The Top Things to See and Do on Santa Cruz Island

From seafood specialties to giant tortoises, these are the top things to see and do on the island of Santa Cruz
From seafood specialties to giant tortoises, these are the top things to see and do on the island of Santa Cruz | © Leon Werdinger / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Vibeke Johannessen
6 October 2021

Santa Cruz is often one of the first islands that travelers head to after arriving at the airport on Baltra Island, given its proximity to other popular islands in the Galápagos – such as North Seymour, Santa Fe, Isabela and Rabida. As for the rest of your time here, here’s our list of all the other things you should see and do while you’re on the island.

Head straight to Puerto Ayora in Santa Cruz and book yourself on a day trip if you haven’t already bagged yourself a spot on our exclusive five-day trip, with our Local Insider.

Check Out the Darwin Research Centre

Architectural Landmark
Map View

A great way to start your trip to the Galápagos Islands is with an introduction to the species that live here at this research center. You can find out all about the giant tortoise breeding program and get a closer look at baby tortoises, land iguanas and endemic plant species.

Enjoy Local Seafood at Los Kioskos

Restaurant, Seafood, Street Food
Map View

It’s no secret that you’ll find amazing local seafood on the Galápagos 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 Galápagos cuisine at its finest.

Go for a Swim at Playa El Garrapatero

Natural Feature
Map View
Group snorkeling in a cove at Garrapatero Beach, Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.
From seafood specialties to giant tortoises, these are the top things to see and do on the island of Santa Cruz | © Leon Werdinger / Alamy Stock Photo
Around a 30-minute drive from Puerto Ayora, you will find Playa El Garrapatero – an idyllic expanse of sand where you’re all but guaranteed to spot flamingos and iguanas. Get here early enough and you could be the first one to step onto the sand and enjoy the unspoiled beauty all by yourself.

Take a Trip to Las Grietas

Natural Feature
Map View
Las Grietas, Santa Cruz (Indefatigable) Island, Galapagos, UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ecuador, South America
© Robert Harding / Alamy Stock Photo
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 – while spotting tropical fish and many rock-dwelling creatures. Visiting Las Grietas is a good option for a half-day trip and you can get here easily by taking a cheap boat taxi.

Soak up the Sun at Las Bachas

Natural Feature
Map View
Playas las Bachas Beach on Santa Cruz island by the Pacific Ocean, Galapagos national park, Ecuador.
© Sébastien Lecocq / Alamy Stock Photo

Just north of Puerto Ayora is the beautiful beach of Las Bachas – so-called due to the old WWII barge still rusting away on the sand and – supposedly – the way in which ‘barges’ is pronounced by locals. The water is shallow and the waves are calm here, so it’s a great beach to bring the kids to.

Walk Through the Lava Tunnels

Natural Feature
Map View
Lava tunnels, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
© Stefano Paterna / Alamy Stock Photo

Imagine walking through a long tunnel that was created by flooding lava. Well, you can do that here – as such tunnels were formed by the cooling of the outside layer of lava, creating a crust containing hot lava within. When the lava flowed out, it created the tunnel you’ll see today. The lava tunnels in Santa Cruz are on private property but can be visited with or without a guide.

Experience Santa Cruz Fish Market

Architectural Landmark
Map View

Get up early and watch the fishermen preparing their morning catch for the market – if you’ve got the stomach for it. You won’t be the only onlooker either – the pelicans will be swooping in like clockwork, ready to snap up any smaller fish left unattended for more than a few seconds.

These recommendations were updated on October 6, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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