Santa Cruz de la Sierra will likely surprise you. It doesn’t look like the Bolivia that you read about in books or see in pictures. Santa Cruz is by far the most international city in all of Bolivia, and is also the most prosperous. The city is a nice stop for a reprieve from the difficult travel that you are faced with in much of the country. Spend your days wandering the streets bordered by modern buildings or eating well prepared cuisine from all over the planet. Bolivia’s largest city has a way of sucking visitors in and making them feel comfortable and welcome. Many people plan on stopping in to Santa Cruz with the intention of staying for a couple of days but end up staying for a week.
Things to do in Santa Cruz
- Museums and Churches: One of the best views of the city is from the bell tower of the city’s main Cathedral. Another worthy museum to check out is the Museo Etno-Folklorico which gives insights into the human history of the area.
- Waterpark: As if you needed more proof that this isn’t the Bolivia you expected, there is a waterpark outside of the city. It is a great way to escape from the heat for a little while. On weekends it is is packed with locals.
- Botanical Garden: The botanical gardens are almost more of a zoo than anything, and although I don’t usually endorse going to zoos, if you are not planning on doing a wildlife excursion into the jungle it might be worth your while to see the animals that exist in the area (the entrance is about 2US$).
- Lomas de Arena: This is a very interesting sight, a huge rogue sand dune which is accessible from town via a 5US$ taxi ride. You can also do tours of the sand dune via a quad.
Where to Eat in Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz was actually one of my favourite places in South America to eat. There is food from all over the planet and the prices are still around the norm for Bolivia. Try an Argentinean grill called Los Lomitos where you can get a huge stack of meat for about 10US$. My favourite place in the city to eat was La Casona which has a great atmosphere and a well varied menu (meal for between 8-15US$). If you want fast food you will not have a problem finding quick food in Santa Cruz as fast food joints are found on nearly every street.
Where to Stay in Santa Cruz
I’ve only been to Santa Cruz on one occasion and was not all too pleased with my accommodation. I stayed at Alojamiento Santa Barbara, due to its listing in the Lonely Planet, which was cheap (my single room was 7US$), but it was dirty and the bed seemed to have been built for a small child. I have heard from others that have visited that Jodanga Backpacker’s is the new place to stay in Santa Cruz, as it has a pool.
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