I’m going to be one of those annoying travelers for a moment and declare that if you go to Taganga, you ABSOLUTELY must take a trip to Parque Tayrona. Tears of joy spilled out of my eyes as my boat came ashore in Cabo San Juan and I could barely keep my mouth from dragging along the shiny bright and coarse beach sand as I made my way to the campsite. It was that good. I found myself constantly uttering with incredible regularity, “How good is life!” I can’t imagine why anyone would want to pass by this spectacular destination, unless of course they know of some magical wonderland I’ve yet to encounter. I enjoyed three unadulterated nights with the bare minimum, sleeping in a hammock and it was heavenly. The only things keeping me from staying longer was lack of an ATM in the park and not wanting to cause concern amongst my friends and family when they noticed I was absent from social media for over a week.
Arriving in Style
There are several ways to get to Parque Tayrona. First you can walk. Though since you’ll most likely want to carry a lot of food and water with you (it’s very expensive inside the park) this isn’t the most pleasant option unless you’re really in desperate need of a workout. There are also a couple of bus options ranging from cheap to expensive. Then there’s my way: by boat. Another trend I’ve been noticing on this trip is how much I really love being in boats and my little cruise to Parque Tayrona from Taganga confirmed this for me. It’s the most expensive option for getting to the park, but when you consider the perks it’s a bargain.
By “perks” of course I mean the breath stopping views of waves crashing on rocks and reforming again in swirling aqua green lagoons. It honestly felt like I had a front row seat to some exotic Travel Channel show. Of course, being that close to all of the action also meant that it was a bumpy ride. I enjoyed this to the max, getting splashed silly and bounced all over the place. I had been craving some aquatic fun by way of going to a water park with slides and all, but this was definitely a sufficient alternative. A bit of a warning though, this is definitely not for those prone to seasickness. There were more than a few other passengers who hated the trip and hated me even more for laughing and enjoying myself the whole way.
After 40 minutes of aquatic adventure we arrived to the heavenly gates of Cabo San Juan and I fell immediately in love. The water was almost sparkling and I was immediately reminded why aqua green is my favorite color. I was soaked to the bone, but almost skipped across the sand as I made my way to the campsite to drop my things and go head first into the frothy waters.
Not so Fast
The receptionist at the campsite in Cabo San Juan however, had different ideas. She said I’d have to wait until 13:00 to get into my hammock. I thought this was a bit ridiculous, given that the upkeep and maintenance of a hammock after a previous night’s use is probably quite minimal. I didn’t want to wait in the overprice restaurant so I went for an exploratory walk to see some nature and check out alternative campsites.
As I began walking on the trail, I was giddy with excitement. In front of me laid a primordial paradise of palm trees, fallen coconuts and crabs scattering about as they heard my footsteps approaching. It was almost too much to take in. This is what I had been looking for on my trip for a long time. I continued on for about 45 minutes and came up to the campsites in Arrecifes, one of the beaches where it’s actually forbidden to swim due to the strong riptides. The receptionist here was a lot more friendly and let me immediately drop my bags in an empty hammock. Within five minutes I was changed into my swim suit and wandering off back to the beaches.
There are only so many ways one can gush about how striking and serene a beach scene is. I’m pretty sure that most people can imagine the greatest of tropical paradises in their minds thanks to many a Windows wall paper option. It’s always never the same as seeing it for yourself, so I’ll leave it to say, everyone needs to see this beach for themselves. The colors and sounds of the waves don’t carry themselves as well on paper as they do in real life. I was mildly annoyed with myself upon reviewing the pictures, of how few I took and how they still didn’t quite transmit the same energy I was feeling on the beach, but I chalk this up to the fact that I was too busy actually enjoying the beach to worry about the pictures.
Hike to Cañaveral
The last day of my stay in Parque Tayrona, I went for a long walk up to the beach nearest the main entrance, Cañaveral. It wasn’t a very challenging walk, but did garner some beautiful vistas of the beaches below the rocks. I arrived to Cañaveral, somewhat famished and disappointed. I expected this beach to be a little more developed with more fruit stands and restaurants. There was only one fruit stand so I took an orange juice before continuing to the beach.
The way to the beach was along another short path through the woods and an entrance sign told me this would take another 45 minutes. I wasn’t interested in another 45 minute hike but I continued anyway. Upon seeing a clearing in the brush and a glimpse of the nearby beach I decided to go off the trail and wander over in the most efficient route possible. I quickly came up to a big swamp though and diverted back to the trail. Much to my surprise, the trail was actually only another 10 minutes and that’s when I read a sign which literally translated to: “Yo, if you step up to the lagoon again, a bunch of mean alligators will jump out and bite your Gringa ass off.” Realizing that I was literally one step away from actually going into the lagoon I let out a nervous laugh. I realize that they assume most hikers are not impatient assholes and won’t go off trail, but still it would be nice if they could put this sign at the beginning of the hike.
After taking my obligatory pictures of the rather small and unimpressive beach, I cautiously hiked back to the entrance recalling the sign about alligators and how I almost stepped right into the mouth of one. As I approached the part nearest the lagoon I all of a sudden froze in place, which somehow resulted in me taking up a stance as if I was ready to sumo wrestle. Right in the middle of my path was a baby alligator. HOLY SHIT! I stood making the nervous laugh for an amount of time I can’t recall. The only thing I could process at the moment was Baby = Mama nearby. This felt like one of those “Game Over” scenarios. I bit my lip and then did the most non-intuitive thing possible. I ran straight for the baby, hoping it would run away and I would have a clear path to safety. The little baby did run away and as far as I can tell, no mama alligator came running after me. I assume this because I also assume I can’t outrun an alligator and I’m writing this post here today.
As soon as I made it to the entrance I cursed, kicked and screamed like the entire world was falling apart. Why didn’t I take out my camera? It was right at my side and I completely forgot about it! I hiked back pouting the entire time because no one would ever believe that I happened upon a baby alligator. This train of thought inevitably lead to more deep rooted complaints I had about traveling alone and not having someone with me to share the moment. This experience clearly outlines the biggest downfall to traveling alone – not having a witness to confirm your crazy experiences. Oh well, this just gives me something to strive for in the future and I now know where I’ll bring my future husband for our honeymoon.