Santa Cruz Island is the most visited, the most inhabited and the second largest island in the Galapagos Islands.
It is also the most frequented because it is near to one of the only two airports in Galapagos (Seymur Airport on Baltra Island, a five-minute boat ride from Santa Cruz Island) and because all the ferries to the other islands depart from here.
If this is your first time in the Galapagos Islands, we recommend coming first to Santa Cruz so that you can get to know the movement of the whole archipelago; also because you can do some activities for free.
In this post we will summarize the most important information about Santa Cruz Island and all the activities available for you to do.
We also suggest reading the following guides: Galapagos entrance fee
About Santa Cruz Island
Puerto Ayora is the capital of Santa Cruz.
It is the most complete city in the archipelago since it is where most of the economic activity of the islands occurs.
This is why you will find a vast range of accommodations, restaurants, ATMs, cafeterias and stores for tourists.
It is also the island where all tours and ferries depart to the different islands of the Galapagos. That is, if you are in San Cristobal and you want to travel to Isabela Island, you have to get to Santa Cruz first and then travel to Isabela.
Last but not least, the island offers beautiful landscapes, unique fauna, beaches and many activities that will allow you to get to know the Galapagos habitat.
Santa Cruz Map
Santa Cruz has an area of 985.22 km² and a maximum altitude of 864 above sea level.
It is home to approximately 18,000 people.
The rural areas of the island include Santa Rosa, Bellavista, El Cascajo, Guayabillos and El Occidente.
Flora and fauna
In Santa Cruz you can appreciate sea lions, iguanas, Galapagos giant tortoises, sea turtles, blue-footed boobies, mockingbirds, frigate birds, patillos, Darwin’s finches, lizards, blue sharks, among others.
Its vegetation includes Opuntias (gigantic cactus unique in the world), palo santo, miconia, among others.
Things to do in Santa Cruz Galapagos
Santa Cruz Island has high areas with farms, beaches, craters and even lava tunnels.
All these attractions are available to visit, but while some require a licensed guide or an entrance fee (paid tours), others can be visited completely free of charge.
In this post we will be publishing guides of all the touristic places of Santa Cruz Island in Galapagos for your visit.
Don’t forget to follow the rules of the Galapagos National Park while you are on the island:
Free things to do in Santa Cruz
Among the tourist sites that you can visit for free in Santa Cruz are:
- Tortuga Bay
- Playa La Estación
- Playa El Garrapatero
- Playa de la Ratonera
- Playas Los Alemanes
- Laguna de Las Ninfas
- Muelle de pescadores
- Malecón Puerto Ayora (Muelle Gus Angermeyer)
- Mercado artesanal
Paid tour within the island
The other are fee-based tours due to the logistics involved, or they have an entrance fee:
- Charles Darwin Research Station
- Las Grietas
- Mirador Cima del Cerro Crocker
- Tour Parte Alta: Los Gemelos, túneles de lava y el rancho las Primicias o Reserva el Chato
Activities and tours in Santa Cruz
At the touristic attractions within Santa Cruz you can enjoy many adventure activities, as well as relaxing moments at Puerto Ayora enjoying its bars, restaurants and cafes.
You can also take day trips off the island.
- Surf: There are some surf spots with northern swells from November to April and southern swells from May to October. Check out the surfing beaches in Ecuador, including Santa Cruz in the Galapagos.
- Diving: There are several diving spots near the bay of Puerto Ayora (Caamaño islet, La Lobería, Punta Estrada or Punta Carrión) or within hours from Santa Cruz (Gordon Rocks, Seymour Norte, Mosquera, Bartolomé and Roca Cousins, among others).
- Snorkeling: You can snorkel in Tortuga Bay, Playa de la Estación, Playa de los Alemanes, Las Grietas, Bachas, Pinzón, among others.
- Kayaking: There are kayaking tours in some spots of the island, such as Playa del Garrapatero, Los Alemanes, Tortuga Bay, Bahia Academia, among others.
- Hiking: Most of the touristic attractions in Santa Cruz combine trekking with other activities.
- Cycling: Undoubtedly, the best way to get to know the surroundings of the islands is with a bicycle. There is a ciclovia that crosses Puerto Ayora and goes all the way to the crater of Los Gemelos.
- Camping: Camping is allowed on Santa Cruz Island, but only on The Garrapatero Beach with previous authorization.
- Agrotourism: You can take tours to farms located in the highlands to see how agricultural activity is developed on the island.
Daily tours From Santa Cruz
If you have already visited all the spots in Santa Cruz, you can take the following daily excursions to other islands:
- Bahia Tour ($30): Loberia Islet and Los Perros Beach, Shark Channel, Punta Estrada, Love Channel.
- Bartolome Island ($170 – $220)
- North Seymour Island ($170)
- Santa Fe Island ($110)
- Pinzon Island ($120)
- South Plaza Island ($170)
- Floreana Island ($120)
- Isabela Island ($120)
- Sombrero Chino Island ($265)
Prices are per person and may vary depending on the local agency.
Visiting restaurantes, bars, cafes
In addition to adventure, you can also enjoy Puerto Ayora by visiting its bars, cafes and restaurants. Prices vary depending on the establishment visited.
There are international food restaurants whose prices are quite pricey (dishes over $10 per person or cocktails starting at $8), but there are also restaurants with typical food from Ecuador at more affordable prices (from $4-$5 per person).
Generally, most of the restaurants located near the Malecon in Puerto Ayora or along Charles Darwin Avenue are more expensive.
So don’t hesitate to visit the areas further inland and seek out more options.
How to get to Santa Cruz in the Galapagos?
The easiest way to get to Santa Cruz is by plane.
There are flights departing from Guayaquil or Quito (stopover in Guayaquil) with Avianca, Latam and Equair airlines. The ticket cost is between $130 to $450 per person (the cheapest flights are from Equair).
The flight does not arrive directly to Santa Cruz Island. It lands at Seymour Airport, located on Baltra Island (north of Santa Cruz), and from there you must cross the Itabaca Channel by boat to get to Santa Cruz.
Summarizing, to get to Santa Cruz you must follow the following indications:
- At the exit of the Baltra airport you will have to take a bus “Lobitos” that costs $5 in order to get to the ferry port of Baltra Island (10 minute ride).
- Once there, you must take a boat that costs $1 and that crosses the Itabaca Channel until reaching Santa Cruz (5-10 minutes trip approx).
- Then in Santa Cruz, you have to pay again $5 for another bus that takes you to Puerto Ayora. Or you can take a cab van that will be costing between $30 – $35 (you can share the cab with 4 other people and split the cost). The trip from the ferry port of Santa Cruz -Baltra to Puerto Ayora takes about 1 hour, as it crosses the entire island.
From other islands
If you are in San Cristobal or Isabela and want to get to Santa Cruz, you have two options:
- Local interisland flights: They are the most expensive option, but faster, and their rates range from $130 per ticket. There are two airlines that offer interisland flights: Emetebe and Fly Galapagos. The trip lasts 30 minutes.
- Interisland ferries: They are the most economical option, although they take longer (approx. two and a half hours). The cost ranges from $20 to $30 per ticket + $1 for the cab boats.
Santa Cruz Hotels
Accommodation prices vary depending on whether it is a hotel or hostel, and the amenities you want.
But you can easily get a room for rent from $22 a night (not in a hotel), or rent a house for $35 a night, to hotels and hostels for $50, $60 or more a night.
Here are a few options.