Santa Cruz Island - Best Tours & Trips 2019

144 Santa Cruz Island tours from 37 tour companies. 63 reviews. 4.8/5 avg rating.
The Galapagos’ most populous and most visited island, Santa Cruz is best known for its giant tortoises, the prehistoric-looking creatures that have survived only in the Galapagos and the Seychelles. Santa Cruz is also home to the Charles Darwin Research Station as well as a variety of marine and bird life, including Galapagos sea lions, marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies, and frigate birds.
All Santa Cruz Island tours, river cruises, expedition cruises, and adventure trips. Find the best guided trips and expert planned vacation and holiday packages.
Tours and operators on Stride Awarded and Featured by: Tours and operators on Stride Awarded and Featured by:

Filter to find perfect

DEPARTURE DATES

 
Search trip start dates

Travel Style Travel Style Relaxed A lot of free time, with very few inclusions. Ideal for independent and/or low-key travelers and cruisers.
Full on For those looking to maximize their sight seeing time. You thrive on a packed day’s schedule from 8 am to 6pm, with some (but limited) free time. Most activities and meals included.
Mixed You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included.

Trip Type Trip Type Group Tour Groups are between 25-60 people, typically ~30-40. Usually there will be many opportunities to split off and enjoy meals and excursions in smaller groups. This is the most economical way to travel, saving up to 40% versus booking the same itinerary yourself.
Small Group Tour Small groups are usually defined as between 10 and 24 travelers, often less. If you're the kind of person who enjoys more intimate experiences and personal service this is a good choice. All else being equal you will pay a premium for this style vs a larger group tour.
River Cruise These vessels are smaller than most ocean cruisers, limiting which amenties are available. Passenger counts can vary. One of the biggest advantages of a river cruise is the ability to dock at smaller ports and local villages.
Small Ship Cruise Small ship cruises usually have a max passenger count of 500. The primary purpose of these trips is to spend time off the vessel in local ports (e.g. Mediterranean) or experiencing nature (e.g Galapagos or Antarctica). Cabins can vary from budget to luxury.
Private Guided Private tours give you the undivided attention of a guide, and often involve special access to sites and unique experiences not available to larger groups. This is a great option for families, couples, and small friend groups. Expect to pay a bit more for the extra service.
Self Guided / Independent Tour A travel company plans your itinerary and arranges all the logistics including lodging, local activities, and transportantion. You have the flexibility of a solo trip while still getting the convience and time savings of expert planning. Get 90% of the benefits of a tour, without a guide.
Vacation / Holiday Package Similar to a self guided tour, this usually involves a home base, such as a hotel or resort, with packaged activities and day tours as a part of the stay.
Large Ship Cruise This is the "floating city" experience, with multiple ways to enjoy your vacation aboard the ship as much as on land. Ships are multiple floors, provide several activities, culinary, and shopping options. They often make fewer stops and have less time available for shore excursions.

Itinerary Focus

Lodging Level Lodging Level Camping Typically involves most nights sleeping in tents (sometimes permanent tented sites) or in rustic cabins and lodges.
Basic - 2 star You'll stay in no-frills, but clean and comfortable, hotels or guesthouses. A 'Basic' trip might also involve a few nights of camping.
Value - 3 star Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels.
Premium - 4 star 3 to 4 star western hotel equivalents. While not all lodging will be 'luxury' they will be quite comfortable by western standards.
Luxury - 5 star The highest level of comfort and service. All accomodations are in four or five star hotels, boutique lodges or high-end homestays.

Price From*

$ 899 $ 10,000+

Price Per Day

Trip Length

Countries

Physical Level Physical Level Very Easy Minimal walking - motor vehicles available for all major parts of trip.
Easy Normal generally flat walking in urban or suburban environments.
Moderate Walking or physical activity half to most of day - no carrying equipment.
Strenuous All or most of day hiking or biking, hills included.
Extreme Very challenging all day hiking and backpacking carrying significant equipment.

Travel Theme

Travelers Age

Stride Select Save! Stride Select Get Member Savings Sign up to become a member to get access to Member Savings trips. These trips are discounted beyond the tour operator’s best price. Membership is free and only requires your email.

Rivers & Seas

Cities & Attractions

Activities

Solo Friendly Solo Friendly Good for Singles Trips that specifically cater to travelers looking to meet other singles.
No Single Supplement Trips where single supplement is usually not required for solo travelers.

Company

Flights & Transport

Continents & Regions

No filters applied

Machu Picchu & Galapagos Island Hopping

SmarTours
Premier
Has very high quality customer experiences and demonstrated commitment to responsible travel practices. read more
15 days
$ 380 / day
$ 5,699
From : $ 7,010
The strike-through price reflects either the high season trip price or the average price a traveler pays for a similar itinerary when the components are booked separately.
Travel Style : You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included. Mixed
Physical Level : Some walking over short or flat distances. Some trips may include cycling options. Some are wheelchair friendly (check for individual trips). Some cruises. Easy
Lodging Level : 3 to 4 star western hotel equivalents. While not all lodging will be 'luxury' they will be quite comfortable by western standards. Premium - 4 star
Highlights
  • Explore Sacred Valley has amazing landscapes of fertile land
  • Machu Picchu
  • Visit the bustling and colorful Indian market where many beautiful crafts are traded.
  • Galapagos Island Hopping
  • Explore Lima, known as the City of Kings
  • Visit Cuzco is a vibrant town, dotted with archaeological sites
  • See the Church of San Francisco at Lima
  • Plaza de Armas (Lima)
  • Drive to The equator and surrounded by ice-capped volcanoes
  • Visit Church of San Francisco (Quito)
  • Stay at Finch Bay Hotel (Galapagos), one of National Geographic’s “Unique Lodges of the World”
Visits:
Cusco, Galapagos, Lima, Machu Picchu, Quito, Sacred Valley, Santa Cruz Island, Trieste, Urubamba, Peru
View Trip

A Galapagos Island Tour

Lost World Adventures
Premier
Has very high quality customer experiences and demonstrated commitment to responsible travel practices. read more
11 days
$ 558 / day
$ 6,139
From : $ 8,288
The strike-through price reflects either the high season trip price or the average price a traveler pays for a similar itinerary when the components are booked separately.
Travel Style : A lot of free time, with very few inclusions. Ideal for independent and/or low-key travelers and cruisers. Relaxed
Physical Level : Some walking over short or flat distances. Some trips may include cycling options. Some are wheelchair friendly (check for individual trips). Some cruises. Easy
Lodging Level : Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Value - 3 star
Highlights
  • Discover Quito
  • Explore Galapagos see the fascinating wild Galapagos Tortoises.
  • Visit a memorable Fernandina Island
  • Drive through Rábida Island which is unique because of it's red color rocks and sand
  • Visit beautiful Bartolome Island is situated across Sullivan Bay
  • Explore Guayaquil
Visits:
Galapagos, Guayaquil, Isabela Island, Isla Santiago, Otavalo, Quito, Ecuador
View Trip

Galapagos Family Travel

ROW Adventures
Preferred
Has very high quality customer experiences and demonstrated commitment to responsible travel practices. read more
9 days
$ 554 / day
$ 4,990
From : $ 6,737
The strike-through price reflects either the high season trip price or the average price a traveler pays for a similar itinerary when the components are booked separately.
Travel Style : You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included. Mixed
Physical Level : Some walking over short or flat distances. Some trips may include cycling options. Some are wheelchair friendly (check for individual trips). Some cruises. Easy
Lodging Level : Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Value - 3 star
Highlights
  • Explore the galapagos islands
  • Kayak to a beautiful beach then take the catamaran to kicker rock, this is an amazing day of snorkelling
  • Hike of isabela’s sierra negra
  • Visit los tuneles and snorkel
  • A two and a half hour boat ride to santa cruz island
  • Visit bachas chicas for another opportunity to snorkel with multicolor fishes and nesting pelicans
Visits:
Galapagos, Guayaquil, Isabela Island, Santa Cruz Island, Ecuador
View Trip

Galapagos Unbound

ROW Adventures
Preferred
Has very high quality customer experiences and demonstrated commitment to responsible travel practices. read more
10 days
$ 499 / day
$ 4,990
From : $ 6,138
The strike-through price reflects either the high season trip price or the average price a traveler pays for a similar itinerary when the components are booked separately.
Travel Style : You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included. Mixed
Physical Level : Regular walking or cycling over moderately long, hilly, or bumpy distances. Some public transport or utility vehicles such as safari jeeps. Moderate
Lodging Level : 3 to 4 star western hotel equivalents. While not all lodging will be 'luxury' they will be quite comfortable by western standards. Premium - 4 star
Highlights
  • Explore Galapagos Islands which is a top nature spot in the world
  • Experiencing camping in the island of Galapagos not the usual of just touring it with cruise
  • Get up close and personal with both the local people and the wildlife
  • Visit sites that are not on the main tourist routes
  • Play in the water with sea lions
  • Get within a few feet of blue footed boobies, marine iguanas and the giant Galapagos tortoises
  • Watch pelicans and boobies dive for fish
  • Snorkel in transparent water rich with sea-life and even swim with sharks, if you dare.
Visits:
Galapagos, Guayaquil, Isabela Island, San Cristobal, Santa Cruz Island, Ecuador
View Trip

Jungle, Highlands and Islands

Lost World Adventures
Premier
Has very high quality customer experiences and demonstrated commitment to responsible travel practices. read more
14 days
$ 584 / day
$ 8,175
From : $ 9,320
The strike-through price reflects either the high season trip price or the average price a traveler pays for a similar itinerary when the components are booked separately.
Travel Style : A lot of free time, with very few inclusions. Ideal for independent and/or low-key travelers and cruisers. Relaxed
Physical Level : Some walking over short or flat distances. Some trips may include cycling options. Some are wheelchair friendly (check for individual trips). Some cruises. Easy
Lodging Level : The highest level of comfort and service. All accomodations are in four or five star hotels, boutique lodges or high-end homestays. Luxury - 5 star
Highlights
  • Explore Quito
  • Visit Napo Wildlife Center
  • Discover Galapagos an impressive cliffs of Buccaneer Cove
  • Drive through Genovesa Island very interesting panga ride along the cliffs.
  • Experience hiking in the El Cajas National Park
  • Visit renowned market of Otavalo
Visits:
Andes Mountains, Cuenca, Galapagos, Guayaquil, Isla Santa Fe, Otavalo, Quito, San Cristobal, Santa Cruz Island, Ecuador
View Trip

Galapagos, Otavalo & Amazon Tour

ROW Adventures
Preferred
Has very high quality customer experiences and demonstrated commitment to responsible travel practices. read more
11 days
$ 464 / day
$ 5,100
From : $ 6,273
The strike-through price reflects either the high season trip price or the average price a traveler pays for a similar itinerary when the components are booked separately.
Travel Style : A lot of free time, with very few inclusions. Ideal for independent and/or low-key travelers and cruisers. Relaxed
Physical Level : Regular walking or cycling over moderately long, hilly, or bumpy distances. Some public transport or utility vehicles such as safari jeeps. Moderate
Lodging Level : 3 to 4 star western hotel equivalents. While not all lodging will be 'luxury' they will be quite comfortable by western standards. Premium - 4 star
Highlights
  • Explore Galapagos Amazon tour is an active trip that immerses you in the highlights of the Galapagos Islands and the Amazon rainforest.
  • Kayak, snorkel and hike, all under your own power.   
  • This unique land-based program gets you away from the crowds to places few others see.
  • Visit four small towns in the Galapagos Islands.
  • Your journey is accompanied by the howls of monkeys and songs of birds. 
  • Explore small lakes, lagoons, rivers.
Visits:
Amazon Rainforest, Galapagos, Guayaquil, Otavalo, Quito, San Cristobal, Santa Cruz Island, Ecuador
View Trip

First Class Galapagos Cruise | Millenium Catamaran

8 days
$ 520 / day
$ 4,160
From : $ 5,616
The strike-through price reflects either the high season trip price or the average price a traveler pays for a similar itinerary when the components are booked separately.
Travel Style : You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included. Mixed
Physical Level : Some walking over short or flat distances. Some trips may include cycling options. Some are wheelchair friendly (check for individual trips). Some cruises. Easy
Lodging Level : Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Value - 3 star
Highlights
  • Explore Fernandina Island
  • Visit Moreno Point, a young volcanic landscape with numerous fresh-water pools and lagoons
  • Explore Isabela is the only island in the Galapagos that is actually crossed by the Equator
  • Discover Galapagos
  • See the exciting Santiago Island fourth largest island in the Galapagos
Visits:
Galapagos, Isabela Island, Santa Cruz Island, Santiago, Ecuador
View Trip

A Dive Into Nature Tour

Lost World Adventures
Premier
Has very high quality customer experiences and demonstrated commitment to responsible travel practices. read more
14 days
$ 507 / day
$ 7,094
From : $ 8,087
The strike-through price reflects either the high season trip price or the average price a traveler pays for a similar itinerary when the components are booked separately.
Travel Style : A lot of free time, with very few inclusions. Ideal for independent and/or low-key travelers and cruisers. Relaxed
Physical Level : Some walking over short or flat distances. Some trips may include cycling options. Some are wheelchair friendly (check for individual trips). Some cruises. Easy
Lodging Level : The highest level of comfort and service. All accomodations are in four or five star hotels, boutique lodges or high-end homestays. Luxury - 5 star
Highlights
  • Visit the renowned market of the Otavalo Indian, industrious makers of the handicrafts
  • Explore Cuenca
  • Experience hiking in the El Cajas National Park, located on the high Andean paramo
  • Explore impressive James Island
  • Drive through Bartolomé Island (dry landing) for a hike to the summit
  • Discover Quito
Visits:
Amazon Rainforest, Cotopaxi, Cuenca, Galapagos, Guayaquil, Isabela Island, Isla Santa Fe, Otavalo, Quito, Santa Cruz Island, Ecuador
View Trip

Galapagos Kayaking Expedition

ROW Adventures
Preferred
Has very high quality customer experiences and demonstrated commitment to responsible travel practices. read more
9 days
$ 554 / day
$ 4,990
From : $ 6,737
The strike-through price reflects either the high season trip price or the average price a traveler pays for a similar itinerary when the components are booked separately.
Travel Style : A lot of free time, with very few inclusions. Ideal for independent and/or low-key travelers and cruisers. Relaxed
Physical Level : Regular walking or cycling over moderately long, hilly, or bumpy distances. Some public transport or utility vehicles such as safari jeeps. Moderate
Lodging Level : Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Value - 3 star
Highlights
  • Experience the wildlife of the Galapagos Islands than on one of our land-based Galapagos tours. 
  • Enjoy this tour, you kayak almost every day, starting with shorter paddles, building up to two full days of paddling while moving from one camp to another on the island of San Cristobal. 
  • If kayaking is your passion, you are sure to love this tour which is limited to just 8 guests giving you a more intimate experience on the islands. 
  • Join in the fun as we set up camp each day, spend our nights falling asleep to the sounds of ocean waves, and wake up under the magical Galapagos sky.
  • Explore Santa Cruz to a private farm to see the giant Galapagos tortoise. 
Visits:
Galapagos, Guayaquil, Quito, San Cristobal, Santa Cruz Island, Ecuador
View Trip

Galapagos by Kayak

ROW Sea Kayak Adventures
Preferred
Has very high quality customer experiences and demonstrated commitment to responsible travel practices. read more
9 days
$ 554 / day
$ 4,990
Travel Style : A lot of free time, with very few inclusions. Ideal for independent and/or low-key travelers and cruisers. Relaxed
Physical Level : Regular walking or cycling over moderately long, hilly, or bumpy distances. Some public transport or utility vehicles such as safari jeeps. Moderate
Lodging Level : You'll stay in no-frills, but clean and comfortable, hotels or guesthouses. A 'Basic' trip might also involve a few nights of camping. Basic - 2 star
Highlights
  • Explore Galapagos is all about wildlife. A wild menagerie of remarkable animals thrives on these remote islands, scattered nearly 700 miles (1000 km) off the coast of Ecuador. The seclusion of this archipelago honed the development of unique animals, untouched and unafraid of human civilization.
  • See though the Galapagos now allows a limited number of visitors to its enchanted shores, careful habitat-management preserves this charmed ecosystem. The beauty of a sea kayak as a vessel for wildlife viewing lies in its non-intrusive, eco-friendly presence.
  • Exoerience this 8-day itinerary, live the wonders of the Galapagos by getting down to sea level in this exquisite marine environment. Giant tortoises, iguanas, blue-footed-boobies, and Darwin’s finches delight on island reaches, while penguins, sea lions, and an endless palette of underwater life beckon from the surf in this "Bucket List" adventure.
  • The “up-close-and-personal” nature of this itinerary allows for 5 nights spent camping on the beach on two different islands, and plenty of time on the water for paddling.
  • You’ll also enjoy the classic Galapagos highlights, like a visit to the wild tortoises farm and volcanic lava tunnels, with ample time to explore beautiful and fascinating beaches as well as the pockets of interesting animal populations that make the Galapagos unique. Finally, no Galapagos trip is
Visits:
Galapagos, Giant tortoise reserve, Guayaquil, Quito, San Cristobal, Santa Cruz Island, Ecuador
View Trip

Ecuador in Depth | Diversity & Traditions

28 days
$ 235 / day
$ 6,580
From : $ 8,883
The strike-through price reflects either the high season trip price or the average price a traveler pays for a similar itinerary when the components are booked separately.
Travel Style : A lot of free time, with very few inclusions. Ideal for independent and/or low-key travelers and cruisers. Relaxed
Physical Level : Some walking over short or flat distances. Some trips may include cycling options. Some are wheelchair friendly (check for individual trips). Some cruises. Easy
Lodging Level : Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Value - 3 star
Highlights
  • Visit the “San Juan Mirador” you will have a beautiful view of The Colonial Center of Quito
  • Explore Teleférico,  one of the best ways to enjoy the city with views of beautiful valleys
  • Enjoy your visit to the Antisana Volcano
  • Drive into the hacienda and visiting the wetlands
  • Visit the complex of Nambillo waterfalls
  • Visit the parrot-clay lick at Yasuní National Park
  • Visit the town of Tigua, famous for its naive paintings
  • Discover  the town of Chordeleg, famous for its hand crafted straw plant hats and silver
  • Explore the “Parque Histórico de Guayaquil” which has a collection of over 50 birds
Visits:
Amazon Rainforest, Andes Mountains, Cuenca, Galapagos, Guayaquil, Isabela Island, Isla Baltra, Isla Bartolome, Isla Santa Fe, Otavalo, Quito, Santa Cruz Island, Ecuador
View Trip

Dive Galapagos

ROW Adventures
Preferred
Has very high quality customer experiences and demonstrated commitment to responsible travel practices. read more
8 days
$ 774 / day
$ 6,195
From : $ 7,620
The strike-through price reflects either the high season trip price or the average price a traveler pays for a similar itinerary when the components are booked separately.
Travel Style : A lot of free time, with very few inclusions. Ideal for independent and/or low-key travelers and cruisers. Relaxed
Physical Level : Regular walking or cycling over moderately long, hilly, or bumpy distances. Some public transport or utility vehicles such as safari jeeps. Moderate
Lodging Level : 3 to 4 star western hotel equivalents. While not all lodging will be 'luxury' they will be quite comfortable by western standards. Premium - 4 star
Highlights
  • Enjoy excellent scuba diving in the Galapagos Islands,
  • Dive in spots that are famous for schools of hammerhead sharks, giant manta rays, and whale sharks
  • Walk the shores and marvel at the volcanic rocks dotted with rare plants, seabirds, and reptiles
  • Experience up to four dives in the islands per day on a planned, yet flexible, itinerary
Visits:
Galapagos, Guayaquil, Quito, San Cristobal, Santa Cruz Island, Ecuador
View Trip

Galapagos Islands Multisport

ROW Sea Kayak Adventures
Preferred
Has very high quality customer experiences and demonstrated commitment to responsible travel practices. read more
10 days
$ 499 / day
$ 4,990
Travel Style : A lot of free time, with very few inclusions. Ideal for independent and/or low-key travelers and cruisers. Relaxed
Physical Level : Regular walking or cycling over moderately long, hilly, or bumpy distances. Some public transport or utility vehicles such as safari jeeps. Moderate
Lodging Level : Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Value - 3 star
Highlights
  • Explore Quito
  • Explore, Kayak & SUP Board Isabela Island
  • Visit to the Tortoise Breeding Center
  • Visit Garrapatero
Visits:
Galapagos, Guayaquil, Isabela Island, Quito, San Cristobal, Santa Cruz Island, Ecuador
View Trip

Galapagos Islands Vacation

ROW Adventures
Preferred
Has very high quality customer experiences and demonstrated commitment to responsible travel practices. read more
6 days
$ 534 / day
$ 3,204
From : $ 4,325
The strike-through price reflects either the high season trip price or the average price a traveler pays for a similar itinerary when the components are booked separately.
Travel Style : A lot of free time, with very few inclusions. Ideal for independent and/or low-key travelers and cruisers. Relaxed
Physical Level : Regular walking or cycling over moderately long, hilly, or bumpy distances. Some public transport or utility vehicles such as safari jeeps. Moderate
Lodging Level : Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Value - 3 star
Highlights
  • Explore Galápagos islands
  • See giant Galapagos tortoises.
  • Discover Sierra Negra Volcano and Ngorongoro volcano
  • Visit Isabela island and Santa cruz
Visits:
Galapagos, Guayaquil, Isabela Island, San Cristobal, Santa Cruz Island, Ecuador
View Trip

Galápagos Wildlife Adventure Cruise

11 days
$ 536 / day
$ 5,895
Travel Style : A lot of free time, with very few inclusions. Ideal for independent and/or low-key travelers and cruisers. Relaxed
Physical Level : Regular walking or cycling over moderately long, hilly, or bumpy distances. Some public transport or utility vehicles such as safari jeeps. Moderate
Lodging Level : 3 to 4 star western hotel equivalents. While not all lodging will be 'luxury' they will be quite comfortable by western standards. Premium - 4 star
Highlights
  • Visit the Enchanted Islands with the pioneers in Galápagos small-group travel and sail by deluxe, privately chartered yacht—a fully MTS operated and expert-led experience!
  • Anchor at nature’s doorstep and encounter incredible endemic wildlife, including giant tortoises, marine iguanas, penguins, and more, with the full leadership of certified Class III naturalists
  • Hike, snorkel and kayak among exquisite volcanic landscapes in one of the world’s top nature destinations, while our specialist yacht crew and dedicated in-country staff attend to your every need
  • Relax in style aboard your luxury yacht and bookend your trip with a stay at a 5-star hotel in the beautiful colonial city of Quito
Visits:
Galapagos, Isabela Island, Otavalo, Quito, Santa Cruz Island, Santiago, Chile, Ecuador
View Trip
1- 15 of 144 Trips Shown First 1 2 3 4 5 Last
X
Unlock Member Savings

In order to see Stride Select deals you must sign in. We’ve negotiated with many of the world’s best travel companies to save you money! Get the best experiences, save up to $700 per person, and be a hero to your travel companions!

or
or
Provide email and Password

We respect your privacy and take great care to protect your information. By joining you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

Already a member?

With FREE membership you:

  • Save up to $700 per person!*
  • Access private deals and offers
  • See personalized trip recommendations
  • Save favorite trips
See member program details

Top Santa Cruz Island Experiences and Attractions

Top Santa Cruz Island Experiences

Viewing giant tortoises as they slowly crawl their way down from the Santa Cruz highlands to the lowlands to mate

Visiting the Darwin Research Station in the town of Puerto Ayora, center of the Galapagos’ conservation efforts

Spotting frigate birds – the “pirates of the sky” – as they swoop through the air lo steal the food from the grasp of other birds.

Watching blue-footed boobies do their “booby dance” as they move their feet in a courting ritual

Keeping a close eye on sea lions as they try to swipe fish from a fishmonger in Puerto Ayora

view more

Santa Cruz Island Trip Reviews

63 Santa Cruz Island Tour Reviews - Summary 100% Recommend

4.8 out of 5
Excellent 49
Great 14
Average 0
Disappointing 0
Terrible 0
Value
4.8
Guide
4.8
Activities
4.8
Lodging
4.8
Transportation
4.8
Meals
4.8

Tour Reviews Write a Review

Absolutely loved it. Great value

5.0
  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0

We went on the Galaven Yacht for the 8Day Itinerary B trip in November 2016 and absolutely loved it. Great value, all inclusive, and glad we chose this package for our trip. Great food, great service, great stops, great guides = 5 stars all around!! Can't say enough good things. Thank you for an awesome vacation.

Read more
Operator Royal Galapagos

As a lone traveller I was worried about travelling South America. I realised from the moment I arrived at SA that I had no need to worry. Someone was there to meet me at the airport and from there in I had i clear instructions on the plan and when and where to meet everyone. Not at any point did I feel worried. I enjoyed every second of my trip.

5.0
  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0

I have enjoyed every second of my trip with G adventures. It is hard to explain to anyone just how great my experience was. I could only recommend that they book the trip and see for themselves. It was the perfect trip. There is no recommendations I could make to improve the trip. Although it was very tiring, I woke up each and every morning excited for the day ahead. Every member of the team I met through Gadventures were friendly and helpful. I'm already seeking a new adventure with them.

Read more
Operator G Adventures

It was a great experience with great guides

4.0
  • Value 4.0
  • Guide 4.0
  • Activities 4.0
  • Lodging 4.0
  • Transportation 4.0
  • Meals 4.0

Both galapagos and machu pichu was amazing! The places where beautiful, the people where great and al In al it was a great experience that I would not change for the world!

Read more
Operator G Adventures

Santa Cruz Island Tours and Travel Guide

Santa Cruz Island Attractions & Landmarks Guide

The Galapagos’ most populous and most visited island, Santa Cruz is best known for its giant tortoises, the prehistoric-looking creatures that have survived only in the Galapagos and the Seychelles. Santa Cruz is also home to the Charles Darwin Research Station as well as a variety of marine and bird life, including Galapagos sea lions, marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies, and frigate birds.

Situated in the Pacific Ocean some 650 miles west of the Ecuadorian mainland, Santa Cruz is the most human-oriented of all the Galapagos islands, which are of course best known for their indigenous wildlife.

Santa Cruz has the largest population in the island chain, the largest town in Puerto Ayora, the most commercial development, and is also the site of the Charles Darwin Research Station and Galapagos National Park, which spearhead the islands’ conservation efforts.

The City of Puerto Ayora

Puerto Ayora is the main city on Santa Cruz Island, and also one of the main cities in the Galapagos Islands. Here you can do some shopping, book tours, and enjoy fresh seafood. Many travelers to the Galapagos choose to stay in Puerto Ayora as a home base, taking day trips to the other major Galapagos islands.

Puerto Ayora is often many travelers introduction to the Galapagos, which means it's an introduction to the unique harmony with which human and animal live side by side on the Galapagos. Sea lions lounge about on park benches, pelicans squabble behind food stalls, and iguanas sun themselves without a care in the world. It can be a shock to the senses for dwellers of the rest of the world, who are so used to animals being quartered off in a zoo or national park. 

Many of Santa Cruz island’s attractions are within reasonable distance from Puerto Ayora. It also offers a wide range of activities including horseback riding, kayaking, diving, snorkeling, highlands tours, and mountain biking.  

The Giant Tortoises of Santa Cruz Island

It also draws the most visitors of all the islands, both because of its facilities but also because of its giant tortoises, whose numbers are now estimated at around 3,500. While that may equal just one-tenth or so of the Galapagos’ total giant tortoise population, Santa Cruz is the place where you’re virtually assured of seeing at least some of them.

That’s because scientists keep a number of giant tortoises in captivity at the Darwin Research Station, where you can watch them move slowly around their corrals – if you’re sufficiently patient. Weighing up to 500 pounds, the tortoises are in no rush – after all, they routinely live to be 100 or older and may live to be twice that age.

The story goes that Charles Darwin himself, who visited the Galapagos in 1835 on his famous voyage of the Beagle – which inspired his Theory of Evolution – brought back a giant tortoise to England, gave it as a gift, and the tortoise eventually lived to see the early years of the 21st century.

The Legacy of Lonesome George

For decades, the most famous resident of the Darwin Research Station was a giant tortoise called Lonesome George, so dubbed because he was never able to find a suitable mate -- despite yeoman attempts by scientists to spark his libido with a succession of eligible females. When Lonesome George died a few years ago, he was the last of his subspecies – leaving ten subspecies of giant tortoises still surviving in the Galapagos.

The total giant tortoise population in the islands now stands at something like 30,000 to 50,000, down from the perhaps 400,000 that once lived here, following mass slaughter by sailors seeking turtle meat as well as the introduction of invasive rats to the Galapagos, who competed with the tortoises for food and ate their eggs as well.

But the trajectory has begun to reverse itself – due to conservation efforts and the importation of amorous males such as the renowned Diego, who – having arrived from the San Diego Zoo – sparked a tortoise population explosion on the Galapagos island of Española.

Tortoises in the Wild on Santa Cruz Island

For all the ease of viewing the tortoises at the Research Station, though, nothing compares to encountering them in the wild. For that your tour guide will need to take you to the lush, often-misty highlands of Santa Cruz, where giant tortoises leave their habitat to migrate down to the island’s lowlands in search of mates.

Their three-to-six-mile journey – which can last up to two months at their snail’s pace crawl -- takes them across farmland where they can find pond water to immerse themselves, drink, and cool down. While the farms are privately owned, Ecuador’s national park service regulates the turtle migrations and mandates that the farmers allow tour groups to visit.

Santa Cruz Island: Face to Face With “E.T.”

Because the tortoises move so slowly, it’s easy to get close-up looks at these prehistoric looking creatures, whose facial and neck features served as the model for the alien E.T. in the 1982 Steven Spielberg movie. Another iconic figure in film science fiction -- Star Wars’ Darth Vader – may have been inspired in part by the tortoise's’ distinctive hissing sounds.

It’s relatively easy to distinguish the males from the females -- the males are twice as large – and they engage in a kind of battle for the right to mate with the female of their choice. But it’s pretty tame as such battles go – the lucky victor is the one who can raise his head up higher than his opponent.

Neck size is important to the tortoises and to some degree determines what they eat. Of the two main species found on Santa Cruz, the saddlebacks have longer necks – enabling them to reach the higher vegetation found in the lowlands -- while the dome shells, which represent the majority of the migrating tortoises, have shorter necks that can make do with feeding on highlands grasses.

After mating, most females remain in the lowlands to lay their eggs, while the dome shell males begin their arduous journey back to the highlands, having done their duty to propagate the species.

If you have more time on Santa Cruz than is required to visit the tortoises in both the highlands and at the research station, your guide may bring you to a beach occupied by sea lions and marine iguanas, or to an area inhabited by blue-foot boobies and other birds -- though other islands offer equal or better viewing of these species. In the end, Santa Cruz is all about the giant tortoises – one of the Galapagos’ most fascinating creatures.

Top 10 Things to See on Santa Cruz Island

Santa Cruz Island is one of the busiest islands for tourist activities. There’s a lot to do, and a lot more that can be done without a tour guide, as opposed to the other islands of the Galapagos, where some sights are off limits without a tour. Here are ten of the top things to see and do on Santa Cruz Island:

1. Charles Darwin Research Station - The research and discoveries of Charles Darwin were made famous shortly after his journey to the Galapagos. His relationship to the islands is partly why so many seek to explore the Galapagos themselves. There are many connections to Darwin over all the main islands you’ll visit on a Galapagos cruise, but this is the official research station in his name, which still operates, undergoing scientific research and conservations.

The Charles Darwin Foundation, is an international non-profit. Truly a place where international minds meet and share ideas, together pursuing research dealing with conservation, climate change, and other important issues facing humanity and animal populations around the world. Their work and studies are displayed for visitors to peruse.

The Research Center also has regular demonstrations, talks, and exhibits to help explain the significance of the Galapagos and introduce visitors to the various inhabitants the be encountered on a Galapagos tour.

Also part of the Charles Darwin Research Center is the Fausto Llerena Tortoise Center. Beginning in 1965, this center is pivotal to the rehabilitation and reintroduction of wild tortoises to their respective islands. Visitors to the center can learn about the tortoises and their relationship with the islands, with the opportunity to observe multiple ages - from hatchlings to full grown- and species.

2. Santa Cruz Island Beaches - Tortuga Bay, Playa de los Perros, Garrapatero: The Galapagos is known for the wildlife, and less as a beach destination. But on Santa Cruz there are three lovely beaches to explore, the perfect place to relax before embarking on the rest of your Galapagos tour.

Tortuga bay has very strong undercurrents, so avoid swimming here unless you’re a very strong swimmer. But staying on shore is its own reward as you observe many land birds and enjoy the warm weather.

Playa de los Perros is small and takes a bit of effort to get to, but once you do be sure to head to a white-tipped shark pond to observe the sharks up close.

For the best combination of wildlife and beach-day, head to Garrapatero. A long stretch of white sands, with blue calm ocean waters, perfect for snorkeling and swimming. Nearby you can visit a lagoon where often flamingos and white-cheeked pintail ducks can be seen.

3. Tortoise Reserve - While the Galapagos Islands are collectively known for the famous Giant Tortoises, Santa Cruz island is one of the main places to see them, and the Tortoise Reserve is often one of the first stops for visitors embarking on their Galapagos tour.

4. Los Gemelos - Meaning “Twin Craters” this site beckons visitors who can follow the trail around the rims for beautiful views. This is also a great place for bird watching, including owls, finches, and doves.

5. Las Bachas - This nesting site for sea turtles is a wonderful, calm, hidden cove, ideal for a quiet getaway, as it also includes a lovely lagoon perfect for swimming. Flamingos can often be seen here, as can many other bird species of the Galapagos islands. Another interesting point nearby is a floating barge, a remnant of WWII when the island was used by American forces.

6. Cerro Dragón - An extremely important site to the history of conservation on the Galapagos Islands, Cerro Dragon (meaning Dragon Hill), has been used for the repatriation of land iguanas to great effect. They are transferred from an artificial breeding ground to Cerro Dragón in regular intervals, allowing them to adapt once again to the wild. Thus this is a wonderful and fascinating place to observe their behavior and patterns. Nearby there is wonderful snorkeling as well.

7. Plazas Islands - One of the best places for seeing a wide variety of the Galapagos famous species in one, quite compact place, the Plazas Islands are distinct and unusual. Also home to a forest of prickly cactus, they seem to be an amalgam of desert and ocean characteristics. You may also spot a rare hybrid iguana, the result of mating between a male marine iguana and female land iguana.

8. Media Luna and Cerro Crocker - This is where you can hike to the very top of the island for spectacular views. Your first stop along the trail, which begins in Bellavista, will be Media Luna, half of a crater in the Miconia Zone which is named for a unique vegetation only found on Santa Cruz and San Cristobal island. Here is also where you can spot nesting petrels Continuing on the trail, you’ll eventually reach the highest point of the island at Cerro Crocker. This is a great spot for photographs, encapsulating the ocean, island, and town of Puerto Ayora.

9. Las Grietas - Meaning “the crevices”, Las Grietas is a great place to swim, accessible by taking a water taxi from the mainland near Puerto Ayora. At Las Grietas you can see a unique natural phenomenon of fresh water essentially floating on top of salt water underneath. Also nearby is El Mirador where many finches can be observed - the very species that inspired Darwin.

10. Black Turtle Cove - At Black Turtle Cove, on Santa Cruz’s north shore, you can explore the beautiful Mangrove protected area, observe sea turtles feeding, three different species of shark in the clear water, and rays as well. You can also spot egrets and lava herons.

What to Pack for the Galapagos

The Galapagos are remote, surrounded by beaches, waters, and lava rock. Your packing list should be light, but you definitely want to make sure you have all necessities with you. The benefit of going on a Galapagos cruise will be the ability to bring a little bit more, as you’ll only be unpacking once.

1. Bring multiple bathing suits. Though it’s generally warm, and clothing will dry quickly, you’ll definitely want more than one suit because you’ll be in and out of the water constantly. It will also be a good idea to bring water clothes, to protect from the sun. It’s easy to forget your exposed neck and arms when you’re floating on top of the water gazing through goggles at the incredibly world below!

2. Bring a pair of hiking boots or tennis shoes. You’ll do a lot of walking around on the Galapagos. Hikes range from strenuous to moderate, to easy, so if you think you’ll be interested in this activity, definitely use up some room in your suitcase for a pair of sturdy, comfortable, close-toed shoes.

3. Sunhat, sunglasses, and strong sunscreen. As you’ll be out on the water regularly, and enjoying time ashore along the coast where there’s little shade, definitely bring plenty of sunscreen, the stronger SPF the better.

4. A multi functional, small day pack. Because most shore excursions will typically last half day to a full day, you’ll want a small to medium sized day backpack for storing water, cameras, sunscreen, phones, and anything else you’ll need. Make sure this is something you don’t mind getting dirty or wet.

5. Rubber soled water shoes. Consider bringing a pair of water shoes to protect against sharp coral reefs and for walking around lava rocks. These can be very useful as well to avoid slipping on board the boats that take you around to the many beautiful snorkeling spots on the Galapagos.

6. Layers! Layers is key for most destinations around the world, but in the Galapagos you may need a light sweatshirt for at night, even though it won’t seem like it during the day. Also consider a pair of long hiking pants to avoid bug bites.

Photography tips for the Galapagos

Without a doubt, you will leave the Galapagos with thousands of pictures, mainly of the incredible wildlife. Here’s some tips to help you make sure you make the most of your trip and arrive home with some amazing shots.

1. Bring multiple lenses - Learning from a photography professional, you’re going to want to be able to commit to several different types of shot, and this means different lenses. For the Galapagos, try to bring a telephoto lens and a macro lens. These are going to be the best way to capture the unbelievable wildlife on the islands.

2. Don’t be afraid to get up close - The animals in the Galapagos are famously used to humans, and this makes it very easy to get up close for spectacular macro shots. The proximity means you have a greater ability to capturing the personality, expressions, and textures of the animals.  

3. Bring a len cloth - the last thing you want is a foggy lens to muddy up your image. Make sure you have a high end lens cloth ready to keep dust and condensation off your camera. In warm tropical environments, lens fogging is common - one good tip is to take your camera out with lens cap off a good few minutes before you plan to start shooting. This will give enough time to let any fogging dissipate.

4. Go on a Photography tour! - For serious amateurs and complete novices, photography tours are one of the best ways to learn and grow as a photographer. You’ll get to learn from a professional and get the best tips about how to best capture wildlife. When the wildlife is so entrancing, historic, and relatively easy to get close to, the thing that’s going to make your photos stand out is the composition and lighting - having an expert near to instruct you on angles, f-stops, shutter-speeds, and filters is an incredible asset. See all the Galapagos photography tours on Stride.

5. Get to know the animals - one of the key aspects to wildlife photography is knowing the best times to find them in action. Learn a bit about each major species to discover their habits. You may also learn when to best find them with the least amount of people around. Though sometimes you may want a human presence in your photograph - this can create a wonderful dynamic.

6. Get dirty! - Photography is about finding the best way to showcase your subject. In the case of wildlife, this often means getting down and dirty, wet and uncomfortable. To get the best angles, you will find yourself contorting on the ground on your stomach, or perhaps balancing as quietly as possible on a log or tree branch.

7. Bring underwater casing.- A lot of your time in the Galapagos will be spent in the water. While over the counter underwater cameras actually do an impressive job, if you want sharper and higher resolution photos, invest in an underwater casing for your DSLR or other point and shoot. If you’re wary of getting your nice piece anywhere near the water (understandable) look into smart-phone accessories. There are many ways you can make your camera phone into the perfect underwater photography tool.

Travel to the Galapagos: Practicalities and Logistics

Before You Go

Visa

The Galapagos are technically part of Ecuador, so the same visa requirements apply. Citizens of the United States, Canada and most European countries do not require a visa to travel to Ecuador, unless you plan to stay past 90 days. You will generally receive a free visa upon entry into Ecuador.

Insurance

General travel insurance should suffice for a trip to the Galapagos. You will be spending a lot of time on the water with your tour, and any insurance specificities related to this can be answered by the tour company.

Vaccinations

You do need a Yellow Fever vaccine for traveling to Ecuador. Proof of vaccination is required upon entry into the country.

Besides that, no additional vaccinations are required for travel to the Galapagos, but make sure all your regular vaccinations are up to date.

Safety

Zika has been reported in some parts of Ecuador, so those traveling with young children or who are pregnant do so at your own risk.

Bring hats and sunscreen! You will be outside and on the water for a large part of your visit, and the sun can be intense.

Top Santa Cruz Island Travel Companies

All Santa Cruz Island tours, river cruises, expedition cruises, and adventure trips. Find the best guided trips and expert planned vacation and holiday packages. Average rating of 4.8 for all Santa Cruz Island trips.

144 trips from 37 tour companies with 63 reviews

More Santa Cruz Isla... Guided Tours

What is Stride?

Stride is the top reviews site for experiential travel and tour packages.

Now you can search tens of thousands of trips from more than 1,000 operators and expert trip planners. Most travel agencies and websites only show options from large companies that pay big commissions. We show you all the options we can gather. We want you to have all the information to find your perfect trip, no matter who it’s with. About us.

Use Stride to:
Search thousands
Search thousands of itineraries and match your style and budget.
Compare local
Compare local experts with global tour operators side by side.
Read reviews
Read reviews by travelers and experts.
Read reviews
Save money as a Stride member (its free), with exclusive deals & rebates.
We are on a mission...

...to help more people travel further, travel more, and travel better. Learn more.

Got it
×
×
Sign in to Save Trips
Welcome back! We're so happy to see you. ? Forgot Password?
Don't have an account? Join
  • Bookmark trips you like
  • Share with your travel companions
  • Track price changes
  • Access private discounts on trips you save
×
Sign in to see your results

TripFinder is a member-only feature. Don’t worry, it’s free!

With a membership you:

  • Save up to $700 per person!*
  • Access private deals and offers
  • See personalized trip recommendations
  • Save favorite trips
*See Member Savings Program details
×
Activate your free Stride membership

Just use the email address and password provided in the email we sent.

? Forgot Password?

With your free membership you:

  • Save up to $700 per person!*
  • Access private deals and offers
  • See personalized trip recommendations
  • Save favorite trips
*See Member Savings Program details
×
To Follow, sign in or sign up (it's free) ? Forgot Password?
Don't have an account? Join
member benefits
First name is required!
Last name is required!
First name is not valid!
Last name is not valid!
This is not an email address!
Email address is required!
This email is already registered!
Please enter valid email address
Password is required!
Enter a valid password!
Please enter 6 or more characters!
Please enter 16 or less characters!
Passwords are not the same!
Terms and Conditions are required!
Email or Password is wrong!
Please select the captcha checkbox!
Please select the valid captcha!
Something went wrong! Try again later!

x