Tortoise Ranches, Lava Tunnels & Gemelos

On the day that we moved from Isabela to San Cristobal, we passed once more through Santa Cruz. With some time to kill between ferries, we hired a taxi and driver in Puerto Ayora ($35 for three hours), and headed off to see some of the sights of the island: Los Gemelos, the lava tunnels, and the tortoise ranches.


Lava Tunnels

Our first stop was the lava tunnels, underground passages formed when the lava on the surface cooled and hardened as the lava underneath continued to flow. Entry is free of charge, and visitors can walk through the tunnels (which involves crawling through one low gap). Not the most exciting thing to see on the islands, unless you have a particular interest in the volcanic activity that shaped the landscape.


Man in lava tunnels on Santa Cruz

Adam in the lava tunnels


Tortoise Ranches

There are two main ranches on Santa Cruz where visitors can walk among giant tortoises (though there are also a few private properties where visits can be arranged). We opted for Primicias ranch, where, for a $3 entrance fee, we were able to spend as long as we wanted strolling through the grounds and photographing these massive beasts.


Man and woman with giant tortoise on Primicias tortoise ranch

Meeting a giant tortoise on Primicias ranch


Los Gemelos


Los Gemelos (or “the twins”) are two volcanic craters that were once underground magma chambers. Most visitors include a trip to here on their taxi tour (though we decided to skip them).

The day trip was enjoyable enough, but if you’re really on a tight budget, it might be worth giving it a miss. You can see giant tortoises for free at the breeding centres on Santa Cruz, Isabela, and San Cristobal, and we also saw them roaming free on our trek to the Wall of Tears on Isabela.


Man and woman with tortoise shell at Primicias Tortoise Ranches

Primicias ranch

Looking for some free independent activities on Santa Cruz? Click here.

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