After our long (and difficult) trek to the Lost City, we came down from the mountain and had our driver drop us off at Costeño Beach. This is where we planned to visit the famous Tayrona National Park, but we were doing things a little bit differently than most travellers who visit this part of Colombia.
Most people who explore Tayrona National Park do so on an overnight hike to Cabo San Juan de Guia beach, where they spend the night in a hammock and then hike back out the next morning to take a bus back to Santa Marta.
We decided to stay at Costeño Beach instead, a funky little off-track backpacker area about 15km from the park’s Zaino entrance, and we’re glad we did.
Please Note: As with all of our Colombia articles, videos and content on this blog, we were not sponsored by any hotels, tours or companies in Colombia. We chose to travel this country and pay our own way just like you would travelling here. If we recommend a place, it’s because we loved it and want to share with other travellers, not because we were paid to do so.
We decided to stay at Tayrona Tented Lodge. We found it on Booking.com and at just $65 / night including full board for two people, we really couldn’t imagine a better deal. The place was super relaxed and the unique canvas topped pre-fab beach huts were really funky.
The food was cooked by the super friendly and oh-so-laid back Issa, who was also the manager, the receptionist and the waiter. We really enjoyed the food at the lodge, but just a few meters down the beach was the Costeño Beach Hostel & Surf Lodge.
This American-owned institution had an excellent restaurant and bar with properly prepared western meals, a funky ambiance and super-cheap and strong cocktails (just $2 each at happy hour).
Even though we had free food at Tayrona Tented Lodge, we found it hard to peel ourselves away from this grass-thatched beach bar paradise and often enjoyed lunch here.
Update 2022: a reader has advised us that the Tayrona Tented Lodge no longer serves food. Check with the accommodation before booking.
While we loved the bar and beachy vibe at Costeño Beach Hostel, the rooms didn’t offer quite as good of value as Tayrona Tented Lodge, so we were happy with our decision to “glamp” a couple of doors down, but come over to the hostel to enjoy the atmosphere for the day.
There are also a few other excellent accommodation options that we checked out on the beach. All seemed to subscribe to the same naturalist, uber-casual, beach-life ideology.
Best Accommodation Options on Costeño Beach (click to book on Booking.com)
- Tayrona Tented Lodge – Bungalow ($68 / night) incl. Full Board for two people (!)
- Costeño Beach Hostel & Surf Camp – Dorm ($14 / night), 2 person Bungalow ($29 / night)
- Playa Pikua Eco-Lodge – Luxury-Style 4 person rooms ($100 / night)
Costeño Beach, like many on the northern coast of Colombia, has choppy water and some strong currents. There were a few people swimming in the shallow white wash, and some surfers further out, but it’s definitely not a relax and float on your back kind of beach.
Still, the 4 km long stretch of golden sand was lovely. Palm trees and palapas provided shade while dozens of comfy hammocks blew in the wind, each beckoning us in for a bit of chill time as we slowly strolled down the shore.
The beach itself was worth the visit because it was in such a beautiful spot, but what made the Costeño area so appealing was the vibe.
This is one chilled out backpacker spot. Time seems to slow and we found ourselves walking at about half speed the entire time we were here. We fell asleep with the sound of the waves pounding the sand in the evening and woke up to parrots squaking in the trees every morning.
There isn’t a town at Costeño at all, just a small network of dirt paths that lead from one funky beach establishment to the next. These paths lie behind all of the hotels and hostels and are fringed mostly by farm land and a few local homes on the other side.
Everyone seemed to be completely relaxed at Costeño which was nice. Maybe they felt like us and were just exhausted after a long hike to either Tayrona National Park or The Lost City.
Things To Do
There’s really not much to do at all at Costeño Beach, but that’s kind of the point. Laying in a hammock with a cocktail in hand, watching surfers conquer moderate-sized waves with the sound of tropical music in the bar behind you is pretty much the gist of this carefree coastal colony.
Aside from unwinding and lazing around the tranquil setting, there are a few things to keep travellers busy.
Many of the places on the beach offer surf board rentals and or surf lessons. A professional instructor can take you out for around 50,000 COP ($17) / hour including board rental and rash guard. Surf lessons are best organized at Costeño Beach Hostel & Surf Camp.
If you’re hanging out around Costeño Beach Hostel around sunset time, you’ll likely see an impromptu game of beach volleyball break out. The games are free and the setting couldn’t be more picturesque.
Classes are around 15,000 COP ($5) for an hour morning class under a gazebo on the beach. The setting is breathtaking with a sea breeze to cool you down and the sound of crashing waves for meditation and shavasana.
Tayrona National Park Day Trip
The most popular day trip from Costeño is of course Tayrona National Park, which is only about 5 km away. You can go there by taxi (40,000 COP / $14), motorbike (12,500 COP / $4), or bus from the main road (8,000 COP / $2.75) and once at the Zaino entrance, you will have to pay a 42,000 COP ($15) park fee to get in.
There are a few paths you can choose to take, but most people will head to Cabo San Juan de Guia which takes about 1.5 hours each way without stopping. The hike is pretty tiring so you’ll probably end us resting a couple of times along the way.
Although some beaches may look tempting to swim at, most have dangerous rip tides, particularly Cañaveral and Arrecifes. The best swimming is at La Pescina which is just a 10 – 15 minute walk from Cabo San Juan. You can swim at Cabo San Juan, but it’s much nicer at La Pescina.
Cabo San Juan is where most people spend the night in a hammock, but one of the great things about staying at Costeño Beach is that you can easily do the hike, visit the beach, go for a swim and then head back to your comfy hotel or hostel room that same night (especially advantageous during bad weather).
If you do choose to spend the night at San Juan, most people sleep in hammocks (20,000 – 25,000 COP / $7 – $8.50) either under a gazebo atop of a beachside boulder, or in the jungle (get here early to lock down the former).
There are also tents for rent (50,000 COP / $17), rustic cabañas (150,000 COP / $51), or you can pitch your own tent for 15,000 COP / $5.
When we visited Costeño and the Tayrona area, there were crazy rains that made the hike, and definitely sleeping at the beach close to impossible. We weren’t able to visit Tayrona this time around, but we made all the plans and research to do so, and that is where we got this information. When we return to the area, we’ll write a full post on our Tayrona experience.
Getting To & From Costeño Beach
If you’re doing the hike to the Lost City, you can ask your driver to drop you off at Costeño Beach on the way back to Santa Marta. Alternatively, the bus from Santa Marta takes about an hour and a half and costs 8,000 COP ($2.75).
Make sure you ask the driver to drop you at the entrance to Costeño beach, from where it’s about a 25 minute walk, or a quick motorbike ride (3,000 COP / $1) into the beach accommodations.
You can also hire a taxi to take you door to door but this will run you about 60,000 – 80,000 COP ($20 – $27) from Santa Marta, but will only take around 1 hour total.
If you’re coming all the way from Cartagena, you’ll have to first take the 3.5 hour bus to Santa Marta, and then choose one of the above options to get you to Costeño Beach.
Our Overall Impression of Costeño Beach
There was definitely something special about this tiny backpacker oasis on the Caribbean Sea. Even though the weather was pretty bad during our visit, we felt like this was one of the funkier little hippie beach colonies we’ve ever seen.
Thanks to the super cheap restaurant and bar at Costeño Beach hostel, a fair amount of accommodation options ranging from hammocks on the beach to luxury rooms with infinity pools, and an overall laid-back atmosphere, we would definitely recommend Costeño Beach to anyone visiting this part of Colombia.
In fact, this was our favourite beach area that we saw in our 6 week trip to Colombia and while we only spent 2 nights here, we could have easily doubled that time and enjoyed the hammocks on the beach a little bit longer.