This isn't one of these tongue-in-cheek posts about how you shouldn't go somewhere because it would only make it more crowded for those of us who've been going there for a while and would love it to stay how it is/quiet/secret.
Instead, it's a careful examination of what Tayrona offers its visitors and how it compares to what you can see elsewhere in the world.
Billed as one of Colombia's top tourist attractions, Tayrona charges foreign visitors $38.000COP (almost US$20!!) to enter the park. That's as much as you pay for a carload of people to enter Yosemite, which is crazy.
So putting all things in perspective, Tayrona is overpriced. That's reason number one why you don't need to visit.
Then come the attractions. Tayrona has some beautiful beaches, with sand that ranges from white to black to speckled with bits of fool's gold. The beaches are framed by giant boulders. They often have turquoise waters.
But... they're just beaches. If you've been to beaches in New Zealand or California or Thailand or the Philippines, you won't be blown away by these. Sure there's a certain ruggedness to them that's appealing, but that also makes them more dangerous than you'd expect. More than 200 people have drowned at just one of the beaches, which means you need to be careful about where you take a dip.
That's reason number two: it's basically a park full of beaches.
Typically the trek in is interesting and takes you through verdant rainforest and jungle, but because the coast has been experiencing a drought this year, our visit took us through forest so dry that if someone had thrown a cigarette, the whole thing would have gone up in flames.
We were lucky enough to spot a rare monkey and a crazy looking black and yellow frog, but in terms of wildlife, most people see nothing. (Though if you're aware, you'll definitely see butterflies and lizards.)
There is one side trek to the pre-Hispanic town of Pueblito, which hosts the remains of an ancient city once home to 2,000 indigenous people. Nowadays all you'll see are the rocky foundations of the homes and a modern day Wayuu village, which Rob deliriously mistook for the ruins.
The climb up to Pueblito was actually our favorite part of Tayrona. It involved clambering over Indiana Jones-like boulders for about an hour and was just as challenging going up as going down.
This is definitely not something you want to do with a full backpack!
Reason number three: no matter what route you take, you have to hike almost two hours to get to the "best" beach.
This isn't actually a negative for us as we love hiking, but for some people, spending two hours walking through a steaming hot and dry forest just isn't going to cut it.
The closer swimming beach, at La Aranilla, is about 1.5 hours of hiking from the entrance, taking into account the minivan drive at $2.000COP/person. La Aranilla is beautiful and the sand glints with fool's gold. The water can be pretty choppy though and high tide pretty much takes over all the beach area, pushing the people on top of each other.
Which brings me to reason number four: Tayrona is really really crowded.
We hiked in on a Sunday, which admittedly wasn't ideal as it's family day in Colombia. Being stuck behind 20 or so family members carrying coolers full of Anguilla beer (how I don't know... supposedly you can't bring alcohol in?!?) was really frustrating.
Keep in mind that the locals going in to Tayrona aren't well versed in trekking etiquette and so have no concept of moving over to allow you to pass. It got so bad at one point that a little girl was holding my hand for about 10 minutes before she realized I wasn't her mom!
The crowd really gathers at Cabo, arguably the prettiest beach in the park. If you're looking for more solitude and hence choose not to camp/sleep at Cabo, you can always stay at Arrecifes (one hour hike in) like we did and pay US$15 each to sleep in a hammock.
Yup, that's right. For the amount of money that in Bali would get you an infinity pool, AC, and breakfast in a private room, we got two hammocks.
(There are cheaper hammocks and places to stay, but we opted for the "lux" hammocks that came with--wait for it--access to showers! Christmas in July I tell you :o))
So that's reason number five: accommodations are crazy expensive!
We actually inquired as to the bungalow at the "resort" with the hammocks and were told it's $600.000COP--that's US$300 for a bungalow on a grass field with no view of the ocean and no pool--most had a view of a field full of tents. The craziest part is that some of them were actually occupied!
Of course you can opt to carry in a tent and just pay to camp, but because we were only staying one night we decided it wasn't worth it. That also meant that we didn't bring in our own food, although I wasn't as shocked by the price of food as I was about accommodation.
We can definitely recommend the ceviche and arepa hut at La Aranilla as the best value in the park for daytime food. For dinner, the restaurant at our "resort" served delicious meals, as long as you don't mind paying US$15 per plate. (We don't.)
So there you have it: five reasons why you don't need to visit Tayrona.
And now here's the other side of the equation. This is what you'll be missing out on if you choose not to visit:
I mean look at these views:
And these beaches:
Plus the boulders are really fun to climb!
At the end of the day, it's up to you. Weigh your priorities (and your budget) and make the choice that makes the most sense.
But considering the expense and the effort, you shouldn't feel like you have to visit--no matter what people tell you!
Want to see more of Tayrona? Check out our Tayrona photo tour!
Have you visited Tayrona Natural National Park?
Did you think it was worth the cost and effort? Let us know in the comments!