Santa Cruz Island
Santa Cruz is the second largest island after Isabela, and its capital, Puerto Ayora, is the archipelago’s largest human settlement. Puerto Ayora has a level of infrastructure not found anywhere else in the Galapagos, with a hospital, bank, schools, and over 17,000 residents. It is also one of the oldest settlements in the Galapagos. Our Santa Cruz hotel, the Angermeyer Waterfront Inn, is built around the historic home of one of the early settlers who arrived in the 1930s.
Santa Cruz is famous for its volcanic features, especially its lava tunnels. These huge caves were formed by flowing magma, and according to legend, were used as hideouts by the pirates that once frequented the Galapagos. The largest is over 2,000 meters long. The highlands of Santa Cruz are dominated by Los Gemelos, a pair of massive volcanic sinkholes covered in a forest of endemic Scalesia trees. The tortoise subspecies native to the Santa Cruz highlands is also the largest of all the giant tortoises, making a visit here a must.
Other Santa Cruz tourist attractions include Tortuga Bay and the Charles Darwin Research Center. Tortuga Bay is a huge, pristine beach with fine sand, black lava rocks, and lots of wildlife – one of the most beautiful beaches in the Galapagos. The Research Center is the home of the Charles Darwin Foundation, and is the center of the conservation efforts in the Galapagos.