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What to do in Palomino Colombia and where to stay

Palomino | A dream destination on the Caribbean coast of Colombia

by Sabine
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Languages / Talen

Palomino: some love it, others hate it. In recent years, the village of Palomino, on the Caribbean coast in northern Colombia, has become one of the country’s most popular destinations for tourists. And it shows: foreigners everywhere. Palomino is also seen by many as a party destination. But this village in La Guajira has much more to offer. It all depends on what you want to do and where you want to stay. In this article, I share with you a fantastically beautiful eco-hotel. Where the rainforest meets the ocean. Where you can rest, but also go on many tours. Like tubing down the river, watching flamingos, exploring La Guajira or visiting an indigenous tribe. Discover Palomino!


Palomino: the gateway to La Guajira


La Guajira is the extreme northeastern department of Colombia. Where the desert, the rainforest and the ocean meet. And the first village you encounter: Palomino.

Although only about 3,000 people live in Palomino, the small village attracts many Colombian and foreign tourists every year. There is also an awful lot to do. Thus, the village is the ideal base for exploring La Guajira. What you can do in Palomino and the surrounding area you will read later in this article.

Most travelers look for a hotel or hostel in Palomino. In the middle of the village, preferably on the beach. Here you will also find most hotels and hostels. And with that, most tourists.

However, it can also be different. Do you, like me, want a quieter stay, in an amazingly beautiful place on the beach, more off the beaten path and in a special hotel? Then I can recommend you Uuttaaka Eco-hotel.

 


Uuttaaka Eco-hotel: stay in a honeycomb between the rainforest and the beach


About a 10-minute drive from Palomino, toward Riohacha, you’ll find Uutaaka Eco-hotel. A hotel focused on rest, exploring La Guajira and Palomino, and it’s a place where you stay in the middle of nature. Before you even arrive at the hotel, you’ll be already amazed. Not for nothing is this eco-hotel on the list of the 7 most beautiful hotels in Colombia in nature.

 

Walk through mangrove

In fact, the road alone to get there is beautiful and very special. Across a wooden bridge in the middle of mangrove. An unusual natural phenomenon that you’ll find only in tropical coastal areas. Here you will immediately get to know a part of the enormous biodiversity of Colombia.

Walking through the mangrove you see and hear all kinds of things. And if you’re lucky you’ll see a Spectacled caiman in the water. A crocodilian that lives of frogs, among other things. There are also many birds, spiders, crabs and frogs of all shapes and sizes. Fantastic!

 

Sleeping in a honeycomb

A honeycomb? Yes, that’s pretty special, right? And it was incredibly fun! Uuttaaka is an eco-hotel consisting of 2 beautiful cottages and a honeycomb in the middle. The honeycomb has 7 rooms, again in the shape of a hexagon. Each room has a balcony from which you overlook the sea.

The bed is lovely and has a very nice mosquito net. But it’s not just the bed that helps you sleep wonderfully, but especially the sounds you hear.

 

In Uuttaaka you stay in the tropics by the sea

This hotel is located in the middle of nature. Between tropical forests and the sea. It is quiet and peaceful, so not a party destination. Here you enjoy the powerful waves pounding against the beach: the best sound to sleep with and to wake up to.

But you also hear and see many birds, all kinds of crabs and even more species of frogs. From small to large frogs and from green to yellow ones.

And then those skies… In the morning the sky turns purple, in the afternoon and evening (in the rainy season) you can see extraordinary flashes of lightning (see photo below) and at sunset the sky turns red and yellow.

Both from the beach and from your balcony you have beautiful views.

 

Take beautiful beach walks in Palomino and relax in the hammock

Palomino crowded with tourists? Not here. I walked about 10,000 steps a day along the beach without encountering anyone.

The hotel is the only hotel here on this side of the village, so you literally have the beach all to yourself.

Walk to the right and enjoy the rainforest that turns directly into the beach and sea. On that side, the sun rises. Walk to the left and discover beautiful red rocks running from the rainforest into the ocean. On this side, the sun is setting.

Because there is no one here you see many crabs on the beach, very special!

Scattered around the hotel, you will also find many hammocks. The combination of the sound of the ocean and the sea breeze makes you fall asleep in no time.

 


What is there to do in Palomino? 9 Activities & tours at a glance.


A lot! Palomino is best known for tubing down the river. Then you float down the river toward the sea in a black tube. But Palomino and La Guajira have much more to offer.

From Uuttaaka Eco-hotel you can book all the tours below. Everything is arranged for you, so you don’t have to go first to the village of Palomino for activities on your own.

1. Go tubing down the river

Let’s start with the most popular activity. I have not done this, nothing for me, but if you want this you can arrange it anywhere. Including at Uuttaaka Eco-hotel, from where you will be picked up.

Before stepping on the tube, take an ecological walk.

For tubing, there are six black tubes linked together, and you are in one. So with five other people. You put your gear in a plastic bag and slowly float down the river toward the sea.

This tour lasts 3.5 hours.

There are also tours where you combine tubing with a visit to an indigenous tribe.

2. Discover the flamingos in La Guajira

The best place to see flamingos in La Guajira is at the Flamingo Park near Riohacha. You will be picked up at the hotel, and by kayak or motorboat you will sail along the salty lagoon in search of the flamingos, who come there for the shrimp that live there. During this tour, you also get lunch at the shrimp beach, as they call it.

3. Meet a Wayuu family

During this 3-hour tour, you will first go to the Flamingo Park and then meet a traditional Wayuu family. Learn about their customs and traditions, and enjoy a traditional Wayuu meal.

4. Visit another indigenous tribe in La Guajira

In addition to the Wayuu, La Guajira is known for many other indigenous tribes, such as the Kogui. The Kogui live in several communities, including the Seiwika and Tunkeka communities. You can visit this.

During these tours, you will learn about local customs and see how the Kogui live.

5. Go kayaking or supping down the Palomino River

There is much more to do on the Palomino River than just tubing. You can also go kayaking or supping, for example. You can do this in an hour or combine it with other activities. For example, an ecological hike combined with kayaking and a visit to an indigenous tribe.

6. Horseback riding along the beach

The beaches of Palomino are perfect for beautiful horseback riding. You will also encounter horses while walking from the hotel, very beautiful. From Uuttaaka you can book horseback rides.

7. Go hiking through beautiful nature

From Palomino you can do fantastic hiking. During these hikes you will visit waterfalls and will have beautiful views of Santa Marta’s Sierra Nevada. These hiking tours last around 6 hours. You can also hike to specifically the Valencia waterfalls.

8. Discover La Guajira: Punta Gallina and Cabo de la Vela

From Palomino you can easily explore the rest of La Guajira. Because La Guajira is huge, you will need more time for this. Consequently, this tour lasts two nights and three days. You will then visit Riohacha, Manuare, the salt route, Cabo de la Vela, Punta Gallina and Mayapo.

If you book this tour at Uuttaaka Eco-hotel you will pay 700,000 pesos per person for this.

9. On the quad through Palomino

There are also tours on quad bikes. So you can quad through Palomino, across the beach, or to the Tunteka community.

 

So plenty to do, in Palomino you will not be bored.

 


Palomino: practical information


How to get to Palomino?

There are several ways to get to Palomino.

To Palomino from Santa Marta

From Santa Marta, there is public transportation to Palomino. The ride takes 1.5 to 2 hours over 80 kilometers, and costs 12,000 pesos. Here you will find the bus stop in Santa Marta. The bus company is called Cootransoriente Tayrona. Buses leave about every 15 to 30 minutes, when full. Because there are many tourists, the bus is actually full right away, so you never have to wait long.

You can also take a cab from Santa Marta to Palomino. The cost depends on how well you can haggle. In any case, prices are around 150,000 to 200,000 pesos. It is best to arrange for a cab from your accommodation or an official cab company.

To Palomino from Minca

From Minca it is easy to get to Palomino and vice versa as well. It can be very cheap and very expensive. For example, there is direct transportation from Minca to Palomino for 350,000 pesos. If you go with four people, for example, it’s affordable and it saves a lot of time and inconvenience, but on your own or even in pairs, it’s a lot of money. You arrange this transport at your hostel in Minca or in Minca itself. You’ll see where exactly when you are there (very easy to find).

We chose the cheap option: everything by public transportation. It looks like this:

  1. From your hotel in Minca by motorcycle cab to the center of Minca (two streets, so you’ll see right away where the bus stop is)
  2. There the bus goes to Santa Marta, this costs 9000 pesos and takes about 45 minutes
  3. In Santa Marta, get off at a bus station where the bus to Palomino passes by. Where this is will become clear by itself
  4. This bus is a normal public bus and can be packed with people (as in our case). If you are unlucky you have to stand the whole ride. The bus from Santa Marta to Palomino costs 12,000 pesos and takes about 1.5 to 2 hours, depending on the traffic
  5. In Palomino, get off in downtown, right in front of the D1 supermarket. From there, walk to your hotel or take a motorcycle cab. The cost depends on how far away the hotel is. In our case, it cost 20,000 pesos.

 

How to get to Uuttaaka Eco-hotel?

There are two ways.

Way 1: From Palomino, take a motorcycle cab. This costs around 20,000 pesos. The motorcycle cab will drop you off at the entrance to the bridge.

Way 2: Arrange a private transport from where you are coming, say from Minca or Santa Marta, and get dropped off at the bridge to the hotel. From Minca, this costs around 300,000 pesos. From Santa Marta, the cost is around 200,000 pesos.

For both ways, let the hotel know exactly when you will arrive. So someone will be waiting for you with a cart to take your bags to your room.

 

How is the beach in Palomino at Uuttaaka?

The beach at Uuttaaka is very beautiful. You can take walks along the trees and red rocks that seem to come out of nowhere and end in the ocean.

Because the hotel is secluded, you have the entire beach to yourself. So you won’t run into anyone on a hike, except many beautiful crabs.

In recent years, the beaches in Palomino are not as wide as they used to be. But since you have the beach to yourself here, it doesn’t matter at all.

Swimming in the sea at Palomino is not always possible. There is a strong undercurrent and the high waves pound hard against the shore. However, there are times when it is quieter and you can get in the water just fine. Stay close to the beach, though.

 

What do you bring?

Of course everything you normally take to the beach. But to Palomino, above all, don’t forget to bring something against mosquitoes. In Uuttaaka they have homemade mosquito repellent oil, which works fine, but is very greasy. What works very well are Nopikex products. Like the mosquito soap or mosquito spray. You can buy these at many drugstores in Colombia, such as Farmatodo. Don’t forget, because you will be punctured here.

At Uuttaaka you can buy food and drinks, including water. But if you want something else, like cookies or something else specific, you have to go back to the supermarket in Palomino for that. If you don’t want to make that trip, buy the things you want to have with you in advance. In Palomino there is a D1 supermarket, there you can get everything cheap.

Food and drinks

At Uuttaaka Eco-hotel, breakfast is included. In addition, you can have lunch and dinner there. They have an extensive menu and delicious food. The chef also really makes a celebration of each dish: it always looks beautiful. Try the vegetarian tacos, for example.

Speaking of which, there is also plenty for vegetarians and vegans!

Want to go to a restaurant in Palomino? You can do that too, then you just have to ask German, the owner, to arrange a motorcycle cab for you. This will get you to the center of the village in about 10 minutes.

 

WiFi in Palomino: also for Digital Nomads

In Palomino, as in every village in Colombia, the power sometimes goes out. After a thunderstorm, for example. During our stay, the entire village was without power for 26 hours.

If the electricity just works well, at least in Uuttaaka you will have very good WiFi. You even have coverage on the beach. Do you have a Colombian SIM card? This one also works fine. I myself have Tigo and had good coverage in most places.

My boyfriend had some online meetings and was able to do so without any problems.

How much time do you need for Palomino?

That depends on what you want to see and do and how much time you have. We stayed four nights, which I thought was perfect. This allowed us to rest and enjoy the beautiful nature.

However, for example, if you only want one day at the beach and no excursions, then two nights may also be enough. But if you just want to see a lot of the area, tubing, horseback riding, hiking, going to an indigenous village and seeing flamingos, you can spend a week here just fine.

The best travel time for Palomino

Year-round. In the dry season there is less rain, but many more tourists and therefore higher prices due to the high season. In the rainy season, you have occasional (especially in the afternoon) heavy rains for 1 to 2 hours. Read all about traveling in the Colombian high season here.

We visited Palomino in the heart of the rainy season. And for me that was totally fine. In fact, occasionally it blows hard before a shower and then the temperature is immediately much more pleasant. It almost never rains all day, but mainly a heavy shower in the afternoon, evening or night. Perfectly doable.

 


How do you combine Palomino with your Colombia roundtrip?


Palomino is very easy to fit into your roundtrip of Colombia. Most travelers stay longest on the north coast, and then Palomino is a logical choice. For example, you can combine it perfectly with Minca and Tayrona. Distances and travel times are short, making it easy to hit these 3 destinations in 1 to 1.5 weeks. From Santa Marta or Cartagena, you can then fly on to your next destination in Colombia.

 


Is Palomino on your Colombia wish list?


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2 comments

Bashak Balkan 11 December 2023 - 13:58

Thank you for this article, Sabine. It is truly very helpful. Do you think I would really miss out on something essential if I were to stay at Palomino and skip Tayrona? I could see both but I’d spend only two days in each and that seems a bit too short.

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Sabine 13 December 2023 - 18:50

Thank you for your comment! Good question. Both are actually very different. In Tayrona is more beach and there are more swimming opportunities. Also Tayrona is an experience in total, because of the hike to the beach, seeping on the beach (if you want) or in a hostel down there, hiking for kilometers before getting there. And you can swim there very good. In Palomino the ocean is rougher and smaller. You can walk into the ocean, but swimming can be difficult there. From there you book excursions to hikes or waterfalls, instead of being inside the excursion in Tayrona. But, if you just want to be at the beach, then you could skip one of the two. I liked this stay in Palomino more, because it’s less touristy than Tayrona (not the village of Palomino, but the hotel where I stayed, the village is also very touristy). But both are beautiful. You could spend just 2 days in each, but it means traveling fast. If you are not into that it’s better to skip one. Probably most travelers will say that Tayrona is an absolute must-see. I think both have their own beauty and experience. So: think about what you like to do. Go hiking in Tayrona, being on the beach, swimming. Then Tayrona is good for you. If you want to discover La Guajira, be on a rougher beach and able to do excursions outside the village, then Palomino is more for you. In any case: enjoy!

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