Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz Island is a central island in the Galapagos archipelago and, at 381 square miles, it is the second largest after Isabela Island. Its name means Holy Cross in Spanish. It is a very developed island with easy access to the Baltra airport, so almost all travelers visit it on their tour or cruise of the Galapagos islands.

The island's capital is Puerto Ayora, the most populated town in the islands. It is the urban center of Galapagos, with many coffee shops, restaurants, bars and souvenir shops.

Tortuga Bay is a white sand beach whose name comes from the black sea turtles that lay their eggs here, and it is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the archipelago. Located southwest of the town of Puerto Ayora, there's a 1.55 mile trail you can follow to get to the beach. It is an excellent site for swimming, surfing and even birdwatching.

On the northeastern side of Santa Cruz Island, you can find Carrion Point or Punta Carrión, a naturally sheltered cove with clear and turquoise waters, perfect for snorkeling. You can see sea lions here, iguanas and, below the water, white-tip reef sharks and different species of rays.

On the island's northwest side you can hike on Cerro Dragón or Dragon Hill, that gets its name from the large population of iguanas that can be seen almost at every step, lazing in the sun. There's a trail that leads to the top of the hill and you'll have the chance to walk through different vegetation areas, including arid zones with various species of cacti and groves of trees. This is a great place for birdwatching as well, and at a saltwater lagoon nearby you can even see flamingos.

The lava tunnels on the island are an amazing visitor site, near Santa Rosa town. You can walk through empty tubes of lava, formed by the solidification of molten lava on the outside, while inside it kept flowing, leaving the series of empty tunnels. They spread approximately 1km, and they are an amazing insight into the geological history of the island. You can also spot barn owls here.

Visiting the Charles Darwin Station or Fausto Llerena Breeding Center is a must on your tour here. The station, founded in 1959, is the base for scientific research in the islands. You can learn here about the species of wildlife in Galapagos, about the breeding projects and the conservation work led for preserving the islands' natural habitats. You can also see tortoises here in different growth stages and, on display, the famous Lonesome George, the last Pinta Island giant tortoise, who died here in 2012 and whose remains where preserved.

El Chato Tortoise Reserve is a great place for admiring giant tortoises roaming free in the wild. Home to hundreds of specimens, the reserve features 12 hectares that provide a natural habitat for this amazing species. There are also some impressive lava tunnels here as well you can visit on your trip here.

Gordon's Rock is a marine site suitable for experienced divers, famous for the sightings of hammerhead sharks. Also called ""The Washing Machine"", it is located in a volcanic crater and it has strong currents. You can also encounter here turtles, white-tip sharks, Galapagos sharks, moray eels, manta rays and sting rays.
Santa Cruz Fast Facts:
  • Santa Cruz Island is the most populated island in Galapagos.
  • Charles Darwin Station is the hub for scientific research in Galapags, where you can see the preserved remains of Lonesome George on display.
  • The lava tunnels are empty tubes of lava you can visit and walk through.

American Oystercatcher, Blue-Footed Booby, Brown Pelican, Darwin’s Finches, Galapagos Barn Owl, Galapagos Dove, Galapagos Frigatebirds, Galapagos Giant Tortoise, Galapagos Green Turtle, Galapagos Hawk, Galapagos Land Iguana, Galapagos Lava Gull, Galapagos Lava Heron, Galapagos Lava Lizard, Galapagos Marine Iguana, Galapagos Mockingbird, Galapagos Petrel, Galapagos Racer Snake, Galapagos Rail, Galapagos Red Bat, Galapagos Sea Lion, Galapagos Sharks, Galapagos Shearwater, Galapagos Short-eared Owl, Galapagos Sting Rays, Great Blue Heron, Greater Flamingo, Mobula Rays, Nazca Booby, Sunfish, Vermilion Flycatcher, Whales & Dolphins, White-cheeked Pintail, Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Santa Cruz Visitor Sites:

Bachas Beach, located at the northern end of Sandra Cruz Island, is a kilometer long white sand beach, with turquoise water and black volcanic stone, perfect for walking, swimming and snorkeling. Its top highlights ... More Information

Ballena, or Whale Bay, located on the west side of Santa Cruz Island, is a quiet and open visitor site, where you can explore freely the wonders it offers. Its names derives from the fact that it was believed to hav... More Information

Black Turtle Cove, located on the northern coast of Santa Cruz Island, is a mangrove estuary that can be accessed by taking a panga ride. Pristine and naturally secluded, the cove is a haven for unique and rare wild... More Information

Carrion Point (locally known as Punta Carrión), located on the eastern side of Santa Cruz Island, is a naturally sheltered cove with turquoise waters, offering a great spot for snorkeling and diving. There's no lan... More Information

Carrion Point, locally known as Punta Carrión, is located on the eastern side of Santa Cruz Island. The bay's crystal clear turquoise waters offer a great site for diving. There's no landing here, so you can explor... More Information

The Charles Darwin Research Station is located on Santa Cruz Island, on the shores of Academy Bay in Puerto Ayora. It is a research station that was opened in 1959, and its main purpose is that of preserving the lan... More Information

Dragon Hill, locally known as Cerro Dragon, is located on the north-western coast of Santa Cruz Island. It is a small rocky hill, famous for being home to a large population of Galapagos land iguanas, hence its name... More Information

Eden Islet, located off the north-western side of Santa Cruz Island, is a small tuff cone island with an approximately 2000 ft diameter. It's a great snorkeling spot, with a variety of marine wildlife: Galapagos gre... More Information

El Chato Giant Tortoise Reserve is located on Santa Cruz Island and it is home to hundreds of this iconic Galapagos species. A giant tortoise can grow up to a length of 5 ft and a weight of 550 pounds. El Chato Rese... More Information

First Dive Check is a point on the harbour of Santa Cruz Island where you go over everything before diving. You confirm your weights and your equipment is inspected, and you check thoroughly all functions and parts.... More Information

Hacienda Primicias Tortoise Reserve is located on Santa Cruz Island and here you can walk among Galapagos giant tortoises in their natural habitat. Having a private owner, you can explore this wonder by yourself. Yo... More Information

Puerto Ayora is a town located on Santa Cruz Island. It was named in honour of Isidro Ayora, a president of Ecuador. Its main highlights are kayaking in Tortuga Bay, where you can see a diversity of marine wildlife,... More Information

The Highlands is the name give to the elevated areas of Santa Cruz Island, reaching altitudes up to 2,835 ft. The higher grounds make this spot a perfect habitat for birds like Galapagos finches, but also for Galapa... More Information

Tortuga Bay Beach, located on the south side of Santa Cruz Island, is a gorgeous white sand beach named after the black sea turtles that have a nesting site here. The beach is one-hour walk from Puerto Ayora and it ... More Information

The Twin Craters, locally known as Los Gemelos, are two wide pits on the Santa Cruz Island. They were formed through magma chambers collapsing following a volcanic uprising, lava hardened on the outside, but on the ... More Information

The Fausto Llerena Breeding Center, located on Santa Cruz Island, near the Charles Darwin Foundation, was started in 1965. Its purpose is to preserve the tortoise population of various Galapagos species. The center ... More Information

Bahía Borrero is a gorgeous white-sand beach with turquoise waters on the northern side of Santa Cruz Island. It is famous for the large number of sea turtles that nest here between December and March. It is a grea... More Information

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Bird Photography Tour: Ecuador Andean Choco & East Slope

Scheduled Group Departure 2023

Max group: 6 photographers!

Price: $3,600 USD

per person sharing double room
* Single supplement: $720


Tour details:

Length: 12 Days
Start / End city: Quito
Pace: Easy
Physical difficulty: Easy
Focus: Bird photography
Max group size: 6 photographers