Santa Cruz De La Sierra is unlike any other city we visited in Bolivia. The weather is significantly warmer, the elevation is substantially lower, and the culture is a stark contrast from the rest of the country. This city is an industrial hub, and there is more wealth concentrated here. You’ll find more European descendants and expats and less of the colorful traditional dress and loud celebrations filling the streets. Despite the fact that some locals we encountered in other Bolivian cities didn’t have positive views of Santa Cruz De La Sierra, we did enjoy experiencing it.
Getting There and Away
Santa Cruz De La Sierra is a popular city to fly in and out of. The city has two airports. El Trompillo airport is the older of the two and is most frequented for domestic flights to cities like Sucre and La Paz. Viru Viru International Airport is Bolivia’s largest airport, and it is very modern. There are regular international flights coming and going. Though this airport is a little further on the outskirts of town, there are plenty of taxis and buses that can take you into the city.
Santa Cruz De La Sierra is the one of the most populated cities in Bolivia, so there are plenty of buses that go to and from this hub. You can find daily buses from Bolivian cities like Cochabamba, La Paz, and Sucre, and you can also go internationally to and from Brazil and Paraguay. You can stop by bus stations to purchase tickets, or you can take a look at options on TicketsBolivia.
Getting Around Santa Cruz De La Sierra
In most cities we visit, we try to walk most of the time. We found Santa Cruz to be very sprawled out, so we found ourselves walking far distances every day. Luckily, when we were tired of walking in the heat, there were plenty of options. Taxis are abundant here, and it is easy to flag one down anywhere. Be sure to agree on a price before getting in the cab because they aren’t metered most of the time. In addition to taxis, Uber can also be used here.
If you are comfortable taking local transport, there are plenty of buses that can take you throughout the city. These combis or micros can also take you to neighboring towns or to spots just outside the city, such as the Jardín Botánico. You can catch most of these in the city center. Be sure to check with the driver to ensure they are going where you planned.
When to Visit
Santa Cruz De La Sierra is a fine place to visit year-round. But during the months of April through September, there is less rain, lower humidity, cooler temperatures, and clearer skies. Tourism is a bit higher during these months, but Santa Cruz isn’t a very popular destination, so you won’t find large tourist crowds during any time of year.
We went to Santa Cruz in February for Carnaval. It didn’t rain our entire week there, but it was pretty hot and humid. We definitely weren’t used to it after spending time in the cooler climate of La Paz!
Where to Stay
Santa Cruz De La Sierra is rapidly growing, and there are new hotels and hostels popping up often. You’ll find accommodation for any budget, from cheap backpacker hostels to upscale suites. We stayed in an Airbnb because there were many affordable options at some pretty nice houses.
- Residential Mainumbí – bed in a dorm room or double rooms and shared bathroom
- Hostal 360 Grados – double room with private bathroom and included breakfast
- Pacifico Apart Hotel – studio apartment to standard apartments with equipped kitchens
- Urban Suites – standard apartment with a equipped kitchen
- Cosmopolitano Hotel Boutique – double room and private bathroom with included breakfast
- Taos Apart Hotel – 1 and 2-bedroom apartments
- Inboccalupo (now Alfonsina) Hotel Boutique – suite rooms with included breakfast
- Marriott – standard rooms with private bathrooms
Where to Eat
You won’t ever go hungry in Santa Cruz De La Sierra. There are many high-end eateries serving up seafood, European dishes, South American cuisine and more. Some of these include Chalet La Suisse for Swiss and other European dishes, Jardin de Asia Restaurant for sushi and other Japanese cuisine, Sach’a Hauska for Peruvian and other Latin American foods, and La Cabrera for Steak and Argentinian dishes.
If you are looking for something a more-budget friendly, try Casa Vegana for vegan and vegetarian options, La Sfizieria for pizza, K’ao for sushi, soups, and chicken dishes, and Urbano for pizza and bar food. You’ll also find many Americanized fast food spots, including Burger King, Starbucks, and McDonald’s.
There are really great places to grab a quick local bite or snack in Santa Cruz, including salteñas stands like Los Castores Salteñeria and Pollos Kiky Sucursal for fried chicken. We often went to the local markets for breakfast and lunch. At the markets, you can get bread, fruit, and veggies for really cheap. In the afternoon, many markets will have bustling lunch stalls that serve saice, tallarín, pollo picante, and other Bolivian dishes for a great deal.
There are many grocery stores spread out across Santa Cruz. Stores like Fidalga will provide many food items, bottled water, and other essentials. The local markets and small tiendas also sell basic essentials, often for a lower price.
Santa Cruz is a great hub for those wanting to see the amazing sights that this part of Bolivia offers. There are many single-day and multi-day tours that take you into the Amazon regions in Amboro National Park, Kaa-Iya National Park, Noel Kempff National Park, and others. Taking a tour into one of the parks in the region is a great way to see the wildlife and flora of the region. You might even spot a jaguar!
There are many tour operators, so it is important to do adequate research before booking. This will ensure that you don’t get over charged and that you will go with a safe and reputable company. A well-known and well-liked operator is Nick’s Adventures. They offer a variety of tours and have a great reputation.
There are many activities in Santa Cruz that can be done without a tour. Going to Parque Lomas de Arena, the Jardín Botánico, and other spots are perfectly doable by taking public transport. If you are more comfortable going by tour though, there are many operators that offer tours for these small excursions.
Being a bit more modern, more accommodation and restaurants accepted credit card than other cities we visited in Bolivia. However, some markets, smaller restaurants, hostels, etc. only accept cash, so it is a good idea to carry some on you when you go out.
If you need to take out cash, there are many ATMs near the city center and beyond. You can also go into banks to take out money or exchange currencies.