View at Bachas Beach, Santa Cruz Island
photo by Aaron Logan

Santa Cruz is the most important (although not the largest) island in the Galapagos Islands archipelago, in Ecuador.



European and American interest in the Galapagos was stimulated by the publication of William Beebe's book Galapagos: World's End in 1924. This book inspired the beginnings of the eco-tourism that today dominates the Galapagos economy. Tourism began, however, as only a trickle (one of those early tourists was U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who visited the islands in 1938). There was also a trickle of Europeans immigration to the Galapagos around this time. The largest group was 60 Norwegians, persuaded to settle on Floreana in 1927 by several young jounalists and a whaler who had wrtiten about the Galapagos. Floreana turned out to be anything but the paradise the promoters promised, as the colonists came to realize after the promoters left. Most managed to survive for a difficult year or two there. Some of the survivors eventually returned to Norway, others moved to the settlement on San Cristobal, and others settled on Academy Bay on Santa Cruz, joining another group of Norwegians that had set up a cannery there the year before. Within a few years, most of the colonists left as well, but a few remained. A few years later, other Norwegians came to Santa Cruz, as well as a sprinkling of others from Europe, America, and Ecuador, all seeking a simpler life. Among them were the four Angermeyer brothers from Germany, who settled on Santa Cruz in 1935. Their descendents still live there and operate touring yachts and a hotel in Puerto Ayora.

Getting there

The main airport in the Galapagos is on Baltra. Airport busses will transport you to the ferry at the Itabaca channel to cross to Santa Cruz.

Traveling around

The only paved road on the island is between the Itabaca channel and Puerto Ayora. Busses will transport airport passengers from the ferry to Puerto Ayora and back. There are also white pick-up trucks functioning as collectivo, just wait at one of the parades but they usually won't go further than Santa Rosa. They also double as taxi


  • Charles Darwin Station - 1.5 km west of the centre of Puerto Ayora. It has a turtle breeding area and interesting information about the conservation of the unique biosphere of the Galapagos. It is free and open to the public.

  • Tortuga Bay - a 2.5 kilometer long trail from Puerto Ayora leads to this beautiful beach with a strong undertow. If you walk about 1 km further down the beach you reach a calm bay known as Playa Mansa. The visibility in the water isn't perfect, but close to the mangroves white tip sharks can be seen. Marine turtles, pelicans, and Blue Heron sightings are also common. Visitors must register at a gate which is open from 0600-1830 daily.

  • Punta Estrada beach - small beach good for snorkeling especially with high tide. Take a watertaxi ($0.50) from Puerto Ayora to the Hotel Finch dock.

  • Las Grietas - further up the trail from Punta Estrada beach following the green and white posts. A spectacular canyon filled with crystal clear water. Good for snorkeling.

  • Lava Tunnels - the longest (up to 3 kilometers) are located at private property off farms near Bellavista or Santa Rosa, count on $5.00 entree fee. There is a small one 2.5 kilometers out of Puerto Ayora on the road to Baltra which can be visited for free.

  • Los Gemelos - two sunken volcanic craters sit on a high point of the island in a cloud forest. They are located 7 kilometers from Santa Rosa on the road to Baltra. The craters are close to the road. Vermillion flycatchers can be seen here, as well as the woodpecker finch and short eared owls.

  • El Chato Tortise Reserve - reserve area 3 km from Santa Rosa where gigantic tortoises can be seen in the wild.

  • Garrapatero Beach - A 35 minute drive from Puerto Ayora, then a 20 minute trail leads to this beach consisting of black lava, white sand and a turquoise sea. No guide is necessary, and swimming and snorkeling are permitted. Wildlife includes: blue-footed boobies, pelicans, crabs, and marine iguanas. Behind the beach are mangroves and a small lagoon where Bahama ducks and sometimes pink flamingos can be seen.

Things to do

  • Snorkeling - good places are Tortuga bay, Punta Estrada beach and Las Grietas.

  • Surfing - There are several places in Puerto Ayora where you can hire a surfboard. A good places to surf is Tortuga bay.

  • Mountain biking - in Puerto Ayora there are several places to rent mountain bikes. The price is around $15 for a full day.


  • Puerto Ayora - largest town in on the island and the only one with tourist accommodation

  • Santa Rosa

  • Bella Vista

  • Cascajo

Get Out

It is possible to visit the following islands as day tours from Santa Cruz

  • Bartolome

  • Daphne

  • Floreana

  • Isabela

  • Mosquera

  • North Seymour

  • Plazas

  • Rabida

  • San Cristobal

  • Santa Fe

Contact & location

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The photos displayed on this page are the property of one of the following authors:

Aaron Logan, alh1, Ivar Abrahamsen, Michael R Perry, Mikko Koponen, Jeremy Hetzel

Some photos courtesy of: . The photos provided by Flickr are under the copyright of their owners.

This travel guide also includes text from Wikitravel articles, all available at WikitravelView full credits

Movera, David and Ryan Holliday, Tatatabot, PerryPlanet, Morph, Ronald and Nzpcmad

This travel guide also includes text from Wikipedia articles, all available at WikipediaView full credits

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