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Review of Amboro Eco-Lodge In Buenavista, Bolivia

August 7, 2007

The Amboró Eco-Lodge is a resort-style hotel located in Buenavista which is approx. 2.5 hours away from the city of Santa Cruz, Bolivia. I went there for the first time about 6 weeks ago but they had a large special event which kind of skewed the experience in a negative way.  So, we decided to head back on a more normal weekend in order to see if anything changed.

The Good and The Bad

Location: The hotel is located just a few miles from the Amboro National Park. It is ideal for the outdoorsy person that wants to hike and enjoy the park. It also is just a mile or two from the pueblo of Buenavista which has excellent restaurants in the main plaza area of town.  The location also works well for kids or those that prefer to stay in the hotel area.

Rooms: We stayed in the cabanas behind the reception this time rather than the Amboro suite that we had the first time.  The price for the double is about $40/night versus the $85 per night for the suite.  Differences?  The suite is a bit bigger with a kitchenette and a small living room type setup.  The suite had been unoccupied for some time as there was dust *everywhere*. The doubles were clean and perfect for what we needed. All of the 6 or so cable TV channels are in Spanish except for one which is in Portuguese.

Pool:  The resort has a big pool that surrounds a swim up bar area. Nice.  The water was much cleaner on the first trip and on the Sunday/Monday for this trip. The bar staff in the pool area was very attentive.  The only negative was that I found some small pieces of broken glass right next to the pool. 

Food: The food in the hotel on this trip was tangibly better than the first one. Same chef…we asked. Entrees range between $3 and $4 US making the kitchenette in the suite pretty much unnecessary.  On the first trip, we also had a wonderful dinner for two in a US owned restaurant right on the plaza with the best food that I have had in Bolivia for about 80 bolivianos or $10 (total for two including entree and beer)

The breakfast buffet in the hotel, however, was the real low point of the culinary experience during both trips.  Though billed as having a full breakfast buffet from 8-11am, there is literally no food after about 8:30am. They bring out the food very slowly after about 8:30. Only 1 pan of eggs was brought out after 8:30am…which the 40 or so people that had been waiting for any food at all quickly devoured in about a 5 minute span (or less). No additional fruit was brought out at all after the initial trays were emptied.  There was a point each day after about 9am where only empty trays were on the buffet table. Not the best experience.

Transportation: Getting to the hotel is cheap and easy from the city of Santa Cruz. There is a special group of taxis that will take you on the 2.5 hour journey for about 20 bolivianos or US $2.50 per person. You can tell any local taxi in Santa Cruz to take you “atras del ex-terminal” (behind the old terminal) and you’ll find a group of taxis with a sign on their windshield that reads, “Yapacani”. Any of these taxis will take you right to the hotel located at kilometer 103 of the road between Santa Cruz and Cochabamba.  The taxi is shared and designed for up to 5 passengers – each passenger pays 20 bolivianos. I recommend that two people rent the entire backseat for 60 bolivianos or US$7.50 – two people can travel much more comfortably that way. Three people can rent the entire taxi for 100 bolivianos or $12.  Renting a car will cost a tidy sum of cash in Bolivia as there are no free daily miles.

Taxis are a problem for getting to and from the local town.  Although the bars and restaurants go on until the wee hours of the morning, taxis stop running around 9pm.  It surprises me that the hotel does not provide any sort of transportation for guests just to the town and back.

The other down side of not renting a car is that getting back to Santa Cruz without your own car can be difficult.  The hotel isnt an official taxi stop and a good hour from the closest official stop (the town of Yapacani). On both trips, the hotel staff left us waiting in front of the hotel for hours without a taxi.  On this second trip to the hotel, they actually redirected the taxi called for us for another set of guests.

Cost: about US$225 for three adults and two kids in two rooms.  This includes two rooms, food, and bar tab (beer, soda, and mixed drinks) from Saturday afternoon to Monday afternoon.

Summary

Decent place, however, the downsides outweigh the upsides..particularly when there are other choices for hotels in the area that dont have the logistics issues that this hotel has.  I won’t be going back there.

I’ll edit this post to add some photos later today when I have some time to download them.

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