Day 1 in Santa Cruz
Welcome to Santa Cruz Island! Upon arrival at the airport, you will go through customs and immigration. Should you opt to purchase a transfer to your hotel; a representative will be waiting for you as you exit immigration. Arrive at your hotel, check in and do not give in to jet lag! There is so much for you to see and do!
We recommend you get acquainted with the island and explore the main town of Puerto Ayora. Here you will find plenty of restaurants where you can sit back and enjoy some lunch, then hit the shops and buy some souvenirs and take a stroll along Academy Bay, where you will find the bustling port and the resident sea lions.
Make a stop at the wonderful Charles Darwin Research Station, this fascinating center serves as the headquarters for scientific research and environmental education in the Galapagos. There are exhibits on the climate and geography of the archipelago and the evolution of the fauna and flora on the islands. You can also catch a glimpse of the giant Galapagos tortoises (and possibly some hatchlings!) who call the center home. Enjoy some refreshments in the cafe on site and grab some gifts from the gift shop.
Head to the beach, there is a small beach located behind the research stations where you can see marine iguanas strolling along the beach or basking in the sun. Take a walk along the soft sands and enjoy the beautiful surroundings brimming with wildlife. Take a refreshing dip in the waters and do some snorkeling, then sit back and enjoy a breathtaking sunset.
Head down Binford Street, where you can find a large quantity of food `kioskos` and restaurants. This is the ultimate location in town to taste some authentic cuisine and some of the best seafood on the island. Tables and chairs are set up in the bustling street, which is pedestrianized and brimming with tourists and locals eating and mingling in a vibrant atmosphere.
Day 2 in Santa Cruz
Start your first morning with a stroll along Puerto Ayora`s Boardwalk, which stretches along Charles Darwin Avenue and the bay. Here you will find several attractions including small cafes and mom and pop style restaurants where you can enjoy breakfast with a view. Stop in at one of the souvenir shops found along the shoreline where you can shop for authentic gifts to take home.
Visit the Santa Cruz Fish Market, an energetic place filled with fishermen unloading their fresh catch of the day. Your senses will be in overload here with the sights and spectators, including hungry sea lions and pelicans who are always present at the market. Freshly caught groupers, yellow-thin tunas, red snapper, and lobsters are being off-loaded from the boats and onto the counters to be deboned and filleted. `Lupe` the famous resident Sea Lion can be seen behind the counter, watching and waiting for some scraps. You can purchase fresh seafood and fish here to be cooked at nearby restaurants.
Take a bike ride through the main town towards Las Grietas, which translates to `the cracks`. A 30-foot deep channel between two cliffs that is filled with water from the sea and freshwater from the rivers which both filter through the mangrove forests. The glistening crystal clear waterway is the perfect location for snorkeling where vibrant fish can be seen 20 feet below. The sun bounces off the rocks illuminating the sea life, creating spectacular scenery.
As afternoon approaches head to one of the most amazing beaches on the island, Tortuga Bay. This spectacular bay is one of the top-rated attractions on the Island, an alluring coastline lined by a pristine white beach. The beach can be reached via a 1.5-mile long path fringed by endemic plants and cacti trees and plenty of wildlife. The area is preserved for wildlife, watch marine iguanas feed off the algae covered rocks, snorkel over sea turtles and white-tip sharks in the sparkling blue waters. Blue-footed boobies and Frigatebirds soar overhead looking for a snack below. This is truly one of the most amazing beaches in the area and most of the time it is uninhabited, making it the perfect location for a relaxing beach day.
A mangrove-bordered lagoon brimming with clear turquoise waters can be found on the beach. It is a great place to relax in the warm, calm waters and watch the wildlife close by.
There are plenty of cruise options offered in the Bay, hop aboard for a spectacular sunset evening cruise accompanied by refreshing cocktails and Hors d'oeuvres. Watch the spectacular array of colors as the sun sinks below the horizon. Enjoy dinner at one of the many restaurants found along Avenida Charles Darwin serving local authentic cuisine along with an abundance of seafood restaurants. After dinner, stroll along the avenue and enjoy the laid-back island vibes and low key nightlife that Puerto Ayora has to offer.
Day 3 in Santa Cruz
Spend today exploring the magnificent waters that surround the islands, sign up for a cruise and do some island hopping or go diving or snorkeling off the coast, there are so many different opportunities to get out and see the mass of marine life below the crystal blue waters of the South Pacific.
Santa Cruz is the gateway to some exotic sights and experiences and has been declared as one of the Seven Wonders of the Underwater World, where sea turtles, manta rays, penguins and tropical fish can be seen. There are over 30 dive sites situated around the Galapagos Islands and many companies offering tours to these sites with dive masters who specialize in the flora and fauna of the islands, there are PADI courses available too.
A list of a few of the fabulous dive sites include; Punta Carrion, Tijeretas Hill, Daphne Minor, Shark Point, Whale Rock, Gordon Rocks, Cape Marshall and North Seymour Island. Diving in these amazing locations can bring you eye to eye with a variety of colorful fish, several species of rays, sea turtles, moray eels and white-tipped sharks.
After a fantastic morning on the waters make sure you visit The Galapagos National Park, it was the first national park in Ecuador, which protects more than 3,000 square miles of land and an additional 53,000 square miles of ocean. The park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978.
Two other fantastic attractions found nearby are Los Gemelos, which are two giant geological formations or volcanic sinkholes that were formed by volcanic lava when volcanoes collapsed. Scalesia forests surround the sinkholes filled with orchids, mosses, ferns and vermilion flycatchers.
Alternatively, the Lava tunnels are another fascinating place to see. An impressive series of underground tunnels measuring close to a mile long, created by lava flow.
On your last evening on the island take a leisurely stroll along Avenida Charles Darwin where you can choose from a variety of restaurants for dinner, there are plenty of bars found along the main drag where you can enjoy a nightcap.
Additional Days in Santa Cruz
If you are able to spend additional days in Santa Cruz be sure to visit the abundance of beautiful beaches and coves that line the island. Playa Bachas is situated on the north shore and consists of two beaches stretching over a mile. This beach is famous or the steel spires that stick out from the sand, left over from WWII when the American Army built and abandoned two barges, which then floated offshore.
Black Turtle Cove also on the north shore is a serene inlet surrounded by a mangrove estuary only accessible by dinghy. A plethora of marine life and birds can be seen in this area.
Your Last Day in Santa Cruz
Depart from your hotel to the airport for your return flight home. We recommend that you purchase a private transfer to the airport if so the representative will meet you at your hotel with plenty of time to get you to the airport for your flight out.