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As the most accessible island from the mainland and the central hub for most holidaymakers, it is highly likely that on any Galapagos itinerary, you will at least pass through Santa Cruz. Its main port town, Puerto Ayora, is bustling with activity with a plethora of fine hotels, restaurants and a vibrant social scene but that is far from saying that the island does not have its natural wonders. Verdant reserves are home to meandering Giant Tortoises; wind-swept beaches fringe the shores, unfathomably large volcanic craters are awaiting discovery and natural swimming holes can be found secluded across the island and provide an ideal opportunity for a welcome dip.
The Charles Darwin Research Centre, just outside the town, is sure to capture the imagination and is well worthy on an afternoon’s exploration to observe the continuing efforts of scientists and volunteers to conserve the wildlife of the Galapagos. Programs include an intensive breeding centre for Giant Tortoises amongst many others. Tortuga Bay on the south coast of the island is frequently listed in any conversation about the world’s best beaches, and along its long stretches of golden sand, you will find an equal proportion of tourists and locals as you will Sea Lions and Land Iguanas.
What wildlife will I see on Santa Cruz?
Many of Santa Cruz’s diverse array of wildlife species can be spotted along its coast and its pristine beaches support the natural habitat for Blue-Footed Boobies, Sea Lions, Lava Lizards and Marine Iguanas. Dives sites (particularly exceptional in the northwest of the island) provide some of the best opportunities to observe the colourful-coral marine life of the archipelago and don’t forget the Charles Darwin Research centre to see a wide scope of tortoises, of all shapes and sizes.
Daily flights can be taken from Guayaquil or Quito (Ecuador mainland) to Baltra Island which lies just to the north of Santa Cruz. From here, the town of Puerto Ayora can be reached in a little over an hour’s drive, or you may wish to jump straight onto another flight or water taxi to other islands. Connections to the islands of Isabella or San Cristobal are frequent.
Looking for more inspiration? Check out some of our Galapagos itineraries.
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