Palomino doesn’t look like much as you pass through it on the main Santa Marta–Riohacha highway, but lurking on one side of its urban sprawl is one of Colombia’s most perfect beaches, while on the other are the dramatic Sierra Nevada Mountains, a place the local indigenous people still guard carefully from outsiders. Palomino makes a great base from which to explore both, with a number of great places to stay and a backpacker vibe you’ll not find in many other places along the coast.
The town lies between the Ríos San Salvador and Palomino, which flow from the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Along its beaches you’ll find fisherfolk using traditional nets, while in its mountainous hinterland indigenous tribes live a traditional way of life as they have done for centuries. With seven different ecosystems between the beach and the glaciers of the Sierra Nevada, it’s no surprise that ecotourism is slowly coming into its own here.
Be aware that swimming from the beach in Palomino is only rarely possible, as currents are treacherous: look out for the red flags, and do not go into the water if they’re flying. Take care at other times too. For this reason, the real reason to come to Palomino is to get into the mountains, for which the town makes a great base.