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Santa Cruz

Today, Santa Cruz is one of the main inhabited islands of the Galapagos and an important center of tourism and conservation. Puerto Ayora, the largest city on the island, is the starting point for many island exploration trips, and is home to a large number of organizations and research projects dedicated to the conservation and protection of the Galapagos ecosystem.

In addition to its historical and scientific importance, Santa Cruz is known for its stunning landscapes, such as white sand beaches, tall volcanoes, and famous lava tunnels. It is also home to a variety of iconic species, such as the Galapagos giant tortoises and Darwin's finches.

The history of Santa Cruz in the Galapagos Islands is a combination of exploration, colonization, economic development and conservation. Its natural wealth and its role in Darwin's theory of evolution make it a unique and fascinating place for both scientists and tourists who visit it.

The main city of Santa Cruz is Puerto Ayora.


Santa Cruz is the island with the most tourist activity. It is, therefore  generally, where most cruises depart from. It also has several free activities to do on your own, so it is quite interesting.

Like San Cristóbal, Santa Cruz has an airport  where flights from the continent arrive from.

If you arrive to the island by plane, you will land at Seymour Airport in Baltra, a small island of 27 km². To get to Puerto Ayora, you must take a bus ($5) and cross the canal by boat, paying one dollar per person.

It is located only 1 km from the north coast of Santa Cruz Island and has no tourist attractions, although iguanas can be found in the surrounding area.


Galapagos Islands Specialist

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Once you cross the Itabaca Canal, you can take a public bus to Puerto Ayora for $10. Of course, you have to wait for it to fill up.

Or if you prefer, you can take a taxi to Puerto Ayora for $25.

You can also take advantage of the entrance or exit to the island to visit the upper part of the island. If you hire this service with the taxi driver, it will cost you about $60 with a visit to Los Gemelos and Rancho Primicias, a place where you can see huge specimens of turtles (guided entry $7,5). (More information about the upper part of the island below)

For those who have their tour pre-arranged, they often meet their guide at the airport. From here you will be transferred to your yacht or begin your first excursion on Santa Cruz Island.

You can also arrive from another island by ferry. You will arrive at the port, in the center of Puerto Ayora, where you have to pay a dollar tourist tax.

If you leave the island this way, you will find the ferry companies with little tables in the square, where you can find the company that provided you with the ticket and wait in line. Go with enough time, as it gets very busy...


Santa Cruz Island is the second largest island in the Archipelago with an area of 986 km2, and it is also the highest point and the Crocker Hill at 864 meters.

Santa Cruz has the largest population in the Galapagos, especially in the town of Puerto Ayora on the south coast. With nearly 20,000 inhabitants, it is the largest human settlement on the islands and offers some tourist facilities.

What to do in Santa Cruz:



In 1959, the centenary of Charles Darwin's publication “Origin of Species”, the Government of Ecuador and the International Charles Darwin Foundation established the Charles Darwin Station at the Academia de la Bahía near Puerto Ayora with the support of UNESCO.

Lonely George It was an iconic and solitary giant tortoise of the species Chelonoidis abingdoni, which became a symbol of conservation and attention to the biodiversity of the Galapagos Islands. For years, it was considered the last of its species, coming from Pinta Island.

The Charles Darwin Research Station (ECCD) on Santa Cruz Island played a crucial role in efforts to preserve this species and, specifically, in attempts to breed Lonesome George to save his species from extinction. The station became their home for decades.

Despite tireless efforts, Lonesome George failed to breed with the females of similar species he was paired with, and sadly died in June 2012, ending hopes of saving his species from direct extinction. His death was a serious blow to the scientific community and to all those who had closely followed his reproduction attempts.

The ECCD, through its captive breeding program, kept close track of Lonesome George and strove to provide him with the best conditions for his well-being, while actively seeking ways to preserve his species.

His body is embalmed and is now displayed at Charles Darwin Station in memory of the joys he brought to visitors to the islands.

The main goal of the Charles Darwin Interpretation Center is to educate visitors about the natural history, ecology, conservation and unique importance of the Galapagos Islands. It offers interactive exhibits, information displays, educational videos and exhibits explaining the geological formation of the islands, the unique biodiversity of the region and the relevance of Darwin's research.

Exhibitions inform the interested traveler about the climate and geography and give an idea of the evolution of the flora and fauna.

In this turtle conservation enclosure, baby turtles are lovingly cared for.

As soon as they are strong enough, they are prepared for repatriation.

From neonates and juveniles to adults.


To get from Puerto Ayora to the Charles Darwin Research Station on the island of Santa Cruz, in the Galapagos, there are several options available:

  • Walking or cycling: The station is located approximately 2 kilometers northwest of Puerto Ayora. The walk can take around 20 minutes. You can also rent a bike.

  • Taxi: In Puerto Ayora, taxis are available that can take visitors to the Research Station. It is advisable to agree on the price with the driver before starting the trip.

  • Public transportation: Another option is to take a local bus heading towards the Research Station. These buses may not follow a regular schedule, so it is advisable to ask locals about schedules and stops.

  • Organized tour: Many tourism agencies offer guided tours of the Scientific Station as part of their tourist packages in Santa Cruz. These tours may include transportation from Puerto Ayora to the station, as well as guides who provide detailed information about the research and conservation taking place at the station.

Admission to the science station is free. If you want to go to the Turtle Walk and see Lonesome George, the entrance fee is $10.

The hours are Monday to Sunday from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

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Especially impressive and a must for all Galapagos visitors is to head to the upper part of Santa Cruz, in the center of the island.

The upper part is markedby extinct volcanoes and amazing plants that can be found there.

In good weather (unpredictable) this area offers beautiful landscapes of hills and extinct volcanic cones, covered with abundant exuberant vegetation, all year round, in addition to meter-high ferns and Miconia bushes, you can also see Scalesia forests.

Scalesias belong to the sunflower family which grew due to the absence of trees.

Popular tourist sites to visit are the twin craters (Los Gemelos) which are currently sinkholes. In the upper part there are also some lava tunnels with a length of up to 2 km, which were formed when the lava came out and solidified and inside, the hot lava, still liquid, continued to flow.

Nowadays you can explore the mystical and shadowy tunnels with a torch and lamp. Near the town of Santa Rosa is the reserve: “El Chato”, where giant tortoises can be observed in their natural environment.

There is a wide lagoon of grasslands and cloud forests where short-eared owls, Darwin's finches, witch birds, flytraps, and spotted chicks can also be seen.



A well-maintained road of approximately one hour will take you from Puerto Ayora to Bahía Tortuga. It is considered one of the best beaches in the world, due to its impressive landscape, crystal clear waters and the possibility of observing the marine and terrestrial life characteristic of the Galapagos.

This hike is good for the obird watching. It is easy to see several species of finches along the path. The sunsets here are excellent.

The west inlet offers a very nice area for snorkeling, swimming and relaxing. You will find Playa Brava, which is spectacular but is often closed to swimming due to currents, and Playa Mansa, an area with mangroves that is quiet and beautiful at the same time.

The water is crystal clear, very suitable for swimming, because there is almost no current.

Underwater you may encounter sharks or marine iguanas, while observing seabirds such as pelicans and flamingos from the surrounding mangroves.

The white sand of the beach is considered by many to be the most beautiful in the archipelago. Its name comes from the sea turtles that leave their eggs.

Other species can be found, including pelicans, flamingos and marine iguanas.



In the heart of Puerto Ayora, we find La Laguna de las Ninfas.

It is a beautiful natural oasis surrounded by lush vegetation, home to waterfowl and a peaceful place to relax and enjoy the serenity of nature.

You can observe birds and turtles, or simply stop to read with

the tranquility that the site emanates.

Open from 6am to 6pm. Free entrance.