Tortoises and Lava Tubes on Santa Cruz Island
Welcome to Santa Cruz island

Baby sea lion lounging

Lava tubes on Santa Cruz Island

Entrance to lava tubes

Santa Cruz lava tubes

Map of Puerto Ayora

Tortoise crossing the road

Tortoise traffic jam

Giant tortoises

Tortoises in Puerto Ayora

Standing next to a giant tortoise on Santa Cruz

On the last, full day of my Ecoventura Galápagos cruise, we sailed to Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island.

Santa Cruz is the largest island in the Galápagos, after Isabela. It’s also home to the Galápagos Islands’ largest city, Puerto Ayora, which hosts about 12,000 people.

While tiny, Puerto Ayora is a hub for travelers. It’s got one of the few airports in the Galápagos, and there are tons of tour companies based there.

We wandered through lava tubes, and then got to see giant Galápagos tortoises!

Inside the Santa Cruz lava tubes

Lava Tubes

Of course, you can’t leave the Galápagos Islands without exploring some of the underbelly. I got the chance to wander through the underground lava tunnels, and it was incredible.

Getting underground is the perfect way to wrap your head around the lava-layering process that created the Galápagos Islands. Expect to get down and dirty. There’s plenty of turtle poo around, and you might need to do a bit of shimmying to get through the tight spots.

Helpful Tip: You’ll want to wear long pants and a rain jacket along with proper socks and shoes. In fact, bring rain boots if you have the luggage space.

Galapagos memories

The Last Afternoon

After checking out the lava tubes, we came back to enjoy some more time on the boat and our last day on the sun deck.

After unwinding for a bit, we headed back to explore Puerto Ayora. While it’s a small town, it’s a good place for a stroll. This is the place to buy your souvenirs. From cheesy T-shirts to local handicraft, the city has got a pretty decent supply of stuff.

Reserva el Chato

Reserva el Chato

South of Santa Rosa, you’ll find El Chato Tortoise Reserve (or El Reserva el Chato). This place is part of the Galápagos Islands National Park, and you’ll want to have a guide.

The giant Galápagos tortoise are one of the most well-known endangered species in the Galápagos, and perhaps the globe. This tortoise population was once as low as 15 tortoises, located on the Island of Espanola, but the population has recovered to multiple islands now, including Santa Cruz, Floreana, Isabela, and San Cristobal.

At El Reserva el Chato, you can observe the giant tortoises doing their own thing in the wild. You’ll also get to see Darwin’s finches, yellow warblers, Galápagos rails, and other local birds in the reserve.

My favorite Galápagos essentials!

READ NEXT: Tips on Getting to the Galápagos

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Kiersten Rich
Kiersten Rich is the bikini-obsessed author of award-winning solo female travel and lifestyle blog, The Blonde Abroad, featuring travel tips, fashion, food, festivals and photography from around the world.