Santa Cruz is the principal base for tourism operations around the Galápagos, and Puerto Ayora is the island's main city. In fact, Puerto Ayora is the largest settlement in the archipelago. If you're arriving on your own, this the best place to base yourself and organize your trip. Puerto Ayora is a bustling little port, with some 14,000 inhabitants. The Galápagos National Park headquarters is here, as is the Charles Darwin Research Station.

Just off the north coast of Santa Cruz lies the small but very crucial island of Baltra. It's home to both the busiest airport on the Galápagos and to the most important deepwater port, where cruise and cargo ships come to refuel, unload cargo, and pick up and discharge passengers. The only major paved road on the island, outside of the city streets, is the road that connects Puerto Ayora with the dock at the narrow Canal de Itabaca (Itabaca Canal), which separates Santa Cruz and Baltra islands.