Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz Island)

#7 in Best Things To Do in Galapagos Islands
Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz Island) picture
Harri Jarvelainen Photography/Getty Images

Price & Hours

Free

Details

Free, Neighborhood/Area Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
4.2

scorecard

  • 5.0Value
  • 4.5Food Scene
  • 3.5Atmosphere

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 is Puerto Ayora. The island's primary town provides a nice spot for visitors to unwind at the end of the day thanks to its lively restaurants, shops and low-key nightclubs.

According to recent visitors, Puerto Ayora is your best bet for accommodations near sights like Tortuga Bay and El Chato Tortoise Reserve. Travelers also recommend checking out the Santa Cruz Fish Market and the Charles Darwin Research Station, which both sit in the town's limits. And if you're looking for a great place to swim or snorkel, consider going to Las Grietas, a geological formation with several natural pools.

Everything in Puerto Ayora can be accessed easily on your own two feet. That said, if you're looking to tour sites outside of Puerto Ayora, you will need to hail a taxi on the street or a water taxi from the main pier. Alternatively, you can rent a bicycle from one of the bike shops located on Charles Darwin Avenue, the town's main road. Puerto Ayora itself is free to visit 24 hours a day, but you should bring cash to pay for tours, food, lodging, souvenirs and transportation.

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Tortuga Bay (Santa Cruz Island)1 of 10
Rancho Primicias (Santa Cruz Island)2 of 10
Type
Time to Spend
#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 coastline for some quality face time with the Galápagos' marine turtles. If you visit between January and February, you may even catch sight of the black turtles laying their eggs (hatchlings emerge and make their way to the sea between April and May). Even if you're not a turtle-lover, you can still get up close and personal with the other beach combers like marine iguanas and Sally Lightfoot crabs.

While most recent travelers describe their visits to Tortuga Bay as a highlight of their trips, some do caution that it can feel like quite a trek to get there from Puerto Ayora, especially in the hot sun. Also, remember that the beach closest to the bay's entrance (Playa Brava) has strong currents, so it's not suitable for swimming. If you want to swim, continue walking to the bay's other beach (Playa Mansa).

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