ISLA SANTA CRUZ
Isla Santa Cruz is the 2nd largest Island in the Archipelago. It is an active, though dormant volcano. Upon arrival, visitors must present a passport with an Ecuadorian visa, and $100 entrance fee for the park and island tax. No credit cards. With a censo (foreigners ID card) the total fee is $25. Most visitors arrive by plane and land in Baltra, a separate island at the north of Santa Cruz. Then either straight onto a boat they have already organised or public transport will take you to Puerto Ayora on the only cross island road in the islands. At Los Gemelos you will be able to see a pair of pit craters, one on either side of the road, such unique visual imagery; make this a great way to see the highland interior.
Puerto Ayora is the main town on the south side of the island in Capital Bay. Here you will find the National Park Headquarters, the Charles Darwin Research Station and the Tortoise breeding centre, home of ‘Lonesome George’ the last of the Pinta giant tortoises.
Capital Bay can be best described as being ‘pretty as a picture’ with conveniences you wouldn’t expect to be available. Here you will be able to find much of what you need such as facilities for making bookings for most tours and you will also be able to arrange other activities such as scuba diving, snorkelling, glass-bottom boat tours, kayaking, horseback riding and mountain biking. Importantly the island also boasts a Hospital, though medical insurance is essential, as operations are not performed here
There are plenty of shops, inexpensive hotels and restaurants catering for most tastes.
The grocery store is small but well stocked though tends to be expensive and as a cautionary note visitors need be aware that items can run out as most goods come from the mainland.
Try the open-air market for fresh foods (on the road to the airport). Be careful not to buy any gifts made of turtle shell or Black Coral, as these are endangered animals.
There are also a few lively and popular disco bars, two of them ‘La Panga’ and the oddly named ‘5-Fingers’ are a must. And of course, amazingly, a cinema, although if you really can’t find anything else worthwhile to look at you’d have to be crazy!
Beaches here as elsewhere in the islands are spectacular, and many; you will be sharing with some beautiful species of obscure life forms if you look carefully, though you don’t usually have to.