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Tena, Ecuador

Visit an eco-friendly Hammock Hostel with Jungle Tours that will leave you smiling from ear to ear.

Located just outside of the hustle and bustle, this backpacker's haven is surrounded by nature but close enough to the city center of Tena that you can order a vegan pizza for delivery at 10 o'clock at night. We had a difficult time finding this place in the dark as the gated entrance was tucked up a dirt road above a small housing community. When we arrived we rang the doorbell and were greeted by the owner of the hostal who let us in and helped us unload our car.

He then led us up a winding pathway through the lush garden and asked us to remove our shoes before entering the common area where the check-in, kitchen and dining room were located.

The 5-acre property has a three-story jungle lodge built of bamboo, palm leaves and other natural materials. There were a variety of rooms available including shared dorms with bunkbeds. We stayed in the private room with it's own bathroom and compost toilet, but Josh had to use the shared bathroom in the hallway for going number 1. The accommodations are simple and rustic, so if you're looking for A/C to keep you cool in the muggy jungle, this is not your spot. We spent both nights sweating with our bodies soaked in bug repellant, but falling asleep to the music of the rainforest made it all worth it.

The property owner and manager Tony is a super friendly guy and extreme sportsman who speaks Spanish, English, German and potentially even more languages. We were in awe at how well he conversed with the travelers from around the world as he shared stories of kayaking on some of Tena's most dangerous rapids and waterfalls.

He was very helpful in recommending things to see and do and even hooked us up with his friend Luis who we met up with for an Amazon River tour about a 30 minute drive from the hostel. A German girl named Nad, who was traveling solo, tagged along and we headed to the Super Tia to hit the ATM and grab some lunch supplies. *Tip: We packed our AO Cooler in our suitcase to keep food cold on our excursions that doubled as a souvenir bag on our way back home.

Boat Ride

We met our guide in the town of Auhano and packed our stuff into his long wooden boat. As we cruised down the river past the off-the-grid villages and eco-lodges we saw children fishing, women washing clothes on the rocks and locals traveling to and from their villages. Luis pulled his boat up onto an unmarked beach and led us down a foot path towards some huts deep in the jungle. Along the way he showed us local plants and explained their history and uses while sharing his love for the land that he calls home. We arrived at the small community and were greeted by a Kichwa woman who showed us how to make chicha and chocolate from scratch. We are definitely not going to become chicha connoisseurs but the fresh chocolate atop a banana picked from her backyard was divine.

Full and buzzed we hopped back on the boat and headed up the river to Amazoonico Animal Sanctuary where endangered animals are rehabilitated and cared for by volunteers from around the world. We're not usually fans of zoo's but Amazoonico was different. They receive a lot of wild animals that are wounded or that people have illegally kept as pets and try to rehabilitate and release them in the wild or take care of them for the remainder of their lives. We were impressed by the international volunteers working there who were covered from head to toe in insect bites and very knowledgeable about the animals.

Next, Luis took us to a picnic table on the side of the river to make lunch. He showed us how to eat the local fruits as we chatted about his life and love of the jungle. After lunch we stripped and floated down the river in tubes as the sun set over the Amazon. Between the incredible sights of the rainforest and our kind and hilarious host, we had a great time exploring the Amazon via river boat.

That night we went to Rio y Fuego, an Asian fusion restaurant in town, with our new german friends Nad and Simon. We drank, laughed and talked about the absurdities of our governments. Simon was leaving so while we waited for his bus we watched the locals play volleyball in the town center.

Our favorite part was connecting with the host and other travelers at the massive family-style table where breakfast is served every morning at 8am. The spread consisted of eggs, fruit, bread, granola, yogurt, fresh juice, home-made jams and coffee. We met people from Ecuador, Germany, Belgium, New Zealand, and England and it was a great environment to connect with other adventurers.

From relaxing in one of their many hammocks or taking one of the incredible jungle tours, our time spent in Tena and the Amazon was one of the highlights of our trip. We highly recommend this place for those who want to have a great adventure on a budget!

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