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Santa Cruz Island Galapagos Tours

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Charlotte Bleijenberg
Brilliantly colored flamingos
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Plenty of wildlife and birdwatching in the Galapagos Islands
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Galapagos' Santa Cruz Island, also called Indefatigable, is the most highly visited island in the Galapagos and home to the Charles Darwin Station, where visitors can observe tortoise research, conservation, and breeding programs. A tour of the highlands offers the chance to see enormous volcanic pit craters, lava tunnels, and giant tortoises roaming freely. Stay in the Galapagos' largest town of Puerto Ayora in a hotel by night, and explore the shoreline and highlands of Santa Cruz Island by day. Santa Cruz is an excellent base for SCUBA diving, taking day trips to world-class dive spots surrounding Santa Cruz and nearby islands. 
Best Galapagos Cruises & Tours

10 Best Santa Cruz Island Galapagos Tours for 2024-2025

Best Galapagos Cruises & Tours

10 Best Santa Cruz Island Luxury Tours for 2024-2025

Trip NameFromDaysNext DepartureSummary
North & Central Islands$58455May 28, 2024Enjoy an extensive adventure into the unique world of the Galapagos on this incredible 5-day journey. Admire the incredible natural beauty of this …
Volcanic Wonders$97508May 26, 2024On this comprehensive 8-day tour of the Galapagos Islands aboard the M/V Origin, see unusual wildlife such as marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies, …
Northern Islands$61954Apr 3, 2025Embark on a 4-day North & Central Islands cruise aboard the Hermes Ultra Luxury Cruise. Observe Santa Cruz Highlands' giant tortoises and lava …
Western & Eastern Islands$94908Jun 22, 2024Join the M/C Elite on a spectacular 8-day small ship cruise of the Galapagos Islands. Visit San Cristobal, North Seymour, Santa Cruz, Isabela, …
Northwestern Islands$129958Apr 3, 2025Embark on an 8-day Hermes Ultra Luxury Cruise in the Northwestern Galapagos Islands. Explore unique wildlife, including giant tortoises and lava …
Southern & Northern Islands$116957Apr 14, 2025Join the 7-Day Hermes Ultra Luxury Cruise in the Eastern & Central Galapagos, beginning on San Cristóbal Island. Explore Tijeretas, Gardner Bay, …
Private Charter - Beyond Darwin's Footsteps Aboard Grace$1722008May 28, 2024Close encounters with nature highlight this 8-day private Galapagos cruise onboard the Grace. The islands are teeming with animals that are eager to …
Beyond Darwin's Footsteps$99508May 25, 2024This 8-day adventure aboard Grace offers close encounters with wildlife. The islands are full of creatures that love to interact with visitors. …
Central East Islands$81955Apr 10, 2025Set sail on a 5-day cruise from Baltra to San Cristobal aboard Hermes Ultra Luxury Cruise in the Central East Galapagos Islands. Explore Santa Cruz's …
Western Islands$81955Apr 6, 2025Set off on a 5-day Western Islands Galapagos cruise aboard the Hermes Ultra Luxury Cruise. Begin at Baltra and sail to Bachas Beach for wildlife …

5 Best Day Tours & Trips From Santa Cruz Island for 2024-2025

Trip NameFromDaysNext DepartureSummary
North Seymour and Bachas Beach$3001May 24, 2024Embark on a breathtaking day trip with Galaxy Daily and explore North Seymour and Bachas Beach. Hike on a 2.5 km trail and witness the magnificent …
North Seymour and Bachas Beach$3001May 28, 2024Join Galaxy Daily on a one-day tour to North Seymour and Bachas Beach, where you can hike on a 2.5 km trail to spot land iguanas, marine iguanas, and …
South Plazas Island and Carrion Point$2751May 23, 2024Experience an awe-inspiring day trip with Galaxy Daily's South Plazas Island and Carrion Point cruise. Meet friendly sea lions and marvel at the …
Carrion Point and South Plazas Island$2751May 26, 2024Experience an awe-inspiring day trip with Galaxy Daily's Carrion Point and South Plazas Island. Observe the vibrant red-billed tropical birds, …
Santa Fe Island$2651May 27, 2024Embark on an unforgettable one-day trip aboard the Galaxy Daily to discover the natural beauty of Santa Fe Island in the Galapagos. Enjoy a wet …

Tour Highlights of Santa Cruz Island

Charles Darwin Research Station / Fausto Llerena Breeding Center:
This is the scientific epicenter of the Galapagos and famously where Giant Tortoises are raised from egg to five years old, when they can be repatriated into their natural environment. Originally, the program started as a way to protect endangered tortoise populations that were threatened by invasive species that had been introduced to the Islands, especially the feral dogs. Now, the efforts of the breeding center have not only successfully maintained several populations of tortoises, but also saved a few which were on the edge of extinction, including most notably the Española tortoises. In addition to being a breeding center, the Station promotes research and scientific investigation for the conservation of the fragile ecosystems of the entire archipelago.

Tortuga Bay:
Just a short walk or bike ride from the main town of Puerto Ayora, this tranquil beach has soft white sand and is great for swimming. Its name refers to the black turtles that can often be seen here, but it’s also home to rolling dunes and endemic transition vegetation that help anchor the coastal sand.

Las Grietas:
This unique site features large fissures where turquoise salt water mixes with freshwater and makes for fun swimming and snorkeling.

These National Park Visitor Spots can only be visited as part of a scheduled cruise:

Bachas Beach:
This expansive, pristine white sand beach is home to a spectacular variety of wildlife. Bachas is really a misnomer for barches, as there is a half sunken barge visible from the beach. Also visible from the beach is a brackish lake with flamingoes and water birds, and an incredible menagerie of wildlife such as nesting green sea turtles, sally lightfoot crabs, and sea lions.  

Cerro Dragon (Dragon Hill):
This site is aptly named for its healthy population of land iguanas and the ominous dragon-like shape of the mountain overlooking the bay. In the 1970s, the National Park began using the site as a place to breed the iguanas safe from the predatory dogs that were threatening many native species. Now the successful repopulation of the iguanas makes it a fascinating visitor site.

Black Turtle Cove: On the northern side of the island, you will find Black Turtle Cove, accessible only by dinghy. Surrounded by mangrove colonies, it hosts a wealth of marine life, including black- and white-tipped reef sharks, hammerhead babies, sea turtles, and rays.

Garrapatero Beach:
This arid beach is a bit off the beaten path, 19 km from Puerto Ayora. Here, a trail leads you from the white sand beach through a small palo santo and cactus forest. You’ll also see land birds enjoying the brackish lagoons, including flamingos, pintail ducks, oystercatchers, and various finches.

Santa Cruz Island Travel Guide

The Highlands of Santa Cruz Island

The higland forests of Santa Cruz hide some of the world's most bizarre secrets. The volcanic island is the accumulation of volcanic erruptions and lava flows for millions of years leaving behind a cavernous maze of lava tubes and craters, and on the surface thrive Giant Tortoises to this day. 

Twin Craters (Los Gemelos):
The Twin Craters, also known as “Los Gemelos,” are two giant sinkholes in the highlands that formed when the surface material caved into underground chambers. Currently, several trails have been blazed through the dense Scalesia forest. A short hike will take you to these craters, and along the way you will likely see notable land birds such as the Vermillion Flycatcher and a variety of native and endemic finches.

Lava Tunnels:
These unique geological formations were created when magma continued to flow underneath the drying surface lava. As the lava on the surface hardened, the molten stone beneath hollowed out long tubes that resemble caves, some of which extend for more than a kilometer. Several of them have been developed as visitor sites that can be explored.

El Chato Tortoise Reserve:
The tall grasses and shallow ponds of this expansive reserve make it the ideal habitat for the giant tortoises (for which the Islands are named) to live in peace. Along the path, you will come across various finch species & flycatchers and small turtles that bask in the still ponds. The highlight of this site, though, is the opportunity to see the giant tortoises roaming freely in their natural environment. Tortoises migrate annually from the coast to the highlands, and El Chato is one of the best places to see them plodding along. Although a guide is not imperative here, it is recommended.

Santa Cruz Island Facts

  • Santa Cruz is one of the most visited islands in the Galapagos archipelago, with a bustling tourism industry that welcomes thousands of visitors every year. It's capital city, Puerto Ayora, is the biggest and most populated area of the archipelago.
  • The island is home to the Charles Darwin Research Station, a world-renowned research center dedicated to the study and conservation of the Galapagos' unique flora and fauna. Visitors can observe iconic wildlife and learn about the efforts of the Galapagos National park to protect this fragile ecosystem.
  • The Giant Tortoise Breeding Center on Santa Cruz plays a vital role in protecting the iconic Galapagos tortoise, which has faced numerous threats to its survival over the years.
  • Santa Cruz boasts a diverse range of ecosystems, from arid coastal regions to lush highland forests, providing a home to a wide variety of wildlife.
  • The island showcases several unique geological formations, including twin craters called Los Gemelos and a network of lava tunnels that wind their way beneath the earth's surface. Travel back in time as you walk through one of this fascinating lava tunnels.
  • Santa Cruz is famous for its stunning beaches, including Tortuga Bay, which is one of the most beautiful and secluded beaches in the Galapagos, and Garrapatero.
  • The island's diverse marine life is a major draw for visitors, with unique opportunities to snorkel or dive with sea turtles, rays, sea lions, blacktip sharks, and even the occasional hammerhead shark.
  • Santa Cruz is home to a thriving local community, with an interesting cultural life that visitors can explore through souvenirs, art, and traditional Ecuadorian cuisine or international gastronomy.
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