Santa Cruz, Bolivia is pretty much smack dab in the center of Bolivia, making it a city you’ll likely pass through if you’re spending any amount of time in Bolivia. Upon arriving in Santa Cruz, it was quite apparent that the city was different from all other Bolivian cities or towns. Lindsay and I felt almost as though we’d arrived to a new country. It’s much warmer than other popular areas in Bolivia, and we think it has a very Caribbean vibe. The dialect spoken in Santa Cruz is different from that spoken elsewhere in the country, and we found people in Santa Cruz to be warmer and more gregarious than people we encountered in La Paz and Cochabamba (probably as a result of the warmer weather). If you’re headed to Potosi, Tarija, or Sucre, or even taking a flight to another South American country, you just might pass through Santa Cruz. We put together a list of what to do and where to stay in Santa Cruz, Bolivia during your time there.

This city, that stands on the Pirai River in the tropical lowlands east of the Andes Mountains, has become a sprawling one over the past few decades. The city is actually one of the fastest growing in the world, making it an exciting destination for those looking to explore a place rich with colonial history, while also offering the luxuries of modern day living and travel. It’s also a nice to place to travel in Bolivia, because unlike many other cities that are high in altitude, Santa Cruz is only 416 meters above sea level.

Here’s what we recommend doing, and where we recommend staying in Santa Cruz, Bolivia:

What To Do in Santa Cruz, Bolivia

Botanical Gardens {Jardin Botanico Santa Cruz}: The gardens offer an extensive park and recreation area that is fit for spending the entire day relaxing and exploring with friends or family. The area has an indoor butterfly garden, picnic areas with grills, park benches, and lots of trees on various trails. If you’re lucky enough, you’ll get to spot sloths hiding high in the trees. Unfortunately, to our dismay, Lindsay and I did not spot any during our time visiting the Gardens. {If you’re staying at the Radisson Hotel Santa Cruz, the gardens are only 2km away.}

La Rinconada: This exotic, tranquil and beautiful eco-park and restaurant feature tropical gardens, swimming pools, and a laguna filled with Japanese koi and the world’s largest water lily, known as the Victoria Amazonica. {The park is less than 7km away from the Radisson Hotel Santa Cruz.}

Downtown Santa Cruz: Here you’ll find art galleries, specialty stores, restaurants, cafes, and historical sites. We recommend going to Plaza 24 de Septiembre, which is the city’s main plaza. In this area of the city, you’ll be able to get a feel for the Spanish colonialism that took place during the 1500’s. Unlike the outer areas of the city, downtown feels more quaint and less urban. {Downtown is 7km away from the Radisson Hotel Santa Cruz.}

Ventura Mall: If you’re a shopper, or looking for activities like bowling, eating out, and going to the movies, Ventura Mall is the first shopping center of its kind in Bolivia. There are lots of American-based restaurant chains there, but we’d suggest trying local restaurants, especially since Santa Cruz offers lots of international cuisine, and great Bolivia restaurants like, Jardin de Asia, which aim to use purely Bolivian ingredients  {If you’re staying at the Radisson Hotel Santa Cruz, the mall is 1km away.}

If you’re looking to take a day trip from Santa Cruz, Samaipata and El Refugio are about 3 hours away. Many of the locals recommend going while you’re in Santa Cruz, and we loved our time in both places.

Where To Stay in Santa Cruz, Bolivia

We thoroughly enjoyed staying in the city’s newest hotel, Radisson Hotel Santa Cruz. It is located in the city’s Urubo neighborhood, where you will find new, million dollar estates nestled around the hotel. Despite the fact that the hotel has 210 rooms, it has a quaint and calm feel to it. The modern and open layout of the hotel lobby invites you in to experience a comfortable and relaxing stay during your time in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Here’s what we loved most about our stay:

  • The hotel’s beds are extremely comfortable and make for a great place to rest your head after exploring all the city has to offer. We loved the bathrobes, reading lamps, Spanish-style shower, and AC unit, since Santa Cruz can get quite humid.
  • The hotel’s outdoor rooftop infinity pool and whirlpool tub are great places to unwind, catch some sun, and see Santa Cruz from above.
  • Cook’s restaurant offers a Peruvian menu, made by a Peruvian chef. We couldn’t have loved it more!
  • The hotel’s buffet breakfast offers a variety of sweet and salty items that are sure to keep you satiated until a late lunch.
  • The hotel is in a great location on the outskirts of town, about 30 minutes from the airport and within walking distance to a bank, grocery story, and restaurants. There are many other restaurants, like Jardin de Asia, which are quite close to the hotel too. Before coming to Santa Cruz, many Bolivians warned us that it is Bolivia’s most dangerous city, but we felt safe our entire time at the Radisson.
  • The hotel is also very close to one of the largest malls in Bolivia, so you’re sure to be entertained by all there is to do in the immediate area.
  • Most importantly, the staff that received us at the Radisson was kind, engaging, and attentive. Upon our arrival to Santa Cruz, we encountered a complicated travel issue but immediately upon walking into the hotel, we felt soothed and accomodated.

What to Do and Where to Stay in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

Where to Stay in Santa Cruz Bolivia | The City's Newest Hotel Radisson Santa Cruz with Outdoor Pool

Where to Stay in Santa Cruz Bolivia | The City's Newest Hotel Radisson Santa Cruz

Image credits: Radisson Hotel Santa Cruz

If you’re looking for a calm, comfortable, and affordable luxury hotel in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, we recommend the Radisson Hotel Santa Cruz for its friendly and knowledgeable staff, excellent amenities (including Peruvian food, our favorite cuisine in the world!), outdoor pool, indoor fitness center, and prime location in the city.

Enjoy your time in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, and tell us in the comments section what you end up doing while you are there!

Header image credit: La Rinconada