Palomino is a small village in the north of Colombia on the peninsula La Guajira. Palomino is about 90 kilometers from Santa Marta and has about 2,000 inhabitants. Especially backpackers are drawn here and if you want to go to the nearby Tayrona National Park, Palomino is a good starting point. But Palomino is also very famous for river tubing. We will tell you what else there is to do in our Palomino travel report.
We are Sabrina and Andreas, two adventurous travelers who never miss an opportunity to discover the world. Whether by plane to distant countries or with our campervan Bruno, we just love to travel. We hope to give you helpful tips for your next trip on our blog.
Sabrina & Andreas Globetrotters, Travelers, Adventurers
How to get to Palomino Colombia?
Getting to Palomino is really extremely easy. You will probably come from the direction of Cartagena or Santa Marta. If you are coming from Cartagena, you will have to get to Santa Marta first. How to do that, we have described in detail in this travelogue.
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But in a nutshell you can describe the way like this:
- You take the Berlinastur bus from Cartagena to Santa Marta
- You will be dropped off at a shopping center.
- From there you take a cab to the Mercado Publico. This costs about 8.000 COP (about 2,20 €)
From the Mercado Publico in Santa Marta you have to take the big bus to Palomino in about 2 hours for 10.000 COP (2,70 €). On your way you will also pass the Tayrona National Park. The buses run every 20 minutes and always stop on the way if a passenger wants to get on or off.
The buses are very simple and with a little bit of luck you will get a seat. Your luggage will mostly be transported in a hold in the back or on the side of the bus. In Palomino you will be let out at the local gas station, where the bus will definitely stop. From here you can walk to your hotel or take a moto-taxi for about 4.000 COP (1€).
Where to stay in Palomino?
I would roughly divide the options into 2 alternatives. Either you look for a hotel in the area between the main road and the beach or south of the main road. North of the main road it is more touristy and there are restaurants, souvenir stores and bars. I wouldn’t say that this is the place to be, but there is simply more going on. If you like that and also want to be in the middle of life, then you should look for a hotel here.
If you want more peace and quiet, then look for a hotel south of the main street . There are only a few hotels, no restaurants and souvenir stores and only a few stores where you can buy food. This has the advantage that it is very relaxed here. But you have to walk back towards the main street for restaurants or for strolling. By mototaxi, however, this is also very cheap and fast.
Hotel Recommendation in Palomino
If you like nature and also want to stay in a great environment, you should look for a hotel south of the main road. We can highly recommend the Sexto Sentido. It is run by 2 Frenchmen and offers wonderful views of nature and there is even a cute playful dog.
Hotel Sexto Sentido
Things to do in Palomino
There is less to do in Palomino than we initially thought. The beach is not a good place to swim because of the huge waves and the strong current. But there is still the great river and the great nature. Here we have 5 suggestions for you:
#1 River Tubing at Rio Palomino, Colombia
This is definitely the main attraction and highlight in Palomino. River tubing is where you float along the river on old car tires until you reach the sea. We had already done this in Semuc Champey in Guatemala and therefore knew roughly what to expect. You can book this trip* everywhere in Palomino and also directly in your hotel.
The providers and prices are not really different. The only difference could be if you are in a group or only as a couple. If you want to float alone (with a guide) on the river, then you should clarify this beforehand and choose your provider accordingly. Otherwise, it may be that you are in a group of 4-8 people on the road.
To get to the river you will first be driven deep into the jungle for about 10 minutes and then have to hike uphill for about 30 minutes (with a great view of the surrounding area) and then back downhill to the river. The hike is relatively strenuous, but beautiful. We also heard and saw many monkeys on the way.
Once at the river, you get spread out on the tires and then go into the moderately cold water. On our trip we were with another couple and 2 guides. The guides make sure that you don’t get stuck anywhere and push you if the river is not deep enough. They can also take pictures of you while you are floating on your tires.
At the beginning, the river is still beautifully embedded in nature and winds left and right through the jungle. You can’t get out of looking at it. After about an hour the river becomes straight and the last hour it goes dead straight towards the sea. The last part is then less exciting and it goes only very slowly. Once at the sea, you still have to walk about 1 kilometer to get to the main beach and from there walk back towards Palomino. So if you were planning a walk on the beach anyway, you have now killed 2 birds with one stone.
River Tubing on your own
You can also float along the river with your own tire. We had our bright yellow floaty tire with us that we bought in Bacalar, Mexico and had some fun with it on the river. You can either walk the way to the actual start of the hike (just walk the only side road that leads away from the main road to the end) or take a mototaxi. Alternatively, you can just start at another point of the river. You don’t have to drift all the way to the sea, but you can get off before and take a mototaxi back.
#2 Swimming in the River
This is the alternative to swimming in the sea, which is also very popular among the locals. There are several places where you can get to the river very easily. There you can relax on the pebble beach and refresh yourself in the brown river water. The Rio Palomino is very shallow and in many places not even ankle deep. But you can swim quite well in the middle of the river and let the current take you towards the sea.
#3 Walking on the Beach
If you can’t swim in the sea, you should at least take a long walk on the beach. It is miles long and with the rough sea on one side and the palm trees on the other, you can walk along the beach for several hours.
#4 Driving to Tayrona National Park
If you weren’t here anyway on your way to Palomino, you should make the trip to Tayrona National Park from Palomino. Getting there is very easy. Just take the bus from Palomino to Santa Marta (the first one leaves at 6am) and get off at El Zaino entrance. The ticket costs 6,000 COP (1.50 Euro) per person. What you can do in the Tayrona National Park, we have summarized in a separate travel report:
#5 Take a trip to a Waterfall
Quebrada Valencia Waterfall is located about an hour north of Palomino and can be experienced with a 2-3 hour hike. To do this, simply get on the bus heading to Santa Marta and tell the bus driver you want to get off at the waterfall. The bus ride should cost 8,000 COP (about 2.20 €) per person and route. We didn’t do this trip because the distance seemed too far and we just wanted to rest.
Can you go swimming in Palomino?
No, at least not in the sea! We had not believed that in advance, but the waves on the beach are really so high and strong that no one swims in the sea, because it would also be life-threatening. Also the beach does not really invite to relax and lie in the sand.
But if you want to cool down, a swim in the nearby Rio Palomino can be an alternative. The river is not very deep (maximum knee to waist high), but for a relaxed splash it is enough.
Palomino Travel Tips
- There is no ATM in Palomino. So you should take enough cash with you. If you run out of cash, you can take a mototaxi 20 minutes to the next town (Mingueo) and withdraw money at the ATM there. For the ride you pay about 20,000 COP (about 5.50 €).
- In many hotels you cannot pay by credit card. Therefore, take enough cash with you!
- You cannot swim in the sea, so it is better to swim in the river
- There is a lot of activity between the sea and the main street. If you want it quiet, then look for a hotel on the other side of the main road
Palomino Colombia: Our Experiences
Palomino was the second to last stop on our 111 day trip through Latin America. We had planned to spend the last week of our trip relaxed and without hectic. The small town on the Caribbean coast in northern Colombia was a perfect fit. We didn’t know in advance if it was really possible to swim in the sea or not.
We had chosen with the Sexto Sentido* a really very idyllic hotel and have used the time on our terrace super for blogging and relaxing. We also cooked a lot ourselves in our small outdoor kitchen and played with the dog of the hotel owners. A pretty big, but still very young, dog who had only nonsense in his head. Only very rarely we went into the “city”, for example to buy something and otherwise felt super comfortable in our little paradise.
We especially enjoyed the river tubing tour, even though Sabrina twisted her ankle on the hike to the river and had to limp the 1km along the beach after tubing. Since our accommodation was close to the river, I explored the lush green area extensively with my new drone. It was just wonderful to end our long and sometimes very exhausting trip with such an oasis of peace and seclusion.
We were even lucky enough that the room we stayed in was brand new and we were the very first guests there. We have never had anything like this before. We enjoyed the 4 days in Palomino very much and then left for the really very last stop of our trip to Minca.
What did you experience in Palomino Colombia? Do you have any questions about our Palomino travelogue? Did our information help you? We would be happy to receive your comments.