30+ things to do in Santa Cruz

 In Bolivian cuisine, Travel Bolivia, Travel South America

Keen to make the most of your time in Santa Cruz? Check out our list of best things to do in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.
Many say that when in Santa Cruz you forget you are in Bolivia. We say: this is also Bolivia!

The city is the recommended entry point for a trip through Bolivia (check our tailor made tours Bolivia), allowing a gradual ascent to the altitude of the highland areas. Santa Cruz de la Sierra is the largest city in Bolivia, a metropolis (2 million inhabitants) in the middle of the tropical Amazon lowlands, only 400 m above sea level. It is rather off-the-beaten-path and many travelers who visit Santa Cruz actually don’t know that the city and its surroundings are worthy of exploration!

Santa Cruz is a modern city, with a warm and humid climate, full with tropical vibes, happy and friendly people, exciting nightlife and lush, green surroundings. What is not to love about this tropical paradise? Join us and explore it with us.

Well, you just arrived and you only have a few days to explore the city and its surroundings…

1. LOOK AT THAT BUILDING! EXPLORE THE CASCO VIEJO What to do in the old city centre a.k.a. the “Casco Viejo”?
Visit the “Centro Histórico” also known as the “Casco Viejo”, located within the first ring. Santa Cruz -although it is a young city- has a variety of architectural styles ranging from Colonial construction to Art Nouveau and Art Deco pieces.

Some of the most interesting public spaces can be found in the Casco Viejo around the main plaza.
A must-visit is the Plaza 24 de Septiembre– the centerpiece, the heart of downtown. The Plaza received its name in honor of the date of uprising of the independent movement of Santa Cruz initiated in 1810. The Plaza is a large square and a great watching spot with a lot of benches, gorgeous plants, beautiful trees and high palm trees. Find a place, take a sit and relax in the shade (yes, it can get hot in Santa Cruz). You will forget the time while people-watching.

3. WRITE A POSTCARD the old fashioned way
Buy a postcard and do it the old fashioned way, just like back in the days and surprise your friends or family! Or send one to your home address and give yourself an extra souvenir, a nice postcard will be waiting for you when you get back home. Nice idea, isn’t it?
And if you are looking for a good place to sit down and write, get a cup of coffee at one of the cafés around the Plaza.

Take a cup of coffee, a milkshake or smoothie in one of the many coffee shops with free WIFI. Time to check your email or post some of your best pictures on social media.

For a nice view of the city visit the Mirador at the right tower (the clock tower) of the Cathedral. It is open from 16.00. A second option is the terrace café of the Senses hotel, just right across the street.

Support the arts! The nice “Paseo La Recova” is located on Libertad street, 1/2 block north from the Plaza. You can also visit “Artecampo” or “Uniarte” stores, full of original handicrafts from eastern Bolivia. There are also other souvenir and handicraft stores throughout the city.


Swing by cool art spots in the heart of the historic centre:

  • Casa de la Cultura
  • Manzana Uno
  • Espacio Infinito

Fresh fruits and vegetables together with cut flowers make a colorful view. These products are sold at various bustling markets including the recently renewed and full of color “Mercado Central”, located only 4 blocks east from the Plaza.

Santa Cruz has numerous churches, including the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Lawrence (a beautiful 400 years old building) at the main plaza 24 de Septiembre.
Another well preserved old church is San Roque (calle Velasco esquina Monseñor Salvatierra). San Roque has become one of the scenarios of Symphonic Orchestra concerts thanks to its nice acoustic.

Santa Cruz has some interesting museums. Must-sees in the “Casco Viejo” (old town) include:

  • Museum of Religious Art (Museo de Arte Sacro) inside the Cathedral, where you can find relics of silver and gold and one of the smallest books in the world (thumbnail size).
  • Casa de la Cultura, Manzana 1 and Contemporary Art Museum with temporary exhibits of modern art.
  • Regional History Museum. It houses a library and document archive dating as far back as 1600. An exhibit with archeological pieces from pre-Hispanic (pre-Colonial) cultures in Eastern Bolivia and a second exhibit showing the culture of the native people of this region (Guaraní, Ayoreo, Guarayos, Chané and others). The beautiful building the museum is housed in was built in 1915. It used to be the private home of one of the “high society” families of the city. Most interior decor was imported from Paris.
  • You can also visit the Ethno-Folklorist museum with a collection of masks, musical instruments and clothing from different ethnic groups of Eastern Bolivia.

11. CHANGE THE WORLD and support streets artists
Left over change? Take it to the street and give it to musicians. Support the local arts!

You can find nice photography books of Bolivia. Or start practicing your Spanish and read one of the local writers. You can also find the classics and other books in English.

Take a city tour and learn more about the city. Ruta Verde offers a special interesting one that can be tailor made. You will learn more about the Centro Histórico and its different architectonic styles, the history of the city and the different neighbourhoods.

Extra bonus: Santa Cruz is a green city with several squares and streets where you can enjoy the shade and colors of different native trees, that are in full bloom in different seasons:

♣ In May the Toborochi trees
♣ In June-July-August the Tajibo trees
♣ In September the Gallito trees

♣ A bit outside the city you can also visit the sunflower fields (in June, July and August) on the route to the Mennonite colonies near San Julian.

(♥) Insta-worthy picture spots (and don’t forget to tag us #rutaverdebolivia):

  • The central block and heart of the city, where the plaza and the cathedral are located. Here you will find the colorful wall mural of the Manzana Uno.  Climb the clock tower or the terrace of La Pascana for a nice view of the plaza.
  • The Mercado nuevo (colorful market).
  • Interactive wall murals by Fragance, Tte. Mamerto Cuéllar 1660 in front of Parque Urbano.
  • The tropical main plaza.
  • Av. Cañoto in the winter (June/July/August) when the Tajibo trees are in bloom.

Lines above we covered a bit of the old town city centre where is easy to take a stroll. But the city is big, Santa Cruz is designed as a succession of circular highways known as “anillos” (ring). “El primer anillo” is only the first circle around the city center. If you want to get around consider taking a taxi (Uber is available).

14. Grab a bite. WHERE TO EAT?

INTERNATIONAL CUISINE just to name a few:

Italian: Michelangelo, Il Borgo, Bravissimo, Piegari, Angelino, Leonardo, La Bella Napoli

Swiss: Chalet La Suisse, Tapekua Bistrot

German: Bistro La Casona

French cuisine: La Creperie, Dossier. Café Bistro with great croissants and pain au chocolait: Kawka Gourmet.

Japanse + Asian fusion: Jardín de Asia, Goss, Yorimichi, Ken, Nikkei Sushi Lounge

Chinese: New Caton, Mandarin, Hong Fa

Indian: The Maharaja

Brazilian: Tía Lia, El rincón Brasileiro

Mexican: El Chile, Jalapeños, Mexico Lindo

Peruvian: Muelle 18

Steakhouses: Brasargent, La Caballeriza

Bakeries: Fridolin, Las Cazuelas, El Buen Gusto, Glamour, El Horno Caliente

Vegetarian: Casa Vegana, Buda Bowls, Fast&Vegan

Outdoor restaurants: There are nice restaurants just outside the city as well, some of them are: “La Rinconada”, “Casa del Camba”, “Tapekua Le Mayen”, “Biocentro Guembe”. These restaurants are especially visited by locals on Saturdays and Sundays. It can get very busy here.

Thematic restaurants:

Harry Potter fan? Grab a chocolate beer or make your own tasty magic potion at “El Caldero Chorreante“.

We love this VERDE (green) oase in the middle of the city: Botánica

Rooftop cocktail bars:

SBC Al-Razi cocktail bar Cool and stylish place to have a drink and feel the good vibes with the locals.

Would you like to try typical food for lunch or dinner? Try “Casa del Camba” or restaurant “El Aljibe” (a museum-restaurant located in an old colonial building that dates back to 1880) both especialised in typical food from Santa Cruz. The bonus is their authentic decoration and beautiful gardens and yards. Another option is restaurant ¨Comida Típica Suarez¨.

“Es la hora del cheruje” (time to eat). Would you like to try something gourmet with typical ingredients? We recommend you Hapo.

Don’t forget to order “mocochinchi”, a very tasty and sweet Bolivian lowlands drink made of peach, water and cinnamon. It is served cold!

A quick bite? Try an empanada salteña and a glass of mocochinchi from 9:00 until 13:00 (saltenerías: “Jet Set”, “Cocheros”, “Santa Cruz”). And in the afternoon enjoy a cup of coffee with our tasty horneados típicos: cuñape, empanadas de arroz, empanadas de maíz, empanadas de queso, zonzo, masaco, etc (“Salón de té Las Delicias”, “Fridolin“, “Las Cazuelas”)

Santa Cruz has excellent places to go out, evening entertainment with a diverse choice of clubs, bars, discos, restaurants, grills, pastry, ice cream bars and pubs with live music. The SBC rooftop and SBC Al-Razi cocktail bar are a couple of “the places to be” at the moment. Downtown and around the main square 24 de Septiembre you will also find several bar/restaurants.

A popular hangout place full of bars, cafés and restaurants is Avenida Monseñor Rivero (also called Boulevard). The Boulevard is a popular destination all day long. It has a row of fancy restaurants, bars and cafés serving excellent diverse specialties. Pick one, sit outside and enjoy the ambience.

A popular spot for evening entertainment is the “Ventura Mall” at San Martín Avenue and 4to anillo in the Equipetrol neighbourhood with plenty of bars, up-scale restaurants, grills, pastry and ice cream shops. Here you will find: the well-known Hard Rock Café, Friday’s, Starbucks, Cinnabon, KFC….
Equipetrol neighbourhood is one of the wealthiest of Santa Cruz. Many luxurious hotels, modern and traditional restaurants, clubs and bars are located here.

Big malls such as “Ventura Mall” and the brand new “Patio Design Style Center” are the favorite options for the cruceños. Not enough shopping? Then you should also go to “Las Brisas Mall”.

The Cine Center is a modern cinema complex surrounded by some hip bars, trendy restaurants and a shopping mall. It’s a popular hangout place for locals.
If you want to combine some shopping with real multi-screen cinema experience then you should try “Cinemark” inside the Ventura Mall or “Multicine” inside Las Brisas shopping Mall.
Movies are usually shown in their original language with Spanish subtitles, both 2D and 3D.
Cine CBA is the alternative downtown (Calle Cochabamba 66) with interesting independent movies.

Soccer fan? There is one big soccer stadium in the city – Estadio Tahuichi Aguilera, where if you are lucky, you can watch a nice classic match, “el clásico”: Oriente Petrolero against Blooming (the 2 main football teams of the city)

We are not big fans of zoos, but we appreciate the efforts when it comes to act as a refuge to wild animals. Take your time at the Zoo, the only specialized in South American fauna in America, is 15 minutes north of the Plaza Principal. Daily open from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Jardín Botánico is located on the way to Cotoca village, only a 30 min drive from the city. Check out our list with things to do in Cotoca.
The botanic garden has gardens with flowers and colourful butterflies, a lagoon and a cactus garden. You will also find here 6 km of walking trails through different type of forests with a lot of chance to spot wildlife; from sloths to monkeys and different types of birds.

Take a taxi to La Rinconada (pool complex, restaurant and a gorgeous design tropical garden, the lagoon contains the largest water lily in the world, the Victoria Boliviana, Guinness breaking record giant leaf) or Biocentro Guembé (pool complex with different restaurants, and bars, with a monkey jungle, a butterfly house and an enormous bird dome-aviary where toucans, peacoks and big parrots are all walking and flying around you. Enjoy their proximity but please respect their space) in the Urubó Zone on the way to Porongo Km 5. Another option is Ivaga Guazú Park, km 12 on the old highway to Cochabamba. At these places you can have a good meal and enjoy a beautiful “paseo” through different trails with of orchids, palm trees, butterflies and birds.

Guembé and La Rinconada are nice parks with a pool complex, but if you are ready for some more adrenaline then Kalomai Park is a big summer aquatic park with diversion for the whole day. It has many attractions, water slides, torbellino twisters, olympic swimming pool and a gigantic pool. (This park is closed during winter time – from June until August).

26. Plan a DAY TRIP

Santa Cruz is the gateway for amazing outdoor activities. Make the most of your trip with sightseeing tours and day trips.
Recommended get-aways are the excursions to the Lomas de Arena (wildlife spotting and sandboarding on the dunes), the  waterfalls of Cuevas combined with a visit to archeological site “El Fuerte” de Samaipata (this pre-Columbian fortress built by the Chane people is located 120 km from Santa Cruz near Samaipata, known as “Bolivia’s little Switzerland”) and one of the old Jesuit Missions in the Chiquitania region.

27. Visit a wildlife sanctuary How about a visit to the wild animal rescue center of AFASI (Amigos de la Fauna Silvestre, a foundation that works for wild animals and biodiversity that are threatened in the tropical lowlands of Bolivia) where you can support their noble work and see the over 320 wild animals in their care. These beautiful creatures were freed from illegal captivity in its wildlife sanctuary. You can get close to monkeys, land turtles and parrots in the sanctuary. It is also possible to take a walk through the 44 hectare nature reserve park. The guides show visitors the wildlife of the Santa Cruz tropics and share their knowledge of the local flora and fauna.

Nature lovers can see cats such as pumas, ocelots or ocelots, four species of monkeys, parabas and parrots, wild boars, foxes, land and water turtles, lizards and badgers.

If you are planning to stay longer you can also consider volunteering and helping AFASI in their rescue center? Helping hands are always welcome! 


To get in touch with the nature in the Amazone jungle, plan a visit to Amboró National Park. Amboró is a paradise for bird lovers. You will get a chance to spot and photograph animals like monkeys, beautiful butterflies, capybaras, macaws….. and “tatus” (small wild pig). It’s a tropical humid forest near the river Surutú. Along the river you will feel the presence of bigger mammals through the unmistakable footprints on the beach.

Interested in visiting more national parks in the jungle? Madidi National Park is another option with a stay in safari-like cabins inside the jungle. Stay at a community-run lodge and get stuck into indigenous life.

A boat trip? Stay on board of the Reina de Enin and wake up to the sounds of the jungle. Monkeys, swimming pools, pink river dolphins, warm weather, hammocks and capybaras are just some of the attractions in the rivers of the amazon region. You can visit indigenous communities and learn how to make chocolate, squeeze sugarcane juice and fish for piranhas. Read more about Reina de Enin and Refugio Los Volcanes (Amboró) featured in the “Domingo” (Sunday) travel magazine (06/06/2021 edition) of “El Mercurio“, the major national Chilean newspaper. Or read the full article here (in Spanish).

Follow in the footsteps of Ernesto Ché Guevara and his guerrilleros along the ruta del Che through Samaipata, Vallegrande and La Higuera. La Higuera is where Che Guevara was captured and killed by the Bolivian army.

The Ruins of El Fuerte. This historical pre-Columbian site is located in Samaipata and is the largest carved rock in the world. You will get there after an unforgettable drive through a picturesque scenery route into the valleys of Santa Cruz.

You can also combine a visit to El Fuerte and Samaipata with a stay at Refugio Los Volcanes at the South side of Amboró National Park.

Take a look at this living Jesuit missions from Spanish colonial times. Visit the authentic old little towns and beautiful churches which have been declared Humanity Patrimony by UNESCO from 1991.

This is a religious community similar to the Amish in north America. The Mennonites come to Los Pozos market in Santa Cruz on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in order to sell their “home made” dairy products and to purchase agriculture tools for their farms. So this is your chance to see them wearing their traditional clothing and listen to them speaking “Plautdietsch”. It is also possible to visit one of the Mennonites colonies during our trip to the Jesuit Missions of the Chiquitania.

To taste the local flavour visit Cotoca, go early in the morning and enjoy their breakfast. There are also other small colonial towns on the new way to Cochabamba, such as: Buena Vista, the entrance to the north side of Park Amboró.

34. Check the cultural agenda for events such as the International Baroque Music Festival and enjoy ancient music in the jungle!

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