Are you wondering whether it’s worth visiting Palomino during your Colombia travels? In the below guide, I will tell you why once you have arrived you will never want to leave.
I am a bit wary of writing this article about Palomino, Colombia. That is because I am not sure if I want to contribute to advertising this wonderful beach town even more. In case it becomes so popular that it loses all its charm. But I guess I cannot keep it all for myself, so I might as well tell you all about it.
Few hours after I arrived in Palomino, a friend staying there already for a couple of months, warned me about the ‘Palomino Curse.’
Once you arrived in Palomino, you will never want to leave.
I have only spent a week in Palomino, and I only left because I had a La Guajira Cabo de la Vela tour booked already. If it weren’t for that – I would definitely stay for longer. Palomino is one of my favourite towns in Colombia.
Some folks arrive and never leave, some return over and over again, and others extend their stay. There is something about this town that sucks you in. In a good way.
At first, sight, as you alight from the bus on the main road, it seems like you arrived at the typical Caribbean coast town of Colombia. You will be offered hundreds of moto-taxi rides, some tours, tubing and you will feel swamped by the noise ad traffic. Cars, buses and motors will drive everywhere, and you will have to navigate your way in order to cross the streets. It’s busy, dusty and hot.
If you decide to walk to your hostel, you will walk the dirt road, which turns into the river on rainy days. You will pass numerous little shops, artisan jewellery stands and various restaurants, as well as tour and activities shops.
Luckily I did my research and read a lot about Palomino before I arrived, so I didn’t have big expectations. Some say that the town doesn’t live up to its hype, that it became a tourist hub and is slowly losing its charm just as Taganga lost it at some point.
But as I dropped my bag at the hostel and took a walk around – I started feeling it.
People said hello, probably because they have seen me as a newly arriving turist they could sell something to – but still, they did. This slow-paced, non-urgent feel to life was evident everywhere. Cute cofee shops, quirky hostels, quite a few excellent restaurants and bare feet hippies selling their handmade produce.
It didn’t seem as anyone is rushing anywhere.
As I went to see the beach – I was pretty underwhelmed at first as well.
The sea is slowly eating into the shore, and with time the beach becomes more and more sparse. But the best thing about Palomino beach is not the immediate waterfront with all the cute hostels and restaurants located at the beachfront. The best thing about Palomino beach is that it spreads in both directions giving you unlimited options, and you will always find a spot where you can claim a piece of it just for yourself.
As I took a walk, I watched the trees leaning over the sea with some already meeting its surface, soft sand, water so warm you could literally run into it, waves entertaining the surfers – and I thought to myself – I’m in paradise.
You cannot really put the finger on it. There are many prettier beach towns in Colombia and prettier beaches with the sea that you can actually swim in. There is, however, something about this place that makes you want to stay this little bit longer.
I like to enjoy the best of both worlds. Nature, beach, slow pace of life and tranquillity, but I also like to have access to some entertainment, variety of food and some activities. In that respect – Palomino is perfect.
But what makes Palomino this little bit different. What creates the Palomino curse?
Is it the hippie vibe? The interesting people? Maybe the beach, the rivers and the sunsets? Not sure.
Yet I loved it, and if I ever get a chance, I will definitely return.
There are two main reasons why people head to Palomino – surfing and tubing. The majority of Palomino guides will list tubing as the most interesting thing to do in Palomino.
And as much as this is a lot of fun and the river is truly beautiful – there is so much more to Palomino than just tubing.
Here are all the great things to do in Palomino:
Walk the beaches of Palomino and discover both rivers
Palomino sits between two rivers – The Palomino River and the San Salvador River. Both rivers offer slightly different landscapes and experiences, so I definitely recommend visiting both!
The mouth of the Palomino River is where the tubing journey ends, and it can get pretty busy. However, it is very beautiful, with a few bars and restaurants set literally at the water edge and the beach continuing on the other side of the riverbank, which looks like into eternity!
If you continue walking, you will get to Playa Colombia. The walk to Rio Palomino can get a bit adventurous as the sea ate so much into the beach that at parts you either need to walk dipped deep into the sea or walk around the bushes. But this is also where I found my perfect piece of paradise! This is a great walk and takes only about 20 minutes.
On the other hand, the walk towards San Salvador River takes around 50 minutes.
Walk to Rio San Salvador is definitely more peaceful and extremely picturesque. You cannot miss this one!
I had a nice swim in the sea there. Even though the waves are still quite strong, you can have a safe splash right where the river enters the sea. Not too many people will want to take a long walk, so you will likely find some peace here.
Give up to the popular attraction and have a tubing experience in Palomino, Colombia
Although Palomino is not the only place you can go tubing – it is definitely the most popular one.
So what is this river tubing, you must be asking by now?
The idea of river tubing is basically sitting in an inflated inner rubber tube and floating on the river, letting its current take you all the way to the sea. The experience allows you to admire the surrounding nature while having fun, most of the time in a group and combining relaxing on the water with kicking back with a cold beverage, most likely beer.
Disclaimer – I did not go river-tubing. I know – As a traveller, researcher and blogger, I should have done it so that I can report the experience back to you. But I didn’t. I just didn’t feel like it at the time. Once I had this thrilling experience, I will update you on my thoughts.
But on a serious note – it does sound like a lot of fun, so by all means, if you get a chance, go and do it!
Enjoy Palomino's surprising food scene.
I was very nicely surprised by the quality of the restaurants and bars in Palomino. If you like to eat well and are tired of arepas and patacones – you will find various good restaurants and different types of delicious food while in Palomino. I had a delicious pizza in a couple of restaurants, mozzarella and tomato crepe for breakfast and wonderful fish stew with coconut rice or falafel burger.
Of course, this indulgence will cost you a little bit extra, but don’t despair. If eating fancy food isn’t your thing, there is plenty of traditional Colombian restaurants as well.
Here are my personal recommendations as to where are the best places to eat in Palomino, Colombia
- Los 7 Mares – I ate there twice! You can find Los 7 Mares in Santa Marta as well, and it’s a great restaurant serving a variety of tasty food and good cocktails. This is where I had my falafel burger (I missed falafel so much!). I also ordered the fish stew as I had the same dish in their Santa Marta branch and loved it! Excellent service as well!
- Tiki Hut Restaurante – I had a very delicious octopus meal there and good quality wine as well. I recommend!
- Bikini Hostel – I was a regular guest, mainly due to the best Gin and Tonic I had in Colombia. They also have the best pizza! The hostel is run by French guys, and I felt like I found a little corner of Europe in the middle of the Caribbean coast! They also have a French patisserie! You have to stop by!
- SUA Restaurant – It is also a Colombian chain, but I really enjoyed my food there! You can create your plate by choosing protein and sides, and the food was very delicious. I really enjoyed the setting and ambience of the restaurant.
- If you don’t fancy eating breakfast at your hostel, you have to stop by the Cafe de Maquina. They serve delicious coffee and a variety of crepes as well as traditional eggs with arepa. This is where I had crepes with mozzarella, tomato and pesto. Wonderful!
- Pizzeria La Frontera – This is the most adventurous pizza I have ever had with some really exotic toppings. Their base is crispy and delicious, so if you don’t feel very adventurous, you can make it as simple or as complicated as you want! I loved it! It’s a great pizza place!
Enjoy the Palomino beaches
Although it is not recommended to swim in the sea in Palomino, many still enjoy the beach, and so did I.
It’s a great idea to find a room in a hostel or a hotel with a pool to get your swimming fix. Both the current and waves are pretty dangerous, and although I am a swimmer myself, I did not brave more than just a splash and few jumps over the waves. Still a lot of fun!
The Palomino beach is great to relax, sunbathe and even spend a whole day. There are plenty of bars and restaurants located nearby so you won’t be bored.
Learn how to surf in Palomino, Colombia
Palomino and its surrounding waters are very popular among surfers. Although I have seen waves larger, for example, in Mendihaca or Costeno, Palomino is still a trendy surfing destination.
With few surfing schools located on the beach and the hippie vibe of the town, if I were thinking of learning how to surf – I would start in Palomino.
Watch the Sunset
Colombia boasts some most incredible sunsets, and Palomino is no different. Every evening, people from the town head to the beach, sit on the sand or in surrounding bars and admire this beautiful wonder.
There is something magical about watching the sun goes down and painting the sky in all shades of purple while walking barefoot on the beach. Maybe I’m horribly romantic – but this is one of my favourite activities in Colombia.
Take a Day Trip from Palomino
You can take several trips from Palomino, and many tourists who decide to stay for longer do just that. Among the most popular ones is Tayrona National Park 2 days trip which you can organize yourself.
Other trips and tours offered by the local tour agencies include Cabo de la Vela and Punta Gallinas trip, local waterfalls tour and Santuario de Fauna y Flora Los Flamencos. I highly recommend the latter. Seeing flamingos in their natural habitat is just magical.
I do recommend taking a Cabo de la Vela and Punta Gallinas trip from Riohacha, however. You can read all about it in this post.
Before you head to Palomino there are few things you need to keep in mind:
- There are no ATMs in Palomino. Make sure you bring enough cash for your trip. Some hotels, hostels and restaurants will accept card payments, but I would say it’s better to have enough cash for the stay.
If you are stuck and desperately need cash – you can take a local collective bus to Mingueo. There is one small bank in the village, and you will be able to withdraw money from the cashpoint after queuing for quite a while and unnecessarily wasting half a day.
- Power cuts are a frequent occurrence in Palomino. Unfortunately, together with the power cut goes lack of internet. Claro, for some reason, stops working as the power cut happens. But Movistar should work.
Some hostels run generators, so if internet connection is crucial for you, make sure you check with your hotel.
- Don’t forget flip flops or waterproof sandals. When it rains in Palomino, the roads turn into the river. There is a big chance you will have to walk across deep puddles of water. My feet were hardly ever clean during my stay in Palomino – but it was the part of its magic. At least for the ‘hippie at heart’ me, lol
- Equip yourself with some mosquito repellant. With humid conditions and two rivers nearby, the mosquitos are relentless.
Where to stay in Palomino
There is plenty of hotels, beach huts, hostels and camping sites to choose from in Palomino. You will find accommodation for all travelling styles and sizes of the wallet. I chose below based on my personal preferences, experience and recommendations from my friends.
Dreamer Palomino – This is an awesome sociable hostel located right at the beachfront. Dreamer is an excellent chain of hostels, and if you want to make sure you are not bored and you are a sociable type of traveller – you have to give Dreamer a try. On m next visit to Palomino, this is where I’m planning to stay. The nightlife in Palomino is good, but it is far from what Santa Marta has on offer. So staying in a good hostel is crucial.
Freesoul Hostel – I stayed in Freesoul for a week, and it was indeed a home away from home. It offers both private rooms and dorms – all for an excellent price. The hostel is clean, well looked after and all staff is very friendly and accomodating. I really liked my room, and I could spend days working from the shared area. It is also very well located in the centre of Palomino.
El Zoo Hostel and Pool – I nearly stayed there. It’s a great hostel with fantastic co-working space, good sized swimming pool and amazing staff. My friend used their co-working space, and I visited few times as well. There is a great vibe about this hostel. Apart from rooms and dorms, they also offer cool tents. Go and give it a go!
Selina – Located right on the beach, what can I say – It’s Selina. They always offer great co-working space, comfortable rooms and daily entertainment and activities. The location of Selina in Palomino is hard to beat as well. I stay in Selina as much as I can, and I loved their hostel in Bogota. Yet the Palomino one was slightly on a pricier side for me. If you can afford it, by all means, go for it!
Palomino is not only the hippiest beach town in Colombia. It is a great place to stay for a while, relax, recharge and just enjoy the slow pace of life. I am gutted I didn’t get to stay for longer, and if tomorrow I would have to hide somewhere away from the hustle and bustle – Palomino would be my choice.
As I continue travelling around Colombia, I continuously get surprised and amazed by its beauty. I am sure I will find more incredible places as I continue my trip. But if you are wondering if you even should visit Palomino or not – my recommendation is that you definitely should!
Let me know in the comments if you went and what were your thoughts. Maybe you disagree! I will look forward to hearing your comments and stories.
Until then – happy travelling!
4 thoughts on “The Curse of Palomino / Travellers Guide to the Hippiest Beach Town in Colombia”
Returning from Palomino and it feels like an absolute waste of time except perhaps for people who are looking to waste their time. There is nothing sweet, cute, endearing, beautiful, tasty, or even preserved about this place. It’s a dusty, ugly little party place with horrid backpackers and poor locals who get by as they can. Frankly there’s nothing even worth seeing here. And if it’s a ”vibe” you’re looking for, chilling with some agua isn’t gonna connect you with the universe or the lovely Colombian people.
Hi Josh! I have heard as many opinions about Palomino as many travellers I met. I appreciate that not everyone would enjoy it as much as I did but I presume my experience was different as I met lovely Colombian friends there and I really enjoyed my hostel. I really liked my walks and French-owned hostel where I went for my evening glass of wine and had some awesome conversations there so I guess it is a matter of who you meet and how high your expectations are. It’s a shame you didn’t have a good time in Palomino, but I hope you love Colombia as much as I love it! Happy travels!
Wonderfull guide, thank you ❤️
Thank you! You would love it there!