Santa Cruz is by far the most populated island in the Galápagos. Together with its neighbor Baltra Island (home to the main airport in the region) it is the entry point to all visitors. Puerto Ayora city gathers many tourism amenities, it is also the starting and finishing point to many cruises.
If you’re staying in Puerto Ayora, go explore the few spots located around the city. Snorkeling is only possible with a guide in the National Park, but a few spots around Puerto Ayora are free to explore by yourself. It is rare enough on the Galápagos Islands to be noted.
Playa de Los Alemanes is the most known of those freely accessible spots. It is located south of the city, in front of Finch Bay Hotel. Tortuga Bay is sometimes said to be a snorkel spot, but mangrove swamps located nearby usually alter water visibility.
Las Grietas, south of the town, is a natural pool that can be joined after a short walk. Its rocky waterscape is gorgeous, but fish do not teem there.
The other spots on the island are included in the National Park, which means they can only be accessed with a guide. Las Bachas is a gorgeous white sand beach located on the north coast, accessible by boat only. To go there, you can book a day tour from Puerto Ayora.
Santa Cruz is also the starting point for day tours to Pinzón Island: this small island lying 10km west to Santa Cruz is a fantastic place to swim with whitetip reef sharks, turtles and sea lions. Numerous multi-day naturalist cruises also make stops on in Las Bachas and Pinzón Island.
Even though Santa Cruz is the most populated and urbanized island in the Galápagos, it still hosts exceptional biodiversity. Green sea turtles, sea lions, and whitetip sharks are common sights for snorkelers. Numerous reef fish (butterflyfish, parrotfish, surgeonfish…) and marine iguana (however easier to see on land than underwater) also appreciate the island’s rocky shores.
Don’t look, however, for Galápagos penguins: they don’t live around Puerto Ayora, but few small populations are settled on the island’s north coast and in Pinzón Island. If you plan a trip to the Galápagos Islands, we recommend you bring with you the Wildlife of the Galápagos field guide, a compact and comprehensive identification guide to the unique wildlife you’ll encounter in the archipelago, both below and above the water.
Check this video made with a GoPro 👇👇👇 with the very best of our snorkeling time in the Galápagos Islands. Sea lions, penguins, marine iguanas, sea turtles, whitetip sharks… You never know what shows up!
There are very few places around the world where it’s possible to share such close proximity to wildlife without them turning fearful. All footages taken around Santa Cruz, Isabela, Santiago, and San Cristóbal islands. The name of the snorkeling spot where the images have been shot is mentioned on each sequence.
There are two sensibly different seasons in Santa Cruz, as there are on the whole Galápagos archipelago. The warm season (December-May) is a tropical one, with warm and wet weather (79 to 86°F/26 to 30°C). Water temperature (around 79°F/26°C) is then ideal for snorkeling, but rain showers often happen.
From June to November, the weather turns dryer, and temperatures lower down to an average of 73-79°F/23-26°C. During this season, consider snorkeling with a wetsuit: water temperature can get down to 64°F/18°C, often under an overcast sky. You can check out our selection of the best rashguards and wetsuits for snorkeling to make your choice.
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Common all around the island, frequently sighted in Pinzón and Las Bachas
In large groups in Pinzón Island. Also frequently sighted at Las Bachas
Common in Pinzón Island, sometimes seen at Playa de los Alemanes
Frequently sighted in Pinzón Island, absent in Puerto Ayora’s region
On all rocky spots
On all spots
Common on all spots, especially in shallow rocky areas
On all spots, seen in large shoals in Pinzón Island
Common all around the island
Sandy beach with sea turtles, sharks and reef fish
Rocky seabed with sharks, turtles and many fish
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