While many travellers will opt to spend days in Tayrona National park and recommend an overnight stay, we are here to share that, if you’re ambitious enough, it is possible to do as a day trip from Santa Marta.
You’ll definitely want to get an early start on the day, as it will be a long one. We caught the
Bus to Tayrona Park from the Central Market on 10th Street and Carrera 9 downtown for 7,000 pesos each (about $4 total). The buses leave about every 30 minutes or so. You’ll want to stock up on water and snacks before entering in the park, as everything is far more expensive once you get inside. We took the bus to the El Zaino stop. From there, you go straight to a line to buy your entrance ticket. It was 54,000 pesos for the entrance ticket plus another 2,000 pesos for the shuttle up the road (highly recommended as it saves a long, shadeless mile walk). It turns out you can reserve a ticket in advance, which we didn’t know about, but that might save you some time upon entering the park.
From where the shuttle drops you off, there are a few hiking options. Most people trek ahead to Cabo San Lucas beach. We took the road less traveled and did the 9 Stones hike first. There are three trails to follow along. We headed to the one that goes straight out to the ocean, past the signs that says “Beware of Alligators”. The loop was about a 45 minute detour, but had some amazing views and fun places to take pictures.
Next we continued on to Cabo San Lucas beach, which was about a 1.5 hour hike. The hike was relatively flat through sand and a bit of jungle. It was really hot and humid. The best part about the hike is about half way when there are locals selling popsicles out of a cooler for $2000 pesos. It seemed that every hiker, drenched in sweat, was stopping for a delicious paleta.
Cabo San Lucas beach is beautiful but crowded. There were rows of tents where you can camp, or you can rent a hammock in an open air gazebo for the night. There was one restaurant for lunch, or a couple locals selling sandwiches out of ice chests. Just beyond Cabo San Lucas beach, another short walk away is Playa Naturalista. This was a much more quiet and secluded area, only about 10 people were on the beach with us. We stayed at the beach for a good few hours, swimming and enjoying the sunshine.
The highlight of the day was on the walk back when we discovered a secret sandwich shop in the forest. For $5000 pesos (or $1.50 USD), you get a hot, fresh baked roll with ham and cheese in a brown paper bag.
Feeling tired, full and hot, we debated whether to continue our walk back or get carted out of the forest by a horse. For only $20,000 pesos each, we opted for the horseback ride through narrow, winding canyons. The ride was about 30 minutes and quite the adventure. The horses had to maneuver uphill, through small little sand paths. They were very well trained, and we had a guide accompany us along the way.
The shuttle back to town was $25,000 pesos each. We got back just by sunset.
We ended our evening by exploring downtown Santa Marta. We wandered around Simon Bolivar plaza and had cocktails at an outdoor cafe. There were lots of locals about, showing off their various talents. We ended up chatting with a local artist Oscar Franco and looking at his artwork. We bought one of his painting and he told us about his “exhibit” later that night. We walked around a bit more and then decided to swing by and check out his exhibit, which turned out to be just him on a street with even more of his paintings. He was a super nice guy, and it was nice to have a souvenir that had a story that went with it.
Having loved the street food the night before, and having scouted out the loaded french fries, we decided to head back to Calle 17 to end our night with filling our bellies. We got the french fries that had about 10 more ingredients piled on top, made fresh to order. Loads of potatoes, lettuce, hot dogs, cheese and all the condiments. These fries were so loaded, you had to eat them with a fork. Full and tired, we headed back to Casa Escritor, our cute booking.com bed and breakfast find that was central to everything and we’d highly recommend it.