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Coming from Hawaii, I usually avoid beaches while on vacation, but a number of people in Cartagena told me to visit Tayrona National Park. The park features several beaches, only a few of which are suitable for swimming due to riptides, hiking trails, and camping areas. If you arrive early enough, you can sleep in a hammock on a rocky outcrop that juts into the ocean!

About an hour bus ride from Santa Marta, Tayrona is in the heart of the Colombian Caribbean Coast. Entrance to the park is about $20. Upon arrival you can either walk for one to two hours or take a $1 shuttle to the start of the hiking trails; I highly recommend the latter. After being dropped off by the shuttle, you hike through forest and beach to arrive at your camping site.

Tayrona has two main campgrounds: Arrecifes and Cabo San Juan. Cabo is the preferred location since the beach there is safe for swimming and you can sleep in a hammock on the ocean. It takes roughly one hour to reach Arrecifes and another to arrive at Cabo. The walk is nice and you can see monkeys, a variety of birds, and brilliant blue lizards.

I am a huge hammock enthusiast and made sure to arrive in Cabo early enough to have my beach hammock experience. When registration began at 2 p.m., I was first in line and gladly forked over the $14 for a hammock on the Caribbean.

Food and beverages are expensive at the campsites and it’s a good idea to at least bring water in with you. The food at Cabo is pricy and looked like your typical backpacker garbage. I went to a nearby small outdoor restaurant and splurged on a delicious fried fish (my choice, straight from the sea) with coconut rice, plantains, and a beer for about $15.

Outside of frolicking in the ocean, lazing on the beach, and hiking through the forest, Tayrona doesn’t have much in terms of activities. Some people only stay for the day and others spend close to a week. Having a limited amount of time and a number of other things to do around Santa Marta, I kept my Tayrona trip to two days and one night. It was a perfect duration for me and I suggest spending at least one night, and sleeping in a hammock over the ocean.

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