My Favourite Place On The Caribbean Coast

I was given every possible sign not to go. Two planes actually turned around and brought me back to where I started. Yet third time lucky right? So I ended up in one of the most beautiful places on the Colombian Caribbean coast -Parque Nacional Tayrona, Santa Marta.

*Note: this post is pretty much a diary entry. A little different to normal. There’s no cool new facts, comparisons or worldly considerations. It’s just me and my adventure. Starting with how two planes turned me around and brought me back to where I started…

Plane Disruptions

4:00PM I board the airport shuttle bus outside Hotel Nutibara, Medellin and head to Rionegro where my plane is to take off. There’s quite a lot of traffic which makes me a little worried about reaching the airport in time. So worried in fact, I fall asleep. Yes, I think I’ve become that sort of person. Whatever happens, happens and deal with it then.

I wake up when we arrive at the airport an hour later, hop on my plane and head off to Santa Marta. Circling around the airport, we’re told there are poor landing conditions, we can’t land and back we go to Medellin. I organise my flight for the next day and decide to change it up a bit. Why not check out Barranquilla for a few hours. Shakira’s hometown and Joe Arroyo’s favourite place right?

After spending a night with three other girls in a nearby finca (country estate hostel VivaColombia organised for us) I head to my next flight at 1PM. I hop on and off we go. Same story, half way through the journey we’re told there are computer problems and back I go. Now it’s clearly my own bad luck, since I was the only one on the previous flight that changed my destination.

However, what did I gain from this -free food and a couple of new friends. Most people on these flights were Costeños (Colombians from the coast) and honestly from what I’ve seen by their attitude, everyday is a party, even when things don’t go right.

Four hours later, we’re off again and I finally land in Santa Marta, a day after I had planned. This also meant I missed out on the Lost City Hike I had originally planned with Marisabel. But you know, what happens, happens, so make the most of it.

Arriving in Barranquilla I take a hour bus to Santa Marta. Sorry Joe Arroyo, en Barranquilla no me quedé.

Santa Marta

With a whole day wasted I don’t want to waste any more time. I arrive in Santa Marta about 10:30PM and head out to finally meet up with Marisabel for a night out. Parque de los Novios is the place to be, with plenty of bars and clubs to choose from.

I’m impressed with the night life! There’s heaps of young kids around as I learn there’s a nearby university. There’s not too much Vallenato but there’s a good variety of reggeaton, cumbia and salsa and we manage to join in with a large group of local and international students studying in Santa Marta.

Rodadero Playa Blanca

We’re told the best beach to be at is Rodadero Playa Blanca, a 10 minute taxi ride away, or half an hour bus ride. So the next day is dedicated to this beach. Honestly it is nice. It reminds me a little of Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, just without the rough churning of the waves. The water is calm while the sand in front is buzzing with energy.

Trenza. Masaje. Descuento.

We hear that a lot. Ladies walk past offering a good massage, a plaited new hairdo and if we say no, possibly a discount. Yet we stay mostly in the water enjoying its tranquility. At the end of the day the night life begins, starting with a small performance of local dancers on the sand.

Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona 

This is the highlight of being in Santa Marta. It was never part of the plan, since that was meant to be The Lost City Hike, but I guess everything happens for a reason.

An hour bus ride to the park and we’re at the entrance. We choose our campsite, being the Don Pedro campsite, about a 40 minute hike from the main beach and book in our hammocks for the night.

We decide to take a horse to our campsite, while we still had our backpacks weighing us down.

A pleasant ride later and we see our bed for the night.

With no time to waste we head out to the best beach in the area: Cabo San Juan. The water is not as calm as what we had in Rodadero, but there’s no calls of masajes, trenzas and descuentos bothering us.

To me that looks like paradise. The lush greenery surrounding the beach brings together nature’s beauty all in the once place -jungle, ocean and natural rock formations.

We check out the other two beaches on the way back to our campsite …

and as the sun sets we discover the best bakery in South America.

I’m not even kidding. This is the best bread I’ve tasted in a long time. The wood fired bread came with chocolate, or oregano, or cheese, oregano and ham, or arequipe, or cheese and guava… plenty of delicious options. At the end of a day walking and swimming, it was well worth it.

We head back in the dark to our cold showers and swaying hammocks and I enjoy a solid nights sleep after a long day.

Pueblito Chayrama. 

I sleep a lot longer than most people, even though I’m in a hammock. But we’re up and running fairly early to head to Pueblito Chayrama.

What we didn’t get to do on our Lost City Trek, we made up for on this hike. This hike, that began just after San Cabo beach is not easy. It reminded me a lot of my treks through Chile where there’s minimal signage and difficult paths. If you’re not experienced it would be very difficult to go alone, because often you’re giving each other a hand up and scrambling over large rocks. It takes us roughly two and a half hours to get to the top as we bond with fellow hikers and help each other out.

It’s all about the journey. The top is relatively peaceful boasting a few indigenous huts, a running river and plenty of fallen mangos I gladly devour.

After a quicker return journey, I gladly run into the Caribbean Sea to wash away all the sweat and dirt I had collected on my way up.

On the way out of the park we hire a third horse to accompany us and carry our bags. This makes the journey quicker as we trot more than half the way (as opposed to the horse simply walking) and make it in time for one of the last buses out of the park.

Maybe now you can see why this has been my favourite on the Caribbean coast. I’ve seen Cartagena, San Andres and ten minutes of Barranquilla, but the nature based immersion of Parque Nacional Tayrona won me over.


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