Samaipata: A Guide a Quiet Bolivian Jungle Town

Samaipata was a much needed breath of fresh air after time in the bustling city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra. As a gateway to many jungle adventures in Amboro and Kaa-Iya National Parks, a quaint destination with a variety of restaurants and bars, and a town with a relaxed vibe, Samaipata has a lot to offer any traveler.  This is not a well-known Bolivian hotspot, but it has attracted quite a few backpackers and European settlers who have built quiet lives here. Some of our favorite memories from Bolivia came from our adventures in and around Samaipata.

Samaipata has a beautiful main plaza
Samaipata has a beautiful main plaza

Getting There and Away

Though Samaipata is quite close to Santa Cruz de la Sierra, it is not a common stop for buses that run routes in the area. Most people reach Samaipata from Santa Cruz, and this is the option we opted for. We took an Expreso Samaipata combi from the city. It cost 30 Bolivianos per person and took two and a half hours. These combis do not have a set schedule and only leave when they are full. It costs extra to take a private taxi or leave when the combi isn’t full.

Coming from Cochabamba, most people reach Santa Cruz, then go to Samaipata from there. You can also take a bus from Cochabamba directly to Samaipata, but this takes more time because the bus drives an older, more dangerous road.

Many of the roads in the area are poorly maintained, like this one.
Many of the roads in the area are poorly maintained, like this one.

Leaving Samaipata, most people head back to Santa Cruz by catching a combi in the main plaza, then go on their way from there. Buses also occasionally pass on Ruta 7, so you can walk down the hill from town and wave down a passing bus going back to Santa Cruz. On an incredibly rainy day, we hitchhiked from Ruta 7 to Mairana, which lies farther west of town. From Mairana, we took a bus down the long and dangerous road back to Cochabamba.

Getting Around Samaipata

Samaipata is fairly small, and most of the hostels, restaurants, and tour companies are concentrated around the city center. This makes it very easy to walk everywhere here. We even walked to the Samaipata animal refuge just outside of town.

However, if you aren’t in the mood for walking or are trying to reach a farther destination, such as Las Cuevas, there are a few taxis in town that can give you a ride. You’ll find most of the taxis around the central plaza.

One of the many picturesque spots in Samaipata
One of the many picturesque spots in Samaipata

When to Visit Samaipata

From October through March, Samaipata sees more rain and the temperatures are higher with more humidity. We would say that it is ideal to visit during the months of April through September when the weather is a bit more pleasant. Tourism is higher during these months and the town is small, so make sure to book accommodation and tours beforehand or go in with some flexibility.

We visited Samaipata in February. There were nights of heavy rain, which caused some trouble when we were trying to leave. Luckily the days were sunny and it didn’t affect our activities. Be aware that tours sometimes get cancelled due to weather during the rainier times of year.

Flooded roads in Samaipata after a big storm
Flooded roads in Samaipata after a big storm

Where to Stay

Samaipata is primarily a backpacker destination, so there are plenty of hostels around town. But, there are also some Airbnbs and higher-end accommodation available. We found Samaipata to be a bit more expensive than some other places we visited in Bolivia, but it was still reasonable.

*The following prices are in USD per night*

Budget Option:

  • Hostal Vagabundo$7 for a dorm bed, $15 for a double tent, $20 for a double room and private bathroom
  • Casa Lynda – $23 for a double room and shared bathroom

Mid-Range Option:

High-End Option:

The friendly faces that greeted us at our hostel every day
The friendly faces that greeted us at our hostel every day

Where to Eat

Samaipata offers a great variety of food due to the mix of Bolivians and European settlers that live there. As a budget traveler, the local joints that serve the menu del día are a great option. At lunch, these places will serve a set menu with an appetizer, choice of main dish, and drink or dessert for very cheap. Many of these places are not labeled with a name but can be identified with a menu sign just outside the restaurant.

Tasty Bolivian dishes at a small local joint
Tasty Bolivian dishes at a small local joint

The local market just a couple blocks from the center of town also has food stalls that serve chicharrón and other simple dishes at dinner time. If your hostel doesn’t serve breakfast, the local market can also be a great place to find bread and fruit.

Within the blocks around the main plaza, there are many great lunch and dinner spots that include La Cocina for burgers, schwarma, and fresh-squeezed lemonade; La Pizzeria for tasty pizza options; Latina Café for South American cuisine; La Luna Verde Resto Bar for many international and vegetarian options; and more.

A delicious meat at La Cocina
A delicious meal at La Cocina

For a night out, we recommend hitting La Boheme. This bar has a wide variety of drinks, including many we missed from home. The atmosphere is great, and the staff can bring food over from La Cocina if you’re feeling hungry. La Chakana and other restaurants around the central plaza also offer refreshing cocktails.

In this quiet town, it’s important to note that restaurants don’t stay open late. On Mondays, many places are closed all day, so it may be more difficult to find places to sit down and have a meal.

Great happy hour deals and a fun atmosphere make this an awesome bar to hang out at
Great happy hour deals and a fun atmosphere make this an awesome bar to hang out at

Grocery

There are multiple tiendas in Samaipata that sell bottled water, toilet paper, and other basic necessities. There are no large grocery stores, but we visited La Estrellita, which had some snacks and basic things we needed. The local market can also be a great place to look for food and household items.

Tours

There are many tour operators in Samaipata that offer excursions to the Samaipata Fort, Amboró National Park, and more. There are various hikes and adventures that don’t require a tour, but a tour is a great option to reach the farther destinations and to get some extra information on the place you want to visit.

The giant ferns of Amboro National Park
The giant ferns of Amboro National Park

When searching for a tour, be sure to do your research. Look online before booking a tour and ask your accommodation staff to point you in the right direction in regards to which tour destinations they recommend and which operators to go with. This will help ensure that you go with a reputable company that will charge you appropriately.

Some tour operators require that you pay in cash, so be sure to clarify this before the day of your tour.

Samaipata's serene countryside
Samaipata’s serene countryside

Money

There is an ATM at the bank in the center of town. You can withdraw money here, but the fee can be high and the maximum withdrawal is low. Like many smaller towns in Bolivia, it is not uncommon for the ATMs to run out of cash. Because of this, we brought a fair amount of cash with us to Samaipata instead of taking out cash there.

Some restaurants, hotels/hostels, tour companies, and tiendas do not have means to allow payment with credit card, so it is good to carry cash when out in town. A few places allow you to pay with credit card, but some of them will tack on an unreasonably high card fee.

Have you visited a town off the beaten path?

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