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For more information on each of Galapagos Islands click on name
Baltra Island Bartolome Island Pinta Island Española Island Fernandina Island
Floreana Island Genovesa Island Isabela Island Marchena Island Darwin Island
Rabida Island Santa Cruz Island Santiago Island San Cristobal Seymour Norte
  Santa Fe Island Santa Maria Island Pinzon Island  

Santa Cruz Island - Galapagos

Santa Cruz Island - GalapagosSanta Cruz Island - GalapagosLocated near the center of the archipelago, Santa Cruz is the center of tourism in the Galapagos. Its close proximity to Baltra airport makes the island readily accessible. Puerto Ayora the largest settlement in the Galapagos is the homeport to many yachts, as well as home to the Galapagos National Park Service and the Charles Darwin Research Station making it included as part of most cruise itineraries.

Santa Cruz's human development began in the 20th century, between WWI and WWII settlers from the United States and Europe moved to the area. Santa Cruz made a perfect destination. A large island with a variety of geology, wildlife and vegetation, all of the Galapagos life zones are present on Santa Cruz. The villages of Bellavista and Santa Rosa were established in the highland's humid zone. This region made prime farmland for the new immigrants who planted avocados, coffee, sugarcane, bananas, oranges, lemons, and farmed cattle.

Santa Cruz Island - GalapagosThough the presence of humans and introduced animals has affected Santa Cruz, day trips from Puerto Ayora offer visitors many interesting sites.

Wild Tortoises roam free crashing through the mist covered guayabillo, pega pega, and grasses of the humid zone. Flycatchers, Finch and Owl fill the Scalesia Forests near Los Gremlos. Almost every bird found in the archipelago has been seen within the many life zones on Santa Cruz.

Santa Cruz Island - GalapagosThe coastal region offers spectacular scenery. On the north shore of the island, accessible only by sea, is an extensive mangrove lagoon called Caleta Tortuga Negra (Black Turtle Beach). Here among the mangroves turtle enjoy swimming in the calm waters, peaking their heads above the surface while fish, rays and small sharks circle below. A Land Iguana colony makes the northern Conway Bay their home. Sea Lions cover Eden island and almost every beach on Santa Cruz has their share of Marine Iguanas . Puerto Ayora along the southern shore is lined with cactus, Marine Iguanas, pelicans and boobies co-existing with tourist boats, restaurants, small hotels and houses.

Staying on Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz Island - GalapagosSanta Cruz Island - GalapagosSanta Cruz is one of the four islands in the Galapagos that welcomes overnight visitors.  It is the best island to arrange extra nights or to base a land based tour of the islands due to its central location in the archipelago, services offered, attractions on Santa Cruz and ease of logistics.  For more information on land based tours and lodging on Santa Cruz visit of Staying on Santa Cruz.

Visitor Sites

Puerto Ayora

Settlement Area

The Highlands

Land Site

Darwin Station

Land Site & Museum

Puerto Ayora

Santa Cruz Island - GalapagosSanta Cruz Island - GalapagosThe 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. 

Santa Cruz Island - GalapagosStores 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

Santa Cruz Island - GalapagosA 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 Santa Cruz Island - GalapagosGalapagos 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.

Quick View

Landing:

Dry Landing

Highlights:

Tortoise Rearing Center, Lonesome George

Conditions:

Located just outside of town

Notes: 

Great place for information on the natural history of the islands

The Highlands

Santa Cruz Island - GalapagosSanta Cruz Island - GalapagosJourneying 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.

Quick View

Landing:

Dry Landing

Highlights:

Birds, Wild Tortoises, Lava Formations

Conditions:

The drive is along a windy road - weather can be much milder in the highlands

Notes: 

Remember to bring a flash light for exploring tubes and craters
For more information on each of Galapagos Islands click on map or name
Baltra Island Bartolome Island Pinta Island Española Island Fernandina Island
Floreana Island Genovesa Island Isabela Island Marchena Island Darwin Island
Rabida Island Santa Cruz Island Santiago Island San Cristobal Seymour Norte
  Santa Fe Island Santa Maria Island Pinzon Island  
For a unique Galapagos Vacation, Galapagos Vacation Cruises &Tours proudly presents a collection of exceptional collections of cruise ships and boutique yachts for the travel packages that will make your visit to Galapagos Islands an treasured experience. Call us for your next Galapagos Vacations
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