The East Coast region of Suriname comprises four districts: Commewijne, Marowijne, Paramaribo and Wanica. It offers some of the best examples of former colonial plantations, some still in use, others deserted and largely ruined. Along the Northeastern coast you'll also find some of the most prominent nesting beaches for sea turtles in all of the West Atlantic.
The main way in from the west is via the Oost-West verbinding, the country's main coastal road from west to east. From the point where the road is called Kwattaweg, you have entered the Paramaribo district. Renting a car is a good option, and the most convenient place to do so is Paramaribo.
The Particuliere Lijnbus Organisatie, the well-recognizable small, brightly painted buses, run east from Paramaribo, but they don't follow a set time table. Your best bet is to either inform a day or two ahead or to arrive early in the morning on Paramaribo's bus station and ask around. They will typically leave for Lelydorp (PL), Moengo (PM) or Albina (PA), but if you ask, drivers will let you out anywhere on the route.
Chartering private transport in the form of a taxi or car with driver is usually possible via taxi agencies and tour operators. Depending on the distance, season and your bargaining skills, count on anything from USD 50 to 100.
Alternative access to this region is via French Guiana. Coming from French Guiana you will have to take the ferry (€4 p.p.) at Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni to cross over the Marowine River to Albina. There are only a few ferries per day, but if the wait is too long you can usually join a small boat from €3 p.p.
Albina and Moengo have airstrips, but they're mostly for chartered flights. It's possible to book a flight via the larger tour operators, but it will not be cheap.
The best way to get around on your own is by (rental) car. You need a 4WD on dirt roads and a good map to find your way. A GPS navigation system for Suriname is available. There is some public transport in the form of mini buses, but again, they don't have fixed time tables and depending on your destination, they might not run daily.
Some destinations are not reachable by car. These can be visited by boat, bike or by foot. Some of the villages along the river are best visited by boat.
The lively and historic country capital is the largest and most developed town and included in virtually every trip to Suriname. For good reason, as its Unesco listed old centre with the former Dutch fort Zeelandia makes for a fine attraction, while the range of small restaurants allows for a taste of Surinames broad cuisine.
Albina is a small town on the banks of the river Marowine, which separates eastern Suriname from neighbouring French Guiana. It's the capital of the Marowijne district and with an estimated 4000 or so inhabitants, it's a large town for Suriname but a small, laid-back place for most visitors. There's nothing grand to see here, but it's an important hub for those looking to visit the turtle beaches of Galibi or travellers who want to hop over to French Guiana.
The town suffered great damages during the Suriname Guerrilla War (1986-1992). Local violence between Surinam inhabitants and illegal Brazilian gold diggers (2009) has taken Albina off the tourist map of destinations. It remains a good starting point for trips down the Marowine river, however, as well as the main way into Galibi. There are a few basic places to eat, and some snacks to be found at the local market. Don't expect much though. Large and small boats come and go at Albina, and you'll generally be able to charter one or get a seat. You will need to bargain though and depending on the budget you're willing to spend, you might have to wait.
Just over 140 km east of Paramaribo, Albini can be reached via the East-West road. Buses connect the two towns, taking 2½-3 hours one way. Alternatively, arrange for private transport via one of the tour operators in Paramaribo. The town has a small airport (although no regular connections) and there is a ferry to Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni, just across the river in French Guiana.
- Creek Guesthouse, ☏ +597 34 20 31. This basic guesthouse just out of town, on the road to nearby Erowarte is your best bet for a bed. There's not staff on the site and to check in or out you'll have to go to a small restaurant in Albina, on the corner of Wilhelminastraat. It's also one of the better places to eat, with friendly staff and a nice view. From SRD 150.
Trips from Albina: The most popular trip from Albina is to the Galibi Nature Reseve (see below). Boat trips down the Marowijne make excellent trips as well, with many small villages along the way and it's common (although perhaps not always legal) to visit one or two villages on the French Guianan side, which, although interesting and traditional, a more developed due to French spending. Stoelmanseiland - a small, scenic island at the junction of the rivers Tapanahony and Lawa, where they pour into the river Marowine - is another common trip destination.
25 km south of Paramaribo in the Wanica district is Domburg. This small village with about 6000 inhabitants is lovely situated on the Suriname River. Once it was a large coffee plantation. These days the entrance of the former plantation is a cozy square with beautiful mahogany trees. There is a jetty, a kiosk and benches. Around the square are little cafes and restaurants with terraces. This is a quiet place, except on Sunday as the square is flooded by day-trippers from Paramaribo to visit the market. They do not only come by car. Many arrive by boat and moor near the square for just SRD10. A pleasant spot to meet people. If you will stay overnight in town, and you want luxury, visit resort Surinat. For less comfort you can rent an apartment via Suriname Apartments.
- Surinat, La Rencontre 5e straat 234, Domburg, ☏ +597 370048, firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 12:00, check-out: 11:00. Surinat is a pleasant luxury resort with 4 bungalows and an apartment. A breakfast is not included but can be ordered for €10.50. All rooms are completed with a kitchenette or a kitchen, so if you wish, go to the nearest supermarket and prepare your own breakfast. If available, the manager will lending you a bike for free. Surinat has a pool and a jacuzzi, so at return you can cool down and relax. Every house has a terrace with a hammock. €120.
- [dead link] Guesthouse Little Paradise, 9e straat # 154, Domburg, ☏ +597 370111, email@example.com. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 14:00. Just one apartment. The price is for 2 persons. Extra person is €10. You have to pay a deposit of €100 at arrival. Breakfast is €5. Bike rental €3.50. €34.50.
Most roads in Domburg are paved with stones or asphalt and the scenery is nice for a walk or a bicycle tour. There is a ferry to across the Suriname River to Laarwijk, a former plantation for coffee, cacao and fruit. Ask the boatswain what time the last ferry returns. White Beach resort is close by. The personal of both accommodations will assist you with booking a tour wherever you want to go.
Some 30 km from Paramaribo, on the white sandy coast savanna but along the Saramacca river, lies the Maroon village of Santigron. Its location close to the capital made the village lose much of its traditional features, but its 500 or so permanent inhabitants have embraced tourism as a new, sustainable source of income. As a result, its original Maroon characteristics are slowly being restored and expanded, and facilities for travellers are getting better fast. Many tour operators bring in their guests, who get to see the school, the church and usually one or two dances performed by villagers. Of course, they will also show you some of their handicrafts, hoping you'll be tempted to buy. Your guide or a hired local guide will tell you about life in the jungle, traditional use of its flora and the wooden houses where women would stay during their menstruation days. All in all, Santigron may not be the most authentic, but it surely is one of the most accessible Maroon villages to explore and will allow you to get a good idea of Maroon traditions. It's also one of the few where you could easily get by public transport (there are a few buses per week from Paramaribo) or bike.
There's no written history for the town, but its background is a story told from generation to generation and its current people will gladly tell it to you too. As with any told history, there are variations in the stories. In short, the settlement was established in the mid-19th century, as different Maroon tribes gathered around a historic wood plantation. When the owner died, he left the plantation to one of them, the first to have arrived and a leader of the group. The ownership papers however got lost, leaving the Maroon villagers in the hands of the government.
- Santigron Eco parc. These eco-friendly lodges are run by a Dutch guy, who stayed here for a couple of months before deciding to establish a small, community-sourced resort here. In principle, you can only stay as part of their own 1- or 2-day "tour", which means that transport, a full day programme, a river trip and full boarding is included. Especially in off-season however, you might be able to work something else out if you prefer. Departure days for the trips are Wednesdays and Saturdays. €79/159 for one of two days.
On the road from Paramaribo to Zanderij is Lelydorp. Originally called Kofi-Djompo after a slave, the settlement grew when famous Dutch engineer Lely created a train track here and the settlement became an important stop, at the junction of the railroad and the main road to the airport. The rail road is no longer in use, but with some 17,000 inhabitants, mostly Javanese and Hindustan, Lelydorp is the second largest city of Suriname. It's the administrative center of the district Wanica and the seat of the district commissioner. The place has an important function as a foraging place for people who are on their way from the capital to the interior. There are several shops and restaurants as well as a hotel. There are even a few attractions.
- Neotropical Butterfly Park, Lelydorperweg 123, ☏ +597 0366525. M-Sa 08:30-15:30, Su 09:00-14:00. If you have any interest in butterflies, a visit to this place is quite worth it. It breeds a colourful range of butterfly species and some turtles and crocodiles, destined for example for zoos in the west. You can stroll through the delightful butterfly garden or visit the both interesting and slightly creepy insect museum. Catering for both domestic and international visitors, the park now has a small café, a playground for kids and a shop with some souvenirs. Try to call ahead and book a tour of the actual breeding farm. Also arrive at least an hour before closing or you will not be allowed in.
- Flor Para, Meursweg 40. Offers guided tours through a garden, with a nice collection of tropical flowers and plants.
- De Lelie Hills, Sastrodisoemoweg # 2-4, ☏ +597 366289. A well-maintained hotel and casino, with a pleasant garden, a good restaurant (called Exotica) and a swimming pool. Standard doubles from €30.
Once a prominent centre for mining of bauxite, Moengo (sometimes written as Mungo) is still a town with almost 10,000 inhabitants. It's located along the Cottica-river and connected to Paramaribo and Albina by road.
This village is located in the extreme northwest of the Commewijne district. It is an administrative center and there are medical and educational institutions. The main tourist attraction is Fort Nieuw Amsterdam.
Galibi nature reserve
All tour operators in Paramaribo will arrange an all in-tour for you to Galibi. Most tours are either for 2 or 3 days and include a visit to Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni in French Guiana on your way back (though you will not go through customs - thus it does not affect your visa or tourist card). You can travel to the turtle beaches by your own. This is cheaper and you will be free to stay or go whenever you like. Take the public bus or even a taxi from Saramaccastraat to Albina or go by your rental car. Take your time to inform and to book a boat or try to join a leaving boat as a lot sail to Galibi. Stay calm and patient and negotiate the price. The trip takes about 2 hours depending on the water and the weather conditions. In Galibi are plenty of lodging houses. Note that a guide for the turtle beaches is mandatory as is a boat to get there - they are about 30 minutes away from Galibi. Entrance fee for the nature reserve is SRD20. If you come out of season it is very likely that you can enjoy Amerindians dance and music performances. Note that internet is available with a local SIM-card, but electricity is only available from 19:00 to 22:00 unless your host have their own generator.
East of Paramaribo across the Suriname River is the green district of Commewijne known for its old plantations and for Fort Nieuw Amsterdam. A nice way to get there from Paramaribo is by bike. Cycle north along Anton Drachtenweg about 8 km to Leonsberg where you will find a jetty just after a warung at your right. You do not have to wait a long time to get a ferry that will take you (and your bike) across the Suriname River for SRD30. On the other side turn left where you will spot Fort Nieuw Amsterdam after just 1 km.
- 1 Fort Nieuw Amsterdam, Wilhelminastraat, Nieuw Amsterdam, ☏ +597 322225, firstname.lastname@example.org. M-F 09:00-17:00 Sa Su 10:00-18:00. This fort was built in 1734 to protect the plantations from raids from the sea. It is located where the Suriname and Commewijne rivers meet. You can visit two old gunpowder houses, a Gaol (closed in 1982), the walls and a watchtower. Exhibitions are often held. SRD15.
Leaving the fort, you will see an authentic wooden commander's house that is one of the oldest monuments of Suriname. Cycle to the riverbank and turn right over the wall of the Commewijne River. After about 2km on the Oost-West verbinding is a junction, right to Mariënburg, left to a jetty where you will find a ferry to take you over to Rust en Werk, Johanna Margareta, both small villages, or to Frederiksdorp, a resort with renovated monumental buildings.
- Mariënburg, ☏ +597 8519239. Once a big sugar plantation and factory where, besides sugar, molasses were produced for the famous Mariënburg rum called Borgoe. The refinery was closed in 1986 and has become a dramatic scene of past glory. Mister Soekardi, an old employee, guides people around this spot. Negotiate with the guide for a fair price..
- Frederiksdorp, ☏ +597 453083. In a very nice renovated police post, dated 1863, are 6 apartments for 4 people each in 3 buildings. The resort has a restaurant and the owner can arrange a tour with canoes to the swamps and beach, or a dolphin tour (which will be for 90% successful). Walk to Johanna Margareta and Rust en Werk to stroll over the old plantations or along the canals where Javanese people live. On this side of the river are no cars.
Bike back to Meerzorg via Alkmaar (further east) or Voorburg (west) and take the ferry to Platte Brug to return in Paramaribo. Note that bikes are not allowed on the Drs Jules Albert Wijdenbosch bridge.
Head to Paramaribo of you haven't been there already, or catch a tour to discover Suriname's gorgeous inlands. If you are not bound to a fixed itinerary consider a trip to French Guyana. In many cases, western country nationals don't need a visa to enter, but check in advance what applies to your country of origin.