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Santa Cruz (department, Bolivia)

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Santa Cruz (department, Bolivia)

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Santa Cruz department is located in eastern Bolivia, and is the largest in the country.


Bolivia's geographical composition can be easily divided in three major terrains or regions: Lowlands; valleys; and high plateau or altiplano. Because of this country´s history, from the times when the first humans arrived up until today, population distribution and land surface is inversely proportional in these three regions. The altiplano is the smallest and has the biggest portion of the population, the lowlands occupy more than 1/2 of the country and have about 1/3 of its population. Original natives in all three areas are also of different ethnic origins. All this is explained simply because since colonial times, Bolivia was a mining country in which the economy was based in the mines that were located high in the mountains and the valleys fed them. The rest was the frontier.

Santa Cruz is in the lowlands at the east of the country and for its first 400 years was very poor and far from potential markets to be able to grow at all. It shares this with the rest of eastern, northern and south eastern Bolivia for most of its history, up until some 50 years ago when a paved road was opened and the possibility of markets opened which summed with some royalties from oil production they also started receiving served as seed to one of the fastest growing cities and economies in the continent. Growth was slow to start but after some 20 years it was spectacular. Today it is difficult to imagine this city and provincial towns of the department for what they really were some 25 or 50 years ago.

One very interesting testimony of this history can be downloaded (in Spanish for free) from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The document is called Informe de Desarrollo Humano de Santa Cruz and the first chapter relates the history of Santa Cruz in this last half of the 20th century.


  • Santa Cruz - A new city with exciting nightlife and is the base for a huge range of amazing tourism adventures.
  • Puerto Suarez - On the border with Brazil.
  • Samaipata — 2.5 hours west of Santa Cruz with heavenly climate and lots of things to do and see
  • Buena Vista - Is a beautiful town two hours from Santa Cruz which borders the Northern Amboro National Park , the areas attractions include a Coffie plantation , Cheese Factory, Amboro National Park and a spectacular private reserve called Bosque de Jose

Other destinations[edit]


Santa Cruz de la Sierra or Santa Cruz city is a boomtown whose population has increased tenfold in the last 25 years, it is almost in the center of Bolivia and is the capital city of the department of Santa Cruz. It lies at one end of the Death Train's line.

This department concentrates 27% of the country´s population, several of the major universities of Bolivia and it's responds for over 30% of the country wealth production, forty something percent of the national taxes. It´s population is variate, some 40% of it´s inhabitants were born elsewhere (mainly in the rest of the Bolivian departments). They seek what more of what they cal they call "Autonomia" which means autonomy and intends to separate more functions from the central government in a way similar to Spain government system, more independent and locally managed. In this country like many others of South America, citizens have to support the burden of time and cost of doing most bureaucratic administrative procedures from far away from La Paz in a corrupt and inefficient system.

When the Spaniards originally arrived to these lands, they came from Paraguay and Argentina. The local indigenous peoples came from two lines, or as they are called Tupi-Guarani. The first, the Tupi originally came from the Caribbean through the Amazon jungle down to these latitudes. The Guarani´s came here down the Atlantic coast through what today is Brazil and Argentina, and upriver from there. They were the original humans in this region and they had gone well into the lower Andes. In actual times it is only possible to find possible reminders of the onetime greatness of this two cultures in Moxos (Beni department) or in southern Bolivia or northern Argentina and it requires investigation because little is known and they are not part of touristic routes.

The blend of these three and other latecomers are the local native population, they call themselves "Camba or Cambas". These people are mostly of peasant origin that dedicated itself to farming related activities, this still is the main department´s activity. Today, with the migrations of this last quarter century these people are maybe around one half of the local population. One interesting characteristic of this region is that most of the more recently arrived inhabitants have integrated fairly well. Obviously there are exceptions to this. Being a land with so many bloods, sympathy and tolerance to outsiders is fairly high by any standard.

One interesting characteristic of the "Cruceños" or people from Santa Cruz is that apparently they prefer not having to work in public services (Government, armed forces, police, diplomatic services, church, others) and as some one said, they don´t migrate, they just move around. This probably explains why of some 100 Bolivian presidents in almost two centuries, only three were from Santa Cruz department. And all three were military, which is a factor that changes people through doctrines imbeded into its members during their careers.


The country´s official language and main language is Spanish. However, most places (stores specially) will be able to understand Portuguese and English. If they do not speak those languages, they will probably get someone that does. The people are REALLY friendly, they will try their truly best to talk to you if you are a foreigner.

Get in[edit]

Direct airplane flights are available to and from Santa Cruz city regularly several times a week and in cases a day to most South American countries, Miami in the USA, and Madrid in Spain. Airlines that fly to this destiny VVI or Viru Viru airport are: Aerosur / American Airlines / GOL / TAM Mercosul / LAN Chile / TACA / Aerolineas Argentinas / Cubana de Aviacion

Some domestic flights operated by Aerocon and TAM (Transporte Aereo Militar) are operated from the downtown airport, El Trompillo.

If you are coming from Brazil, you can take the Tren de la Muerte or Death Train. It's uncertain how it got its name but it's not especially dangerous now.

So, if you are in Corumba, a Brazilian border city, you just have to cross the frontier, take a taxi to the train station in Bolivia (they don't accept Brazilian taxi drivers there) and go to the train station. Depending on the class of train you want to take, it will take a different time to get to Santa Cruz.

If you are coming in from Argentina or Paraguay, you will have to come in by highway (bus or other), information is available in any major city´s bus station. Trains are occasionally available from the Argentine border.

Note: Several countries have consulates in Santa Cruz city in case of necessity.

Get around[edit]

Get a Taxi. As simple as that. They are cheap and ask them whatever you want, they are friendly as well, they will take you wherever you want to go or you wish to go. Locals usually use radio taxis and some fixed route / collective use taxis called "trufi", because they find them either safer or cheaper or both.

Santa Cruz Virtual / Online street and address finder plus yellow pages

See[edit][add listing]

The Santa Cruz Department offers travelers some of the most beautiful and unknown attraction in Bolivia which can all be arranged by tour operators in the City of Santa Cruz.

Major attractions of the Santa Cruz department include the following:

  • Amboro National Park is a spectacular National Park which is one of the worlds most biological diverse areas
  • Kaa Iya National Park- The best location in Bolivia if not the world to see Jaguars, Tapirs and Pumas
  • '''Lomas de Arena'''- Spectacular Natural desert where you can sand board, trek , and watch wildlife like Sloths

*Jardin de las Delicias Waterfalls- Spectacular series of waterfalls set deep in the jungle

  • Espejillos Waterfalls- Beautiful waterfalls just 40km from the city of Santa Cruz Bolivia
  • Buena Vista- A border town to Amboro National Park where you can visit the Coffee Plantations ,Cheese Factory and Jungle trips
  • Jesuit Missions
  • Ruta del Che Guevara- This Argentine-Cuban revolutionary was executed in a small village called La Higuera. Nowadays it's a small touristic attraction, featuring the school (where he was executed) as well as a monument.
  • Chiquitania Region
  • Los Cajones- offers excellent Golden Dorado Fishing
  • Noel Kempff Mercado National Park
  • Bolivian Pantanal
  • El Rio Pirai - this is the river that symbolizes so much to Santa Cruz citizens).
  • Monseñor Rivero (Boulevard Cruceño) - this is where most people spend the late afternoon portion of the days; starting at 5 PM.
  • Equipetrol - this is the neighborhood where all the night life happens!
  • Cine Center - good place to go especially on Sundays.
  • La Plaza - go on a Sunday, at around 11 PM... just feel the breeze, relax, and close your eyes. Also, and *very* important: get a "cafe con leche" or "cafe cortadito" from anyone who sells them, especially if you see on their shirts the name "Cafe Marcelino". Best coffee of your life.
  • Estadio Ramon Tahuichi Aguilera. You gotta go to "el clasico", it is a soccer match between Blooming and Oriente Petrolero. Go and set in preferencia... Is cheap and a nice view. You will feel and see some good soccer.

  • Jardin Botanico, Km 8 Cotoca Road.  edit
  • Lomas de Arena Natural Desert. Covering over 1300 hectares Lomas de Arena is a naturally formed Desert which is surrounded by Savannahs, beautiful lagoons and tropical forests. This small protected área has over 3000 hectares of desert and is also one of the best áreas in Bolivia to see Birds and a lot of different Wildlife. Main Activities of this área include Birding , Wildlife viewing , swimming in the lagoons and Sand Boarding. Lomas de Arena is located just 25 km from the city of Santa Cruz Bolivia.  edit

Jesuit Missions of the Chiquitos[edit]

The Jesuit Missions comprise six individual towns in remote locations in the Gran Chaco. Each was founded in the 17th and 18th centuries as Jesuit Missions, and have survived as living monuments to that time and culture.


When visiting Santa Cruz there are many options which you can follow, for example a recommended plan would be exploring the city's main Plaza called Plaza 24 de Septembre where people watching, museums and arts shopping can happen. You can also visit the Waterpark called Agua land, La Rincodada which has the worlds larest Amazon Water lillys and the famous Bio Centro Guembe Eco Resort.

No trip to Santa Cruz is complete without visiting the beautiful and rarely visited Lomas de Arena , this is a protected area and a natural desert which covers over 3000 hectares of just sand dunes. The sand dunes are surrounded by tropical forests that have a lot of wildlife too, Sand boarding, trekking, bird watching and wildlife viewing are all part of the fun.

Do[edit][add listing]

Depending the time of the year, there are other seasonal activities. Most are concentrated around the capital city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, but many are in the provincial towns, which usually are fairly easy to reach. These include baroque music, theater, orchids, and other festivals, international commercial fairs, music concerts, sports competitions and more. Depending on ones interests some addresses which might be useful to search in are:

APAC - Asociacion Pro Arte y Cultura / Music and theater festivals (In English available)

CEPAD -Centro para la Participación y Desarrollo Humano Sostenible / Orchid festival

FEXPOCRUZ - Feria Exposicion de Santa Cruz / Exposition fairs

Bolivia Bella - Tourism information on Santa Cruz / Places, festivals and others, very detailed and complete (In English available)

Gobierno Municipal de Santa Cruz de la Sierra / City hall - general tourism information

Gobierno Departamental de Santa Cruz / Local government - general tourism information available / Online Guide for Santa Cruz - general tourism information available

Guia de empresas de Bolivia / Guide of companys

Buy[edit][add listing]

  • La Feria Barriolindo (not a very clean place, however, you will be amazed of how cheap clothing and food is in there... A must see!)

Eat[edit][add listing]

  • Y se llame peru, en equipetrol. Fantastic peruvian seafood!
  • Irish pub, located in the main plaza is a must (T-bone) is exceptional a bargain at 35 pesos (2007).
  • Some great places: La Casa del Camba, Puerto Madero, El Mandarin, El Horno Caliente, Pasteleria Glamour (you should go to El Horno Caliente or Pasteleria Glamour weekday at around 4:30 - 6:00pm).
  • Brasargent (excellent restaurant).
  • Snacks: Orange juice on every street corner, popcorn homemade chips are also great for snacking.
  • Los Lomitos. - Delicious steakhouse,with a mix of typical Argentine and Bolivian foods.  edit
  • Churrasqueria Montero. Very exellent buffet style. Try the ubre, chinchulin, and corazon.  edit

Drink[edit][add listing]

  • Beer (Pacena, Ducal and Bock), rum, vodka (ask for "un combito de Vodka"), wine (Navarro Correa).
  • Simba -. Take advantage of the different kinds of soda flavors you can't get outside of Latin America! The Coca Cola company makes a delicious brand of fruit sodas called Simba. Try the guarana or manzana verde flavors...  edit

Stay safe[edit]

Do not go beyond the fourth ring "El Cuarto Anillo" alone with or without a car.

Do not try to be aggrressive with anyone, you will get your ass kicked.

Do not participate in political manifestations before finding out more.

In the case of civic or political struggles or events, locals are usually peaceful and don´t mind foreigners. Peaceful rallies are truly a party and safe, this is how these people are. Violent ones should be avoided, although foreigners normally having fairer skin and/or different clothing than any of the locals are easily identifiable by them and are usually left alone.

These last two comments do not apply to Bolivia as a whole, there are many towns and areas of the country with less mixed and more closed societies that react differently to outsiders or foreigners.

Get out[edit]

  • Samaipata - Small town in the mountains 2 hours away - Samaipata is old and beautiful, it has El Fuerte ruins and other attractions!
  • Cotoca - little town 30 minutes away from Santa Cruz - Extremely old and filled with culture!
  • Buena Vista - little town 1.5 hours away - Colonial town with tropical climate and filled with culture / beautiful!
  • San Javier - little town 3.5 hours away - Colonial Jesuit town with semi tropical climate and filled with culture baroque music and old cattle ranches!
  • Concepcion - little town 4.5 hours away - Colonial Jesuit town with semi tropical climate and filled with culture (spectacular church) and baroque music!
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