Welcome to my Galapagos Islands Adventure Series.
Enjoy my first post in the series, Galapagos Islands – A Dream Trip Come True.
Have fun with Sensational Sea Lions of San Cristobal.
Don’t miss Wet & Wild Adventures On San Cristobal Island.
Experience the Mysteries & Majestic Sunsets on Floreana Island.
Savor the adventures in Paradise Found On Isabela Island.
Santa Cruz Island is the second largest Galapagos Island, and home to Puerto Ayora, the most populated town in the islands. For most Galapagos adventurers, Santa Cruz is their port of entry or departure, a quick adventure or two filling their short stay on the island.
Santa Cruz Island is so much more! Whether it’s your first night, your last night, or a night somewhere in-between, take time to explore beyond the tourist shops of Puerto Ayoro. Perhaps spend a night in town, have dinner at a local seafood restaurant. You’ll be glad you did! Here are five experiences worthy of spending more time on Santa Cruz Island.
1. Explore The Santa Cruz Highlands
Most Galapagos visitors arrive on Santa Cruz intent on exploring it’s coastal expanses, foregoing adventures further inland due to time limitations. They are missing out! Allow time to slow things down, to learn more about the island, it’s inhabitants, to explore it’s diverse, incredible beauty. Time to enjoy an evening dinner and souvenir shopping. And time to drive into the Santa Cruz cloud forest highlands for some inland exploration!
The Santa Cruz highlands are a contrast in nature from the more arid low-lands. Driving into the highlands, that contrast quickly becomes apparent as lush, green vegetation overtakes dry low-land scrub. There’s some pretty awesome hiking trails with incredible views and giant lava tubes just waiting to be explored. And, a highlands drive isn’t complete without a stop at Reserva El Chato, natural habitat of Galapagos tortoises.
2. Walk Among Gentle Giant Galapagos Tortoises
Where in the world can one walk right up to a gentle giant tortoise? At Reserva El Chato, right here on Santa Cruz Island, that’s where! Up in the Santa Cruz highlands exists a world long gone from other islands. A world where giant tortoises roam at their own free will. It’s a world that every Santa Cruz visitor should not miss!
The Reserva El Chato is home to a small colony of giant Galapagos tortoises who roam the wild as they did thousands of years ago. To walk right alongside a slowly ambling giant quite possibly 75 years or more old, is an experience not to be forgotten any time soon.
So slow it down! Spend a serene afternoon meandering about Reserva El Chato with these marvelous gentle giants. Follow behind these amazing ancient creatures as they go about their business, seemingly without a care in the world. Reserva El Chato is sure to become a most treasured Santa Cruz moment.
3. Peer Into Ancient Lava Tunnels
Santa Cruz is dominated by a – thankfully – long-dormant volcano. But it wasn’t always dormant, and left in it’s last destructive wake are lava tunnels just begging to be explored. Imagine yourself standing inside something that was once red-hot, peering down the same path that molten lava once flowed. A walk through a lava tunnel is almost unworldly, and most decidedly a must-do experience.
The last volcanic eruptions on Santa Cruz Island are estimated to have occurred over a million years ago. These eruptions created lava tubes across the island like this one. Don’t know of many other places besides Santa Cruz where one can walk through a lava tube!
4. Catch A Wave at Tortuga Bay
Grab your surfboards and boogie boards! The sun is shining, the waves are rolling, and the water is beckoning out at Playa Brava. This most spectacular, almost secluded beach along Tortuga Bay may be quite a hike to get to, but it’s well worth the effort. Playa Brava is by far, one of the prettiest beaches along Tortuga Bay, and in the Galapagos.
It’s also one of the more challenging beaches to reach, accessible only on foot down a very, very, long boardwalk. However, those who take the challenge, surfboards, boogie boards, snacks, towels and other beach paraphernalia in tow, are well rewarded with a glimpse into paradise. Not interested in riding the waves? No problem! The nearly pristine beach is the perfect spot to settle in and enjoy the views. Who knows? You might just see a few marine iguanas and blue-footed boobies ambling about.
The waves at Playa Brava are just right for the beginner surfer to catch a wave and go for a ride, albeit a short one. Just beware of hidden rocks, resident rays, sea turtles, and the occasional sharks. Yes, sharks! Like the one that swam right past us! Thankfully he was just an little itty-bitty harmless one.
5. Visit The Charles Darwin Research Center
The Charles Darwin Research Center is on practically every Galapagos Islands visitor’s travel itinerary, as well it should be! The Charles Darwin Research Center is dedicated to conservation of the Galapagos islands, their ecosystems, and the often endangered, definitely unique, creatures that call these islands home.
Spending a few hours at the Research Center provides a glimpse into what it takes to keep these islands and their inhabitants, thriving in today’s modern world. Watch as yellow land iguanas scale rocks and giant tortoises munch on their morning snacks. Learn why island conservation is so important, and why the endangered native species that call these islands home, need to be protected.
Good-Bye Galapagos Islands!
Sadly our adventures on Santa Cruz Island signaled the end of our Galapagos vacation. The time had come for one final island dinner, our last souvenir shopping excursion, and our bags to be packed and loaded onto the bus. The count-down had begun to our flight’s departure for home. Good bye Galapagos Islands. We will miss you.
Our Galapagos vacation was years in the making. But you know, sometimes long-awaited adventures become adventures that will be savored for years to come.
Have you been to the Galapagos Islands? What was your favorite adventure? Have you had a long-awaited dream vacation finally come to fruition? Share with us!
All images from C.Biederman