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Adventure Cruises in Puerto Ayora
Many visitors on Puerto Ayora cruises may be surprised to find an urban center in the midst of the largely untouched wilds of the Galapagos. The largest and most populous city in the Galapagos, Puerto Ayora features hotels, shopping and restaurants to rival most coastal towns of mainland Ecuador. As such, adventure cruises to Puerto Ayora often serve as a welcome break from the hiking and snorkeling that punctuate the rest of the cruise itinerary. Just an hour from the airport of Isla Baltra, the city is the site of the popular Charles Darwin Research Station as well as the launching point for many small ship cruises of the Galapagos.
Top things to do and see at Puerto Ayora
In addition to sampling the many restaurants and shops, Puerto Ayora offers its own unique attractions, including wildlife encounters at the Charles Darwin Research Station, swimming and snorkeling at Tortuga Bay, or plunging from boulders at Las Grietas.
The Charles Darwin Research Station, a highlight of any Galapagos cruise itinerary, offers visitors the opportunity to enjoy a popular Puerto Ayora wildlife encounter: a face-to-face meeting with the famous giant tortoise! Home of the Giant Tortoise Breeding and Rearing Program, the Charles Darwin Research Station is managed by over 200 scientists and volunteers and serves an important role in the conservation of the Galapagos tortoise population. Thanks to its efforts, the tortoise population has been restored from 14 to over a thousand. Visitors to the station will see tortoise as big as four feet in length, as well as hatchlings just four inches long.
Tortuga Bay, just a forty minute walk west of Puerto Ayora, is a beautiful white sand beach that stretches along the southern coast of Santa Cruz Island. The beach is a good place to simply relax on the pristine sands, while those seeking adventure activities can enjoy wake boarding when the waves are high enough, or snorkel with reef sharks, sea turtles and rays on calmer days.
Las Grietas is a sight not to be missed, especially for those looking for a unique swimming and snorkeling experience just a few steps from town. A stone crevasse filled with aquamarine waters, Las Grietas feels like a secret spot removed from the rest of the world. About a thirty minute walk from Puerto Ayora, a path leads through a lava field to the rocky cliffs of the crevasse. Climb into the water or, to experience this magical place like a local, jump right in from atop a boulder!
Wildlife sightings are varied and numerous in and around Puerto Ayora, despite it being an urban center. In addition to the giant tortoise, the Charles Darwin Research Station is home to an iguana rehabilitation and breeding center, while the town itself is surrounded by sea lions, some even lounging on the docks of the port. At nearby Tortuga Bay, visitors may spot sea turtles, rays and blue-footed boobies.
Top Tips for visiting Puerto Ayora
- Most restaurants and shops in Puerto Ayora are found on Avenida Charles Darwin, but make your way inland a few blocks to find smaller, humbler shops and eateries selling local handicrafts and homemade meals.
- Rincón de Alma is a restaurant known for its seafood, while El Atardecer del Nene is where the locals eat.
- While on your adventure cruise, Puerto Ayora may be your only chance to visit a pharmacy, something to keep in mind if you anticipate needing any over-the-counter medicine.
- The path to Tortuga Bay, though not long, provides no shade, so be sure to bring plenty of water, sunblock and a hat or umbrella.
- Note that both the Charles Darwin Research Station and the path to Tortuga Bay are open from 6 in the morning to 6 in the evening.
- Bring good hiking and water shoes to Las Grietas, as the path and bottom are rocky.
Best time to cruise Puerto Ayora
The best time to visit Puerto Ayora is any time at all! Though visitors will want to plan ahead, depending on their interests, most Puerto Ayora attractions, wildlife encounters and adventure activities can be enjoyed year round.
Puerto Ayora in January to March is the best time to go snorkeling at Tortuga Bay, given that this period offers the best water visibility and warmest water temperatures.
Note, however, that from January to April the sun is very intense, so the walk to Tortuga Bay or Las Grietas should be done with plenty of water and sunblock.
July to December is sea lion breeding season, as well as the blue-footed boobie nesting period.
Where do Puerto Ayora cruises depart from?
Galapagos small ship cruises to Puerto Ayora typically leave from one of three points: San Cristobal Island, Baltra, or Puerto Ayora itself. If your Galapagos cruise departs from San Cristobal, you will fly into the airport on San Cristobal, near the port town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. If departing from Baltra or Puerto Ayora, you will fly into the airport on Isla Baltra. Using public transit, Puerto Ayora is approximately an hour from the airport on Baltra.
Both the San Cristobal airport and the airport on Isla Baltra are serviced by flights from Quito and Guayaquil, on mainland Ecuador.
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