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Trinidad Bolivia: How To See Pink River Dolphins

When we were planning our originally backpacking route around this part of South America, we had no design on going to Trinidad, Bolivia.

In fact, we didn’t know of any other Trinidad then the Caribbean Island.

But looking for a stop off between Santa Cruz de la Sierra and Rurrenabaque we happened across it on the map and in true ‘The Whole World Or Nothing’ style thought why not.

things to do in Trinidad Bolivia

Well why not indeed! We genuinely can’t believe this isn’t a mainstay on the Bolivia gringo trail.

Trinidad Bolivia

Wild pink dolphins, huge caiman chilling in the park, sloths in the central plaza and fascinating museums. All of which you can see for free while enjoying the gorgeous tropical climate. 

What’s not to love?

what to do in Trinidad Bolivia

Well actually there is one thing not to love. The open drain system that runs around each block. But don’t worry it’s not toilet water, just rainwater. It does however pong a bit where it’s stagnant in places.

And also makes the perfect urban mosquito breeding ground. Which means that you need to be extra careful of getting bitten here because Dengue Fever is common as a result. 

We were advised to take Vitamin B while we were there as it apparently warns them off. You can pick some up for a few BOB in one of the chemists in town.

Where Is Trinidad Bolivia?

Tucked into the North East Department of Beni, on the Southern edge of the Bolivian Amazon is where you’ll find this gem of a town. Originally a small Jesuit town, over time the population has grown to its current 130,000 inhabitants.

Like most Bolivian towns and cities, Trinidad Bolivia is designed around a central square with a Cathedral. More unusually for landlocked Bolivia though, it’s surrounded by lakes and rivers. All of which are tributaries of the mighty Amazon River.

River Ibare Trinidad Bolivia

A such it’s home to an arm of the Bolivia Navy, which serves to prevent smuggling and drug trafficking.

Despite being warned it can be a little dangerous by a cabbie in Santa Cruz, we immediately felt welcomed and at ease in Trinidad Bolivia.

In fact the tourism office here is the most friendly and helpful that we’ve been to in Bolivia. We highly recommend dropping in there as an accompaniment to this Trinidad Bolivia guide.

Best Time To Go To Trinidad

Trinidad Bolivia is hot and humid all year round, which is great news if you’ve been freezing your nads off for awhile in some of Bolivia’s chilly high altitude cities. Temperatures are above 30ºC (86ºF) most days and rarely drop below  20ºC (68ºF) at night.

Rainy runs from October – March, with December, January and February seeing the most rain. During the dry season April – September, rain is at a minimum June, July and August.

However even in the wettest months, due to the tropical climate, rain showers tend to happen hard and fast, then clear up within a few hours. We were there during January for a week and the rain was only so bad we couldn’t do much on one day.

Best Time To Go To Trinidad

As we said above just make sure you are regularly applying mosquito repellent as the little buggers are rife here.

Another unusual thing that characterises this North Bolivian town is it’s abundance of motorbikes.

We were a little perplexed by it at first because we’d not seen so many anywhere else in Bolivia. But then we were informed it’s because it’s so hot and that people often just go for a drive around on their bikes without any particular place to go, just to cool down.

How To Get To Trinidad Bolivia?

Situated halfway along the road between Santa Cruz de la Sierra and Rurrenabaque, Trinidad Bolivia makes for a great stop off when travelling between the two.

We were travelling from Santa Cruz via Trinidad to Rurrenabaque but obviously this info works the same the other way, just in reverse.

Santa Cruz To Trinidad

The bus from Santa Cruz to Trinidad Bolivia is a night journey run by Trans Copacabana which have really comfortable buses. It leaves Santa Cruz de la Sierra at 8:45pm and arrives in Trinidad 10 hours later at 6:45am. The cost should be around $130B’s ($19USD/£14.50GBP) and you can book them online here.

Then from the terminal you can just jump on the back of one of the moto taxis for a few B’s.

Trinidad to Rurrenabaque

So from Trinidad to Rurrenabaque there’s only a bus that runs one day a week, which I’m assuming is the same the other way round. However, there are collectivos running the route everyday. Which given the poor quality of the road, we’d suggest is the better option anyway.

Trinidad to Rurrenabaque

You’ll also need to cross a few different rivers on wooden ferries which again – we’re going to suggest are safer with as little weight as possible. Although having said, we did see huge lorries coming across them.

There’s a few different terminals in town. The collectivos from Trinidad to Rurrenabaque run from Parada a San Borja on Calle Beni y Calle Romulo Mendoza.

Well that is if it’s not raining. For the most part the road is basically just made of mud so they sometimes don’t go if the rain is lashing down.

Trinidad to Rurrenabaque

 The cost of a collectivo from Trinidad to Rurrenabaque is $50B’s each ($7.25USD/£6GBP).

It’s not the most comfortable of journeys and we had quite a long wait in a few towns along route as passengers were dropped off and they waited to find others.

In Rurrenabaque they just kind of dropped us near the central plaza and we jumped in another moto taxi to our hotel for 5B’s.

Where To Stay in Trinidad

There really aren’t very many places to stay in Trinidad, Bolivia. And there aren’t any hostels, just a few hotels. The quality is decent and even the cheapest has air-conditioning but because there isn’t much choice they aren’t the cheapest.

So especially if you’re on a tight budget get your booking done in advance so you don’t end up having to stay at a more expensive place.

Cheap & Cheerful: Casa Glamour 

From the outside it’s not much of a looker, but this Trinidad hotel is comfortable and spacious. The wifi wasn’t all that and the shower was one of the dodgy electric ones that you’re never quite sure you’re going to survive. But we did so we’ll happily recommend this place.

Hotels in Trinidad Bolivia

And the staff were so sweet letting us check in at 7am and giving us breakfast.

Mid-range: Hotel Piesta

A bit more upmarket. Rooms are large with views over either the city or the water and some have balconies. There’s air-con, private bathrooms, personal fridges, WiFi and a desk area. Breakfast is a buffet and the location central.

There’s a few complaints in the reviews about the water only being lukewarm, but the last thing we felt like in Trinidad was one of those. 

Affordable Luxury: Hotel Campanario

With separate living areas, private bathrooms and patios, rooms at this Trinidad hotel are more like apartments. But the star of the show is the swimming pool. Some reviews comment on the place looking tired but it is the only 4 star hotel in town.

Location is as central as it gets, just off the main plaza.

Where To Eat in Trinidad Beni

Likewise there aren’t tonnes of options when it comes to eating out in Trinidad Bolivia, but we did find a few gems that you should try.

  • El Tábano Restaurant Pub – This place is great and has live music some nights. You can even try crocodile here if you fancy it.
  • Street Side Taco Stand on the corner or Calle Cipriano Barace y Avenida del Mar. Loved this place. This lady really knows how to cook.

There’s also quite a few smaller restaurants around and places with BBQ chickens cooking outside that are delish.

Things To Do In Trinidad Bolivia

Plaza Principal de Trinidad

Make a point of stopping by the main square when in Trinidad Bolivia. Why? Because it’s not any old plaza. It has resident sloths in the trees. You do have to be eagle eyed to spot them. They are masters camouflagers, but trying to find them is fun all the same. 

Plaza Principal de Trinidad Bolivia

Trinidad Museum Circuit

For a town of this size, it came as a surprise that Trinidad Bolivia has no less than six FREE museums. They’re pretty decent too. There’s actually a booklet called ‘Ruta De Los Museos’ that you can get from the Trindad tourism office with a map included.

The first one, Museo Historico del Beni or Historic Museum of Beni is right in town two blocks from the main plaza and is about the general history of Trinidad and the Department of Beni.

The second one, Museo Ethnoarqueológico del Beni ‘Kenneth Lee’ or Kenneth Lee Ethno Archeological Museum is a little walk away. It details the fascinating culture and ingenius farming techniques of the Moxos Hydraulic Culture that dates back 800 years.

Kenneth Lee Ethno Archeological Museum

Next up you’re venturing onto the Jose Ballivian University Campus which houses three of the museums in Trinidad Bolivia.

Museo Cibioma or Cibioma Museum is a botanical museum. But being as the collections of plants and insects are from the Amazon we found it super interesting.

Cibioma Museum Trinidad Bolivia

Then you have Museo Itícola or Fish Museum. Which let me tell you, if you have morbid curiosity like me you will love. Because suspended in formaldehyde are 470 fish species from the Amazon. Some of them are absolute monsters.

There’s also an anaconda, piranhas and those little fish that go up your wee stream in freshwater rivers. Squeak! They do have a smaller collection of live fish, turtles and small caiman that we weren’t fans of though.

Fish Museum Trinidad Bolivia

And lastly there’s the Galeria de Artes ‘Juan Carlos Aguirre Muñoz’ or Juan Carlos Aguirre Muñoz Art Gallery which has contemporary art exhibitions.

From there the ‘Trinidad Museum Route’ brings you back into town to the Museo Héroes Benianos del Chaco or Heroes Benianos of Chaco Museum which contains artefacts and photographs from the Chaco War.

The museums open Monday to Friday between 8-9am, then they close for a few hours over lunch and open up again 3-6pm. And it’s safe walking around to them all, just hot.

Plazuela El Ganadero

Best visited as early in the day as possible, this is where you get to see…caiman! We were so excited when one of the guys in the tourism office told us that he sees them regularly here on his morning run. And low and behold within 2 minutes of entering the park there one was.

Caiman in Plazuela El Ganadero

It was so still we thought it was fake at first. But then it blinked and moved it’s head ever so slightly. Just right there in front of us. In the park. A real life bloody caiman. It wasn’t small either. 

Obviously we didn’t get too close, but we were assured that they aren’t interested in humans and will just scuttle off into the water ditch that surrounds the park.

Wild Caiman in Bolivia Amazon

And when we say a park, it’s like a proper park with picnic benches and a kids play area. Absolutely mental. There’s also a big lake with a load of turtles in too.

Don’t miss this place. It’s definitely one of the best things to do in Trinidad Bolivia. Annnd…it’s also free.

Puerto Ballivián 

Okay no is where the real adventure starts. Not only because to get to this next pace our list of things to do in Trinidad Bolivia you have to rent a motorbike, but also because what you will see there is wild pink dolphins.

Hands down one of the most epic things we’ve done of our travels.

But first things first, how to rent a motorbike in Trinidad Bolivia?

Renting a motorbike in Trinidad Bolivia

Well it really couldn’t be simpler actually. On the main square, opposite the bank, you’ll just see a guy or two there with a load of motorbikes. You negotiate the price. The standard is $15-20B’s per hour. We paid 90B’s for 6 hours, including petrol.

It comes with a full tank and you don’t need to fill it up before you take it back. Hand over your driving licence which they keep until you get back. Pick a bike, with mirrors preferably. They are newish but not all in the best nick.

And away you go.

how to get around Trinidad Bolivia

Word of warning though, please, please DO NOT rent a motorbike if you don’t know how to drive one. Especially here because helmets are not provided and the roads outside of the town are full of potholes.

Seriously don’t be a dumbass, get a moto taxi or regular taxi to take you instead.

Okay now I’ve finished being your mum, onto Loma Suarez and the fun stuff. Puerto Ballivían is just 12km from the town centre of Trindad and will take you around 20 minutes to get there. It’s a really nice drive through the lush jungle surroundings.

Don’t miss the turning off to the left. There isn’t a signpost but you’ll know you’re there because there’s a big plane wreck opposite.

You’ll know you’ve arrived when you’re greeted by a small roundabout with a statue of two dolphins on it. From there, swing a left and head on down to Restaurant ‘Dona Irene’. We’d suggest timing your arrival for lunch.

Lunch in Puerto Ballivián Trinidad Bolivia

They have a beaut of a terrace overlooking the River Ibare and the fish is straight out of the river.

Afterwards just hit the owner up about taking you out onto the water in one of his boats. We paid 50B’s and it was just the two of us on the boat.

how to see pink dolphins in Trinidad Bolivia

Even though we knew they’re common around these parts, we didn’t actually believe that we’d get to see them. But sure enough, less than 10 minutes down the river our guy cut the engine and said there they are.

Mother freaking wild pink dolphins! Or bufeos as they are locally called in Spanish.

Pink dolphins Trinidad Bolivia

We could hardly believe our eyes. And not just one or two quick flashes. There was a whole group of them there larking around. Our boat circled around in Río Ibare a bit, then that was it, we were off.

It was such a magical experience and whether you rent a motorbike yourself or get a moto taxi to take you, you HAVE to visit Puerto Ballivián and it’s pink dolphins.

We took a couple of snaps but being as they were so quick and you have no idea where they’ll pop up they are pretty difficult to photograph so we put our cameras down.

It’s best just to watch for them directly with your own eyeballs.

Loma Suárez

While you’re up this way it’s worth popping into the village of Loma Suarez. You need to go through part of the navy base to get there but don’t worry you’re allowed. There’s not really anything to do here as such. It’s just interesting to see the local life.

Loma Suárez Trinidad Bolivia

Up the hill at the back of village you’ll find a huge restored colonial mansion, that now belongs to the Bolivian Navy. And also one of the farming hills that the Moxos civilization built so they could still grow crops during the flooded rainy season.

Laguna Suárez

Across town and in the opposite direction there’s another fun thing to do in Trinidad Bolivia. Although the water doesn’t look all that inviting, the lagoon is actually artificial and so free from any lurking nasties.

Laguna Suárez Trinidad Bolivia

Everyone in Trinidad comes here to cool off in the summer heat and it’s just a really fun atmosphere.

The entrance fee is just 2B’s each and you can rent huge rubber rings. There isn’t a restaurant as such, but you can grab a beer or soft drink and an empanada.

Trinidad Nightlife 

Being a university town of course Trinidad Bolivia has a good few nightlife spots. Garage and Bunker are where the parties are at. We went to Garage until way too late one night, ahem morning, and paid for it the next day.

Garage Trinidad Bolivia Nightlife

Those rum and cokes were strong as.

It reminded us our university party days are well and truly over. Forever. Dead. Done. Never to be repeated.

Side note, there are a few bars around town with karaoke. We were told under no circumstances to go into them. They’re not for you, the tourism office said, they’re where drug traffickers and the like hang out.

Where To Next In Bolivia?

  • Here’s our guide to Rurrenabaque including how to choose an ethical tour.
  • And all the best things to do in Santa Cruz if you’re heading the other way.

Travel Insurance For Bolivia

As I just said, despite not being on Bolivia’s main tourist trail we never once felt unsafe in Trinidad Bolivia. However, bad shit happens everywhere. So do not travel without some solid insurance.

Here I go being your mum again!

But seriously, just don’t. Our go to travel insurance provider is World Nomads. First of all because of their no bullshit policies, second of all because they cover tonnes of adventurous activities as standard.

And third of all because (just in case you forgot) you can buy it even after you’ve left home.

Get a quick-sticks no-obligation quote here:

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Full info on how to see wild pink river dolphins in the Bolivia's Amazon basin, plus lots of other fun activities. Click through to read now | #SouthAmerica #TrinidadBolivia #Bolivia

Sarah @ Last Minute Wanders

Friday 1st of May 2020

Wow, I'd never even heard of this place before! Then again, I haven't quite made it to South America yet, and it sounds like it's well off the beaten track. Definitely one to add to the bucket list... you had me at sloths and pink river dolphins! I've seen Chinese pink dolphins in Hong Kong but these must be a completely different breed. How intriguing! Thanks for the article.