Santa Cruz has a population of 1.5 million people, and is the capital city of the Santa Cruz department. Santa Cruz is one of the fastest growing cities in the world and the most populated city in Bolivia. Here you’ll find an intriguing blend of innovation and traditionalism - businesses, office buildings, and busy people walking the streets, combined with a low-key and traditional vibe. This fusion is also reflected in the diversity of the people who live here, from Japanese, to Brazilian, to Russian.
Santa Cruz is in the tropical lowlands, and stands out from the other major Bolivian cities that are in the higher altitude regions. Due to the tropical climate in Santa Cruz, one can see many sloths around the city. There are so many great things to do here with children, for example visiting the Biocentro Guembe where you can learn about lots of different animals. Spend time exploring the vibrant city centre, eat out in the many restaurants Santa Cruz has to offer, and enjoy the city by night – Santa Cruz is notorious for its entertainment. Below is our Santa Cruz travel guide with information on all the best things to do, places to go and what not to miss.
BIOCENTRO GUEMBE MARIPOSARIO – A perfect day trip for nature lovers, in this park you can observe butterflies, birds, and monkeys, amongst others animal species. You can even enjoy a swim in the pools and cool off from the Bolivian heat. Tip: the food here is quite pricey, make sure to eat a good breakfast before visiting.
MUSEO DE LA CATEDRAL – This Museo De Arte Sagrado contains a collection of religious icons and artifacts. Some of the items include gold and silver relics from the Jesuit Guarayos collection. Also found here is one of the world’s smallest books, which is the size of a thumbnail and contains the Lord’s Prayer in several languages.
JARDIN ZOOLOGICO – The Santa Cruz zoo holds a variety of birds, reptiles and mammals from the residing region. If you look carefully you can see the monkeys and sloths roaming free through the treetops.
SAN MIGUEL JAGUAR CONSERVATION RESERVE – This conservation area is a cattle ranch that has been transformed into a beautiful place for wildlife. The forests on the property have been well-maintained, and for this reason there is an abundance of wildlife that can be found. There are many creatures, from anacondas and monkeys to jaguars. There are many activities such as canoeing, fishing and night dives.
*** WHAT NOT TO MISS ***
There are several companies that offer tours to the many beautiful sights in and around Santa Cruz. Try canoeing, hiking, or animal watching.
Guembe is one of the must-see places here.
Many of the restaurants can be found near the central plaza, or in the northern part around Avenida Monsenor Rivero.
El Arriero (Avenida San Martin Calle 4 Este) is the best steakhouse in town, for perfectly grilled meat, and fast service. There is also chicken and fish available, and the salads are good: fresh, crisp, and not overdressed. Be aware that at peak times, this place can get very busy. You can’t go wrong with La Casa del Camba (Av. Cristobal de Mendoza 1355). Here you can expect traditional South American food - good-quality, and for a fair price. This restaurant has a great atmosphere, and it’s popular with the locals.
For an escape from the city, go to La Rinconada (Km. 7 en route to Porongo, Urubo). There’s a beautiful garden, with water features, swimming pools, and children’s play areas, and of course a restaurant. Note that on Mondays this place is closed.
Head to the up-and-coming Equipetrol district to enjoy the night. Once a well-off, residential area, now a commercial strip, Avenida San Martin is the main spot where it all kicks off – a buzzing street lined with bars, restaurants, and clubs. Avenida Busch also contains several pubs and bars which are great for partying.
Within a few blocks of the main plaza you can find other bars and pubs with DJs or music. Duda Pop Pub (Florida 228) is a bohemian hang-out, perfect to enjoy a few drinks. The style is retro, and there is a great atmosphere. Don’t forget to check what’s on promotion!
The rainy season runs from October to April and the dry season from May to September. The average monthly temperature is about 26 degrees Celsius during the rainy season, and about 23 degrees Celsius during the dry season.
Santa Cruz offers an international airport called Viru Viru, with direct flights from a variety of international cities, such as Madrid, Miami, and Washington. A direct flight from La Paz takes just 1 hour with BoA or Amaszonas.
If you’re travelling by bus, from La Paz it takes 18 hours, and from Cochabamba it takes 10 hours. There is also the option of international buses from Brazil, Argentina and Peru.
There is an array of places from hostels to hotels. Some can be found near the bus terminal, and in and around the main square of the city. Lodging can vary from nice to not so nice, depending on what you prefer and how much you want to pay.
One option is Jodanga Backpackers Hostel (El Fuerte N0 1380), which is a fun place to stay: here you’ll find an outdoor pool and bar, and organized events such as day trips and BBQs. The staff are very friendly, the hostel is kept really clean, and there is a good kitchen and breakfast. However, it’s a 15-minute walk from the nearest supermarket, and a 25-minute walk from the city centre.
If you want to be closer to the main attractions, go to Bed & Bar Backpackers (Calle Velasco No. 480), which is less than 10 minutes by foot from the main square. The staff are very helpful and informative, and the rooms are spacious and comfy. You have to pay a little extra for breakfast.
Be aware of the many police in the streets who will ask you for your documents or passport. There are frauds about so be careful who you show your documents to.