Marine iguanas on lava rocks Puerto Ayora Galapagos

Why you should visit the Charles Darwin Research Station in the Galapagos Islands!

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When you first arrive in Santa Cruz, Galapagos it’s worth the time to visit the Charles Darwin Research Station.  Located just outside of town, it’s an easy walk and can easily be combined with another activity on the same day.


beach image with text: Get your 2 Week Galapagos Itinerary

What is at the Charles Darwin Research Station, Puerto Ayora?

This research station focuses mainly on the Galapagos giant tortoise. Before you reach the main building there is a turn off on your left labeled ‘la ruta de las tortugas’.  Walk along this trail and be led through information stations about the history of the tortoise and eventually come out at the breeding centre.

Man-made pond filled with baby giant Galapagos tortoises, Santa Cruz Island.

The breeding centre contains areas for tortoises from different islands at various ages. The final area has some larger, middle aged tortoises. While this is definitely worth the visit for the information and a look at the babies, the larger tortoises have nothing on what you will find when you visit a tortoise ranch in the highlands. Learn more about visiting Las Primicias Giant Tortoise Ranch.

Combine the research station with snorkelling in Las Grietas.

There is also a section with a couple of land iguanas. These creatures don’t live on Santa Cruz island in the wild so it may be your only chance to see them.

The main building contains the skeleton of a whale, shell of a tortoise as well as various preserved remains and information. There is also a small gift shop and cafe.

Don’t leave the research station without following the trail to a beach within the property. There are actually two but we definitely recommend the further one.

View across lava rocks to ocean with small cruise ships anchored in Galapagos.

The rocks here were covered in marine iguanas. It was actually a challenge not to step on them at times! There is supposed to be great snorkelling here too, although we didn’t go in.


Is the Charles Darwin Research Station worth visiting?

Yes! It won’t be the highlight of your stay in the Galapagos Islands but it is interesting and gives some good information about the giant tortoises.

TIP: this is also where you get your passport stamped with a cool Galapagos Islands stamp!  Be sure to bring it along with you so you don’t have to make a second trip like us.


How do I get to the Charles Darwin Research Station, Santa Cruz?

Starting at the main dock, follow the road along the waterfront, past the Puerto Ayora Fish Market and continue to the right when the road forks. After a little while the stores and restaurants end, the road narrows and becomes tree lined. Watch out for lava lizards along the path!

Man sitting on curb of a road with a marine iguana sleeping on speed bump in Galapagos.
This guys was napping in the middle of the road to the Charles Darwin Research Station!


How much time do I need to visit the Charles Darwin Research Station?

Given it’s close proximity to town, it really only requires a couple of hours. We visited on our first day right after checking in to our hostel and were back within 2-3 hours. A bulk of that time was spent watching the marine iguanas fighting on the rocks of the beach. We also stopped at the fish market in both directions. Of course, you could also easily pack a towel and snorkel, and spend the day!

Two marine iguanas butting heads as they fight on black lava rocks with the sea behind.
These two were fighting for quite some time, plenty of others lazed around unaffected!



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Marine iguanas on black lava rock at beach with text: Charles Darwin Research Station, Galapagos


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