Santa Cruz Island Excursions

Bay Tour

On Santa Cruz Island, there are several alternatives to enjoy nature; a three hour tour around Academy Bay will offer the awesome opportunity to swim with sea lions and colorful fishes in front of Camaño islet, also known as Lobería (sea lion colony), you can have an encounter with blue footed boobies perched on the ledges of the cliffs. From the Chanals White tipped reef sharks can be seen, right in Shark Bay. You can climb to a viewpoint to observe the sharks from above and walk to the playa de los perros (dog beach) where dozens of marine iguanas bask in the sun over the rocks. Prickly pear cactus and other arid zone plants over the reddish environment and the turquoise ocean will form the perfect scenery for incredible photographs.

Tortuga Bay

The Galapagos beach at Tortuga Bay is a pristine location covered with beautiful white sand beach.
It is a great location for swimming and even surfing. Located south-west of the touristic town of Puerto Ayora on the Galapagos Island of Santa Cruz.
It is considered by the majority of visitors as one of the most beautiful beaches in Galapagos.

Charles Darwin Research Station

A ten minute walk from the Center of town, the Charles Darwin Research Station is the working Galapagos based branch of the international, non-profit Charles Darwin Foundation, a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station is included in all cruises of the islands. Visitors learn about natural history, issues concerning the islands, and see the tortoise breeding and rearing project at work.

The Darwin Station is the working Galapagos based branch of the international, non-profit Charles Darwin Foundation. Established in 1959, the Darwin Station works closely with the Galapagos National Park protecting the Galapagos Islands and Galapagos Marine Reserve.

The Darwin Station primarily a scientific operation, conducts research and assists other researches within the Galapagos National Park and Galapagos Marine Reserve. The information from this research is given to the Galapagos National Park Service and the Ecuadorian Government to better protect and maintain this precious area. The information is also published in scientific journals, reports, and interpretive displays for visitors and becomes part of the environmental education process. The Darwin Station also works providing environmental education to communities and schools within the islands, and to tourists visiting the Galapagos Islands. The Darwin Station has developed the curriculum for Galapagos Guides including the study of the Island’s natural history, conservation and preservation of the islands. The Darwin Station is a free-zone and is open to all visitors of the Galapagos.

Darwin Station Visit Information

The visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station is a 1/2 hour walk through town combined with a 1 1/2 hour visit to the station.

Landing: dry landing
Highlights: tortoise breeding center, visitor center, land iguanas
Conditions: relatively flat trail on boardwalk, bathrooms and gift shop
Notes: do not stand on the tortoise feeding area

Santa Cruz Highlands – El Chato

Journeying across Santa Cruz into the highlands visitors are delighted by the island’s variety of life and geology. Beginning at the coast and traveling across Santa Cruz the road departs from Puerto Ayora climbing through the agricultural lands and into the mist covered forests. Santa Cruz possesses all of the various life zones present in the archipelago. As you travel through these zones birders are enchanted. Whether it’s the bright red feathers of a vermillion flycatcher or one of Darwin’s Finch almost every bird present in the islands can be found here.

Santa Cruz offers excellent opportunities for viewing wild Galapagos Tortoises. As you walk through the forest, listen carefully for the sound of heavy foot steps and the sound of shrubs being slowly crushed as the tortoises make their way through the brush to enjoy a meal.

Tracking tortoises is not the only exciting activity to be found in the highlands. There are also plenty of lava tubes, sinkholes and craters to explore. Theses eerie formations offer a fascinating hike into the belly of the island to view its volcanic make-up. Visits to El Chato can be done with or without a naturalist guide.

El Chato Visit Information

A visit to El Chato starts with a 45 minute bus ride from either town or the canal. The visit is 4 hours including a hike through the forest to see the tortoises and visiting the lava tubes

El Chato Wildlife

Common Gallinule
Darwin Finch
Galapagos Flycatcher
El Chato
Vermillion Flycatcher
White-cheeked Pintail
Yellow Warbler

Santa Cruz Highlands – Los Gemelos

The twin craters located on either side are the result of collapsed lava material into holes. The sink holes are like rings on a tree showing the volcanic history of the island layer by layer. The area is best known for outstanding birding opportunities especially the Darwin Finch and Vermillion Fly Catcher.

Los Gemelos is home to interesting fauna including scalesia trees – known as the Darwin Finch of the plant world there are 7 genus of scalesia endemic to the islands and 14 species found in Galapagos. The Galapagos Guava can also be found in the area with its smooth bark covered with epiphytes and brown liverworts. Visits to Los Gemelos can be done by those those on a land based trip when accompanied by a certified naturalist guide.

Los Gemelos Visit Information

Los Gemelos is typically a 1 hour visit hiking on a path through the woods
Notes: park officials are on site to make sure you are accompanied by a local guide