An Insider's Guide to Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

Monkey on the pampas trip
Monkey on the pampas trip | © Maciej/Flickr
Harry Stewart

Keen to get deep into the heart of the Amazon rain forest and right up close with some awesome exotic wildlife? Then look no further than Rurrenabaque, a northern Bolivian town that offers some of the continent’s best (and cheapest) jungle experiences. Read our guide to learn everything you need to know about this amazing part of Bolivia.

Transport

Bus: Daily buses ply the route between La Paz and Rurrenabaque, usually departing in the morning. Tickets are cheap at about 100 BOB (US$14.50) each way but the journey is no laughing matter. The trip takes at least 15 hours, often much more if it’s been raining, and the roads are bumpy, windy and terrifyingly treacherous. It’s pretty much on par with the notorious Death Road.

Adventurous souls looking to head further into the jungle can take a daily bus to Rivalta which takes 12 hours if the road is in good condition. Don’t even think about traveling there by bus in the wet season.

Plane: Amazonas and TAM offer several daily flights between La Paz and Rurrenabaque. Prices vary depending on availability but expect to pay US$80 to US$100 each way. Bear in mind that flights are frequently delayed for days on end during the rainy season.

Rurre Airport

Accommodation

Backpacker: Hostal Curichal is the best backpacker option in town. Right in the center, it’s got a swimming pool, hammocks, common areas, kitchen facilities, WiFi and bar. Basically everything a backpacker needs. Dorm beds start at 50 BOB (US$7).
Hostel El Curichal, Comercio, Rurrenabaque, Bolivia
Hostel: Los Tucanes de Rurre has a much more relaxed, family friendly vibe than Curichal. Rooms are located around a central patio with plenty of hammocks and there’s even a pet Toucan to keep guests company. Basic rooms with shared bathrooms start at 50 BOB ($US7) per person.
Los Tucanes de Rurre, Av. Aniceto Arce s/n esq. Boliviar, Rurrenabaque, Bolivia 3 8922039
Mid range: Hotel Maya de la Amazonia is Rurre’s fanciest dig. In the town center right on the riverbank, facilities include a swimming pool, terraces with a view, a great buffet breakfast and WiFi. Doubles start at 490 BOB (US$70)

Hotel Maya de la Amazonia, Comercio, Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

Main street, Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

Eating and Drinking

Juliano’s: A French-Tunisian expat by the name of Juliano serves up the town’s finest European fare, with steak, pizza and Moroccan spicy chicken among the crowd favorites. Save some room for his delectable deserts.
Juliano’s Restaurant, Santa Cruz, Rurrenabaque, Bolivia
The French Bakery: As you would expect, here you’ll find a variety of French bakery goods fresh from the oven. Delicious, cheap and an absolute must while in Rurrenabaque.

The French Bakery, Avaroa, Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

Sunrise in the Pampas

Pampas Tours

One of the best wildlife experiences in Latin America and the main reason most people travel to Rurrenabaque, the three day pampas tour is a highlight of any South American adventure. Expect to see a huge array of exotic wildlife including several species of monkey, capybaras, snakes and anteaters. Bird watchers can tick off a number of species including the toucan and colorful blue macaw, while piranhas, pink dolphins, caiman and turtles can be spotted swimming through the water.

Turtles on the pampas trip

The three day tour includes numerous wildlife safaris from a dugout canoe, an anaconda hunt through grasslands, swimming with playful pink river dolphins and fishing for piranha which are later eaten for lunch.

Dozens of travel agencies in both La Paz and Rurrenabaque offer exactly the same tour which departs daily. Prices tend to fluctuate frequently but expect to pay at least $US120 for the three day tour which includes food, accommodation, transport and activities. An absolute bargain when compared to similar offerings in the continent.

Don’t let the guides handle wildlife as this can cause the animals permanent psychological damage.

Amazon Basin, Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

Community run lodges

There are a number of lodges in the region run by local indigenous communities that offer a more luxurious and intimate alternative to the standard pampas tour. Chalalán is the most well-known but there are many other options such as Berraco del Madidi, San Miguel del Bala, Mashaquipe and Mapajo. These are all based in different regions near Rurrenabaque and have their own private lodges, transport and guides. Although much more expensive than the standard pampas tour, they provide an authentic eco-tourism experience away from the backpacker crowd.

Caiman

Jungle Trips

The other popular attraction is to head into the thick steamy jungle of nearby Madidi National Park on foot. Trips run anywhere between 1 and 30 days and can either include camping or basic community lodging. It’s very hard to spot animals in the jungle, but visitors will instead be treated to a variety of insects, birds and plant life. More adventurous travelers can opt for a jungle survival tour where they head into the unknown with little more than a machete (and a qualified guide).

Rainforest, Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

Ayahuasca

Ayahuasca ceremonies with a local shaman can be arranged in the jungle. Prices vary considerably depending on the size of the group. While the substance is legal in Bolivia, it is wise to carefully consider the dangers before indulging.

Ayahuasca brewing
landscape with balloons floating in the air

KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?

Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

X
Edit article