How to visit the Galapagos Islands on your own, without a cruise: best tours, beaches and places to see

Whenever we were asked about our favorite destination we never knew what to answer because they are all special in some way. It’s clearer to us now. It will be difficult to find something even better than the Galapagos Islands. The 15 days we spend there were full of constant amazement, of salty peace and of almost childish excitement.

We shared a beach with sea ​​lions, swam with penguins, walked with giant tortoises, strolled through flamingo lagoons, dived under lava tunnels among thousand-colored fish and stepped on an active volcano. These islands are an unique place in the world and we wanted to make the most of each day.

Let us tell you: fulfilling this dream without going bankrupt is not easy, so if you also want to explore the enchanted islands on your own in the cheapest way, this is your guide. You will find all the necessary information to prepare your trip to the Galapagos: what to do on each island, the best tours, how to get there and how to move between islands, where to sleep, how many days to spend, best time to go, etc.

Contents

Galapagos Islands: basic facts

The Galapagos Islands have been a protected National Park since 1959, with specific rules to abide by. For example, you cannot be closer than 2 meters from the animals. These are all the rules.
Number of islands: 18 main islands (those with more than 1 km2) and several islets. Of those, 3 are the most populated and where you can base yourself to explore the rest: Santa Cruz, San Cristóbal and Isabela.
Currency: Dollar (USD). Be careful, neither ATMs nor paying by card are common in Galapagos, so prepare to go carry lots of cash with you. More information in this section.
Daily budget: Expensive. It will depend on whether you travel on your own, on a cruise and also your style of travel: you can get a sense of how much it cost us and how much it can cost you here.
Climate: Pleasant all year round and quite unpredictable. More information about the best times to visit the Galapagos islands here.
Language: Spanish (the Galapagos belong to Ecuador).
Population: 25,000 people. The population is controlled and, as much as you fall in love with the islands, you will not be able to stay and live there, only if you are a descendant of a resident or if you marry someone from Galapagos
Time zone: Time zone in Galapagos is GMT-6
Tips: included in the bill (usually 10%) but optional (you can ask to have it removed, although it is normal to leave it)
Prepaid mobile internet price: $10 for 2GB with Claro. More information about how to get a local SIM card here

Una tortuga gigante paseando en libertad, Isabela

A giant turtle freely walking in Isabela island. “I’m 132 years old, but I look much more younger, right?”

Organizing a trip to Galapagos

Although you can visit the Galapagos without organizing much and deciding on the go (something that we love to do), we recommend you to organize the trip a little bit before buying your flights, since unless you have unlimited days and budget, you will have to make many decisions based on those factors in order to make the most of your trip.

The first thing is to find out, depending on the days you have, what things are you most interest in, both because of the probability of seeing different animal species and for the weather. With that information, you can choose which island would be the most interesting for you to use as a base, or perhaps, just like us, you have time to explore and use the 3 main ones as a base: San Cristóbal, Santa Cruz and Isabela.

From each island you will do different boat tours, as many of the impressive sites will be a short boat ride away, so it’s equally important to decide what tours you want to do. We collaborated with Chokotrip to do some of the tours. The owner, Christian, knows a lot about Galapagos. He tested himself and works directly with different tour operators, and you can book the tours online on his website. That way you won’t need to take so much cash to the islands (remember, there are few ATMs in Galapagos, no guarantee that they will work all the time and most of the operators charge big fees if you want to pay with credit/debit cards).

Following are some of the questions we asked ourselves when planning this trip, that will probably help you prepare yours too.

Lobo marino e Inês compartiendo siesta en banco en Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz

A sea lion and Inês taking a nap on a bench in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz

What is the best time to visit Galapagos?

We read it everywhere and can confirm it: there is no bad time to go to the Galapagos. Whatever the month, you will find wonderful fauna and flora and a rather unpredictable climate.

Anyway, there are 3 factors that can influence your decision:

  • High tourist seasons : prices rise, most famous tours sell out faster, there are more people. They concur with the typical holiday periods: Christmas (December and January), Easter, and summer (June to August)
  • Climate : There are two “seasons”, the hot and humid (from December to May), and the cold and dry (from June to December). Obviously the weather is unpredictable, this is only a general rule.
    • December to May : during this time, it is hotter, the sky is usually clear and there are usually sporadic heavy rains. (Although we went for 2 weeks in March and it didn’t rain for a single day!). The sea is calmer and the water temperature is ideal for diving (if you don’t like cold water like Inês, this is the best time hahaha).
    • June to December : during this time, it is cooler, there are usually clouds in the sky and it does not rain. The sea is rougher and the water temperature drops considerably (but many animals prefer cool water so you will probably also find more marine life)
  • Fauna and flora : depending on the above, the fauna and flora that you are going to find will vary depending on the month of the year, so if you have a particular interest in something, it is better to anticipate it to match the dates.

Conclusion: every month has its advantages and disadvantages in Galapagos, and there is no bad month to visit the islands. In our case, we traveled in March and we loved it (very hot to enjoy the beach and not a single rainy day in 2 weeks).

Un pelícano en la playa de Puerto Chino, San Cristóbal

A pelican in the beach of Puerto Chino, San Cristóbal

Do I need a visa to visit Galapagos / Ecuador

Most countries do not need to manage the visa in advance or pay anything, since they receive 90 days free when entering the country. That was our case, with Spanish (Chris) and Portuguese (Inês) passports. The passport must be valid for 6 months or more to enter Ecuador.

Ideally, you should check if you need a visa according to your country of origin at the competent authority. For example if you are from the US you can check it here (Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements section), and if you are from the UK you can check it here

Inês en el agua y una agua secándose al sol, en Playa Escondida (incluida en el tour Santa Fe, Santa Cruz)

Inês enjoying the water and an iguana sunbathing, in Playa Escondida (included in the Santa Fe tour from Santa Cruz). The iguana is thinking: “You can’t practice nudism without these humans looking at us!”

How to get to the Galapagos?

To get to the Galapagos, you must fly from Quito or Guayaquil (Ecuador). We read that flights tend to be cheaper from Guayaquil. So the first thing is to find a flight from where you live (or other options if you live in or near Ecuador) to Ecuador. We recommend that you use rate comparators such as Skyscanner or  Kiwi , which compare the prices of many companies and allow you to create alerts.

With airlines fly to Galapagos, and what are the airports in Galapagos? 

There are several airlines that fly to the Galapagos, from Quito and from Guayaquil : LAN, TAME , Avianca , Latam … The best way to find a cheap flight is to compare all the companies (as we said you can use Skyscanner or  Kiwi ) and if possible, have some flexibility with the dates (when we looked for flights there were differences of up to $300 from one day to the next!).

In the Galapagos Islands there are two main airports : Baltra (next to the island of Santa Cruz) and San Cristóbal. Another way to save money is to buy the outbound flight to one island and the return flight from another, since it is not necessarily more expensive and you save a boat trip between islands (which cost $30).

In our search, the cheapest flights were with Avianca:

  • Outbound: Guayaquil -> San Cristóbal
  • Return: Baltra (Santa Cruz) -> Guayaquil
  • Price: $ 557 / € 491 for 2 people

Ideally you should book the flights in advance, especially in high season (although we bought them with less than a month and we got a good price). We find the best price in Avianca but as we say, you should always compare. We heard that Tame is the worst company but we have no experience of our own.

We flew to San Cristóbal and returned from Santa Cruz, Baltra, and the flight costs us the minimum that you can supposedly find for foreigners: $ 279 (€ 245) due to our flexibility of dates, in March. In Latam and TAME the same flight on the same dates was $ 400 per person.

Isla Bartolomé, tour estrella desde Santa Cruz

Bartolomé Island, one of the best tours you can do from Santa Cruz

Precautions, prohibited items and specific controls before boarding the plane to Galapagos

To access the Galapagos National Park everything is quite controlled . There is a specific control at the airport before check-in and after passing the usual security controls . The “Agencia de Regulación y Control de la Bioseguridad y Cuarentena para Galápagos” will inspect your backpack / suitcase to verify that you do not carry prohibited items, that is, to verify that you are not going to introduce foreign items into a protected ecosystem (for example, they will check if sole of your shoes is clean and they remarked that we cannot carry any seeds in the backpack). You can check which items are prohibited in the list on the official website .

After inspecting, they will seal the backpack / suitcase that you will check in so that it can not be opened until you land on Galapagos. The handbags are not sealed. It is at this time that you will have to pay the first $ 20 for your TST (Transit Control Card) to enter the national park. Later you will have to pay more, when landing on the islands, you can read how much here

Before landing in the National Park, the aircraft cabin will be fumigated to remove any organisms that may be outside the scope of the pre-inspection.

Upon arrival, there are a series of protection and security measures that you will have to comply with, mentioned in this section .

Lobo marino en la playa la Lobería, en San Cristóbal

Sea Lion at Playa Lobería (Lobería beach), in San Cristóbal

What vaccinations are mandatory to travel to Galapagos?

There is no compulsory vaccination to travel to Galapagos, except for the yellow fever vaccine if you come from or are going to any of the following countries: Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda and Brazil. In any case, although it is not mandatory, it is recommended.

The best thing whenever you go to travel is that you go to the international vaccination center in your country, with enough time in advance to indicate what your trip to Ecuador and Galapagos will be like and tell you which vaccinations they recommend you.

La laguna de los flamencos, un imprescindible que hacer por libre (y gratis) en la isla Isabela

The flamingo lagoon, a essential place to visit for free (and on your own) on Isabela island

Do I need travel insurance to travel to Galapagos?

We always recommend traveling with travel insurance , to avoid having to pay out of your pocket hundreds or thousands of dollars in the unfortunate event that something happens to you. We always travel with IATI Seguros and we can recommend it, since with IATI you do not need pay anything (they are in charge of sending you to a hospital or medical center in which they have collaboration agreements ). For our #randomLatam trip we hired the IATI Estrella Premium, which is the one that offers the most coverage. If you hire your IATI insurance through this link you will have a 5% discount

Inês also has diving insurance . As we travel for several months each year, she hired the AxaSub one and she is very happy with it. If your trips are shorter, that is, if you only dive during your vacations once or several times a year, the ExtraSub is also a good option.

One thing that surprised us very positively is that in Ecuador the public health system will attend you for free even if you do not have travel insurance: we checked it ourselves in Galapagos, since Inês had visit a doctor after her first dive and it was completely free. Still, we also recommend that you hire travel insurance for other things that may happen to you (for example a robbery) or if you need anything specific that may be better in a private hospital.

Sentadxs en túneles de lava bajo la atenta mirada de un piquero de patas azules. Tour a los túneles de cabo Rosa, Isabela

Sitting in lava tunnels being watched by a blue-footed booby. Tour to Cabo Rosa tunnels, Isabela island

Entrance to the Galapagos National Park and Taxes

To enter the Galapagos National Park as a foreigner you must pay $ 100 of fees + $ 20 for the TCT (Transit Control Card)

You will pay the $ 20 / person for the TST at the post of the National Institute of the Galapagos at the airport of Guayaquil or Quito. Beware! You must keep the traffic control card until you leave Galapagos, do not lose it!

You will pay the $ 100 / person fee upon arrival at the Park, at the airport of San Cristóbal or Baltra (Santa Cruz) and you must pay it in cash, so don’t forget to bring enough cash from mainland.

Instead of that $ 100, the national citizens of Ecuador must pay $ 6 and the citizens of the Andean Community and Mercosur must pay $ 50.

In addition, to enter Isabela Island, an additional $ 10 “municipal tax” must be paid to enter the island. Why, if you already pay $ 100 to enter? Well we asked and nobody knew what to answer …

Carrera entre iguana y Chris en Isabela. Ganó la iguana por cierto...

Race between an iguana and Chris in Isabela. By the way, the iguana won… The bird-referee left no room for doubt

How many days should I stay in Galapagos?

Probably for being one of our favorite destinations in the world we would say that it pays off to go even for just a long weekend (a very expensive weekend, though). But being realistic, honest, aware of the ecological footprint of getting there and the luxury and privilege of being able to set foot on these protected islands, in our opinion you should spend at least one week in Galapagos. If you can stay longer, you will not regret it: the list of places and experiences in this paradise is endless, even without doing tours.

As one of the most expensive parts of the trip is the flight and the entrance / tax for foreigners (you will easily spend between 400 and 500 $ / person on those two), and the accommodation is not much more expensive than in the rest of Ecuador, it’s better to spend more days and, if you want to save some money, do some of the free or cheap activities that can be done without a tour on each of the islands.

Before going, we had defined that we would spend at least one week, and in the end we spent two weeks. 2 very complete weeks in which we did almost all the tours we wanted but, even so, it felt like not enough. We would love to have stayed a few more days in Isabela and San Cristobal, without tours.

As a curiosity, if you fall in love with the islands as much as we do and you want to stay living there, you cannot. To live in Galapagos you have to be a descendant of a resident or marry someone from Galapagos.

Felices en Cerro Brujo

Happy faces in Cerro Brujo with the León Dormido (Kicker Rock) in the background (San Cristóbal)

A cruise or a DIY/island hopping trip? Which one is better?

As in everything in this life, there are advantages and disadvantages in both modalities . We told you that we have never been seduced by cruises, so from the start this modality had fewer ballots, but here is a list of the pros and cons that we have been able to find out.

  • Galapagos on a Cruise
    • More expensive . From our research, the cheapest cruises usually cost about $ 1,000 / person for 4 days, up to $ 3000 or $ 4000 for better boats or more days. This price does not include flights or entrance and taxes for visiting the Galapagos. In theory you can get a cheaper price if you negotiate the cruise while already on the islands, contracts from Quito and Guayaquil are more expensive. You can book your 4-8 day cruise here or a cheaper last minute cruise here.
    • Everything is pre-defined and there is not room for improvisation (good or bad depending on what you want)
    • You don’t worry about anything, since everything is included : meals, room, tours …
    • Depending on the cruise, the duration and the route, you can visit sites that are only accessible by cruise.
  • Galapagos DIY (island hopping):
    • Cheaper (buying flights in advance, negotiating tours with various companies, choosing a hostel to stay, eating locally or cooking …)
    • You choose what to do, when, where and with whom : you choose the tours, the dates, the islands to be in, the time you want to dedicate to each place, the accommodation to stay based on your budget, etc.
    • More contact with local people . You will get to know Galapagos more closely, apart from their fauna and flora. How local people live, what foods are more typical there, understand how tourism affects them there and what impact it has …
    • There are things you can do for free (go to the beach to spend the day among sea lions and flamingos; explore the island by bike-almost free, etc, …)

Depending on your budget and travel style, one or the other modality will be more adjusted to your needs. If money is not a problem, you have saved for this unique experience and do not want to worry about anything, the cruise may be your option. If you are on a tighter budget or you just aren’t seduced by cruises and you like to travel more freely and with the proximity to local people, traveling to the Galapagos without a cruise will also see everything. This last option implies more prior and on-site research.

Un crucero galapagueño en el medio del mar

A cruise in the middle of the sea, San Cristóbal

You can also do a combination of both : travel to the Galapagos for free and take a cruise for a few days; But beware! sites that are accessible only for cruises are far and only the cruises of more days (and more expensive) go, so this option is not that recommended.

Which Galapagos island is the best to visit?

There are 3 main islands that you can explore on your own and from which the different tours depart: San Cristóbal, Santa Cruz and Isabela . Each one has its particularities and all of them are interesting. In our opinion, in Galapagos there is nothing “expendable”, you will have to define priorities …

  • San Cristóbal has an airport (a small one, 15-minute walk from Puerto Baquerizo, the main town) and has one of the most famous Galapagos tours: León Dormido (Kicker Rock). It was the first island we visited and it is where we would recommend you start. It’s the island of the sea lions (really, sea lions are everywhere in San Cristobal) and it’s much smaller, quieter and more authentic than Santa Cruz. In our opinion, it is the best appetizer for what you are going to experience later.
  • Santa Cruz is the most populated island, the one with more construction and the best located to visit the other islands (it is in the center). From this island you can do the tour to one of the most famous postcards of Galapagos: Bartolomé Island. It is the island that has more tourist facilities (accommodation, shops, restaurants) and it has the largest airport in the archipelago (in Baltra, an island that is right next to Santa Cruz). Having some of the most famous tours and many activities to do on your own, it can be a good option if you have few days to visit Galapagos
  • Isabela is the largest but the least populated island. It hides many gems around its 6 volcanoes, 5 of which are active. It’s our favourite island in Galapagos, especially for the island itself and the plans you can do on your own there. Although stepping on the active Sierra Negra volcano or swimming underneath the Cabo Rosa lava tunnels were two incredible tours. It is the least paved island, the calmest one and the one where you can enjoy incredible sunsets on the beach, next to your accommodation, accompanied by some “chifles” (banana fried chips).

Although we have our favorite one, there is no better island. Ideally, you’ll decide what tours/fauna/flora you are more interested in and, based on that, which island or islands are better for those tours. We have found this information scattered over the internet, so based on what we have learned and our own experience we have grouped it here for you.

In the itineraries section we have suggestions for different routes depending on the amount of days you have, and give you tricks to organize your trip to the Galapagos.

Playa del Amor en Isabela, la isla que se convirtió en nuestra preferida

Playa del Amor (Love beach) in Isabela, our favorite island

Things to do in Galapagos

Here is a summary of everything Galapagos has to offer, organized around its main 3 islands: San Cristóbal, Santa Cruz and Isabela . Get ready because it is full of surprises and in 2 weeks we did not have enough time (nor dollars) to see everything we wanted; so if you go few days, you will have to choose!

Galapagos Islands Map

Here is a map with all the interesting places in Galapagos that we talk about in this guide, on Google Maps so you can have it on your smartphone to check at any time (left: Isabela; Center: Santa Cruz; Right: San Cristóbal)

Here is an official map of the Galapagos Islands, you can download the map with bigger resolution here.

Galapagos Islands Map

Galapagos Islands Map

Where are the Galapagos Islands? What country are Galapagos Islands part of?

The Galapagos Islands are part of the country of Ecuador (in South America), and they are located off the coast of Ecuador (926km to the east), in the eastern Pacific Ocean.

Here you can easily locate the Galapagos islands on a map

Galapagos Islands location

A brief introduction to Galapagos

The first thing that came to our minds when hearing “Galapagos” is Charles Darwin and his Theory of the Evolution of Species, as it was precisely there that the naturalist arrived in 1835 on board of the HMS Beagle and began to write down his observations of these unique islands, that  would be reflected in the book that completely changed our knowledge of the natural world, “The Origin of Species” published in 1859. While in Galapagos, Darwin found that living beings are not stable, but  adapt to the changing conditions of their environment to ensure the survival of its species, revolutionizing the natural sciences with his theory of natural selection.

Una tortuga endémica, en la galapaguera de San Cristóbal

An endemic turtle, in the Galapaguera (San Cristóbal)

The Galapagos archipelago has been protected since 1959 , when the National Park was created, and the park was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1978. It has 18 main islands (with more than 1 km2) in addition to many small islets.

Galapagos Islands have a volcanic origin: in theory they appeared about 14 million years ago in the Pacific Ocean because at this “hot spot” , magma from within the earth gushes to the surface, forming volcanoes. For example, Isabela Island has 5 currently active volcanoes.

En el volcán Sierra Negra, uno de los cinco volcanes activos en Isabela

At Sierra Negra volcano, one of the five active volcanoes in Isabela

The islands move towards the South American continent about 4 cm a year. This means that the oldest islands are on the right side (on the east) and the newer ones on the left side (on the west). In other words, the “hot spot” that “ejects islands” is fixed and the islands move to the right. Nowadays the most recent island is just above the hot spot: Fernandina Island.

Galapagos Islands were originally inhospitable masses of volcanic lava. In theory, there were several factors that led to the explosion of biodiversity on the islands. Mountains are said to have interacted with the atmosphere, forming rains that eroded and generated soil. The winds and the birds brought seeds and spores here. In addition, the islands are located right in the middle of a fast cold water ocean current (more than 1 meter per second at 100 meters depth) called Humboldt, which comes from Antarctica towards the north; when the current collides with the islands it pushes up the colder water full of nutrients ( more information here ). These are the main reasons that make Galapagos Islands one of the most biodiverse places in the planet.

En isla Bartolomé, de las más emblemáticas y que representa todas las islas Galápagos

On Bartolomé Island, one of the most emblematic islands of Galapagos and a place where you can learn how all the Galapagos Islands were formed (tour from Santa Cruz)

Our days in Galapagos were ones of constant learning, as if we were living inside a documentary. We became aware of how the magma hot spot in the center of the earth is spitting out new islands every millions of years, while the species adapt to changing conditions and change themselves. Will sea lions improve their leg-fins in the future to be better crossing roads while still being excellent swimmers?

Un lobo marino cruzando la única carretera asfaltada de Isabela

A sea lion crossing the only paved road in Isabela, thinking: “If they called it ‘Sea Lion crossing’ I would use it, but ‘Zebra crossing’? No way!”

During our time in the Galapagos, we shared our days almost “live” using the Stories of our Instagram account (by the way, are you already following us?). If you visit here you can see the stories we made as an introduction to the islands.

Things to do in San Cristóbal

San Cristóbal was the first island we visited in Galapagos. For this reason, it has a special place in our memory. We picked up our backpacks at the only arrival belt of the small airport, sealed the transit card that promised us giant tortoises, and walked to the center of Puerto Baquerizo (less than 15 min away). The hot temperature made the asphalt ripple on the horizon and we no longer knew if what we were seeing was real or an animal mirage. As we got closer we checked something we had read so much about: sea ​​lions everywhere. Sleeping in the shade of a tree, stretching in the middle of the road between bikes and the some cars, crossing a zebra crossing. We walked a bit more and there were dozens wandering on the beach at sunset. Pelicans fishing, an iguana on top of a rock watching everything quietly and a pair of blue-footed boobies witnessing the scene. Welcome to Galapagos!

En las islas Galápagos estarás en asombro constante. Estas fueron nuestras caras al llegar.

In Galapagos you will be in constant awe. These were our faces upon arrival.

San Cristóbal is indeed the island of sea lions. They are like the dogs of the island, but instead of barking, you hear grunts. And a pretty strong smell. Even the most famous tour of the island (and one of the most famous one in Galapagos) uses his name: León Dormido (Kicker Rock) . For these reasons and for being smaller, more authentic and less populated than Santa Cruz, we thing it’s the best island to start your adventure in Galapagos .

Things to do in San Cristóbal on your own (free or very cheap plans)

Playa Oro (Gold Beach)

The beach that is right at the beginning of the boardwalk was the one that gave us the best first memory in Galapagos, with dozens of sea lions at sunset

Come to Playa Oro at sunset and enjoy the show: the silhouettes of the sea lions will move among the orange lights of the sunset while some of they play, the babies are breastfed, sleep or bathe in the sand.

Playa Oro al atardecer

Playa Oro during sunset

By the way, unfortunately Galapagos sea lions are in danger due to oil spills and deep-sea fishing. Although we saw many babies when we went, biologists believe that in 50 years this species may be found only in San Cristóbal and in less quantity …

Playa Oro en San Cristóbal

Playa Oro in San Cristóbal

Playa Mann (Mann Beach)

The best beach near Puerto Baquerizo where there is also kind of food court: three beach bars where you can eat or have a drink. It is usually more crowded than the other points of the island precisely because of the proximity to the population but it is perfect for ending a day where you can contemplate the sunset or a dip among the young sea lions, as we did in that March afternoon.

Playa Mann, en San Cristóbal

Playa Mann in San Cristóbal

Playa Lobería (Lobería Beach)

As the name suggests, it is a beach where sea ​​lions will accompany you, both roasting in the sun and playing in the water. It is also iguana territory, we saw a few of them. You can walk (approximately 20 minutes from Puerto Baquerizo, with no shade) or by taxi. Taxi takes about 5 minutes and costs around $ 3. You can also negotiate with the taxi to bring you back to town at a certain time, paying around $ 10 round trip.

Dos lobas marinas en la Lobería

Two sea lions in Lobería

At the beginning of the trail to get to Playa Lobería there is a kiosk that sells empanadas, water (a large bottle costs $ 2.75) and rents snorkel equipment for $ 5 / day. In Galapagos it is always a good idea to carry snorkel equipment with you, you never know when the see can surprise you. In this same kiosk you can request a taxi to go back if it is open.

Iguana en la Lobería

Iguana in Lobería

Cerro Tijeretas and Punta Carola

Another plan to do in San Cristóbal is a 2-hour walk that begins at the Interpretation Center, passing through Cerro Tijeretas (and Tijeretas viewpoint) and ending in Punta Carola.

Empezando el camino hacia Cerro Tijeretas

Starting the trail to Cerro Tijeretas

We have been told that the Interpretation Center is very interesting, it explains the origin of the islands very well, but we ended up not visiting it. Of course, we loved the trail to the Tijeretas viewpoint, which was named for the amount of “tijeretas” (Frigatebirds) that you can see here. It will take you about 20 minutes through well-indicated trail and in very good condition, among trees, cacti, birds and some spiders (beware of the spider webs on the trail) until you reach the viewpoint and the snorkel area. There is no place there to rent snorkel equipment so you should bring your own or rent it in Puerto Ayora.

Sendero hacia Cerro Tijeretas

Trail to Cerro Tijeretas

Snorkel en Cerro Tijeretas

Snorkel in Cerro Tijeretas

On the way back we stopped at Punta Carola beach , a beautiful rocky beach with a lot of sand, few people and, of course!, various sea lions.

El faro de Punta Carola

The Punta Carola lighthouse

Malecon of Puerto Baquerizo

The main road of the only town of San Cristóbal is where you can find a large part of the shops, tour agencies, diving centers, some bars where you can enjoy an “Endemic” craft beer and, of course, lots of sea lions.

Lobo marino a la sombra, en el malecón de Puerto Baquerizo

Sea lion enjoying the shade, on the pier of Puerto Baquerizo

To find the authenticity that Puerto Baquerizo maintains, away from tourists, all you have to do is to detour in one of the streets perpendicular to the boardwalk.

Best day tours from San Cristóbal

Kicker Rock Tour (León Dormido)

The most famous tour from San Cristóbal and, in our opinion, a must-do is the Tour to the Kicker Rock (in spanish, “León Dormido”) . This was the only boat tour we did from San Cristóbal. It is a highly demanded tour and it usually solds out, so we recommend that you book it in advance (we booked it with Chokotrip )

Las imponentes rocas del León Dormido

The imposing rocks of León Dornido

We swim in the middle of the two imposing volcanic ash rocks whose silhouette reminds us of a sleeping sea lion (“León Dormido”) in the middle of the sea. It is one of the most emblematic places in the Galapagos and these rock formations reach 148 meters high, so imagine looking up from the sea, it’s impressive! The water around the rocks is home to numerous species of fish, sea turtles, rays and hammerhead sharks, so the practice of snorkeling or diving here is amazing (we tell you more about it in the Diving section). We can assure you that we saw all these species underwater. It is also a refuge for many seabirds such as blue-footed boobies, as well as for sea lions.

Additionally, you will have some time to enjoy a beach that, in our opinion, is one of the most beautiful beaches that we visited not in Galapagos, but in the World: Cerro Brujo Beach, with fine white sand, a sea with different shades of blue and the kicker rock in the background. There is also the possibility that the day you go this stop will be at other beaches, equally paradisiacal, such as Playa Manglecito or Playa Puerto Grande (we did not visit those). Find out which beach you will visit when booking your tour or ask before.

La playa de Cerro Brujo fue, indudablemente, de las más bellas que hemos estado en nuestras vidas. ¿Ves las rocas del León Dormido al fondo?

Cerro Brujo beach was undoubtedly one of the most beautiful beaches we have ever been in our lives. Do you see the kicker rock in the background?

We chose this tour and not the 360 tour (which also includes Leon Dormido) because in the 360 tour you spend a lot of time on the boat and less time in each place. Appart from that, we were given the possibility of going on the same boat for performing different activities: Inês wanted to dive and Chris wanted to do snorkeling. It was here that Inês saw her first hammerhead shark! Incredible!

Tour duration: from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Snorkeling price: $ 124 / person

Dive price: $ 180 / person.

Included: Snorkeling equipment (masks and fins), short wetsuit, life jacket, transport by boat, towel, lunch, guide (certified by the Galapagos National Park) who speaks Spanish and English.

Book the tour to Kicker Rock with Chokotrip

Tour 360º

If you want to do a little of everything, this is your tour. With the 360º tour, as the name suggests, you will make a complete round of San Cristóbal Island and visit Rosa Blanca (a small bay with several beaches whose main attraction is the dunes contrasting with its crystalline waters where you can swim with various species of sharks, rays and sea ​​turtles), Sardina Bay (two beautiful beaches with a lot of marine fauna), Punta Pitt (we’ll tell you about this place in the specific tour later), Cerro Brujo beach and the famous León Dormido .

Tour duration: from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Price: $ 166 / person.

Included: Snorkeling equipment (masks and fins), short wetsuit, life jacket, transport by boat, towel, lunch, guide (certified by the Galapagos National Park) who speaks Spanish and English.

Book the tour 360º with Chokotrip

Tour to Española Island

This is the only island in the entire Galapagos islands where you can see albatrosses, so if observing this species in its habitat is one of your reasons for visiting the enchanted islands, don’t miss this tour, especially between April and December. If you are not such a fan of albatrosses, keep in mind that this is one of the most expensive tours from San Cristóbal.

Apart from watching the albatrosses, you will take a walk of a couple of hours around Española island with incredible views where you will see lava iguanas, marine iguanas, sea lions, nasca boobies and blue-footed boobies. After that you will have time to rest, bath in the sea and good snorkel on the Gardner islet.

Tour duration: from 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Price: $ 219 / person.

Included: Snorkeling equipment (masks and fins), short wetsuit, life jacket, transport by boat, towel, lunch, snack, guide (certified by the Galapagos National Park) who speaks Spanish and English.

Book the tour to Española island with Chokotrip

Una iguana marina nadando

A marine iguana swimming

Punta Pitt Tour

Punta Pitt will offer you something similar to Bartolomé Island (we will tell you about it later on the list of tours from Santa Cruz), a 1-hour walk with landscapes from another planet where you will greet blue-footed and red-footed boobies. And, of course, snorkelling in the Pitt Islet among fish, sea lions, sea turtles and corals.

Tour duration: from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Price: $ 176 / person.

Included: Snorkeling equipment (masks and fins), short wetsuit, life jacket, transport by boat, towel, lunch, snack, guide (certified by the Galapagos National Park) who speaks Spanish and English.

Book the tour to Punta Pitt with Chokotrip

Isla Bartolomé, donde fuimos desde Santa Cruz

Bartolomé Island, a famous tour from Santa Cruz

You also have the possibility of going to the Natural Galapaguera of the island, being this variation of the tour more expensive and the trekking harder with a duration of 3 hours (instead of 1 hour). You will also end up snorkeling but before that you will have seen how the giant tortoises have survived in their habitat.

Tour duration: from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Price: $ 198 / person.

Included: Snorkeling equipment (masks and fins), short wetsuit, life jacket, transport by boat, towel, lunch, snack, guide (certified by the Galapagos National Park) who speaks Spanish and English.

Book the tour to Punta Pitt + Galapaguera with Chokotrip 

Tortugas gigantes en Galápagos

Galapagos giant tortoises

Tour to Isla Lobos

The island of Lobos is just 25 minutes by boat from Puerto Baquerizo, so if you want to be very close to blue-legged calves, frigatebirds and sea lions in their natural habitat on a half-day tour, this is your choice.

Tour duration: from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. or from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Price: $ 105 / person.

Included: Snorkeling equipment (masks and fins), short wetsuit, life jacket, transport by boat, towel, lunch, snack, guide (certified by the Galapagos National Park) who speaks Spanish and English.

Book the tour to Isla Lobos with Chokotrip

Tour by taxi to the highlands

To get to know the highlands of the island of San Cristóbal, you will need a car. There are taxis in town that do this tour, so you should stop any of them and negotiate the tour. There are 4 stops (it takes half a day / about 4 hours, depending on the time you are in each place): Laguna del Junco, Galapaguera, Puerto Chino Beach and the Tree House.

To do this tour, the while taxi will cost you around $ 60, so ideally you should be 4 people to share the taxi. If you are 2 people like us, you can find partners at your accommodation or at the tourism office. Right there, near the San Cristóbal tourism office is where you can catch taxis and negotiate.

Tour duration: 4 hours, leaving any time you want.

Price: 60 $ in total to be splitted among maximum 4 people

Included: Taxi and its driver stopping in 4 places; Lunch and any equipment are not included.

Following, the places where you will stop

Laguna del junco (THE JUNCO LAGOON)

After climbing for about 10 minutes, you will contemplate the views of this impressive volcanic freshwater lagoon, responsible for supplying drinking water to the entire island.

Subiendo a la laguna del Junco

Walking up to the Junco lagoon

La impresionante Laguna del Junco

The impressive Laguna del Junco

When we arrived a few frigatebirds were flying over the lagoon. The males of the magnificent frigatebirds can be identified by their pink gular pouch, which turns red and gets inflated in periods of reproduction.

Galapagos frigatefird. Photo AussieActive

If it is cloudy when you arrive (something normal), ask the taxi driver to leave it for the return trip. We did it that way and, at that time, we enjoyed it alone and with sunny weather.

Vistas al bajar de la laguna

Views going down from the lagoon

GALAPAGUERA OF CERRO COLORADO

The second stop will be Galapaguera where you can see giant tortoises in the wild and also see a few tiny ones in the hatchery (in the Jacinto Gordillo breeding laboratory). The San Cristóbal giant tortoise is endemic , that is, you can only find it in freedom here, and it is in danger of extinction. The hatchery is made to preserve the species and improve the land turtle population on the island: when they lay eggs, they are immediately collected for artificial incubation. The little turtles that are born are cared for in captivity until they are 5 years old, at which time they are repatriated to their natural habitat. The scientific community still does not know 100% how long these turtles live but they say that more than 100 years for sure.

Tortugas gigantes de Galápagos en la Galapaguera de San Cristóbal

Galapagos giant tortoises in the Galapaguera of San Cristóbal

Remember to always respect the rules of the park, the distance of the animals and just observe, do not touch!

PUERTO CHINO BEACH

One of the best beaches for surfing in San Cristobal, hopefully you will meet some turtle and some sea lions while swimming. We were so amazed by the beauty of this beach that we asked the driver to spend more time here and avoid the last stop (La casa del árbol), where you can apparently, eat local food from Galapagos. We decided to enjoy more the beautiful Playa Puerto Chino accompanied by a few pelicans and boobies. In the afternoon, after the tour, we went to Lobería beach. We asked the taxi driver, Ángel, to drop us off at the beach, and so he did (very nice of him)

La impresionante playa de Puerto Chino

The impressive beach of Puerto Chino

This beach (Puerto Chino) earned the second place on the best San Cristóbal beaches (we enjoyed the first one on the tour to León Dormido, Cerro Brujo beach).

Disfrutando en soledad de playa de Puerto Chino

Enjoying the solitude of Puerto Chino beach

Where to stay in San Cristóbal

We wanted our accommodation to be in Puerto Baquerizo, with a kitchen to save some money, and we found it on Airbnb. If it is your first time you use Airbnb, save € 25 with this link.

Another aspect that we look at when looking for accommodation specifically in the Galapagos is that it includes free filtered water, since in the islands tap water is not drinkable for any type of consumption. Do not be surprised if the Galapagos accommodations seem expensive to you compared to the quality and the prices of the rest of Ecuador; they are. What you have to keep in mind is that you are inside a Natural Park and just being here is already a privilege, so it’s normal that accommodation is a bit more expensive.

Our apartment ($ 32 / night) was very simple but comfortable. The room was spacious, the air conditioning worked perfectly, the hot water was excellent and the kitchen is shared although in our case there was never anyone using it except us. The arrival process was smooth and, very important, included free cold filtered water. The location is near the stadium, about 10 min walk from the center of the town.

There are several options to stay in San Cristóbal, from the most high-end to the cheapest. While we were there we noted down some options that seemed great to us as an alternative to ours, for other types of budgets.

If you are looking for something dreamy, the Galapagos Sunset Hotel ($ 190 / night) was one of the best looking places, both for the location (right in the center, one step away from the port to go on tours and next to the beach for relax) as for the views from the room. The breakfasts, by the photos, also look really nice:

Habitación del Galapagos Sunset Hotel. Foto de Booking

Room at the Galapagos Sunset Hotel . Photo Booking

Another similar option can be found in this room with a terrace facing Mann Beach ($ 192 / night) you can greet the sea lions as soon as they wake up:

Terraza de la habitación de Casa Playa Mann. Foto de Booking

Terrace of the Casa Playa Mann room . Photo Booking

Or this other option, much cheaper but with nice views also, Dolphin House ($ 50 / night):

La puesta de sol desde Dolphin House. Foto de Booking.

The sunset from Dolphin House . Photo Booking .

If none of these options convince you, here you can check more options:

Find your accommodation in San Cristóbal

Where to eat in San Cristóbal

We cooked most of our dinners at home. However, for lunch we took sandwiches or ate out and one night we treated ourselves with a dinner out. This is what we tried and can recommend.

In the central market of San Cristobal we ate the day we went to the highlands of the island by taxi. Upon returning from the tour, we asked our driver to stop in the central market to order a packed lunch. There are several stalls with local food, and a typical lunch costs $ 4.

We had dinner at Giuseppe’s one night. It is known for its pastas, pizzas, and burgers. We chose a carbonara and a tuna burger, and two ice teas to drink, and paid $ 30.

In Playa Mann there are a couple of beach bars with “almuerzo del día” (meal of the day) for $ 5 (soup, main course and juice), only main course and juice costs $ 4. They have very tasty juices for $ 3 each.

Almuerzo del día en el chiringuito de Plata Mann: pescado, arroz y plátano frito (4$)

“Almuerzo del día” in the beach bar of Playa Mann: fish, rice and fried banana ($ 4)

If you want to have a beer, you can buy them cold at the malecon shops for $ 1.75 and enjoy it wherever you want. In any of the bars it will cost you $3 or $4. Craft beer from Galapagos (La Endemica) costs the same at the bar and in the store.

¡A la rica cerveza Endémica!

Endémica, Galapagos craft beer

We also had a coffee at Fresco Café  ($ 2.5 for an espresso).

How to go to San Cristóbal airport 

The airport is a 15-minute walk from the only town on the island, Puerto Baquerizo. When we arrived by plane, we decided to just walk to the town with our backpacks. If you prefer not to walk you can go by taxi , it will cost you approximately 1.5 $. Taxis are waiting outside the airport, at the only exit, on the only street you will see.

The airport is very small, there are no multiple departures or several baggage claim tapes so you can’t get lost

Letrero de San Cristóbal en Puerto Baquerizo

San Cristóbal sign in Puerto Baquerizo

Map with places to see in San Cristóbal

This Google Maps map has all the places of San Cristóbal mentioned in this guide si you can take it with you on your smartphone:

Instagram Stories of San Cristóbal

If you are curious, you can see a briefing of what we did in San Cristóbal, entering here .

Things to do in Santa Cruz

The most paved and populated island in the Galapagos is by far the most touristy without losing its essence from Galapagos, especially if we move away from Charles Darwin Avenue. It is the most visited island, the one where most nationals arrive to and the best one in terms of location to know the other islands. It is Santa Cruz that more tours depart from, and also the one that offers many plans to do on your own and for free. If you have few days to visit the National Park, this is great option.

Un skate park decorado con una obra del artista ecuatoriano más conocido, Guayasamín. En Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz

A skate park decorated with a work by the best-known Ecuadorian artist, Guayasamín. In Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz

Things to do in Santa Cruz on your own (free or very cheap plans)

Bahía Tortuga (Tortuga bay)

The beautiful beach of Bahía Tortuga can be reached walking from the center of Puerto Ayora in about 30 minutes. Half an hour to go and another half an hour to return. If you prefer, you can go by boat for $ 20 / person (round trip) from Puerto Ayora or walk and return by boat for $ 10 / person.

In Tortuga Bay there are no services, so bring water and something to eat. It is a very beautiful walk (you will have to write down your name when accessing the trail, and again when you return) where the birds sing and some iguanas greet you. Of course, there are no shadows so don’t forget a hat and sunscreen. When you start to sweat a lot, you’ll see that the turquoise blue in the background will present itself to you as the “light at the end of the tunnel.”

Camino a Tortuga bay

Trail to Tortuga bay

Upon arrival we find a beautiful beach where bathing is not allowed, Playa Brava. If you surf, this is a nice place but for swimming you have to continue walking to Playa Mansa . We arrived at Playa Mansa, a white sand beach with a calm turquoise sea, perfect for kayaking (you can rent a kayak for $ 10) or snorkel (don’t forget to bring your own snorkeling gear or renting it in Puerto Ayora). Several iguanas accompanied us on the beach and when Inês approached the mangrove she saw a few small sharks, as the roots of the mangroves are full of nutrients and this is where some animals are concentrated. You may also see turtles.

Playa Brava. Aguantamos las ganas de chapuzón un poco más, aquí no nos podemos bañar

Playa Brava. We hold our desire to swim, as you cannot do it in Playa Brava

Playa Mansa. ¡Al agua!

Hi Playa Mansa. Now we can swim!

Laguna de las Ninfas (Nymphs Lagoon)

When returning from Tortuga Bay you can enter the world of mangroves around the Laguna de las Ninfas and enjoy the peace and the soundtrack of the little birds. The walkway that you will walk to reach the lagoon says it: «Listen to the silence».

The mangroves are a very important element in the ecosystem of marine life of Santa Cruz and one of the most characteristic images of the landscape of Galapagos. This estuary (which apparently is formed by the daily encounter of the salty sea water that rises and the fresh water of the cracks that falls) has a unique ecosystem and, being so close to Puerto Ayora, is worth a visit. Of course, as much as you feel like swimming, bathing is not allowed . You can stroll around the lagoon, it will take about 20 minutes, and learn through the many panels with curiosities about mangroves. The lagoon closes at 6pm.

Laguna de las ninfas, Santa Cruz

Laguna de las ninfas, Santa Cruz

Las Grietas

Another plan in Santa Cruz is to take your snorkeling gear and go swimming and snorkeling between volcanic rocks in Las Grietas.

To get there you must first take a short boat trip ($ 0.80 per person each way) from Puerto Ayora, the journey takes 3 minutes (you just have to go to the pier and ask the people there you for “Las Grietas”). After the boat trip, you’ll have a 20-minute walk between incredible inhospitable landscapes and huge cacti. There is only one place to buy water on the way. If you want to swim before arriving at Las Grietas, you can do it at the Playa de los Alemanes, a beautiful little beach among mangroves with crystal clear water. Along the way you will also pass by some natural salt flats created by the sea water.

Entre cactus de camino a las grietas

Inês between cacti, on the way to Las Grietas

Playa de los Alemanes

Playa de los Alemanes

When you get to Las Grietas you will understand why it is an essential thing to do on your own in Santa Cruz. This impressive geological formation has been formed by a fault that allows fresh water and salt water to mix, forming this curious place . The salinity of the water depends on the tide and the rains of the previous days.

There is not a lot of marine fauna (we have not seen much beyond some colorful fish), but the place stands out for the impressive color of the water and the incredible visibility. It is amazing to be swimming in the middle of the giant walls of these rock formations and look at them from below … and also appreciate them from above, on the Bay Trail!

Las Grietas, desde arriba

Las Grietas, from above

Remember to take your snorkel gear! If you do not have it, you can rent it from the diving companies that you will see in Puerto Ayora

Las Grietas, desde abajo

Las Grietas, from below

Getting to the Bay trail is very easy, just follow the short path that is indicated at the exit of Las Grietas.

Vistas desde el mirador del sendero de la bahía

A viewpoint on the bay trail

The best time to go to Las Grietas is when the sun is very high and right above them, at noon. The problem is that everyone wants to go at that times so there is a crowd of lots of people at the entrance. The trick: go swimming until the end so your fin doesn’t touch anyone.

Darwin Research Station (don’t go for visiting the turtles) and La Ratonera Beach

If they have told you about being able to see the turtles at the Charles Darwin Research Station on the island, we can tell you that we did not go and we recommend you not to go. One of the authorized guides of the Galapagos National Park that we met in one of the previous days told us that they keep the turtles in captivity and it is more like a circus, something that contradicts what is promoted in the Park: sustainable and responsible tourism, respectful of all its inhabitants, people and animals.

As you know, in our blog we advocate for traveling responsibly and denouncing any activity that involves animal abuse, so if you want to know more about the history of the famous Galapagos tortoises, their discovery and evolution, you can do it in El Chato (more about it below in this same post) but not here where they keep turtles in captivity.

We do recommend that you visit the rest of the Darwin Research Station, where you can learn about the formation of the islands as well as the species that inhabit it.

On the other hand, there is a small path at the end of the Charles Darwin Station that leads to a beach called La Ratonera. If the iguanas let you pass (Chris tried to go the day that Inês went to dive to Gordons Rock and he couldn’t pass because lots of Iguanas were blocking the trail), it’s a nice beach.

Un iguana descansando

An iguana resting

Malecon of Puerto Ayora

It is the most bustling area of ​​Puerto Ayora, where you can contemplate the daily life of the local people and the busy fishermen working on the quay, bringing fresh fish for the market. You will see many pelicans and fewer sea lions than in San Cristóbal but in the port there are always some others resting in the sun … or in the shade.

In the port, at sunset, come closer and look down: you will see a lot of white tip sharks in the sea at their dinner time. Galapagos never ceases to amaze you, even in their urban centers.

Best day tours from Santa Cruz

Bartolomé Island Tour

This is the tour where you can please yourself with the famous Galapagos postcard, with its two beaches and the famous pinnacle, that you will see in many places promoting the archipelago:

La famosa postal de las islas galápagos en Bartolomé.

The famous postcard of the Galapagos Islands in Bartolomé.

The Bartolome Island is one of the youngest islands in Galapagos. Its name comes from Darwin’s naturalist and friend, David Bartolomew, who was the lieutenant on board the HMS Beagle, the ship on which the famous expedition was made, from which the notes that preceded the book “The Origin of Species” come from. It is an extinct volcano and such an emblematic place because it represents what all the Galapagos islands were many years ago: the origin is volcanic, with few species that are capable of surviving in these types of conditions, especially with the lack of water.

During the visit to the island (which, like most, can only be visited on a tour, and this one is also one of the most expensive day tours) the authorized guide from the park makes a detailed explanation of the geological origin of the islands that we have already explainerd you in the introduction of this post. Do you remember the hot spot that is expelling islands which then move to the right?

The incredible landscapes of Bartolome are enough to make you feel that the tour is totally worth it. They say this landscapes are among the most beautiful ones in Galapagos and we agree.

Bartolomé esconde de los paisajes más bellos de las Galápagos

Bartolomé has some of the most beautiful landscapes of Galapagos

After learning a lot, climbing a few steps, enjoying amazing views, seeing boobies, frigatebirds and even two sea turtles copulating (it’s a bit violent!) we went to the water to do snorkeling and something incredible happened: we saw our first Galapagos penguins! Initially they were so calm sunbathing on top of a rock and suddenly they plunged into the water without caring that we were there. It is because moments like these that Galapagos won the first place in our traveling hearts.

Snorkel en Bartolomé

Snorkel in Bartolomé

¡Nuestros primeros pingüinos, en isla Bartolomé!

Our first penguins, on Bartolomé Island! They are both there, on top of the rock. Can you spot them?

Although this is one of the most expensive day tours in Galapagos, it usually runs out, so we advise you to book in advance . It is also one of the tours where you spend most of the time on the boat due to the distance from Santa Cruz (2h30 one way and 2h30 return), and you have to add 30-45min more as the boats do not depart from Puerto Ayora but from the Itabaca Canal. The good thing is that during the boat trip you will appreciate the landscape and the fauna. We saw lots of endemic birds, turtles, and even two manta rays jumping!

En el yate de regreso, felices después de un día tan lleno y tan intenso.

On the return yacht, happy after such a busy and intense day.

Tour duration: from 6:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. or from 07:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Price: $ 230 / person (can be something more or something less, depending on the boat).

Included: Ground transportation (45 minutes to the Itabaca channel), snorkeling equipment (masks and fins), life jacket, transport by boat, towel, food on board, water, snack, guide (certified by the Galapagos National Park) who speaks Spanish and English.

Book the Bartolome Island tour with Chokotrip

Santa Fe Island Tour

This tour includes snorkeling in the bay (without landing on the island) and ends at Playa Escondida (Hidden Beach), a beautiful beach where you can observe small baby Galapagos sharks and also colonies of marine iguanas.

Playa escondida, donde acabamos el tour de Santa Fé

Playa escondida, the place where the Santa Fe Island tour ends.

Los manglares son el principal pilar del ecosistema de la vida marina de Santa Cruz y de las Galápagos.

Mangroves are a very important part of the Santa Cruz and Galapagos marine life ecosystem.

We made two snorkel stops in Santa Fe, and one of them became one of our best memories of Galapagos: we swam with four very playful sea lions! It’s amazing how they approach you to show you their best underwater tricks. They are totally harmless and very curious animals so if it happens to you do not panic and enjoy the moment!

Also, at the end of the snorkel, before getting on the boat, a huge bank of sardines appeared below us and it was quite a sight to see the sea lions among the bank of sardines, and even a booby going down from the sky, diving to get his food of the day! Really, these days around the enchanted islands seemed like we were in a National Geographic documentary.

As it is best to see it, in this video you will see our underwater “dance” with the sea lions and the bank of sardines.

Tour duration: from 7:00 to 16:00.

Price: $ 124 / person.

Included: Snorkeling equipment (masks and fins), life jacket, transport by boat, towel, lunch, snack, water, guide (certified by the Galapagos National Park) who speaks Spanish and English.

Book the Santa Fé Tour with Chokotrip

Pinzón Island Tour

We were initially going to do this tour but couldn’t in the end, hope we can visit the islands again and go to Pinzon next time. On this tour there is a high probability of swimming with penguins! Especially if you go in the cold water season. At the first stop, Bahía Pingüino, you can swim with the funny Galapagos penguins, with turtles and Galapagos sharks. Of course, here you can also swim with sea lions.

After that, the tour continues to “La Roca” (The Rock), a 20-meter stone in the middle of the sea where you can see blue-footed boobies! It ends at a beach: either Playa La Fe or Playa Las Palmitas where you can relax and swim with sea turtles.

Tour duration: from 8:00 to 15:00.

Price: $ 135 / person.

Included: Snorkeling equipment (masks and fins), life jacket, transport by boat, towel, lunch, snack, water, guide (certified by the Galapagos National Park) who speaks Spanish and English.

Book the Pinzon Tour with Chokotripa

Pingüinos galapagueños

Galapagos penguins: «Yes, we wear tuxedos all the time, we are that elegant… yes, in the water too. So what?”

North Seymour Island Tour

This is a tour for someone who loves to walk through the wild nature of Galapagos. First, before reaching Seymour Norte, you will stop at a beach called Las Bachas to walk to a lagoon where, hopefully, you will see flamingos. Afterwards, you will snorkel on that same beach where you will swim with sea turtles. Depending on the boat, instead of the Bachas you may go snorkelling in the Mosquera islet, an equally amazing point for snorkeling.

When you get to Seymour, you will walk for 1h30 between frigatebirds (those birds with puffy red chests), blue-footed boobies and iguanas.

Like the Bartolomé Island tour, the Seymour Island tour is one of the most expensive tours. You will have to go first by land transport to the Itabaca channel and then enter the boat. In addition, it must be booked in advance since this tour usually runs out.

Tour duration: from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. or from 07:50 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Price: $ 220 / person (can be something more or something less, depending on the boat).

Included: Ground transportation (45 minutes to the Itabaca channel), snorkeling equipment (masks and fins), life jacket, transport by boat, towel, lunch, snack, water, guide (certified by the Galapagos National Park) who speaks Spanish and English.

Book the Seymour Tour with Chokotrip

Una fragata sobrevolando

A frigatebird

Floreana Island Tour

The ideal tour for people who is passionate about History since the main attractions of the island are historical. In the “Asilo de la Paz” you will see the pirates’ cave and a fresh water fountain. Both are located at the base of the hill 450 meters high in the agricultural area of ​​the island.

Here you will also learn about the first families that arrived and settled in Galapagos and the history of the “Baronesa”, a woman with two lovers who is said to have pretended to be the owner of Floreana.

Afterwards, you will walk for almost 1 km to “La Loberia” to see, as the name indicates, sea lions (lobos marinos) and also marine iguanas. The tour ends at Playa Negra where you can relax and practice snorkelling.

Tour duration: from 7:00 to 16:00.

Price: $ 160 / person.

Included: Snorkeling equipment (masks and fins), life jacket, transport by boat, towel, lunch, snack, water, guide (certified by the Galapagos National Park) who speaks Spanish and English.

Book the Floreana Tour with Chokotrip

Paisaje galapagueño desde el barco

Galapagos landscape, views from the boat

Plazas Sur Tour

On this tour, after sailing for an hour you will walk in loop trail through inhospitable landscapes (no shadow, take lots of water with you) where you will meet swallow-tailed gulls, land iguanas, hybrid iguanas (if you are lucky) and, of course, some sea lion colonies.

Just as to get to Bartolomé Island and Seymour Island, to get to the Plazas Sur dock you must first go by ground transportation to the Itabaca channel and then enter the boat, making this tour one of the longest and more expensive.

Tour duration: from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. or from 07:50 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Price: $ 215 / person.

Included: Ground transportation (45 minutes to the Itabaca channel), snorkeling equipment (masks and fins), life jacket, transport by boat, towel, lunch, snack, water, guide (certified by the Galapagos National Park) who speaks Spanish and English.

Book the Plazas Sur Tour with Chokotrip

Sombrero Chino Island Tour

Of the most exclusive Galapagos tours. Only two boats are authorized to go to Sombrero Chino island, so it is recommended to book this tour in advance, such as to go to Bartolomé and Seymour.

After 2 hours sailing, the first stop will make you believe that you are in the Caribbean, swimming between turquoise waters in a beach of fine white sand. Afterwards, you will walk towards the great volcanic cone that is located in the center of the island and that gives its name: they say that it looks like a Chinese hat. To rest from the walk, you will snorkel among tropical fish, marine iguanas feeding on coral, turtles and hopefully, even penguins on the “costa de James”

You will soon arrive at Sullivan Bay for another hike, a shorter one, above the Pahoe Hoe solidified lava among the beautiful cacti. More snorkeling around the bay to finish. Undoubtedly this is one of the tours we have written on our bucket list when we return to the paradise of the enchanted islands.

Depending on the day of departure (confirm in advance if you prefer this option), this tour is also combined with Bartolomé Island. First you visit Bartolomé Island and snorkel there and then continue to Sombrero Chino Island to hike.

To get to Sombrero Chino Island, as for Bartolomé Island (they are not very far from each other) you also have to go to the Itabaca channel to hop on the boat.

Tour duration: from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Price: $ 265 / person.

Included: Ground transportation (45 minutes to the Itabaca channel), snorkeling equipment (masks and fins), life jacket, transport by boat, towel, lunch, snack, water, guide (certified by the Galapagos National Park) who speaks Spanish and English.

Book the Sombrero Chino tour with Chokotrip

Cangrejos galapagueños

Galapagos crabs

Tour to Islote Loberia and Playa de los Perros

One of the cheapest tours in Santa Cruz is the one known as “tour de la Bahía” (the Bay tour). Pass through the so-called Lobería islet (it is named after the sea lion colony that lives out there) where you can snorkel. Then you will stop at Punta Estada, a gulf of turquoise waters where you will do one more snorkeling session and you will be able to spot some boobies and frigatebirds. They will also take you to the so-called “shark channel” where you can observe sharks and, from the viewpoint, contemplate the view of the highlands of Santa Cruz. After a 10 minute walk you will arrive to Los Perros beach where you will see a large colony of Galapagos marine iguanas. Finally, the tour will end in one of the most emblematic places of Santa Cruz that, as we mentioned before, you can also visit for free, Las Grietas .

Tour duration: from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. approx. or from 14:00 to 17:00 approx.

Price: $ 45.

Included: Snorkeling equipment (masks and fins). This tour is sold by most agencies and operators on the main avenue, Avenida Charles Darwin in Puerto Ayora.

Tour by taxi to the highlands of Santa Cruz

As on the island of San Cristóbal, to get to know the highlands of Santa Cruz, it is best to negotiate with a taxi that will take you to the authorized stops. The taxi ride will depart approximately for about $ 50 / total and you can negotiate with the taxi how long to be in each place. We did not get to go (because we went to the galapaguera of San Cristóbal and lava tunnels in Isabela and decided to prioritize other plans) but here is what we have researched about the places that you will visit in this tour:

– Los Gemelos: You will visit two impressive solidified lava formations, hollowed by the sinking of the earth. You will also see some endemic birds.

– Lava tunnels: You will be able to visit two tunnels formed by the solidified lava with a flashlight.

– Galapaguera El Chato: You will meet the biggest and oldest turtles in all the Galapagos. Here you will have to pay $ 5 to enter. In this Galapaguera, the turtles are free and their natural processes are not interfered with to avoid modifying their behavior as much as possible. What is controlled, as we explain in the Cerro Colorado Galapaguera, is the protection of the eggs against predators to ensure the continuity of the species.

Where to stay in Santa Cruz

As we mentioned before, taking into account that in Galapagos tap water is not drinkable and in supermarkets water bottles are expensive (approximately $ 2.50 for 2l), something we looked at is that the accommodation include free filtered water. Also, in the case of Santa Cruz, we wanted to stay close to the Puerto Ayora pier because of the tour boats, we didn’t know if we were going to do 2 or 3 tours (we finally did two: Bartolomé and Santa Fé). The prices seemed higher to us comparing to the peninsula (and even to San Cristóbal) but, we cannot forget, we are inside a protected natural park.

The apartment we stayed in the first few days was Galapagos Coral ($ 62 / night). It was spacious, clean, new, comfortable and the kitchen was fully equipped, with a large bottle of drinking water included. Perfect hot water shower. It was quiet at night, perfect for resting after intense days in Galapagos. The location is not bad: it is about a 10-15 minute walk from the port, and next to the accommodation, on the main street, there are many options to eat cheap food and / or buy groceries to cook in the apartment. The managers were super attentive at all times and the process of entering the apartment was quick and easy.

Nuestro alojamiento en Santa Cruz: Galápagos Coral. Foto de Booking

Our accommodation in Santa Cruz: Galapagos Coral. Photo Booking

Upon returning from Isabela, we stayed at Hostal Tintorera ($ 50 / night), cheaper than the first apartment but also not that new. It has suites and apartments with kitchen. If you stay longer you can try to negotiate the price in person. We eventually stayed in an apartment for the price of a double room with bathroom. It is about 15 minutes walking from downtown but includes shared bikes (not always available)

Cocina del apartamento en el Hostal Tintorera, con agua filtrada incluida. Foto de Booking.

Kitchen of the apartment in Hostal Tintorera, with filtered water included. Photo Booking .

If you are looking for something fancier, the La Isla boutique hotel ($ 179) has it all: it is new, the views boast its comfort and it is right in the center of Puerto Ayora.

Habitación del Hotel Boutique La Isla. Foto de Booking

Room of the Hotel Boutique La Isla. Photo: Booking

If you want something cooler but less expensive, don’t worry. Santa Cruz is the island with the biggest amount of options for accommodation so there is something for all budgets. See more accommodations in Santa Cruz here:

Find your perfect accommodation in Santa Cruz

Where to eat in Santa Cruz

Our favorite plan when we returned from the tours was to go to the municipal market, around 6pm, and buy a freshly made empanada (for $ 1) : they are delicious.

For dinner, the best option is to go to Charles Binford Street, known as Kiosko Street. From 6:30 p.m. they close the entire street to traffic, they fill it with the tables and chairs of the restaurants, with  fresh fish and seafood (watch out for what you ask for because not everything is local). Lobster and prawn alternate (some months the gorverment allow fishermen to catch one of them, and the rest of months the other. Prawns for two with rice, fries and salad costed us $ 25, and a big beer $ 5.

La calle Charles Binford de Puerto Ayora, conocida como la calle Kiosko repleta de mesas para cenar pescado y marisco fresco

Charles Binford Street in Puerto Ayora, known as Kiosko Street full of tables for dining fresh fish and seafood

If you miss something more touristy, Charles Darwin Street is your place. There we tried “Darwin’s Wharf (a large sandwich to share and two ice teas for $ 16) and the “Tropic Bird” (lunch of the day $ 5, $ 3 if you ask for only main course and juice). You should also try the delicious craft beers on a place facing the sea on the same avenue, Santa Cruz Brewery ($ 5 for half a pint).

How to get to the Seymour (Baltra) airport of Santa Cruz and vice versa

The Santa Cruz airport is not on the island of Santa Cruz but on a small island next to it, the island of Baltra. To get to Baltra airport from Puerto Ayora (or vice versa) it will take approximately 1h15 in three different transports:

  1. The first thing is to go from Puerto Ayora to Puerto de Santa Cruz. To get to the Puerto de Santa Cruz, the cheapest way is to go on the local bus ($ 5 / person) but before you will have to go to the bus terminal, walking or by taxi. We prefer to take a taxi directly to the Port of Santa Cruz: we have the contact of the shared taxi that we used that costed $ 8.75 / person: +593 98 807 0487 . This journey took approximately 40 minutes. Both the bus and the taxi will drop you off at the Itabaca channel.
  2. Once in the Itabaca channel, you will catch sea ​​taxi ($ 1 / person) to the Port of Baltra. It’s a big boat. The journey takes approximately 5 minutes, you just have to wait for the boat to fill up.
  3. Finally, on the other side of the canal you have to ride a bus that takes you to the airport for $ 5 / person. They themselves move the suitcases from the ship to the bus and it takes approximately 5 minutes to reach the airport.

In total the journey with the 3 transports was 1h15m and 8.75 + 1 + 5 = $ 14.65 / person.

If you land at the Baltra airport and want to go to Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz) you will have to do the same route with the 3 transports but in reverse. It is easier to share a taxi with other people since you will go all together on the bus, although if you want you can contact the number that we shared ( +593 98 807 0487 ) to have it already waiting.

Map with places to see in Santa Cruz

Here you have the Google Maps map with all the places to visit in Santa Cruz included in the guide, so you can take it with you on your smartphone:

Instagram stories of Santa Cruz

If you are curious, you can see a briefing of what we did in Santa Cruz, entering here in our Instagram Stories.

Things to do in Isabela

The largest island in Galapagos (but one of the least populated and the least touristy of the 3 main ones) beacame our favorite island and was the island that we liked the most to explore on our own. Isabela welcomed us with penguins in the water in the middle of the port and a lot of sea lions, just when arrived in the boat from Santa Cruz. We crossed paths with more animals than humans, we pedaled among giant tortoises and we walked barefoot through sandy streets until we spotted flamingos. We have only seen one paved street on the entire island, the main street, since the others are made of dirt or sand. The days in Isabela were, therefore, days of living barefoot, of buying empanadas, chifles and a couple of beers and saying goodbye to the sun every day, on the beach next to our temporary home.

Lobo marino en un banco de Isabela

Sea lion on a bench in Isabela

Inês payaseando (es decir, haciendo el payaso) en la única carretera asfaltada de Isabela

Inês in the only paved road in Isabela

Things to do in Isabela on your own (free or very cheap plans)

Puerto Villamil’s main beach

Idyllic beach. In our opinion, it is the best beach of Galapagos you can reach on your own, without a tour. This beach offered us races in the sand with marine iguanas and tropical birds, swimming in crystal clear water and incredible sunsets. We had the ritual of buying some chifles (fried banana chips) or empanadas from Don Pipo, a couple of beers and enjoying the sunset on the beach.

Esta playaca la teníamos a 5 minutos caminando del alojamiento.

We had this beach 5 minutes walking from our accommodation.

Los atardeceres en Isabela, con chifles y cerveza, un ritual que cumplimos a rajatabla todos los días en la isla

The sunsets in Isabela, with chifles and beer, a ritual that we strictly followed every day on the island

Concha Perla

Another free plan to do in Isabela is to walk with your snorkel gear to Concha de Perla (less than 10 minutes from downtown), a lagoon next to the pier where there is a lot of biodiversity! Here you can see, apart from a beautiful coral bottom, different tropical fish, turtles, marine iguanas, and even some penguins! .

It is an ideal place for snorkeling because it has no waves or currents, it is sheltered, and the water is completely crystal clear.

Of course, iguanas and sea lions usually rest in the wooden passageway to get there … If there is an animal rush hour, wait a little and they will surely let you pass. The Concha Perla lagoon closes at 6pm.

Una iguana marina en Concha Perla

A marine iguana in Concha Perla

If you do not have snorkeling equipment, you can rent it in Puerto Villamil (ask in dive shops to compare prices, although it usually costs $ 5 for the whole day)

Laguna de los Flamencos (Flamingos Lagoon)

This lagoon is an oasis of peace within the oasis of peace that is Isabela. To get there you must follow the path after the Iguana Crossing hotel, and when you see many iguanas roasting in the sun and a lagoon of reddish waters, you have arrived. Upon entering you will be able to appreciate the silence interrupted only by the wings of a flamingo or by the endemic birds that you can see around there. As an image is worth a thousand words, here we show you what you can see in this lagoon.

By the way, did you know that flamingos are born white but acquire their pink color due to the food they eat? If you see an adult flamingo white or very light pink, it is probably undernourished.

If you follow the wooden passageway of the lagoon you will reach the Galapagos Tortoise Conservation Center, although we did not go because we arrived at sunset and it had already closed (closes at 5pm). In any case, as we researched, it seems that the same thing happens as in the Charles Darwin Research Station in Santa Cruz: the turtles there are in captivity, which collides with sustainable and responsible tourism in Galapagos, respectful with people and animals. If you want to see turtles in the wild, we recommend that you do it on the way to the Wall of Tears, in the next section

Route to the Wall of Tears

The ideal way to do the route from Puerto Villamil to the Wall of Tears is renting a bike, although you can also do it on foot. You can rent the bike at Galapagos Bike & Surf  ($ 4 / hour) or per day ($ 20 / day), which is where we rented it.

The tour begins at the end of Isabela beach and continues until you reach the Wall of Tears. It is 5km one way and 5km back that seem like more because of the burning sun. The entrance to the wall closes at 5:00 pm, so there is no way to go avoiding the sun. There are several detours during the path, so the time it takes will depend on how many stops you do and how long you spend on each one. There are the stops me made:

– Playa del Amor (Love beach): the name is because iguanas nest here. We liked it so much that we stayed a good time there, resting and enjoying the water.

– Estero Tunnel: a jungle mangrove tunnel (there are up to 4 types of mangrove) where the waves of the sea arrive

– La playita: where there is also a huge community of iguanas

Iguana Marina en plan "¿Qué? ?También venís a pegaros un bañito?"

A marine Iguana: “Whats up! You also want to swim a bit?”

– The path of the turtles: We passed by some turtles walking or with the bike

– Cerro Orchilla viewpoint : it is totally worth climbing the steps to enjoy the views of the island, they are impressive. From this viewpoint you can see Puerto Villamil, and, in the background, Isla Tortuga.

Finally we arrived to the end of the tour, the so-called “Wall of Tears“. We intuited by his name that it would be something sad but it was not until we arrived that we understood what it was about. In this place, between 1946 and 1959, the Penal Colony of Isabela (a prison) functioned since at that time the island was a destination of exile to punish dissidents, political prisoners and criminals.

This wall of volcanic stones is the only evidence that remains, remembering the hard past of the island and the center that ended with the lives of many prisoners. The purpose of this construction is to keep the memory alive of the suffering and of those who died here due to forced labor and abuse of power. This was the only sad place we encountered in our 2 weeks in Galapagos.

Main square

Where the island vibe can be felt since it is where people gather at night. There are several restaurants, shops, and kiosks where you can buy an ice cream, beer, or empanada and enjoy it with the locals.

Best day tours from Isabela

Cabo Rosa Tunnels Tour

Did you know that Isabela has 6 volcanoes of which 5 are active? It was precisely one of the active volcanoes of Isabela, the Sierra Negra (which we visited the next day) that created, with the help of the sea, the incredible scenery you visit on the most-selled tour of Isabela: the Cabo Rosa lava tunnels.

Apparently, when volcano lava flows, upon contact with air, it solidifies outside while the lava continues to flow within them, creating tunnels . Over time, the roofs of those tunnels collapsed, creating these incredible formations where you can get lost in and out of the water.

Una tortuga nadando entre los túneles de lava de cabo rosa

A turtle swimming among the cabo rosa lava tunnels

The Nazca boobies, blue-footed boobies, pelicans on the surface and turtles, red sharks, rays, penguins, tropical fish and seahorses in the water live here. By the way, we saw all these species but the biggest achievement was that here we saw our first seahorse! We have never seen any and, as a curiosity, if you look at Isabela Island on the map, it seems to have the silhouette of one.

¡Pingüinos!

Penguins!

¡La primera vez que vimos un caballito de mar!

The first time we saw a sea horse!

To finish with more surprises, a lot of golden manta rays appeared on the return trip. Incredible!

Here is a video-summary of the tour-star of Isabela, where at the end the golden manta rays are seen closer, under the sea:

Tour duration: from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. or from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Price: $ 125 / person.

Includes : Snorkeling equipment (masks and fins), life jacket, water transport, towel, water, boxlunch, Galapagos National Park certified guide who speaks Spanish and English.

Book the Cabo Rosa Tunnels Tour with Chokotrip

Sierra Negra Volcano Tour

The most impressive thing about this tour is the panoramic view of the crater of the active volcano and the landscapes you go through as you enter the volcano inside the crater, which seem from other planet .

Here we think about the volatility of life. Millions of years ago this land we walked on was the sea and the animals we knew were different. Millions of years from now this land will be greener, more fertile and life (probably different) will abound on it. If we let it.

The level of difficulty, of this walk is medium. There are not a lot of up and downs but the terrain is slippery and unstable in one section and the pace is high, you don’t stop much. The walk per ser is 16 km (8km one way and 8km back) that lasts approximately 5 hours. Very important, do not forget to wear adequate closed shoes (sports or trekking shoes) and take lots of water with you (2 liters / person minimum).

As a curiosity, this volcano erupts every 15 years (on average) and had its last eruption in June 2018. The eruptions of younger volcanoes, like this one, are milder and usually they are not a danger to the local population, such as a volcano on the continent like Cotopaxi, which usually have stronger eruptions. In fact, the eruption of 2018 was an unforeseen “extra” in the cruises that passed through here since nature allowed them to safely enjoy the view of the orange lava in the night.

Tour duration: from 7:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. or from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Price: $ 45 / person.

Included: Water transport, lunchbox and a guide (certified by the Galapagos National Park) who speaks Spanish and English.

Book the Sierra Negra Volcano tour with Chokotrip

Tintoreras Islet Tour

Another plan to do in Isabela is to go to the Tintoreras islet, which you can do by boat or by kayak. The tour departs from the beach next to the port towards the islet. We decided to go with the kayak option and think it’s the best option. Why? Keep reading.

When we got to the kayak that we had been assigned on the beach, we had a passenger who wanted to come with us. Although he finally let us use the kayak and decided to go for a swim

"¿Puedo ir en el kayak contigo? ¿Puedo ir en el kayak contigo? ¿Puedo ir en el kayak contigo? ¡Porfa Porfa Porfa!"

Can I go kayaking with you? Can I go kayaking with you? Can I go kayaking with you? Please, please, please! »

¡Allá vamos!

Here we go!

Seeing penguins from the kayak was one of the most incredible experiences in Isabela

Beyond snorkelling (where we saw 4 turtles, some “tintorera sharks” and a marine iguana eating a piece of coral) the best thing happened in the end. It was starting to get dark and suddenly we saw our kayak surrounded by pelicans and penguins among that orange color of the sunset, it was an unforgettable moment!

Tour duration: 2.5 hours.

Price: $ 45.

Included: Kayak, vest, snorkeling equipment (masks and fins), certified guide. This tour is sold in most agencies and operators of Puerto Villamil.

Book the Kayaking Tintoreras Tour wih Chokotrip, or the normal tour here

Isla Tortuga (Turtle Island) Tour

They also told us about a tour from Isabela to an island nearby (you can see it clearly from the Cerro Orchilla viewpoint) called Isla Tortuga. They said there it’s great for snorkeling and seeing hammerhead sharks!

Unfortunately, it seems to be a tour that not a lot of people want to do, so it is not easy to find agencies that sell it, unless a large enough group of people is formed (or the few people who want to go pay for the total of the boat ).

Check with Chokotrip the  availability of the Isla Tortuga Tour here

Where to stay in Isabela

Once again we stayed in an accommodation where it was possible to refill our water bottles for free with filtered water.

We stayed in a double room with a private bathroom in a family hostel: Hostal Villamil ($ 48 / night). In Isabela everything is really close, the center of the island is very small, so the important thing is to stay on a quiet street where there is no noise at night and that was our case. The couple from Galapagos who run the hostel are charming and will help you with everything you need. The bed was comfortable and the how water worked perfectly. It did not include breakfast nor had a kitchen.

Hostal Villamil, nuestro alojamiento en Isabela

Hostal Villamil, our accommodation in Isabela

Another option at a similar price ($ 55 / night) is Hospedaje Mother Fanny, right in the center and very close to the beach.

There was a place that made us think “someday we’ll stay here” when we passed besides it. It’s called Iguana Crossing Boutique Hotel ($ 204 / night) and it’s on the beachfront, in front of the beautiful Isabela beach. You can enjoy the sunset from your balcony or from the hotel pool. If your room does not face the beach, you will wake up with flamingos since from the back of the hotel you can see the flamingo lagoon. Furthermore, the hotel is called «Iguana Crossing» precisely because it is located next to a very busy iguana crossing.

El increíble Iguana Crossing. Foto de Booking

The incredible Iguana Crossing. Photo: Booking

El "iguana crossing", cruce de iguanas. Literal. ¡Ojo que a veces es hora punta!

The “iguana crossing”, literally. Beware of them at rush hour!

More options where to stay in Isabela here:

Find your perfect accommodation for Isabela here

Where to eat in Isabela

Before sunset, “Empanadas Don Pipo” is a mandatory stop: freshly made empanadas (from 3pm to 7pm), for $ 1. We normally bought the beers in a store or mini-market for $ 2. Having a beer with a view of the sea in a bar, is prohibitive: the same beer costs $ 7.

For breakfast we went to a bakery ( see map ) and bought delicious banana bread and cheese bread, all for $ 0.50 / $ 1. They don’t have coffee. Next to this bakery there was a local kiosk with “almuerzo del día” for $ 4.

Another option for breakfast is the Sun & Coffee: here they did have continental breakfast with coffee and toast. Of course, it’s more focused on tourists and also more expensive: full breakfasts start at $ 7.

In the main square of Puerto Villamil, where people gather in the evening, there are restaurants with a night menu for $ 8 full or $ 6 just a main course, juice and dessert.

How to get to Isabela, Puerto Villamil

Isabela is the only island of the three main ones that does not have an airport with flights to/from Quito or Guayaquil, so the only way to get there is by “fiber” (boat) from Santa Cruz (or by plane from Santa Cruz or San Cristobal). The journey takes around 2h and when you get to Puerto Villamil,  it takes 5 minutes walk on the only paved road to the to the center of the town.

When you arrive to Isabela, you will have to pay a $10 tourist tax.

Muelle de Isabela

Isabela’s pier

Map with places to see in Isabela

Here we leave you a Google Maps map with all the places we recommend visiting Isabela in this guide, so you can take it with you on your smartphone:

Isabela Instagram stories

If you want to see the compilation of the stories we shared on our instagram account, from our visit to Isabela Island, enter here .

Where to dive in Galapagos?

The Galapagos Islands are a true underwater paradise and that is why it is considered one of the best diving places in the World. The convergence of various marine currents (such as the cold Humboldt and Cromwell currents and the warm Panama current) loaded with nutrients, attract a lot of marine life and make each dive is a real show.

Inês preparándose para bajar, en las increíbles aguas cerca de Cerro Brujo (tour de buceo al León Dormido)

Inês preparing to go down, in the incredible waters near Cerro Brujo (León Dormido diving tour)

Factors to consider for diving in Galapagos

As with the tours, there are many places to dive in Galapagos  and some are among the best in the world. It is very important to note:

  • Choose the season: between January and May better visibility and higher water temperature (between 22º-27º) and between July and December less visibility and a cooler water temperature (between 18º-22º) but greater contribution of plankton and nutrients and greater amount of pelagic life (greater chance of seeing whale sharks on the distant islands of Wolf and Darwin).
  • Choose a dive site according to your diving capabilities: some of the sites are suitable only for divers with advanced experience or a minimum of 25 dives. Confirm before booking
  • Choose a reliable dive center. The guide must be accredited by the Galapagos National Park and have an international divemaster license. The boat must have trained staff. The equipment must be in perfect condition. Don’t forget that together with your dive buddy , the team is your best friend there under the sea, so you have to check that everything is perfect. Regulators must be clean and 100% working; wetsuits must not have too many holes… (you will try them on the center the day before the dive); vests must close tightly; bottles will need to be up-to-date: check the date of the last review.)
  • Be clear how much budget you want to spend diving. If diving is already expensive in general, in Galapagos it’s even more … Of course, remember that you will be diving in a very special natural park.
Un día de buceo es un día feliz

A diving day is a happy day

Types of diving tours

On the other hand, depending on the flexibility you want on your Galapagos days (with more or less diving), you can choose:

  • Daily diving tour, as Inês has done. Taking into account that we wanted to enjoy the Galapagos Islands with their endemic species without a cruise and do tours that were not only diving (Chris does not dive), Inês chose the dives she wanted to do, the center where they did them and those days she went to dive on a daily diving tour (incluing food, snack, towel and water). Price: starting at $ 150 for a double dive, depending on the dive site and the season (in high season it can cost much more).
  • Dive package with accommodation. A package that includes an average of 2 dives per day and comfortable accommodation on the islands. Price: starting at $ 1000 (5 days 4 nights) with accommodation.
  • Navigable Diving Tour, also known as liveaboard . A diving cruise with an average of 4 daily dives. In addition, you will do dives in places where you can only reach with a liveaboard . Price: between 600 to 700 $ / day. These tours normally last 7/8 days, so do your math …
  • Mix: A few days on a liveaboard and other days on your own on the islands. This would be the option that would make Inês very happy but it takes many days and, above all, a lot of budget. Taking into account that there are dive sites that you can only visit on a liveaboard, what’s better than doing a little of both? There is also another possible mix that would be to do some daily diving tours inside an expedition cruise.

Best dive spots in Galapagos

As mentioned, there are many places where it is possible to dive in the Galapagos, so here we include only the most outstanding ones:

Gordon Rocks (from Santa Cruz)

One of those that is always on the lists of the best places to dive is the famous “Gordon Rocks“, in Santa Cruz, colloquially known as the “washing machine” for the amount of marine life that swirls around the pinnacles of this old volcano crater. Hammerhead sharks, Galapagos sharks, eagle rays, manta rays or turtles are just some of the species that abound here and that Inês has seen. Of course, this “washing machine” has strong currents so Gordon Rocks is not suitable for beginners. Recommended for advanced divers with a minimum of 25 dives.

Inês took a daily diving tour at the Scuba Iguana center and he really liked it.

Pintada de Gordon Rocks en el escaparate de un centro de Puerto Ayora

Gordon Rocks graffiti in the window of a dive center in Puerto Ayora

Leon Dormido – Kicker Rock (from San Cristóbal)

Another famous Galapagos diving spot where you can dive without much experience is the León Dormido (Kicker Rock), in San Cristóbal. Between the two rocks, approximately 148 m high, an exceptional channel is formed to observe sharks (Galapagos and hammerheads), sea turtles, eagle rays and looots of tropical fish. Inês dived with Planet Ocean which she really liked, and heard good things also about Blue Evolution .

Mural del increíble mundo submarino del León Dormido en Puerto Baquerizo

Mural of the amazing underwater world of Leon Dormido in Puerto Baquerizo (San Cristóbal)

Nos sentimos increíblemente pequeñxs al lado del imponente León Dormido

We felt incredibly small next to the imposing Kicker Rock

Mosquera (from Santa Cruz)

Incredible coral colors, many sea lions, turtles, whitetip sharks and, hopefully, even tiger sharks can be seen around here. It is usually done combined with Gordon Rocks: Inês did it like this with Scuba Iguana.

Darwin and Wolf (only in a liveaboard diving tour)

These two islets are two dive sites that always appear in the best diving sites in the world lists. They are located 40 km northwest of the main islands and are only accessible on a multi-day liveaboard of more than $ 4,000. Of course, they say you will see more hammerhead sharks than in your entire life and, with luck, even whale sharks and killer whales!

Others

Other notable places are Cousins ​​Rock and Cape Marshall (also only accessible on liveaboard ) or North Seymour (with options for all types of divers, including beginners).

Sea Lion underwater. Photo Rod Long

What are the best Galapagos islands tours?

This, as always, is subjective and will depend on your preferences. In case it helps you, the most popular tours on each island are the following:

Galapagos travel itineraries

As Galapagos are such amazing islands and with so many things to see, it is impossible to cover everything on just one visit to the Park, so we leave some suggestions, recommendations and itinerary examples depending on the amount of days you are visiting and your budget.

How to organize your Galapagos travel itinerary

Here are some tips to put together your itinerary:

  • As you can see, the options are endless with lots of places to visit: choose the places that you are interested in the most and plan well to try to minimize moving from one island to another .
  • Choose the places you are most interested in knowing and check if the dates you are going to travel are a good time for each of the destinations. Please note that some tours cannot be done every day of the week.
  • Check if there is any special holiday in the places you are going to visit on the dates you are going to travel, as this may affect schedules, transport, prices, number of people, etc.
  • Book the accommodations, trips and tours that you already have clear in advance, especially if you are going to visit tourist places in high season.
  • Take a good look at the travel possibilities to make a realistic itinerary. If possible, leave room so that if a trip fails you do not spoil the entire itinerary (also to relax and enjoy the islands “doing nothing” as well).
"¡Relax!", consejo de un lobo muy relajado que no quieres verte yendo de un sitio para otro sin disfrutar de la isla

“Relax!”, Advice from a very relaxed sea lion who doesn’t want to see you going from one place to another without enjoying each island

How to organize the days and tours

After spending a good time organizing our 2 week trip, flooding Christian de Chokotrip with doubts who had infinite patience and gave us many useful information, we believe that the easiest way to organize the days and tours / activities in Galapagos is the next:

1. Create a list of the plans that you want to do in each island you are going to visit and classify them as “half day” or “full day”. Here you have all the plans included in this guide, classified:

Things to do in San Cristóbal

  • Half-day:
    • Highlands taxi tour
    • Lobería Beach
    • Malecon and Playa Oro
    • Mann Beach, Cerro Tijeretas and Punta Carola
    • León Dormido (Kicker Rock) Tour
    • Isla Lobos Tour
  • Complete day:
    • Española Island Tour
    • Punta Pitt Tour
Playa Lobería, uno de los mejores planes que hacer por libre (y gratia) en San Cristóbal

Lobería Beach, one of the best plans to do for on your own (and for free) in San Cristóbal

Things to do in Santa Cruz

  • Half-day:
    • Highlands taxi tour
    • Tortuga Bay + Nymphs Lagoon
    • Las Grietas
    • Malecon, Darwin Research Station and La Ratonera Beach
    • Pinzón Island Tour
    • North Seymour Tour
    • Bay Tour (Lobería Islet and Playa de los Perros)
  • Complete day:
    • Bartolomé Island Tour
    • Santa Fe Island Tour
    • Floreana Island Tour
    • Plazas Sur Tour
    • Sombrero Chino Island Tour
Caminando al lado de una iguana en Tortuga Bay, Santa Cruz

Walking next to an iguana in Tortuga Bay, Santa Cruz

Things to do in Isabela

  • Half-day:
    • Main square and beach of Puerto Villamil
    • Snorkel in Concha Perla and port beach
    • Bike tour to the Wall of Tears and flamingo lagoons
    • Cabo Rosa tunnels tour
    • Sierra Negra Volcano Tour
    • Tintoreras Islet Tour
Bici, nuestra mejor amiga para desplazarnos hasta el Muro de las lágrimas, en Isabela

A bike, our best friend to get to the Wall of Tears, in Isabela

2. Create an excel or a table with the days you have for Galapagos, taking into account that the arrival and departure days are probably only half days (between trips, check-in, etc.)

3. Fill each day with a full day plan or one/two half day plans

4. Check if the tours are available for your dates (you can talk with Christian from Chokotrip who will help you)

5. If you are going to visit several islands, you must also take into account the transportation between islands (probably the day you move from one island to another you can only include a half-day plan)

Remember that it is indicative! Some half-day plans take less time, and you may be able to combine more plans in the same day, but it is also important not to adjust the plans too much so you don’t run around, enjoy the islands more, leave some time to go shopping or take a beer, relax, and if something goes wrong you have room for adapting.

Isabela se ha ganado el puesto a nuestra isla favorita y la que nos regaló los mejores atardeceres acompañados de cerveza y chifles en la playa. En nuestra opinión, es la mejor isla en la que estar "sin planes" para disfrutarla.

Isabela became our favorite island and the one that gave us the best sunsets accompanied by beer and chifles on the beach. In our opinion, it is the best island to be “without plans” to enjoy it.

3 to 5 days Galapagos itineraries (less than 1 week)

If you have less than 5 days to discover the enchanted islands, we recommend that you focus on one island to make the most of the days and avoid moving between islands:

  • Option 1: 4 days in San Cristóbal
    • Day 1: Arrival by plane and half day plan (ex: Malecon and Playa Oro)
    • Day 2: Tour to León Dormido in the morning, Lobería Beach in the afternoon
    • Day 3: Highland tour in the morning, Isla Lobos tour in the afternoon
    • Day 4: Mann Beach, Snorkel at Cerro Tijeretas and Punta Carola and return by plane
  • Option 2: 5 days in Santa Cruz
    • Day 1: Arrival by plane and half day plan (ex: Malecon, Darwin Research Station and La Ratonera Beach)
    • Day 2: Tour to Santa Fé
    • Day 3: Tour to Bartolomé
    • Day 4: Las Grietas in the morning, tour to the highlands in the afternoon
    • Day 5: Tortuga Bay + nymphs lagoon and return by plane
Las Grietas, algo a no perder en Santa Cruz

Las Grietas, something not to miss in Santa Cruz

7 days Galapagos itineraries (1 week)

If you have one week to visit the enchanted islands, we recommend that you choose one or two islands maximum and focus your tours on those, avoiding jumping from island to island:

Some examples of itineraries you can do in a week in Galapagos :

  • Option 1: one week in Santa Cruz and Isabela
    • Day 1: Arrival by plane to Santa Cruz and half-day plan (ex: Malecon, Darwin Research Station and La Ratonera Beach)
    • Day 2: Tour to Santa Fé
    • Day 3: Tour to Bartolomé
    • Day 4: boat to Isabela in the morning, tour to cabo rosa tunnels in the afternoon
    • Day 5: Tour to Sierra Negra volcano in the morning, Tintoreras in the afternoon
    • Day 6: Boat to Santa Cruz, Las Grietas upon arrival and tour to the highlands in the afternoon
    • Day 7: Tortuga Bay + nymphs lagoon and return by plane
  • Option 2: one week in Santa Cruz and San Cristóbal (buy one way to one island and back from the other)
    • Day 1: Arrival by plane to Santa Cruz and half day plan (ex: Tortuga Bay and nymph lagoon)
    • Day 2: Tour to Santa Fé
    • Day 3: Tour to Bartolomé
    • Day 4: boat to San Cristóbal in the morning and half day plan (ex: Malecon and Playa Oro)
    • Day 5: Tour to León Dormido in the morning, Lobería Beach in the afternoon
    • Day 6: Highland tour in the morning, Isla Lobos tour in the afternoon
    • Day 7: Mann Beach, Snorkel at Cerro Tijeretas and Punta Carola and return by plane
Playa de Puerto Chino en la que te bañarás en el tour a la Parte Alta de San Cristóbal

Puerto Chino beach; you will visit it on the tour to the highlands of San Cristobal

14 days Galapagos itinerary (2 weeks)

With two weeks you will have time to visit more places and you can do like us, staying in the 3 main islands. You can join several of the options from the previous points to create a 2-week itinerary. This is the itinerary that we did:

Galapagos 2-week itinerary 

  • Day 1: Arrival by plane to San Cristóbal, check-in and visit to the Malecon and Playa Oro
  • Day 2: Tour to the highlands by taxi in the morning, Playa Lobería in the afternoon
  • Day 3: Tour to León Dormido and Cerro Brujo
  • Day 4: Boat to Santa Cruz in the morning, relax in the afternoon
  • Day 5: Tour to Bartolomé Island
  • Day 6: Visit to Tortuga Bay and nymphs lagoon
  • Day 7: Tour to Santa Fe
  • Day 8: Boat to Isabela in the morning, kayak to Tintoreras in the afternoon
  • Day 9: Tour to Cabo Rosa tunnels
  • Day 10: Biking to Muro de Las Lágrimas with several stops and flamingo lagoon
  • Day 11: Tour to Sierra Negra Volcano
  • Day 12: Boat to Santa Cruz
  • Day 13: Visit to Las Grietas
  • Day 14: Diving at Gordon Rocks and Darwin Research Station
  • Day 15: Flight back to Guayaquil

These itineraries are just examples, it all depends on your preferences and interests and the money you can spend (with a low budget at the end you will do fewer tours and get to know the islands more on your own).

La increíble playa de Puerto Villamil, Isabela

The incredible beach of Puerto Villamil, Isabela

Transportation: how to move around Galapagos

How to move between islands

Boats between islands in Galapagos: timetables and prices

The best way to move between islands is by boat. Speedboats, ” fibers ” as they are called there, cost $ 30 each way (negotiating and / or buying several trips can get the price down to $ 25) and it takes about 2h30 each way (depending on the sea). You can also book them with Chokotrip

There is not much frequency but the times are fixed and, almost always, punctual (at least in our experience). These are the schedules

From To Departure Time Arrival Time
Santa Cruz San Cristóbal 7:00 9:30
Santa Cruz San Cristóbal 14:00 16:30
Santa Cruz Isabela 7:00 9:30
Santa Cruz Isabela 14:00 16:30
Isabela Santa Cruz 6:00 8:30
Isabela Santa Cruz 14:00 16:30
San Cristóbal Santa Cruz 7:00 9:30
San Cristóbal Santa Cruz 15:00 17:30

Tip: take a Dramamine before boarding to prevent seasickness because the boats go very fast and usually do quite a few “jumps”, depending on how the sea is.

You have to be in the pier 30 minutes before the ship’s departure time, as they need to inspect your suitcase / backpack. When you arrive, you will see that there are many people waiting: several boat companies operate in the same route and schedule and you will have to find yours (in some cases you will have to give your name and they will give you a badge to indicate which boat you are going to).

In our opinion, it is better to go as far back as possible on the boat, which is where you will get less dizzy

Flights between islands in Galapagos: timetables and prices

There is also the option of moving by plane besides being more expensive (about $ 175 each way, although it varies depending on the season), we read that if they do not sell enough seats, the flights do not depart, so we believe that the boat option is the best one. The companies that operate the flights are Emetebe and Fly Galápagos .

The advantage of the flights is that they last 30 minutes and you can go from San Cristóbal directly to Isabela (which you cannot do by boat, you have to stop at Santa Cruz).

How to move within each island

Within the islands, it is best to walk, rent a bicycle (check rental prices on the island you are in) or taxi (for short distances, in San Cristóbal it costs $ 2 each way, in Santa Cruz $ 1.5 each way).

En bicicleta por Isabela

Cycling around Isabela

Tours include all transportation, so when you do a tour they will probably pick you up at your accommodation or at a previously defined point.

Currency and money

The official currency of Ecuador (including the Galapagos Islands) is the USD. When we went, the exchange was approximately € 1 = $ 1.10. You can check the current exchange rate EUR <-> USD here

How to withdraw / exchange money in Galapagos, and how much money to take to Galapagos

It is important to note that neither ATMs nor paying with debit/credit card is that common in the enchanted islands. In Galapagos almost no one accepts a card as a payment method (and if they do they charge huge fees, from 10 to 20%), almost all payments will have to be made in cash and there are only ATMs in San Cristóbal and Santa Cruz. In Isabela there is no ATM. Yes, get ready to go with lots of cash (fortunately the islands are really safe)

We recommend, therefore, that you organize your trip with some time and calculate how much money you are going to need (between tours, transfers, meals, accommodation, etc.). You can see how to calculate your budget here . We also recommend that you book as much tours as you can online, to be able to pay online avoid carrying that much cash.

We normally never carry a lot of cash or exchange money unless there is no other alternative. What we do is withdraw money from ATMs with our debit / credit cards, and we always carry some “emergency” euros / dollars with us just in case.

¡Ojo! En Isabela no hay cajeros

In Isabela there are no ATMs

Cards that do not charge fees in Ecuador 

We use the following cards to be able to withdraw money abroad without paying fees . With these you can withdraw dollars in Ecuador, before flying to the Galapagos, without paying fees (or paying low fees):

With these 3 cards we manage to avoid paying fees while travelling.

Whenever you can pay by card, since the limits of the previous ones for card payments are higher. When you are in Ecuador, before flying to the Galapagos, try to pay everything by card so as not to consume the ATM withdrawal limit without fees

Playa escondida, Tour Santa Fé, Santa Cruz

Hidden beach, Tour Santa Fé, Santa Cruz

Banks / ATMs that do not charge fees in Ecuador

Although your card may not charge you a fee for withdrawing money from foreign ATMs, the ATM itself may have a fee for its use, which is normally quite high, and independent of the card you use.

In Ecuador, after much trial and error, we found that most ATMs charge a fee on each withdrawal, so the following information will be very useful and will help you save a few $.

The ATMs that we always used during our 2 months in Ecuador and that never charged us a fee for their use are:

  • Banco Pichincha
  • Banco Internacional Ecuador
  • Banco General Rumiñahui

We almost always used Banco Pichincha, which is everywhere in Ecuador. Both in Quito and Guayaquil you will find Banco Pichincha ATMs without problems, where you can withdraw the cash you need (it is likely that you will have to make several withdrawals, since these have a maximum amount)

In Galapagos there are hardly any ATMs (you will only find them in Santa Cruz and San Cristóbal, and there are no guarantees that they will work). We finally had to withdraw some extra cash in Santa Cruz (there is a Pichincha ATM) and it worked perfectly.

In addition to the above, whenever you withdraw money and / or pay by card, you have to make sure that the transaction is made in local currency (that is, in USD). If you let the cashier or the POS make the transaction in another currency, they will apply their own exchange rate that in general will be bad and you will end up paying extra money.

Caminando a Tortuga Bay, Santa Cruz

Walking to Tortuga Bay, Santa Cruz

Galapagos budget estimation. Is Galapagos expensive?

We are not going to lie to you: whatever you do, traveling to the Galapagos is expensive , much more than traveling to the rest of Ecuador and Latin America.

Estimated budget for 1 week (per person) traveling on your own (without a cruise nor an organized trip) :

  • Flight from Quito or Guayaquil to Galapagos (round trip): $ 300
  • Park admission and taxes (for non-nationals * ): $ 120
  • Accommodation: $ 20 / night: $ 140
  • Meals: $ 20 / day: $ 140
  • Tours: 3-4 tours: $ 400-500
  • Transportation: $ 60 (each boat trip between islands is approximately $ 30)
  • Total: about $ 1,100-1200 / person

It would be necessary to add the flight to Quito or Guayaquil from where you live: if you go from Spain, taking into account that flight and a couple of days that you will spend in Quito or Guayaquil it would go up to $ 2,000 / person

Yes, we know, it is lot of money for 1 week. But it is the price to pay for stepping on this biodiverse paradise where it’s mandatory to protect animals and they are not afraid of you because they have always been there, protected at home.

Based on those prices you can get an idea of ​​what you can do depending on your preferences / needs and the number of days you go.

Of course, you can visit during few days, do fewer tours, save more on food, etc., to lower the total cost.

Lobos marinos, los perros de San Cristóbal

Sea lions, the dogs of San Cristóbal

We leave you some reference prices to help you estimate your budget :

  • Accommodation: a minimum of $ 15 / night per person
  • Local food (“almuerzo del día”): $ 4 per person
  • Local dinner: $ 8 per person
  • Tourist restaurant: from $ 15 / person
  • Empanadas: 1 $ each
  • Ice cream: from $ 2
  • Beer in store: $ 2
  • Beer in bar: from $ 4
  • Non-alcoholic drink in bar: from $ 2
  • Snorkeling rental: $ 5 per day
  • Bike rental: $ 4 / h or $ 20 / day
  • Taxi ride for short distances: 2 $ one way
  • Half day boat tour: $ 120
  • Full day boat tour: $ 240
  • Half day land tour: $ 50

On the other hand, as we told you before you can choose to travel to the Galapagos Islands on a cruise .

In this case, the estimated budget for 1 week (per person) traveling by cruise ship :

  • Flight from Quito or Guayaquil to Galapagos (i / v): $ 300
  • Park admission and taxes (for non-nationals * ): $ 120
  • Galapagos 8-day cruise: $ 3000
  • Accommodation: included
  • Meals: included
  • Tours: included
  • Displacements: included
  • Total: $ 3500 / person

* Of these $ 120, $ 20 is from the transit control card (same for everybody) but the $ 100 park fee will only be paid by foreigners. Instead of $ 100, the national citizens of Ecuador must pay $ 6 and the citizens of the Andean Community and Mercosur must pay $ 50.

** There are shorter and cheaper cruises, for example from $ 1,300 / person for 5 days. You can book your 4-8 day cruise here or a cheaper last minute cruise here .

Playa de isla Bartolomé, Santa Cruz

A beach in Bartolomé island, tour from Santa Cruz

Safety: precautions, prohibitions and advice in Galapagos

This is very important! It’s not a coincidence that the non-human inhabitants of these enchanted islands have come to this day without fear of human beings: years of isolation and current tourism with protection and sustainability policies. So the most important thing, when you visit, is that you respect their protection policies:

  • Do not get closer than 2 meters from the animals. These 2 meters of mandatory wildlife distance include cameras
  • Do not touch, do not feeddo not interfere in the natural processes of animals to avoid affecting their behavior as much as possible. For example, did you know that if you touch a baby sea lion, it will get “contaminated” with your scent and this can lead to its mother rejecting it later?
  • Do not remove elements from the ecosystem
  • No smoking, no bonfires
  • Walk inside the trails
  • Do not use flash in photos: professional recordings and drones need authorization
  • Camping only in designated sites, with prior authorization
  • Use authorized tourist services. Use only authorized fishing boats
  • Do not introduce external elements to the Galapagos ecosystem
  • Do not use motorized aquatic vehicles, submarines or air tourism.
  • Participate only on authorized tours (you can not explore the islands without trained and authorized guides) and respect the recommendations of the guides in each site
  • Do not write words or sentences in the natural environment
  • Leave the trash in its place. Never leave garbage in the natural environment.
Uno de los carteles en el parque en los que se pide no tocar a los lobos y por qué

One of the signs in the park asking not to touch the sea lions, and why

And we add these recommendations as a reminder:

  • Don’t play loud music
  • Do not waste water. In the Galapagos, water scarcity is a serious problem.
  • Use reef friendly sun protection; that is, one that does not contain coral-damaging chemicals, without oxybenzone, and that has not been tested on animals. For example, this one or on this one .
  • If you need to use a straw (really think if you need to), travel with your aluminum straw, and ask the waiter not to put a plastic one on your drink
  • In short, respect the habitat and its inhabitants.

The impact that tourism causes in Galapagos is real and it is clear that the best for these islands is that no one visit them. If the luxury of stepping on them in a controlled way is allowed, the least we can do is minimize our impact, respecting the rules and interfering as little as possible. It is about observing, enjoying and never forget that we are forced guests on their home.

En las islas hay varios bancos con mensaje. En este "Conservemos lo nuestro"

On the islands there are several banks with messages. Like this which says “Conservemos lo nuestro”.

On the other hand, for your own safety are some things to keep in mind:

  • The “manzanillo” tree (so named because its fruit resembles a small apple – manzana -) that giant tortoises feed on can be deadly to humans. That is why it is known as the “tree of death”: not only does the fruit harm us by ingesting it, but also its leaves can cause wounds with minimal contact or even the smoke generated by its combustion.
Aquí te ponemos una foto que sacamos al árbol de manzanillo para que sea más fácil que lo identifiques y lo evites

A picture we take of the “manzanillo” tree to make it easier for you to identify it and avoid it

  • Animals are in complete freedom and their behavior is unpredictable: do not disturb them and they will not disturb you.
  • If you don’t have it,  get the yellow fever vaccine. It is NOT mandatory (unless you come from Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda) but it is recommended, and for your own safety you should have it.
  • Always travel with travel insurance: medical expenses, thefts or problems with your plane on a trip can cost lots of money, so ideally you should hire a travel insurance. We always use IATI and we recommend it (on this 7-month trip to Latin America we bought the IATI Estrella Premium). Hiring your insurance using this link gets you a 5% discount
Cachorros de lobos en la Lobería, San Cristóbal

Baby Sea Lions at Lobería Beach, San Cristóbal

Plugs and sockets in Galapagos: do I need to bring a travel adapter?

If, like us, you are traveling from Spain / Portugal: yes, you need a plug adapter .

In Galapagos (and in Ecuador) power plugs and sockets are either type A (two parallel flat pins) or B (like A but with a third round plug)

Enchufe tipo A

Type A plug. Source:  Wikipedia

Enchufe tipo B

Type B plug. Source: Wikipedia

We have been traveling for several years with this universal plug adapter that you can buy on Amazon for about $ 14 and that works like a charm:

Adaptador de enchufe universal que además viene con 2 puertos USB

Universal plug adapter that also comes with 2 USB ports. Photo: Amazon

We recommend this one for one main reason: it “clings” well to all the plugs we’ve tested it on. You will see out there many other adapters (universal or not) cheaper (or not if you buy them at the airport), but then in some wall sockets they fall because of the weight, and it is impossible to use them. For example we also have this other adapter that we bought before, to which that happens and that we hardly use.

As the accommodations do not always have many plugs, we also travel with (and always recommend) these two extra accessories:

  • A strip of 3 plugs, a basic one. With this you just need one plug to charge all your devices.
  • A USB charger with 6 outputs : With this, you can charge 6 USB devices with a single plug. It also has 2 fast charging ports for your smartphones.

Mobile phone calls and internet in Galapagos with a local SIM card

In order to have cheap internet on your phone during your trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, we suggest you to buy a local SIM card. With it, in addition to having internet on your smartphone, you can share the internet connection with your laptop or other devices, and you can call hotels or tour companies if necessary at a very low price.

The provider with the best coverage throughout the country (and therefore the one that interests you the most if you are going to visit different places in Galapagos and Ecuador in general) is Claro, and all providers have similar prices (for internet, 2GB = approximately $ 10). Claro is the only one that works (sometimes) in Galapagos.

Unfortunately, the internet connections in Ecuador are something that don’t work very well: internet is priced quite high for low and unstable connection quality. We noticed it in major cities like Quito and Guayaquil, imagine what it is like in Galapagos. Although it works (in Santa Cruz and San Cristóbal there is 4G coverage with Claro), the connection is unstable and sometimes slow. Claro is the only operator that works in a decent way in Galapagos: the rest either have no coverage or work worse.

The international Ecuador prefix is ​​+593.

Pelícano en la playa de Cerro Brujo (León Dormido, San Cristóbal)

Pelican on the beach of Cerro Brujo (León Dormido, San Cristóbal)

Checklist: what to carry in the backpack / suitcase for Galapagos

Here is a list of essentials that you can not forget to take on your trip to Galapagos:

  • Passport, valid for at least 6 months before your arrival in Ecuador
  • Money, cash (do not forget the $ 120 cash you’ll need before entering the park)
  • Camera to record some bits of everything you will experience. We travel with a Sony A5100 and a GoPro for underwater footage
  • Sun Protection reef friendly (one that does not contain chemicals that harm the corals, without oxybenzone, and that has not been tested on animals, like this or this)
  • Mosquito repellent, like this one.
  • A cap or a hat, remember that the sun in Galapagos hits very hard
  • Sunglasses
  • Sports sandals / sports shoes: although it is hot, you won’t be able to walk on the volcanic terrain that you will find in Galapagos just with some flip flops
  • A reusable bottle of water like any of these to always carry water with you since you will be on isolated beaches many times and in most places there is no where to buy. Many of the accommodations will include water to refill the bottle for free. In addition, you will avoid single-use plastic.
  • First-aid kit: in ours there is no lack of anti-dizziness drugs (such as Dramamine for dizziness in boats), antibiotics, antidiarrheals (and some probiotics to recover more quickly), antihistamines, analgesics and antipyretics.
  • Snorkelling gear if you want to bring your own (you can also rent it in the islands). Here’s a kit for less than $ 20
  • Swimsuit and light and breathable clothing (some long pants to avoid mosquito bites). We also always wear a long-sleeved lycra top with UV protection that we use to protect ourselves from cold water and the sun when snorkeling, like these ones .
  • Dry bag, to keep your electronic devices safe during tours. This for example costs $ 12
  • Microfiber travel towel, which occupies little space and that you will use for the beach (in the tours they usually include good towels). If you do not have you can buy them on Amazon
  • Power bank: with so much pictures and videos you will use a lot of battery, so it always comes handy to carry a good power bank. We travel with these 2 ( Xiaomi and Anker ), which allow us to charge both smartphones, the camera and the GoPro.
Gorra, gafas de sol y muuucho protector solar. Imprescindibles galapagueños.

Cap, sunglasses and a lot of sunscreen. Galapagos essentials.

So… knowing all this, is it worth going to the Galapagos?

For us the answer is crystal clear. Galapagos is an expensive destination and it is a privilege to be able to step on it. That said, it is a destination that will not leave anyone indifferent and will probably be placed in the top of the list for anyone who loves animals. Now, if you do not have an special interest in observing animals in the wild, you may be disappointed, especially for what you are paying. Don’t get us wrong. We have seen landscapes as beautiful as the island of Bartolomé in Indonesia for a quarter of the price, we have seen beaches as beautiful in other parts of the world like in the Philippines or Caribbean islands and we have lived the island life in a more relaxed way for five times less money in the more than 200 islands that we have visited in our life.

For us, the Galapagos Islands became one of the most incredible places we have visited because you are on that paradisiacal beach (yes, like that postcard one, like the ones in the Caribbean or in the Philippines) but with hardly any people and full of sea lions in the water showing you their best tricks or on the sand resting in the sun, next to your towel. A frigatebird flying,blue-footed booby placidly watching everything from a rock on the shore and a giant turtle with whom you met that afternoon whose shell was bigger than the wheel of your bike. Wait, there is still a lot more. As you dive into that crystal clear water a penguin greets you. Yes, a penguin! Three turtles are swimming and you spot a marine iguana eating coral. This is Galapagos and this is why, in our opinion, it deserves all the money we have invested in those two weeks.

Selfie galapagueño en Cerro Brujo

Galapagueño selfie in Cerro Brujo

Also, we left with the feeling that an effort is really being made to preserve this place and its unique species in the world. The more we travel, the more we come across zoos disguised as “sanctuaries” or “recovery centers” and the more we are aware of the protection and conservation made in Galapagos, with the resources they have.

We can only hope that we can return someday and that we will find this paradise of the enchanted islands equally or better than nowadays.

Un lobo marino durmiendo plácidamente en un banco de Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz

A sea lion sleeping peacefully on a bench in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz


And you? After reading these lines about Galapagos, do you want to visit this special corner of the world?

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