A Solo Traveler's Guide to Palomino

When you travel to Palomino alone, you'll take a lot home with you
When you travel to Palomino alone, you'll take a lot home with you | © iStock / Getty Images Plus
Photo of Carrie Back
24 March 2022
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With its setting in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, it’s easy to see why the sleepy town of Palomino has earned a spot on every Colombian itinerary. In recent times the fishing village has grown into a backpacker’s tropical paradise, with an appetizing spread of places to stay, seafood shacks and activities of every kind.

What’s the vibe in Palomino for solo travelers?

Sit back and enjoy the laid-back vibes of Palomino | © iStock / Getty Images Plus

Expect a laid-back, bohemian ambience – Palomino is a gateway for nature lovers looking to overnight somewhere that’s welcoming while on their way to Tayrona National Park. You can happily spend a few days trekking the jungle, tubing the river, surfing, or sunbathing on remote beaches.

Where to stay in Palomino as a solo traveler

One Santuario Natural

Private thatched cabin with a lawn, plus a hammock set among the trees at One Santuario Natural
Courtesy of One Santuario Natural / Expedia
On the banks of the Palomino River, this wellness-minded ecohotel stirs a generous dollop of luxury into its sustainability ethos. Thatched bungalows, sunk into rainforest, have mosaic-tiled hot tubs and hammocks adorned with handicrafts. Staff can arrange activities including trekking and tubing. After exploring the Sierra Nevada mountains, relax on the river-view sun loungers, spotting howler monkeys in the trees.

Selina Palomino

Outdoor pool by tall palm trees and a social seating area with a mural on its white walls at Selina Palomino
Courtesy of Selina Palomino / Expedia
Selina is a chain of Latin American poshtels (posh hostels) that blends well-designed spaces with wellness culture and local experiences. This one sums up the brand: right on the beach, with morning yoga sessions. By sunset, you’ll be learning to dance to Colombian champeta rhythms in a private lesson, or discovering the art of healing through local plants in a class on the teachings of the indigenous Kogui people. Elsewhere, enjoy the outdoor pool and spa treatments, plus the lively bar and restaurant.

Where to eat and drink in Palomino

Los 7 Mares

Restaurant, Spanish, $$$
A tad pricier than other restaurants in town, you pay for the great looks and tastes at this contemporary, seafood-focused restaurant. It’s nautically themed, with a seasonal menu geared towards local, sustainable ingredients. Sample the house specialty ceviche dishes, or the fish tacos: mouthwatering breaded fish served with refried beans, chipotle, crispy dried shrimp and a lick of cream cheese.

JUntos

Restaurant, BBQ
Just off the main drag, JUntos is a must for live music and late nights out. It’s a low-key, laid-back restaurant that turns into one of the best bars after dark, with DJs regularly spinning salsa, reggaeton, afrobeat and cumbia. Known for the best burgers in town, it rolls out a hefty mushroom number – and the juicy cheeseburger comes highly recommended.

Rancho Paisa

Restaurant, Spanish
This bare-boned restaurant may be lacking on the decor front, but for cheap eats it’s a winner. The focus is on authenticity – try out the traditional breakfast, with arepa con queso (cheese-stuffed corn cakes). Be sure to take some empanadas out as a snack for later. If you have a sweet tooth, ask about the classic Colombian pastries.

What to do in Palomino as a solo traveler

Get your doggy fix

Walks on the beach are even better with a dog by your side | © Alexandre Morin Laprise / Alamy Stock Photo

Been on the road for a while and miss your pet? Consider a doggy picnic with Palomino Animal Soul. Regional fruits, coffee, home-made pitta bread and dips are the perfect accompaniment to the beach dog-walking sessions offered by this non-profit organization. All the proceeds go back to its animal shelter to support the rescue and care of homeless cats and dogs in the area.

Learn to surf

Palomino is an exceptional place to go surfing | © Brannon Gerling / Alamy Stock Photo

Palomino has some of the best waves on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. Scattered along the beaches are a few surf schools, with surfboards and stand-up paddleboards for rent. If you’re a beginner, it’s recommended that you take a lesson with a professional instructor – the ocean has strong currents.

Go tubing on the Palomino River

Tubing down the river in Palomino is a must-do | © Brannon Gerling / Alamy Stock Photo

After a short walk through the jungle, with awesome views of mountains, you’ll reach the bed of the Palomino River, from where you can tube directly to the beach. Sit back, relax and idle away a few hours floating down the tranquil waters towards the sea. It’s pretty simple to arrange yourself, but you may also be able to ask at your accommodation for excursion options. A trek through the jungle of Tayrona National Park and river tubing are included in Culture Trip’s eight-day Caribbean coast adventure.

How to get around Palomino as a solo traveler

Walking the streets of Palomino will never take too long | © Luke Farmer / Alamy Stock Photo

Because Palomino is small, the easiest way to get around is on foot. Chances are, you’ll arrive in town by bus or minivan. They usually drop off passengers at the main petrol station. From there, walk the 15 or 20 minutes to the beach, where you’ll find most of the accommodation options. On arrival, you’ll also see several moto-taxis that will take you to your lodging at a reasonable price.

How to stay safe in Palomino as a solo traveler

Palomino may be small, but the usual rules of travel caution apply, including never leaving your drink unattended, and securing your valuables in a safe or locker at your accommodation. The biggest danger is the ocean, with its strong currents – if you are warned not to swim due to prevailing conditions, take heed and find a pool instead. Always take a guide with you when trekking, since most trails are unmarked.

Interested in joining a small group of like-minded people to explore the country? Sign up for Paradise Found: a Taste of Colombia’s Caribbean Coast and see wildlife, mangrove forests and magnificent architecture.

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