Highlights and main attractions of Santa Cruz Island

Santa Cruz is the second largest of the Galapagos Islands, after Isabela, and the centre for tourism. Here you find the Galapagos Islands National Park Headquarters and the Charles Darwin Research Station, and its close proximity to Baltra means it is easily accessible to anyone visiting the archipelago.

Nearly every bird found within the archipelago has been spotted here.

Where is Santa Cruz Island?

Location and Activities

The island has a strange geology, comprised of two parts, the older 10 mile strip of land formed of uplifted submarine lava flows and the newer, larger part formed by volcanic cones and basaltic lavas. Then there are the twin craters of Los Gemelos, sinkholes surrounded by Scalesia forest. Each of the Galapagos ‘life zones’ are present on Isla Santa Cruz resulting in some fantastic wildlife, especially birds. Human development began here in the 20th Century, with villages established in the humid zone which were perfect for planting avocados, coffee, lemons, bananas and more.

Despite being home to Puerto Ayora, the Galapagos Archipelagos largest settlement and home port to many yachts, Santa Cruz still offers visitors some fantastic sights. Of course, human settlement has had its effects, but it is still spectacular, especially for its presence of tortoises, of which it has the most of any of the islands. They roam the misty grasses of the humid zone, trampling the flora as they slowly march their terrain. El Chato Tortoise Reserve is a great place to see them in the wild, where alongside them it is also possible to spot short-eared owls, Darwin’s finches, paint-billed crakes and yellow warblers. 

Santa Cruz is visited on a majority of cruise itineraries, but you can stay on the island as well if staying overnight on a boat isn’t your thing. We recommend it as a part of your travels for the wonderful wildlife, unique bewildering landscapes and Darwin Research Centre, but it can also be a way to see how the local people live in the Galapagos Islands.

Near here there is also the family owned Rancho Permiso where tens of tortoises wander around among you and you can take some wonderful photos for a small fee.


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