Palomino – Colombia – Information

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MAY 2018:

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PLEASE NOTE: The official exchange rate at time of writing was US$1 = C$2,898 (Colombian Peso / COP).

I stayed a total of 8 nights in Taganga.

I stayed in a hostel on the beach (the Hostel Dumbira) for US$14 / night and paid an extra US$2 / night for Breakfast. A total of US$16 / C$43,500 per night.

In Taganga you can do lots of beach time.

You can hang on the beachfront road.

You can take trips into Tayrona National Park.You can take the 10 minutes trip into Santa Marta to go shopping or try somewhere different to eat (such as the Maharaja Indian).

And, you can walk the goat track over the northern hills.

… It was time to move on to Palomino …


My friend was going south to Barranquilla. I was going north to Palomino.

We could have caught a public bus from Taganga to Santa Marta town centre (C$1600 each) and, then, (somehow) found our way to the correct bus terminal(s). We both had suitcases, so we decided to share the cost of a taxi.

The normal price of a taxi into Santa Marta is C$14k / US$5. However, we were going to 2 different bus terminals that were further out of town. We negotiated a price of C$20k (C$10k each).

The bus to Barranquilla leaves from the Terminal de Transportes de Santa Marta. I was dropped off on the main road near the Texaco Sierra Nevada.

The route to Palomino is only about 70kms but I was told to allow 2 hours for the trip.

At the Texaco, there were 2 buses parked on the side of the main road. My taxi driver told me to go on one of these (and not the minivans parked 10 metres away). The buses are more comfortable and are air-conditioned. He told me NOT to pay more than C$10k.

My suitcase was loaded into the luggage compartment. They tried to charge me C$15k. I stuck with C$10k and got my ticket. We left 15 minutes later at 11:10am.

The bus was not full and was old but comfortable (albeit with a few broken seats). Alas, that age finally showed and we broke down at 12:25pm.

We were asked to disembark with our luggage. We only had to wait 10 minutes … our driver flagged down another passing (competitor’s) bus and got us all on board for free. We were back on the road by 12:35pm. By 12:50pm we were being dropped off in Palomino.

The roads in Palomino are all dirt tracks so the buses drop you off on the main road.

You walk to your accommodation from there.


Palomino is a small town (of about 4,000 people) on the Caribbean coast of Colombia located in the Guajira region, approximately 70 km from Santa Marta and 90 km from Riohacha. The Spaniards arrived in 1502.

It is located on the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Colombia. The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (declared as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO) sits as an isolated mountain apart from the Andes chain that runs though Colombia.

Palomino has a linear urban layout that runs from the south (at the San Juan Del Cesar) to the north (at the Caribbean sea). The area is serviced by the highway which has split the town into two.

The majority of the population is Mestizo … followed by Afro-Colombians, Andean farmers, and by traditional indigenous groups.

Palomino attracts a low number of tourists even though the jungle landscape is exotic, has vast biodiversity, and the beaches are white and uninhabited. Palomino is close to the entrance to Sierra Nevada National Park and close to the Resguardo Indigena, or Indian Reserve area.


There is one main dirt track down to the beach.


You enter the beach at the Villa Delia.

You immediately find a cluster of restobars.

The beach is fenced off – rather than ‘palm tree lined’.

The beachfront resorts are sparse and you can find the odd spot to swing your hammock.

After 1km you approach the rivermouth.

Here, you will find a group of (average priced) cafes.

The river is too deep to wade through.

But, you can turn inland.

And follow the riverside path.

The path follows the river for a few 100 metres.

You pass a police checkpoint with armed guards.

Before hitting the backstreets at the south end of town.


Starting at the cluster of restorbars around the Villa Delia …

… you look right.

As you walk, you pass a similar scattering of isolated, up-market beachfront resorts.

And plenty more beach.

After about 2 kms you reach the river that borders the park.

There is no inland path – it is all fenced-off private property. You have to return to Palomino by beach.


The road from the beach …

… is riddled with hostels and restobars.

The hostels around town all seem to have a quaint and similar ‘thatched roof’ design.

The side roads are rustic.

You pass fruit drink stalls, little bars, and fruit & vegetable stores.

When you arrive at the main road, you feel that you have arrived in the ‘locals’ part of town.

Here you find more of your typical Store-with-Outside-Tables type places (buy a beer in the store and sit at the table to drink it).

You also find more typical local restaurants.

The main road is not exactly ‘picturesque’.

But, this is where you find a lot of street stalls selling C$2k-C$3k fastfoods like Arepas, Filled Sweat Buns, and Kebabs.

There are a couple of Pool Halls on the main road that fill up with locals at night. As usual, these are good places to get a cheap beer – C$4500 gets you a 1 litre bottle of Aguila.

You will find a couple of bakeries selling some nice treats (bread rolls filled with a small sausage for C$800 … sweat bread filled with chocolate C$2000).

There are some more restobars and hostels inland of the main road – but, I didn’t venture that far.


Accommodation-wise, this is typical of what you find online … this is for 1 night mid June 2018 …

HOTELS & HOSTELS (Nightly Rates):



PLEASE NOTE: Hotel and Hostel search sites usually display prices EXCLUSIVE of TAXES. Also, some of the cheaper rooms have a Shared Bathroom … so, check the details first. In Colombia, only Colombian Nationals pay the 15-19% tax … Tourists (surprisingly) are exempt from that tax.


If you plan to stay a week or more, another good option is to use AirBnB or TRIPADVISOR.COM to book a Holiday Rental / Vacation Rental.

Due to additional ‘service’ and ‘cleaning’ charges, Holiday Rentals are usually best rented by the week. A comparable search reveals the following … Please Note: these prices are in US$s and display the average price per night



PLEASE NOTE: Vacation Rentals are usually displayed INCLUSIVE of TAXES but EXCLUSIVE of any ‘Security Deposit’ (if required). BUT, the displayed price may also be EXCLUSIVE of the host site’s Extra Fees (which can add as much as 16%).

In S.E. Asia, I wouldn’t touch AirBnB with a barge pole … in my opinion and experience the accommodation that you find is an absolute rip off. However, here, they are worth a look.


There are plenty of GRANDPAcking options to choose from.


Have a look yourself:


You will not be able to afford to stay near / on the beach: expect to be a few 100 metres away around the centre of town.

You can stay anywhere around the centre.


I booked 3 nights at the Hostel El Bohio which is located half way between the beach and the town centre. It was a 500 metre walk from the main road (and about 800 metres from the beach).

It is a fairly new place and you can see that the owners run it with some pride.

They offer 8 rooms.

I booked myself into a Single Fan Room for US$21 / C$56k per night.

It came with a double bed.

The furniture was minimalistic but tasteful.

But there was nowhere to hang my clothes … so, out came my washing line again!

The ensuite was small but adequate.

And, it came with a cold (cool) water shower that had below-average water pressure (but it was good enough).

The in-room wifi was very good (which came as a pleasant change from that experienced in Cartagena and Taganga) and my room had a shared balcony.

There was a shared kitchen (but you could not use the fridge).

Next to the kitchen was the restaurant / breakfast area.

The included breakfast was reasonable. You could choose between coffee or tea which came with a bowl of fruit, fresh fruit juice, a choice of how you want your eggs, and a choice between an Arepa or Toast.

Above the restaurant was a shared common area with hammocks.

All-in-all, it was a pleasant place to stay.


Your accommodation should provide reasonable, free WiFi. My Hostel’s was fast enough to stream video but was ‘variable’ during the day. In my room, the signal was strong and stable.

I bought a Claro SIMcard in a Minimart in Cartagena. Claro is said to offer the best overall coverage and service. The SIMcard was C$3,100 and I purchased a 2GB Data Package for C$42,900. This data package came with a few minutes of call time and a few free SMSs.

I got an H+ or 3G signal around town most of the time.


You walk everywhere.

To catch a local bus, you need to get up to the main road.

There are Tuk Tuks around if you want to get your luggage to / from your hostel and the main road; sorry, I don’t know the price.


You have several restobars to choose from.


You will pay a premium to eat on the beach. For the cheapest ‘on-the-beach option’, walk 1km south down the beach to the rivermouth.

In town on the main street, there are very few ‘budget’ options. Here is a typical menu with pricing:


Get into the back streets to find the Cocina Economicas. Here is a typical menu and pricing:

On the main street you find stalls selling Arepas and other ‘cheap fillers’ in the C$2k-C$3k price range. You get a bigger selection up on the highway.


Walk up to the highway and head south. On the beachside of the road, you will find a Gas Station.

Next to the Gas Station, you will find a really good Cocina Economica.

Their menu is displayed on the wall.

I tried their Sausage Fries for C$10k.

It was huge! … and, under that salad topping, was lots of different sausage meats. Two GRANDAckers can easily share this meal and walk away satisfied (a meal for under US$2 each can’t be bad!).

I went back a second night to try their Prawn Ceviche which came to C$16k with a 1 litre bottle of beer.


Expect to pay an average of C$9,000 / US$3 for a cheap Breakfast with coffee.

Expect to pay an average of C$9,000 / US$3 for a cheap Lunch Snack with fruit drink.

Expect to pay an average of C$19,000 /  US$7 for a cheap Dinner with a Fruit Juice / Small Beer.


A small local beer in a tourist restaurant or bar costs C$4,000-C$5,000. In a store, expect to pick up the same for half that price.

A store will sell you a 1 litre bottle of Aguila Beer (4%) for C$4,000; some have tables outside where you can sit and drink it with your friends. Expect to pay C$4,500 for a 1 litre bottle in a Cocina Economica.

Many tourist bars around town have a 2-for-1 Cocktail Happy Hour (some of which go from 4pm to 9pm). Expect to pay C$15,000-C$20,000 for the two. Quality varies.


Prices in the shops are a bit higher than normal because of the tourists … but not excessively so.

However, you may still want to come with the more expensive items and only shop here for convenience.

Down the main street you will find travellers and locals alike selling the usual selection of ‘backpacker trinkets’.


There are no Banks nor Money Exchanges in town. There are no ATMs. Bring enough cash.


In the past, the town has been used as a battlefield of rival drug gangs, the army, paramilitary groups, and leftist insurgent groups. More recently, the Palomino community is trying to bring peace into their town, restore tourism, and improve the lifestyle of future generations. There is a ‘subtle’ police presence around town. Even the back track to the beach (south of town) has a police checkpoint (presumably to ensure that the beach is kept safe for tourists).

Palomino has no working sewage system (yet). The problem is serious since the town does not have an oxidation lagoon of residual water. There is no treatment facility. Some excreta are treated through latrines (small wastewater systems in deep pits), the river or sea. The health hazards of improper excreta disposal in Palomino are soil pollution, water pollution, contamination of foods, and propagation of flies. People experience diseases such as diarrhea, intestinal parasites, viral hepatitis, typhoid fever, and cholera – and nearly 30% of children die of these diseases.

I felt perfectly safe. I didn’t detect any malicious ‘undertones’. As always, exercise normal levels of caution … don’t make yourself an obvious target.

The main problem is Petty Theft … which is a ‘typical’ problem in these countries. Don’t leave anything unattended. Lock up your hotel room.

There were mosquitoes around but they were not a problem. Sandflies can be a problem.

Don’t drink the tap water.


Palomino has a tropical humid climate with average temperatures of 24 °C (75.2 °F) and precipitation of 2,000 to 4,000 mm (78-157 inches) throughout the year.

While the temperature is relatively consistent all year round, the weather conditions are irregular and variable due to its proximity to the jungle and closeness to the Caribbean sea. Palomino is constantly suffering from floods and from the spiral bands of hurricanes.


You will find a couple of tour agents around town. Here is typical pricing (in C$ / COP):

Here are the pictures:


From Palomino, I head up the coast to Riohacha.

I will tell you more about that it my next post.


GRANDPAckers can easily afford to HOLIDAY in Palomino to GRANDPAcking standard. Strangely, it is a little bit more expensive to do so here than it is in Taganga.

GRANDPAckers are advised to find a hotel that includes a free Breakfast. If you don’t, it is not the end of the world … but, you may find it more convenient (as well as it saving you at least C$4k / day each).

Read About – GRANDPAcking Costs if you don’t know how to interpret my figures.



My costs are broken down into:

  • Cost of Existence: The basic costs of just being there
  • Cost of Living: The additional costs that make being there fun

I lived in Palomino to GRANDPAcking standard.

I spent 3 nights at an average price of US$21 / night in a Fan ‘Single’ Room that had a double bed.

I walked everywhere and took no trips out of town.

I spent C$46k on a new Claro SIMcard and a 1-Month 2GB Data Plan when I was in Cartagena; it was still operational in Palomino  – so, I didn’t have to spend more.

My Breakfasts were included in my room rate.

I spent nothing on Lunches – I don’t eat Lunch anymore.

I averaged about C$17k / day on Dinners.

I bought a 6 Litre bottle of water for C$7k that lasted me for my whole stay.

My COE worked out to be about US$21 / day.


In / Out Costs: It cost me C$20k to get from Taganga to Palomino.

Living Costs: I averaged about C$4,500 / day on beers (usually a 1 litre bottle bought in a store which I drank on their outside tables).

My total COL was about US$24 / day.


Again, costs are broken down in Cost Of Existence (COE) and Cost Of Living (COL).


Accommodation: Book yourself something for 2 nights at about US$25 / night including Breakfast. The free Breakfast would otherwise cost you US$3 each out on the street … this means that you are, effectively, paying under US$20 / night for your accommodation. Once there, look around and find somewhere for about US$20 / night including Breakfast. Expect to be around the centre of town about 800 metres from the beach. At that long term price, expect a room with a fan (no aircon).

Transport: You can walk everywhere around the town. I have included a weekly trip for 2 on local transport to some nearby towns.

Communications & Fees: I have included a Claro SIMcard and 1 month 2GB data plan.

Food & Beverages: Your budget is C$58k / day including water. This is to eat all of your meals in Cheap Restaurants. I assume that your Breakfast is free.

Your COE is US$42 / day (74% of your total budget).


This leaves you C$39k / US$14 per day to LIVE on.

You have enough to enjoy yourself.


THE GRANDPAcking ACID TESTCan a retired couple with no assets live easily, comfortably, and happily here with their only source of income being a standard NZ Married Couple’s State Pension? NO.

Palomino does not have the infrastructure that GRANDPAckers require.


Palomino is a ‘cute’ little place that is ‘touristic’ but not (yet) ruined. You don’t get harassed anywhere near as much by touts as you do in Cartagena and Taganga.

Many a GRANDPAcker will enjoy a short holiday here: especially those with a bit of ‘hippy’ in them.

However, in my opinion, you would go ‘stir crazy’ very quickly.


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