comScore
Rancho Primicias (Santa Cruz Island) picture in Galapagos Islands
Westend61 / Getty Images

Details

  • Parks and Gardens, Sightseeing Type
  • 1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
4.7
Overall
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Scorecard

  • Value
    4.5
  • Facilities
    4.0
  • Atmosphere
    4.5

Read about how we rank Things to Do.

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 Cruz Island roughly 13 miles away from Puerto Ayora, this privately-owned animal sanctuary is filled with giant tortoises. The site also features empty tortoise shells to climb into and tunnels made of cooled, hardened lava to walk through, plus facilities like a restaurant and restrooms.

Though you'll find the island's more popular El Chato Tortoise Reserve situated next door, past travelers were glad they chose to visit Rancho Primicias, citing its less crowded atmosphere and ample photo ops as highlights. Just remember to keep your distance from the tortoises; feeding and touching the animals is not permitted. Many previous visitors also enjoyed trekking through the ranch's lava tunnels, which are free to explore.

Getting to Rancho Primicias can be a bit tricky, so travelers suggest taking a taxicab to and from the attraction. If you have a bike and map, you can take Santa Cruz Highway – the island's main road – to its westernmost point before hopping onto the side street that connects the ranch to the highway. You will be charged $3 to enter; ranch admissions include a guided tour of the property and access to all of its facilities. Rancho Primicias is open every day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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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

Volanthevist / Getty Images

#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

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#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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El Chato Tortoise Reserve (Santa Cruz Island) picture in Galapagos Islands
Bird-watching picture in Galapagos Islands
Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz Island) picture in Galapagos Islands
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Charles Darwin Research Station (Santa Cruz Island) picture in Galapagos Islands
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Sierra Negra Volcano (Isabela Island) picture in Galapagos Islands
Tortuga Bay (Santa Cruz Island) picture in Galapagos Islands
Rancho Primicias (Santa Cruz Island) picture in Galapagos Islands
La Loberia (San Cristóbal Island) picture in Galapagos Islands
Snorkeling & Diving picture in Galapagos Islands
El Chato Tortoise Reserve (Santa Cruz Island) picture in Galapagos Islands
Bird-watching picture in Galapagos Islands
Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz Island) picture in Galapagos Islands
Puerto Villamil (Isabela Island) picture in Galapagos Islands
Charles Darwin Research Station (Santa Cruz Island) picture in Galapagos Islands
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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