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Santa Cruz

Tourist-friendly Santa Cruz Island is not only home of Puerto Ayora, it's also the most centrally located island, meaning more visitor sites, dives and tours are available. Because the main airport is on nearby Baltra, most visitors to Galapagos Islands will wind up in Puerto Ayora at some point, and the town has the best hotels, restaurants and nightlife to be had in the islands. It's also home to the Charles Darwin Research Station, home of Lonesome George and a must-see for any visitors to Galapagos.

Santa Cruz is more than just Puerto Ayora, however. There are 22 land and marine visitor sites on and around the island. The lush green highlands are home to tortoises and birds, the beaches are among the best in the islands, and even Puerto Ayora's Academy Bay is worth checking out.

There are several dive sites near Puerto Ayora, and plenty of dive shops in town to take you there. The best known site is probably Gordon Rocks, where different sharks, including hammerheads, are often seen.

Santa Cruz is a great place to see Giant Tortoises. There are some at the Charles Darwin Research Station, but better to go to the highlands to see them in their natural habitat, muching vegetation, wallowing in mud and lumbering around. El Chato reserve is a good place to start: in addition to the tortoises, there is a freshwater lagoon that attracts ducks and other birds, and some lava tunnels that can be explored. Also in the highlands, Los gemelos (“the twins”) refers to two sinkhole craters formed by collapsing underground lava tunnels. They're a great place to see birds (keep an eye open for the brilliant red Vermillion Flycatcher) and native plants.

Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to Galápagos Island Visitor Sites: North Seymour Island, North Seymour, Daphne Major and Minor, Sombrero Chino, Rábida, Santa Fe, Española, Isabela, San Cristóbal and Bartolomé.

By Christopher Minster
I am a writer and editor at V!VA Travel guides here in Quito, where I specialize in adding quality content to the site and also in spooky things like...
27 Aug 2010

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