Palomino | Is it still the place to chill?

If you’re looking for that chilled out hippy vibe of fifteen years ago perhaps you may find Palomino disappointing.  At times we found it more Benidorm than beguiling.  Or maybe more Magaluf than mystic.  Having said that if you take it for what it is a rustic holiday resort on the Caribbean coast of Colombia then you can still find plenty of reasons to visit.

As you turn down the main dusty road from the bus stop you get further away from the real Colombia and start heading into backpacker territory.  Pizza Joints, Mexican Restaurants and burgers dominate.  Feeding the crowds of young Europeans and the ever increasing local city dwellers away for the weekend.

Read on to find out why we stayed for a week and why we think it’s still worth a visit.  You can still find plenty of ways to chill out and unwind.   You have just got to forget most of what you have read about it and accept things change.  What was charming  fifteen years ago will not be the same today.

Palomino
A walk on the beach

How did we get to Palomino

The bus to Palomino is the same bus as the one you catch to Tayrona park, you just stay on a little longer.  You catch it on the corner of Calle 12/Carrera 9 in Santa Marta and it costs COP12000 per person and takes about two hours.  It can take longer depending on the roads.  Palomino is the last stop and the bus drops you off opposite the start of the main drag down to the beach.  You can get a tuk tuk from here or a Moto for about Cop 5000 per person or you can walk depending on how far from the main drag your hostel is.

Palomino
Palomino Main Street

Where did we stay

We stayed at the Dreamer Palomino Hostel which is right at the bottom of the main drag about 100m from the beach.  We had a double room with aircon which was really nice and perfect for us as we haven’t been brave enough to share a dorm with all the youths yet.  

The room was quite expensive compared to the hostels we had used up to then but we figured we wouldn’t be spending much while we were there and we wanted the aircon and the pool.  We choose this one as it was close to the beach had a great pool and the rooms looked really good.  It was a very close choice between this and Tiki Huts which turned out to be right across the road and looked good too.

Palomino
Dreamer Hostel

What did we do in Palomino

The honest answer to that question is, not a lot.  We spent most of our time either chilling round the pool, or beach or taking lazy walks down the long beach which runs for miles in either direction from the main entrance which is directly at the end of the main drag. 

From the beach front turn left and walk along dodging the trees and shrubbery and after about three quarters of a mile you reach the mouth of the Rio Palomino and here there are vendors selling food and drinks and renting out chairs. You can wade across the river, or you could when we were there, as it hadn’t rained in a while.  On the other side there is coconut beach which was almost deserted when we went but seemed to have huts for vendors but not being used at the moment. 

If you turn right from the beachfront and walk for about two miles and you will reach the mouth of the Rio San Salvador.  This takes you past about a dozen beach front resorts all of which seemed to be empty when we were there.  Its a nice walk and the river has some wildlife to view.  On a clear day I believe you can see the snow covered mountains but unfortunately it never got that clear for us.

An important thing to remember about the beach is that it is not safe to swim.  You will see people splashing in the waves and a few surfing but this is done at your own risk.  Personally Lynne and I never went in deeper the waist high and the undertow can be very strong and depending on the tide the waves will pull you off your feet if your not careful.

Palomino
Rio San Salvador Palomino

Other things to do in Palomino

Tubing 

Tubing down one of the many rivers in the area is a popular attraction.  Floating from the jungle to the sea.  There are various tour operators down the main strip of Palomino offering tubing tours and you can also arrange these tours through the reception at most hostels.  The tour involves usually being taken by Moto taxi along with your large inner tube to a local river where you hop into your inner tube and lazily float down the river.   There is wildlife to look out for such as Toucans and Howler monkeys which can be hard to spot but their distinctive howl is unforgettable.  There’s also many other bird species to spot along the rivers such as kingfishers and macaws.   Chris and I had both done tubing before so gave this a miss.

The Flamingo Santuary

A trip to see the flamingos was another tour which seemed popular with the young people of our hostel.   Less than an hours bus ride up the coast by the little village of Camarones is the Flamingo Sanctuary.  The tour not only gets you to the sanctuary but includes the hire of a local guide and sailboat to take you out into the lagoon to get you up close to the birds for that instagram picture.   You can book this tour from any of the vendors lining the Main Street of Palomino.   As Chris and I are travelling through much more of South America we thought we’d wait and see if there were other sites where flamingos were in abundance so gave this one a miss.

Indigenous village tour

Visit the jungle of the Sierra Nevada and an indigenous village.   This trip takes you on a hike up into the mountains of the Sierra Nevada to different points where you get some fantastic views down over the town and beach of Palomino.  It also offered swimming spots in a cool river during the hike.  A visit to an indigenous village to see the ancient culture of these lovely people and the chance to spot some fantastic birds and wildlife.  On a clear day you can see the snow capped mountains of the Sierra Nevada which are famed to be the closest mountains with perpetual snow to any coastline in the world.  Again this seemed to be one of the most popular tours but as Chris and I had recently done the Lost City Trek we felt we’d already experienced the things on this tour. 

Tayrona National Park

Palomino also is a good base if you want to visit the Tayrona National Park as its only about an hour away on the bus.   You can either take the local bus which you can find on the main road to Santa Marta and get off at the Tayrona National Park stop from there you can enter the park.  Tayrona National Park is great for hiking and you can spot some great wildlife in the jungle.  We saw monkeys, land crabs, squirrels and loads of birds on our trek.   You can stay overnight in the park or just visit for the day. There are campsites and hotels.  The beaches are great however he current is strong and there is only 1 main beach that is good for swimming.  More information on Tayrona National Park can be found by clicking the link here.

Eat like a local Colombian 

With all the burgers, pizzas, tacos & falafels on offer we were keen to seek out some places where the locals went for dinner and we found this back up on the main road to Santa Marta.  On the main road, there are local restaurants where you can get traditional Colombian food.  The Menu del Dia is what most locals go for and this includes soup, a main course and a drink.  The soup varies from town to town but its basically a meat broth and very very tasty.  For your main course you choose your meat, chicken, beef and in some places goat was on offer and this comes served with rice, beans and a salad.  You also get a refreshing fruit juice.  The meal usually costs around COP12000 which is around £2.50 and is really good value for money. 

Palomino
Sancocho soup

Our View

As we’ve mentioned previously Palomino is more of a rustic holiday resort than a cool destination resort but we just wanted somewhere to chill for a week after our Lost City Trek and that’s exactly what it gave us.   During the week it was quieter than at the weekends but we enjoyed our time here and the local people that we met were lovely.   As the sea is not quite safe for swimming we’d always recommend getting a hostel with a pool and there are a few to choose from.   

Booking resources for your trip to Palomino

Flights

You can compare cheap flights on the Expedia platform or here on the Aviasales website.  Both will give you a good idea of how much its going to cost you to get to your chosen destination.

Accommodation

We have always tended to use Booking.com having said that if your on a tight budget another good site to try as a comparison is Hostelworld, If your looking to compare different sites you can do that on Hotellook, we tend to look on here first to make sure we are getting the best deal.

Tours & Tickets

You can book your visits as you go at the entrance to your chosen attraction or site.  Or you could use the following links to book in advance or just to find out what your choices are in the area. GetYourGuide and Tiqets are our go to choices you could try Viator to see how they compare.

For a full list check out our resources page. Don’t forget always shop around to find the best deal for you. What works for us should be good for you but it’s always reassuring to check.

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