The Highlands of Santa Cruz are very different from Puerto Ayaro at sea level. Lush all year long and potentially rainy in the dry season, be prepared for anything! We caught a sunny day. There is a standard route to go on the highlands from Los Gemelos to El Chato and Playa el Garrapatero. You can go with an organized tour or hail your on taxi for the day , no public transportation runs to these destinations. Just negotiate the price first, $80 is standard. It may seem like a lot but you have the service for the entire day, it is much cheaper than many of the day tours. Our driver hooked us up with fresh fruit, water bottles, and pastries from a bakery.
To end our day in the highlands we visited a blissfully remote beach called Playa el Garrapatero.
The trail to the beach is only a quarter of a mile long, paved, filled with birds, and beautiful endemic flora.
At the end of the line check in with the guard and consider renting a kayak. It was a little windy on the day we visited, so we decided against it. Plus, the three hours we decided to stay went extremely quick between exploring every inch of the beach area, lounging, and swimming. First we decided to check out the lagoon where the guard told us there might be a flamingo, no dice – but a good birding spot. Then we walked out to the right of the beach with its field of speckled lava rocks. The hues in this area were dream worthy.
They mini boulder field was a playground for an assortment of plovers.
Tide pools were a favorite of the white cheeked pintail duck and hunting grounds of great egret.
Once thoroughly explored, we made our way over to the left side of the beach. Here the lava rock all but took over, good shoes are best to walk around. A marine iguana blends in with the dark rock.
And stands out on the white sand.
It is so funny to watch them sneeze out the salt water, but so difficult to capture on camera as it happens in a split second! Climbing over the rock leads to secluded vistas.
Mangroves were exposed during the low tide, perfect for exploring the pools.
Sitting on a pahoehoe (smooth) patch of lava, we perched to have a snack. Over the span of 10 minutes we saw so much wildlife from birds, to crabs, to fish, and lizards. The Galapagos is incredible like that. A finch perched on a cactus.
Get up close and personal with the marine iguana in perfect lighting.
Sally lightfoot crabs are brilliant against the crystal clear water.
Another species of crab was not quite as skittish and held its ground.
I gave the right of way to that mean mug and found a different path. Climb up to the tallest point of the lava rock and get a great view of the entire beach scene.
Back resting on the beach there were two pelicans diving in tandem, something I’d never noticed before.
A day at this beach is tranquil and filled with wonderful natural sights.
Good to know:
If you would like to solely visit this beach, 30 minutes from Puerto Ayaro, a taxi should cost approximately $30. Negotiate your price first and tell your driver what time you would like him to meet you for pick up.