Ditching a bed for a hammock by the sea

Published: March 23rd 2016
Edit Blog Post

This our 100th blog!!! Thank you everybody for reading and following our adventures. We hope you still enjoy reading them as much as we love sharing them.

Some countries more than others are known for having the perfect beaches; for the relaxing, unwinding and admiring the pure beauty of their idyllic setting. The ones that spring to mind include the picture perfect beaches of Mexico, Maldives, Spain, Brazil, Jamaica, Philippines and Australia.

All known for their outstanding sandy beaches and crystal clear waters. All in their own way offering their own slice of paradise. When looking into our very last minute trip to Colombia, we read many posts highly recommending travel in Colombia but noting that if you were looking for a beach paradise then you should look elsewhere.

That’s okay we thought to ourselves, our last 2 weeks were spent on a beach Mexico, we didn't mind.However after travelling Colombia for ourselves and experiencing some of Colombia’s coastal gems I would argue otherwise.

More correctly, Colombia like many other countries have many of their own little spots of stunning beauty unknown to mass tourism. In actual fact the more we travelled the more we heard more of other hidden perfect beach locations, many of which we had missed and hope to experience when we return.

Tayrona park on Colombia’s Caribbean coast was one stretch of coastline that we had the opportunity to experience and we are really happy that we did. I say beaches but the beaches here are a part of a national park 15,000 hectares wide. What's nice about this park is not only that it is owned by Colombians themselves but that it is protected by the government in an attempt to preserve the local life within, the diverse ecology and the pristine beaches.

In actual fact, for the whole month before visiting, we heard from many frustrated travellers on how the park had been closed for a month by the local tribes within who felt that various rituals needed to be carried out once again to restore the parks energy that had been ruined by the tourists in the park.

Itching for something different after 4 amazing weeks in Cartagena, we liked the idea that you could not just turn up at this beach. It required a bit of effort, as you need to hike through some forest areas and across many untouched deserted beaches until you reach one of 3 main beaches - popular for staying overnight.

However even then your options are to either sleep on the beach in a hammock or tent. This might not be everyone’s paradise but was perfect for us. The promise of hike, improved fitness, stunning beaches and an escape from busy noisy cities.

In order to get to Tayrona, its best to stay a night in Santa Marta or Taguna. We chose the bustling city of Santa Marta. Santa Marta didn't really offer much in terms of sights/attractions or things to do but provided a base before and after Tayrona Park. The following morning after arriving in Santa Marta, we swiftly packed our day packs, opted to leave our larger backpacks in the hostel and stocked up on snacks from the local supermarket. Our very basic knowledge of Spanish was useful enough to find the correct bus stop as the buses are now found around 5 blocks away from the market and no longer at the market itself (as stated on a few forums).

After an hour bus ride we were dropped off at the National park office, whereby were we given some brief information in Spanish about places, the different beaches, distances between them and places to stay. We met other groups of travellers here but wanted to explore the national park on our own.

To start off with there is a paved road which you can walk up (taking around 45 minutes) or you can hop on a minibus taking 5 minutes that will lead you to the start of the trail. Hearing that this was a paved road with not much to see we opted for the minibus. It was also just after midday and we had heard that many overnight options in the more popular beaches fill up by 3pm.

Starting the trail we immediately entered a forested area surrounded by lots of greenery in every direction we looked. We navigated the trail as it went up and down and curved around rock faces. The first hour or so was the humid sweat inducing forest. The trail itself was not as challenging as we expected, many sections made safer by wooden platforms and steps. Sadly we did not get to witness much wildlife apart from the brightly coloured iguanas and the lengthy trails created by the leaf cutter ants.

The further along this trail the more and more you hear the sound of the waves crashing against the shore until we got our first glimpse of one of the beaches.

A really wide sandy beach, with the ocean an illuminous blue colour. Adding to the beauty of this place were the huge boulders of sandy white rocks adding to the mystic of this place. A bit like the boulders in Hampi in India. The whole beach unoccupied without any huts and backed by the densely green forest. As we continued to followed the trail hugging the coastline, we came across a youngish boy and girl (the boy around 18 and the girl no older than 13) with the girl carrying a small baby. They wore indigenous white clothing, the girl bare footed and the boy wearing some sandals. This caught us both by surprise and by the looks and their faces they were also surprised to see us and quickly scurried past us. The thought that kept running through P’s mind was that she hoped the baby the young girl held was not hers. Surely she was too young to bear a child of her own.

We later found out that a tradition held onto by many of the indigenous tribes habiting this areas is one where a huge celebration takes place when a young boy is 18 and officially becomes a man with many rituals carried out to mark this age. One of the special events during this celebration is his marriage, he is given a bride, a girl who has had finished her first period, both of whom then are expected to bare children. This really took us by surprise and will never forget the memory of the little girl, such a young child clutching the baby in her arms.

As we carried on, up and down the trail, we stopped for photo opportunities at various viewpoints and before we knew it we came across another young boy. This time the boy was throwing sticks trying to get something out of the trees. Before he saw us we managed to capture a quick snap of him before he scurried quickly out of our sight. With his long black hair, tanned skin, white muddied gown, bare feet and his incredible stick throwing skills, Chris said he reminded him of Mowgli out of Jungle book. Obviously this just was another indigenous local and not a ferral child running free through the jungle living with animals. Ha

Before no time, we arrived at the popular overnight beach of Arrecifes where there were multiple options of accommodation still available. The beach here was huge, very pretty with a dramatic mountain and forest backdrop, what seemed like a small lake or lagoon at the back end of the beach and the captivating blue ocean that crashed ferociously over the sand. We had read the ocean here was not safe for swimming and we clearly did not want to challenge that.

After our packed lunch of cheese spread and crisp sandwiches with an apple we continued on to the beach we intended on staying - El Cabo, another 45 minutes away or so. On our way we passed many stunning beaches some with their own tents and hammocks but we decided to carry on with the promise of something more special.

El Cabo San Juan; 2 bay beaches side by side, with a sandy rocky stretch connecting them and a viewing platform offering incredible views over this unusual formation
Whoever said Colombia beaches were missable..Whoever said Colombia beaches were missable..Whoever said Colombia beaches were missable..

...obviously did not travel here.
of 2 twin style beaches.

Initially our plan was to only spend a day here, maybe a night but ended up spending a couple nights here! We spent our time: exploring other beaches further up north, swimming and splashing in the sea and generally just relaxing. The first night we opted for a hammock (15,000 pesos each) as we rocked ourselves asleep by the cool breeze coming from the ocean. This was a lovely way to spend a night, but as it proved to be a lot windier at night than we would have liked we opted for a second night in a tent (25,000 pesos).

Even though Colombia is still fairly low in terms mass tourism, we couldn't help notice the amount of English conversations happening around us. There were a lot more British, European and Kiwi travellers here than we expected. Our newly learnt Spanish skills were definitely not needed here.

During the second night we woke up around 2/3am and stayed up for an hour, lying with our heads resting on the outside of our tent gazing up at the stars. We heard about the many opportunities of being able to witness shooting stars here. So, especially after falling asleep in the Indian desert and failing to stay up long enough to witness it there, this was not something we intended on missing again.

In that hour we witnessed about a dozen shooting stars zip across the nights sky, this made our stay in the national park even more magical.
Food was also not as expensive as we expected and so after our buns, cans of fish and snacks had ran out we happily treated ourselves to some of other delights on offer. Lockers were also provided, flushing toilets and basic showers proved to be all that we needed for a relaxing and enjoyable beach retreat.

Transport: 24,000COP from Santa Marta (bus and moto)

Accommodation: El Cabo beach

Date: 4/12/2015

Additional photos below
Photos: 39, Displayed: 28


We wanted beach..We wanted beach..
We wanted beach..

..but maybe this is too much. Or not
Who says you can't have it all?Who says you can't have it all?
Who says you can't have it all?

Mountain, rivers, beach anc sea.

23rd March 2016
Whoever said Colombia beaches were missable..

100 blogs!
Congratulations on your 100th blog! What a trip you've had over those 100 blogs too... hope you had cake to celebrate your milestone :)
24th March 2016
Whoever said Colombia beaches were missable..

100 blogs
Haha. We have cake, chocolate and sweets on most days. Maybe we'll have more than 1 portion to mark the occasion!
25th March 2016

Beautiful beaches
Another beautiful place you have discovered on your travels! And what an incredible spot to celebrate and 'contemplate' on your 100th blog :) Congrats guys! Love reading about your adventures... so keep the blogs coming! :)
28th March 2016

Re: Beautiful beaches
Thank you! It was such an amazing place, especially the beaches. Seeing the shooting stars was definitely a highlight for us. Glad you are still enjoying the blogs, we can't believe we've written 100 already!!
25th March 2016

Blogging from Paradise!
What a memorable place for your 100th blog--congratulations! Perfect beaches, boulders, forests, warm swimming water and no traffic--excellent! I will definitely go there now, too! Amazing that you saw some indigenous people there--I've never read that on any other blogs, but so sad about the little girls having babies--so dangerous for them. But how magical for you to both be in such a special place and glimpse those who still live in their traditional ways. Great photos, too!
28th March 2016

Re: Blogging from paradise
Thank you Tara. We would definitely recommend Tayrona Park, it's just so beautiful and picturesque. It was sad to learn about the young girls of the indigenous people here. We love that despite the tourism happening around them, they've still maintained their traditions and culture but the young pregnancies is probably one aspect we'd like to see ended there. Still, it was a bonus to actually see them let alone manage to take a picture.
1st April 2016

Certainly does not seem like 100 blogs...they have zipped by. Sounds fantastic. Glad you enjoyed the stars...never, never enough of those moments!
15th April 2016

Thank You.
It didn't feel like a 100 whatsoever! Sorry for the delay in getting back to you, we have been trying to adjust to coming home :(

Tot: 2.229s; Tpl: 0.101s; cc: 38; qc: 160; dbt: 0.1114s; 1; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 1; ; mem: 1.8mb