Palomino Colombia is the country’s ultimate beach backpacker town. Find out more about Palomino and plan your trip here.
Palomino, Colombia’s sleepy backpacker town is a must on your Colombia travel itinerary, especially if you plan on travelling around the north of the country. Famous for tubing down its mellow river and its palm-fringed beach there is more to Palomino than first meets the eye.
With some of the best restaurants on this stretch of the Caribbean coast, a vibrant nightlife scene, sleepy beaches and yoga classes available just about anywhere, Palomino is the perfect place to take it easy for a few days.
One day in Palomino Colombia itself is definitely enough to check out the beach, go tubing and eat some delicious meals but I highly recommend staying the night to get the most of your time here. Add on a couple more nights if you plan on heading to Tayrona National Park or Quebrada Valencia from here too.
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GET INTO PALOMINO COLOMBIA
Palomino is located on Colombia’s northern Caribbean coast and is part of the well-trodden backpacker trail. It’s fairly easy to get there by bus.
From wherever you might be exploring in Colombia you’ll first need to get yourself to Santa Marta.
From Santa Marta bus station take any bus going to Riohacha and ask to be dropped off at Palomino.
From Santa Marta’s Mamatoco roundabout you can also grab one of the small, local buses that go from Santa Marta up and down the Tronchal de Caribe to Palomino Colombia.
Once you arrive in Palomino you’ll get dropped off on the main highway. Buses do not go into and through town. From here you can walk to your accommodation or alternatively take a moto-taxi or motorbike taxi if you have a bit of luggage. A ride around town should cost 2-3k pesos per person.
WHERE TO STAY IN PALOMINO COLOMBIA
Palomino Colombia has so many places to stay and accommodates all budgets. You can choose to stay in the town itself or just outside town between the many different places to visit along the Troncal del Caribe.
If you are looking for somewhere peaceful to relax, note that Palomino town can get quite noisy at night so make sure to stay a little out of the way of town.
Casa de Moncoro at The Fort
You’ll soon find out that most of the amazing things to do in Palomino are actually outside the town itself. During my time in Palomino, I personally preferred to stay in the middle of the many things to do on the Troncal del Caribe for a few nights rather than constantly move accommodation.
The Fort is a newly built hostel that’s located smack dab in the middle of everywhere you need to be where you can reach Palomino in 20 minutes and Tayrona in 20 minutes.
The Casa de Moncoro is the Fort’s unique rustic-lux cabin in the middle of the jungle surrounded by views of 2 miles of pristine coastline. The hand-built cabin sleeps up to 6 people though it can easily be rented out for just two. The well-equipped kitchen makes self-catering very easy and basics like local Colombian coffee are provided.
There’s no better place to wake up on the Caribbean Coast especially when you want to be surrounded by nature and not be in Palomino town which can get quite noisy and rowdy sometimes.
For a simple yet beautiful stay in Palomino, Casa Juana is a great choice. Located in a nice, quiet part of town, they have a few simple yet tastefully decorated rooms, comfortable beds, super-friendly staff and a great breakfast. There’s also a lovely garden to relax in a deck to unroll your mat in the morning for a quick flow before hitting the beach.
La Casa del Pavo Real
If you’re after a hip boutique hostel where you can meet other people and socialise by the incredible pool area they have here then make sure to look further into staying here.
With clean, design-focused and comfortable rooms, a delicious breakfast, an amazing pool area, one of the best day spas in Palomino just next door and it’s only 5-minutes walking distance from the beach, this option is a really great one.
Makao Beach Hotel
If you prefer to stay right on the beach and wake up to the sound of the waves then this is a great option. Simple, modern, airy rooms, a great bar/restaurant downstairs and prime beach space this space reminds me quite a bit of the beach properties in Tulum- at a fraction of the cost.
WHERE TO EAT
Suá – Focusing on healthy and conscious food, Suá is a great option for all eaters. With many veggie and vegan options as well as meat and fish, this restaurant uses local ingredients and recipes with a modern, healthy spin. Expect to see lots of local snacks, salads, and the chance to mix and match your own main meal. Don’t miss their incredibly good kombucha.
Juntos – Another good option for a meal very close to Suá, Juntos have an extensive burger menu but also a pretty tasty lentil veggie burger.
Los 7 Mares – One of the best places in town for creative cuisine that merges Colombian with modern fusion. It’s small and intimate and a lovely place to come for evening drinks and seafood. There aren’t too many plant-based options on the menu here, however.
La Sierrita – There are many bakeries in town, mainly set up by French expats that deliver delicious baguettes and French-style baked goods. La Sierrita is a small local bakery on the north side of town that bakes salivatingly good vegan panela and cinnamon rolls, sourdough bread, energy balls and other vegan-friendly, healthy snacks.
WHAT TO DO IN PALOMINO COLOMBIA
RELAX ON THE BEACH
Palomino’s beach is the main reason why backpackers make it down to Palomino. Palm-fringed beaches, great surf and both black and golden sand that shimmers in the sun.
While the beach isn’t big, there is plenty of space to lay down a towel and open a great book. There are also a few beach bars that are perfect for an afternoon sundowner while gazing out at the shades of turquoise of the Caribbean Sea.
In recent years, however, Palomino beach has suffered from erosion quite a bit leaving a somewhat uneven and narrow beach that in parts has been eaten away completely.
If you find yourself a little disappointed by the beach in Palomino just know that further down the coast there are better beaches that are pretty natural and wild.
While there is no beating the beaches in Tayrona, other great beaches in the area are right after Puerto Nuevo and also right before Buritaca, (where Playa Koralia hotel is located on Google Maps).
If you’re staying at The Fort and are looking for the best secret beaches in the area then talk to Dani, the expat owner of the Fort who’s lived here for so long she knows all the best places.
GO TUBING ON THE PALOMINO RIVER
One of the best things to do in Palomino is to spend time on the river. Due to the currents on Colombia’s Caribbean Coast being extremely strong and even deadly, most opt to spend time on the river.
The Palomino River, located within walking distance from town is the perfect place to spend a few hours on a hot day.
Tubing is an activity that’s quite popular in these parts of Colombia. It involves hiring a blown up tractor inner tube, sitting in it and slowly floating downriver on it. While this is something I already tried in South East Asia, tubing here looks so much fun.
It costs about 50,000 pesos for the full tour and that will include the inner tube and transportation by truck or moto-taxi to and from the river. Once you pick up your tube it’s quite a bit of a ride upstream to the start of the tour. From here, you can just get in the river and drift downstream. For the most part, this is a very relaxing and slow-flowing river but if you’re feeling adventurous tours are also offered further upstream where you can navigate some much faster rapids.
For one of the better tubing tours in the area click here.
GO HIKING IN THE NEARBY MOUNTAINS
Hiking is another great activity to try out in the Sierra Nevada mountains near Palomino. As hiking is still under the radar here paths are not signposted and you can easily get lost so I recommended getting the services of a local guide or booking a private tour/hike.
There is a range of hikes to do in the area from local hills and ravines to hiking in Tayrona National Park and beyond. If you’re interested in a hiking tour make sure to enquire at the range of tour operators found on Calle 6a, one block up from the highway.
TRY LOCAL COLOMBIAN COFFEE AT A CAFE
There’s no doubt that Colombia is the country to visit for coffee lovers with coffee being superior everywhere you go in this beautiful country. In fact, a lot of the country’s coffee is actually grown in the Sierra Nevada ( the mountains behind Palomino) due to its cooler yet tropical climate.
There are a number of places where you can try and buy bags of the local beans. La Sierrita bakery serves great local coffee as do Cafe Bohemia on Calle 6a.
On Main Street, Calle 6a you’ll see a number of stores from where you can also purchase a bag of local beans to take home.
RELAX AT THE WATERFALLS OF QUEBRADA VALENCIA
For some splendid little waterfalls surrounded by pure nature, head to Quebrada Valencia, a small ravine with a lovely waterfall you can trek to and bath in.
From Palomino Colombia take the bus, from along the main highways towards Santa Marta and ask to be let off at Quebrada Valencia. It’s about a 30-minute bus ride from Palomino.
Once off the bus follow the pathway to the Quebrada and up to the small waterfall where you can relax for a few hours. They are many vendors here selling snacks, souvenirs and drinks.
Note that Quebrada Valencia can run quite dry in the dry season so make sure to check with your hotel or with some locals first before coming here as it might not be worth it.
GET A SURF LESSON
Palomino beach might not be the best place to go for a swim but the large waves and strong current make for good surfing conditions. While conditions here aren’t the best in the world- the surf here is quite choppy and messy, it is still a valid place to learn to surf.
Head straight to the beach where you’ll find the local surf schools set up and where you’ll be able to grab a lesson on the go. If you’re already experienced you can also rent a board for a few hours.
TAKE A HORSE-RIDING TOUR
One of the best ways to see Palomino Colombia and its verdant surroundings is on horseback.
While I don’t normally stand by horse tours as it’s difficult to know how the animals are really treated, I’ll make an exception in Palomino.
Horseshoe Tours, based just outside Palomino and owned by Dutch expat, Lois, is a small, local, community-focused company that can organize a horse tour anywhere in the area from short day rides to overnight, multi-day excursions in the Sierra Nevada mountains. All horses here are extremely well fed and cared for so I highly recommend checking them out.
MARVEL AT THE SNOW-CAPPED SIERRA NEVADA MOUNTAINS
The Sierra Nevada Mountain Range is one of the highest and most beautiful in Colombia but when arriving in Palomino you wouldn’t even notice it’s there. Right behind the town of Palomino Colombia are some of the highest peaks in the Sierra Nevada and you can actually see those peaks on a clear day without having to go far.
If you want to start your day gazing up at the splendour of nature then on a clear morning head straight to the beach. The Rio Palomino river mouth in particular is a great spot for viewing the mountains. From here you’ll be able to see the snow-capped peaks in all their glory.
Note that this is only possible on a completely clear day and that you’ll have more of a chance of this early in the morning. We, unfortunately, didn’t manage to see the high mountains as it was cloudy for most of the morning.
WATCH THE SUNSET FROM THE BEACH
While the sun almost never rises and sets over the sea, the beach sunsets here can still be pretty amazing bathing the sea and surrounding vegetation with romantic, golden light.
The best place to catch the sunset is from the spot where the Palomino River hit the sea. The river mouth is quite narrow but around it, there is a lovely beach opening that faces westwards, where you can see the sunset quite well. Here you’ll find many local restaurants and bars which sell a variety of local fish dishes and serve up piña coladas and cold beers on the beach.
To get to this local sunset spot head westwards on Calle 2 or Calle 3a before turning right onto Carrera 1a. Head all the way to the end until you get to the river. Just before getting to the river, you’ll see the road veers to the right, keep going until you get to the river mouth.
VISIT TAYRONA NATIONAL PARK
You may have already been to Tayrona National Park before arriving in Palomino but if not make sure not to leave this part of the country without seeing Colombia’s most beautiful national park.
Large, wild and mostly undisturbed Tayrona is home to countless wildlife species that are dispersed around its 58 sq miles. While visitors are only able to visit a small number of coves and beaches there are so many here waiting to be explored.
Two days in Tayrona National Park is the perfect amount of time to spend exploring but if you’ve only got a day you can opt for a tour from Palomino or head in yourself through the El Zaino entrance and beach hop all the way to Cabo San Juan, the parks most beautiful beach where it’s safe to go for a dip!
Are you ready to start planning your trip to Palomino Colombia? Let me know your comments and questions in the box below.
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