This city founded in the mid-sixteenth century is the most populated city in Bolivia and one of the most important commercial centers in the country. Its official name is Santa Cruz de la Sierra and it’s located in the center of the country, near the Piray River. It’s one of the most developed cities in the country, where you can also find the best restaurants and hotels. Here are the best places to visit in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.
Typical Food from Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz is located 400 meters above sea level, so it generally has a warm climate. The typical food, although not tropical, contains several dishes with natural ingredients such as banana, rice, yucca, and corn. The most recognized dish is the majadito.
It’s made with beef, rice, and paprika, accompanied by eggs and fried bananas. There are also many typical soups and broths such as patasca (a broth with yellow chili prepared with pork, corn, yucca, and chives) and locro (a soup with rice, a kind of dried meat called charque and paprika), as well as loaves of bread made with cheese, yucca, or rice.
Downtown Art and History
For a cultural and artistic tour, the best way to take in the history of Santa Cruz is downtown, where you will also find the best Santa Cruz, Bolivia hotels.
Plaza 24 de Septiembre
The Plaza 24 de Septiembre—named after the date of the beginning of Bolivian independence—is considered the heart of the city. The Cathedral is at the east, which holds a museum of sacred art, and a great view of the city center from one of the towers.
At the south, at the same square, is Manzana Uno, a non-profit art gallery that became one of the most important art centers in Santa Cruz. This old building belonged to the police department and was abandoned for several years. It was opened as a public space with an art exhibition and the renovated square, financed by the mayor’s office and the people of Santa Cruz.
The Museum of Contemporary Art
The Museum of Contemporary Art was created in 1991 and is located four blocks from the Plaza 24 de Septiembre. It has a collection of more than 300 artworks dating from the second half of the twentieth century. The Melchor Pinto House is a large house from the early twentieth century completely restored and is today a cultural center. Its exhibitions are mainly of Bolivian artists. The museum uses a variety of artistic expressions for its exhibits: music, theater, painting, sculpture, and video.
Nature and the Santa Cruz Surroundings
To the west, on the outskirts of the city is the Municipal Botanical Garden of Santa Cruz de la Sierra. In 217 hectares there are two main collections, a Subtropical Forest and a Chaco Forest, as well as the smaller Transition Forest. In the lagoon you can admire aquatic plants, water birds, and migratory birds.
Lomas de Arena Regional Park
In an area of 14 thousand hectares, one hour south of the Santa Cruz, Bolivia hotels downtown, is the Lomas de Arena Regional Park. It’s known for having dunes over 12 meters (39 feet) high, as well as diverse landscapes including savannah, forest, and a small lake.
Among the activities that can be done there’s an ecological trail. On this trail you can enjoy nature, mainly the beach and the forest, either walking or on horseback. There is also an archeological site in Los Chivatos, where a cemetery of the Chané culture was found.
Amboró National Park
Amboró National Park is a two-hour drive from Santa Cruz de la Sierra. Tucked away in the mountains this place has incredible views of the surrounding Rocky Mountains and rainforest. There are many hiking activities and lodges where you can take expert tours of the more than 3,000 species of plants, as well as various mammals, birds, amphibians, and many more.
In Particular, there are more than forty species of bats. The forest of giant ferns is one of the main places to visit in this park. This type of fern is only found in five countries in the world: Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Australia, and New Zealand.
Santa Cruz with Children
There is a wide variety of activities if you are staying in Santa Cruz with children. The two most recommended are the South American Fauna Municipal Zoo and Aqualand, both also suitable for teenagers and adults.
Municipal Zoo of Santa Cruz,
The Municipal Zoo of Santa Cruz, Bolivia, is the only one on the continent focused on South American fauna. It contains a wide variety of birds of many species, especially macaws. It also holds an aquarium and various temporary exhibits.
Noel Kempff Mercado Museum of Natural History
Although it’s on the other side of the city, if you are interested in nature, the Noel Kempff Mercado Museum of Natural History is also worth a visit.
Aqualand is a tropical-themed waterpark north of the city. Water slides, a lazy river, and many areas where you can rest, relax and enjoy a fun day.