How to get to Palomino, Colombia
Let’s start from the beginning: How do you get to Palomino? There are several options. The easiest, albeit more expensive, way is to take a taxi from Santa Marta to your accommodation in Palomino. It has an approximate cost of 150,000 COP (about $40). You can book your transportation to Palomino here in advance. Alternatively, you can arrange transportation with your hotel if they offer this service.
If you want to save a considerable amount of money, my advice is to opt for public transportation. Buses depart every 15 minutes from the Santa Marta Public Market (Carrera 9 with Calle 11). The fare for the journey is 10,000 COP (about $2.30), and the trip takes approximately 2 hours.
These are small, somewhat dated buses without air conditioning. Although the windows and, at times, the bus doors remain open during the journey, preventing it from getting too hot. There is a small luggage compartment at the back where you can stow your belongings.
Another option is to go to the Santa Marta Transport Terminal, located about 6 km from the historic center of Santa Marta. Several companies offer this route. The price is higher, but the buses are larger and come with air conditioning and, although the Wi-Fi may not work very well, it is available.
If you’re coming from other places in Colombia, such as Cartagena, you’ll first need to travel to Barranquilla or Santa Marta and then take another mode of transportation from one of those cities.
Both the minibuses and buses will drop you off at the Palomino gas station. Here, you can find motorcycle taxis that will take you to your final destination. The fare from here to our hotel was 10,000 COP (about $2.30).
Things to do in Palomino, Colombia
Once you arrive in Palomino, you’ll wonder what you can do in this gem of the Colombian Caribbean. This place will provide whatever you’re seeking. If you want peace, you’ll find peace. If you’re looking for a livelier atmosphere, you’ll find that too. Below, you can discover the most popular things to do in Palomino, Colombia.
1. Tubing on the Palomino River, one of the best things to do in Palomino
The flagship activity in this town in La Guajira is tubing on the Palomino River.
Many hostels and stalls along the main street offer this tour. It starts with a 15-minute ride on a motorcycle or van, followed by a 25-minute walk through the jungle where you’ll have to carry your large tube. Finally, you can begin floating downstream for an hour and a half or two hours until you reach the beach.
It’s advisable to do this activity with a good group of people to make the descent even more entertaining. It’s also highly recommended to bring along some drinks for the float down and avoid carrying anything that you don’t want to get wet or potentially lose. Remember that it’s very important to apply sunscreen, as, if the weather is clear, you’ll spend a lot of time under the sun.
You can book the tubing tour on the Palomino River here in advance.
2. Stroll along Palomino Beach at Sunrise
I love getting up early and enjoying a beautiful sunrise. During my stay in Palomino, I got up before 6:00 am every day. Maybe you don’t have the same willpower to get up so early every day, but I do recommend doing it at least one morning. Throughout the sunrise, the beach has a light and tranquility that can’t be found at any other time of the day.
You can walk from your accommodation to the mouth of the Palomino River or in the opposite direction, towards the mouth of the San Salvador River. There are kilometers and kilometers of beach to stroll.
The currents at Palomino Beach are quite strong. For this reason, swimming is not highly recommended. I went into the water on one occasion but stayed close to the shore. If you decide to swim, be cautious. However, the surf conditions make this place one of the best spots in Colombia for surfing. There are several clubs where you can take surf lessons or rent equipment, such as Tide or Palomino’s Sunset.
4. Hiking and horseback riding at Finca La Mello
If you’re looking for something different to do in Palomino, I recommend checking out Finca La Mello. This estate offers horseback riding and hikes along trails that traverse jungles and forests, leading to the river, a pool, or various viewpoints.
We enjoyed a delightful horseback ride to the San Salvador River. The guide shared interesting facts about the places we traversed and pointed out various trees and fruits along the way. Once you reach the river, you can take a refreshing dip. Back at the estate, we had the chance to explore the different fruit and vegetable plantations they have.
5. Indigenous Culture Tour in the Sierra Nevada
One of the great attractions of this Colombian region is the indigenous groups. If you’re interested in learning more about these tribes, I recommend taking an Indigenous Culture Tour in the Sierra Nevada from Palomino. This excursion to the pristine jungle of Sierra Nevada allows you to explore the native crops and fruit trees, as well as the traditions of the Arhuacos, Kogis, and other tribes in the area.
If you’re interested in more organized tours, you can check out the options here.
6. Day trips from Palomino, Colombia
From Palomino, you can visit a variety of places. Some of the most interesting ones that I recommend exploring if you’re spending several days in the destination are Buritaca, Quebrada Valencia, Pozo Sagrado, or, of course, the famous Tayrona National Park. You can visit all these places on a day trip. In the case of Tayrona National Park, you can stay overnight within the park.
Where to Stay in Palomino
As for accommodations in Palomino, Colombia, there are two main options. One is to stay in the town or on the beach closest to it. This is the ideal choice for backpackers or travelers seeking a lively atmosphere.
The other option, the one we prefer and recommend, is to stay in one of the beach hotels located a bit further from the center. This way, you can enjoy more tranquility.
Where we stayed
We stayed at Aité Eco Resort for the three nights we were in Palomino. It is an eco-resort focused on sustainable tourism located by the sea. “Aité” means a place to rest and disconnect in the Kogui language. As the name suggests, this accommodation is perfect for enjoying days of peace and connection with oneself and nature.
The hotel offers double rooms with ocean views and bungalows of various categories: standard, superior, and deluxe. We stayed in a superior bungalow, measuring 60 m². My favorites in the room were the enormous and comfortable bed, the shower with ocean views, and the terrace with hammocks.
Additionally, the hotel features two outdoor pools, a private beach, common lounges, and a farm where you can go for walks and horseback rides (it’s the La Mello farm I mentioned earlier). Another spot in the hotel that I loved was a small pond with a dock and sofas where you can observe various animals. If you’re as lucky as we were, you might even spot a caiman.
One of the standout features of the hotel is the Wazale restaurant. It’s situated on a terrace with views of towering palm trees, the sea, and the Sierra Nevada. The food is fabulous. We enjoyed wonderful breakfasts, lunches, and dinners every day. The chef and the entire team do an excellent job. Moreover, a significant portion of the ingredients comes from the farm, making them entirely natural and organic.
One of the experiences I recommend, if you visit Aité with your partner, is the romantic beach dinner. We were able to enjoy this service on our last night, and it was a very special evening. They set up a table on the beach with candles and twinkling lights, creating a completely magical atmosphere. Once you sit down, get ready to delight in exquisite dishes in an unbeatable setting and company.
Alternative hotel options in Palomino
If you have a different budget or prefer to stay right in the town, here are some other accommodation options in Palomino:
- $: Hostal Bella Flor, Nubá Boutique Hostel.
- $$: Casa del Pavo Real Boutique Hostel.
- $$$: ONE Santuario Natural.
Where to eat in Palomino, La Guajira
The best recommendation I can give you is the Wazale Restaurant, affiliated with Aité. Even if you’re not staying at this hotel, you can dine at their restaurant. They offer a menu of dishes that blend traditional local flavors with international touches. All of them are made with locally sourced ingredients, some coming from the hotel’s own farm.
Among their dishes, you can find ceviche, seafood timbale, wok-fried prawns, shrimp rice, seafood pasta, risotto, coastal caprese, or Guajiro patacón. As for desserts, I recommend the coconut flan. Exquisite!
If you’re in the mood for pizza, I recommend Pizzeria La Frontera. We didn’t have time to try it, but a couple of people recommended it to us. Other highly-rated places in Palomino include Los 7 Mares, Panadería La Sierrita, La Happycleta, and Cafe Maria Mulata.
Don’t miss my Colombia travel guide to get all the information about the country.
I hope this article on the best things to do in Palomino, Colombia has been very helpful in organizing your trip to this small paradise in South America. If you want to share your experience in this Colombian destination or have any questions, feel free to leave a comment. Until next time!