One thing I think I underestimate as a mountain person by birth is the wonderful, calming, gorgeous opportunities afforded alongside the ocean. Tayrona was everything promised; hot, touristy, a bit of a scene, and stunning scenery. However, Blake and I still craved more time relaxing together, somewhere romantic and calm and off the beaten path.
Palomino lies further east along the Caribbean coast of Colombia, north but not so far north that you need to take the 24 hours aside necessary for the recommended but remote northernmost point in South America. The lure is that you can stand in the waters of the Caribbean, turn around, and gaze at the glaciers atop the Sierra Nevadas. Nowhere else on earth has high peaks in such close proximity to tropical beaches. It seemed like a great finale to our adventure, relaxing and remote and lovely. We had just 48 more hours to go on our travels, and indulging in a charming beach proved to be an excellent choice. After our stay, we wished we had more time or had come here sooner, as the longer we stayed the more we realized that this stretch of coast is lined with hidden surf communities, super chill off-the-grid hotels, and hammocks gazing at perfect sunsets.
None of this was clear in leaving Minca. We took the jeep down from Minca to a blue-collar neighborhood in Santa Marta, then found a bus headed up the coast. Although easy to find, these busses seemed to fill quickly and vary widely in quality. We basically lucked out and stepped right onto one pulling out of the garage, and found seats together to boot. Both Blake and I had turned introspective, and a little grumpy, considering the end of our travels. The heat along the coast didn't really help, and we hoped that our last memories of Columbia were still going to be magical. Palomino was a little adventure, what the doctor ordered, and comes highly recommended.
We took the coastal highway bus for about two hours, getting off alongside the highway in what appeared to be a very nondescript bus stop. Tacky tourist wares and fried food stalls did not make this town appear distinct in any way, except for the hint of a booming economy due to the thousand mototaxis parked at the nondescript cafes. Alighting from the bus, a small army of mototaxi drivers wait to take you to whatever resort you've chosen as your final destination. We'd booked a private cabin through our hostel in MInca at a tiny resort called "Playa Mandala". I'd recommend it.
We swam and played in the waves. We strolled up and down the beach, marveling at the mountains as they peeked their tops above the palms. We oogled at the sexy beachgoers and aww-ed at adorable families spending their days building sandcastles. We relaxed with a rum beverage and watched the most stunning tropical sunset of our lives (that's REALLY high praise!). Our room included half-board, and we ate delicious home-cooked fresh ceviche and grilled chicken with coconut rice. Saying goodbye to the freedom of the road is bittersweet, and I always hope the last days of a trip are as fulfilling as the first. Palomino was magical. As an exit from travel, I can't imagine a more chill transition. .