I read a lot of travel blogs that wrote about the hidden paradise of the north coast of Colombia; Tayrona National Park. Well, not so hidden anymore apparently. Tons of articles about the conservation park, that the Colombians are very proud of, shows that the park has become one of the most visited spots in Colombia.
What baffled me was the fact that most of the articles were titled something like “ultimate guide to Tayrona”, “How to get to Tayrona”, or “everything you need to know about Tayrona”,… How did those lovely dumplings actually find their way in this place, in a country where they just arrived and for whose language isn’t their mother tongue while atthe same time write a guide (an ultimate one, nonetheless) about it?? You guys, I often can't even figure out which Walmart exit should I take to get to my car…
We took a shuttle from Cartagena to Santa Marta from Juan Balena. Santa Marta is the capital of Magdalena, a Colombian department at the Caribbean coast. Santa Marta is the oldest existing city in Colombia (and the second oldest in South America). It is also one of the central hubs to get to many places on the north coast of Colombia, including Tayrona park. This humble city by the port is located only 2 hours driving from Cartagena. The shuttle picked us up right in the front of our hotel door in Getsemani in Cartagena, and drove us directly to our hotel in Santa Marta. I highly recommend you to take a shuttle service like this if you need to travel from Cartagena to Santa Marta. It costs a bit more then taking the bus from the terminal but it will definitely save you some hassle of getting the right bus and all other sort of unnecessary miseries.
We stayed for 2 nights and 3 days in the centro historico area in Santa Marta. This area offers a laid-back atmosphere with a lot of eateries catering all kind of flavor, from local delicacies to international dish, from street drink vendors to fancy taverns. We stayed at the Casa Verde hotel, situated just a walk away from the Bastidas square and boardwalk. The Bastidas boardwalk is a very lively and festive walk along the Santa Marta port. Locals and tourists mingle together along this boardwalk, especially around the sunset time. Seriously, the sunset does look spectacular from this boardwalk, the busy port with the big boats completed the view, and made it even more dramatic. I mean it, check these pics for proof.
There are tons of ways to get to Tayrona (or any place in Colombia in general, honestly). The country was surprisingly very easy to get around, even for someone who has the tendency to get lost like me. Tayrona was the last destination in our itinerary in Colombia and we decided to take it easy. We skipped the long-walking-in-the-forest part and fast forwarded to the good part; the beach at Playa Crystal, and we did it as a day trip.
We took a taxi to get to the park entrance first thing in the morning (like 6 AM to be precise). The ride took us about 45 minutes from the hotel, then we continued with a tour bus straight to Neguanje bay for another 45 minutes, passing through the dense forest with sandy floor (unique vegetation!). We had one stop along the way, at the famous, instagramable playa de Siete Olas or the Seven Waves beach. This site gives you an epic outlook of how the turquoise blue water with its pearly waves hit the luscious green mountain. It is mountain meets the ocean, awfully awesome. I have never seen anything like this before...
From Neguanje bay, we took a 10 minutes ride on a fisherman boat to Playa Crystal. Playa Crystal was once known as the Playa del Muerto or the Beach of the Dead. According to the fisherman tale, the area was a burial site for the indigenous people.
There are not much to do at Crystal beach apart from all the awesome stuff that you probably don’t like, ya’know the basic stuff; snorkeling with cute colorful fishes and seahorses, swimming in the perfectly fresh crystal clear water, eating freshly cooked to perfection fish with fried plantain, snacking on local delicacies (a piece of guava sweets on top of a thick cheese), relaxing on the soft, white sandy beach with a rhapsody of the ocean as your background music, or simply
taking a nap enjoying life on a hammock with a bottle of cold beer.
So that said, if you don't like any of those mentioned above, don't bother to go all the way off the beaten path to Playa Crystal. (I strongly suggest you to visit the closest mental hospital instead. You know, to give your head a check if everything is okay up there).