Tarapoto sits in the valley where the two rivers, the Cumbaza and Shilcayo, meet. Bordered by the cities of Morales (on the west) and Banda de Shilcayo (on the east) Tarapoto is the commercial center of the District and one of the larger metropolitan centers in the Amazon Rainforest.
While Tarapoto is sometimes overlooked by tourists heading to Iquitos, visitors will find that because of its cloud forest location at an altitude over 350 meters, the temperatures won't get as hot, usually not above 95 °F (35 °C), and perhaps more importantly, the humidity is not generally as high as the low jungle. Many day trips within a half-hour to a two-hour drive from Tarapoto include some of the most spectacular natural beauty anywhere, historic wonders, and some of the places have cooler weather than in the city. There are scenic outlooks, waterfalls, lakes, rivers, fauna and flora of all sorts, and some of the most interesting people in the world live in this area.
Tarapoto has many restaurants, hotels, Internet cafes, markets, and other attractions that would interest tourists from all walks of life. With a rich cultural heritage and many historic landmarks nearby, it is a great place for people who want something more than just a hammock and a tropical drink -- although the latter can be found readily as well. Few businesses have air conditioning. There are several hotels that have air conditioning, but many do not so it is important to ask.
Another thing travellers should be sure to ask about before checking into a hotel -- unless they don't mind a cold shower -- is if the room has hot water; many do not. In most neighborhoods, there is no running water during the early afternoon and early morning, so it is also wise to ask about the hours of availability of water -- although many hotels and restaurants have their own holding tanks for water which makes it no problem.
One of the things that makes Tarapoto attractive to travelers who have discovered this city is the fact that it is a great central location in the northern part of Peru. The mountains (high sierra) to the west, and the jungle (selva) to the east, make Tarapoto a good place to call home-base when visiting northern Peru. A modern airport makes travel to the major cities fairly easy, if only somewhat dependable, with daily flights to and from Lima.
In many ways, Tarapoto still has a "small town" atmosphere. While it is always necessary to keep alert when traveling anywhere, Tarapoto is a place one can relax more. Europeans and North Americans are not targets of crime as much as in the other places like Trujillo, Cusco, and Lima. Since there aren't as many tourists around Tarapoto, the locals don't see too many foreigners. So expect to be noticed if you don't look like a Peruvian, but tourists generally find themselves treated very well in Tarapoto.
- Tarapoto has an airport, which can be flown to directly from Lima. LATAM, StarPerú, Peruvian, Viva Air, and LC Perú fly from Lima to Tarapoto.
- There are also bus services from Lima, which roughly take 24 hours via Trujillo & Chiclayo to Tarapoto.
A mototaxi looks like a rickshaw with a motorcycle welded onto the front of it and is the most common form of transportation in Tarapoto. Automobile taxis are also available in lesser numbers. Whether using a taxi or mototaxi, tourists should always negotiate the price of the trip before getting into the vehicle, or they might find themselves paying far more than necessary for the ride. Mototaxi drivers are sometimes reckless, so tourists should not hesitate to tell the driver to slow down if necessary.
- Cataratas de Ahuashiyacu : Not really worth the money (the taxi, not the S/3 entrance fee). A nice waterfall but the pond is tiny and if you want to swim you have to squeeze through hordes of Peruvians.
- Cataratas de Huacamaillo: You can hire a mototaxi from town to the trailhead of this waterfall which dumps into fast flowing river. A guide is recommended to find the waterfalls, which requires multiple crossings of the river, bring a few extra soles to pay the approx. S/3 entrance fee at a booth located less than halfway down the trail. The trail climbs and hugs dripping eroding cliff and so is quite treacherous, not recommended if you are not surefooted. However, it is a great option for someone looking to do a day hike in the rainforest for cheap.
- Reserva Alto Chiclayo: Hire a mototaxi to the end of the road(past the animal rescue center) to this preserve containing the Rio Chiclayo. Entry with a guide (required) is approx. S/80. Guides help you across a few river crossings, and can help spot wildlife such as the local poison frogs.
- Petroglyphs of Polish
- Wayra Sacha (1h walking above Tarapoto or 15min by car then 30min walking), ☏ , (Stephanie Gallusser), (Cesar Ramírez), ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. It is an organic "chacra", local term for a farm in the forest where you can go for a walk, stay overnight or longer if you want to be a volunteer. It has a large area of natural forest and borders the conservation area of the Cordillera Escalera, and it is a good place to see local wildlife by day or by night. The owners, Cesar and Stephanie are very welcoming. They are biologists and know very well the local flora and fauna, they can show you butterflies, birds, frogs, medicinal plants, natives fruits, etc. Very nice walks are available in the surroundings to go deeper in the forest or to reach waterfalls nicer than the ones you can access from the road.To get there, it is better to contact them first so that they can organise your stay or carry your staff for the night on moto. Prices are reasonable, and depend on what you want (night, meals, guided tour). Don't expect to be hosted in a four-star bedroom but you will enjoy wild night sounds!
- Go to the new movie-theater of Tarapoto. A new one has just open (Jr Alfonso Ugarte). If it is raining too much and you want to watch movies in Spanish, enjoy!
- Visit the Tabacalera del Oriente cigar "factory" in town
- Walk along the Shilcayo River
Take the "takiwasi" road along the Shilcayo for 2-3 km, then it becomes a small path which goes far into the forest following the river and it is a nice walk. If you have children, they might be interested in visiting Urku (on the left, about 2 km from Tarapoto), where they have monkeys and others animals rescued from captivity.
- 1 VIDAX Restaurante, Jr. Nicolas de Pierola 135, ☏ . Nice Peruvian and vegetarian options, buffet only 10 Soles.
There are many discos in the Morales district. Highlights include Anaconda, Aqua and Bunker.It can be closed at the beginning of the week, but it is open and generally free from Thursday to Sunday.
In the street in front of the restaurant Patarashca, about two blocks from the Plaza de Armas (in the direction of the artesanal market), they are bars with drinks and music at night. Calle Bolognesi or Calle Lamas.
The musmuki bar is a good address to try some cocktails from the jungle (about one block from the Plaza de Armas, when you left on the Scotiabank side in Calle Moyobamba).
A reasonable place to stay in the centre of Tarapoto is the La Posada Inn, 50 m from the Plaza on Jiron San Martin. It is quieter than some hotels there and has wifi, hot and cold water and a good restaurant.
Or go to Lamas and stay in the relaxed and laid-back hotel Hospedeja de la Sangpilla (30 minutes by shared taxi from Tarapoto) S/60 double, with swimming pool and breakfast.
- Albergue El Achual, Prolongacion Alerta cdra. 2 (next to Takiwasi on the Shilcayo River; a 10-15 minute walk uphill from the main square). features a comfortable common area and has a pleasant staff. However, the property is rundown. Rooms can be musty. Kitchen and refrigerator need a thorough sanitizing. S/. 20-45 per person.
- 1 Centrika Tarapoto, Jr. Manuela Morey #233, ☏ . Has wifi and a/c and a light complimentary breakfast. Clean quarters. S/.89.
- 2 Hotel La Patarashca, Jr. San Pablo de la Cruz 362, ☏ . Has the makings of a nice jungle lodge (only it's in the city). The banana tree type foliage all around the swimming pool is pretty sanguine. Here you'll find a restaurant and bar, wifi and ceiling fans, and a free breakfast buffet in the morning too. S/.150.
- Moyobamba - the capital of the region. Bus ride takes about 2 hours from Tarapoto.
- Sauce - relaxing lakeside town 1½ hours away from Tarapoto around the Laguna Azul.
- Juanjui - To the south.
- Lamas - north-west (small town)
- Yurimaguas - The doors to the Amazon. You can get there in 2½ hr on a good road.