Looking for the best things to do in Rurrenabaque, Bolivia? This is the article for you! You will find lots of information about where to eat, where to sleep, how to get around, other useful tips and of course – the best things to do in Rurrenabaque!
Rurrenabaque, also locally known as “Rurre,” is a small but lively town located in the North of Bolivia on the banks of the Beni River. Bolivia’s main gateway to the Amazon, it definitely deserves a visit during your South American travels. A cheaper alternative than other destinations such as Brazil’s Pantanal, the Bolivian Pampas provides an incredible location to see the biodiversity of the Amazon.
Rurrenabaque counts plenty of restaurants, bars, and cafes geared towards travelers who often spend several days relaxing there before heading off for jungle adventures. Having spent one month here as a volunteer for a health care clinic, I compiled below my Rurrenabaque travel guide with all must-dos and must-knows.
Things to do in Rurrenabaque
Ride the Yacuma river on a Pampas tour
Watching wildlife in its natural habitat is the mean reason most travelers come to Rurrenabque. The 3 day/2 night pampas tour is a highlight of any South American adventure. A three-hour drive on a dusty, bumpy and cow-scattered road will take you to the banks of the Yacuma River, where you will be transported by boat to your lodge in the middle of the Amazon basin.
You will be amazed by a huge array of exotic wildlife including caimans, monkeys, capybaras, turtles, pink dolphins, toucans and hundreds of bird species. Activities usually include a night boat tour, piranha fishing (and hopefully eating your catch for dinner!), swimming with playful pink river dolphins, and searching the area in hope of seeing an anaconda.
Choose your tour operator wisely, as many have reputations for not being eco-friendly and harassing the wildlife. I went with Dolphins Travel and had a wonderful experience. They probably have the nicest lodge and the food is amazing. Mashaquipe and Bala Tours also have a good reputation for being eco-friendly. Price is usually around 1300 bolivianos.
Visit the Madidi National Park on a Jungle tour
On those jungle tours, you will learn about different medicinal plants, trees and insects as well as acquire the skills you need to survive in the Amazon. To spot wildlife you will have to be lucky as most animals prefer to stay hidden in the dense forest. A night walk to reveal the nocturnal life is the best chance to see some. Bala Tours and Escorpion travels are two reputable companies.
Attend an Ayahuasca ceremony
Attending an Ayahuasca ceremony is one of the most surreal and profound experiences one can have. Your visit to Rurrenabaque can be the perfect opportunity to introduce yourself to the plant or even go on a multiple-day retreat. Be careful to go with a trustworthy shaman and carefully consider the dangers before indulging. Read more about my first Ayahuasca experience.
Feria de los Domingos
Sunday is market day in Rurrenabaque. This is where all the locals meet and gather for a few hours. Take a walk on calle Comercio, and enjoy some fresh watermelon and local food along the Beni river. Take your time to wander around. You can literally find anything on that market, from long-sleeved shirts to kitchen equipment to art craft.
Swim with a view
Cool off from the tropical heat in one of Rurre’s swimming pools. Butterfly Pool Mirador and Oscar’s Swimming Pool provide relaxing settings to take a dip while enjoying incredible views of the rainforest. Both are accessible within a short walk from the city center. There are accessible from a dirt road that you can easily spot thanks to the pools’ signs on the Ruta National 16.
Hike to Mirador de la Cruz
This is one of the most popular hikes to do in Rurrenabaque as it offers amazing views over Rurre and Rio Beni. To get to the trail, walk to the end of Call Campero. You’ll find a small path right next to the small bridge. Be prepared to hike uphill.
Cool down at el Chorro Waterfall
The Chorro trail is accessible from the end of calle Santa Cruz. Its waterfall and natural pools are a perfect way to cool down from the Amazonian heat.
Zip line through the rainforest canopy
At Villa Alcira, a 15-minute board ride upstream Rurrenabaque, you can glide through the treetops while soaking in great views of the rainforest below.
Where to eat in Rurrenabaque
Definitely, my favorite place to interact with other travelers and locals. This is the only restaurant in town where it will always be busy – in a good way!
Their menu del dia is of great value at just 15 bolivianos per person for a soup and main dish. Many vegetarian and vegan options are available. Their brownies are also very tasty. Closed on Mondays.
My go-to place for brunch. The tropical breakfast with the granola and crispy croissant is amazing. There is a lovely terrace to hang out and relax in the shade for a few hours. The wifi is pretty good so you can make plans for your next few days.
A small outdoor restaurant that makes the best pizza in town. You can choose your size and add as many or as little toppings as you like. Very tasty with reasonable prices. Opened for dinner only and closed on Tuesdays.
A French-Tunisian expat that serves up delicious fish dishes in a chic environment. I especially recommend the pescado Juliano. Opened for dinner only.
This bar-restaurant is famous for its pizza, Roquefort fish and cocktails. Nice ambiance and music at night.
The best pastries in town, fresh from the oven. Absolutely delicious.
Great place to have fresh fish with excellent views of the Beni river.
Located on Avaroa street across La bella Italia, you can find homemade bread, empanadas, and fresh fruit juices.
Where to sleep in Rurrenabaque
With a great outdoor space, hammocks, a pool, and a bar, this hostel is the best backpacker option in town. Right in the center, it is sociable without being a party hostel. Clean and comfy, it’s perfect for those looking for a chilled place to stay.
A bit more remote from the center, this hostel also has an outdoor pool and bar. With huge balcony-style windows overlooking the Beni River, it provides nice jungle views with relaxing vibes.
Mosquitoes are rife in this region, particularly during the wet season – October to April. Malaria risk only exists nearer the Brazil and Paraguay borders but make sure to take long-sleeved clothing and bring plenty of repellent with DEET content whenever venturing to the jungle.
Rurrenabaque is a small town so you can usually go anywhere on foot. Moto-taxis are the way to go after a long walk or at night, but make sure to agree on a price before you hop on! They cost B$3 during the day and B$5 at night. Tuk-tuks are also available to reach more remote places like the bus stations and airport, or when you are loaded.
There are a few laundry services in Rurrenabaque that provide next day service and price per the kg. I used Laundry Number One several times and didn’t encounter any issue.
You can find free Wifi in most restaurants and hostels but it doesn’t always work very well. If you’re staying for a while, consider getting a SIM Car and registering it at an Entel Office. You will need to present a photocopy of your passport or ID. You will then be able to recharge it anywhere in the streets. Entel is quite cheap and you get good coverage in all main cities and town, including in the Amazon. I purchased the Combo Navegador where you can choose the amount of data you need with a few voice minutes. All tour companies use WhatsApp so you don’t really need voice minutes.
Best time to visit
Rurrenabaque has a rainforest climate. The weather is quite hot and humid throughout the year. The best time to visit the pampas is during the dry season, between May to November when most wildlife is attracted to the river for water, the walking trails are less muddy and there are fewer mosquitoes.
Getting to Rurrenabaque
Amazonas and Tam both offer daily flights from La Paz and take 45 minutes. It usually costs $70 to $100 each way. Bear in mind that flights are frequently delayed or canceled due to bad weather, particularly during the rainy season.
The small airport of Rurrenabaque is a grassy landing strip a few kilometers north of town. To get to the center from the airport, take a moto-taxi or tuk-tuk. It’s quite a long walk on foot.
There are daily buses from and to La Paz which take at least 15 hours, often much more depending on the weather conditions. They usually cost about $15 and depart in the morning. The journey is quite an adventure, as you descend 3,500m over the course of the drive on a very bumpy road. It’s pretty much on par with the notorious Death Road. If possible, I would recommend the much quicker and comfortable flight ride.