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Puerto Ayora Travel Guide, Santa Cruz

Get to know Puerto Ayora

Puerto Ayora is on the island of Santa Cruz, the most central island in the Galapagos both geographically and culturally. Puerto Ayora is the biggest town in the Galapagos Islands and has everything you could hope for – a wide variety of stores for any last-minute purchases, excellent restaurants, bars, clubs, and even karaoke. It’s easy to get around on foot, and the taxis and buses that shuttle to other island destinations are easy to catch too. The locals are happy to help you in any way or invite you into their cafes for dinner.

The majority of flights that arrive to Galapagos from the mainland arrive to neighboring Baltra Island, where after a quick bus ride and ferry ride across Itabaca Canal one takes a bus or taxi for about half an hour to the town of Puerto Ayora, the most visited town in the Galapagos Islands.

Stay a night or two before or after your Galapagos cruise

It’s recommendable to stay in Puerto Ayora a night before your cruise leaves for a very practical reason; if you have flight delays, cruise boats do not wait for passengers, so it’s an extra level of security to arrive a night before your cruise. It’s a wonderful place to spend a few  nights exploring spectacular wildlife and vistas.

Some highly recommendable hotels are Red Mangrove Eco-Luxury Hotel in town and on the waterfront, and Finch Bay Hotel on the edge of town accessible by water taxi.

Stay for a land-based Galapagos Tour

Puerto Ayora is the top destination for “land-based” Galapagos tours because the nearby beaches and highlands host an array of places to go and things to do as you’re exploring natural wonders.

What to do in and around Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz

If you’re staying Puerto Ayora, you will have access to engaging activities, like:

Charles Darwin Research Station

This research station is dedicated to raising young tortoises in captivity until they are about four years old, or old enough to take care of themselves in the wild. They are bred in captivity, but you will see how quickly these tortoises can grow to their impressive size.

Black Turtle Cove

This site is home to much more than just the sea turtles. You will also see white tipped reef sharks, rays, and hammerhead sharks as well. It is hidden by a full mangrove colony and only accessible by dinghy.

El Chato Tortoise Reserve

Here, you can see the gentle giants for which the Galapagos Islands are named. These giant tortoises are a trademark of any Galapagos experience, and at El Chato, you will get to walk alongside these ancient creatures in their natural environment.

Lava Tunnels

These amazing natural rock formations occur when the upper layer of a lava flow hardens while the bottom layer continues to flow, hollowing out a tube underneath. On the tour, we will have a chance to actually go through one of these tunnels and witness these mysterious caves first-hand.

Los Gemelos Craters

Known as the “Twin Craters,” these gargantuan sinkholes formed when the volcanoes collapsed. From here, there is an amazing panoramic view of the island, and the hike to get here is amazing in itself. We will trek through an endemic scalesia forest, so keep your eyes peeled for the elusive Galapagos short-eared owl.

Tortuga Bay

Named for the intriguing black turtle that nests here, this white sand beach is just a short walk or panga ride from Puerto Ayora. You won’t need a guide to enjoy the relaxing waves lapping against the warm sand, but be sure to pack your camera to capture the lush green foliage along the dunes. This is also a great spot to enjoy some quality shallow snorkeling or swimming.

Trips to Nearby Islands

Another great advantage of staying in Santa Cruz is how easily you can get to all of the islands. Due to its central location, it’s easy to take a speedboat or charter a flight to the other major inhabited islands, like San Cristobal and Isabela, where we offer other first-class and luxury hotels and lodges.

sea lion resting