Santa Cruz, Bolivia is the country’s largest city. Situated in the low-lands it is hot and humid. It has a large international airport with flights around the Americas and to Europe. It is a busy city known by the locals for its rings (anillos) which are circular streets around the centre of the city like rings on a tree. People often use the rings as a reference for directions.
Santa Cruz was the first place I visited in Bolivia. I arrived by plane from Asuncion, Paraguay. The airport is about 30 mins out of town and you can get a taxi, uber or a bus. I stayed at Nomad Hostel near the centre of the city and was pleased with the accommodation. It is fairly near the bus station and you can walk to the central plaza in about 20 mins. From the bus station you can get buses to many Bolivian cities like Sucre, La Paz and Cochabamba. You can also get international buses to Argentina and Paraguay.
The central plaza is hermosa. The Cathedral Basilica of St. Lawrence is located in the plaza and there is a viewpoint from one of the towers with a spectacular view of the city. The Cathedral is open Mon-Fri from 8am-4pm. You can sit and get a drink or a meal at the Irish Pub which is located on the second floor and has a nice view of the Cathedral, or get a cup of coffee from one of the vendors in the plaza.
There is an eco-park called La Rinconada located about 40 mins from the central plaza. There you can walk through tropical forests where you can see giant lily pads and animals like toucans, turtles and fish. You can swim in the water park and eat delicious food at the restaurant. It’s great for a family or to get some fresh air and relax.
Samaipata is a small town about 3 hours out of Santa Cruz. There you can look at ancient ruins, swim in beautiful rivers with waterfalls or relax in the quaint little town. You can also access the impressive Amboró National Park with over 912 species of birds, over 177 mammalian species including puma, ocelot, and the rare spectacled bear.
About 5 hours from Santa Cruz you can find the Noel Kempff National Park. The park covers 750,000 hectares of land and adjoins a large national park in the state of Mato Grosso, Brazil. There are many access points to the park including Flor de Oro and Piso Firme. There is a bus that leaves every Thursday at 7am from Calle Suarez Arana #332 with Trans-Bolivia to Piso Firme. It takes about 18 hours and costs about 120bs. It pays to check with SERNAP (National Service of Protected Areas) before you go, located at Av. Nueva Jerusalen y Calle Efesios # 4, Santa Cruz. You can also fly to the park.