A marina anchors one end of the waterfront, and behind is a skateboard park with lots of small happy local kids playing. A beautifully- designed modern pier features shade and benches, and is a very pleasant place to pass some time looking down into the water. A few sea lions were napping on benches or on the deck like passed-out drunks, but even when awake the Galapagos variety is mostly silent and wholly non-aggressive, unlike their boisterous cousins you may have encountered at Pier 39 in San Francisco. Just watching from the dock we saw a swimming sea turtle, two different types of manta rays, lots of small black-tipped reef sharks and a few other types of fish all in the course of perhaps half an hour. Cafe Bahia Mar is a restaurant right on the water and we passed a relaxing hour over drinks that night. It’s a beautiful place, through why anyone would think that 80’s American hard rock was the right ambiance for an upscale restaurant by the sea will forever remain a mystery. (They did switch to mellower 70’s American music on request. Not my idea of perfect, but a definite improvement). You can get cash at several ATMs and for the most part this worked just fine. One small issue: pay attention to the “transaction limit”. Some ATM’s give you an option to withdraw $300, but have a transaction limit of $200, so they let you select this option but it does not work. No idea why they would do this, but you have been warned.

Santa Cruz

One of the first things we noticed after we walked the first block of the picturesque waterfront of Puerto Ayora on the island of Santa Cruz were the statues of sea lions lying on a public bench next to where the fishing boats come in. Except they weren’t statues, they were actual sea lions, napping after a meal of scraps from the small fish market. Black marine iguanas looking very much like tiny Godzillas were everywhere, in sizes from a couple of inches up to two feet. Pelicans and other sea birds completed the trinity of types of wildlife on display before we even left town. The fish market, as the boats bring in their catches in the mornings, was some of the best entertainment in town. The fresh fish looked amazing. We heard very good things about Midori, the best-known sushi restaurant in town, though we didn’t have a chance to eat there. The area is very touristy and you can expect souvenir and art shops and Americanized restaurants at gringo tourist prices. We had lunch at the Santa Cruz Brewery two stories up. The food was average (Jack Daniels ribs, calamari salad), the Sangria was better, and the gorgeous view of the waterfront and the ocean beyond was spectacular and more than made up for any shortcomings.

The waterfront is less than a mile long and we walked the whole thing a couple of times.

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