After visiting Uyuni, La Paz and Copacabana, Santa Cruz de la Sierra was a totally different world. First of all, it’s located in tropical East Bolivia, only 400 m above sea level. The mountain scenery and high altitude changed to humid weather, modern vibes and less poverty. I’d say not authentic Bolivia. However, we liked this other type of Bolivia with its exceptional flora and fauna. Continue reading to find out the best things to do in Santa Cruz de la Sierra in 2 days, map and prices (at the end) included.
How to get to Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia?
By plane to Santa Cruz from La Paz
Viru Viru International Airport in Santa Cruz is Bolivia’s largest international airport. You can fly there from Bolivia and other South American countries, as well as North America and Europe. The airport is located 16 km from the city centre.
After our stay at Lake Titicaca, we took a bus to La Paz El Alto airport and flew to Santa Cruz de la Sierra. During the 1-hour flight, we’ve seen a variety of landscapes from snowy mountains to the curvy Amazonas and neverending green forests.
BE CAREFUL WHEN TRAVELLING BY AMASZONAS LÍNEA AÉREA! When I booked our flight 2 months before travelling, the departure time was 5:10 pm. 24 hours before our flight (at online check-in), the departure time changed to 7:30 pm…
Fortunately, the next morning I checked my emails, which notified us about a 5:30 pm departure time. So we could catch an earlier bus to La Paz and didn’t miss our flight.
From Viru Viru airport to the centre of Santa Cruz de la Sierra
The most affordable and easiest way to reach the centre is by airport bus. Its station is just opposite the exit at the “Bus 135 Viru Viru airport” sign. The airport bus was small and didn’t have air conditioning. The driver put every luggage on the first seats. It leaves every 10 minutes and reaches the centre in 40-50 minutes. We took off at Ex Terminal de Buses, the closest stop to our hotel. It looked like the bus stops wherever you want, just say the street or square name like “Isabel La Catolica, por favor”. Easy peasy!
If you prefer comfort, just call Uber.
By bus to Santa Cruz
Buses also go to Santa Cruz de la Sierra. You can buy tickets on Tickets Bolivia, which offers transportation from multiple companies. The bus types and rates vary, so do your research before choosing a bus company. Depending on your starting place, you’ll find day and night buses as well.
Where to stay in Santa Cruz de la Sierra?
After staying in affordable hostels with weak wifi for 2 weeks, we decided to book more attractive accommodation for our last days in Bolivia. In advance on Booking.com, we booked a room with a double bed to Cosmopolitano Hotel Boutique because of its good location and style. Aaaaand we were satisfied with our decision.
The boutique hotel was super stylish, and the staff was friendly and helpful. The reception and the dining part had a homey feeling thanks to the decorations. The rooms were arranged around a cute patio with sunbeds and a pool, which also functioned as a jacuzzi.
Our room was chic with minimal decoration and transparent glass walls of the shower. So we could see each other brushing teeth and taking a shower, only the toilet had an opaque door.
The super fluffy towels, fragranced soap and beautiful stone wall covering also enhanced our satisfaction. In the mini-fridge, 1 litre of free water was waiting for us every day because “hydration is important”.
Breakfast was also part of the reservation. We could choose from granolas, oats, yoghurts, pastries and bread, avo cream and salads, jams and many fruits. They even had achachairú, which is a little orange fruit and only grows in Bolivia. It’s related to mangosteen and only available from December to March. And finally, we could drink a tasty coffee after the low-quality coffees served in the previous hostels 🙂
The best things to do in Santa Cruz de la Sierra
We spent 2 days in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, only in the centre and its surroundings. If you have more time, you can also take day trips and check out the best places around Santa Cruz:
- Parque Regional Lomas de Arena to see a variety of wildlife and sandboard on the dunes
- The waterfall of Cuevas and the area of Samaipata, located 120 km from Santa Cruz
- Parque National Amboró is a nature reserve, a home of almost a thousand bird species, hundreds of mammals and three thousand plant species. Tours are available for more days.
On the following map (My Maps by Google Maps), you can see the main attraction, restaurants and the schedule for our 2 days.
By clicking on the tab next to “How to spend 2 days in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia?”, you can see the actual points, and it’s also possible to turn off and on layers. Furthermore, you can also save this map (if you have My Maps account) by pressing the star next to the map title.
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How to spend 2 days in Santa Cruz de la Sierra?
Day 1 – Centre of Santa Cruz and the Botanical Garden
Cathedral of Santa Cruz (Cathedral Basilica of St. Lawrence)
We started our city centre exploration with Plaza 24 de Septiembre, a social gathering place among locals and tourists. It’s a large square with gorgeous plants, tall palm trees and benches.
The square’s most dominant building is the cathedral, which can be visited without any admission. However, climbing the bell tower will cost you 3 BOB (Tower opening time: 8 am -12 pm and 3-6 pm). A metal mesh protected the panorama level, and the tower wasn’t that tall, so the view wasn’t that impressive. Though we missed the feeling of climbing the stairs without altitude and without getting tired.
After the climb, we had to cool ourselves down with ice cream on the other side of the square at Vaca fria.
The “centre” of South America
We walked to Plaza Calleja to check out South America’s centre, marked with a cross. A sign with city names was hiding under the trees at the corner of Cobija and Republiqutas. Well… It wasn’t a big deal…. And if you’re checking the map, you might be confused, because it’s not really the centre of South America…
How to get to the Botanical Garden?
We walked to the main road to catch a bus to the botanical garden, located on the way to Cotoca village. Just look for the name of Cotoca on the buses and ask if it stops at Jardín Botânico. We took bus line 5, and the bus stopped at the Botanical garden’s entrance after 40 minutes.
You can also call an Uber. That way, the drive would be 30 minutes.
The Botanical garden is famous for flora and fauna of the Amazon Rainforest, like native trees, colourful butterflies, birds, monkeys and sloths. I’ll admit, I just wanted to see some sloths 🙂
Its main road was bordered with flowers and gardens, and colourful butterflies accompanied us to a cactus garden with extraordinary cactuses. There was even a colossal cactus tree.
The other highlight was a lagoon with an artificial waterfall. Many turtles were living in the lagoon and swam close to us.
Hoping to finally see some sloths, we headed deeper into the park. I’m not a tree specialist, but I couldn’t discover many special species… The park looked like a random forest. And the mosquitoes didn’t care about our mosquito repellent, so we only walked to the lookout tower. The view from the top wasn’t spectacular, it just overlooked an average-looking forest.
We went on a side road on our way back, and we finally saw sloths and monkeys on the trees. First, we noticed the moving monkeys, who were eating some yellow fruits. Then we saw sloths next to the monkeys, who were not moving, surprisingly…
Task completed, we’ve seen some sloths far away on the trees, but if you’re spending only a day in Santa Cruz, you can skip this garden…
Don’t forget sun protection and bug repellent!
If you forget to bring your own water, you can buy some in the garden, not far from the entrance.
Mercado Los Pozos and Mercado Nuevo
After we left the botanical garden, we just crossed the road and caught a bus going to Los Pozos. We asked the driver to stop at Mercado Los Pozos. However, it didn’t bring us to the market, so we decided to walk to another market, Mercado Nuevo. The streets were bordered with shops, so it looked like a mini-market. Mercado Nuevo wasn’t so big and didn’t have many food options, so we just walked around but didn’t eat there.
Dinner at El Aljibe
On the way to our hotel, we had dinner at El Aljibe specialised in typical food from Santa Cruz. The restaurant looked very cool thanks to its authentic decoration and its yard with plants and turtles.
Our food was delicious, and we didn’t remain hungry. I’ve tried out a Bolivian drink called Mocochinchi, made of peach, water, sugar and cinnamon. It was served cold, was a bit sweet but surprisingly tasty.
After dinner, we just walked back to our hotel and refreshed ourselves in the pool.
Day 2 – Biocentro Güembe Mariposario
On our 2nd day in Santa Cruz, we visited Biocenter Güembe Mariposario, which is an eco-park and a pool complex at the same time. The pricey entrance fee also shows that you’ll be part of an exceptional experience.
How to get to Biocenter Güembe Mariposario?
It’s located a bit far from the centre, and it’s hardly reachable by public transport. There’s a bus from Ventura Mall leaving (10-11 am and 12-1 pm) and bringing you to the park for 10 BOB.
We just took an Uber and got there in 35 minutes.
Monkey jungle – Jungla de monos
First, we discovered its jungle and wildlife. There’s a vast cage for monkeys with a smaller covered corridor for visitors to walk through. One of the monkeys was relaxing on the top of the passage and didn’t care much about us. At least we could see him from close.
Butterfly house – Mariposario
The butterfly house is full of plants and colourful flowers, so the butterflies can fly around happily. There were some huge and colourful ones, especially at the feeding points.
Aviary – Aviario
The most outstanding part was the vast “cage” of the parrots. So vast that we felt extremely tiny! Visitors could walk on a corridor built above the plants, and at one point, we could even go down and up.
From the top of the spiral staircase, you can overlook the park and witness the immenseness of the cage. If you go down, you can see how the birds are eating and gathering.
Parrots like blue-yellow, scarlet and blue-headed macaws are the kings of the place, though we’ve also seen toucans and peacocks. They aren’t afraid of people, they just walk and fly around. Sometimes just resting on the corridor, so you can have a closer glimpse. Just be careful to not disturb their personal space!
We were happy to notice that all of the places were large enough for animals to not feel captivated and have plenty of space to move around.
Orchids – Orquideario
The next stop in the mini jungle was the square of the orchids. It was ruled by an enormous stone formation in the middle, and the flowers were positioned around it. Almost…
The orchid part was a bit disappointing… I guess it wasn’t the season for orchids because we could see only 5 pieces blooming.
Lunch at Macaco Biergarten
You can choose from many food options in the biocentre. Close to the entrance, Restaurante Las Palmas offers an all-you-can-eat buffet for 120 BOB/person.
Around the pool area, you’ll find more affordable kiosks and bars. We stopped at Macaco Biergarten for some snacks.
After lunch, we changed and headed to the pools. Changing rooms and toilets are situated next to the pool area.
The small pools are connected with waterfalls and small slides. All of them are surrounded by palm trees, colourful flowers and many sunbeds. It has the same vibe as the eco-park without the animals.
The best pool was the biggest one, which had an artificial waterfall coming down from a rock. It was possible to go into the cliff behind the waterfall and adore smaller waterfalls inside.
We left around 5:30 pm because the pools were closing (Pools opening time: 8:30 am – 5:30 pm). There was free WiFi at the swimming pools and the reception, so we could order an Uber for the way home.
Day 3 – Going back to Brazil
After breakfast in the hotel, it was time to order an Uber and go to the airport. It was much faster and comfier than the bus, we reached the airport in 25 minutes. We wanted to spend our last Bolivianos, so we paid our driver in cash. After the ride, our driver on the app claimed another 8 BOB for the airport entering fee.
Expenses during our 2 days in Santa Cruz de la Sierra
During our 2+1 days, we spent money mainly on food, transportation and entrance tickets. The most expensive ticket was definitely the eco-park entrance fee, though other tickets were low-priced. Transportation is affordable, eating out depends on the restaurants you visit.
Our Santa Cruz trip cost 1991 BOB (~299 USD) for the two of us (if 1 BOB = 0,15 USD).
- Accommodation – 1097 BOB (~ 165 USD)
- Transportation and tickets – 492 BOB (~ 74 USD)
- Food and drinks – 402 BOB (~ 60 USD)
See our daily expenses below (prices in March 2020):
Day 0 – travelling to Santa Cruz
- Bus ticket to the centre – 6 BOB/person
- 3 nights in Cosmopolitano Hotel Boutique (room with private bathroom and double bed booked on Booking.com in advance), breakfast included – 165 USD (1097 BOB)
- Dinner (ordered Hamburger with fries to share from El Cuartito restaurant via PedidosYa food delivery app) – 59 BOB
Day 1 – Centre of Santa Cruz & Botanical Garden
- Cathedral tower – 3 BOB/person
- Ice cream at Vaca fria – 36 BOB (2×2 flavours)
- Bus ticket to the Botanical Garden – 2,5 BOB/person
- Botanical Garden ticket – 10 BOB/person
- 2-litre water – 10 BOB
- Bus ticket to the centre – 2,5 BOB/person
- Dinner at El Aljibe – 123 BOB
- 2-litre water – 8 BOB
Day 2 – Biocenter Güembe Mariposario
- Uber drive to the park – 40 BOB
- Ticket – 150 BOB/person (card accepted)
- Lunch – 37 BOB
- Uber drive back to the hotel – 42 BOB
- Dinner (ordered a large pizza from El Cuartito restaurant via PedidosYa food delivery app) – 129 BOB
Day 3 – travelling to Viru Viru airport
- Uber drive to the airport – 62 BOB
More Bolivian and South American travel tips for you:
- 6 reasons to add Copacabana and Lake Titicaca to your Bolivian itinerary
- How to pick the best Uyuni Salt Flats tour to Bolivia?
- How to plan your perfect trip to San Pedro de Atacama, Chile?
- 10 things to do and see in São Paulo
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