Galapagos Travel Guide: Santa Cruz Island by ChokoTrip
In this travel guide for Santa Cruz, you’ll find information on what to do, how to get around and where to stay for 5 days without having to depend on a tour.
Santa Cruz is the main island for tourist activity and where the majority of cruises start. It is also the central point for getting to Isabela Island and San Cristobal. Santa Cruz has a variety of enjoyable activities you can do by yourself without having to take package tour from travel agents.
5 days and 4 nights on Santa Cruz Island
If you are thinking of visiting the Galapagos, I recommend you take 5 days to enjoy Santa Cruz Island.
12h00 – Direct flight from Guayaquil or Quito. The arrival time to Baltra Island can vary depending on the airline.
13h00 – Check-in at the lodging
I give to you a list of accommodation that I recommend, based on the data of travelers who we’ve helped to book the tours. Each time you book some of these accommodations through our blog, booking gives us a commission and helps us to keep the information updated for future travelers.
More hotels in Santa Cruz: here
14h30 – Taxi (Pickup truck) tour of the higher, mountainous region of Santa Cruz
Before taking the car, find out if there are other tourists at your hotel who might want to share the ride and the cost of $40 USD. The car can seat up to 4 people.
All the drivers giving the tours will know the route to take. It takes about 3 hours. Whenever you want to stop, the driver will wait for you, so don’t worry if you think they might leave. You can pay them at the end of the trip.
You’ll start by going to one of the Giant Tortoise Reserves (Las Primicias or el Chato) where you’ll see the Giant Galapagos Tortoises in their natural habitat. The entrance fee for both Reserves is $5. This route also includes visiting Los túneles de Lava (The Lava Tunnels) and ‘Los Gemelos’ – ‘The Twins’ (Volcano craters).
Before coming back by car to Puerto Ayora to where you were picked up, tell the driver to drop you at the Charles Darwin Research Centre so you can see Lonesome George.
07h00 – Breakfast. Most hotels or hostels include breakfast.
08h00 – Tour of Santa Fe.
The tour of Santa Fe is one of my personal favourites. You’ll visit Playa Escondida (‘Hidden beach’) – a beach surrounded by a volcanic rock, perfect for swimming, walking, spotting the Galapagos Shark as well as observing colonies of Marine Iguanas (and their babies).
15h00 – Return to Puerto Ayora. You can finish up the day at the Playa de los Alemanes (German Beach).
05h30 – Breakfast.
05h50 or 07h00 – Tour of Bartolomé Island.
Another place you cannot miss (or if you do, don’t tell anyone!). Seeing the Island from up top with its undulating, volcanic formations will give you the impression that you’re in some otherworldly existence.
17h00 – Return to Puerto Ayora.
07h00 – Breakfast.
08h30 – Tour of Las Grietas
To get there, take a taxi-boat from Puerto Ayora for 50 cents and cross over to Playa de los Alemanes (German Beach). The path is rocky and goes through inhabited areas where the first people settled on Santa Cruz. It runs along the salt mines (a reminder of the traditional use of salt) and finally reaches the impressive site of ‘Las Grietas’ – a stretch of inland crystal clear emerald green water at the bottom of an earth fracture.
11h00 – Tortuga Bay: one of the best beaches in the Galapagos.
You can get there on foot by taking a 45-minute trail. When you get to the fine, white sand beach, go to your right and walk to the end point. It’ll take you about 10 minutes. You’ll find a short path between mangroves which will take you to Tortuga Bay. The shallow, calm, crystalline water of this beach makes it perfect for kids. You must leave the beach by 5pm.
DAY 5 leaving on a direct flight from Guayaquil or Quito
07h00 – Breakfast.
08h40 – Bus to Airport
You need to be aware that the buses don’t run all day. The last one leaves at 8.40am and takes approximately 45 minutes to get to the habour in which you then cross over to Baltra Island.
10h00 – Check-in at the airport.
I recommend you keep a close eye on the status of your flight since there are often delays or cancelations with all the airlines.
The best daily tours on Santa Cruz Island:
I can help you looking for availability in the following daily tours that leave from Santa Cruz Island:
What else can you do in Santa Cruz Island?
The first beach that you come to while on the way to Tortuga Bay is Playa Brava (‘Angry Beach’). Here you can go surfing or body boarding.
Camping on Playa Garrapatero (Garrapatero Beach)
On Santa Cruz Island, you can go camping on Garrapatero beach. You can stay 2 nights maximum and the cost is $10 per person. In order to go camping here, you need to get permission from the Galapagos National Park office. The camp site has areas for BBQ-ing.
North Seymour Island day trips
On this walking trail, you get to see Blue Footed Boobies, Land iguanas and sea lions.
Pinzon Island day trips
On this tour you can go snorkeling with sea lions, spot reef sharks (aka ‘Tintoreras’), Manta Rays and on occasion, penguins.
There are many dive sites starting from Santa Cruz such as Seymour, Gordon Rocks, Mosquera and more.
The average cost is $180 to $200, and includes all equipment and two dives.
How to get to and around Santa Cruz Island?
To get to Santa Cruz, you can take flights from Guayaquil or Quito. The airlines I recommend are LATAM or AVIANCA. There is also one called TAME which is terrible – they often cancel flights without consideration for any connections you may have. The airport is in Baltra which connects to Santa Cruz island. You can also get ferried across by little motorboats if you’re coming from San Cristobal Island.
Speedboat between San Cristobal and Santa Cruz Islands
Travel time: 2 hours.
Speedboat between Isabela and Santa Cruz Islands
Travel time: 2 hours.
Recommendations: Buy tickets a day in advance for the motorboats ferries. Take seasickness medication one hour before traveling. The further forward you sit on the boat, the stronger you’ll feel the bumps of the ride so try to sit towards the back. If you’re traveling with kids, ask to sit up top with the captain.
What should I bring according to the weather on Santa Cruz?
In the months between June and November, it’s very sunny. Between February and May it’s the rainy season. July to October are the cool, drizzly months and the sea temperature gets very cold.
What you should definitely take, regardless of the season: a waterproof jacket, closed-toe shoes, seasickness medication (Anutin), refillable water bottle, sunglasses, hat, pen drive – most of the tour operators take photos and videos with their cameras on the daily tours so you’ll need a pen drive to transfer them. Don’t count on them sending them to you via email or google drive because the Internet connection is terrible on all three islands.
How much money should I take for visiting Santa Cruz Island?
The best film of Galapagos
Two hundred years after Charles Darwin set foot on the shores of the Galapagos Islands, David Attenborough travels to this mysterious archipelago. It was amongst its flora and fauna that Darwin founded his theories on evolution. Today’s scientists continue to make discoveries as they explore the Galapagos Island’s evolutionary history.