When I visited Suriname in July of 2019, I didn’t really know what to expect. I had researched lots of places to visit in Suriname, but beyond that, in-depth information on the country was pretty scarce. But when I arrived, I found an irresistible country filled with diversity, hidden gems, tropical paradises, untouched wonders, and friendly, hospitable people.
I spent most of my 11 days in Suriname traveling with Jenny Tours, who showed me a wonderful time I will never forget. From the incredible markets of Paramaribo to the isolated jungles at Palumeu, I was blown away by everything Suriname had to offer. This country is a true melting pot of cultures, which gives much of the food familiar flavors that you’d expect to find half a world away. And then, at other times, the food is a mix of several cultures, resulting in a dish that is unique to this part of the world.
The cities were incredible, but it was the spots deep within the Surinamese rain forest, far from cell phone towers and paved roads, where I truly fell in love with this country. I’m an admitted workaholic, but these areas forced me to kick back, relax, and do nothing. It was heaven for me and I’m sure it will be for you, too. These are the top 10 places to visit in Suriname.
It’s pretty easy to understand why Paramaribo is one of the top places to visit in Suriname. This cosmopolitan city is Suriname’s capital and largest city, a cultural melting pot unlike any other, and a historically-rich destination. It’s also a food-lover’s paradise, with culinary influences from around the globe. It’s also a fantastic hub city, as most adventures throughout Suriname will begin and end there.
Diversity Like Nowhere Else on Earth
The amount of ethnic diversity in Paramaribo can’t be overstated. From the moment I landed, I met and observed people from many different backgrounds working together and helping each other in what seemed to be perfect harmony. This beautiful blend can be tasted in Paramaribo’s food, much of which is a unique fusion cuisine of two or more cultures rolled into one. It helps solidify Paramaribo as one of the best places to visit in Suriname.
Paramaribo’s unique diversity stems from its colonial past, when Dutch and English settlers arrived and brought African slaves to the northern coast of South America. Some slaves escaped into the interior of the country and mixed with the indigenous Amerindian population. When slavery was outlawed two centuries later, the Dutch brought over indentured servants from China, Indonesia, and India. The communities have grown, thrived, and co-existed with one another ever since.
Paramaribo’s Best Street Food
In my opinion, the best way to experience this blend is with your taste buds. Kwatta Sunday Market sells an outstanding chicken that contains Indian, Chinese, and African flavors. You can follow that with an Indonesian sticky-rice-and-coconut dessert called ketan serundeng, an Indian jalebi, or a Jewish cornbread called bojo!
You also should not miss the Chinese Market on Sundays, where you can purchase pork buns, chicken shumai, and a chorizo-like sausage with a Chinese sauce on it. The liver satay, lumpia, and deep-fried banana at the Indonesian Saoenah Markt are also culinary winners! And if you have a hankering for some Javanese food, check out the never-ending buffet at Jakarta Restaurant, where I ate so many courses I thought I’d have to be rolled out of there!
Even the central market in town is diverse. The meat and poultry section was just like markets I had visited in Africa, while there was a southeast Asian influence in the vegetable market.
Restaurants, Bars, and Drinks
One of my favorite spots in the city is Souposo, a soup cafe that sells a Javanese saoto soup with lots of sprouts and a rich and creamy peanut-based African soup called Crunchy Pinda. This restaurant alone is one of the top places to visit in Suriname! The very first eatery I visited in town, Cafetaria de Smaak, offered a wonderful breakfast that seemed to be both Dutch- and Indian-inspired.
I also have to include Martin’s House of Indian Food and Roopram Restaurant, both of which offer Indian spreads so tasty, they immediately transported me back to the Subcontinent. And if you’re in the mood for Chinese food, check out Wok on Fire. They serve a spicy chicken chow mein with a tropical, almost Caribbean-esque twist.
After you’ve had your fill of Paramaribo’s amazing food, grab a (very strong) drink at Lai Ghoon bar, where I tried the most potent rum I’ve ever had in my life! If you’d prefer a strong beer over rum, head over to Suriname Supermarket to buy some Atlas beer. The strongest variety, the Mega Strong, is 16% alcohol and was way too much for me!
Rounding out the reasons why Paramaribo is among the best places to visit in Suriname is its accommodations. If you’re on a tight budget, you can check in at the Downtown Oasis in the heart of the city or the Guesthouse Kiwi.
For a more luxurious stay, try the Royal Torarica Hotel, which is like a posh boutique hotel with upscale, modern furnishings and decor. No matter your budget, there’s a place for you to stay in Paramaribo, which is yet another reason why it’s one of the top places to visit in Suriname!
Speaking of Javanese cuisine and culture, I highly recommend taking some time to explore the areas just outside of Paramaribo. One of my favorites is the village of Lelydorp, the country’s second-largest urban center. This largely Javanese village is located on the main road heading south from Paramaribo. Though the village’s population is mostly of Javanese descent, there are also significant East Indian, Creole, European, and Portuguese Jewish residents as well.
The Local Crafts Scene
One of the best things to do in Lelydorp is to check out the local crafts scene. The pottery market, which can be reached via a bumpy, well-worn road, is run by a potter who uses charred tree bark powder and clay to make black vases, mugs, statues, and more. Right next door is a shop selling high-quality wood products. The workers there tirelessly create stunning works including model boats, cups, paddles, plates, and animal sculptures. Some of my favorites were a stool in the shape of a caiman and a bench made to look like a jaguar!
If the beautiful crafts weren’t enough to convince you that Lelydorp is one of the best places to visit in Suriname, the village is also the perfect place to find top-notch Indonesian food. My guide Jan from Jenny Tours took me to some food stalls in town. The aroma there had my mouth watering and stomach growling almost immediately!
Indonesian Street Food in Lelydorp
There’s a wide variety of foods available from the six vendors, including yuca, chicken feet, fried banana, kidneys, saoto soup, noodles, chicken, satay, and more. I recommend the chicken satay, which comes bathed in soy sauce and peanut dressing. The tender chicken combined with the salty soy and sweet peanut dressing was out of this world!
You should also go for the lumpia, which is like an egg-less egg roll that’s stuffed with tasty vegetables like sprouts. There was also an insanely tasty boiled vegetable dish containing spinach and more sprouts. It was topped with what was supposed to be a spicy peanut sauce, but it wasn’t hot to me at all. The final reason Lelydorp is one of the top places to visit in Suriname is the chicken sausage, which is soft and tender. It was too tasty to put down, even though I felt like I was about to burst from so much food!
Located along a peninsula just northeast of the capital of Paramaribo is the resort of Johanna-Margaretha. This municipality in the Commewijne District along the right bank on the Suriname River is bursting with adventurous activities for travelers.
See the River Dolphins at Sunset
Also known as Johan Margaretha, Johanna-Margaretha lies near the confluence of the Suriname and Commewijne Rivers. It is here that animal lovers can spot pods of Guiana dolphins swimming and splashing through the water. These playful dolphins are among the smallest species of dolphin in the world and are noted for their pink bellies. Some of them are completely pink! I had the pleasure of watching the dolphins leap from the river waters and put on quite a show as we approached sunset.
If you suffer from seasickness, I recommend visiting at high tide rather than low tide. I was told by my guide, Roël from Jenny Tours, that the confluence’s waters are a lot rougher at that time. The confluence is among the top places to visit in Suriname!
Johanna en Margaretha Plantation
After you’ve seen the dolphins, continue on down the Commewijne River. If you book with Jenny Tours, you’ll eventually turn down a side canal that strongly reminded me of photos I had seen of the Kerala backwaters area in India. It’s interesting that was my first thought, because further down the canal is the Johanna en Margaretha plantation. The plantation is now owned by an Indian family, who will serve you a sensational Indian dinner!
Travelers who love Indian food will be in heaven as they dive into this scrumptious meal. The dinner consists of a tasty hot roti, aloo with greens, and chicken curry. The chicken curry is covered in a delicious masala, which tasted amazing with the airy, crepe-like roti. Try the aloo with some hot sauce for an added kick of spice!
Caiman Hunting at Night
After your meal, you’ll have the opportunity to leave the plantation and head deep into the nearby mangrove swamp after dark to look for caimans. This tour is yet another reason why the Johanna-Margaretha area is one of the best places to visit in Suriname. During our outing, Roël would watch carefully for yellow eyes reflecting in the light from our spotlight. Then, in a flash, he would catch caimans right out of the water! I even got to hold one of them!
NOTE: The trip into the mangrove swamp to hunt for caimans was a highlight of my time in Suriname. However, you will be eaten alive by the resident mosquitoes if you don’t cover your body with a high-quality insect repellent. I personally recommend OFF! Deep Woods, which worked wonders for me early in my trip until I ran out. I tried a local brand after that, but it didn’t work nearly as well!
As I traveled from the capital city of Paramaribo to the riverside town of Albina, my guide Imro and I stopped in the small town of Tamanredjo. It was one of the easier towns to reach in the country, as the roads leading to it are well-paved. Tamanredjo’s population is roughly 95% Javanese, so while I was there, I hoped to find some delicious foods from Java. I found exactly what I was looking for at an eatery called Warung Lenny.
Warung Lenny Restaurant
The menu inside offered at least 20 different menu items, so you’ll have your pick of lots of tasty dishes! I began my meal with some pommesitair juice, which very refreshing and reminded me of aloe vera juice. Then, I dug into some noodles, two types of rice, beans, sprouts, peanut dressing, a spicy chili sauce, fried banana, and chicken.
The peppery and oily noodles were a little thick and were softer than al dente. I also enjoyed the fresh, crunchy sprouts and the equally fresh green beans. In particular, the greens with the peanut dressing was incredible. Peanut sauces and dressings always take any dish to the next level, and the chicken, bananas, and noodles on my plate were no exception.
The star of the meal was the fried chicken. I could tell it had never been frozen and that it was pure, organic, natural chicken. Once you’ve had fresh fried chicken, you’ll never look at frozen chicken the same way. The freshness made it juicier, more tender, and a crispier, crunchier skin. You can’t beat it, especially with the peanut sauce. This sweet, spicy, and nutty meal makes Tamanredjo one of the top places to visit in Suriname. Trust me, it’s that good!
Check out my VIDEO: Eating Surinamese Indian Street Food on the Suriname River | Traveling to Isadou Island, Suriname
The tiny village of Galibi in the extreme northeastern corner of Suriname is one of the more well-known areas of the country. Its beautiful, unspoiled beaches stretch down the coast, so as you make your approach by boat from Albina, Galibi looks like every image you’ve ever seen of a tropical paradise.
The Sea Turtles of Galibi
It is along these beaches that several species of sea turtle lay their eggs between the months of February and May. This is the main reason why Galibi is among the top 10 places to visit in Suriname. Witnessing a mother turtle dig a hole in the sand and lay her eggs has become a popular pastime for visitors to this part of Suriname. Equally thrilling is the sight of watching baby turtles hatch and scurry across the sand toward the water in the darkness of night. If you go, be sure to use a red light to see these amazing animals at night. Using a bright, white light can disturb the animals.
Unfortunately for me, I visited Galibi in July, nearly two whole months after egg-laying season typically ends. But even though I wasn’t able to see any sea turtles, I got to do the next best thing, which is learn about them. Near the ocean, on the northern side of town is a hut that has a display showing all the different types of turtles that nest on Galibi’s beaches. There are even life-size sculptures of the different species in the sand. I was surprised at how massive the leatherback turtle is!
The Freshest Seafood in Galibi
While in Galibi, I also recommend meeting the locals. I booked my Galibi tour with Jenny Tours. My guide for that portion of my trip, Imro, was from Galibi, so he introduced me to some locals, who invited me to enjoy a fresh seafood feast with them! The feast consisted of curry crab, a fresh local crab, and wild boar stew. The seafood was succulent and tasty, and the boar had a wild gaminess to it!
Galibi Village Tour
Last, but certainly not least, take a tour of the village. It’s quite small, but it’s a wonderful way to spend a morning. From the beautiful, sandy beaches where you can pick mangoes right off the trees to the quaint downtown area, Galibi is peaceful and serene.
Visiting the Sint Antonius primary school is a good way to get a look into what being a child in Galibi is like. The kids are pretty shy, so try not to shove a camera in their faces. The kids attend school in Galibi until roughly the eighth grade, and then they have to travel down the river to Albina every day to go to the high school there.
Before you leave, make sure you try some smoked catfish, which is a local specialty and is quite tasty! Between the fantastic food, the wonderful hospitality, and the tranquil surroundings, it’s no wonder Galibi is among the best places to visit in Suriname
Another of the places to visit in Suriname is the Brokopondo Reservoir, a massive, man-made lake close to the town of Brownsweg. This lake came into being in the 1960s, when the Afobaka Dam was built along the Suriname River. Water from the river flooded a forested valley, leaving only the very tops of the trees poking out of the water. Today, the trees are long-dead, but their ghostly forms still rise from the dark waters.
Located on the Stone Island peninsula sticking out into the lake is the Stone Island Lodge. There, you’ll enjoy modest yet comfortable accommodations while being just feet from the lakeshore. By using Stone Island as a home base, you’ll also be just minutes away from excursions to nearby Howler Monkey Island and the surrounding jungle.
Howler Monkey Island and Jungle Treks
Howler Monkey Island is aptly named, as it’s home to a colony of howler monkeys. They can be elusive, as I didn’t get to see them, but there is a poultry farm on the island where you can check out a massive yellow-foot tortoise. The treks into the jungle can also be teeming with or completely devoid of wildlife. It’s all luck of the draw. Just go in with low expectations and enjoy the experience!
Eat a Piranha for Breakfast
The Brokopondo Reservoir is also a great place to swim, despite the presence of the fearsome piranha. You don’t really have to worry about these fish unless you have open cuts on your body. But the fish may have to worry, as it’s pretty popular to catch them and fry them up! Fried piranha is extremely bony, so be careful if you attempt to eat it. But the meat, especially the cheeks, is melt-in-your-mouth goodness. I suggest digging out the cheeks, eating the meat around the head, and pulling out the meat between the ribs.
The Brokopondo Reservoir and Stone Island area is easy to overlook, but it’s packed with awesome gems and amazing experiences. These activities make it one of the best places to visit in Suriname!
Check out the Top 5 Things to Do in Galibi, Suriname
Brownsberg Nature Park
Not far from the Brokopondo Reservoir is the Brownsberg Nature Park, a 12,000-hectare nature reserve. Located roughly 80 miles south of Paramaribo, this dense, green stretch of wilderness is home to a 500-meter-tall peak called Browns-Mountain. Atop the peak is a campground, but it’ll take a while for you to get up there.
Getting up Browns-Mountain
If you don’t take a vehicle with at least four-wheel drive, the trek up Browns-Mountain will be arduous, to say the least. The roads are not paved and are filled with massive cracks and potholes. The roads also become muddy quite often, so it’s easy for lesser vehicles to get stuck. The trip is worth it, though, as the campsite at the summit offers incredible views of the surrounding jungle and the distant Brokopondo Reservoir.
One of the best things to do from the campsite is to take two hikes: one to each of the waterfalls that rush down the mountain’s sides. Both hikes are long and treacherous, and one misplaced foot in the steeper sections of the hike can easily result in an injury. I suggest wearing hiking boots and paying close attention to the trails, which are uneven and slippery. There are helpful ropes strung between the trees during the steepest sections of each hike, so you’ll have some assistance.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll be hot and pouring sweat by the time you reach both falls. They’re gorgeous, though, and are totally worth all the work it takes to reach them. They are true hidden gems, so be sure to bask in their glory for a while before you head back to the campsite. Take a dip in the cool water if you wish. Just remember to reapply mosquito repellent afterward. The mosquitoes on Browns-Mountain are no joke!
If you’re trying to head to Isadou Island from the Brownsweg area, you’ll first have to pass through Atjoni, a tiny town on the Suriname River. This riversite port is very important to this area of Suriname, as you can catch boats from there to many other villages along the Upper Suriname River. Atjoni isn’t just a place to pass through, though. It’s also one of the best places to visit in Suriname because of its amazing food!
Very close to the Suriname River is a fantastic restaurant that serves delicious local cuisine like fried banana, noodles, and an Indonesian-inspired chicken. The noodles come bathed in a delightful, sweet sauce that tasted great. But my favorite thing was the chicken. It was clearly fresh and had a distinct charcoal flavor that permeated the meat. The Indo-like marinade only added to its deliciousness. The chicken came with a side of french fries with mayonnaise, which was fine, but the chicken was the clear star of the meal. Enjoy it with a light and refreshing Parbo bier!
Atjoni is also the place to stock up on anything you may want while you’re on Isadou Island. Head over to the Fu Lin supermarket to buy some beers to take with you, as the resort on the island doesn’t supply their own beer. Get some for your boat captain as well!
Check out the 5 Things to See and Do in Brownsweg, Suriname
I love the work that I get to do. Non-stop blogging, filming, and editing videos is is the life I’ve led for well over a decade now. To do that, I stay connected to my devices pretty much all day long. But when I visited the remote Isadou Island in the middle of the Upper Suriname River, I had to let all of that go. I couldn’t check my work emails for days. I couldn’t post my latest blog posts or videos on YouTube or Instagram. Why? Because there was no WiFi. I had to put my phone and laptop away and just enjoy nature. And it was heavenly.
I stayed at the only accommodations on the island, the rustic bungalows of the Isadou Resort. The bungalows are minimal in their design and consist of a small bathroom right inside the entrance. Futher inside is a room with two beds that have trusty mosquito netting over them. Beyond that is the back “porch,” which has a hammock where you can look out at the Suriname River. It’s the best place in Suriname to unwind, clear your head, and relax.
And relax, I did. But as a travel addict, I also had to do some adventuring as well. From Isadou Island, you can take a quick boat ride across the river to go on a trek through the jungle. There, you may be able to spot some of the native wildlife, which includes sloths, tortoises, and monkeys. On the other side of the river is Jaw Jaw, a village that’s home to a Surinamese Maroon tribe called the Saamaca. This village is one of my personal favorite places to visit in Suriname.
Jaw Jaw Village
The Saamaca are the descendants of escaped African slaves who mixed with the indigenous Amerindian people. Visiting the village is a fantastic peek into their daily life. Their wooden homes have electricity, but married men and women each sleep in their own separate houses. When I visited, I got to meet several locals, including a woman making casaba soup, a shop owner who owned a beautiful turtle shell, and a woman who sold me a beautiful, hand-stitched scarf. The highlight of my visit was buying a stunning, carved paddle from a man in town, which I now proudly hang on my wall at home.
Some of the 500-or-so residents of Jaw Jaw village work at the Isadou Resort. There, they cook minimal but flavor-packed dishes that had my mouth watering the entire time I stayed there. From the chicken bursting with Indonesian flavors to the yuca-rich casaba soup, mealtime was always a tasty experience.
Get a Natural Massage in the Upper Suriname River
After you return to the island after an adventure, you’ll have a lot of downtime. One of the coolest experiences you can have on Isadou Island is to take a dip in one of the sols in the river. These areas consist of fast-moving water that rushes between large river rocks. If you’re careful, you can anchor yourself between these rocks and let the water pound your back like a natural massage. It’s so relaxing and is a fantastic way to cool off!
Even further into Suriname’s interior is the final entry on my list of places to visit in Suriname. This area, called Palumeu, is so remote, it can only be accessed in one of two ways. You can either take a 12-day boat ride from Albina or a 75-minute charter plane flight from Paramaribo’s Zorg en Hoop Airport.
Go Fishing in the Rapids
Once you’re on the ground in Palumeu, a whole host of new adventures await you. I recommend touring this area with Mets Travel and Tours, who go above and beyond to make your Palumeu experience smooth, informative, and a ton of fun. My guide, Julius, took me on a wild trip through the rapids on the Tapanahony River, where locals fish for piranha! And while we didn’t catch any, I’ll never forget the amazing views of the water rushing over and between the rocks in the river. It was absolutely stunning!
Palumeu Jungle Expeditions
You can also enjoy several treks into the jungle at Palumeu, which helps solidify it as one of the top 10 places to visit in Suriname. Whether you choose to trek through the primary and secondary forests or decide to hike to the top of Poti Hill, you can’t lose. I love trekking through jungles and being one with nature. Even if I don’t see a single animal, trips through the rainforest are always worth it to me.
Another worthwhile experience in Palumeu is visiting the actual village. I visited in the middle of the day, so most of the locals were away, working. But I still had a great experience as I toured the area. I got to see the locals’ homes, which are built on stilts in case of floods, and a small, wooden Baptist church.
One of my favorite experiences in town was trying some of the local beer. It’s a somewhat thick, cloudy, and fermented drink that I drank right out of a bowl. It’s pretty tasty and was so refreshing I ordered a second one! You shouldn’t leave town without buying some crafts from the locals. They make a variety of goods, including bracelets, necklaces, knives, musical instruments, and arrows. The jewelry is made from painted seeds and leaves!
If you want to experience pure, virtually untouched nature, Palumeu is where you want to go. It’s one of my favorite places to visit in Suriname for a reason. I enjoyed myself so much that I can’t wait to go back and take my family with me so they can fall in love with it the same way I did!
Check out the Top Things to Do in Palumeu, Suriname
The Bottom Line
The eleven days I spent in Suriname changed me to the core. Travel always does that to me. But it’s rare that a destination grabs hold of me so much that I can’t wait to return. Suriname did that to me, and I can’t wait to see what kind of adventures I’ll have on my second go-around. To experience all the magic Suriname has to offer, book a trip to Paramaribo today. Trust me, you won’t regret it!
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