It was Valentine’s Day, and walking through the botanical gardens of Santa Cruz was the perfect way to spend it. Santa Cruz de la Sierra lies close to the Amazon Rainforest, and walking around the botanical gardens is a great way to see some of the rich variety of wildlife that resides in this region of Bolivia. This attraction is a wonderful place to visit whether you want to take a simple picnic or spend the whole day walking the expanse of trails. We spent most of the day hiking through the jardín botánico, spotting monkeys, tortoises, many birds, and a variety of flora along the way.
Getting To the Botanical Gardens
We left Santa Cruz fairly early to get a start before the day became very hot. Our Airbnb was a ways outside the center of the city, so we took a taxi to the jardín botánico. It cost about 30 Bolivianos and took around 30 minutes.
There are also colectivos that can take you there for a couple Bolivianos per person if you don’t want to take a taxi. These buses can be caught in the center of town and will either say Cotoca or 131. There may be other bus numbers that head that way, but we aren’t certain of which ones will stop at the gardens.
Let the driver know that you want to hop off at the Jardín Botánico Municipal. When coming from Santa Cruz, you’ll see a large sign for the gardens on the right side of the road. If you go by taxi, you can tell the driver to wait for you near the entrance until you are done. We decided we would take the bus back instead of asking our driver to wait.
When we walked to the entrance, we paid the 10 Bolivianos a person at the gate. We put on a bunch of bug spray and went on our way.
Wandering the Botanical Gardens
The front part of the Santa Cruz botanical gardens are well-maintained grounds. Here, there are wooden boardwalks, beautiful cactus gardens, a greenhouse, small ponds and lakes with caimans, grilling and picnic areas, and more. There were families setting up for picnics and couples taking naps on blankets in the lush grass.
As we wandered further back into the garden grounds, the path became narrower and the jungle canopy enveloped us, blocking out the sky. We found a lookout post and climbed the stairs to hang out amongst the highest branches.
We wandered even further into the grounds until there were no other people in sight. As we walked down a path surrounded by tall grass, monkeys crossed ahead of us, leaping with great precision from one flimsy tree branch to another. Large groups of butterflies fluttered together to access the last puddles of water that were rapidly drying in the sun.
The jungle began to thicken again. There were various paths through the trees, and we honestly weren’t sure where to go. Some of them ended up being very muddy or blocked by fallen trees, which forced us to backtrack a bit.
A group of monkeys were going about their business in the trees above, so we stopped to watch them quietly from the jungle floor. We walked and walked through the dense jungle when the path seemed to suddenly come to an end. Water covered the trail, leaving deep mud and swampy spots. The mosquitos were really thriving here…
With only the vague map posted at the entrance (see bottom of post), we had no idea of how far we went or where exactly we were. Knowing there were caimans in the botanical gardens, we decided to just make our way back the way we came instead of trying to wade through the mud and water to complete the loop.
When we made it back to the front of the gardens, we walked through the cactus garden and around the lake. It was pretty hot at that point in the day, so we soon decided to head back to Santa Cruz for some ice cream. We crossed the street to catch a passing colectivo headed for the city. Be sure to ask if they are headed all the way into Santa Cruz.
Notes on the Botanical Gardens of Santa Cruz, Bolivia
Entry Cost: 10 Bolivianos per adult, 5 Bolivianos per child. If you want to use the grills, there is an extra fee.
Business Hours: Monday-Sunday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Hours may differ on a holiday
What to Bring: Bug spray is a necessity. If you want to spend the whole day there, you may want to bring lunch or a snack because there is no food for sale on the grounds. Also bring plenty of water. Wear comfortable shoes you don’t mind getting muddy because some of the trails can become very wet.
Definitely have your camera to capture the beautiful flora and fauna! Refrain from using flash photography when capturing animals in the park. We didn’t have binoculars, but they would definitely make things easier when looking for birds, sloths, and other animals.
Getting Around the Park: The trails in the back of the park aren’t marked well, but you can hike as far or as little as you want. Below is a rough map that we found at the entrance.