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Isla Santa Cruz
Isla Santa Cruz

Isla Santa Cruz

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The basics

Though it is not the largest island, Santa Cruz is certainly the most popular urban center, and the departure point for most guided tours. But you don’t have to leave to enjoy the beauty and biodiversity of the Galapagos. Here, you can test out the waters by snorkeling in Tortuga Bay, Punta Estrada, or Las Grietas, the three most popular beaches for exploring the underwater world. If you’d like to try your hand at surfing, there are plenty of opportunities, most notably at Tortuga. When you’re ready to dry off, check out the incredible lava tunnels around the island, or visit the Charles Darwin Research Station, the unique conservation organization dedicated to preserving the incredible Galapagos tortoises, as well as sharing information about them with visitors.

In addition to guided tours to other islands, you can also book tours within Santa Cruz, such as a visit to Tortuga Bay.

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Things to know before you go

  • Because of the high winds and strong currents, Tortuga Bay Beach is considered more of a surfing beach than a swimming beach.
  • Visit the island’s fish market, located in Pelican Bay, at around 4 pm to see the local fishermen bring in their catches, which attract plenty of pelicans and frigatebirds.
  • You should not drink the tap water on the island; bottled or purified water is recommended.
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How to get there

The city of Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz’s capital, is the hub for most visitors traveling to the Galapagos. From the airport on Baltra Island, there is a ferry service at the Itabaca Channel, which provides access to the island. Buses are available from the ferry terminal in Puerto Ayora, or you can hire a taxi service to get around.

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When to get there

The Galapagos Islands have two seasons: the cool and dry season, which takes place from June to November, and the warm and wet season, which runs from December to June. If you’re hoping to snorkel or scuba dive, plan to visit during the warm season when the seas are calmer and there’s good underwater visibility.

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The Charles Darwin Research Station

Located on Santa Cruz Island, the station offers information on local conservation and habitats and features exhibits, including the skeleton of a 43-foot (13-meter) Bryde's whale, as well as a tortoise breeding center where you can walk among the fascinating creatures. The tourist attraction also aids the Government of Ecuador in the conservation of the Galapagos.

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