Puerto Ayora, Galapagos Islands Cruise Port
No cruise to Santa Cruz Island (or Isla Santa Cruz) in Galápagos, Ecuador would be complete without a stop at the port of Puerto Ayora, Galápagos Islands. The most populous city in the archipelago, Puerto Ayora has more than 12,000 residents and the best developments in technology in the area. There are also plenty of tourist spots, clubs, and shops. Most travelers who want to hop the islands yet have a “home base” tend to stay in Puerto Ayora. It’s also the best place within the islands to arrange boat transportation. Despite the modern amenities, the city is also at the center of conservation efforts within the Galápagos. Although named after former president of Ecuador, Isidro Ayora, travelers are more likely familiar with the Galápagos Islands’ most famous visitor: Evolutionary theorist Charles Darwin. Listed below are a handful of our favorite experiences when cruising to Puerto Ayora, Galápagos Islands:
Walk 20 minutes from the port to find Tortuga Bay, a beautiful white sand beach that's anything but ordinary. Not designed for swimming– not for humans, anyway – the beach is a preserved home to multiple species of wildlife. Hang out with the marine iguanas and giant tortoises while peeking in the clear waters at the white tip reef sharks. There are plenty of birds here as well, including brown pelicans and blue-footed boobies.
At the eastern edge of town is the must-see Charles Darwin Research Station, which has its focus on education and conservation. Established in 1959, you can see the many natural history exhibits, along with the captive breeding program designed to preserve the island's giant tortoises and land iguanas.
If you still want more tortoise action, check out the El Chato Tortoise Reserve (Reserva El Chato), part of the national park system (which requires a guide). Here, you'll see these amazing creatures in their natural habitat. Birdwatchers can also find several species such as Darwin’s finches, Galápagos rails, and paint-billed crakes.
If you fancy a swim, head to rocky Las Grietas. This lovely water-filled crevice is also a favorite for snorkelers – and daredevils who dive from the cliffs above.