The best way to maximise 24 hours in Palomino is to arrive in the late afternoon, at around 4 pm. Once you get in, make your way from the main street where the buses drop you off, down towards the beach where all the hotels and hostels are located. Hostels the Tiki Hut and the Dreamer are highly recommended: they cost a bit more but have excellent swimming pools and good-quality facilities, and the beach is just a stone’s throw away.
Once you’ve unpacked and settled in, wander down to the beach to enjoy the beautiful Caribbean sunset. You’ll find plenty of other travellers doing the same thing, usually with some beers or cocktails. Head back to your hostel for dinner (the Dreamer’s pizzas are particularly good) and a few bottles of local beer produced in the nearby Sierra Nevada mountains. The Happy Toucan Ale is especially drinkable.
The next morning, make sure you wake up bright and early to enjoy your main Palomino activity: a tubing trip down the gorgeous Palomino River. Rent a tube from one of the many vendors outside the hostels, and head off up into the Sierra Nevada on the back of a motorbike taxi (also included in your tube rental). Once the bike drops you off, you’ll need to hike for another 30 minutes, then jump into the cooling waters of the stunning mountain river and float back to the sea.
The whole trip usually takes between two and three hours, but you can easily stretch it out a bit longer by stopping at one of the many little river beaches and spending some time sunbathing and swimming in the river. Keep an eye out for monkeys and toucans in the tall trees towering over you as you slowly meander down the river, and eventually you will reach the sea.
Once you arrive at the end of your tubing trip, it will be around lunchtime, so pull up a table at one of the little shacks alongside the river mouth, and take your pick from the plates of fresh fish on display. Enjoy your fish lunch with a cold beer just metres from the sparkling blue Caribbean waters.
Once you’ve finished eating, walk back down the beach towards Palomino. There will still be time for one last excellent experience before you have to leave: enjoy a massage organised through your hostel (perhaps you could book it in the morning before you head out on your tubing trip). There aren’t many more relaxing experiences in Colombia than lying in the warm Caribbean sun enjoying a massage, especially after spending all morning lying in a rubber inner tube on the river!
Once your massage is done, it’ll be almost time to go, but you will definitely have made the most of your time in Palomino!