Santa Cruz Island: Self Guide

Santa Cruz Island

Welcome to Santa Cruz Island! This Island is known as Indefatigable, named after the British vessel HMS Indefatigable. Santa Cruz is the second-largest island of the archipelago after Isabela, and has the most developed and largest town of the Galapagos: Puerto Ayora. Besides, Santa Cruz Island has the highest population rate of all Galapagos islands, which is a total of 12,000 inhabitants. This island has some small villages of which the inhabitants usually work in agriculture and cattle farming.

The whole island is a sleeping volcano. Its last eruption was estimated about 1.5 million years ago. In Puerto Ayora, you will find various restaurants, bars, shops and more. It is a lively town with many activities and things to explore. The harbor area is very nice. There are high chances for guests to see sea lions relaxing on the docks.

Santa Cruz Island

Self Guided Program: Things To Do

During your trip at the lively Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos archipelago, you can do some self-guided activities. Rebecca Adventure Travel will help and give you important information about the must-see places and how to get there.

Charles Darwin Research Station

Charles Darwin Research Station is one of the very first places to check. This research station is known for its amazing tortoises, born from only 3 inches to 4 feet long. These species of turtles tend to interact with each other and also with humans, showing their head for a pet. The new hatchlings are kept until they are approximately four years old and strong enough to survive on their own. Also, here you will learn about Lonesome George. Lonesome George was the last of his species of tortoises but unfortunately passed away in June 2012. However, at the research station, you will have the opportunity to see the most famous tortoise, while the guide will explain about his life and species.

It is possible to take a taxi to get to the Charles Darwin Research Station, which will take about 5 minutes. Of course, it is also possible to go walking. That will take around 15 minutes from your hotel. If you prefer to walk, you just have to go to the left of the hotel area and keep walking straight until you come to the first intersection. Then, turn left to Calle No. 63 and go along until the road ends, and then take a left. Continue walking straight until you enter the Charles Darwin Research Station.

Charles Darwin Research Station Charles Darwin Research Station - Santa Cruz Island 

Playa de la Estación

From the Charles Darwin Research Station, there is a path leading to a beautiful beach which will take about one minute to walk. This small sandy beach is good for snorkeling. You can also enjoy great views of Academy Bay.

Playa la Estacion Playa la Estacion - Santa Cruz Island

Las Grietas

After 600 meter walk past the Playa de los Alemanes, you will find Las Grietas. Las Grietas is a crack between rocks, with very clear, blue water. This walk will take about 15 minutes. Here you can jump into the water from a wooden dock or even from the sides of the rocks for some cliff jumping. Since the water is so clear, this is also a perfect location for snorkeling. If you swim to the other end of the water, you can even swim through a tunnel of approximately one meter. Take a deep breath, and swim through the tunnel to get to the other end of the clear water. The path to Las Grietas is a nice hike through the unique setting of Santa Cruz Island. You can also walk to a higher point where you will have a nice view of the bay and the harbor of Puerto Ayora.

las Grietas las Grietas - Santa Cruz Island

Las Ninfas

At just a 5 minute walk from the center of Puerto Ayora, you will find the Laguna Las Ninfas. Go in the western direction from the harbor of Puerto Ayora and take the first road to the left. Then, you will walk about 100 meters and turn left again. At the end of this road, you will find the Laguna. It is a peaceful lagoon with a boardwalk path. Here you can see the mangroves, some baby sharks, sea turtles, stingrays, and many other animals. Besides, various bird species can be seen here.

las Ninfas - Santa Cruz Island las Ninfas

Tortuga Bay

Tortuga Bay is a beautiful white sandy beach, which really gives you the feeling you have arrived in paradise. This place is considered one of the most beautiful places on the Galapagos Islands because of the combination of white sand, turquoise water, and mangroves. Many locals use the path leading towards Tortuga Bay for running or biking. To walk to Tortuga Bay, you can take the 2.8 km path which will take you about an hour. The second option is to go by boat, departing from the harbor of Puerto Ayora. Tickets for this boat can be bought at a stand at the Puerto Ayora harbor. Note that when you will take the boat, you will have a set amount of time before the boat returns to the harbor.

Tortuga Bay Tortuga Bay - Santa Cruz Island

Rancho Primicias

Rancho Primicias is a private ranch, owned by the Devine family. Here you can see dozens of giant tortoises walking around freely in the grass. The tortoises are not difficult to find since they wander around everywhere at the ranch. The Galapagos giant tortoises can grow up to 230 kilograms (500 pounds). Inside the ranch, you can also find a small cafe place which sells hot and cold drinks. The ranch is located in the highlands of Santa Cruz, about 20 kilometers from Puerto Ayora. To get to the ranch it is best to take a taxi which will take about 30 minutes.

Rancho Primicias - Santa Cruz Island Rancho Primicias - Santa Cruz Island


During your trip to Santa Cruz, you have the opportunity to explore the island by yourself and enjoy some free time. In Puerto Ayora, you can find many delicious places on your own, with some locals or with your friends, to enjoy a Galapagos meal. Rebecca Adventure Travel did some research for you. Whether it’s a bistro for a memorable night with friends, a grab-and-go lunch spot, a legendary junk food fix or o one-off treat for your taste buds, we’ve compiled a list of the best restaurants in town.

La Garrapata

La Garrapata is a nice restaurant with Ecuadorian and international dishes. Recommended dishes are the chicken curry, grilled seafood platter, and fish in coconut sauce. In the evenings this restaurant draws a lively crowd for a cozy night and music.

la Garrapata la Garrapata

Isla Grill

This grill house serves delicious grilled meat and seafood dishes. Try the pork ribs, char-grilled shrimp, octopus, and calamari, or the tender steak. The salads are also very delicious.

Isla Grill Isla Grill - Santa Cruz Island

Il Giardino

This open-air Italian trattoria has a nice patio where you can eat peacefully. It offers good steaks, seafood platters, and very delicious desserts. Il Giardino also has an Italian ice-cream shop attached to the restaurant.

Il Gilardino Il Gilardino - Santa Cruz Island

LO & LO Restaurant

The Lo & Lo restaurant is a small, open-sided, Ecuadorian style restaurant. They serve plates like ceviche, goat stew, grilled fish, plantain balls (bolones), and empanadas.

Lo & Lo Lo & Lo

Finch Bay Restaurant

The restaurant of the luxurious hotel Finch Bay is a very good recommendation for fine (expensive) dining. This restaurant offers international and Galapagos-inspired meals which are prepared by a Cordon Bleu-qualified chef. The chef only uses fresh ingredients, including own grown vegetables.

Finch Bay restaurant Finch Bay restaurant - Santa Cruz Island

Angermayer Waterfront Inn

It is a unique first-class hotel located on the other side of Academy Bay in Puerto Ayora. The restaurant of this hotel offers fine lunches and dinners on the patio or deck, where you can enjoy a nice view of the harbor of Puerto Ayora.

Angermeyer Angermeyer

Los Kioskos

This is a typical place where locals eat, sitting all together at the long tavern-style tables. Please be careful when you try the food there because you cannot expect the same quality as in other restaurants, especially when you eat raw or undercooked meat or seafood. Many foreigners are not used to it and are more likely to get food poisoning.

Los kioskos Los kioskos

Contact Numbers 

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us:

  • 24/7 General & Sales Enquiries Phone: +593-(0)980051675
  • Office in Quito: +593-(0)2-6007590

On behalf of the whole Rebecca Adventure Travel Team, we wish you the happiest, joyful and beautiful time at Santa Cruz Island!

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