Santa Cruz Island Things to See & Do

Santa Cruz Island is located smack dab in the middle of the Galapagos.  It is one of the larger islands and the most populated in the archipelago.  A wide variety of activities are available throughout the island and it’s home to the Galapagos National Park offices and the Charles Darwin Station. The Baltra Airport is located a short ferry ride from Santa Cruz where travelers are shuttled to the bustling port town of Puerto Ayora, there are all kinds of different shops and cafes, while in the highlands, agriculture thrives on crops such as avocados, coffee, sugarcane, lemons, bananas, and oranges.

Puerto Ayora

Situated in the southern part of Santa Cruz Island, Puerto Ayora is the most populous town in Galapagos The town is mainly devoted to tourist activities and to the ships that come into Academy Bay to get supplies and drop off tourists.  There are also a few fisheries, commerce centers, and agricultural entities on the outskirts of town.

At Puerto Ayora, you can find many small shops and stores just minutes away from the Red Mangrove.  Buy yourself an ice cream and continue down the relaxing and colorful streets while window shopping.  

Don’t be surprised to find an unexpected visitor in Puerto Ayora hogging the benches, the sea lions love to visit this harbor town as well.

What to do near Red Mangrove

Discover

Charles Darwin Research Center

About five minutes walking distance from the Red Mangrove is the Charles Darwin Research Center and Charles Darwin Foundation.  The interpretation center has exhibits that explain the geology and climate of the islands. Much of the research done here aids scientists, the Ecuadorian government, and especially the National Park officials.  Later, their findings are written in scientific journals, reports, and interpretive displays.

Tortuga Bay

A hike on a marked trail brings you to a spectacular beach hidden away with perfect sand for laying out in the sun and prime water temps for swimming.

Wildlife Viewing

The Galapagos is first known for the amazing and unique, endemic wildlife that call the islands home.  There is a nature show everywhere you turn.  Just looking out the main deck from the Red Mangrove you can see marine iguanas and sea lions trying to make their reservations! You can also see pelicans fishing, various finches in the mangroves, and frigatebirds flying overhead looking to steal some other poor birds catch of the day!

Las Grietas (The Crevices)

The trail to Las Grietas passes by a residential neighborhood, then lagoons, and finally a beach until you reach the cliffs of the crevices.  It is a unique site where freshwater and saltwater mixes together.  It is a great swimming and snorkeling spot to discover the underwater cliff formations.

El Mirador

This is a great place to get to by either foot, bike, or even taxi to discover ancient lava tubes.  It’s a short ways out of Puerto Ayora on the way back to Baltra. It is not a very long tube so flashlights are not needed unless you want to get a real good, up close look.

Fausto Llerena Tortoise Center

Operated by the Charles Darwin Foundation and the Charles Darwin Research Center, this is a long-term program specifically designed to save the Galapagos Tortoises in 1965.  Visitors can see various stages of the tortoises from eggs, hatchlings, juveniles, and full grown individuals. Since the program’s beginning, over 4,000 different tortoises have been bred and returned to their natural habitats.  Therefore, it has helped to reclaim previous populations before they become endangered on various islands.

El Garrapatero

If beaches are what you are looking for, then the Garrapatero is where you want to go.  The beautiful and long white beach can be reached by either boat or car. There is more to discover beyond the beach, such as flamingo filled lagoons and white-cheeked pintails frequently visiting.

Unwind

Short walks

Puerto Ayora is perfect for taking strolls along the piers.  You can easily walk from one side of town to the other.  It is a great opportunity to see all the small shops along the main street.  While you’re out there, take in the views of the harbor and ships coming in and out.

Stargazing

From your accommodations or from Red Mangrove’s deck at night you’ll be able to see an array of stars in the night sky.  Sip on your favorite beverage while kicking back and relaxing while the night sky puts on a show.

Oceanfront Deck

The deck is the perfect place to unwind or relax during the day.  You’ll find great company along with the sea lions, finches, and marine iguanas that like to join guests on most days.  Besides making new friends, Red Mangrove’s deck offers exceptional and exclusive views of Academy Bay.  

 

Exploration

Los Gemelos (Twin Craters)

Get ready to be astonished by nature!  The twin craters are a huge attraction on Santa Cruz.  Guests visit to see the two large craters created by the collapse of empty magma chambers of ancient volcanoes.  There is a trail that circles the craters to get an even better look at the enormous size of the craters.

Scuba Diving

There are many different dive shops in Puerto Ayora and there is even a hyperbaric chamber in town.  Look at Red Mangrove’s activity packages to see if you would like to participate in any scuba diving adventures. Marine dive sites around Santa Cruz are Guy Fawkes Rocks, Punta Estrada, South Plaza, Gordon Rocks, and Punta Carrion.

Surfing

On the beaches of Tortuga Bay and Garrapatero there are excellent opportunities to try out surfing.  If you go for a short walk in town you’ll see a number of places that rent surfboards and other equipment.

Hiking

On the way to any of the beaches located on Santa Cruz there involves some kind of hike. There are also other trails in the highlands where you could possibly see wild Giant Tortoises roaming about.

Biking

Rent bikes in Puerto Ayora and head up to the Charles Darwin Research Center or pass by the many agricultural farms in the highlands.

Kayaking

Sea kayaking is an excellent way to explore Academy Bay and other parts of Santa Cruz.  Talk to reception to see where you can rent kayaks or look into our activity packages.

Hotel Transfers

Transfers to Baltra Airport will only be provided to Red Mangrove guests who have purchased 4 or 5 day packages.  We kindly ask all other guests to arrange their transportation accordingly.

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