peace and isolation. We loved it, it’s a beautiful place.

Parque tayrona, colombia views

Above: beaches, babes, and me being Tarzan.

But the same qualities that make it special also make it challenging. Facilities are seriously lacking. There are a few small campgrounds but they’re really rustic. I saw young white travelers with dreadlocks sleeping in hammocks and just though to myself that I must be getting old. The different bays in Tayrona are also far apart and require walking inland on rough trails. Be prepared that this is real national park (versus the manicured parks you sometimes come across in the N. America and Europe).

beaches at parque tayrona, colombia
I booked a night at Parque Tayrona’s “Ecohabs” which I figured would be ideal. The cabins are built on a hill looking down on the beach. You can hear the sound of waves crashing, a nice breeze comes in from the ocean. The cabins are made of natural materials and are absolutely gorgeous. You probably think how romantic and perfect right?

Parque Tayrona ecohabs
Below: Inside of the cabin. Views look out (and far down) towards the beach.

photos of tayrona ecohabs inside
Well, it wouldn’t be Colombia without some kind of story about soldiers and machine guns. We had just checked into our rooms when Lissette says “what’s that noise?”. We looked out of the open window and saw these two large army helicopters coming over the beach towards the Eco lodge. Within minutes they were a few hundred meters away and landing. We walked out of our cabins and saw armed soldiers all over the grounds of the lodge. The restaurant area was suddenly full of well-dressed people being served champagne. We went to the check-in where the manager explained that the Colombian President had arrived with a delegation. They would be lunching there. He apologized for the inconvenience.

They left in the late afternoon, the helicopters roaring back to life and taking off in the direction they had come. Thinking we were safe, we went back to the restaurant for drinks and something to eat. The soldiers were there, eating. We were the only tourists there with about 20 soldiers around us. We had a few drinks and played card games but felt the looks of the soldiers. At one point, as it got dark,  they finally got up to leave, hoisting their machine guns onto their shoulders. It was then that one of the soldiers came up to us. He very politely asked me if he could speak to us. I said “sure, no problem”. He talked to us in English for 5 minutes, asking where we were from, if we were enjoying Colombia. I asked him where he had learned English. With his 20 friends now standing around the table, most with goofy smiles on their faces, he explained that he wanted to prove to his friends that he could speak English. He thanked us and wished us a good evening and the whole bunch of them left. Lissette and I just thought it was funny.

Back in the cabin, we closed the large window, put on the overhead fan, and went to sleep. We woke up at the same time a little after midnight, both gasping for air. It turns out that the Eco lodge turns off all electricity at midnight. With the window closed and no fan, the room felt like the inside of a coffin. I’m all for Ecolodges and doing stuff for the environment – but turning off the electricity when you’re paying over $200 a night? What dumbass decided that???

Summary:  Beautiful park, but make it a day trip. Arrive early, walk the trails and beaches, make sure to leave before it gets dark.

Getting there: Lissette and I took a public bus from El Rodadero to the park turnoff (about 30 min). From there we hopped on to a park bus which took us to Canaveral, the main tourist “center” in Parque Tayrona (about 4 km from the turnoff).

 

My detailed guide and tips on what to see/do in Colombia.

 

 Always interested to hear from others who’ve been to Parque Tayrona! What was your experience?

 

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