Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos

Unofficial "capital" of Galapagos

Overview

Santa Cruz is the second largest Galapagos island, and its most densely populated - thanks to the fact that volcanic activity is long extinct here. Located right in the centre of the archipelago, the name Santa Cruz means “holy cross”, and settlement of the island began in the 1920s and 1930s with the arrival of American and Europeans who were attracted by variety of the island’s geography and wildlife. As well as the main port of Puerto Ayora, the small towns of Bellavista and Santa Rosa were formed in the highlands, where more humid conditions were good for crops like avocados, bananas, coffee, and citrus. Unfortunately all this has left the landscape permanently changed by all these non-native species and by the associated human activity.

Santa Cruz is now the main tourism hub for the whole Galapagos archipelago, thanks to its proximity to the airport on Baltra, just to the north. It is the only island in Galapagos where tourists can easily experience the interior highlands of a Galapagos island. Santa Cruz has the longest paved road in the Galapagos, running north-south across the island to take people from the airport ferry which docks on the north coast to Puerto Ayora on the south coast. With quaint hotels and small seafood restaurants, Puerto Ayora is the starting point for most tours and it offers the biggest range of services to be found anywhere in the Galapagos. Facilities include a hospital, banks, a post office and a radio station. Most of your Galapatours adventures will start here! Because of its large population and it's busy nature it's often assumed by visitors to be the capital of the islands, but in fact that is located on San Cristobal.

Photos of Santa Cruz Island

Fast Facts about Santa Cruz Island

  • The unofficial capital of the islands and hub of the tourist industry.
  • Santa Cruz boasts the longest paved road in the Galapagos
  • The only island where you can visit both the shoreline and the uplands
  • The place you will start your Galapatours adventure!

Possibile Activities on Santa Cruz Island

Embarking watertaxis+ships

Highlights

Black Turtle Cove

This mangrove-lined cove is only reached by boat

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Possibile Activities

Panga ride

Carrion Point

A beautiful setting for watching marine life

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Possibile Activities

Snorkeling, Panga Ride, SCUBA diving

Charles Darwin Research Station

World famous center for wildlife research

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Possibile Activities

Hiking

Dragon Hill

Where land iguanas have been reintroduced

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Possibile Activities

Hiking, Panga ride

Eden Islet

Ancient volcano, rich with life

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Possibile Activities

Snorkeling, Panga Ride

El Chato Giant Tortoise Reserve

A famous place to see Giant Tortoises in the wild

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Possibile Activities

Hiking

Santa Cruz Highlands

See every habitat the Galapagos has to offer

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Possibile Activities

Hiking

Ballena, or Whale Bay

Landing site for early whalers and pirates

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Possibile Activities

Hiking, Snorkeling

Carrion Point Dive Site

Classic Galapagos site with abundant life

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Possibile Activities

Diving

First Dive Check

Confirm weights and check equipment

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Possibile Activities

Check Dive

Tortuga Bay Beach

Beautiful white sand beach

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Possibile Activities

Hiking, Surfing, Beach

Twin Craters

Los Gemelos provide an extraordinary view

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Possibile Activities

Hiking

Bachas Beach

A major nesting site for Galapagos green turtles

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Possibile Activities

Hiking, Snorkeling

Hacienda Primicias Tortoise Reserve

See Giant Tortoises in the wild

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Possibile Activities

Hiking

Puerto Ayora

The biggest town in Galapagos

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Possibile Activities

Embarking watertaxis+ships

Map of Santa Cruz Island

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All cruises to visit Santa Cruz Island