A slice of (sweaty) paradise


  • Santa Marta – Tayrona National Park
  • Cabo San Juan overnight
  • Tayrona – Santa Marta

As advised, Lucy and I were up and out, on our way to ‘El Mercado’ at 6.30am to pick up a bus headed to Parque Tayrona. After a quick arepa breakfast stop, we hopped on the already sweaty bus and drove for 45 minutes out towards the jungle. It was still before 8am when we arrived and the park wasn’t yet open so we sat with coffee (pre-made with sugar in a more “would you like come coffee with your sugar” kind of way!) right opposite the entrance in hot anticipation.

At 8 we joined the small queue of early risers to pay the entrance fee. Despite there being no more than 5 people in front of us, we were still in the queue for about 25 minutes! There is just no rushing a South American, I can tell you that much. Finally, $9000 pesos (about £3) down and another £1 for the shuttle bus up to the hike start, we were amidst the jungle flora and fauna once more.

The hike to Cabo San Juan was supposedly two hours and we’d got there early in the hope of bagging a good hammock for the night since the campsite ran on first-come first-served basis. Needless to say we powered on through, stopping briefly at some view points and for a snack break along the way. It was humid and sweat was certainly a small feature of the journey and before long we donned simply our sports bras in a bid to try tackle overheating! Despite this, the hike was beautiful. The scenery was simply idyllic, contrasting white carribean beaches with dense jungle just inland.

In a little under an hour and a half we arrived at the campsite. It was 10.30am meaning we were also in plenty of time to grab a hammock up in the hut which overlooks the entire beach and sea and sits out on its own in a postcard perfect location. I’d never seen paradise quite like this place. The sand was sand coloured, lined with perfectly formed palm trees along the back stretch leading up to a little water inlet and the spit of the beach on which a rock outcrop stood, hammock hat perched on top. Around the far side was an almost identical stretch of paradise beach to make this the absolute perfect location to chill out and sunbathe.

Within 5 minutes Lucy and I had both donned our bikinis and were running in to the sea for some much needed cooling off. The water was beautiful and we just couldn’t get our heads around the place we were currently in. We made some sandwiches for an early lunch and then took to sunbathing, napping, swimming and exploring the beachy area for the rest of the day.

Well and truly sunned out with a few small burnt patches, we finally made it up to our hammocks about 5pm, just before it got dark. We’d sat on the balcony of the cabana earlier that day just chatting about life and now it was time to set up our beds in the most picturesque “dorm room” I’d had travelling yet! We met my hammock neighbour there and laughed about how close our heads would all be later on that night.

Cabo San Juan is remote to say the least which means their restaurant makes an absolute killing! After several rounds of cards the kitchen finally opened and was met with an insanely long queue within minutes. I joined this, listening to three extremely bitchy British girls behind me throughout my waiting time, eventually ordering pasta and steak Milanese for our dinners. After devouring our food and taking in the nighttime beach life atmosphere with a beer in hand, we decided it was time to try out our hammock beds.

Walking the length of the beach to the hut proved to be an extremely entertaining experience since there were a few couples assuming there’d be privacy on the sand. After a good giggle and a babywipd bath, we hopped in to the hammocks, swinging in to those either side of us and really getting to know our neighbours. Lucy and her neighbour were practically touching heads once both tucked inside their hammocks!

Both of us were surprised how quickly we fell asleep having prepared ourselves for a rather poor night’s sleep. We even expected to be awake at sunrise since we were completely exposed to nature save the roof over our heads up in that cabana. Actually, we both did briefly awake at sunrise to grab a picture of the sun behind the hammocks, but neither of us really rose until 8.30am having slept like absolute babies! I could certainly get used to hammock life – perhaps a new bed choice for me back home?!

Breakfast on the beach consisted of some wafers, fruit and a smoothie and we had one last dip in the sea before heading back through jungle territory. We did choose to walk back at midday which was perhaps unwise given the heat, but we just wanted to maximise our time in paradise before leaving! Certainly more than two days out there would be hard work but our little beach break on the carribean coast, in a seclucded spot in which you quite literally have to earn the paradise, was unreal.

The shuttle bus awaited us two hours later after we’d informed a few sorry looking walkers how far they still had left. We were glad to escape the heat even if our sweatiness was unpleasant for those who had been sat on the bus a little while and had a chance to cool off. It was a little bittersweet leaving the national park considering the sheer beauty of the place, but a taste of what Colombia’s coastline had to offer us only fuelled the desire to go and explore it even more.

So, 188 days in to ‘life from a bag’ and the idyllic beach setting has sure presented itself to us. From watching sunrise from a hammock, to trekking across beaches and through the jungle trekking, and then being rewarded with a picture perfect location to sunbathe and swim, Tayrona was magical and a 100% must-visit for anyone in Colombia.

Gabby x


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