Bachas Beach, Santa Cruz, GPS

Santa Cruz Island

Santa Cruz is the second largest island in the Galapagos and has the largest human population, living mainly in the town of Puerto Ayora.

The island is thought to have been formed in two parts, north and south. The northern section is the older part, created due to an uplift of land — you can see the layers of marine sediment and limestone as evidence of this process. The southern younger part of the island was formed through volcanic cones and lava, the landscape of which is often likened to that of the moon with craters, cones and tuffs.

Galapagos Tortoise, Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos Islands
Galapagos tortoise

A little more about Santa Cruz

The varied landscape means the island has different altitude levels and has developed seven different microclimates which have allowed vegetation to thrive and support the varied wildlife.

The island is also home to the giant tortoise, sea lions, flamingos, marine and land iguana, lava heron and boobies. By heading up to the highlands surrounded by scalesia trees, cacti and ferns, you will have the opportunity to see the giant tortoise thriving in this lush green scenery. Some can reach the grand old age of 200 years and weigh up to 250kg.

Blue-Footed Boobies, North Seymour Island, Galapagos Islands
Blue-Footed Boobies, Galapagos Islands

Further north, towards Las Bachas, you will find white sandy beaches and if you take a closer look, you’ll see marine iguana and turtle trails created by their climb out of the sea onto the beach. You may also see the iconic blue-footed boobies that tend to stand on the rock edge keeping a look out.

Travelling west you will come to Cerro Dragon, one of the only spots in the Galapagos Islands where you will be able to see land iguanas.

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Where to stay

Some of the wonderful places to stay that we frequently recommended.

Royal Palm Hotel £££££

  • Galapagos Islands

An exclusive property nestled on a 480-acre private estate in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island, Royal Palm Hotel is a secluded hideaway situated on a gently sloping hill with views to the ocean in the distance. Surrounded by native flora and fauna, and ringing with the hum of Darwin finches and egrets, the accommodation is an immersive base for further island exploration. Its eight well-appointed casitas have verandas that overlook the estate, while the 13 luxurious villas sit individually within the grounds and offer advanced privacy and space. An on-site restaurant affords guests with ocean-views on clear days, although many prefer to dine al fresco with a sundowner cocktail under the blanket of stars.

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Finch Bay Hotel £££££

  • Galapagos Islands
  • Beach and Island Escapes

Named after the Darwin finches that frequent the surrounding area, Finch Bay Hotel is nestled across from Puerto Ayora in a quiet oceanfront location on Santa Cruz Island. The property features 27 rooms and suites, an outdoor pool and a restaurant that serves locally-inspired cuisine. The property is flexible in that it offers stays on only a bed and breakfast basis right through to a complete full-board package with daily guided land and sea excursions.

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Pikaia Lodge £££££

  • Galapagos Islands

A unique concept in the Galapagos, Pikaia Lodge is a contemporary property that carefully balances adventurous land-based activities with ocean-bound excursions. Guests are welcomed on board the lodge’s spacious and luxurious yacht and allocated a private cabin, but are able to return at night to the comforts of Pikaia Lodge to sleep on steady ground. Providing an ideal base from which to explore a wide selection of islands, the lodge operates similarly to boat-based programmes by providing planned, fully-guided excursions that include sea kayaking, snorkelling and walking.

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Galapagos Habitat £££££

  • Galapagos Islands

Situated in a grove of wild red mangrove and perched on the edge of the sea, Galapagos Habitat is peacefully removed from the hustle and bustle of the town of Puerto Ayora whilst being just a stone’s throw from the Charles Darwin Research Station. Featuring 17 stylish rooms and suites with views to the ocean or mangroves, each furnished to a high standard in a minimalist style, Galapagos Habitat offers a beachside restaurant that serves a fusion of Japanese and Ecuadorian specialities, a waterfront jacuzzi and complimentary use of kayaks. Wilderness excursions and day tours to the nearby islands also operate daily from Galapagos Habitat.

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Montemar £££££

  • Galapagos Islands

Consisting of just three superbly constructed eco villas that are the first of their kind in the Galapagos, Montemar is the sustainable passion project of two native Galapaguenos and environmentalists. Composed of natural local materials like bamboo, cedar and lava rocks, the villas blend seamlessly with the surrounding 43 acres of land, through which Galapagos tortoises and wild horses roam freely. The property has its own outdoor bamboo yoga and meditation studio, and the three villas range in size and are each uniquely decorated.

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Villa Escalesia £££££

  • Galapagos Islands
  • Villas / Exclusive use

An oceanfront residence overlooking Pelican Bay on Santa Cruz Island, Villa Escalesia is a private home that offers sea views, a private infinity swimming pool, expansive sun decks, a whirlpool and ocean-view hammocks. Boasting total privacy and unobstructed views of Academy Bay and Santa Fe Island, the villa is an ideal location for groups of up to 12 people to congregate for private parties, reunions or annual get-togethers. Available for hire on a full-board or full-board and serviced basis, the property is designed to accommodate once-in-a-lifetime memories.

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Meet our experts

A passion for travel runs right through every one of our experts - meaning they're always ready with first-hand insight about their specialist countries.

Paul Bird

The moment a blue footed booby makes its dive and plunges like a dart into the water is special, but to see hundreds do this at once was a breath-taking experience that Paul was not prepared for.

Talk with our experts
  • 01285 880 980

John Faithfull

Half of the appeal of the Galapagos Islands is underwater, and a few minutes in the company of a five-metre manta ray off the coast of Isabela Island remains one of John’s most vivid memories of this incredible archipelago.

Talk with our experts
  • 01285 880 980

Roxy Dukes

Wildlife is Roxy’s passion, so where better to immerse than in Darwin’s land? Having stepped on all but one of the islands in the archipelago and having personally visited our hand-picked selection of hotels and boats, there is little she does not know about the Galapagos Islands.

Talk with our experts
  • 01285 880 980

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