Published October 2019
Considered one of Bolivia’s “economic capitals,” Santa Cruz de la Sierra is attracting more and more people looking for a job, education, and quality of life. In 20 years, its population has almost doubled: currently, 1.7 million people live in the city, which is filled with great hotels, international restaurants, shopping centers, bars, and shows. All this combined with the simple habits of a place set up by the banks of the Piraí River, surrounded by stunning natural beauty. Check out what to do in Santa Cruz de la Sierra and its surroundings:
Filled with colonial manors and historical structures, the center of Santa Cruz de La Sierra is known as Casco Viejo. There you’ll find some of the city’s main icons: Plaza 24 de Septiembre, Casa de Gobierno, and Catedral de San Lorenzo – with an eclectic style, one of the cathedral’s towers has an overlook that offers a panoramic view of the area.
Casa de Gobierno: Plaza 24 de Septiembre
Catedral de San Lorenzo: Calle René Moreno corner Calle Sucre
Nearby you’ll find the Museo Histórico Regional, home to hundreds of archaeological items, and the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, which holds permanent and temporary exhibitions by local and international artists. To explore local handicrafts produced by rural and indigenous artisans from over 60 communities in Santa Cruz, the tip is to visit Museo Artecampo, which also has shops in the city center and Viru-Viru Airport to sell its pieces.
Parque El Arenal is where Cruceños go to hide from the heat when the temperatures reach 86 °F [30 °C], which is quite common – even though it’s the most charming park in the city because of its lovely lake, it’s not the largest. This title belongs to Parque Urbano, which has an area equivalent to 20 soccer fields.
Museo Histórico Regional: Calle Junín, 141
Museo de Arte Contemporáneo: Calle Sucre corner Calle Potosí
Museo Artecampo: Avenida Jose Estenssoro, 3310
Parquel El Arenal: Calle Caballero corner Calle Murillo
Parque Urbano: Avenida Argentina
Do you feel like Swiss fondue? Sushi? Pad thai? You can find all this in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, in addition to traditional restaurants that serve Camba – as locals are known – food.
One of them is La Casa del Camba, with an extensive menu that offers everything from empanadas to maní (peanut, in Spanish) soup and locro de gallina, a traditional stew made with rice, chicken, and vegetables.
La Casa del Camba: Avenida Cristobal Mendoza, 1395
At Mercado Nuevo, you can also try everyday foods, especially sweets like tablillas de maní (similar to peanut brittle) and all kinds of cookies.
When the sun sets but the heat still lingers on, groups of friends head to the many bars on Avenida Monseñor Rivero. But Duda Pop Bar, a few blocks down, has the most popular night in Santa Cruz. David Bowie, Chico Buarque, and Los Lobos songs liven up the atmosphere where youngsters enjoy the house’s drinks – the most popular order is the Singrone, a version of the Negroni made with Singani, a Bolivian spirit distilled from muscat grapes.
Mercado Nuevo: Calle Sucre
Duda Pop Bar: Calle Florida, 228
While, during the week, Cruceños go after progress, on Saturdays and Sundays, they immerse themselves in the Chaco nature, on excursions to this, one of the most biodiverse areas on the planet.
Another quick side trip, 15 minutes from the city, leads to Jardín La Rinconada, an ecological park with a restaurant, trails, waterfalls, and exotic animals and plants, like water lilies. Meanwhile, Lomas de Arena Regional Park – an environmental protection area with lakes among 40-foot [12 m] tall dunes – is 7.5 miles [12 km] away. The three activities take a whole day.
Some 75 miles [120 km] away is the village of Samaipata, on the way to Fuerte de Samaipata and Amboró National Park: the former is an archaeological site with one of the biggest rock painting collections in the world and the latter is a reserve with around 500,000 hectares, home to over 1,000 animal species. These are places that reconnect the locals with their roots, so they never get lost on the road to the future.
Jardín La Rinconada: Km 7 on the way to Porongo