Isla Santa Cruz, also known as Indefatigable, is the second largest island in the archipelago and the main destination of most travelers. It has the largest population of all the islands with most residents living in the main town of Puerto Ayora on Academy Bay. The island is also home to the Charles Darwin Research Station and the Galápagos National Park headquarters.Santa Cruz supports all of the vegetation zones of the Galápagos Islands and is home to almost every species of bird found in the Galápagos. A trail leads across the island, allowing access to the highlands and the opportunity to see the distinct changes in vegetation. There are also lava tunnels and pit craters with unique plants.Many varieties of animals can be seen on Isla Santa Cruz. Marine iguanas can frequently be seen in Academy Bay as can Darwin's finches, land iguanas and sea lions in Las Plazas, and giant tortoises can be seen at the Charles Darwin Research Station.
The highlands, north of Bellavista, are home to Scalesia, Miconia, and Pampa vegetation zones. Birds in this area include the vermillion flycatcher, Galápagos rail, and paint-billed cake. A guide is required to visit the highland areas which lie within the national park.Los Gemelos, twin craters in the Scalesia forest, can be accessed from the road, about 2km/1.2mi past Santa Rosa. Also of interest in the highlands are lava tubes, which are located on private property and may be visited without a guide.
Charles Darwin Research Station
The Charles Darwin Research Station is concerned with the conservation of the islands. It contains a museum in the Van Straelen Exhibition Center, an information center, and a tortoises breeding facility. Visitors can see young and adult tortoises, including Lonesome George, the only surviving tortoise of the Isla Pinta subspecies.From the Research Station trails lead through the arid zone of vegetation.
Address: Santa Cruz, Ecuador
Tortoise Reserve, Santa Rosa, Ecuador
A trail leaving from Santa Rosa leads to a tortoise reserve. Giant tortoises, short-eared owls, Darwin's finches, yellow warblers, Galápagos rails, and paint-billed crakes, all frequent the area. A guide is required to visit the reserve.Near the reserve is a private ranch which charges an admission to see and photograph the giant tortoises which roam the property.
Black Turtle Cove
The main attraction in Black Turtle Cove on Isla Santa Cruz is the marine life, with white-tipped sharks, turtles, golden mustard rays, as well as pelicans and lava herons. There is no landing site at the cove so all viewing is done from a boat.
Las Bachas, near Black Turtle Cove, offers a pleasant beach for swimming.
Cerro Dragón, along the northwest coast of Isla Santa Cruz, contains two lagoons where flamingos and land iguanas can sometimes be seen. Vegetation in this area includes Palo Santo trees and Opuntia cacti.
Conway Bay, along the west coast of Isla Santa Cruz, can only be reached by boat. From the landing site a 1.5 km (1 mi) trail leads past a lagoon where flamingos are commonly seen.
Southwest of Puerto Ayora is Turtle Bay, with a white sand beach. The bay is home to sharks, marine iguanas, pelicans, flamingos and other seabirds. Visitors are not required to have a guide to go to Turtle Bay.
Puerto Ayora, Ecuador
Puerto Ayora is the main town on Santa Cruz and is one of the most common destinations for visitors. Tours can be booked or guides hired through various agencies in the town.