After my Spring Break visitor arrived in Colombia, we were off to the Caribbean Coast to one of my favorite places in Colombia! Despite only spending one night there in early 2010, I knew that I had to return to Parque Nacional Tayrona before leaving Colombia. Spring Break provided us with ample time to fly to the coastal city of Santa Marta and spend some time in the city before heading to the park for two nights.
Michael and I traveled with Kelsi and our friend Lauren, who also teaches third grade with Kelsi, and I think everyone enjoyed the week of beach time together! Even Kelsi, who before this time had not found anything comparison-worthy to the beaches of her Southern California home admitted that it was impressive.
On Monday we flew to Santa Marta, via a layover
in Bogota at Juan Valdez in the Bogota airport, and spent the night there. Kelsi led us to an amazing coffee/juice cafe appropriately named Lulo after one of Colombia's most unique fruits. We also enjoyed a delicious dinner at Bistro that involved dos por uno (2 x 1) copas de vino (glasses of wine). Overall several wins for a city that doesn't always look as cute as its more famous coastal neighbor of Cartagena.
Oh Lulo, how I wish you existed in Cali.
On Tuesday we headed back to Lulo for breakfast (it's that good!) then took a cab out to Parque Nacional Tayrona. We could have taken a public bus, but with four of us to split cab fare we figured it was worth the time saved. Once in Tayrona the check-in process went super fast since we had purchased our park entrance fees and paid for our reserved hammocks in advance.
Since Tayrona is one of Colombia's most famous and beautiful national parks, we knew it would be super busy during Semana Santa (Holy Week) and we weren't about to wait in line to get to the beach. After checking in, we trekked into the park (about one hour hiking) with our all our possessions for three days (essentially swimsuits and snacks) in our backpacks. The trail had been remodeled since my last time there and about 30 minutes in we were greeted with stunning views of the beaches I remembered. THIS was what I came back for.
Happy (and apparently hydrated) hikers.
First sights of the beaches, which extend one after another as far as the eye can see.
We finally arrived at our campsite at Arrecifes Beach and had no trouble checking into the Aviatur campsite. Thanks to tips from some friends who went last year, we knew this site had the most comfortable hammocks, individual lockers, and its own restaurant/bathrooms. This became super important as the week continued and Colombians seemed to be pouring into the park from all directions. We dropped our stuff in lockers and headed for the beach!
Michael walking along the beach in front of our campsite - gorgeous but not for swimming due to the strong riptide. Signs everywhere warned people not to go swimming and become "part of the statistic" of people who have died here.
Michael, Kelsi and Lauren headed down the beach.
Happy to be in Tayrona!
The first day we didn't get too far since it was a bit cloudy and we left all the snacks at the campsite, so we only made it one beach past our camp. However, after a night spent sleeping in hammocks and a typical breakfast of eggs & arepas, we armed ourselves with (not enough) sunscreen, books, and snacks for a full day of beaching. We ended up exploring four beaches during the day and running into a variety of friends who also happened to be in Tayrona along the way. We even spotted our friend Hana swimming at Cabo San Juan.
La Piscina, the first swimmable beach in Tayrona.
Sunburnt by late afternoon - oops.
Group photo at Cabo San Juan beach.
At the end of the day we realized we all got a little bit pinker than intended and back the trek back to our campsite to find dinner...and aloe. One more night in the hammocks and some early morning beach time the next day were in order before we made the hike out of the park. The steady stream of people headed into the park made us very glad to be leaving, despite our sadness at saying goodbye to the beach. Back in Santa Marta, we enjoyed some (real) food at the Mexican restaurant, Agave Azul before heading back to Cali the following day.
Kelsi in her hammock withe the mosquito netting cover.
One last morning on the beach...
Obligatory jump shot - it wouldn't be a vacation without it :)
Out for Mexican food at Agave Azul.
One last group shot - sunburnt and happy.
I loved this vacation so much, mostly because of the excellent company, but also because it was my last long vacation in Colombia. As the weeks are starting to tick by fairly quickly in anticipation of my move back to Minnesota, I am growing very aware of how difficult it will be to leave a place I have called home for three years. I am extremely happy and excited to be back in Minnesota, but there is always something sad about leaving a place that has been so important to one's life. While there are still things I don't love about Colombia, for me it will always be a place of beautiful landscapes, friendly people and some of my very best friends.