South Plaza Island

South Plaza Island is a small island just to the east of the far larger Santa Cruz Island. Despite its tiny size, the island is famous for its flora, which at the right time of year turns South Plaza into one of the most colorful locations in the archipelago.

The island was formed from an uplifted seabed, creating a sloping sheet of land with beautiful views from the upper banks. Unlike its crescent-shaped twin, the nearby North Plaza Island, South Plaza is open to visitors.

Main Visitor Site

Due to its small size, South Plaza counts as its own visitor site. The island has a large colony of land iguanas and plenty of marine iguanas. If you’re lucky, you may even see a rare hybrid iguana as you walk along the trails. These hybrids are the result of intergeneric breeding between a male marine iguana and a female land iguana. They are only found on South Plaza, where the territories of the two species overlap.

Bird watching is another popular activity on the island. Red-billed tropicbirds and swallow-tailed gulls nest on the island. Other bird species include Audubon’s shearwaters (a tropical seabird in the petrel family), blue-footed boobies and frigates. The channel between North and South Plaza, meanwhile, is a prime spot for viewing sea lions and their pups.

And then there’s the island’s incredible flora. South Plaza is dotted with beautiful prickly pear cactus trees, but the plant that gives the island its uniquely colorful character is sesuvium, a genus of flowering succulent in the ice plant family. It changes from bright green in the rainy season to shades of red, orange and purple in the dry season, covering the island with a blanket of color depending on the time of year.

Trails run all around the island, so it’s easy to see all of the above. And South Plaza is just a short hop from Santa Cruz, the most popular tourist hub in the Galapagos.

Read more about South Plaza Island at Galapagos Conservancy.

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