Rancho Primicias (Santa Cruz Island)#2 in Best Things To Do in Galapagos Islands
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.
More Best Things To Do in Galapagos Islands
#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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