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The Top 10 Things to See and Do on Santa Cruz Island

Galapagos Islands tortoises | © Arnie Papp / Flickr
Galapagos Islands tortoises | © Arnie Papp / Flickr
Santa Cruz is often one of the first islands tourists get to after arriving at the airport on Baltra Island, and it’s close to some of the most-visited islands in the Galapagos, such as North Seymour, Santa Fe, Isabela and Rabida. If you want to see the amazing wildlife of the Galapagos, you don’t have to book a cruise: the cheapest way is to head to Puerto Ayora in Santa Cruz, and book yourself on some day trips from there. Here’s our rundown of the top 10 things you should see and do while you’re on the island.

Chill at Tortuga Bay

Take your time to enjoy the white-sand beach of Tortuga Bay and watch the marine iguanas chilling in the shade. Walking the full length of Tortuga Bay will leave you at Playa Mansa, a beautiful lagoon that is a great spot for kids.

Tortuga Bay © Vibeke Johannessen / The Viking Abroad

Check out the Darwin Research Centre

A great way to start your trip to the Galapagos Islands is by getting an introduction to the species that live here at this research centre. You can find out all about the giant-tortoise breeding program, and see baby tortoises, iguanas and various plants.

Charles Darwin Research Station © Les Williams / Flickr

See Giant Tortoises at El Chato Reserve

If there’s one thing you really can’t miss in the Galapagos Islands, it’s the giant tortoises. The best place to observe them is in their natural habitat in El Chato Reserve. If you are lucky, you might even get to see them mate.

Galapagos Islands tortoises © Arnie Papp / Flickr

Enjoy Local Seafood at Los Kioskos

It’s no secret that you will find amazing local seafood in the Galapagos Islands, and you don’t need to go to a fine-dining restaurant to get it. Come to this authentic local restaurant late at night, and experience the real Galapagos Islands at first hand.

Los Kiosko © Rowan Palmer / Flickr

Go for a Swim at Garrapatero

About 30 minutes’ drive from Puerto Ayora you will find Garrapatero beach, a stunning expanse of sand where you can spot flamingos and iguanas. If you get there early in the morning, you might be the first one to step on the sand and get to enjoy the untouched beauty all by yourself.

El Garrapatero © Vibeke Johannessen/ The Viking Abroad

Take a Trip to Las Grietas

Meaning ‘the Cracks’ in English, Las Grietas is a spot where deep ocean water runs through a crevasse between two tall cliffs. You can swim, dive and snorkel here. Visiting Las Grietas is a great option for a half-day trip and you can get here easily by taking a cheap boat taxi.

las Grietas © Vibeke Johannessen / The Viking Abroad

Soak up the Sun at Las Bachas

Just north of Puerto Ayora is a beautiful beach called Bachas. The waves are calm and it is a perfect place for children to swim. You can also spot parts of an abandoned rusty barge from World War II just a short walk from the beach.

Bachas Beach © Vibeke Johannessen/ The Viking Abroad

Walk Through Lava Tunnels

Imagining walking through a long tunnel that was created by flooding lava. The lava tunnels were formed by the cooling of the outside layer of the lava, which created a crust around it, while the hot lava was still inside. When the lava flowed out, it created the tunnel we see today. The lava tunnels in Santa Cruz are on private property, but you don’t need a guide to visit.

lava flew through here at one point © Quincin and Yves C / Flickr

Drink With the Locals at Bongo Bar

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Bar | © Jean-Christophe Jacques / Flickr
The Bongo Barin Puerto Ayora is the best place to go if you feel like partying, or if you’d like to enjoy some sushi; it’s said that it has the best sushi in the Galapagos Islands. You will find both locals and tourists here.
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Experience Santa Cruz Fish Market

Get up early and watch the fishers getting their catch fresh from the sea, cutting it up and getting it ready to sell. The fish market is also a great place to spot the pelicans who are hanging around, ready to snap up some fish.

Galapagos Fish Market © Michael McCullough /Flickr