The Complete Guide to Tayrona – Part 3: Beaches
In this 4 part series from See Colombia Travel we offer a complete, up-to-date guide to Tayrona National Park on Colombia’s stunning Caribbean coast – information about the park, getting there, what to pack, where to stay, safety and security etc. Hopefully this will help anyone wanting to visit Tayrona plan their visit accordingly and smoothly. In Part 3 we will look at beaches in Tayrona National Park – what each beach offers, where they are all located, and the must-visit beaches of the park…
Tayrona National Park has much to offer visitors: jungles, amazing wildlife, camping and hiking…but really what people get excited about are the beaches of Tayrona! From iconic spots like Cabo San Juan, to nudist beaches(!) and hidden spots along the eastern coast of the park, Tayrona has a beach experience sure to suit every style of traveller. So be adventurous: don’t just spend all day lazing around on Cabo San Juan, get your hiking boots on (or rent a horse) and explore the coast of the park for an amazing beach crawl (and check out Part 4 for even more adventurous hikes inland)!
So here’s Part 3 of the Complete Guide to Tayrona: beaches (in alphabetical order, so no favoritism!)…including a key Tayrona question with each beach: can I swim here? N.B. – this guide is for the Tayrona Park beaches that are accessible from the main entrances to the park, therefore it does not include lovely beaches like Bahia Concha, Chengue, and Neguangue.
As we mentioned in Part 2, Arrecifes beach is located right next to one of the best accommodation areas in the park, but there’s more to this beach than just a place to lay your head. One of Tayrona’s longest stretches of beach, Arrecifes is the place to snap your classic Tayrona photo of several of the iconic boulders laying around like giant dinosaur eggs (which works scarily well in this Jurassic Park-like place), and the sunset and dusk here is perhaps the most beautiful in all of the park. It’s a lovely place for a sunbathe, a game of football (it’s a long beach though, so don’t kick it too far!), a jog (if that’s your thing…), or a stroll. There is a pretty freshwater lagoon behind the beach, where caiman can occasionally be glimpsed, and the views over the jungle clad hills are something special.
When to visit this beach: dusk or dawn for a long stroll.
Can I swim here? – NO – this is arguably the most dangerous of Tayrona’s beaches, with plenty of warning signs posted along the beach. Do not swim here.
Cabo San Juan de Guia
Commonly known as El Cabo or Cabo San Juan, this is Tayrona’s most famous beach by a country mile! It’s where most people camp, and where many visitors spend the vast majority of their time: this is most likely because of the iconic view, the close and accessible drinks and meals, and the fact that…you can swim here! This makes a big difference in Tayrona (as you can see from reading the rest of this post): there are precious few beaches where you can enjoy a relaxed dip, and this is one of the best. However, this does tend to make Cabo the busiest of Tayrona’s beaches: avoid high season and weekends for the best Cabo experience in relative peace and tranquility.
Cabo is basically split into 2 beaches, with the hut in the middle – try the smaller beach to the West: you can still swim but it tends to be a little quieter. Either way, during any visit to Tayrona, you are bound to spend some time here on Cabo San Juan beach.
When to visit this beach: Walk down (or wake up) in the morning, hike to Pueblito first thing, then return and spend a relaxing, swimming day here.
Can I swim here? – YES – Finally, right?! Just don’t go too far out i.e. past the headland where the waves get really big and you’ll be fine.
This is another accommodation-offering beach, much further to the east of the park, and with far fewer visitors than most other major Tayrona park beaches. This, like Arrecifes, is a long beach, but much narrower: palm trees, a thin strip of white sand and the turquoise ocean beyond: it’s the postcard-perfect Caribbean of your dreams. And it has relatively few visitors, so your Robinson Crusoe fantasies are less likely to be disturbed as well…
Cañaveral is also a great starting (or finishing) point for the ‘9 Piedras’ coastal hike (more info in Part 4), which offers some of the most off-the-beaten-track experiences you can have in Tayrona, as well as arguably the best views, which take in the entire length of the park more-or-less…
When to visit this beach: at the beginning or end of your trip to Tayrona – it’s the most easily accessible from the entrance/exit.
Can I swim here? – NO – much like Arrecifes, Cañaveral is pretty dangerous for a swim. Don’t take the risk: have a paddle instead.
This beach at the far east of Tayrona National Park is very near to Canaveral, and, like the previous beach, is also very calm and quiet when compared to the first two on this list. It is the site of a small and cheap camping area and is also conveniently located nearer to the entrance road, as well as along the route of the ‘9 Piedras’ hike. The beach is much the same as several of the aforementioned ones: long, windswept, fringed by palm trees and giant boulders. The key difference is the complete peace and quiet: during my visit I hardly saw a soul along this beach…
When to visit this beach: Spend a night at Castilletes campsite and enjoy the beach for a day or two, combined with the stunning ‘9 Piedras’ trail along the eastern coast of the park.
Can I swim here? – NO – This is the biggest drawback of Castilletes: you can’t swim (it’s one of the most exposed beaches in Tayrona), and it’s quite a long way to another beach where you can.
This little beach is en-route between Arrecifes and Cabo San Juan (assuming you take the coastal path) – it isn’t an accommodation beach, but it is worth a visit for a few reasons, the main one being…you guessed it: swimming!! This is another busy and popular beach for this reason (and also because it’s so easily accessible from the most popular campsites in Tayrona). It is also a great place (the best in Tayrona I’d say) for snorkeling and enjoying some of the marine wonders that the park has to offer. The set-up of La Piscina (a large surrounding ring of aquatic rocks to break the waves) means that it is a calm and safe place to snorkel and swim, meaning it’s probably the most popular beach for families with children.
Plus, the snorkeling is actually pretty great here: sand sharks, Blue Tangs, blowfish and even sea turtles can often be seen through the goggles of those folks happily whiling away the hours in the waters of La Piscina…
When to visit this beach: if you’re with children then spend a day here; solo, then maybe consider coming down for an early morning/late afternoon snorkel session, when the crowds have thinned out.
Can I swim here? – YES – It’s the main attraction!
You might not have heard about this one…La Piscinita is the small, hidden cove that you can see from one of the rest stops on the entrance hike. It’s basically the private beach for the Ecohabs, tucked away just next door to Canaveral beach. However, it’s not actually private, and there are some nice little tables with umbrellas, and a beach bar nearby. You can also often swim here: there are lifeguards and red/green flags flying to indicate the safety of swimming based on the weather. This little beach is for a classier afternoon, should that be something you’re interested in…
When to visit this beach: if you’re staying at the Ecohabs, spend a day here at least; if you’re just passing by, come along for a dip on a visit to Canaveral beach.
Can I swim here? – YES/NO – it’s all weather dependent, but mostly you can.
Yep, Tayrona really does cater for all types of people…even the ones who like being naked most of the time! Follow the little sandy path west from Cabo San Juan’s second beach (or take a detour from Pueblito out the other way) and you’ll reach (in only 10 minutes or so) a stunning long stretch of sandy beach with virtually no-one on it! Apart from a few naturists that is! However, nudity is only an option, not required, so as long as you don’t find the human body horrible to behold then you can enjoy this stunning beach with virtually no company! Just be subtle when you’re taking photos of the scenery…
When to visit this beach: If you’re feeling a bit restricted by your bathing suit. or just for a morning/afternoon away from the crowds of Cabo.
Can I swim here? – YES/NO – There are lifeguards here to answer that question, and they will often accompany you and wait in the shallows while you take a quick dip. Make sure to ask.
Along the rest of the Tayrona Park coastline are loads more little coves and small beaches with beautiful white sand and blue sea: most of these have no official name, but are perfectly free to visit. However, some are home to nesting turtles and are therefore roped off during certain season. If you see a roped off beach, please respect those boundaries. Tayrona Park has been closed for November 2015 for precisely reasons such as that – if we as visitors keep respecting the natural element of the park then we can enjoy it for much longer in it’s current state.
Follow the links at the top of the post for more of the Complete Guide to Tayrona National Park.