When I was preparing for my second big South American adventure, many people asked me if I planned to revisit anywhere I had already been. For the most part, I was only interested in seeing new things. But there was one place I absolutely had my heart set on to revisit: Rurrenabaque, Bolivia. From the moment I left this town last year, I knew I hadn’t had enough. I needed more of the charming small town, more of the beautiful local people, and more of the Amazon. My second visit to this pocket of the Amazon was even more of a wild adventure than I had anticipated. Of course, I have attached many images to share my time in the jungle with everyone. If you haven’t seen my post from the prior year’s jungle experience, you can read about it here: https://getlostandbefound.com/2015/06/14/the-jungle-the-bolivian-amazon/ (This page offers a more detailed explanation of the standard 2 day, 3 night jungle tour).
I spent two months in this part of the world, where the internet was horrible at best. So, I apologize for extreme delay in creating this blog post. In my two months in Rurrenabaque, I spent a total of 13 days camping in the actual jungle. First I went for 5 days, and after a few days of resting and recovering, I went back for 8 more.
When I was not deep in the wild jungle camping, being eaten alive by mosquitos and sandflies, sweating from heat, wet from rain, and just generally surviving – I was in the town of Rurrenabaque, relaxing by the pool and making wonderful friends.
Here, I have outlined the best places to stay, best places to eat, and best jungle tour agencies to try during your visit to Rurrenabaque, Bolivia. If you have any further questions, please comment here or contact me directly. I can usually set you up with local people who have the best and most current information.
Suggestions for visitors in Rurre:
Food, Bars, Tour Agencies and Hostels
So, you’re hungry? The food in Bolivia is not famous for being particularly wonderful. So, visitors in Rurre are usually pleasantly surprised to find that the food in this town is significantly better than most other parts of the country that tourists frequent. I am a vegetarian, and had incredible meals in Rurrenabaque. The meat and fish eaters also seemed equally happy.
- El Nomadico – absolutely some of the best food I have found in Bolivia. They cook fish and vegetable dishes in the traditional style of the amazon cultures in the region. They cook and serve dishes in a banana leaf. For a twist, you can order dishes with curry and delicious spices or you can opt for the truly traditional style.
- Nargila – Because Rurre was initially founded around Israeli tourism, it isn’t surprising that an Israeli style restaurant (not open on Saturdays) came to exist here. For a pleasant change of cuisine, you can get falafel, hummus, labne, and other yummy middle eastern dishes. You can also smoke hookah here if you feel inclined.
- The French Bakery – This place is an absolute must. They open early in the morning and close by 12. It is a great place to stop before heading off to your early morning tours. The pastries are absolutely delicious and they offer a good range of both savory and sweet. It is better to arrive earlier, because they sell out of things that you may want! Also, they have recently added hours. They now re-open at 3:00 in the afternoon with more freshly baked goods.
- Luz De Mar – A great place to sit outside on one of the main streets and enjoy a delightful homemade breakfast. Later in the day, they offer a pre-set menu of the day for both meat eaters and vegetarians. This family run business is operated by lovely, welcoming people that will make you feel at home!
So, let’s talk about nightlife. There are 3 main bars that are all quite similar. All are competing very hard for your tourist business while you are in Rurrenabaque. The Funky Monkey, Luna Lounge and Moskkito Bar all have a similar atmosphere, food menu, drink menu, and pool tables
- Funky Monkey – This is my personal recommendation of the three. And I will be honest with my reason. My friends work and run this place. After two months spending time at all of the bars, I can honestly say this place has the most relaxed and friendly atmosphere. The locals working here are eager to get to know and befriend the travelers, which makes it a special place to feel at home when you are far away from the people you know. Don’t forget, if you stop in, tell Nilton and Esther (the owners) that Rachel sent you!
- Luna Lounge – This bar is the most likely of the three for people to break out into an unexpected dance party. People have been known to get on top of the bar and dance.
- Moskkito Bar – Another place frequented by both locals and tourists alike. A good chance to test your pool skills against the locals (but beware, they tend to be pretty good). This bar also has a foos-ball table if that is more your speed.
- Bananas – On Saturday nights this place is a full on dance club and everything you can expect and more. Other nights it is a Karaoke bar, which Rurre has quite a few of!
Due to some crazy circumstances I have stayed in quite a few different hostels in Rurre. I listed 3 that I recommend, I did not list hostels that I disliked. So, be cautious if you choose one outside this list (some are better than others).
- El Curichal – El Curichal is absolutely my number one recommendation. I Stayed here last year, and spent most of my time there in my 2 months this year. It is a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. It is a very social environment without being a crazy party hostel. They have private, matrimonial, shared dormitories, and dorms with both private and shared bathrooms. There is a swimming pool – which is a necessity for any extended time in Rurre. A hammock lounge area for relaxing in the shade is also key. There is a TV area with a wide selection of movies in Spanish and English. They always have fun music playing in the common area, and several nights a week they offer a barbecue with both meat and vegetarian options. The owner’s are actively involved with their guests and will make you feel at home.
- El Lobo – Similar laid back atmosphere on the other side of town. If you want to relax by the pool with a stunning river view, this is a great place.
- Santa Ana – This place has no swimming pool, but is by far the most relaxed of the three. If you want a quiet and peaceful atmosphere, this place is great and more private. Very clean, and run by good people.
Please note that I am specifically writing about jungle tour agencies in Rurrenabaque. I do not know as much about agencies offering the popular Pampas tours, or the ayahuasca retreats.
It needs to be metioned that the tour agency I used both this year and last year is called Max Adventure. I had a wonderful time on my tours. The guides are good guys, and several of them are my personal friends. However, do to some crazy circumstances (and perhaps spending a more time in Rurre than I should have), I can no longer recommend this company.
Initially, I was giving this company nothing but positive reviews and tons of free publicity to the many, many tourists I was meeting everyday in the hostels I was living in for two months. But I got to know the people in Rurrenabaque over two months, and I got to see a rather dark side of this company. I can honestly say that I would not support them, and not give money to these people in the future. They advertise a lot, and give a great sales pitch. But please be weary. They do not treat their employees with respect and dignity. And in my case, the same is true for this particular customer. If you are curious to know more details – I plan to write a book about my crazy experiences in Rurrenabaque.
- Escorpian – This company offers a very similar jungle experience. You can take a standard 2 night and 3 day tour, or you can work with the company to create a more personalized tour for any length of time desired. For a very similar experience to Max Adventure, Escorpian charges half the price. This company also offers Pampas tours and may give a discount if you book both tours through their company.
- Madidi Travel – Although this is a more costly excursion, (you get what you pay for) the accommodations are a bit more comfortable and a bit less rustic. And the additional cost is for a truly worthwhile cause. Madidi works to protect and maintain this beautiful corner of the rainforest. They also take volunteers in a variety of different capacities if you are interested in getting involved and helping to support their efforts in the Bolivian Amazon.
Below are photos from my 13 days of camping and surviving in the jungle! This first set is just a handful of the incredible sights and sceneries along the way (don’t forget to scroll down for other sets of awesome images):
In this next set of images you can see a little bit of the process of building a raft entirely out of materials found deep inside the jungle. After it was built, 4 of us spent 3 days rafting along the rivers in the Amazon, stopping to fish and set up camp on the beaches at night:
One of the things I find particularly fascinating about life in the jungle is the incredible craftiness that the indigenous people use to cook and create incredible feasts without a kitchen:
And of course there is absolutely no trip into the rainforest without the wildlife:
An important custom in this region of the Amazon are the ceremonies for Pachamama (Mother Nature). In these ceremonies, the people give fire, coca leaves, tobacco and alcohol to the earth. These are offerings to Pachamama with different symbolisms, and in exchange we ask for health and protection from the dangers of the jungle:
And last but not least, some photos showing my general lifestyle while in the jungle. The green tarps are what we use to set up camp. Beneath, you can spot my mosquito net that I sleep under for some protection. I bathed in the river, and dried my clothing by sunlight or fire: