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.
Playa Blanca lives up to its name – it is indeed a lovely stretch of sugary white sand and one of the finest beaches around Cartagena. However, encroaching development and incessant hawkers mean that it can feel extremely overcrowded during high season and at weekends, so it's best to visit during the week and outside of December and January.
On the southern side of the peninsula from Bahía Solano sits its smaller neighbor, El Valle. At the west end of town is the pleasant Playa Almejal, a wide black-sand beach with fine surf and decent accommodations. El Valle is a good jumping-off point to visit Parque Nacional Natural Ensenada de Utría.
Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona
Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona is a magical slice of Colombia's Caribbean coast, with stunning stretches of golden sandy beach backed by coconut palms and thick rainforest. Behind it all rise the steep hillsides of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the world's highest coastal mountain range.