How to Travel the Galapagos Islands

As promised, here’s a more in-depth look at our Galapagos Islands itinerary, including tips & tricks for exploring these beautiful islands. For general tips about traveling the Galapagos, see the bottom portion.

San Cristobal

This was my favorite island we visited. It’s gorgeous and has many great beaches and things to do, including the following:

The Interpretation Center

A museum with good information. There are good hikes from here, which are better than Santa Cruz.

Las Loberias

A beach named for its large sea wolf colony. Here you can snorkel with lots of sea lions & turtles and see tons of wildlife. It’s a cheap taxi ride from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno ($2); just be sure to make a deal with the driver so he/she will come back and get you!

Here are some videos I took of the friendly sea lions: here, here and here.

There is also a marked trail where you can go hiking over lava racks to lookout over cliffs.

Sea Lions in Galapagos
Remaining calm in San Cristobal

Kicker Rock Tour

We booked a snorkel tour to Kicker Rock (aka Leon Dormido) with the Leon Dormido Expedition tour company, which was pretty average. You can also book tours once you get to the island; there are many tour agencies available*.

Kicker Rock was a very unique experience. The water is extremely deep, and there were many turtles and sharks. We snorkeled at Kicker Rock, but I’d recommend scuba diving instead if you go there. There are much better places to snorkel, and the wildlife here is amazing, but hard to see from the surface.

We also went to Manglecito Beach as part of the tour; it has white sand, very clear water, and wildlife, including some sea lions, crabs, iguanas and blue footed boobies. This 9am-3pm tour cost us $80 and included snorkel equipment and a pretty tasty lunch.

Puerto Chino Beach

We didn’t have a chance to go, but heard great things about it has white sand, blue footed boobies, and how it is accessible by taxi.

Santa Cruz

What to Do

Book Tours & Explore in Puerto Ayora

There are a plethora of tourist agencies in Puerto Ayora. We suggest you walk around there and check the different prices. Negotiate for the best deal, and if you plan ahead, you can customize your trips!

In addition, Puerto Ayora is a fairly large town (relative to others in the Galapagos), so there’s lots to see and explore. Walk around and check out the stores!

Tortuga Bay

This was, by far, one of my favorite parts of the Galapagos Islands. My only worry with sharing this gem is that it will become too crowded if people discover it!

It’s about a 30 minute walk from the entrance, and the walk itself is beautiful:

The walk to Tortuga

It’s a massive, beautiful beach with soft sand and clear water:

Tortuga Beach
Tortuga Beach

Tip: turn right & walk down the beach for about 10 minutes. From there, you’ll find calm waters in a protected bay. You can rent kayaks there for $10 for an hour and a half. From your kayak, you can see sharks, rays, turtles, birds, and iguanas.

Kayak spot in the distance of Tortuga Bay
Kayak spot in the distance of Tortuga Bay

Las Grietas (aka The Grotto)

Las Grietas is a gorge with clear blue water near Puerto Ayora. We really wanted to check this out, but it was under construction when we visited.

Here are some tips if you get the opportunity to visit:

  • wear sneakers/waterproof shoes
  • take a water taxi from Puerto Ayora’s main pier to the other side of the harbor & follow signs (about a 10 minute walk) to cliffs and clear water! You can cliff jump and check out the chill bar along the path
  • walk and pass through a beach called “Los Alemanes” and then the trail will guide you to Las Grietas

The Charles Darwin Station Breeding Center

Spot Giant Tortoises in captivity on a self-guided trail.

Food

Eat at Il Giardino – it has a great environment (especially the upper level), wonderful owners and delicious food.

Accommodations

We stayed at Hotel Fiesta for $100 per night with tax. It had breakfast & a pool; it was very cute, but under construction. The hotel was pretty basic, so if I did this again, I would look for something similar with a cheaper price and a better location, as this hotel was slightly out of town).

Isabela

We took a day tour to Isabela from Puerto Ayora. It was definitely worth it; we saw a penguin, flamingos, rays, and tortoises, and had some amazing snorkeling:

Where we snorkeled at Isabela
Where we snorkeled at Isabela
Sting rays at Isabela
Sting rays at Isabela
Flamingos - Isabela
Flamingos at Isabela

The only downside was our guide didn’t speak very good English, even though the tour advertised as having an English-speaking guide. Make sure you book with a tour company that has a good reputation.

Tip: if you want to see Isabela, we highly recommend you do at least a 2 day/1 night tour there. It takes a full day to hike the volcano, and they will not let you snorkel in Los Tunelos (an incredible snorkeling spot with manta rays) unless you do a 2 day (overnight) tour.

Bartolome

Touring this island is very popular, so you need to book way in advance. We didn’t know this, so unfortunately we didn’t get to explore this island. We really wanted to see the incredible landscapes. This island also has penguins and volcanoes. If this appeals to you, you should book at least one month out.

Activities include a volcano hike to Sierra Negra, and snorkeling with penguins at Pinnacle Rock

General Advice

  • *When booking a tour in the Galapagos Islands, either in advance or once you arrive, do your research (whether it’s online or asking the locals/other travelers) and make sure you’re getting a decent deal with a reputable company to ensure a high-quality trip.
  • Book your flights arriving and leaving from different islands; this minimizes the ferries you’ll have to take.
    • I’d recommend arriving in Puerto Ayora, since it’s the largest city and has many tour agencies that take you to all the islands.
    • Their tours to the most popular islands book up very quickly, so book your high-priority islands in advance!
  • USE SUN LOTION. If you must buy it there, it’s expensive, but worth it. The sun is VERY strong and you don’t necessarily feel the heat.
  • If you do get burned (like we did), don’t buy the aloe vera from stores. It’s very expensive, and there are plants everywhere you can use for free!
The nice waiter at Hotel Fiesta gave me aloe (from their garden) with my breakfast :)
The nice waiter at Hotel Fiesta gave me aloe (from their garden) with my breakfast 🙂
  • Be wary of the water, but we never got sick, even though we accidentally brushed our teeth with it on occasion 🙂
  • People in Ecuador are very nice and helpful, so you can always ask people at hostels/hotels or taxi drivers or restaurants or even just on the street if you have questions.
  • Not many people speak English, but some folks might speak a little. I recommend that you download a Spanish translator in advance that doesn’t need data to work.
  • Byron Rueda with Sante Fe – Galapagos is AMAZING! Email him about tours and information: ventas@santafegalapagos.com.ec

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How to Travel the Galapagos

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