Best Tours from Santa Cruz Island

12 Best Tours from Santa Cruz, Galapagos Islands: Day Trips+

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Find the best side trips from Santa Cruz in the Galapagos Islands, ranging from 1 – 7 days each.

Santa Cruz Island is one of the most notable islands in the Galapagos archipelago. It’s the most populous island and also home to Puerto Ayora, the largest town in the Galapagos. While Santa Cruz itself offers many fascinating attractions, it’s also a launchpad for numerous day trips to neighboring islands and sites.

These day trips from Santa Cruz promise unforgettable encounters with the archipelago’s unique flora and fauna, making Santa Cruz the ideal base for exploring the Galapagos Islands.

Let’s dive into some of the incredible day trips from Santa Cruz Island that might just make it onto your Galapagos itinerary.

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Best Day Trips from Santa Cruz

Besides spending time on Santa Cruz Island, you’ll want to use the island as a hub to explore nearby islands. Many of these side adventures can only be visited by day tours from Puerto Ayora or on a multi-day Galapagos cruise.

1. Santa Cruz Island Day Trip: Giant Tortoises, Lava Tubes, & Los Gemelos

Simplify your trip to Santa Cruz Island by joining a hassle-free 3-hour afternoon tour to three of the island’s top attractions. Together with a knowledgeable guide, you’ll explore the impressive Los Gemelos volcanic formations, visit the local wildlife at the Giant Tortoise Wildlife Reserve, and capture memories as you journey through a lava tube.

Secure your spot in advance for this Santa Cruz Island tour. You’ll travel comfortably in air-conditioned transportation with a small group. Additionally, this trip includes complimentary entree to the Giant Tortoise Reserve.

2. Isabela Island Day Trip: Tintorera Islet, Snorkeling Wetlands & Flamingos

Head to Isabela Island on a guided tour from Santa Cruz. On this tour, you’ll cruise the bay to spot Galapagos penguins and blue-footed boobies up close.

Then you’ll disembark on “Las Tintoreras,” an islet teeming with marine iguanas. You’ll head out on a nature walk to the shark channel, one of the favorite resting spots for whitetip reef sharks, sea turtles, and sea lions.

Next, you’ll visit a remote white sand beach inhabited by sea lions, and enjoy snorkeling with sea turtles, sharks, rays, and possibly penguins. Then, stroll through Isabela Island’s wetlands, spotting Galapagos flamingos, birds, and marine iguanas.

Explore the coconut palm beaches and observe marine iguanas, crabs, and birds at Playa Puerto Villamil. Lastly, visit the Giant Tortoise Breeding Centre Arnaldo Tupiza to witness various tortoise life stages. The tour includes admission fees, providing the ultimate Isabela Island experience.

Blue footed booby birds
Blue footed booby birds off the coast of Isabela Island

3. Santa Fe Island Day Trip: Snorkeling and Fishing

Take a look at this unforgettable tour to Santa Fe Island. It’s a prime snorkeling destination in the Galapagos. A short 45-55 minutes boat ride brings you to this tranquil bay with beautiful turquoise waters that resemble a natural swimming pool.

Dive into the water to encounter sea lions, as the lively and playful younger ones join snorkelers, creating a one-of-a-kind interaction. Beyond the sea lions, the underwater world in the Galapagos is filled with sea turtles, sharks, tropical fish, and eagle rays.

The birdlife is abundant too, with sightings of blue-footed boobies, frigate birds, mockingbirds, and possibly even the Galapagos hawk. The island’s unique landscape contrasts the turquoise waters with dark lava rocks, cacti, and a white sand beach filled with sea lions.

After a delicious lunch, you’ll disembark at Hidden Beach, a quite stretch of white sand. Here, you can unwind, swim, or take a guided discovery walk to spot marine iguanas, pelicans, and mangroves. The return journey even offers the chance to try your hand at fishing from the boat. It’s a full day at Santa Fe!

4. Pinzon Island Day Trip: Snorkeling & Fishing

Set off on an exciting tour to Pinzon Island. Here you’ll have the chance to snorkel at one of Galapagos’ most breathtaking spots, revealing a mostly untouched underwater world.

Enjoy either two snorkeling sessions or one extended session, starting in a natural swimming pool before venturing into deeper blue waters. The water is teeming with diverse species, like sharks, sea turtles, rays, marine iguanas, and more.

As the second part of the tour, you’ll have the option for another snorkeling activity at La Fé or embark on a wet landing at La Fé Bay or Las Palmitas Bay.

Led by a knowledgeable guide, you’ll take a leisurely 45-60 minute discovery walk, encountering mangroves, cacti species, and captivating wildlife ,such as marine iguanas, sally lightfoot crabs, sea lions, and various bird species, including blue-footed boobies.

The tour to Pinzon Island from Santa Cruz also offers a chance for fishing. The goal being to catch the prized yellowfin tuna. A hot and freshly prepared lunch or ceviche will be served onboard, making for a satisfying and memorable day.

5. Bartolome Island & Sullivan Bay Day Trip

Prepare for an exciting day trip to Bartolome Island from Santa Cruz! You’ll be picked up early at your hotel lobby and head to the Itabaca Channel. A comfy bus will take you to the channel, about a 40-minute ride.

Then, set sail to Bartolome Islet, a boat ride of 2-3 hours, depending on currents. Once Bartolome Islet is reached, you’ll disembark and hike around a volcanic cone to its summit. Enjoy taking in the stunning panoramic view alongside the iconic pinnacle.

After hiking, savor a delicious lunch on the boat before heading to the next stop, Sullivan Bay. Sullivan Bay is located just southeast of Santiago Island. Here you’ll disembark and explore the area which features cool geological formations.

Get ready for a 45-minute snorkeling adventure, where you might spot sea and land birds, fur seal colonies, and unique marine iguanas adapted to the terrain. As the day winds down, return to the Itabaca Channel and be transported back to Puerto Ayora.

6. Floreana Island Day Trip: Snorkeling and Fishing

Perhaps one of my favorites was discovering the remote island of Floreana Island. Tucked in the southern reaches of the archipelago, a day tour to Floreana Island from Santa Cruz is a must.

Despite being the least populated inhabited island in the Galapagos, with only around 150 residents, the day trip won’t take us to the inhabited part, but instead, to the beautiful Islet Enderby.

Here, you’ll cruise through a beautifully untouched corner of the archipelago, sharing space with sea lions and diverse bird species, including frigate birds, nazca boobies, blue-footed boobies, petrels, and pelicans.

The adventure continues with a snorkeling session amid sea turtles, tropical fish, sea lions, and possibly rays and sharks. For those interested, you can try your hand at fishing with the chance to catch the ever-famous yellow-fin tuna.

Then you’ll disembark at Cormorant Point to the uninhabited part of Floreana Island. Following your naturalist guide, you’ll walk to a viewpoint offering stunning views of a lagoon inhabited by flamingos and framed by Floreana’s two tuff lava cones.

The journey continues to Flour Sand Beach, which is composed of coral. It’s the ideal spot to observe pelicans, sea lions, sea turtles, and other captivating wildlife. While en route to or from Floreana, you’ll pass the iconic Devil’s Crown, a partially submerged volcanic crater resembling a crown.

Iguana in the Galapagos Islands
One of the many iguanas we saw on Floreana Island

7. Scuba Diving at Gordon Rocks Day Trip

If you’re a scuba diver, diving at Gordon Rocks is one of the best day trips from Santa Cruz Island. You won’t want to miss it. On this thrilling scuba tour from Santa Cruz, you’ll experience the underwater marvels of Gordon Rocks, one of the Galapagos Islands’ premier dive sites.

Depart from Puerto Ayora on a scenic boat ride to Santa Cruz’s northeast side. This is where the famous Gordon Rocks is located. With your guide by your side, you’re free to explore the subterranean world. While marine life may vary, keep your eyes open for hammerhead sharks, barracudas, and eagle rays in their natural habitat. (It was my first time seeing hammerheads in the wild!)

With a small group, limited to eight participants, this dive trip offers an intimate, and safe, experience. You’ll also be served lunch onboard the boat. What are you waiting for? Get ready to experience the Galapagos Islands under the sea.

Check out the video from my scuba diving trip at Gordon Rocks!

Multi-Day Trips from Santa Cruz

While there are plenty of exciting day trips from Santa Cruz Island, there are also a number of multi-day options available. These allow you to set sail and experience some of the best of the Galapagos Islands, all from Santa Cruz. No additional planning needed! They take care of all of the logistics!

Take a look at these 5 and 7 day tours of the Galapagos Islands from Santa Cruz.

5 Day Eastern Galapagos Cruise aboard Yacht La Pinta


  • Day 1: Baltra and South Plaza Islands
  • Day 2: Santa Fe and San Cristobal Island
  • Day 3: San Cristobal Island
  • Day 4: Española Island
  • Day 5: Santa Cruz and Baltra Islands

Your 5 day Galapagos Cruise adventure begins on Baltra Island, a former military base during World War II, now serving as an Ecuadorian naval and air force station.

From here, you’ll venture eastward along the volcanic shores of North Seymour and Santa Cruz Islands, eventually reaching the Plazas Islands. The adventure starts with a dry landing at a manmade jetty on South Plaza Island.

On the following day, you’ll explore Santa Fe Island and San Cristobal Island, the provincial capital of the Galapagos. Then, you’ll sail south to Española Island, which is home to the remarkable site: Punta Suarez.

Here, you’ll wander along the rugged coastline, encountering hundreds of marine iguanas, sea lions, marine birds, and possibly albatross (depending on the time of year). It’s the trip of a lifetime!

A baby sea lion in the Galapagos Islands

5 Day Western Galapagos Cruise aboard Yacht Isabela II


  • Day 1: Baltra and Santa Cruz Islands
  • Day 2: Bartolome and Santiago Islands
  • Day 3: Santa Cruz and Santiago Islands
  • Day 4: Isabela and Fernandina Islands
  • Day 5: Baltra Island

This 5 day cruise starts on Santa Cruz Island, where you’ll explore the highlands and then visit the renowned Charles Darwin Research Station.

The following day you’ll have panoramic views from Bartolome Island and explore Sullivan Bay’s white coral sand beach, with a dramatic lava field to traverse.

Next, you’ll venture to Dragon Hill, the habitat of dusty-yellow land iguanas. After this adventure, Punta Vicente Roca awaits, teeming with wildlife encounters.

Later, your yacht takes you to the youngest island in the Galapagos archipelago, Fernandina. It’s celebrated as having one of the most pristine environments on Earth and can only be reached by cruise.

5 Day Northern Galapagos Cruise aboard Yacht La Pinta


  • Day 1: Santa Cruz and Baltra Islands
  • Day 2: Santa Cruz and Sombrero Chino Island
  • Day 3: Bartolome and Santiago Islands
  • Day 4: Genovesa Island
  • Day 5: Baltra Island

Take a journey to some of the most beautiful islands in the Galapagos on this 5 day cruise. Your adventure begins on Santa Cruz Island, the most populous island of the Galapagos archipelago. Here, you’ll meet giant tortoises in their natural habitat and venture to the shores of Eden Islet.

From there, you’ll hop over to the lovely crescent bay of Chinese Hat. On Wednesday, one of the iconic sites of the archipelago awaits: Bartolome Island. Here you’ll follow its wooden walkway up to a panoramic viewpoint, golden sandy beach, and great snorkeling spots.

Close-by, Sullivan Bay gives you a great introduction to the volcanic origins of the islands. Your cruise ends with an exciting visit to the sunken caldera of Genovesa. It’s far up in the northeast of the archipelago, a privileged place to visit amid thousands of marine birds. It’s also only accessible via Galapagos cruise boats.

7 Day Southeastern Galapagos Cruise aboard Yacht Isabela II


  • Day 1: Baltra and Santa Cruz Islands
  • Day 2: San Cristobal Island
  • Day 3: Española Island
  • Day 4: Floreana Island
  • Day 5: Isabela and Fernandina Islands
  • Day 6: Santa Cruz and North Seymour Islands
  • Day 7: Baltra Island

Set out on a 7 day cruise through Galapagos’ Southeastern Islands, where magnificent landscapes and endemic wildlife await! Day one introduces you to Cerro Colorado’s giant tortoises. Then, at Punta Pitt, an exciting assortment of booby species welcomes you.

On the third day of your Galapagos tour, a visit to Española Island brings you face-to-face with magnificent wildlife, from mockingbirds to colorful marine iguanas!

As day four dawns, you’ll find yourself on Floreana Island, with historic Post Office Bay and Cormorant Point’s green beach awaiting you. Continuing westward, you’ll travel over young lava formations at Punta Moreno and explore the mangroves of southern Fernandina.

Your Galapagos adventure culminates with a morning visit to Eden Islet and an afternoon wander across the picturesque North Seymour Island.

Giant Tortoise on the Galapagos Islands

7 Day Western Galapagos Cruise aboard Yacht La Pinta


  • Day 1: Baltra and North Seymour Islands
  • Day 2: Isabela and Fernandina Islands
  • Day 3: Urbina Bay and Tagus Cove
  • Day 4: Rabida & Santa Cruz Islands
  • Day 5: Santa Cruz Island
  • Day 6: Floreana Island
  • Day 7: Baltra Island

This 7 day Galapagos cruise itinerary will transport you to the very origins of the archipelago. In the blink of an eye, the Galapagos Islands emerged from a volcanic hot spot where a monumental tectonic shift of the Earth’s crust happened. It resulted in a landscape of unparalleled beauty which you’ll be exploring over 7 days.

One of the highlights is heading to Fernandina Island, hailed as a pristine haven. This untouched island showcases life evolving without human interference.

Next, on Santa Cruz Island, you’ll visit the Charles Darwin Research Station and witness giant tortoises in their natural habitat. Venturing south, flamingos will catch your eye, and you’ll snorkel at the renowned Champion Islet.

It’s a fun filled itinerary, reaching some of the harder to reach islands in the Galapagos.

Explore More of the Galapagos Islands

Santa Cruz Island serves as a fantastic starting point for some of the most memorable tours in the Galapagos Islands. Whether you’re interested in exploring the highlands, seeing the giant tortoises, or venturing to nearby islands for snorkeling and wildlife encounters, Santa Cruz offers awesome tour options.

From day trips to multi-day adventures from Santa Cruz, you’ll have the opportunity to check out the incredible biodiversity and natural beauty that the Galapagos are renowned for. So, when planning your visit to the Galapagos, don’t miss the chance to discover the best tours departing from Santa Cruz Island.

Continue planning your Galapagos trip with these helpful resources.

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Best Tours from Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos Islands
Best Day Trips from Santa Cruz, Galapagos Islands
Best Tours from Santa Cruz, Galapagos Islands

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