Rugged and teeming with wildlife, “Rurre” as the town is affectionately known, is a popular ecotourism destination located on the banks of the Rio Beni in the Bolivian Amazon Basin.
Once a remote corner of Bolivia, Rurrenabaque now receives tens of thousands of visitors annually looking to explore the nearby jungles and pampas. A cheaper alternative to other South American destinations, Rurrenabaque is the ideal jumping off point to experience the Amazon and its incredible biodiversity, breathtaking landscapes, Inca archaeological sights and indigenous cultures.
When not out exploring the steamy hot jungles and swampy wetlands, travelers staying in Rurre spend their days relaxing in hammocks, socialising in bars, shopping for local handicrafts, cooling off in swimming pools all while soaking in surrounding views of the Beni lowlands. Featuring the beautiful Cordillera de Bala on one side and the river Beni on the other, the chilled town is the ideal setting to relax before and after your jungle adventures.
With its natural beauty, tropical charm and comfortable year round climate, Rurre is a great choice for those seeking an affordable, safe and authentic Amazonian experience.
Top Things to See and Do in Rurrenabaque
Madidi National Park – Situated in the in the upper Amazon river basin of Bolivia, Madidi is an immersive jungle experience where adventurers can learn about different medicinal plants, trees and bugs as well as acquire the types of skills needed to survive in the Amazon. Home to a record breaking number of species and plants, the park is not only one of the most diverse ecological hot spots on the planet but one of the largest protected areas in Bolivia.
El Chorro – Accessible only by boat, El Chorro is a beautiful spot 1km upstream from Rurre where travelers can spend time relaxing in the sun and cooling off in the flowing waterfall. Keeping travelers safe for thousands of years, on a rock opposite the waterfall is an ancient serpentine engraving warning others that whenever the water reaches the serpent level, the Beni river is considered unnavigable.
Zip Lining – A short distance from Rurrenabaque, Canopy Villa Alcira is a community-run forest canopy zipline in nearby Villa Alcira. After a 15 minute boat ride upstream and a 45 minute hike, adrenaline-junkies can glide through the treetops along the 8 available lines while soaking in great views of the jungle below.
Swimming – 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 soaking up incredible views of the rainforest below.
Mirador de la Cruz – An idyllic spot to watch the sun set over Rurre and Rio Beni. To get to the Mirador, take a 2km walk or moto taxi from the centre of town. At the top are a handful of hotels, bars and pools from which to enjoy the stunning views.
Where to Eat & Drink in Rurrenabaque
Catering mainly to tourists, Rurre features a multitude of of western-style restaurants, cafes and bars.
Where to Stay in Rurrenabaque
Accommodation options in Rurre range from basic hostels to environmentally-friendly eco-lodges.
Catering toward the backpacker crowd, accommodation in Rurre is as much about the social vibe as it is about getting a good nights sleep. A great option for short stays before and after your Amazon tour, many of the hostels feature clean rooms, free wi-fi, complimentary breakfast, a common area, onsite bar and pool to cool off from the hot, humid days.
Most tourists visiting Rurre will also spend a night or two at one of the jungle’s unique and isolated eco-lodges. As well as providing comfortable and environmentally friendly accommodations, the eco-lodges also help to improve the lives of the local people. The majority of lodges are run by indigenous communities who not only benefit from a sustainable income, but have a large say in how tourism impacts their pristine environment. It is important to remember that the lodges, whilst lovely, are very minimal in terms of amenities. Electricity (if any) is only available at certain times of the day and running water is limited so don’t expect steamy hot showers.
Best Time To Visit Rurrenabaque
The most popular time to visit Rurrenabaque is during the dry season (April to October) when more wildlife are attracted to the river for water, there are fewer mosquitoes and walking trails are less muddy. Keep in mind that accommodation fills up fast during the driest months (July to October) so planning ahead is advised.
While November to March sees less tourists, be aware that this time of year sees the highest amount of rainfall so walking trails can become flooded and transportation via road and air is less reliable.
Rurrenabaque enjoys a hot and very humid climate year-round, with an average temperature of 27 C.
Events & Festivals in Rurrenabaque
Fiesta de Rurrenabaque – a celebration honouring the founding of Rurre. The festival begins with a Catholic mass and the procession of the Virgin of the Candelaria through the streets. The rest of the day involves dancing, music, parades and fun actives including horse races, canoe races, rice threshing competitions, beauty pageants and other traditional games.
Feria Artesanal – held on the first weekend of September, this craft fair features dance, music and conservation awareness events. The fare is a great place to shop for traditional arts and eco-crafts as well as beautiful local produce such as organic honey, sweet bread and cakes.
Getting To, From & Around Rurrenabaque
From La Paz: a scenic 40 minute flight across snow capped mountains into the lush Amazonian jungle. A return flight with Amaszonas is around $195 with flights departing six times daily. TAM, a branch of the military airline, also has flights to Rurrenabaque charging $140 for a return flight and departing once a day. There is a terminal fee of $2 US.
From Santa Cruz: a 1 hour flight leaving 4 times daily. A one way flight to Rurrenabaque with Amaszonas is around $165 US with a short stopover in La Paz.
Upon arriving in Rurrenabaque a scheduled minibus will take you between the airport and the town centre for $1 US. You will be told what time the airport shuttle leaves when you confirm your flight.
Because flights are frequently cancelled due to bad weather, protests and fuel shortages, it’s important to reconfirm your ticket the day before departure. If a flight cancellation does occur and you are unable to wait for another one, you will be refunded only 70% of the ticket value.
From La Paz: A cheaper option than flying, the gruelling bus ride between La Paz and Rurrenabaque is long, arduous, and bumpy. Descending around 3500 meters along unpaved windy roads, the public bus leaving daily takes around 20 hours, even longer in bad weather. Those wishing to break up the trip can spend the night in the picturesque town of Coroico, which is only 3 hours from La Paz. Despite being a great budget option at only $10 one way, this bus journey is definitely not for the fainthearted.
The only tour bus servicing the La Paz – Rurrenabaque route is Turbus Total. Their office is located on the street corner of Villa Fatima bus terminal (corner of calle Yanacachi and Ocobaya) which you can reach via a 30 minute minibus ride from the center of La Paz. For those wishing to stop in Coroico, there are many buses leaving daily from the Villa Fatima bus terminal. Once in Rurre, the main bus terminal is a 30 min walk from town.
From Santa Cruz: In order to reach Rurrenabauqe you will first need to travel to Trinidad. Buses run from Santa Cruz’s Terminal Bimodal, leaving every morning between 10am and 12pm and every evening between 5pm and 8pm. The journey takes around 9 hours.
From Trinidad it’s an 11 hour bus ride that goes through San Ignacio de Moxos and other small towns. A one way trip is $15-25 US.
The above route is typically serviced by large buses equipped with reclining seats allowing comfortable travel during long-distance and overnight journeys. For a little extra money travellers can opt for a “cama seat” offering 160-degree reclining seats with decent leg room.
Unlike many of Bolivia’s towns, the majority of Rurre’s businesses, restaurants and tour agencies can be found clustered together a few blocks north from the main plaza along Calles Sana Cruz and Avaroa.
Thanks to its small size, the best way to get around Rurre is on foot, however for those struggling with the heat, there are many moto taxis zipping about town.
When booking jungle or pampas tour, it’s important to note that quality and standards do vary significantly according to price. Higher tour prices usually mean tour staff are paid well year round, guides are professional and knowledgeable, accommodation is comfortable, profits go back into conservation work, and companies are environmentally conscious.
Rurrenbaque is WiFi friendly and growing more so every day. Many cafes and hostels have WiFi, and while not boasting the fastest speeds in the word, it does the job for those looking to check facebook or email. Don’t expect any WiFi in the jungle!
Make sure to bring plenty of cash. Whilst there is one ATM in Rurrenabaque, located just north of the main plaza at Banco Union, it frequently runs out of money and only allows you to withdraw $70 US at a time.
US dollars can be exchanged in town for Bolivianos at the Banco Union and Banco Fie, Moskkito’s Bar and Hotel Beni.
Tap water is not suitable for drinking. Make sure to check that fruit juices and ice are made using bottled, boiled, filtered or treated water. Alternatively, we recommend bringing with you a SteriPen.
To help prevent against insect bites it’s recommended to wear long sleeved shirts and trousers, sleep under a mosquito net and to use insect repellent containing DEET, especially at night (see our guide to protecting yourself against mosquitoes). We also recommend consulting a physician prior to visiting Rurrenbaque to get the most up to date advice on medications and vaccinations.
Do not feed or touch wildlife as it changes their natural behaviour and encourages interaction with humans.
Jungle: A Harrowing True Story of Survival – By Yossi Ghinsberg
What begins as a dream adventure for four amicable, if hastily met, backpackers quickly becomes a struggle for survival as they unravel under the duress of the jungle. They are an odd mix to be sure: Marcus, the Swiss mystic; Karl, the shady Austrian geologist; Kevin, the well-intentioned American photographer; and Yossi, the Israeli adventurer. Jungle is the incredible true story of Yossi Ghinsberg’s triumph over the most adverse and frightening of circumstances.