Believe it or not, Colombia--yes the country most of the world knows as Pablo Escobar's cocaine capital--is actually one of the most geographically stunning countries in the world. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the South American country's most prized national park, Parque Tayrona. Located along Colombia's northern coast, Parque Tayrona is 150 acres of protected land at the base of the steep and rocky Sierra Nevada Range featuring lush rain forests and breathtaking coastline.
Complete with jungle trails and secret coves for private (read: clothing optional) swimming, the park has become a haven for backpackers looking to exchange the bustle of city life for some coastal R&R.
There are a handful of camps and cabanas scattered up and down the park, but Cabo San Juan del Guia is one spot that can't be passed up. A two-hour hike from the park's north entrance, Cabo is a hostel of hammocks built on a rocky point out in the Caribbean. For 25,000 Colombian pesos (about $15 USD), you can rent a hammock with 270-degrees of ocean views and prime access to some of the park's best beaches.
Camping spots are also available in the field down below, but snagging a hammock on Cabo's impressive vista is one experience every backpacker in South America should put on his list.
Parque Tayrona Tips:
Pay attention to warning signs. In addition to beautiful beaches, there are several no-swim zones with nasty currents and dangerous undertows, so don't ignore the red flags.
Pack your own food. One of the downsides of being isolated from busier municipalities is the lack of competitive pricing, which translates to some pretty darn expensive meals at the campgrounds. Skip the headache and pack your own food (we went with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, beef jerky, and chocolate bars). Trust us, it's worth it.
Bring a student ID. If you're a college student under the age of 26 with a valid student ID, your park entrance fee is only 7,000 Colombian pesos (about $4 USD). Compare that with 32,000 Colombian pesos for non-students, and that's a pretty sweet deal.
Similar stories on GrindTV
A hyper-local guide to Costa Rica