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Charles Darwin Research Station (Santa Cruz Island)

#9 in Best Things To Do in Galapagos Islands

Charles Darwin Research Station (Santa Cruz Island) picture in Galapagos Islands
Les Williams / Flickr

Key Info

Details

  • Parks and Gardens, Sightseeing Type
  • 1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
4.1
Overall
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Scorecard

  • Value
    5.0
  • Facilities
    4.0
  • Atmosphere
    3.5

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A must-see attraction for budding scientists, this exulted site features an active breeding center and informative displays explaining the archipelago's unique ecology and history. Operated by the Charles Darwin Foundation, the center strives to preserve the diversity of the Galápagos Islands through continual conservation research and practices with over a hundred educators, research assistants and volunteers. As you follow the paths, you can catch sight of numerous Galapagos giant tortoises. (Sadly, however, you won't spot Lonesome George, the sole survivor of the Pinta Island giant tortoise subspecies, who passed away in 2012.) Once you've gotten up close and personal with these fascinating creatures, head inside the museum to watch an informational video about the center's mission and conservation efforts.

Travelers rave about the newly renovated facility, adding that exploring the exhibits, installations and tortoise areas should be an essential part of any first-time visitor's itinerary. But if you're most interested in seeing the region's giant tortoises, some caution that you should head elsewhere; the property has fewer tortoises that do not roam freely like they do at sites like Rancho Primicias and El Chato Tortoise Reserve.

You'll find the research station located within a mile of Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island. From Puerto Ayora, walk or take a taxi east on Charles Darwin Avenue until you reach the property. Visitors are welcome every day from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., though the facility closes daily for lunch between 12:30 and 2:30 p.m. Access to the attraction's exhibits, restrooms, gift shop and cafe is free, but the center welcomes donations to help fund its science projects. For additional information, consult the Charles Darwin Foundation's website.

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Hotels Nearby

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Hotel Solymar

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  • 3.0-star Hotel Class
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Hotel Red Booby ...

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#1 Tortuga Bay (Santa Cruz Island) Outdoorsy types don't flock to these two white sand beaches simply to bake in the warm equatorial sun. Travelers visit this isolated strip of Santa Cruz Island's southern ... Read more » shalamov / Getty Images

#2 Rancho Primicias (Santa Cruz Island) One of the Galápagos Islands' most well-known creatures is the giant tortoise, and one of the region's best places to see them is at Rancho Primicias. Located on Santa ... Read more » Westend61 / Getty Images

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#4 Snorkeling & Diving To many, the Galápagos' charm lies with its abundance of land-roaming creatures. But for aquatic enthusiasts more interested in the incredible diversity of wildlife found beneath its turquoise ... Read more » chemistkane / Getty Images

#5 El Chato Tortoise Reserve (Santa Cruz Island) If you came to the Galápagos to stand face-to-face with a giant tortoise, then you can't pass up a trip to El Chato Tortoise Reserve. But tortoises ... Read more » Master1312 / Getty Images

#6 Bird-watching The Galápagos Islands served as the site of Charles Darwin's famous flora and fauna observations and the inspiration behind his groundbreaking "On the Origin of Species," so it's ... Read more » Photography by Jessie Reeder / Getty Images

#7 Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz Island) Set at the center of the Galápagos archipelago, Santa Cruz Island serves as a central base for exploration. And skirting Santa Cruz's southern shoreline along Academy Bay ... Read more » Harri Jarvelainen Photography / Getty Images

#8 Puerto Villamil (Isabela Island) On Isabela Island, the largest island in the Galápagos, lies the quiet town of Puerto Villamil. Named after General José Villamil, the Galápagos Islands' first governor who settled in the ... Read more » Jesse Kraft / EyeEm / Getty Images

#9 Charles Darwin Research Station (Santa Cruz Island) A must-see attraction for budding scientists, this exulted site features an active breeding center and informative displays explaining the archipelago's unique ecology and history. Operated by the Charles Darwin ... Read more » Les Williams / Flickr

Tilmonster / Getty Images

#11 Sierra Negra Volcano (Isabela Island) Sierra Negra Volcano stands majestically over Isabela Island, rising nearly 4,500 feet high. Admirers far and wide are drawn to Sierra Negra to peer into its glowing fumaroles and ... Read more » DC_Colombia / Getty Images

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Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz Island) picture in Galapagos Islands
Puerto Villamil (Isabela Island) picture in Galapagos Islands
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Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (San Cristóbal Island) picture in Galapagos Islands
Sierra Negra Volcano (Isabela Island) picture in Galapagos Islands

Although Tortuga Bay is named for the turtles that lay their eggs on its beach, the bay is best known for its resident marine iguanas. shalamov / Getty Images

For a glimpse of the region's giant tortoises without rubbing elbows with hordes of tourists, check out Rancho Primicias. Westend61 / Getty Images

On La Loberia's sands, it isn't uncommon to spot multiple sea lions sleeping or sunbathing. Volanthevist / Getty Images

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At El Chato Tortoise Reserve, you'll get an up-close look at the islands' famous giant tortoises. Master1312 / Getty Images

The Galápagos Islands are home to 24 of the world's bird species, but one of the most unique birds you'll see while bird-watching here is the aptly named blue-footed booby. Photography by Jessie Reeder / Getty Images

Santa Cruz Island's most populous town is Puerto Ayora, where various restaurants, shops, hotels and nightclubs reside. Harri Jarvelainen Photography / Getty Images

Puerto Villamil's proximity to the wildlife-filled Tintoreras and the historic Wall of Tears makes this quiet town a convenient departure point for sightseeing. Jesse Kraft / EyeEm / Getty Images

At the Charles Darwin Research Station, visitors can watch giant tortoises and learn more about the Galápagos Islands' unique wildlife. Les Williams / Flickr

One of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno's most popular activities is to travel by boat to the nearby Kicker Rock. Tilmonster / Getty Images

For a glimpse at the world's second largest crater, hike around Sierra Negra Volcano. DC_Colombia / Getty Images

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