Santa Cruz is the main gateway to the Galapagos Islands. It is located near the airport of the island of Baltra (the largest airport of the archipelago) and is one of the 4 islands where you can stay overnight. Its central location makes it the base for most cruises.
Puerto Ayora is the economic capital of Galapagos and is a bustling city. Fishing boats, yachts for tourism and sailing ships are anchored side by side in the colorful bay of Puerto Ayora.
But Santa Cruz is also a beautiful volcanic island with astonishing landscapes and a great variety of vegetation. The island is also known as Indefatigable, after the visit of the English warship H.M.S. Indefatigable.
The Galapagos National Park headquarters and Charles Darwin Research Center are located on Santa Cruz. These two organizations supervise the preservation of the natural character of the archipelago.
The island was originally a haven for pirates and whalers. The first permanent residents did not settle until around 1920.
Charles Darwin Research Center
In Puerto Ayora you can visit a giant tortoise breeding center at the Charles Darwin Research Center. More than 60 turtles live here, which are later released on the islands in their original habitat.
There are still breeding centers on Isla San Crist? Bal and Isla Isabela (Puerto Villamil).
The most famous turtle to be found there is “Lonesome George”, the last of its kind from Isla Pinta. The Van Straelen center offers an interesting presentation about the history and the different ecosystems of Galapagos.
Tortuga Bay (Bahia Tortuga)
This is the largest and most famous white coral beach in Galapagos.
The name comes from the sea turtles that lay their eggs here. You will also find pelicans, flamingos and marine iguanas. The current on this beach, which faces south, is very strong, so swimming is not recommended. But if you walk further to the end of the beach, you will find a quiet cove where you can swim and where you can rest in the shade of the trees.
The beach is 2.5 km from Puerto Ayora (a half hour walk). you can also get there with a panga (boat). Other means of transport are prohibited. Often you have the beach all to yourself because the locals think it is a bit of a walk and many tourists do not stay on the island long enough to go there.
The sand of Las Bachas is chipped coral making it white and soft. The usually deserted beach is a favorite nesting place for sea turtles.
Black Turtle Cove
This is an impressive mangrove inlet on the north side of the island. Cruise yachts anchor outside the bay and you transfer into a panga. The guide will paddle you through the mangrove through narrow passages and show you the wonderful wildlife of the area. The cove is often used as a mating area by sea turtles and small sharks.
Garrapatero is another beautiful beach and a good swimming spot. You can go here by bike, panga or taxi. < Highlands
In the interior of Santa Cruz lie these beautiful landscapes, where you can visit Cerro Chato. Here you will meet the giant turtles in their natural habitat. There are also beautiful lava formations.
Los Gemelos (Twin Craters)
On either side of the road to Baltra are the Twin craters, 30 meters deep and of volcanic origin. The forest on the crater is a must for bird watchers.
Dragon Hill (Cerro Dragon)
This site has only been released to the public quite recently. After a dry landing, you walk through a salt lake, which lies behind the beach, up the hill. At the top you get a wide view over the bay and you visit the nesting area of the land iguanas.
This beach is located on the north side of the island and can be reached from Puerto Ayora after a taxi ride of 30 minutes and a walk of 15 minutes. El Garrapatero is a wide bay with many sandy beaches. You will also find a freshwater lake with pink flamingos, herons and other birds. It is also a nice place to swim.
In the higher parts of Santa Cruz there is a pleasantly fresh climate. You can spend the night in a farm, with many opportunities for horseback riding and hiking. Travel agencies in Puerto Ayora sell day packages.