Cabo San Juan In Tayrona National Park: Is It Worth It?

Cabo San Juan is arguably one of the top places in Tayrona National Park. Turquoise water, white fine sand, beautiful palm trees rising above you, Cabo San Juan is probably the best beach in Tayrona.

But with such a heavy title, Cabo San Juan is becoming a victim of over-tourism. Often overcrowded and overrun with visitors, is Cabo San Juan still worth visiting?

As one of the campsites in Tayrona National Park, is it worth it to stay a night at Cabo San Juan?

Whether you are planning on staying in a tent or a hammock in Cabo San Juan, or just visiting for the day, this guide will answer all your questions and help you decide whether it is worth visiting or not!

Where Is Cabo San Juan Tayrona?

Map of Tayrona National Park (Note the location of Cabo San Juan and Zaino entrance)

Cabo San Juan is located 2 hours away (if you take the shuttle at the entrance) by hiking from El Zaino entrance, the most popular entrance to Tayrona National Park.

The other way to arrive at Cabo San Juan is through the Calabazo entrance, which is a very quiet entrance that takes 3.5 hours to get to Cabo San Juan. If you want to see more wildlife and hike in solitude, I would recommend you take the Calabazo entrance.

But otherwise, it is much better to take the El Zaino entrance.

The easiest way to get to Tayrona National Park is by bus from Santa Marta. There are buses from the main terminal or you can go to the Santa Marta market located at Carrera 11, Calle 11 and take one of the vans. Just let the driver know you are going to Tayrona National Park before getting on.

The Truth About Cabo San Juan

Is Cabo San Juan worth visiting? The answer is YES. However, is Cabo San Juan worth camping at? Maybe not.

There is a reason why Cabo San Juan is so famous in Colombia. It is by far the most beautiful place in Tayrona National Park. The only downside to it is the number of visitors it gets daily. If you want to visit Cabo San Juan, I suggest you do it on a weekday and avoid any Colombian public holiday.

The facilities in Cabo San Juan simply cannot handle the number of visitors. The only restaurant on site is usually packed and requires a waiting time of around 30 minutes.

The food is mediocre at best and the price is much higher than usual, though expected for a protected area like Tayrona National Park. Some travelers have gotten sick from eating at the restaurant there.

The bathrooms and showers are often dirty and not maintained because there are just too many people. There is usually a line for both the bathrooms and showers, making it very inconvenient if you have an emergency.

On the other hand, the watchtower that juts into the ocean is an absolute paradise. The view there is certainly something you do not want to miss when visiting Tayrona National Park. Both beaches of Cabo San Juan are swimmable, which is amazing considering how many of the beaches are unswimmable inside Tayrona.

Snorkeling is also available for visitors that are interested.

If you prefer to suntan, relax, or swim on a less crowded beach, I recommend heading over to La Piscina, a short 20-minute walk from Cabo San Juan.  

Camping In Cabo San Juan, Tayrona

There are four options if you decide to camp in Cabo San Juan. 

  1. Hammock in the camping area: $40,000 COP per person/night.
  2. Hammock in the watchtower: $50,000 COP per person/night.
  3. Bringing your own tent. You would still have to pay $20,000 COP per person/night and you would have to carry it the whole time. I would not recommend it. 
  4. Tent in the camping area: $40,000 COP per person/night. A 2-person tent would cost $80,000 COP per night. 

These are prices as of August 2019.

Don’t forget the price of the entrance (63.5k COP) and the insurance (3k COP per day) you have to buy!

Prices are bound to increase from what we paid, but everything will still be relative to each other.

I highly advise against renting one of the tents in Cabo San Juan because they tend to be in terrible condition. Smelly, wet, not sufficient ventilation, moldy, the list goes on. If you do find one that is in decent shape, go ahead. 

The hammocks in the camping area are not bad choices. However, they are not equipped with mosquito nets so you are an all-you-can-eat buffet for mosquitos at night. The winds from staying close to the sea do help alleviate some of the mosquito problems, but not all of them.  

The hammocks in the watchtower are my personal recommendation if you plan on camping in Cabo San Juan.

They are a bit more costly than the regular hammocks but they are worth the additional price. Situated right above the water, you go to sleep with the sounds of the crashing waves. In the morning, you are woken by the radiance of the best sunrise you will ever see in your entire life. 

If there is one thing to include in your Colombia itinerary, make staying in a hammock in Cabo San Juan the one.

To reserve your tents and hammocks in Cabo San Juan, you have two options:

  • Doing it at Cabo San Juan
  • Reserving it in advance at El Zaino entrance

As I said, Cabo San Juan tends to get crowded so it is advised to rent your tents and hammocks beforehand at El Zaino entrance. Though I have not tried this, there is now a website where you can book things for Cabo San Juan.

Hammocks on the watchtower tend to run out quickly. Arrive early in the morning and reserve your hammocks at the El Zaino entrance.


Cabo San Juan Packing List

If you are planning on camping in Cabo San Juan, there are a few essential things you would want to bring. Ideally, you would only carry a small day pack for your duration inside Tayrona National Park and leave the rest of your luggage in your accommodation in Santa Marta or your previous location.

  1. Sunscreen– For protecting yourself against the harsh Colombian sun.
  2. Rain poncho – You will be hiking a lot in Tayrona National Park and you don’t want to be caught in the rain without a rain poncho.
  3. Filtration Water Bottle -This is a must for Tayrona National park because you won’t need to buy their overpriced water inside the park or carry huge jugs of water with you.
  4. Insect Repellent – My favorite insect repellent with Picaridin! Much more effective than DEET!
  5. Combination Locks – Cabo San Juan will have lockers for you but you will need to provide your own lock.
  6. Flashlight – There are no lights in the park except for the campsites. If you are going to the toilets or traveling inside the park after sunset, you need to have a reliable flashlight. 
  1. Cash – Make sure you have enough cash for food, entrance, insurance, and any other activities you plan on doing. 
  2. Passport – Without a passport, you cannot enter Tayrona National Park.
  3. Proof of Yellow Fever Vaccine – Though it is a mandatory regulation, it is rare that they check for it. 
  4. Bathing suits and Towel – For swimming, tanning, and various purposes. 
  5. Food, water, and snacks – If you are traveling on a budget and want to save money, consider packing your own food and bringing your own water. I did not see a kitchen in Cabo San Juan, but there is one in Don Pedro, a nearby camping site.

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That is our experience at Cabo San Juan in Tayrona National Park. How did you find your visit? Let us know in the comments!

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