A walk in Tayrona National Park
The foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the highest coastal mountain in the world, plunge into the sea like the fingers of a gigantic hand forming beautiful bays and covesFrom the Tayrona NP website
Four indigenous groups consider these lands part of their ancestral territory. The park management acknowledges this, saying that ‘the sacred sights within must be protected and respected as part of the cultural heritage’. This respect means that for short periods each year the park is closed, at the request of these groups, so that the land and the sacred places can rest and recover from the stresses of tourism.
We were fortunate that we arrived in this region just as the park had reopened after one of these closures. But maybe that’s why we found it so busy? Arriving with our guide Christian just before the opening time of 8.00 AM we found a long queue at the ticket office and a number of vehicles clustered around the gate. Christian immediately joined the queue to buy our tickets. Even so, it was half an hour before he returned with them and with wristbands we were required to wear.
Our hike in the park
Some walks are tougher than others, especially for those of us less used to hiking and with joints that don’t always work as well as we’d like! Often a difficult hike is labelled as such, as is an easier one; but in my experience these labels don’t always reflect my reality! So it was in Tayrona National Park.
Our driver Nestor drove us along the rough track to the parking area, from where we started our hike. At first it was easy going, a mix of flat dirt path and raised boardwalk.
Christian pointed out a large spider in a web, the female Yellow String Spider. He told us the name comes from the web, which is often yellow (although this one was white), and that the male is tiny in comparison.
We saw lots of leaf cutter ants too. But the best wildlife sighting was a troop of White Fronted Capuchin Monkeys.
These were so used to people that Christian was able to feed one with a bit of guava. This caused a bit of friction and one monkey who’d missed out got quite aggressive. I’d felt it wasn’t a good idea to feed them and this backed up that impression.
In an adjacent tree we saw a solitary Colombian Red Howler Monkey, moving too fast to be photographed. The Capuchins were chasing him off.
As we continued the path became harder going, with lots of steps up and down. These were often quite rough ones on tree roots or boulders. I was very glad I’d brought my hiking pole as it would have been even more tough for me and my poor knees without it. But there were some great views to reward us for the climbs. Very ‘Lost World’, I thought!
After a while we started to hear the sea and eventually came within sight of it.
We could have walked on to reach the park’s most famous beach, Arrecifes. But as I was finding the path quite challenging (and inwardly disputing its rating as ‘easy’), Christian proposed a shortcut directly to the other beach we were to visit, Cañaveral.
This path had the other advantage of being less busy. After a short while we came to a cluster of thatched round cottages. These belonged to one of the accommodation options in the park, the Ecohabs.
There were great views of the coastline from here. The sea was a beautiful shade of turquoise and the spray created a sparkling haze that was very hard to do justice to in a photo.
We stopped for a much needed cold drink in the restaurant attached to the Ecohabs, with an equally fabulous view!
We then followed the short path down to the beach where we sat for some time enjoying the sights and sound of the waves. I took quite a few photos too, of course.
But if some of my photos give the impression that this is a tranquil tropical paradise, think again! The beach was busy with swimmers (or rather wave jumpers, as swimming wasn’t really possible in these rough seas), with sunbathers and picnickers.
Still, it was a great spot to relax after the walk and chat with Christian about his time living in Australia, how he’d coped during the pandemic and more.
Then we returned to the restaurant for a delicious lunch before walking back down a much shorter and easier path to the parking area. Nestor drove us back to the hotel where we spent the rest of the afternoon swimming and relaxing. Now, that’s my idea of easy!
Nevertheless I was glad I’d done this walk and I hope Jo will enjoy it too!
It’s always a challenge to photograph without the people – I always try but some places are just too crowded. Lovely beach and hike. Don’t feed the animals! That’s why they get aggressive!
It wasn’t hard to avoid including people in the shots taken while hiking, as everyone had to stick to the narrow path, but on the beach of course they spread out all over the place!
Mike and Kellye Hefner
Tayrona National Park must have been a real treat to visit! Your photos were a treat for me, and I loved seeing the monkeys as well as the ocean views. Just a magical park!
Magical is a good word for those views for sure! I loved seeing them and the monkeys. But I was surprised how many people were on the trail and because I’m slow I felt I was getting in their way a bit at the narrower, tougher stretches, which took away some of the magic for me.
Mike and Kellye Hefner
It is so much nicer to have fewer people around when you’re visiting a special place. We have found that to be impossible when visiting our national parks. I guess it’s the same everywhere.
The monkeys look so cute–as long as they thought they were getting enough food. Loved your photos of waves crashing against the shore!
Yes I found them cute too, but I’m not sure Christian would agree! The waves were amazing, I spent ages watching amd photographing them 😯
Love the monkeys! Oh, I’m a sucker for coastal views and yours is truly beautiful. And yes, you’re right … I’m always skeptical of those “easy/moderate/difficult” labels on hiking. Sometimes easy can get difficult on a day when your body just isn’t up to the challenge!
If you love coastal views this is a great place to visit! We only saw a small part – there are several more coves like this I understand, and most of them not as busy because harder to reach.
Sounds like an ideal vacation day – an interesting (even if it is a bit challenging!) activity followed by lunch and then relaxation…. lovely!
Yes, in a hot climate particularly I like to have a busy morning followed by a relaxing afternoon, ideally with a pool!
Nice. Our daughters have been to Tayrona. Loved it. We haven’t. Yet.
The scenery is stunning but I was surprised at how busy it was, maybe because there are relatively few paths and also had only just reopened after the closure.
There’s a lot of people everywhere. End of 2019, early 2020, just before COVID we spent end of year at Akumal, near Tulum. Went back to the Tulum ruins after… 20 years? Unbelievable. Crowds swarming. We’d been to the site before a couple times, we were almost alone…
I think you’re right. When we first started travelling again, as soon as it was permitted, most places seemed quiet, but most people have got their travel mojo back now and are eager to get back out there and explore – maybe more eager than ever!
Probably more than ever. We will soon start changing our dates to avoid the crowds…
Great post Sarah! I loved those monkeys–so cute! I’m glad you use a hiking pole. Take care!
Thank you Anne 🙂 Yes, my pole is a must for longer hikes while travelling, it’s been a godsend over recent years!
Capuchins don’t need to be fed, they’re daring enough thieves to get plenty of benefit from human presence anyway, cheeky little devils. Beautiful coastal scenery, whilst reading I could absolutely imagine the moment you came around the metaphorical corner and were greeted with that view. Don’t we all love moments like that, even if the hike is tougher than expected.
I’m sure those monkeys know that if they hang around near the trails they’ll get plenty to eat, whether it’s deliberately given like this or simply dropped! And yes, turning the corner to be faced with those views was very specially, and the sound of the waves was wonderful too 😀
I’m actually not much of a swimmer, Sarah. Much better at walking, though I can sometimes struggle too. It seems to me a good thing that they close this national park at times, as it couldn’t cope with that level of people as a constant. I hadn’t expected that there would be a shortage of accessible beaches, but I don’t suppose it’s a place that most people would go for a beach holiday. Glad you enjoyed your relax, anyway. Many thanks for the share.
I’m not a strong swimmer but I do enjoy it, especially in a hot sticky climate like this 😀 But I tend to stock to swimming pools rather than the sea, so I was happy just to watch and photograph the action here!