The Curse of Palomino / Travellers Guide to the Hippiest Beach Town in Colombia

The Curse of Palomino / Travellers Guide to the Hippiest Beach Town in Colombia

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 little hesitant to write this article about Palomino, Colombia. That’s because I am not sure I want to contribute to making this beautiful beach town even more popular. 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.

A few hours after I arrived in Palomino, a friend who has been staying there for a few months warned me about the ‘Palomino Curse’Once you arrive in Palomino, you will never want to leave.

Things to do in Palomino / Visiting Tayrona National Park
Things to do in Palomino / Visiting Tayrona National Park

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 glance, when you get off the bus on the main road, it seems as if you have arrived in a typical coastal city of Colombia. You will be offered hundreds of moto-taxi rides, some tours, and tubing and you will feel swamped by the noise and traffic. Cars, buses and motors are everywhere and you will have to navigate your way to cross the streets. It is hectic, dusty and hot.

If you decide to walk to your hostel, you will walk along the dirt road that becomes a river on rainy days. You will pass numerous small stores, artisan jewellery stands and various restaurants, as well as tour and activities shops.

The Curse of Palomino / Travellers Guide to the Hippiest Beach Town in Colombia
The Curse of Palomino / Travellers Guide to the Hippiest Beach Town in Colombia

I did some 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 has become a tourist trap and is slowly losing its charm just as Taganga lost it some time ago.

But as I dropped my bag at the hostel and took a walk around – I started feeling it.

People said hello, probably because they had 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 coffee shops, quirky hostels, quite a few excellent restaurants and barefoot hippies selling their handmade produce.

It didn’t seem as if anyone was rushing anywhere.

As I went to see the beach – I was pretty underwhelmed at first as well.

The Curse of Palomino / Travellers Guide to the Hippiest Beach Town in Colombia

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 your 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.

Things to do in Palomino / Travellers Guide to Palomino the Hippiest Beach Town in Colombia
Things to do in Palomino / Travellers Guide to Palomino the Hippiest Beach Town in Colombia

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 options, a 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:

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.

Things to do in Palomino / Travellers Guide to Palomino the Hippiest Beach Town in Colombia

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 In to the Popular Attraction and Have a Tubing Experience in Palomino

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 Palomono 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 for relaxing, sunbathing and even spending 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.

The Curse of Palomino / Travellers Guide to the Hippiest Beach Town in Colombia
The Curse of Palomino / Travellers Guide to the Hippiest Beach Town in Colombia

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.

The Curse of Palomino / Travellers Guide to the Hippiest Beach Town in Colombia
The Curse of Palomino / Travellers Guide to the Hippiest Beach Town 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 are 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, a good-sized swimming pool and amazing staff. My friend used their co-working space, and I visited a 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 the 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 look forward to hearing your comments and stories.

Until then – happy travelling!

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  1. I went to palomino yesterday February 5 2024, I’m so glad I didn’t book a hotel, what a dissapointment, palomino is a filthy messy, unruly beach town, I know people are poor but why do they have to live like pigs surrounded by garbage? If you can help it don’t go there, they need a law not to throw garbage everywhere they wish. Again I’m so glad I didn’t book the non refundable hotel stay there!

  2. 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.

    1. 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!

      1. Hey,

        I am writing from my last day in Palomino and I can safely say I had a really bad time here.

        Let me start by saying that I love Colombia, I have lived in Cali 10 years ago, my wife is from Cali and I come to Colombia every year. I have been to Palomino a few years back and really enjoyed how untouched it was.

        The Palomino of today has nothing to do with it. First day, parked the car next to Selina, went for a drink and our car got broken into. They stole random stuff (a dog’s travelling bag) but most importantly my bag which had my passport. Welcome to Palomino.

        Talking around with folks working in the restaurants they all got a shocked reaction: “here in Palomino? It never happens”. Yet talking to local folks, they said they don’t even leave 2000 pesos in a car If not they get robbed and we heard random convo of cell phone that got robbed.

        The streets were so dirty and muddy. Not even the rainy season but every time it rains, the dirt becomes mud and you end up super dirty just walking around.

        The “fancy food” is really not that great, it just happens to give an alternative to typical Colombian food (which I like) but has nothing really amazing about it.

        Also so many hotels are just on the beach they kinda removed the charm of the pristine beach that used to be defining Palomino.

        There are much better place to visit in Colombia than Palomino. You can use it as a base to go visit Tayrona and spend 1-2 days there but more would be a total waist of your time.

        We heard a local in the street wondering why tourists like it and come here. They seem puzzled while they were fighting their way through the mud…

        1. I am sorry you had such a bad experience, and I am sorry about the robbery, Roger 🙁 The truth is that travel experience can be subjective and sometimes a bit of a luck. As I received yours, I also received a positive comment. Places like Palomino prove to be quite polarising and became a bit like a marmite, some love it and some hate it! I hope the rest of your trip is amazing! Pati

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