The largest settlement area, offering the most services in the Galapagos, Puerto Ayora is a port town situated along Academy Bay on Isla Santa Cruz. Most yachts offering cruises of the Galapagos hail from Puerto Ayora. Also home to the National Park Services and the Charles Darwin Research Station, it is the hub of tourism in the islands.
Puerto Ayora is far from the bustling cities on the mainland. The bay is full of sailboats, sea birds fill the air and marine iguanas line the shore. Though a thriving center of commerce people enjoy a laid back island attitude. Most travelers to the Galapagos will include a visit to Puerto Ayora during their trip. Most cruises include a visit to the Darwin Station and arrange free time to explore the town and shop for souvenirs. This may be the only opportunity to souvenir shop in the islands.
Stores carry everything from t-shirts to jewelry, post cards, books, beach ware and ceramic items. The grocery store offers the opportunity to stock up on any forgotten items, snacks, beverages, or other items you might desire on board. If you are in need of additional money, the Banco del Pacifico offers cash advances on Master Card. They also offer a Cirrus ATM machine, though it does not always work.
Puerto Ayora offers options for visitors who prefer to sleep ashore or extend their stay in the islands. There are a variety of tours available allowing visitors to design their own Galapagos experience including day-trips to a number of the islands, dive trips, kayaking, highland tours, hiking, mountain biking and horseback rides.
Inter Island Travel
INGALA provides ferry service connecting Puerto Ayora with San Cristobal, Isabela and Floreana for those interested in extending their trip to multiple islands.
Charles Darwin Research Station
A ten minute walk from the Center of town, the Charles Darwin Research Station is the working Galapagos based branch of the international, non-profit Charles Darwin Foundation, a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station is included in all cruises of the islands. Visitors learn about natural history, issues concerning the islands, and see the Tortoise breeding and rearing project at work.
The Darwin Station is the working Galapagos based branch of the international, non-profit Charles Darwin Foundation. Established in 1959, the Darwin Station works closely with the Galapagos National Park Service protecting the Galapagos Islands and Galapagos Marine Reserve .
The Darwin Station primarily a scientific operation, conducts research and assists other researches within the Galapagos National Park and Galapagos Marine Reserve. The information from this research is given to the Galapagos National Park Service and the Ecuadorian Government to better protect and maintain this precious area. The information is also published in scientific journals, reports, and interpretive displays for visitors and becomes part of the environmental education process. The Darwin Station also works providing environmental education to communities and schools within the islands, and to tourists visiting the Galapagos Islands. The Darwin Station has developed the curriculum for Galapagos Guides including the study of the Island's natural history, conservation and preservation of the islands.
Journeying across Santa Cruz into the Highlands visitors are delighted by the island's variety of life and geology. Beginning at the coast and traveling across Santa Cruz the road departs from Puerto Ayora climbing through the agricultural lands and into the mist covered forests. Santa Cruz possesses all of the various life zones present in the archipelago. As you travel through these zones birders are enchanted. Whether it's the bright red feathers of a Vermillion Flycatcher or one of Darwin's Finches almost every bird present in the islands can be found here.
Santa Cruz offers excellent opportunities for viewing wild tortoises. As you walk through the forest, listen carefully for the sound of heavy foot steps and the sound of shrubs being slowly crushed as the tortoises make their way through the brush to enjoy a meal.
Tracking tortoises is not the only exciting activity to be found in the Highlands. There are also plenty of lava tubes, sinkholes and craters to explore. Theses eerie formations offer a fascinating hike into the belly of the island to view its volcanic make-up.