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Santa Cruz is the most populated island and the second largest of the archipelago. The island is considered a great dormant volcano, as its last eruption was more than 1 million years ago. 

Santa Cruz is the main tourist attraction in Galapagos, due to the proximity to Baltra airport (GPS). Is the only one in the Galapagos where tourists can easily access the highland interior. 

In addition, Santa Cruz is one of the most developed islands due to its large population of approximately 18,000 inhabitants. It has the longest paved road in the Galapagos, making it easily accessible from the north to the south of the island. 

Santa Cruz Island has incredible places that amaze everyone who visits it. Here you can walk along white sandy beaches, hike through huge volcanic craters and swim in clear turquoise waters surrounded by a great diversity of animals.

So if you want to know more about Santa Cruz, in this post you will find the most relevant facts about this paradise. 


Name of the island: Santa Cruz.

English Name:Indefatigable 

Area: 986 km2 or 381 mi2

Maximum Altitude: 864 m or 2835 ft

Population: Aprox 18,000

The original name of Santa Cruz in English is “Indefatigable” in honor of the great British warship HMS Indefatigable. The ship was recognized during the Napoleonic wars in Europe. 


The island of Santa Cruz is located in the center of the archipelago. Its first settlements were by European and North American colonists. 

During the second world war, the island of Baltra and Santa were considered strategic points to defend the Pacific from the German or Japanese invasion.

Location of the Santa Cruz Island
Santa Cruz in Galapagos Islands


When you visit Santa Cruz Island you will be amazed by all the wildlife. On the island’s beaches you will see countless sea lions lying on the sand or rocks, you will also see the cute blue footed boobies, marine iguanas and lava lizards.

The blue waters of Galapagos are one of the best places to dive. Here you can swim with sea turtles, see hammerhead sharks, rays and colorful fish. 

And of course the giant tortoises will be the main attraction when you visit the Charles Darwin Station or El Chato Reserve. 

Blue footed booby at Lava Tunnels
Blue footed booby at Lava Tunnels


Santa Cruz Island offers you the opportunity to visit unique places that can only be found in Galapagos Islands.  

1. Puerto Ayora 

Puerto Ayora is the main port city of Santa Cruz. Generally Puerto Ayora is the entry point for visitors to the Galapagos Islands. In another words, this city has all the tourist facilities for visitors. There are several restaurants, discos, bars, lodging, souvenir stores, banks and a hospital. 

When visiting the bay you can observe pelicans, marine iguanas, frigate birds, sea lions, blue footed boobies and others. 

Puerto Ayora

2. Charles Darwin Station / Fausto Llerena Breeding Center

One of the must see attractions when traveling to Santa Cruz is the Charles Darwin Research Station. The place was founded in 1959 and is a base for scientific research and environmental education. 

Certainly, This is the perfect place to learn about turtles, their history and evolution. Here you can find turtles ranging from 3 inches (new hatchlings) to 4 feet long. 

Also here you will learn about the work of conservation and preservation of animals and ecosystems of the Galapagos Islands

Charles Darwin Research Station
Charles Darwin Research Station

3. El Chato Reserve 

El Chato is the perfect place to observe turtles in their natural state. The reserve was founded in 1964 and is located in the town of Santa Rosa.

Here you will have the opportunity to see the tortoises walking freely along the highlands of Santa Cruz. As a result there are tortoises of different sizes and ages, the oldest ones are over 100 years old. They love to walk through the green fields or refresh themselves in the mud puddles. 

Tortoises at El Chato Reserve in Santa Cruz Island
Tortoises at El Chato Reserve

4. Tortuga Bay 

This beautiful white sand beach is considered one of the best beaches in the world according to TripAdvisor. Tortuga Bay gets its name for being a nesting site for turtles in the Galapagos. 

This place is also a perfect spot to observe pelicans, sea lions, marine iguanas, white tip sharks and in the lagoon behind the mangroves you can watch flamingos.  

It is definitely a place for visitors to relax and admire the spectacular scenery. 

Tortuga Bay in Santa Cruz Island
Tortuga Bay beach

5. Lava Tunnels 

The famous lava tunnels were formed because the surface lava solidified but the magma inside continued to flow leaving a series of empty tubes. Here visitors can venture out to explore these tunnels more than 1km long. 

Above all, here you can learn about the geological formation of the islands and the history of pirates and treasure. 

Lava Tunnels in Santa Cruz
Lava Tunnels

6. Las Grietas 

Las Grietas are considered the natural pools of Galapagos. They were formed by the rupture of giant rocks, forming cracks filled with fresh water. The waters of Las Grietas are a mixture of sea water and fresh water. In addition, these crystal clear waters have no current, making them the perfect place for a relaxing swim.  

In conclusion, here you will be able to swim, snorkel and enjoy the best views of this natural paradise.

Las Grietas
Las Grietas

 7. Twin Craters  

The famous Twin Craters are two huge craters formed by the collapse of empty magma chambers. Twin Craters are covered with vegetation and are surrounded by Scalesia trees. These trees are endemic to the Galapagos Islands, so the forest surrounding “Los Gemelos” are one of the largest conservation sites of this tree species. 

This place is one of the favorite spots to observe birds such as the short-eared owl, the Galapagos dove and several species of finches.

Twin Craters in Santa Cruz
Twin Craters

8. Black Turtle Cove

Black Turtle Cove is located in the northern part of Santa Cruz, it is a place completely surrounded by mangroves, so it is only accessible by boat. The types of mangroves that grow in this area are: Red, white and black. 

The mangrove ecosystem is of great importance, it is the refuge of young marine life. Therefore, here it is possible to spot black and white tip reef sharks, sea turtles and a large number of rays. 

Black Turtle Cove
Black Turtle Cove

Santa Cruz Island is waiting for you! Our tours are perfect to take you to see all the wonderful attractions that the Galapagos Islands have to offer.

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