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Santa Cruz Island (Isla Santa Cruz) is the Galápagos Islands’ main tourist center. It has white-sand beaches, wildlife research centers and clear water teeming with colorful ocean life. The natural landscape of Santa Cruz Island has been shaped by extensive volcanic activity. Discover dramatic craters, secluded swimming holes and subterranean lava tunnels.
Puerto Ayora is a great first entry point to the islands. Hotels, seafood restaurants and tour agencies line the town’s streets and waterfront. Get an overview of the evolution of the islands, its plants, wildlife and conservation programs at the Charles Darwin Research Station. See giant tortoises and hatchlings at the Fausto Llerena Tortoise Center.
Catch a boat from the town’s pier to the southwest side of the bay. Follow a trail to Las Grietas, a split-level waterhole with both freshwater and seawater. Walk or bike to El Mirador, a short lava tube and a great place to spot Darwin’s finches. Snorkel at the postcard-perfect Tortuga Bay in the calm waters to the north. Note that the main beach facing the ocean here has strong waves and undercurrents. Explore the tidal pools and watch flamingos at the mangrove-framed El Garrapatero Beach.
Travel north to the town of Bellavista, a popular spot for horseback-riding excursions into the highlands. Hike or ride to the crescent-shaped crater Media Luna and Crocker Hill, the island’s highest point. Deep in the highlands find Santa Rosa and the El Chato Tortoise Reserve. Tour the mystical underground lava tunnels, including the Tunnel of Love.
Enjoy excellent bird-watching opportunities at the twin sinkholes, Los Gemelos. The solitude of the Galápagos Islands is evident on a boat ride through Black Turtle Cove. Observe flamingos and sea turtles at Las Bachas and snorkel around the craggy shoreline of Dragon Hill. Swim with sea lions, sharks, rays and turtles at dive sites such as Guy Fawkes Rocks and Punta Carrión.
Reach Santa Cruz Island by flying to Baltra Island, a short ferry ride north. Alternatively, arrive by ferry to Puerto Ayora from San Cristóbal Island. Complete your day by reflecting upon the island’s grandeur while dining at delicious seafood restaurants.
*Savings based on all vacation package bookings with Flight + Hotel on Expedia.com from January through December 2017, as compared to price of the same components booked separately. Savings will vary based on origin/destination, length of trip, stay dates and selected travel supplier(s). Savings not available on all packages. For Free Flight or 100% Off Flight deals, package savings is greater than or equal to the current cost of one component, when both are priced separately.