Palomino is a beach town on Colombia’s northern Caribbean coast that has turned into a popular tourist destination, especially among backpackers. Sporting a laid back and hipster vibe, it is a nice stop on a tour of Colombia’s northern coast. In this travel guide to Palomino, you will learn how to get there, accommodations, and what to do in Palomino.
*Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which simply means if you click them and go on to make a purchase, I can receive a commission. There is no additional cost to you. To learn more please consult out Disclosure Policy.
Why You Should Visit Palomino
Palomino is a small town by the beach about an hour and a half north of Santa Marta. Honestly, despite being here in Colombia since 2011, I had not even heard of Palomino until fairly recently. While I’ve seen descriptions from other blogs online describing it as undiscovered, it was fairly crowded when we were there, so it’s clearly firmly on the map.
It seemed to me that Palomino has replaced Taganga as a nice stop off point for backpackers, and it reminded me quite a bit of the vibes in Taganga a few years back, basically a quiet beach town that has been turned into a tourist destination with a proliferation of trendy hostels and restaurants/cafes/bars.
While there are prettier beaches on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, Palomino’s laid-back vibe and cafes make for a nice happy medium between the city and nature and is a good spot to make stop and chill out if you are going to or coming from Tayrona National Park or La Guajira.
Below, I will give you a run down of our visit. In this travel guide to Palomino, you will learn how to get there, available accommodations, and what to do in Palomino, Colombia.
How to Get to Palomino
You can reach Palomino by bus from Santa Marta or Riohacha. You should pay approximately 10,000 pesos to get there and you can get buses from the terminals in either city or from the market in Santa Marta.
Marsol also offers charter van service to Palomino and can be taken from Cartagena, Barranquilla, or Santa Marta. Cost will depend on where you get the van.
Accommodations in Palomino
Places to Stay in Palomino
There are a ton options for places to stay in Palomino. There are hostels around the main strip in town, by the beach, and even some eco-hotels in the surrounding vicinity. You can opt for the budget options of a hammock or tent up to nice private rooms. Prices will vary depending on the accommodations and facilities. Your best bet is probably to scout around once you get there.
However, when we went it was a long weekend and fairly crowded and some places were full, so it may be worth looking to book ahead if you’re set on staying at a particular place or wanting one of the more popular ones.
We stayed at Hostel Palomino the first night where it was 15,000 a person for the 4 (we had met up with two other travelers coming back from Punta Gallinas) of us in a 6 bed dorm with a private bath. They also had privates as well as tents.
The second night we stayed at Bikini Hostel where it was 32,000 (communal bathrooms) or 35,000 (private bathroom) a person for the 4 of us in a 6 bed dorm. Bikini Hostel was great with a nice little pool and some stylish stairs made from beer bottle. The price also included breakfast.
Places to Eat and Drink in Palomino
There’s quite a number of places to eat and drink along the main strip in town in Palomino. When we arrived in the afternoon we had a good pizza (super thin crust like Susana loves) at La Frontera. We had great burgers at Juntos Bar and Restaurant that night as well.
The second day we had lunch at Su´a Restaurant. There was a bit of a wait, but it was clearly because they make all their food super fresh. I had a bomb chicken sandwich, and everyone else had great shrimp (they have a make your own plate where you choose your protein and what kind of sauce you want it in. The curry, garlic and butter, and coconut, orange and ginger, sauces were all delicious on shrimp). They also had a great limonada de coco and limonada cerezada.
For dinner the second night, we tried Turcolandia Pizzeria. Honestly, it was some of the best pizza I’ve had in Colombia. Thin crust, but with an actual rolled up end crust and loaded with toppings, it was great. There was an arabic restaurant boasting shawarma and falafel as well. If we had eaten another meal, I would have wanted to try it as it looked really good and I’m a big fan of both falafel and shawarma.
For the most part the food and drink was relatively reasonably priced and getting pizza, burgers, or falafel is again a good reason to visit Palomino as a respite during your travels on Colombia’s northern Caribbean Coast.
What to Do in Palomino
There are a number of interesting things to do in Palomino.
There is a waterfall a bit out of town named Quebrada Valencia in the mountains. You will need to take a bus or mototaxi to drop you nearby and then hike up to it. We had planned to do this, but we were told it was mostly dried out since there hadn’t been much rain.
Probably the most popular activity in Palomino is to tube down the river. You can rent tubes in town with or without a guide, then hike to the jumping off point in the river. Then you’ll spend about two hours floating down the river before arriving at the beach, where you’ll have about a 20 minute walk back to town.
The water on the river is calm (no rapids) and is mostly shallow and if you choose to go with a guide, they’ll make sure you stay in the shallow areas and avoid getting hung up on any trees. It takes about 2 hours to lazily float down the river, where you can get some beautiful views of the forest.
We did not do the tubing, because we had planned on doing Quebrada Valencia. After finding out it was a bad time to visit the falls, the sun was nice and hot, and after spending several days in the desert at Cabo de la Vela and Punta Gallinas, we weren’t up for being out in the sun for the 2 hour float down the river. However, if we ever go back, we will definitely to do it, although we would probably try to plan to go early in the morning or later in the afternoon to avoid the sun.
We ended up renting bikes for an hour and biking down to the river bank outside town where there’s a nice little swimming hole, and then on to the beach. The path from the river to the beach is narrow and a bit tough on bikes since lots of motos also go by. In the afternoon, we just chilled out by the pool at Bikini Hostel.
You can also visit the beach in Palomino. We walked down the beach the afternoon we got there, but didn’t go back the second day. The beach is pretty, but there are better ones in Tayrona, around Santa Marta, or further up La Guajira. The waves looked fairly rough and there were signs posted advising strong currents, so be aware of that if you do decide to go swimming. It seemed like a great place to go surfing, and the beach is a pretty popular after party spot when the bars close.
Nightlife in Palomino
As such a popular backpacker and hipster traveler town, Palomino has a vibrant nightlife. We got lucky, and the first night we were there, Juntos Bar and Restaurant had a Noche Azul, where they had live music then a DJ (they seem to do it every few weeks). The place got hopping and both the band and DJ were good.
I’m sure other places have similar live music and party nights, so you will have the opportunity to get your groove on in Palomino. Also, the beach appeared to be a popular hang out spot at night and as a place for the afterparty.
In conclusion, Palomino may not necessarily be a must see if your time is limited along Colombia’s Caribbean coast. However, it is definitely worth taking a night or two there to chill out if have the time and have been roughing it in Tayrona or in La Guajira. You can enjoy some luxuries like hanging by the pool at the hostel, getting some gringo grub, and going out dancing while still having easy access to nature. If you do decide to go, I hope you find this guide useful in planning your trip.
Interested in learning more about destinations along the Caribbean coast?
- Check out our guide to Minca, a gorgeous small mountain town outside Santa Marta about 90 minutes to the south of Palomino that makes for a great break from the heat of the coast.
- Check our our guide to Tayrona National Park, located just south of Palomino and a great place to spend a few days hiking and camping.
- Check out our guide to Cabo de la Vela and guide to Punta Gallinas if you’re planning on using Palomino as a stop along the way to La Guajira.