Rurrenabaque is a small town located on the east bank of the Beni River in the North of Bolivia. It has become a much more popular place in recent years for tourism, as is considered an easy gateway to the Madidi National park in the Bolivian Rainforest and the surrounding lowlands. Coming to Rurrenabaque you’ll be surrounded by nature and wildlife, which can come as a welcome escape if you’ve previously been staying in one of South America’s chaotic cities.
Attracting around 30,000 visitors each year, here you’ll see most restaurants, bars, and cafes are geared towards travelers, and people often spend several days relaxing here before heading off for jungle adventures, by foot or boat. Rurrenabaque’s booming tourist industry has saved a large part of the nearby rainforest, which previously was being destroyed to extract timber. Now, the National Park serves to protect and preserve the beautiful wilderness. Below is our Rurrenabaque travel guide with information on all the best things to do, places to go and what not to miss.
RURRENABAQUE JUNGLE TOURS – There is an abundance of companies that offer tours, from day trips to one month stays in the jungle. Not only do these trips take you out into Bolivia’s jungle, they also offer the chance to enter the Madidi National Park. This trip gives you a chance to venture into the dense rainforests of Bolivia, but still offers some facilities, as you can stay in a community-based eco lodge. It is very difficult to spot the animals because they prefer to stay hidden in the thick jungle, and although you may not always see them, there is an abundance of creatures living out there.
RURRENABAQUE PAMPAS TOURS – These Pampas tours are a better option for those who want to do some sightseeing of the animals and creatures living in the jungle. Six types of crocodilian species be seen, one of which is the giant black caiman. Other creatures to look out for include turtles, three types of anacondas, pink dolphins, monkeys, toucans, macaws, anteaters, porcupines and even jaguars. Some of the local guides know how to handle snakes, and may at some point elect to capture some of the poisonous snakes that can be encountered. These tours mostly take you up and down the river on a boat, giving you the chance to see the different animals. One of the best things to do in Rurrenabaque is swimming with the pink river dolphins. These dolphins are friendly and sociable. They have been known to approach the sound of a motorboat, just for the chance to interact with people. They are playful and will often race against you, then go back underwater for a few minutes.
*** WHAT NOT TO MISS ***
The Rurrenabaque jungle tour and Pampas tour are the best things to do here and cannot be missed out on. Even if you are not going for a long stay in the jungle, a day trip is worth it if you are going to be visiting Rurrenabaque.
The main market of the town has many little places to buy cheap food and beverages. There can be found in Santa Cruz street, which has a variety of restaurants to eat at.
Check out El Nomadico (Calle Avaroa) where you can find South American and international dishes. The best food to try here is the fish, which is cooked wrapped in banana leaves. The prices are reasonable considering the quality and size of the servings.
For a lighter meal, go to The French Bakery (Calle Avaroa), where you’ll find an amazing selection of pastries and fresh juices. This is perfect for breakfast, or if you fancy something other than the typical Bolivian fare. Juliano’s (Av. Santa Cruz) is another place serving European food, such as Italian-style pizza, and crème brûlée.
There are a number of great bars and pubs that offer good food and drinks, as well as entertainment. Some of the bars contain pool tables and televisions, displaying the major sports events.
Head to Jungle Bar Moskkito (Rurrenabaque 591), which is popular among the locals. Here you can grab some beers and cocktails, try your hand at pool or darts, and request your favourite songs to be played. There’s a nice atmosphere, with jungle-style décor. Another cool place is Luna Café (Calle Avaroa), which also has a pool table, and even a book exchange. Great for dancing and drinks – come during happy hour from 7 ‘til 10pm.
Rurrenabaque has a rainforest climate, with an abundance of rain even in the dry season, the average annual temperature being 25.1 degrees Celsius. The rainy season is between November and April and the dry season from May to October.
There are daily buses from La Paz which take 18 hours, costing $10. The journey is quite an adventure, as you descend 3,500m over the course of the drive.
There are daily flights from La Paz which take 45 minutes, and costs $60 to $85 with Amaszonas. However, cancellations can occur during the rainy season (November to April).
The places to stay in Rurrenabaque range from hostels in the jungle outside of the city, to your more upscale hotels. La Isla de Los Toucans (Bolivar esquina Amutar) offers private bungalows in a complex.
El Curichal Hostel (Comercio St. 1490) is family-run and is sociable without being a party hostel. Here you can enjoy the pool and hammocks, and the hostel is clean and comfy - both private and shared rooms are available. Breakfast is included but is very basic. Hostal el Lobo (Comercio St. corner Ballivian St.) has got an outdoor pool and bar, and has a relaxing vibe. It’s located on the riverside and has jungle views.
Be careful who you choose to go with on your trips and adventures into the jungle and the Pampas. Many of the tour guides are thieves and pickpockets. They will often try to make up stories for more money.