Where to Stay & Dine Near Puerto Madonado
Most people who stay overnight in Puerto Maldonado are either resting up from a trip to the jungle or trying to arrange one. In town, there are only a couple of decent and comfortable hotels, in addition to about a dozen very basic hostels.
The best place to stay in Puerto Maldonado is Wasaí Maldonado Lodge, Jirón Guillermo Billinghurst (tel. 01/436-8792; www.wasai.com). Although it's only a block from the main square in town, this inn is built much more like a mini-jungle lodge, with 6 of the 18 bungalows perched on stilts. The location is quite stunning, overlooking the Madre de Dios River. The spacious and comfortable bungalows are cabinlike paneled rooms with refrigerators, private bathrooms with hot water, air-conditioning (or fan), and TV. The small swimming pool, which looked abandoned on my last visit, overlooks the river. The lodge restaurant, the best and most upscale in town, is in a gazebo that sits above the riverbank; on the second floor is a new bar with good river views. Doubles in bungalows with river views cost $52. Ecotours and jungle expeditions with stays at the Wasaí Tambopata Lodge, 120km (75 miles) -- about 6 hours -- upriver on the Río Tambopata, and visits to Sandoval Lake (4 days/3 nights; $448 per person), as well as other jungle junkets, can be arranged.
Don Carlos Hotel, Velarde 1271 (tel. 082/571-029; www.hotelesdoncarlos.com), sits above the banks of Tambopata River about 5 blocks south of the center of town and is surrounded by native flora. Smaller, more rustic, and more low-key than the chain's other hotels, this inn nonetheless has a host of services and amenities, including a restaurant, laundry, 24-hour room service, an outdoor swimming pool, and air-conditioning. The 15 rooms are nice enough, but hardly a steal, at $60 for a double. Hostal Residencial Cabañaquinta, Cusco 535 (tel. 082/571-045; email@example.com), is a comfortable inn with 50 pretty decent rooms with private bathrooms, a nice garden, and one of the better restaurants in town. Double rooms cost $25.
The top restaurant in town is the one at Wasaí Maldonado Lodge. The hotel restaurants at Don Carlos and Cabañaquinta are also frequented by visitors to town, but there are a slew of basic eateries, chifas, and cafes clustered near the Plaza de Armas and lining León de Velarde, the main street. Pizzería El Hornito, Jr. Carrión 271, Plaza de Armas (tel. 082/572-082), is a good and cozy pizza joint and pub serving wood-fired pies. It's open daily until midnight and accepts credit cards. Next door, down a long passageway, is Bulevard Video-Pub (no phone), which has a large screen playing music videos; you can get a pizza and beers there, but El Hornito is far more agreeable. El Califa, Piura 266 (tel. 082/571-119), on a small side street, is a local, open-air joint that, with bright green paneling, ceiling fans, a tin roof, and verdant garden, very much looks the part of small-town tropical eatery. It serves local jungle cuisine and good Peruvian meals, including ceviche, at lunch. Grilled and rotisserie chicken, always a good bet in Peru, can be had at Pollos a la Brasa La Estrella, Velarde 474 (tel. 082/573-107).
East of Puerto Maldonado: Along the Rio Madre de Dios
Lodges within a couple of hours by boat from Puerto Maldonado are generally cheaper (and, of course, less time-consuming to get to) than those deeper in the Tambopata National Reserve. Because they are located in secondary jungle and are not nearly as remote, they best serve as introductory visits to the Amazon. The forest along the Madre de Dios is generally not as pristine as that found along the Tambopata River. The following lodges are several of the best that are easily accessible from Puerto Maldonado (as little as a half-hour by boat).
- Sandoval Lake Lodge, Calle Ricardo Palma N J1, Urb Santa Monica, Cusco (tel. 01/440-2022, or 877/870-7378 in the U.S. and Canada; www.inkanatura.com). This pioneering lodge, on high bluffs overlooking lovely Sandoval Lake and surrounded by palm trees and thick forest, is the best option close to Puerto Maldonado if you're more into wildlife than plush accommodations. It is one of just three in the Amazon in a nationally protected zone, and by far its greatest advantage is its unique location on one of the jungle's prettiest oxbow lakes. The journey to the lodge is part of the experience; after a 45-minute boat ride, you walk a couple kilometers (another 45 min.) through secondary forest, then you hop in a wooden canoe and paddle along a canal and then across the lake. The rustic, spacious facility consists of a large main dining room and lounge, and two wings of rooms with private bathrooms (but open ceilings). Visitors have their choice of wildlife-viewing centers and leisurely paddled catamaran and canoe trips on the lake at prime viewing hours; most visitors not only see a wealth of aquatic and jungle birds, including macaws, but several species of monkeys, caimans, and the elusive, highly prized community of giant river otters (on my last trip here I witnessed the complete group of 10 playing and lounging on a log in the lake). Prices range from $178 to $438 for 3- to 4-day stays. InkaNatura's newest lodge is the remote Heath River Wildlife Center, situated another 3 hours downriver near the Bolivian border, within easy reach of a large macaw clay lick and owned and staffed by the indigenous Ese'Eja Sonene people; it is possible to combine a couple of nights at either lodge. Heath River prices range from $575 for 4 days to $855 for 6 days. InkaNatura, which administers the lodge, is the Peruvian partner of the American environmental organization Tropical Nature (which handles international marketing). Outside Peru, trips can be organized through Tropical Nature Travel, P.O. Box 5276 Gainesville, FL 32627-5276 (tel. 877/827-8350 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada; www.tropicalnaturetravel.com).
- Reserva Amazónica Rainforest Lodge, Plaza Las Nazarenas 211, Cusco (tel. 800/442-5042 in the U.S. and Canada, 800/458-7506 in the U.K., 084/245-314 in Cusco, or 01/610-0400 in Lima; www.inkaterra.com). Although one of the oldest lodges in the Peruvian Amazon, this completely upgraded place -- operated by the folks behind the swanky Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel -- just 15km (9 1/3 miles), or 1 hour down the Madre de Dios from Puerto Maldonado, is also one of the plushest. In other words, it is the place for an upscale jungle experience and creature comforts. Its large main house, stylishly designed like an Indian roundhouse, features a dining room and upstairs lounge, perfect for swilling drinks after a day in the jungle. The 43 thatched-roof, African-style bungalows, attractively strewn about the riverside property, are a model of rustic chic, a fancy step up from most accommodations in the jungle. Rooms have private bathrooms and terraces with hammocks. Though there's no electricity in the rooms, the kerosene lamps left at the door add to the romance of the place. The superior cabanas and suites are particularly luxurious. Food is excellent, and the guides are very professional (they even wear matching Disney-like eco-outfits). Although the surrounding forest doesn't teem with wildlife (except for sonorous russet-backed Oropendula birds that make waking up a treat), there's a good system of trails nearby, as well as an island that is home to a dozen or so rescued monkeys and a terrific canopy walk. An unusual bonus in the Amazon, the lodge's expanded ENA spa, overlooking the river, offers Reiki, cold stone massage, reflexology, and other types of massage services. Rates range from $337 per night in a standard cabaña to $573 for 3 nights in a swanky Amazonia suite.
- EcoAmazonia Lodge, Calle Garcilazo 210, Of. 206, Cusco (tel. 084/236-159; www.ecoamazonia.com.pe). About an hour by boat from Puerto Maldonado, this large lodge features long rows of basic bungalows and trails that lead to a canopy-viewing platform. It's a friendly and comfortable place that primarily caters to large groups, and it offers ayahuasca ceremonies. Prices range from $160 for an easy 2-day, 1-night stay to $2800 for 4 days and 3 nights.
South of Puerto Maldonado: Along Río Tambopata
- Explorer's Inn, the only lodge located within the Tambopata National Reserve, is a comfortable 30-year-old lodge that hosts both ecotourists and scientists. It's a little over 3 hours upriver from Puerto Maldonado along the Tambopata River, and is excellent for viewing fauna, including otters, monkeys, and particularly jungle birds. Accommodations are in rustic, thatched-roof bungalows. The inn is excellent for fauna, particularly jungle birds. (It's probably the top spot in Tambopata for birding.) Established in 1976, the complex has seven thatched-roof bungalows and 30 rooms with private bathrooms. The lodge has a good network of nearly 32km (20 miles) of trails, including several to nearby oxbow lakes. Guides are Peruvian and international biologists (or biologists in training). Trips are arranged through Peruvian Safaris, Alcanfores 459, Miraflores, Lima (tel. 01/447-8888; www.explorersinn.com or www.peruviansafaris.com); or Plateros 365, Cusco (tel. 084/235-342). Prices range from $198 for 2 nights to $450 for a 4-night Macaw Clay Lick program.
- Posada Amazonas, about 2 hours up the Tambopata River from Puerto Maldonado, is owned jointly with the Infierno indigenous community and is quite good for inexpensive, introductory nature tours. It has an eagle nest site and a canopy observation tower, and two parrot clay licks are located within a kilometer of the lodge. The lodge, inaugurated in 1998, featuring 30 rustic rooms and a wall open to the forest, is operated by the award-winning Rainforest Expeditions, Portal de Carnes 236, Cusco (tel. 877/870-0578 in the U.S., or 084/232-772 or 01/421-8347), and Jr. Arequipa 401, Puerto Maldonado (tel. 082/571-056; www.perunature.com). This veteran ecotourism company promotes tourism with environmental education, research, and conservation, and operates two Tambopata lodges. The prices are $295 to $565 for 3- to 5-day trips. The 13-room Tambopata Research Center is more remote (8 hr. upriver from Puerto Maldonado), just 500m (1,640 ft.) from the jungle's largest and most famous Macaw Clay Lick. Just one of three Peruvian lodges in a protected national nature reserve, it is the best lodge in Tambopata for in-depth tours and viewing wildlife, including several species of monkeys. It's certainly the place to see flocks of colorful macaws and parrots. Trips usually entail an overnight at Posada Amazonas before continuing on to the Research Center. Prices are $745 to $945 for 5- to 7-day trips.
- Libertador Tambopata Lodge, Nueva Baja 432, Cusco (tel. 084/245-695; www.tambopatalodge.com). Operated by an upscale Peruvian hotel chain, this private reserve lodge is about 3 hours upstream from Puerto Maldonado along the Río Tambopata. The lodge, with a handsome dining room and bar, is more luxurious than most and has more of a jungle hotel feel than others; newer bungalows are constructed of cement rather than wood. The lodge has 25km (16 miles) of trails nearby, including trails to lake systems on the opposite bank of the Tambopata River, in about 100 hectares of secondary forest, and offers overnight trips to the Macaw Clay Lick. Prices range from $307 for 3 days to $998 for 5 nights, including a visit to the Macaw Clay Lick, in a "superior" double.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.