Santa Cruz Island (Isla Santa Cruz), Galapagos Islands
With the largest human population in the Galapagos archipelago, Isla Santa Cruz is the most important of the Galapagos Islands. Meaning Holy Cross in Spanish, this island is also known as Indefatigable, after the HMS Indefatigable landed here long ago. The second largest island terms of land area at 986 sq km, Isla Santa Cruz is home to the key town of Puerto Ayora, the Charles Darwin Research Station and the headquarters of the Galapagos National Park Service.
With its own airport on Isla Baltra a few miles away, Isla Santa Cruz is where most visitors who come to the Galapagos Islands usually stay. With a number of bars, hotels, restaurants and shops in Puerto Ayora, most tours of the Archipelago also usually begin from here. You can find a number of travel and tour operators in Puerto Ayora to help you arrange a cruise of the Galapagos Islands.
Puerto Ayora lies in the south of Isla Santa Cruz in the famous Academy Bay. An important town that is rapidly growing with each day, Puerto Ayora has the usual facilities found in any town including a hospital, post office, radio station and a TAME office, Ecuador’s official airline. A 20-minute walk north east of town is the Charles Darwin Research Station. An information center with its own museum, the research station also has a tortoise breeding program and is the home of Lonesome George, perhaps the most famous tortoise in the Galapagos.
If you head southwest of Puerto Ayora, you will reach the beautiful Turtle Bay with a gorgeous white sand beach and some excellent swimming. Here, you can not only spot a number of endemic birds, but sharks and marine iguanas as well. From Turtle Bay one can head on to the highlands of Santa Cruz, and visit the fascinating lava tubes. Underground tunnels formed from the solidification of lava, these tunnels are a must see.
After this go on to the tiny town of Santa Rosa, with the El Chato Tortoise Reserve nearby. Here, observe many endemic Galapagos tortoises in their natural habitat as well as a number of indigenous land birds. Another interesting tourist location on the island is Cerro Chato. However, do take a guide if you are planning on visiting here, as this area is part of the Galapagos National Park.
To visit the remaining touristy sites of Isla Santa Cruz, you have to catch a boat from Puerto Ayora. Visit Whale Bay and Conway Bay on the western coast of the island; and Black Turtle Cove on the northern coast, where one can spot lava herons, pelicans, sea turtles, sharks and Golden Mustard rays among the mangroves found here. Also make sure to visit Cerro Dragon, which is a small lagoon with many flamingoes resting here.