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Santa Cruz (Galapagos)

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Earth : South America : Ecuador : Galapagos Islands : Santa Cruz (Galapagos)
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Santa Cruz is the most important (although not the largest) island in the Galapagos Islands archipelago, in Ecuador.


Galapagos Islands satellite photograph, NASA


European and American interest in the Galapagos was stimulated by the publication of William Beebe's book Galapagos: World's End in 1924. This book inspired the beginnings of the eco-tourism that today dominates the Galapagos economy. Tourism began, however, as only a trickle (one of those early tourists was U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who visited the islands in 1938). There was also a trickle of Europeans immigration to the Galapagos around this time. The largest group was 60 Norwegians, persuaded to settle on Floreana in 1927 by several young journalists and a whaler who had written about the Galapagos. Floreana turned out to be anything but the paradise the promoters promised, as the colonists came to realize after the promoters left. Most managed to survive for a difficult year or two there. Some of the survivors eventually returned to Norway, others moved to the settlement on San Cristobal, and others settled on Academy Bay on Santa Cruz, joining another group of Norwegians that had set up a cannery there the year before. Within a few years, most of the colonists left as well, but a few remained. A few years later, other Norwegians came to Santa Cruz, as well as a sprinkling of others from Europe, America, and Ecuador, all seeking a simpler life. Among them were the four Angermeyer brothers from Germany, who settled on Santa Cruz in 1935. Their descendants still live there and operate touring yachts and a hotel in Puerto Ayora.


  • Puerto Ayora - largest town in on the island and the only one with tourist accommodation
  • Santa Rosa
  • Bella Vista
  • Cascajo

Get in[edit]

The Galapagos' main airport on Baltra island is a short 10-minute bus ride ($5) and ($1) ferry ride from Santa Cruz. From there the ferry drops you off you need to take a bus ($5) or taxi ($20-25) to Puerto Ayora. The journey to Puerto Ayora will take 30 - 40 minutes. The bus will drop you off at the corner of Avenue Baltra & Islas Duncan in town.

Note that if you want to take the bus back the other way, ie. from Puerto Ayora to Baltra, you need to get on at the bus terminal which is just outside of town along Avenue Padre Julio Herrara - not from the drop-off point.

If you fly into San Cristobal instead you can take a ferry - 2per day, one early morning, one afternoon, ($30) - to Puerto Ayora.

Get around[edit]

The only paved road on the island is between the Itabaca channel and Puerto Ayora. Buses will transport airport passengers from the ferry to Puerto Ayora and back for $5. There are also white pick-up trucks functioning as collectivo, just wait at one of the paradas but they usually won't go further than Santa Rosa. They also double as taxis. There are also buses between Puerto Ayora and Bellavista. Hitch-hiking is also possible. A taxi anywhere in town costs $1.

There are taxi boats which will take you the short distance from the pier in Puerto Ayora to the path for Playa de los Alemanes and Las Grietas for $0.80. If you are taking these taxi boats to board the larger boats anchored in the port, most of the boat drivers will ask each passenger to pay $0.50 for their passage, so be prepared with small change.

A half-day Tour of the Bay will take in several beaches and snorkelling spots - about $30-35.

As an alternative, Inter-island flights with Emetebe Airlines are available to both Isabela and San Cristobal islands. Flights usually range $160-$170 each way or $260 round trip.

See[edit][add listing]

School of scalloped hammerheads, Wolf Island, Galapagos Islands
Another school of scalloped hammerheads at Wolf Island, Galapagos
  • Charles Darwin Station - 1.5 km west of the centre of Puerto Ayora. It has a turtle breeding area and interesting information about the conservation of the unique biosphere of the Galapagos. It is free and open to the public.
  • Tortuga Bay - a 2.5 kilometer long trail from Puerto Ayora leads to this beautiful beach with a strong undertow. If you walk about 1 km further down the beach you reach a calm bay known as Playa Mansa. The visibility in the water isn't perfect, but close to the mangroves white tip sharks can be seen. Marine turtles, pelicans, and Blue Heron sightings are also common. There is no charge, but visitors must register at a gate at the beginning of the trail. Open from 0600-1830 daily.
  • Punta Estrada beach - small beach good for snorkeling especially with high tide. Take a watertaxi ($0.60) from Puerto Ayora to the Hotel Finch dock.
  • Las Grietas - further up the trail from Punta Estrada beach following the green and white posts. A spectacular canyon filled with crystal clear water. Good for snorkeling.
  • Lava Tunnels - the longest (up to 3 kilometers) are located at private property off farms near Bellavista or Santa Rosa, count on $5.00 entree fee. There is a small one 2.5 kilometers out of Puerto Ayora on the road to Baltra which can be visited for free.
  • Los Gemelos - two sunken volcanic craters sit on a high point of the island in a cloud forest. They are located 7 kilometers from Santa Rosa on the road to Baltra. The craters are close to the road. Vermillion flycatchers can be seen here, as well as the woodpecker finch and short eared owls.
  • El Chato Tortise Reserve - reserve area 3 km from Santa Rosa where gigantic tortoises can be seen in the wild.
  • Garrapatero Beach - A 35 minute drive from Puerto Ayora, then a 20 minute trail leads to this beach consisting of black lava, white sand and a turquoise sea. No guide is necessary, and swimming and snorkeling are permitted. Wildlife includes: blue-footed boobies, pelicans, crabs, and marine iguanas. Behind the beach are mangroves and a small lagoon where Bahama ducks and pink flamingos can be seen. Camping is possible with a pre-arranged permit from the National Park office in Puerto Ayora, but be prepared for many mosquitos after dark.

Buy[edit][add listing]

Do[edit][add listing]

  • Snorkeling - good places are Tortuga bay, Punta Estrada beach and Las Grietas.
  • Surfing - There are several places in Puerto Ayora where you can hire a surfboard. A good places to surf is Tortuga bay.
  • Mountain biking - in Puerto Ayora there are several places to rent mountain bikes. The price is around $15 for a full day.

Eat[edit][add listing]

Eating out in Puerto Ayora generally isn't cheap - there are many restaurants and bars along Avenue Charles Darwin which have menus in both English and Spanish.

The best bargain eats in Puerto Ayora are the food kiosks with outdoor seating on Avenue Charles Binford near Avenue Baltra. You can get a "meal deal" there for $5 which generally consists of a plate of rice, beans, and fish with some sort of sauce, a drink, and maybe even a seafood soup to start. The stalls further in will offer the soup, where the ones closer to Avenue Baltra may not, so make sure you head inwards before deciding on a place to eat. The stalls also serve a large variety of seafood dishes at reasonable prices ($8-15).

Drink[edit][add listing]

Bongo - a popular rooftop bar with live music in the evenings

Santa Cruz Brewery - artisanal craft beers and typical bar fare. Popular with tourists.

1835 Coffee Lab - great coffee (especially the cold brew) and also slushie drinks. Very good WiFi.

Sleep[edit][add listing]

La Mirada del Solitario George ($20-25/ night) in Puerto Ayora offers rooms with air conditioners or fans, private bathrooms, cable TV, Wifi, and will have a pool and Cafe area in the future. Rooms are spotlessly clean and the owners are helpful with organizing tours and transportation. Located at Petrel y Española. Telephone 052527144, email/ Facebook [email protected]

There are several hotels on Santa Cruz island and they cater to all budgets. From the ultra luxury Pikaia Lodge to to the mid range Mainao and the low key Sir Francis Drake hotel. You can view most of them at Voyagers hotel website:

Get Out[edit]

There are two daily ferries each to Puerto Vilamil on Isabela and Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal ($30 one way or $55 return). There is a ferry to Floreana only on Sundays and Tuesdays, leaving in the morning and returning in the afternoon ($35 one way).

It is possible to visit the following islands/islets as day tours from Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz, Galapagos (Chelonoidis nigra)[edit]

Santa Cruz, Galapagos (Tortuga Bay)[edit]

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