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Biking on Santa Cruz, Galápagos

Day 10 – around Santa Cruz Island, 5h, ca. 27 km by bike

Today we discovered one of the main Galápagos Islands by bike. Taxis are a nice way to get around the island, which is easy, btw – it’s all Toyota 4WD pick-ups they drive here and they take you to anywhere within Puerto Ayora, the main tourist hub, for just a dollar (USD) and one-way towards the airport for USD 25. The prices are each way, per drive (not per person). So either you make some new friends and share or it’s all on you.

We decided on doing some exercise today and rent a bike, but we were not keen on riding up-hill for 24 kilometers.

So here’s what we suggest to do if you’re into scenic landscape views, lava tunnels and giant tortoises (and believe me, it’s not all downhill, you need to be in shape for that, too, especially in the heat):

Rent a bike and get yourself a taxi which will then bring you and your bike to Los Gemelos, the twin-holes at the very centre (and the most elevated point) of Santa Cruz. This will cost you USD 20 for the taxi ride. You can wander around the holes which were caused by collapses of the fragile terrain beneath (these did not use to be volcanos) and get a scenic view of the whole island, which is just awesome. It takes about half an hour to walk around the craters. When we arrived at the peak there was some light rain and the temperature was lower than at sea level. Most refreshing!

The first stage of the ride was a steep downhill, but the paved roads are in excellent condition. Most of the roads also have a dedicated bike lane and it is a comfortable ride for 80% of the trip we recommend here.

In Santa Rosa, make a right turn (there is hardly a chance to miss it, and you will get the  idea which is the main road). Continue for about a kilometer or two until you see two signs flanking the only possible left turn there is – don’t go too far 😉

This is where you enter the unpaved and ugly part of the trip and the two kilometers (one-way) which were most exhausting. After about 500 meters you need to decide if you want to go to Rancho Primicios or to Rancho El Chato. We opted for Primicios.

At both you will find lava tunnels. The only difference is that at Primicios there is one, large tunnel of about 500 meters in length and on average five meters in height, and you would have to return to the entrance by foot on the road.

At Rancho El Chato there are supposed to be three smaller tunnels in which you are able to return to the starting point underneath the earth.

We were told both would charge a USD 5 entrance fee – we were actually never asked to pay anything.

What is more, both feature lush gardens in which a great amount of tortoises sleep, bathe, eat or just hang around in their natural habitat. So it’s completely up to you!

The coolest part of „our“ lava tunnel experience was that it was deserted, so no one else disturbed us (we got there at around 02:00 pm) and at the narrowest part we literally had to lie down and go one by one to pass that part. Daniel even had to pass our backpack and camera to me when I was through because the gap would only allow for one person at a time to climb or roll through.

We also enjoyed the ranch a lot. Compared to the Darwin Center it is awesome to see the tortoises as the wildlife animals they are, just doing what they are doing (which is always veeeery slow 🙂 ).

On the ride to the ranch we even passed two that were just walking down the road!

Unluckily for the bike riding part of the day trip, this is where it gets exhausting. The unpaved road, the two kilometers back up the hill, combined with what feels like 30 degrees Celsius (86 °F) was almost killing me. Make sure you take enough water, sunscreen and snacks to get through the day.

There’s always „almuerzo“ (lunch) at the ranch but I’m pretty sure they would have overcharged us – it’s quite obvious as there is no other opportunity around to get lunch elsewhere. Still, USD 12 for a lunch are not as bad as in Puerto Ayora.

You need to return to Santa Rosa then and follow the road straight ahead (not the road where you came from, you don’t want to go uphill again) for about eight kilometers. You can not exactly cool down here because there are still some climbs to get done, but once in Bellavista you have only five kilometers left to the port, and I promise this is downhill riding only, on a neat, well-paved bike lane.

Bellavista also had some restaurants and we even found empanadas (or „empatitas“ how Daniel called them once) to still our hunger. So if you want to get a reasonably-priced lunch this is your best shot I’d say.

When we returned to Puerto Ayora we returned the bikes and a well-deserved shower and more empanadas were already waiting for us.

At around 05:00 pm, they start a sort of pop-up market right in front of the hotel Brisas del Pacífico where we stayed at. It seems to be there daily until around 09:00 pm or 09:30 pm, and even the police stop by to get some window delivery to their cars by the ladies who are cooking. If you’re keen to get taste some of the original flavors of Ecuador, don’t miss that little market. Besides, we haven’t found a cheaper dinner – we were quite full after three of the fried sort-of-dumplings that are stuffed with meat, chicken, cheese or seafood, ranging between USD 1.00 and USD 1.50, each.

// bike rental: Calle Baltra 150, USD 20 per bike (this is the good ones – you get some older bikes in poorer condition for 15 bucks, but for unpaved parts of the road we definitely recommend big tires).


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2 responses to “Biking on Santa Cruz, Galápagos”

  1. Lynn Avatar

    Hi there!

    Thanks so much for sharing this – I’ve been looking at biking routes because my boyfriend and I are visiting but we are ultra runners and usually bike routes serve well for distance running. Do you happen to know if E5 is a runnable highway? It’s paved, but I’m not sure if there is a bike lane or some dirt on the side, or how busy it is. I would appreciate any advice you could give!

    1. Julia Avatar

      Hi Lynn, thank you so much for your interest in my blog. The route was definitely not busy, otherwise the giant tortoises wouldn’t have been so laid back, wandering right next to the road. As far as I can remember it’s gravel on the side but otherweise paved ok so we could bike there. It seemed suitable for running, as well, although I’m nowhere near ultra running 😀 Enjoy yourselves and safe travels!

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