Suriname may be the smallest country in South America, but exploring it is something that will change your life forever. Located along its northern coast in tropical rainforests adjacent to the Amazon, Suriname is very much a hidden gem. It lies far off the beaten path in South America and is often overlooked in favor of locations like Machu Picchu, Patagonia, and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. But there are plenty of things you must do in Suriname, and this guide will lay some of them out for you.
While there is one big city and a smattering of towns in Suriname, roughly 80% of the country is covered in pristine jungles. These dense, vibrant forests are full of animal life, from monkeys to caimans to anacondas. They’re also home to the Maroons, who are the descendants of African slaves who escaped into the jungle and mixed with the local Amerindians.
The Maroons and Amerindians are just two of the many groups who call Suriname home. There are also sizeable Chinese, Indian, Indonesian, and Dutch populations in the country, making Suriname one of the most diverse countries in the world. Their culture, and the prevalence of beautiful, natural environments make Suriname a true pleasure to explore. These are just 5 things you must do in Suriname.
Go on a Tour of Paramaribo
As Suriname’s capital and largest city, you would be remiss if you didn’t take some time to explore Paramaribo. It is here that you will get your first look at Suriname’s ethnic and cultural diversity. The Dutch architecture, African- and Asian-inspired foods, and Caribbean setting make Paramaribo one of the most unique cities I’ve ever visited.
I recommend checking out the Chinese Market and Kwatta Sunday Market on Sundays, as well as Saoenah Markt for Indonesian treats like liver satay and lumpia with peanut sauce. Central Market is perhaps the best place to get a true look at local life and is among the things you must do in Suriname.
If you’re looking for great restaurants, Souposo, Cafetaria de Smaak, and Jakarta Restaurant are all fantastic choices. The Dutch- and Indian-inspired dishes at Cafetaria de Smaak and the creamy, peanut-rich Crunchy Pinda soup at Souposo are must-haves! Jennely’s Food House is another great option, and the Indian fare at Roopram Restaurant and Martin House of Indian Food is mouthwateringly delicious!
Check out the Top 3 Brazilian Adventures for 2018
See the Sea Turtles in Galibi
If you’re visiting Suriname between February and June, you’re in for a treat. If you make the road (and river) trip to the village of Galibi, you may get to witness something really special: the nesting of sea turtles on the village’s beautiful virgin beaches. And if you’re really lucky, you may even get to see baby turtles hatch and scurry across the sand toward the shoreline. It’s easily one of the top things to do in Suriname.
But even if you find yourself traveling through Suriname outside of the late winter and spring, there’s still plenty to do in this village of just 750 people. Galibi is located near Suriname’s northeasternmost point, just across the Maroni River from French Guyana. Because of its proximity to water, you can also try delicious seafood like smoked catfish and curry crab in town.
The beaches of Galibi are lined with trees where you can pick fresh mangoes and casaba melons. And the sparse downtown area is home to a smattering of homes and buildings, including a church, a banquet hall, and the Sint Antonius primary school. Exploring it only takes a few minutes, but it’s a wonderful look at life in this part of the world!
Visit the Brokopondo Reservoir and Brownsberg Nature Reserve
After you have visited Galibi, one of the best options for your next adventure is the Brownsweg area. You’ll have to double back toward Paramaribo and then follow the Martin Luther Kingweg road south. Brownsweg is one of a number of Maroon villages in Suriname’s interior, and its surrounding area is home to some of the country’s most scenic locations.
I first recommend the Brokopondo Reservoir, a manmade lake that was formed in the 1960s after the damming of the Suriname River. The water was diverted into a forest-covered valley. The tops of the valley’s long-dead trees still poke out of the water, creating a ghostly and eerie sight. At the lake, you can fish for piranha and boat across it to Howler Monkey Island. You can also go for treks in the surrounding jungle.
Not far from Brokopondo Reservoir is Brownsberg Nature Park, which is home to a 500-meter-tall mountain called Browns-Mountain. The mountain is covered in dense jungle and requires either a bus or a 4×4 to navigate, as the roads there are cracked, muddy, and extremely treacherous. At the top of the mountain, you’ll have stunning views of the reservoir and the surrounding jungle. You can also go on a pair of hikes to two different waterfalls!
Check out the 5 Monasteries You Must Visit in Western Bhutan
Stay on Isadou Island
If you’re the type of person who has always wanted to disconnect from your devices but never could, Isadou Island was made for you. This river island deep in the Surinamese jungle is so far off the beaten path that there is no WiFi or cell phone reception here. To reach it, you’ll have to travel to the town of Albina along the Upper Suriname River and take a 45-minute boat ride south.
On the island, you’ll find the Isadou Resort, a collection of 28 cozy and minimalistic bungalows with basic amenities. The resort’s staff—Maroon tribespeople from nearby Jaw Jaw village—will prepare authentic, jungle-inspired meals, which you’ll enjoy in their outdoor dining hall. While you’re there, take a trek into the jungle and cool off in the sols of the Suriname River. These areas of rushing water are devoid of piranhas, anacondas, caiman, and other predators, so you can relax to your heart’s content!
While on Isadou Island, a trip to Jaw Jaw village across the river is a must. The village is only home to about 500 people, but they’re very friendly and eager to share their culture. You can tour the village to see the local homes and watch them prepare meals. I suggest buying some souvenirs there, including some locally-made clothing or if you’re lucky, a wooden paddle!
Check out the 5 Cities Everyone Should Visit in Uzbekistan
Explore the Jungles of Palumeu
Deep in Suriname’s interior, near the heart of the Surinamese Rainforest, is the tiny village of Palumeu. Located along the Tapanahony River, Palumeu is a true jungle paradise, surrounded by lush, green forests and an unimaginable amount of wildlife. To get there, take a charter plane from Zorg en Hoop Airport in Paramaribo.
The Palumeu area is all about treks through the jungle. There are several options, but I recommend taking a hike from the Palumeu Jungle Lodge (my accommodation of choice) to Poti Hill. If you book with Mets Travel and Tours, you’ll enjoy a delicious fried yucca and fried fish lunch with a tropical coleslaw and peanut sauce. You can also trek through the nearby primary and secondary forests and try catching some massive fish in the rapids of the Tapanahony River!
Of course, one of the main things to do in Palumeu, Suriname is visit the actual village. This Amerindian settlement is made up of just a dozen-or-so homes, which are built on stilts. There’s also an open-air communal hall and a small, wooden Baptist church. In the village, you’ll have the opportunity to buy handicrafts made by local artisans, like musical instruments, jewelry, knives, and arrows. Don’t forget to try the local beer! It’s light, cloudy, and a little thick, but it’s also quite refreshing at only 3-5% alcohol!
Suriname may be far off the beaten path, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of things you must do in Suriname. It’s remarkable how many interesting sites and life-changing adventures you can have in a country that’s smaller than many U.S. states. Whether you’re staying in Paramaribo or heading off to Galibi or Palumeu, there are plenty of opportunities to make memories that will last a lifetime. Book a trip to Suriname today to experience everything it has to offer!
I have to give a special thanks to my friends at Jenny Tours and Mets Travel and Tours for making my time in Suriname so memorable. If you’re looking for reputable tour companies to work with in Suriname, consider booking with them!
NOTE: If you need to check the visa requirements of a particular country, click here. To apply for a visa, find up-to-date visa information for different countries, and calculate the cost of a particular visa, click here!