1760 km long Colombian Caribbean Coast is a diverse and exotic tropical region. From colorful colonial Cartagena to unspoiled palm beaches in Palomino, the coast has a lot to offer. It is an affordable holiday destination with very few travelers. After spending unforgettable three weeks in this beautiful region, I came up with an itinerary Colombian Caribbean Coast in Two Weeks that includes some of the best things to see and do in the area.
Days 1-3: Cartagena
This old walled colonial city city is the best introduction to Afro-Caribbean life in Colombian Caribbean Coast.
First of, buy yourself sunscreen and a hat if you don’t have these already. Cartagena has to be the hottest and the most humid place I have ever been! With daily temperatures above 35 ºC (95 ºF) and humidity of 80-90 %, walking around the colonial city center feels like warming up a Finnish sauna with your clothes on.
Stay around Getsemani or in outskirts of historical center for best budget options. Historical center is packed with luscious boutique hotels and five-star hotels for those with dinheiro. Best food joints are on Carrera 7 with prices of main course ranging from 8,000 to 40,000 Colombian Pesos (from 3 US$ to 14 US$). Go for a beer or cocktail in KGB (yes, Soviet bar) and pose with Lenin, or buy a beer from the street and watch the sunset from the city wall.
On one of the three days, take a day-trip to Praia Blanca or Rosario Islands and enjoy the sandy beaches or a diving/snorkeling trip on one of the reefs. If you’re a landlubber and don’t want to go to the beach, take one of the free walking tours and get to know the history behind the city’s cobblestone alleys. Or, make your own tour and check out places like Plaza de Bolívar and Plaza Santo Domingo.
On your last day, take the 4-hour minibus journey to Santa Marta.
Days 4-7: Santa Marta & Taganga
Pay a visit to Santa Marta Dive And Adventure and cross “scuba diving” off your list. For the mere price of 600,000 pesos (205 US$) you can take your first breaths underwater and become certified PADI Open Water Diver. On the first day you will be diving in a local swimming pool where you get to know the basics. On the second and third day, the school picks you up and takes you to the nearby tourist joint Taganga, where you take the boat to Tayrona National Park, home to some breathtaking dive sites.
Don’t bother staying in Taganga. It is a dirty, drug-ridden place that cannot sustain the crowds anymore. The transit from Santa Marta to the dive sites is enough to see the village.
Good work! After finishing the course, pad yourself on the back and take a minibus to the nearby Tayrona National Park.
Days 8-10: Tayrona National Park
One of Colombia’s most famous national parks, Tayrona is a mixture of thick tropical rainforest and white sandy beaches. The national park entrance is 35 km from Santa Marta, around 45 min drive away. Upon entering the park, you will pay a fee of 40,000 pesos (14 US$). From the main road it is around 30 min through jungle to reach the first beaches.
Pick a good book, rent a hammock and wake up early to catch the first sun rays hitting the turquoise water. There are several beaches to check out in the area. Wikitravel has a nice guide of the park.
On your last day, hike back to the main road and catch a bus up the coast to Palomino.
Days 11-14: Palomino
Stop near the end of the village and head towards the beach. It takes around 20 minutes on foot or 3 minutes with motorcycle taxi. Stay in Primaluna Beach Hostel and eat in one of the small lunch joints around the village. The portion sizes are massive and the prices are budget friendly.
It is really quiet in Palomino. But that’s its charm. Most of the time you have the whole beach to yourself. Bars close here really early, at around 11 PM. This is to ensure the peace and harmony within the local native communities in the area. I think this is brilliant!
After a day or two chilling, go and check out the Flamingo Reserve in Camarones.
Go back to the main road and ask for a bus to Camarones. Usually the buses don’t make the stop there, but if you smile kindly, they will take you there for 10,000 pesos (3.5 US$). Arriving Camarones, ask a motorcycle driver to take you to the reserve (3000 pesos one-way). You will stop by a small village where a local fisherman will take you to the reserve for 10,000 pesos on a small wooden sailing boat. From theboat you can see hundreds of flamingos being all pink and fabulous. It is really magnificent to see the birds in so high numbers! Go just before sunset for that sweet soft light!
I think Palomino is an amazing place to spend time and relax, turn of your cell phone and start day dreaming like a child. I came to Palomino for three nights but I ended up staying for almost two weeks.
After Palomino, it is time to head back to Cartagena and towards new adventures!
P.S. Like I mentioned in my last post 4000 Views & 1000 Unique Visitors, I am going to feature the blog of my 200th WordPress follower!