Palomino Beach, Colombia, is the definition of tranquility.
This is not somewhere you go to be busy sightseeing 24/7 or out until 5 am at the bar. This is where you go to kick off your shoes for a week, watch the mango trees and palm trees sway in the wind, and fully unwind.
You’ll find delicious food, a laid-back atmosphere, and many other backpackers looking to make friends along their journey.
If you are a sunrise and sunset lover, you’ll see all the colors of the rainbow in Palomino.
If you head towards the mouth of the river, you can watch the sunrise. And the sunset? Well, you can see it from any part of the beach.
This might not be the most exciting destination in all of Colombia, but it will be exactly what you need to recharge and enjoy a slower pace of life for a bit.
Places that become popular in the backpacking community can quickly become overrun and lose the endearing charm that made them so popular in the first place. However, this has not happened in Palomino Beach. Yet. Getting the opportunity to visit a village before it becomes overly commercialized is one that does not happen very often.
So now is definitely the right time to go.
Where is Palomino Beach, Colombia?
This small town is located due east of Santa Marta, about an hour and 45 minutes drive away.
It is conveniently situated on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, making it a wonderful tropical paradise.
If you look at a map of Colombia, Palomino is in the northeast side of the country.
Top things to do in Palomino Beach
Palomino is the place to recharge your batteries, disconnect from life’s stresses, and practice the Spanish word tranquila, meaning “without worry or disturbance.”
There are few things to do, which is exactly what makes it so enticing.
That said, you still have enough to do to fill up a few days or more, especially if you are taking it slow.
Relax on the beach
Although you cannot get in the water due to strong currents and riptides, you can certainly relax on the beach. However, much of the beach has eroded due to rising sea levels, so there is very little sand during high tide. Plan your days accordingly.
The tides are generally higher in the late afternoons, so try and get up early to enjoy the sand while you can.
At low tide, there is plenty of space to unwind with your favorite book. On the palm tree-lined coast, you can enjoy fresh juice or a drink from local vendors.
There are a few restaurants on the beach, but most will be a short walk into town.
You should bring your own umbrella if you are worried about being out in the sun for too long, as there aren’t many places for shade.
Take a surfing lesson
Tide Escuela de Surf is the most popular surfing school in Playas Palomino and is perfect for beginning surfers. They have instructors that speak English and get you comfortable on your board very quickly.
However, the water is choppy, so it’s best for strong swimmers.
Arguably, the most popular thing to do in Palomino is tubing along the Palomino River. It is a great way to see the local scenery and unwind.
It takes about an hour of hiking before you reach the river, and then you spend two hours tubing down the river.
If tubing isn’t your thing, you can also kayak or paddleboard along the river.
Visit the waterfalls
The Marinka Waterfalls and Quebrada Valencia swimming holes are both in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta National Park.
You definitely should not miss these breathtaking waterfalls and swimming holes that let you fully immerse yourself in nature.
You can ride a taxi or bus to the waterfalls and then take a quick hike to reach them. They are about two and a half hours away from the beach, which makes for an easy day trip.
Something crucial to note is that Palomino has a rainy season, and hiking in the pouring rain is not always the easiest. If you are interested in doing this, schedule your trip in the drier months—January through March. March is the driest.
Take a day trip to the Tayrona National Park
The Tayrona National Park is known for its palm-shaded coves, coastal lagoons, rainforest, and rich biodiversity.
And you can also visit the Pueblito ruins, an archaeological site with terraces and structures built by the Tayrona civilization.
Many of the ecotours at the park directly benefit the indigenous communities that protect the area. So it’s a win-win.
It is about 48 kilometers or a 45-minute drive from Palomino, perfect for a day spent exploring nature.
Have lunch with some dogs
This is quite the unique attraction.
If you have been traveling for a while and miss the company of a furry friend, this is the perfect opportunity to do something good for the local community while also getting your puppy fix.
The dog rescue of Palomino invites people to go on walks or have lunch with the city’s stray dogs. It’s just a small donation, which helps them keep up their services.
If you book in advance, you can enjoy a picnic on the beach with the pups or just walk around with them for a few hours. There are typically around a dozen dogs at a time. Staff will be around to assist.
Where to eat in Palomino Beach
Although this area is not necessarily super popular among tourists, it is a popular backpacking destination for those traveling along the northern coast of Colombia. That being said, you can find several adorable cafes and restaurants to take a load off and eat some delicious food.
Vegetarians and vegans will be happy to hear you have plenty of options, which is somewhat uncommon in meat-centric societies and small villages. Try visiting as many local places as possible, avoiding the tourist-focused chains, so you can put your money directly into the local economy.
Colombian coffee is known worldwide as the best, so have a few cups throughout your day at the many cafes.
There is also a pretty good nightlife scene where you can grab a cocktail at a bar. Some bars have live DJs on weekends. But do not expect a nightclub vibe. Or a rager.
Through and through, this is a relaxed destination. Bars close at 11 pm by law, but the party keeps going on the beach for those who want to stay out later.
Where to stay in Palomino Beach
Whether you want to stay along the beach, the main part of town, or the forest out of town, there are plenty of options. It is all up to personal preference for where you stay and what you want from your time there.
Keep in mind that you cannot swim in the water at Playa Palomino, Colombia, so we highly recommend finding accommodation with a pool to take a dip in the water. There are hotels, hostels, and Airbnbs for you to choose from, which are all excellent options.
Since this is such a backpacker-focused area, hostels are a great choice. When staying at a hostel, you’ll get the opportunity to meet people from all over the world doing something similar to you, and you can save some money.
Palomino Beach is just a short walk from many of the accommodation options, and there are plenty of hostels with a pool. However, make sure you book in advance, as these tend to get pretty full.
Weather in Palomino Beach
Palomino has a similar climate to other tropical destinations, with year-round temperatures ranging from 29°C to 31°C (mid-80’s°F).
You will want to visit during the drier months from January to March.
There is significant rainfall throughout the rest of the year. October is the wettest month in the area, with around 10 inches of rain. In contrast, March is the driest but still gets an inch of rain.
Packing list essentials for Palomino Beach
Make sure to pack the following when visiting Playa Colombia, Palomino:
- Bug spray
- Microfiber towel
- A book/kindle
- Umbrella or rain jacket
- Waterproof dry bag
- Wi-Fi pack
As this is such an undeveloped little slice of paradise, there are few streetlights. It is quite easy to get lost, especially at night, so a flashlight would be helpful if your phone dies from all the pics you’ve been taking all day.
If you are a digital nomad working remotely, you should bring a portable Wi-Fi pack. Unfortunately, the internet can be very unreliable in this part of the country.
Pro tip: Currently, there are no ATMs in Palomino, and most businesses only accept cash, so you will need to bring enough to last throughout your time there.
Map of the Palomino Beach, Colombia area
Palomino Beach is all about tranquility. Take a look at this interactive map to get your bearings so you can choose the best route to take you to Palomino Beach.
How to get to Palomino Beach
If you have the time, the best way to get to Palomino is slowly. If you fly into Cartagena, you can travel along the northern coast, hitting many of the popular tropical cities and world-famous beaches along the way.
For example, you could fly into Cartagena and explore the buzzing city for a bit. Then take a bus from Cartagena to Santa Marta and chill there for a few days. Next, head to the Tayrona National Park and spend a night or two there. And finally, make your way to Palomino.
This cuts down on your drive time and allows you to see all the wonderful things this part of Colombia offers. It also prevents you from spending too many long stretches on buses throughout winding roads.
If you don’t have the luxury of time, you can skip all the middle stuff and head right from Cartagena to Palomino. But it will be a long journey, about six and a half hours.
Otherwise, you can get from Santa Marta to Palomino Beach in under two hours by bus or minivan.
Bookaway has tons of routes throughout Colombia to assist you on your journey.
The Santa Marta airport, SMR, is your best option if you arrive by air. Then, take a bus to Palomino.
Santa Marta, it’s about 80 kilometers away.
Yes! Palomino is incredibly safe, especially because it is far from bigger cities. You should feel welcome to walk around the town without worry.
No. Swimming is unsafe because of the high tides, strong riptides, and choppy waves. Book accommodation with a pool if you want to be in the water.