Santa Cruz, Bolivia, or Santa Cruz de la Sierra to give it its full name, is the country’s largest city. It’s a sprawling metropolis in the middle of the tropical lowlands.
Despite its size, it’s not a particularly popular stop on the tourist trail for overseas visitors. There are various reasons for this, but the main one given tends to be the location.
Over in the East of the country and close to the border with Brazil, it’s just a bit too far removed from the usual La Paz, Potosi, Uyuni route that people tend to take through Bolivia.
However, if you have any intentions to experience the Bolivian Amazon, or indeed understand the country on a deeper level, it’s an essential addition to your itinerary.
Understanding Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia
For one thing, it’s totally different to the rest of the country. So much so that you may experience a bout of culture shock when arriving from more traditional areas.
It’s far more modern and westernised than the majority of Bolivia, with rampant capitalism on full display. International chains that you don’t see anywhere else are extremely popular here, and almost an attraction in themselves. Starbucks, Burger King, KFC, and many more brands are all popular.
Additionally, you’ll notice there’s far less traditional dress on show in Santa Cruz. While you do still get the odd person wearing it, they’re the exception rather than in the majority.
Some people even go so far as to accuse the city of not being the “real Bolivia”. Others say there aren’t many things to do in Santa Cruz de la Sierra Bolivia. But we think that’s ridiculous.
Yes, it may not be what you think of when you picture Bolivia, and even be an outlier when compared to most other destinations. But Bolivia is far more than the one dimensional place it’s often made out to be. Santa Cruz shows a different side and demonstrates just how complicated and diverse it is.
That said, getting to know Santa Cruz can be a little more difficult than other Bolivian tourist hubs. But if you’re willing to scratch the surface and spend a few days here, you’ll be richly rewarded.
Things to do in Santa Cruz Bolivia
On first appearances it can definitely seem that Santa Cruz is a bit of a vacuous city. In fact it has a reputation within Bolivia as being devoid of culture.
But contrary to popular belief, there are tonnes of fun and interesting things to do in Santa Cruz Bolivia.
Whether you’re a nature lover, party animal, shopaholic, or culture vulture, Santa Cruz will cater to your interests. Here are the best things to do in Santa Cruz Bolivia.
Check Out Jardín Botánico Santa Cruz
Around a 30 minute bus ride from the centre of Santa Cruz, you’ll find one of its top attractions. Right on the side of a busy highway, Jardin Botanico comes as a welcome break from the hectic activity of the city.
Like a green oasis, it’s full of various different planted areas. These include a cactus forest, an indoor tropical garden, and a lagoon full of huge fish, tortoises, and caiman.
Probably the most interesting part of tha botanical gardens is the more natural, less sculpted forest section towards the back. It’s wild and full of interesting wildlife including squirrels, birds, monkeys, and snakes. There are sloths to be spotted too if you’re lucky.
But beware, it’s seriously mosquitoful. This is not an exaggeration – hundreds of the things take great pleasure in swarming after anyone who dares enter. You’ll see most people constantly swatting or waving them away. Do not, under any circumstances, forget your moz spray.
Entry is a very reasonable 10bs per person. There is a restaurant and small shop in the colonial patio that sells great food at cheap prices. For between 15-30bs you’ll get a dish of grilled meat, rice, salad and yuca. You can also grab drinks, ice creams and other snacks here, plus insect repellent if you’ve failed to bring it.
How to Get to Jardin Botanico
Getting here by public transport is extremely simple, though you can also catch a taxi or Uber if you prefer.
First make your way to the small truffi parada one block up on corner of Avaroa and Calle Suarez Arana. Buses will have Cotoca or J Botanico in the window.
Jump on and tell the driver where you want to go. It costs 3bs per person and takes around 30 minutes. Buses do get extremely packed, so be prepared for a sweaty ride.
Get Stuffed in Cotoca
A bit further on from the botanical gardens is the small town of Cotoca. You can get there by jumping on the same bus in the same direction to get there and it’s well worth the diversion.
It’s a popular weekend trip for the people of Santa Cruz, who come here for two things.
The first is to show their devotion to the Virgin of Cotoca, patron saint for the Department. There’s a festival held each year where people crawl the entire 35 or so kilometres from Santa Cruz to Cotoca on their hands and knees.
The legend of how this came to be is certainly fascinating, but unless you’re a staunch Catholic, probably won’t provide a reason to head to the town.
However, if you’re a food lover, then there’s another fantastic motivation to visit. Cotoca is renowned for churning out some of the best grub in Santa Cruz. So religious or not, come here to worship at the altar of awesome gastronomy.
There’s a Sunday market which covers about 3 blocks outward from the plaza and is usually absolutely rammed. Drinks sellers peddle Chicha de maní, coco water, tamarind juice, and various other delicious thirst quenchers.
But the real star of the show is unquestionably the scran.
Sonso, long wooden sticks covered in a dough made from yuca, cheese and butter. Corn arepas with cheese. A huge selection of bbq meats. And local delicacy majadito – rice with spices and chicken, almost like a paella, traditionally served with a fried egg and plantain.
Then there’s Patasca. If you can get past the fact that its main ingredient is the head of a pig/sheep/cow, then this rich, thick stew with dried corn which pops open when cooked is hugely popular.
The central plaza is full of life and you can spot sloths climbing around in the trees if you’re lucky.
The main market just off the plaza has lots of traditional goods, but the town is most famous for its painted clay pots. You’ll see them displayed on most street corners.
The bus back to Santa Cruz leaves from the corner of Calle Monseñor Rivero and Calle Santa Cruz and costs 3bs again. From here it will take around 45 minutes, depending on traffic.
Hit the Art Galleries
Art is widely celebrated in Santa Cruz de la Sierra in all its forms. From modern spaces to showcases of traditional works, you can enjoy various different experiences across the city. Here are a few of the best:
This free, non-profit, modern art gallery is located right around the corner from the cathedral on Calle Independencia, just off the main plaza. The name comes from the fact that it’s on the first block of the city. “Manzana”, meaning block in this instance and not apple, as you may have thought.
Manzana 1, as it’s alternatively styled, features both national and international exhibitions. It’s not huge, but the almost 10,000 visitors it attracts each month should give you an idea of its broad appeal.
A cross between a gallery and a handicrafts shop, Artecampo features the work of mainly female local artisans and artists. Located in an old colonial-style house built around a central courtyard, the art is displayed across a number of separate rooms.
You’ll find a hugely diverse collection of goods including paintings, wall hangings, pottery, tapestries, furniture, wooden carvings and more. The work is of a really high standard, and best of all, if you’re taken with anything, you can simply buy it. Prices are reasonable as well.
Museo de Arte Contemporaneo
Specialising in modern art, this wonderful gallery is housed across six rooms of an old colonial building. It features paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, and more by a mixture of both Bolivian and foreign artists living in Bolivia.
The large collection of over 300 pieces is focused on pieces from the 1950s onwards to present day. There are both permanent and regularly changing temporary exhibitions on display. Some of the featured work is also for sale.
Discover Santa Cruz’s Sand Dunes, Las Lomas de Arena
One of Santa Cruz de la Sierra’s strangest attractions is its large range of sand dunes. Otherwise known as Las Lomas de Arena, they’re an odd natural phenomenon, not far from the city centre.
Like the inverse of an oasis in the desert, the dunes are nothing short of incredible. Surrounded by lush green land, it’s like a mini wilderness in the jungle.
There are two lagoons and lots of sand dune to explore. You can spend an enjoyable afternoon or morning tramping across the grains and capture some pretty dramatic photographs while you’re at it.
How to Get to Santa Cruz’s Sand Dunes, Las Lomas de Arena
To get there, catch the number 21 bus from the corner of Calle Ayacucho and Calle Colon. It costs 2bs per person and the bus route finishes near the entrance to the sand dunes, so you don’t need to worry about where to get off.
If you continue to the end of the line, you’ll have to walk slightly back on yourself from its end point. Take the right at the first crossroad you find and you’ll come to the entrance about 100 yards away.
Park entrance is 20bs per person. There are a couple of shops nearby to buy drinks, snacks etc, and also a small shop just inside the park entrance selling drinks.
It’s a 7k walk from the park entrance to the dunes, but it’s a pleasant walk along a generally flat sand path. If it’s rained recently it will be waterlogged in parts, but you’ll have little problem navigating your way around the puddles.
The last couple of kms are difficult because the sand is not compacted, meaning it takes a lot of effort. Allow slightly longer than you’d ordinarily take to walk this distance and bear in mind it will be a little bit harder than on normal hard terrain.
There is a small river you have to cross midway that’s just over ankle height. It’s best to take your shoes and socks off for that.
Parts of the walk are shaded by trees either side before and after midday but it gets super hot. Take plenty of water because there’s no shops or anything beyond the entrance.
Along the way there are resting points with benches and tables though they’re not in great condition and because they’re in forested bits you’re likely to get bitten to shit by mozzies. Take lots of mozzie spray as here are plenty around anyway.
There’s also lots of wildlife to spot from gorgeous butterflies and various interesting birds to huge lizards.
The small town of Porongo is a fantastic example of a Jesuit influenced colonial town. The main plaza is unusual for Bolivia in that it’s a large green field, rather than a meticulously designed space.
The stunning church, which dates back to 1716 and is said to be one of the last Jesuit mission constructions in Bolivia, is undoubtedly the main draw here.
It’s famed for its intricately carved, wooden detailing and an outdoor belltower platform featuring the original bells. If you’re in any doubt as to their authenticity, they’re complete with huge, timeworn cracks.
The rest of the single story, wooden framed buildings that line the plaza are also beautiful, and constructed in a completely different style to what you’re likely to have encountered in the rest of the country.
Admittedly, there’s not a huge amount to do here in Porongo. It’s a sleepy, traditional town. But if you’re looking to uncover some of Santa Cruz’s supposedly missing culture and history, this is a good place to start.
There’s also a good market just a block from the square where you can grab a delicious Camba lunch. The majadito is highly recommended and extremely cheap.
To get here, take the bus to Mercado Abasto from virtually anywhere on Calle Buenos Aires. There are multiple that go there, just look for one that says Abasto on the front.
From Abasto, walk to the corner of Calle Mitimi and Calle Laguna Orión. Here there is a truffi/bus stop with buses and minivans that only go to Porongo.
It costs 7bs per person and takes about 45 minutes.
For your return journey, catch the number 6, 46 or 34 bus back from Abasto to the centre.
Pinpoint the Geographical Centre of South America
Identifying the precise central point of any geographical region is a difficult task, fraught with complications. It depends on many highly debatable factors, such as whether to include remote islands etc.
As such, there are quite a few places that contend to be the geographical centre of South America. But for argument’s sake, we’ll go along with Santa Cruz’s claim to this dubious title.
It’s simply marked by a small plaque on one corner of a plaza. There’s also one of those signs that features arrows pointing to famous world capital cities with distances.
If you’re at all interested, try working out which, if any, are pointing in the right direction. By our calculations they were virtually all wildly incorrect.
In truth, standing in the exact geographical centre of South America isn’t as momentous as it sounds. However, the plaza where the spot resides is gorgeous and a nice place to chill out for an hour or so.
There’s a nice cafe along one side with tables outside. Or alternatively you can grab a drink and snack from the shop on the corner, take a load off and chill on a bench.
Along the streets surrounding the plaza there is a wealth of really good street art which you can enjoy spotting on your walk back to the centre.
There are also a number of museums and galleries not too far away if you’re looking for something else to do.
Hit the Artisanal Markets
As already detailed, Santa Cruz is Bolivia’s biggest celebrator of capitalism. Vast shopping malls and top international brands are all here.
But by far the most interesting shopping opportunities are provided by the various artisanal markets around the city.
If you’re looking for souvenirs, gifts, or just some cool jewellery or clothing, you’ll find it all.
The main artisanal market is just half a block off the main square from the corner directly opposite the cathedral on Calle Libertad. Named Paseo Artesanal La Recova, it’s a pair of alleyways joined by a small central courtyard.
The shops sell everything from jewellery made from the native stone, Bolivianita, through colourful textiles, to tacky fridge magnets. The prices are also relatively reasonable, considering its city centre location.
Also on Calle Libertad but on the other side of the plaza, you’ll find a smaller, more low key artisanal market. It’s not got a name, as far as I’m aware, but it has a number of shops selling similar goods.
Alternatively, in the space to the side of the cathedral, where Calle Bavillian meets Calle Libertad, there’s a weekly Sunday market. Here you’ll find stalls selling a real mixture of goods, from artisanal crafts to food.
Immerse Yourself in the Museums
Just to further dispel the myth that Santa Cruz is a cultural wasteland, there are numerous interesting museums to visit. Whether you’re interested in the region’s unique story, natural history, or the beautiful handicrafts produced here, there’s one for you.
In fact, there are over forty museums across the city. Sure, many are small, niche spaces dedicated to a single subject. But there are some crackers that really shouldn’t be missed.
This tiny, single room museum is said to be the only one which specialises solely in the Guarani culture, indigenous to this part of eastern Bolivia.
It features over 150 pieces from the local area. These include ceramic pots, musical instruments, animal masks, and vessels traditionally used in the production of corn chicha.
If you speak Spanish you’re likely to get a personal guided tour with entertaining explanations and stories about the exhibits.
Museo de Historia Natural Noel Kempff Mercado
Affiliated with the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences at the Gabriel René Moreno Autonomous University, this museum is dedicated to the research and conservation of the regions biodiversity.
There are sections on botany, evolutionary and earth sciences, environmental education, and zoology. While not a huge space, among the tens of thousands of natural history items you’ll find samples of all kinds of animals, insects, and plants from the local area.
Museo de Arte Sacro Monseñor Carlos Geniche
Inside the cathedral on Santa Cruz’s main plaza you’ll find a tiny museum dedicated to the religious history of the city. Despite its diminutive size it’s got reams of religious relics, the majority made out of gold or silver.
There are also paintings, sculptures, and various other religious artefacts, many of which are hundreds of years old and hold huge historical significance.
Relax in the Main Plaza
Plaza 24 de Septiembre is the central hub from which Santa Cruz sprawls outwards from. It’s buzzing with life at all times of the day and night and is a wonderful and entertaining space to chill out in.
Full of palm trees and overlooked by the fantastic cathedral, it’s absolutely gorgeous. And the bustling atmosphere means that you can easily lose hours of your day to people watching.
Groups of old guys congregate around the fringes of the plaza. Crowds form to watch competitive games of chess, while the small benches are often laden with as many as five gentlemen squashed together talking animatedly, smoking, and punctuating their conversations with dramatic gesticulations.
Shoe shiners laugh and joke with their regular customers. Ice cream and drinks sellers wander around peddling refreshing goods.
Take some time to relax in Plaza 24 de Septiembre in the middle of a day’s sightseeing or at the end of a long day of activities.
Climb the Cathedral Towers
The cathedral is breathtaking to look at from the outside from virtually any angle. But for views over the rest of the city, you really need to hit the cathedral itself.
From it’s tower you get stunning panoramas over the whole of Santa Cruz. Or at least as far as your eyes can see. It will give you an idea of just how vast this metropolis is.
As well as great views of the city at large, you also get a bird’s eye view of the plaza itself.
There are two viewing platforms in the one tower that you’re allowed to climb, each at a different height. You can also head up to the third and top floor to get a glimpse of the tower’s clock mechanism. And if you time it right, you can even watch it bong.
Entrance is a bargainous 3bs per person, it’s open until 6pm.
Best Bars in Santa Cruz
One thing Santa Cruz de la Sierra Bolivia is indisputably well renowned for is its banging nightlife. Whether you’re after some chilled craft beers in a chic setting or a few delicious cocktails and some live music, you’re not short on options. Here are some of our favourites:
Santa Cruz Beer Company
Probably the city’s largest brewer, Santa Cruz Beer Company also operates a pair of swish bars.
The first one is just a couple of blocks off the main plaza and a gorgeous, stylish space. Exposed brick walls, beautiful arches, and contemporary lighting.
The second and even more impressive is a couple of miles out of the centre in a residential area. Completely outdoors, it’s an absolutely stunning beer garden that has to be seen to be believed.
Now the beer that Santa Cruz Beer Company makes isn’t actually amazing, but it’s certainly drinkable. They have a good selection of interesting brews, but you can certainly get better quality elsewhere in the city.
That said, the bars themselves are so stunning that they’re worth the visit alone.
A hostel by day, Nomad opens up to the public at night. It’s a really cool city centre bar with an outdoor patio and various seating areas.
As you’d expect from a hostel/bar, there are cheapish drinks and a cool vibe. It’s a mixed crowd of hostel dwellers, locals and visitors. They also have live music from time to time.
Rival to the Santa Cruz Beer Company, Bendita is also located in a residential area slightly removed from the centre. It’s also got a really cool beer garden, but truthfully not a patch on the surroundings at Santa Cruz Beer Company.
However, Bendita makes what is probably the best beer in the city. They have a brilliant selection of styles from all over the world as well as some more unusual ones made with things like tamarind and passion fruit. They also do pretty good pub-style food here.
This city centre bar is located right next to the cathedral, just off Plaza 24 de Septiembre. It looks tiny from the outside, but the inside is a bit of a door to Narnia situation.
The small indoor area opens onto a large patio, with some extra tables on the overlooking balcony. The cocktails are decent here, while weekends have a lively atmosphere, often with live music and lots of dancing.
Situated above an electronics mall, what at first seems like an odd setting for a pub actually turns out to be an amazing location. Why? Well it’s right on the main plaza and provides great views of its comings and goings.
Inside is decked out with dark wood and low lighting like a traditional Irish pub. But unsurprisingly, the best place to sit is actually outside on the balcony, for obvious reasons.
You can get Guinness here, but disappointingly it’s Guinness original and in a small bottle. It’s also a bit pricey due to location, but they do regular specials and deals you can take advantage of.
Casa Melchor Pinto
This cultural centre/cafe/bar is a terrific place to hang out during the daytime and grab some refreshments. Just half a block from the main plaza, it’s also very conveniently located.
Constructed around a bright, sun-blushed courtyard, this building was previously the home of local man Melchor Pinto, hence the name. It’s an old colonial-style construction that’s been tastefully restored.
The courtyard holds the majority of the seating, while in the buildings around the edges you’ll find various areas of interest. There’s a museum section which details former owner Pinto’s history and his fight for Santa Cruz’s autonomy. You’ll also find a lovely little modern art gallery showcasing the work of local artists.
YVYPY Sky Bar in La Pascana Center
On the corner opposite the cathedral above a shopping centre called La Pascana is the unpronouncably named YVYPY. It boasts absolutely incredible views of the church and the plaza.
Prices are actually reasonably cheap, despite the setting and prime location, but don’t expect great things.
The service is atrocious, even for Bolivian standards, with long waits and unattentive staff. Plus the food is just what you’d expect to find on the roof of a shopping centre and not worth bothering with.
Not exactly a glowing review so far. So why on earth are we recommending this place, then, I hear you ask? Well you’ll soon forget about those minor inconveniences when you’ve got views like this.
Head up early evening to watch the sun set behind the cathedral, it’s truly spectacular.
Where to Eat in Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz is renowned for having some of, if not the very best food in Bolivia. And it lives up to its reputation and then some.
There are literally thousands upon thousands of great eateries here so this is by no means an extensive list. But here are our top recommendations for where to stuff your gob in Santa Cruz de la Sierra.
One of the most noticeable contrasts between Santa Cruz and virtually the rest of Bolivia, is the huge diversity of people here. One of the largest communities in the area is Japanese, something that’s reflected in the huge number of Japanese restaurants.
Restaurant Ken has earned its reputation as one of the oldest and best regarded Japanese restaurants in Santa Cruz.
A little removed from the centre, it’s worth the short cab ride out. Don’t expect fancy decor or super stylish furnishings, this is an old school eatery that places its emphasis on flavour.
The menu is extensive and showcases the best of Japanese cuisine, from sushi to chicken katsu and everything in between. They have a number of combo meals that include a selection of dishes and provide great value.
The food in this region is called “Camba” and it’s totally unique to the area. It’s reflective of the more tropical surroundings, with heavy spicing, plenty of heat, and bursting with flavour.
For a bargain basement meal of traditional Camba food, there’s no better place than the very central Mercado Nuevo. Located just a couple of blocks from the main plaza, the biggest part of the market is dedicated to food.
You’ll find plenty of staples like majadito, locro, tamales a la olla, as well as some favourite national dishes. And best of all, the prices are very wallet-friendly.
Head inside, pick your stall and simply sit down and order. We’d recommend choosing one of the stalls with crowds of people around it as it’s guaranteed to be great fare.
This quirky collective encompases a bar, a cafe, a restaurant plus various artistic endeavors from fashion to craftworks. It’s a shared space where all of the businesses are nominally connected.
It’s a lovely place to hang out day or night, with various areas to chill in. There are hammocks, bean bags, traditional tables and chairs and cosy snugs to curl up in.
The restaurant here is called Buddha Bowls and does exactly what it says on the tin, plus a little more. Healthy, delicious, colourful, vegan dishes take centre stage, including ingredients like falafel, salads, sandwiches and beans.
You can grab a bite to eat from Buddha Bowls, order a brew from the cafe, and enjoy an alcoholic beverage from the bar, all from the same seat. Prices are extremely reasonable as well.
As Santa Cruz Bolivia sits just a few hours from the Brazilian border, it’s little wonder there’s a visible influence on the local food. But you can also find some kickass straight-up Brazilian restaurants.
Open for lunch only, Tía Lia is a fantastic Brazilian BBQ with a salad bar boasting over 30 different concoctions. However, unlike a traditional Brazilian BBQ, it has two pricing options.
The first is what you’d probably expect, where you get unlimited food and return as many times as you wish. The second affords you one go at building the largest mountain of food you can construct in a single pass around the buffet. Both alternatives also include soup and bread.
It’s an unbelievably popular space for lunch, popular with office workers and city dwellers alike. Because of this you may have to wait a moment for a table, but they turnover quickly and there are plenty of them.
It’s extremely cheap and has a nice, friendly atmosphere, perfect for a quick, tasty lunch with a salad overload.
How to Get to Santa Cruz de la Sierra
Regardless of where you’re arriving from in Bolivia, you have two basic options for getting to Santa Cruz. In all honesty, neither are ideal, so you’ll just have to pick the best of a bad pair unfortunately.
If you’re coming from quite far away like La Paz, Uyuni, or Sucre then a flight will probably be your best choice. If you’re travelling from somewhere a bit closer like Samaipata, Trinidad or even Rurrenabaque, a bus will potentially be a better option.
Getting to Santa Cruz Bolivia By Plane
This is the preferred option for most visitors, with daily flights from all of Bolivia’s main cities. But while journey times are extremely short, the aircraft are generally pretty old and really tiny.
If, like me, you’re not a massive fan of flying, then this might not appeal too much. Another negative for going by plane is that delays and cancellations are commonplace on internal flights in Bolivia.
However, when weighed up against the alternatives, it might still win the fight. Most of the flights into Santa Cruz Bolivia are operated by Amaszonas and can be booked at relatively short notice.
For the best prices on flights check out kiwi.com, our go to flight search engine.
Getting to Santa Cruz Bolivia By Bus
The “roads” in this part of Bolivia are notoriously bad. I put that in italics because many aren’t even deserving of such a lofty title.
While extensive work has been ongoing for a number of years to improve them, plenty are still woefully poor.
What this means is that though some patches will be newly paved and gloriously smooth, others are little more than bumpy dirt paths.
If you’ve got the stomach for it, then it’s not actually too bad in the dry season. But come rainy season it’s a completely different matter as the regular downpours turn most routes into impassable mud baths.
At a minimum, journey times shoot up, while at worst buses are simply cancelled if it gets too bad.
How to Get Around in Santa Cruz de la Sierra
There are plenty of options for getting around in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, most relatively cheap. Here are your top options:
Bus or Truffi
Truffis are the small local buses that you’ll see buzzing around the narrow streets. They generally cost between 2-4 BOB (£0.25-0.50 GBP, $0.30-0.60 USD) and there’s a fantastic network that goes virtually all over the city and beyond.
They’re easy to flag down as you can simply stick your hand out regardless of whether you’re at a stop or not. They also let you off wherever you want, you just ask the driver to stop.
Finding the right information on which bus to get where may be more challenging. Finding someone who can tell you what bus to get where is surprisingly reasonably difficult.
Most truffis have destinations in the window ,so if you spot your destination, game on. You can ask the bus drivers themselves and they tend to have a decent idea which number you’ll need. But even the tourist information centre gives incorrect advice, as did our hotel, so beware.
It seems as though every other car in Santa Cruz Bolivia is a taxi. I’m not sure what the entry requirement is, but it seems that sticking a sign in your front window is sufficient.
I say this because sometimes taxi drivers refuse fare due to not having a clue where your intended destination is. Also many of the cars aren’t in great shape.
That said, if you’re heading to somewhere well known they’re a quick and easy way to get around. Be sure to negotiate your fare before you get in to avoid any nasty surprises.
Santa Cruz de la Sierra is one of only a few cities in Bolivia to have Uber. If you’re an Uber user then you’ll be familiar with its many benefits. They include knowing roughly what you’ll pay up front, journey times, and decent vehicles – even including ones with air conditioning.
However, the Uber drivers in Santa Cruz have a habit of ignoring the suggested route and going whichever way they please. This can be extremely frustrating and potentially cost you more, though sometimes it is down to their superior local knowledge.
Weather in Santa Cruz de la Sierra
Unlike the highlands in the West of Bolivia, with their typically cool climates, Santa Cruz de la Sierra is positively tropical. Hot, humid, and relatively cloudy is the norm.
There are generally two seasons here, wet (summer) and dry (winter). The rainy season runs from October through April, while the dry season goes May to September.
Temperatures remain remarkably constant year round, with the mercury hovering on average somewhere between 20-26°C (68-78.8°F). In rainy season you can expect tropical downpours most days, usually in the afternoon.
The rain can get pretty serious, with streets temporarily turning into rivers. This can be disruptive as Santa Cruz really is an outdoor city.
However, the storms don’t tend to last long, a few hours max normally, so they’re very easy to work around.
Where to Stay in Santa Cruz Bolivia
The specific area that you choose to base yourself in Santa Cruz doesn’t actually matter too much. It’s such a spread out city that you’re gonna have to get transport around to get to most places.
More important is to find somewhere that fits your budget and comfort level. A word of warning though, the most popular accommodations in this city get booked out literally months in advance.
It’s best to book as far as you can before your stay to allow yourself a decent choice and avoid disappointment. Here are our top picks of where to stay in Santa Cruz Bolivia.
Cheap & Cheerful – Nomad Hostel
As mentioned in the best bars in Santa Cruz section, Nomad is first and foremost a hostel. The location, half a block from the plaza, is second to none, and some rooms have views of the cathedral. It’s the perfect place to base yourself to explore the city.
There are both dorms and private rooms, but whichever you opt for you’ll enjoy the benefit of the friendly atmosphere. There’s the shared lounge and garden, and of course the bar downstairs come nightfall.
There’s great wifi, air conditioning, and even a great breakfast included in the price. The friendly staff also speak perfect English in case your Spanish isn’t up to scratch.
Midrange – Cosmopolitano Hotel Boutique
Also centrally located, the Cosmopolitano Hotel is a super chic boutique with lovely spacious rooms. Each features air conditioning, huge flat screen TVs, private bathrooms and a mini bar.
They’re all beautifully decorated, extremely bright, and equipped with modern furnishings. The Cosmopolitano also has a great little pool, perfect for cooling down on the hot Santa Cruz days.
Also included is a fabulous breakfast with a huge choice of delicious grub to select from including fruit, cereals, and local favourites like cunapes. This hotel is an absolute bargain for the price.
Affordable Luxury – Los Tajibos
Looking for something a little more upscale? Look no further than the 5 star Los Tajibos. Amongst its luxurious facilities are a huge outdoor swimming pool in a beautifully sculpted garden, gym, and spa.
Los Tajibos’ super comfortable rooms are kitted out in stylish decor and include air con, flat screen TVs, while some even boast terraces and spa baths.
They pride themselves on the excellent service here and you’re guaranteed a great reception and to be looked after by the attentive staff.
Don’t Forget Your Travel Insurance
We got quite a few warnings about our safety from Bolivian people we spoke to before heading to Santa Cruz de la Sierra. It’s got a reputation as being a bit dodgy.
In truth, the advice around precautions you should take are the same for visiting any big city around the world. Keep your belongings close by, try not to put yourself in dangerous situations etc.
That said, we would never travel here without a decent travel insurance behind us, and neither should you. It’s just not worth the risk, as unfortunately accidents and the unexpected do happen.
Our go to travel insurance provider is World Nomads. We’re big fans of their no nonsense approach and bullshit-free policies. Unlike with most insurance companies, you can even purchase policies after you’ve set off on your travels.
Don’t take the risk, grab yourself a free, no obligation quote below:
Need More Info on Bolivia?
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- Guide To Samaipata & Amboró National Park Bolivia
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Travel lover, professional writer and football (soccer) obsessive, James loves nothing more than getting outside and exploring little known corners of the globe. He’s also very partial to a drop of Guinness.