Santa Cruz Galapagos
Santa Cruz has the largest population of all the Galapagos Islands with over 12,000 residents scattered in small villages across the island. It is also home to the largest port (Puerto Ayora) and offers the greatest variety of accommodations, restaurants, recreation and activities.
The city of Puerto Ayora, with its unique charm, is the largest population center and main port of the islands. Its streets are busy with pedestrians, and the town is the commercial hub of the Galapagos where you can find most of the creature comforts of large mainland cities such as banks, shops, restaurants and the like. In town there is an amazing assortment of local restaurants that feature Ecuadorian as well as International cuisine. Almost everything in Puerto Ayora is within walking distance, but it’s also fun to take a short ride in one of the quaint white pick-up truck taxis found throughout town. Additionally, several fine restaurants and attractions are accessible by water taxi across the bustling Academy Bay harbor. A visit to the Fisherman’s market is a must, where you may have to haggle with sea lions and pelicans over the catch of the day.
About a 20-minute walk by road northeast of Puerto Ayora, the Charles Darwin Research Station can also be reached by dry landing from Academy Bay. More than 200 scientists and volunteers are involved with research and conservation efforts, the most well known of which involves a captive breeding program for the giant tortoises. It contains a national-park information center; an informative museum where a video in English or Spanish is presented several times a day; a baby-tortoise house with incubators (when they weigh about 1.5kg or are about four years old, the tortoises are repatriated to their home islands) and a walk-in adult tortoise enclosure, where you can meet the Galápagos giants face to face.
You’ll also want to make a visit to “Las Grietas” on Santa Cruz Island. Directly translated, “grieta” means crevasse or crack. Las Grietas is a place to swim in cool ocean water between two tall cliffs, where the earth has opened like a “crack” or “crevasse”. Upon arriving to the Grietas, you’ll find some wooden narrow steps that lead down to a jumble of large boulders. From here, you can climb carefully into the water. A pair of waterproof shoes would be good for swimming here, as the rocks underwater are slippery with algae, and the entrance and exit to the water can be tricky. Local people may often be seen jumping from various levels of the cliff, but this isn’t recommended, as the area where you need to land your jump is quite specific. Use caution and always check how and where others are jumping from before you take a flying leap!
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