Scenic white sandy beaches, framed by palm trees leaning into the emerald green water, you could not ask for more. This all Caribbean image has made Tayrona to one of Columbia’s top tourist destinations.
Actually there is a string of beaches, Playa Arrecife is the first one to arrive after a 45 minute walk from the bus drop off. A long impressive playa, cheap accommodation and a restaurant invite to stay for the night or longer, but most people move on, since the beach is without shade and unsuitable for swimming due to deadly currents. Five to ten visitors ignore the warnings each year and drown here.
Further on are two small picturesque bays, great spots for swimming. But Cabo de San Juan is where most tourists end up. The two horse-shoe shaped bays are just beautiful, some sort of perfect Hollywood setting, the beaches are suitable for swimming, there is shade and a restaurant, cabanas, tents and hammock for rent.
There has been such an increase in visitors in the last years that the park sometimes had to be closed down. We met a Canadian couple who could not get in beginning of July, so that makes you wonder what the situation may be like next December and January, during the high season. The vast, vast majority of tourists are Columbians, excited to be on the ocean side, coming from frosty Bogota or landlocked places like Bucaramanga and Medellin.
Unfortunately, we had not planned carefully and arrived there on the long week-end of August 15th. Considering the number of people visiting the few beaches fit for swimming, space was precious and traffic was heavy on the single trail that leads to the various beaches.
This would not be such a problem, since there are a few tiny beaches just behind Cabo de San Juan. The issue is actually accommodation and food. Especially on a “Puente”, the extremely basic & clearly insufficient facilities at Cabo de San Juan were strained to their limit, the only restaurant to feed hundreds of visitors had run out of most things already on Friday.
Only hammocks, near the restaurant and the nearby generator were available, thus noisy and full of flies. The distance between the hammocks was such that a swift movement would bump you into your resting neighbor. Mules constantly hauled in supply for the two restaurants at Cabo de San Juan and Arricife, but they could only do so much.