Puerto Ayora in the Galapagos Islands is a charming town full of nice surprises to all its visitors.
This small town has the best facilities in the Galapagos Islands with the largest number of hotels, restaurants and stores.
This town also has grocery stores, pharmacies, hardware stores, boat supplies, a small hospital and even a hyperbaric chamber.
Puerto Ayora is situated along Academy
Bay and is home to the Galapagos National Park, the Darwin Foundation and the Charles Darwin Research Station. The town is located on the southern end of Santa Cruz Island (the second largest island in the archipelago).
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The port is also the largest of all the Islands in Galapagos and has a current population of approximately 12,000.
The majority of visitors just pass through the town on their way to see Lonesome George (a 150-year old tortoise; the last of his species) at the Darwin Station.
However, those that stay a moment longer, discover that Puerto Ayora has more to offer. In fact, this town is a lively seaside town offering international cuisine, oceanfront hotels, outdoor bars, scuba diving schools and an avenue of boutiques with beautiful handicrafts and the famous Panama hats.
Stores offer everything from t-shirts to jewelry, post cards, books, beach ware and ceramic items. The grocery store offers the opportunity to stock up on any forgotten items, snacks, beverages, or other items you might desire.
The coastal region of Santa Cruz Island offers spectacular scenery. To the north of the Island (accessible only by sea) is an extensive mangrove lagoon called Caleta Tortuga Negra (Black Turtle Cove).
Here sea turtles enjoy swimming in the calm waters, peaking their heads above the surface while fish, rays and small sharks circle below.
At Conway Bay there's a colony of land iguanas. Sea lions cover Eden Island and almost every beach on Santa Cruz has their share of marine iguanas.
Puerto Ayora along the southern shore is lined with cactus, marine iguanas, pelicans and boobies co-existing with tourist boats, restaurants, small hotels and houses.
Spectacular marine life can be seen in Punta Estrada, Las Grietas, Isla Caamaño, Playa de los Perros and Franklin Bay.
Up in the highlands, the Pit Craters (Los Gemelos) is an outstanding area for birdwatching, and observation of flora of the highlands.
It is up here where amazing encounters with woodpecker finches have occurred. Moist conditions keep this epiphyte-laden environment with a fresh green look.
Tortuga Bay is one of the most spectacular beaches in the Galapagos Archipelago, it is located only a half an hour walk from Puerto Ayora.
At low tide a wide swath of shiny white sand awaits for you here.
It is a perfect place to surf or follow this sandy crescent to its point to discover a mangroved lagoon with glassy emerald water and pelicans.
One of the best things about Tortuga Bay is that it is not crowded and you will have most of this beach to yourself.
The majority of locals find the walk too arduous and tourists generally do not stick around long enough to make the trek.
Southwest of the town lies Las Grietas that has a small pool suitable for bathers.
Just follow the green and white posts and walk with a good pair of shoes uphill towards the lagoon signs.
For a good view of marine iguanas you can head past Darwin Station to the Tomas Fischer dwelling and on to a trail to a very rocky beach.
Santa Cruz Island has a wide variety of geology, wildlife and vegetation, all of the Galapagos life zones are present here.
The villages of Bellavista and Santa Rosa were established in the highland's humid zone.
This region made prime farmland for the new immigrants who planted avocados, Galapagos coffee, sugarcane, bananas, oranges, lemons, and cattle.
Puerto Ayora is far from the bustling cities on mainland Ecuador. The bay is full of sailboats, sea birds fill the air and marine iguanas line the shore.
Though a thriving center of commerce, people enjoy a laid back Island attitude.
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Most travelers to the Galapagos Islands will include a visit to this town during their trip. Most Galapagos Cruises include a visit to the Darwin Station and arrange free time to explore the town and shop for souvenirs.
This may be the only opportunity to souvenir shop in the Islands. The majority of cruise ships and yachts depart from this town.
Puerto Ayora offers options for visitors who prefer to sleep ashore or extend their stay in the Islands.
There are a variety of tours available allowing visitors to design their own Galapagos experience including day-trips to nearby Islands, dive trips, kayaking, highland tours, hiking, mountain biking and horseback rides. See Our Recommended Galapagos Land Tours
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