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South America > Ecuador > Galapagos Islands > Santa Cruz (Galapagos)

Santa Cruz

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


Puerto Ayora at night on the Island of Santa Cruz in the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador.
Water Taxi in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz
Boats in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz


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.


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

Get in[edit]

Access to Santa Cruz is almost exclusively by air, with planes landing at the Baltra airport.

Inter-island flights are available from EMETEBE Airlines, which operates nine seater aircraft to transport passengers and their luggage from San Cristobal Airport to Isabela, Santa Cruz and Baltra islands. Bookings can be done directly through EMETEBE's website or a travel agent.

Get around[edit]

The only paved road on the island is between the Itabaca channel and Puerto Ayora. Busses will transport airport passengers from the ferry to Puerto Ayora and back. There are also white pick-up trucks functioning as collectivo, just wait at one of the parades but they usually won't go further than Santa Rosa. They also double as taxi


Galápagos tortoise on Santa Cruz Island, Galápagos
  • 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.
Fresh Water Swimming in Puerto Ayora, Galapagos on the Island of Santa Cruz.


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





Go next[edit]

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

This region travel guide to Santa Cruz is an outline and may need more content. It has a template, but there is not enough information present. If there are Cities and Other destinations listed, they may not all be at usable status or there may not be a valid regional structure and a "Get in" section describing all of the typical ways to get here. Please plunge forward and help it grow!