A bit about our experience in town and things to do in Rurrenabaque. Like most people we visited for a pampas tour, but the town still had things to offer.
Country Bolivia | Dates June 15-16 & 18-19 | Accommodation El Curichal
After our treacherous bus journey we took a tuk tuk to our hostel (10bs each, seemed steep but negotiations failed) and arrived early. Luckily, they were not full and let us to our room and a free breakfast! We rested a while then headed into Rurrenabaque to book our pampas tour (tour through the wetlands of the Bolivian Amazon; different than going deep into the jungle) as that was the reason we came. After visiting most every tour office and pulling up some reviews on Tripadvisor, we narrowed ourselves down to two companies – Max Adventure and Flecha. The former looked the best but was expensive, so we determined if we could negotiate down to a certain amount we’d do it. Many other companies offered tours at 600bs or below, which is actually illegal (900 is the minimum price allowed by the government says the Internet) and also these budget ones do not respect the wildlife, reportedly feeding it, picking it up, and causing disruptions, which we wanted no part of. We wound up going with Max Adventure, about 7$USD more than the other option, and in the end believe it was worth it! Read about the tour →
Things to Do in Rurrenabaque: Downtown
The town did not feel like other parts of Bolivia, or South America at all for that matter. It had a distinct feel, more like a rural Asia or Central America, and a certain jungle vibe. The brick housing we’d become so accustomed to was gone, in its place shacks of wood and thatched roofing, laundry hanging outside as wildlife including the white cows roamed. The main street is lined with tour agencies, of course, and associated shops selling bug spray and necessities for way steep prices. Among the not necessities were random heaps of clothing for 5bs (perhaps scrounged from tourist luggage left behind?), bootleg sneakers in neon colors and lots of mini markets. A wander off the main roads revealed more housing, chickens roaming the streets, shoe repair shops, and more local restaurants and markets.
Nightlife | There didn’t seem to be a ton going on at night in the town, although we did pass some sketchy “discos” with flashing lights and no one inside. We didn’t try to go out late, though.
Sunrise on the Beach | I awoke early on our last morning as I tend to do, and headed to the coast (1 block away) for sunrise on the beach. I walked along as the city came to life; people arriving at the dock by motorbike, nearing the water and preparing their wooden boats for the day ahead. The sun rose over the water to the right, casting a bright yellow-pink glow on the jungle mountains to the left providing a beautiful vista. Small vendors sold breakfast dough and goodies along the coast which looked great.
Things to Do in Rurrenabaque: Dining
El Nomadico | We kept on hearing and hearing about El Nomadico – from the map, to other travelers, to tour guides, to even the trusty (or not so trusty) Lonely Planet. They had decently priced “snacks” which were actually full meals – I got a homemade burger (meat spiced and all), fries and rice for 25bs and it was great. We regrettably did not try the fish curry which was, apparently, the thing to eat there.
La Moskito | Disclaimer: We only went here because our tour agency provided us with a free pizza at the end of our tour (a nice perk). The atmosphere was good with wood tables and a cool thatch roof and bar, the food was mediocre. Our vouchers entitled us to small pizzas which weren’t great (but free!). The main draw seemed to be drinking, although it was 100% empty the entire time we were there.
French Bakery | Yes, it is actually called “The French Bakery” and yes it serves french pastries. While I didn’t actually eat anything my two friends did, and with rave reviews; they were talking about the brownie 24 hours later, and we tried to go back. Other hostel-goers seemed to agree, as they went two days in a row bringing back moist goods in foil wrappers.
We were hanging at the hostel playing pool and drinking beer when we were approached by an older lady staying at the hostel and travelling alone. She repeatedly interjected into our conversation from across the bar – “Are you talking about Australia?!” trying to segue into our conversation. We were not ever talking about Australia. Eventually she just moved to our table and we realized she was absolutely wasted, as she began incoherently talking to us and periodically throwing her glasses onto the floor then asking me to pick them up. She then went into a spiel about how she was an amazing writer but lazy to blog! The next morning she awoke hungover, apparently having lost her tablet, cursing “this is a freaking disaster” as we were packing to leave. She put on a repeat performance the night after the tour, but lucky for us another group of travelers were victim this time.
Things to Do in Rurrenabaque: Budget & Practicalities
Transport | Bus to Rurrenabaque: 100bs – 12 to 24+ hours, scary and harrowing | Transport from the bus terminal into town in tuk tuk or taxi – 10bs per person | Transport from Bus to Airport: 10bs per person (taxi or shuttle or tuk tuk all the same). We took the Amazonas flight out to avoid the bus again, with 2 daily flights (morning and afternoon). It was a tiny plane at an even tinier airport, but was hardly 30 minutes and less scary than expected.
Pampas Tour | Quoted prices vary from 600 – 1600bs in June (off season). Keep in mind low prices below 900 are not legal, and budget tours often mistreat wildlife. You can negotiate, especially in off-season, and I’d recommend negotiating down price of higher-quality tour. Highly recommend Max Adventure for 3-day pampas tour. Was worth a few extra dollars.
Eating & Drinking | Meals at spots on main street appear to range from 25 – 50bs. Beer is about 20-25bs most places. Did not try street food, but it would be of course lower.
Hostel | El Curichal – nice pool and outdoor area, decent prices at bar (large beer 2x40bs at happy hour), BBQ dinner nightly (35bs/45bs), standard breakfast free (bread, fruit – bananas, papaya, pineapple; jam and butter; hot drinks). Cons: Not much if any hot water. Rooms open air so can be cold in winter. Lockers, but at reception area.
While there are many things to do in Rurrenabaque, our highlight was still the pampas tour – read more!