Santa Cruz Island

things to see & do

Santa Cruz Island is located smack dab in the middle of the Galapagos. It is one of the larger islands and the most populated in the archipelago. A wide variety of activities are available throughout the island and it’s home to the Galapagos National Park offices and the Charles Darwin Station. Baltra Airport is located a short ferry ride from Santa Cruz where travelers are shuttled to the bustling port town of Puerto Ayora, there are all kinds of different shops and cafes, while in the highlands, agriculture thrives with crops such as avocados, coffee, sugarcane, lemons, bananas, and oranges.

Puerto Ayora

enjoy island life

Situated on the southern coast of Santa Cruz Island, Puerto Ayora is the most populous town in Galapagos. The town is mainly devoted to tourist activities and to the ships that come into Academy Bay to get supplies and drop off tourists.

At Puerto Ayora, you can find many small shops and stores just minutes away from the Galapagos Habitat. Buy yourself an ice cream and continue down the relaxing and colorful streets while window shopping.

Don’t be surprised to find an unexpected visitor in Puerto Ayora hogging the benches: the sea lions love to visit this harbor town as well.


your time to explore

Charles Darwin Research Center

About a five-minute walk from the Galapagos Habitat is the Charles Darwin Research Center and the Galapagos National Park’s headquarters and Tortoise Breeding Center. Here you’ll find extensive exhibits that explain the geology, history, climate, threats and conservation of the islands. In the breeding center, you can observe various stages of the tortoises from eggs, hatchlings, juveniles, and full grown individuals. Since the program’s beginning, over 4,000 different tortoises have been bred and returned to their natural habitats. Therefore, it has helped to reclaim previous populations before they become endangered on various islands.

Tortuga Bay

A hike on a marked trail from the east of the town brings you to a spectacular beach hidden away with perfect sand for laying out in the sun and prime water temps for swimming. There are in fact two beaches here. One is rougher and preferred by surfers (boards are available for hire) and the second, further one is a beautiful, secluded, sandy beach, ideal for swimming. Kayaks are available for hire here.

Wildlife Viewing

The Galapagos is first known for the amazing and unique, endemic wildlife that call the islands home. There is a nature show everywhere you turn. Just looking out the main deck from the Galapagos Habitat you can see marine iguanas and sea lions trying to make their reservations! You can also see pelicans fishing, various finches in the mangroves, and frigatebirds flying overhead looking to steal some other poor bird’s catch of the day!

Las Grietas (The Crevices)

The trail to Las Grietas passes by a residential neighborhood, a beach, then salt lagoons, and finally you reach the cliffs of the crevices. It is a unique site where freshwater and saltwater mixes together. It is a great swimming and snorkeling spot to discover the underwater cliff formations.


The more humid highlands of Santa Cruz are are completely different world from the coast. A half-hour drive uphill from Santa Cruz, amid forests and grasses, several farms offer the chance to meet giant tortoises in the wild, usually munching on grass or sinking into muddy pools.

El Garrapatero

If beaches are what you are looking for, then the Garrapatero is where you want to go. The beautiful and long white beach can be reached by either boat or car. There is more to discover beyond the beach, such as flamingo-filled lagoons and white-cheeked pintails frequently visiting.


time to relax

Short walks

Puerto Ayora is perfect for taking strolls along the piers. You can easily walk from one side of town to the other. It is a great opportunity to see all the small shops along the main street. While you’re out there, take in the views of the harbor and ships coming in and out.


From your accommodations or from Galapagos Habitat’s deck at night you’ll be able to see an array of stars in the night sky. Sip on your favorite beverage while kicking back and relaxing while the night sky puts on a show.

Oceatnfront Deck

The deck is the perfect place to unwind or relax during the day. You’ll find great company along with the sea lions, finches, and marine iguanas that like to join guests on most days. Besides making new friends, Galapagos Habitat’s deck offers exceptional and exclusive views of Academy Bay.


on the Galapagos

Los Gemelos (Twin Craters)

Get ready to be astonished by nature! The twin craters are a huge attraction on Santa Cruz. Guests visit to see the two large craters created by the collapse of empty magma chambers of ancient volcanoes. There is a trail that circles the craters to get an even better look at the enormous size of the craters.

Scuba Diving

There are many different dive shops in Puerto Ayora and there is even a hyperbaric chamber in town. Get in touch with us to see if you would like to participate in any scuba diving adventures. Marine dive sites around Santa Cruz are Guy Fawkes Rocks, Punta Estrada, South Plaza, Gordon Rocks, and Punta Carrion.


On the beaches of Tortuga Bay and Garrapatero there are excellent opportunities to try out surfing. If you go for a short walk in town you’ll see a number of places that rent surfboards and other equipment.


On the way to any of the beaches located on Santa Cruz there involves some kind of hike. There are also other trails in the highlands where you could possibly see wild Giant Tortoises roaming about.


You can pick up a free bike from our hotel and cycle round town to your heart’s content. Or you can do some intrepid mountain biking up in the highlands.


Sea kayaking is an excellent way to explore Academy Bay and other parts of Santa Cruz. Talk to reception to see where you can rent kayaks or look into our activity packages.

Hotel Transfers

Important note: Transfers to Baltra Airport will only be provided to Galapagos Habitat guests who have purchased 4 or 5 day packages. We kindly ask all other guests to arrange their transportation independently.

Promotions & Combinations

enjoy special offers

By combining time on land in Santa Cruz and day-tours to nearby islands, you’ll enjoy the finest Galapagos experiences, at your own pace, free to decide how you want to spend your time. Why not sign up for one of our brilliant packages, designed to take care of all logistics while you enjoy your holiday?

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comments from our guests

  • 5 star ratingGreat Hotel I stayed only for a night before my flight out of Galapagos. The staff were super friendly and accomodating, a... read more


    5 star ratingOasis with great restaurant Popped in for lunch and ended up moving from our hotel to stay here for our last night. Food is great, staff ... read more


    5 star rating10 stars if I could This hotel was AMAZING!!!! The staff was super helpful and made stay more than pleasant. They seemed more worr... read more

    Kaushik G
  • 5 star ratingbeautiful setting, very helpful staff The hotel is set on the water with great views, including pelicans and frigate birds. The deck that houses th... read more


    5 star ratingGreat Stay The Red Mangrove is an exceptional hotel. Service was fantastic and the staff was attending to every need. ... read more

    Karl S

    5 star ratingOur stay at Galapagos habitat Experience was outstanding for hotel accommodations, location, and wildlife! Sea lions and marine iguana’s ke... read more

  • 5 star ratingNicest Hotel on Santa Cruz island This is for sure the nicest hotel on Santa Cruz island. Food for breakfast and dinner was great. The accommoda... read more


    5 star ratingA Waterside Gem! This superbly located, very well managed hotel offers everything anyone visiting the Galapagos might hope for!... read more

    Mark B

    5 star ratingEcological rustic hotel This is a simple yet comfortable hotel. It is quiet, clean, rustic, and perfect for the atmosphere. The staff... read more

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