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===By private boat===
===By private boat===
Private yachts can arrive into any of the 5 ports in Galapagos while in transit and remain at that port for a maximum of 21 days.  Boats wishing to visit more than one site or cruise the islands may do so but only by special permit from the national park and by working with a licensed yacht agency.
Special arrangements have to be made if traveling to the islands aboard a private yacht. Arrival preparations have to be made 60 days prior under the representation of a local agent. Customs can be cleared in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno and Puerto Ayora, although private boats can arrive into any of the 5 ports in Galapagos while in transit and remain at that port for a maximum of 21 days.  Yachts wishing to visit more than one site or cruise the islands may do so but only by special permit from the national park and by working with a licensed yacht agency.
There are cargo boats that travel to the Galapagos each week.  However these boats are not allowed to take travelers on board.
There are cargo boats that travel to the Galapagos each week.  However these boats are not allowed to take travelers on board.

Revision as of 19:54, 13 April 2018

The Galapagos Islands [25] are a small archipelago of islands belonging to Ecuador in the eastern Pacific Ocean. The islands are quite remote and isolated, lying some 1000 km (620 miles) west of the South American continent. The Galapagos archipelago consists of 13 main islands and 6 smaller islets, which together embrace some 50,000 sq km (19,500 sq miles) of ocean.


Galapagos Islands satellite photograph, NASA

The Galápagos archipelago is world-renowned for its unique and fearless wildlife- much of which was inspiration for Charles Darwin's Theory of Natural Selection. The islands are therefore very popular amongst natural historians, both professional and amateur. Giant tortoises, sea lions, penguins, marine iguanas and different bird species can all be seen and approached. The landscape of the islands is relatively barren and volcanic, but beautiful nonetheless. The highest mountain amongst the islands is Volcán Wolf on Isla Isabela, 1707 m (5600ft) high.

The Galápagos were claimed by newly-independent Ecuador in 1832, a mere three years before Darwin's visit on the Beagle. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, the islands were inhabited by very few settlers and were used as a penal colony, the last closing in 1959 when the islands were declared a national park. The Galapagos were subsequently listed as a World Heritage Site in 1978.

Strict controls on tourist access are maintained in an effort to protect the natural habitats and all visitors must be accompanied by a national park-certified naturalist tour guide.

Galápagos tortoise on Santa Cruz Island (Galápagos)


The Galapagos Islands have a highly variable climate, as does Ecuador's mainland. There are two seasons in the islands: the hot/rainy season, from December to June, when humidity is high and average temperatures are in the 80s F (26°-30° C). There may be occasional showers, but the days are generally warm and sunny. Seas are generally calm.

From June to November, you can expect cool winds, occasionally bringing with them a light misty-type drizzle called "garúa." Temperatures average in the 70s F (20°-24° C) during the day and lower at night. Winds can cause choppy seas, especially in open water between the islands.

Each month brings unique climate variations and wildlife viewing opportunities. Peak season for naturalist tours is typically December through May when the seas are the calmest and the weather the warmest. However summer months June, July and August are also very popular as the animals are more active. September through November is typically low season when most boats will leave the islands for dry dock. For divers peak season is from July - November when whale sharks can be found at Wolf & Darwin.

The Islands

School of scalloped hammerheads, Wolf Island, Galapagos Islands
Another school of scalloped hammerheads at Wolf Island, Galapagos


Get in

Visiting the Galapagos is not cheap, owing to travel restrictions and the remote nature of the archipelago. The only way to get in the islands from the main land is by plane from Guayaquil or Quito airports. Flights travel to the Galapagos in the morning and return in the afternoon, typically requiring a forced overnight on the continent in each direction.

By plane

From an aircraft flying out of Baltra Island (on the right) and the Santa Cruz(on the left), the Itabaca Channel is the waterway in the middle where water taxis take people in between and to waiting boats off shore waiting for multi day cruises.

Flights to the Galapagos are relatively easy to arrange and depart from Quito and Guayaquil on a daily basis for the Isla Baltra Airport, about two hours by public transport from Puerto Ayora, the main settlement of the Galapagos, on the central island of Santa Cruz. There are also daily flights to San Cristóbal. The airport is a 20 minute walk from the center of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.

Flights from Guayaquil are slightly less expensive than from Quito, however as there is more availability from Quito as there are typically 2 flights a day from Quito and only 1 from Guayaquil. Most flights from Quito route through Guayaquil.

Aerogal [26], Tame [27] and LAN Airlines [28] have flights to the Galapagos. The price varies a bit between companies, for foreigners around $457 from Quito in low season / $505-$512 in high season (July, August and December) and less from Guayaquil, $419 low season to $522 in high season. Ecuadorians pay almost half the price and there is a 13% discount on TAME flights and a 20% discount on Aerogal flights if you have an ISIC studentcard.

It's not possible to buy a one way ticket without proof of transportation from the islands. It's easy however to change the date of your return ticket or to switch your departure to another island.

Inter-island flights [29] are available to both major airports (Baltra and San Cristobal) for flights between islands. There is also a small airport in Isabela. Flights usually range $160-$170 each way or $260 round trip.

Step by step procedures at NEW Quito airport (Mariscal Sucre International Airport in Tababela)

Procedure for flying from NEW Quito airport to Galapagos (as of April 2014):

1. Begin at the domestic ("nacional") terminal. Go to the far end of the domestic terminal.

2. Next to some ticket ("boleto") booths (TAME, LAN etc.) there is a booth where you obtain your $20 "visa" (after March 2015). (This "visa" is really an Arrival/Departure Record Form which you fill out before getting to Galapagos.) After you buy your $20 "visa", look for a smaller door to your immediate right. A pre-registry is needed in

3. Go through the smaller door and have your bags checked for banned agricultural products. They basically scan your bags. You need to do this before checking in and getting your tickets in Step 4.

NOTE: There is a separate $100 park entrance fee to pay when you land in Galapagos. Make sure you have cash for that as they will not accept Visa.

4. Now you proceed to the ticket counter and do the typical ticket counter things.

5. Then go through security opposite the ticket counter. They are only looking for metal. So you don't need to take off your shoes (unless they contain metal), remove your computer from your bag, or empty your water bottle.

By private boat

Special arrangements have to be made if traveling to the islands aboard a private yacht. Arrival preparations have to be made 60 days prior under the representation of a local agent. Customs can be cleared in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno and Puerto Ayora, although private boats can arrive into any of the 5 ports in Galapagos while in transit and remain at that port for a maximum of 21 days. Yachts wishing to visit more than one site or cruise the islands may do so but only by special permit from the national park and by working with a licensed yacht agency.

There are cargo boats that travel to the Galapagos each week. However these boats are not allowed to take travelers on board.

Get around

By plane

Inter-island flights with EMETEBE Airlines [30] are available to the following islands: Baltra, Santa Cruz, Isabela and San Cristobal. Flights usually range $160-$170 each way or $260 round trip. It is advised to book in advance to avoid the last minute crowd. Flights last approximately 30-45 minutes per leg.

By live-aboard cruise ship


Seeing the sites and wildlife of the Galapagos is best done by live-aboard cruise ship. Most people book their place well in advance (as the boats are usually full during the high season). Booking a cruise with a company in your home country or on-line is usually the most convenient. There are many travel companies selling Galapagos cruises - it is recommended that you look for those that are dedicated experts, with agents that can answer all of your questions about Galapagos.

For those trying their luck at finding good last minute prices on site, there are many agencies that can help you book a cruise either in Puerto Ayora or from Guayaquil or Quito. There are also last-minute cruise websites specializing in Galapagos. While it is possible to get a last-minute deal, be aware that many budget tours may spend extra time in Puerto Ayora, might not have the best boats, and may only visit the inner islands. Very last minute 4-day cruises can sometimes be found in Puerto Ayora for as little as $600-$700 per person.

When looking for a tour consider the following:

  • Number of passengers. The national park restricts the size of the boats allowed to cruise the islands, with some islands such as Genovesa being limited to boats with no more than forty passengers. Though the maximum size boat permitted to cruise the islands is 100 passengers, as you might imagine 100 people showing up on a beach all at the same time can be overwhelming to the local wildlife. All passengers will be divided up into a maximum group size of 16 passengers per naturalist guide. Therefore it is generally best to travel on a boat with fewer passengers (between 16 and 32 passengers is ideal).
  • Itinerary. The National Park sets all of the cruise itineraries. Each itinerary is designed to have a mixture of habitats and showcase the diversity of the islands by combining the Southern Espanola and Floreana, Central, Western Fernandina, Isabela or Northern Genovesa Islands. Most boats will visit 2 or 3 of these areas during a week.
  • Availability. Most of the best cruises are booked up months in advance, so best to book early. For Christmas bookings, you might want to start looking 12-18 months ahead of time so that all options remain available for your consideration.
  • Level of Activity. Visits to the islands are only permitted during the twelve hours of daylight 6am to 6pm. Typically a cruise will have two excursions each day a morning and an afternoon that will be a combination of shore and water excursions. Walks are generally at a slow pace offering plenty of time for interpretation and photos. The landings may be slippery and some trails can be rocky making them difficult for older people with balance problems, but in general the walks are easy. Water excursions may include snorkeling, kayaking, panga rides (rides in local dinghies) as well as rides in a glass bottom boat depending on your cruise. Life under the water is more diverse than that on shore and snorkeling with sea lions is frequently the highlight of the trip for many visitors.
  • Additional costs. Many tours do not include the $100 park entry fee or the cost of a flight from the mainland to the islands (from $450-$530 from Quito) as well as a $20 INGALA Transit Control Card (for immigration control purposes). Additionally less expensive boats will charge for beverages, use of snorkel equipment, wetsuits and kayaks.
  • Time spent in the islands. The cruise length includes the day you arrive and the day you depart the Galapagos. Flights typically arrive the islands around noon time or in the early afternoon and leave the islands about the same time. On your first day you will typically have 1 excursion and on the day you leave you may or may not have an excursion. In addition all 8 day cruises are required to visit the town of Puerto Ayora and the Charles Darwin Research. Many itineraries will combine this day with a visit to see the tortoises in the wild in the highlands of Santa Cruz. Shorter cruises will take advantage of the close proximity of the Baltra airport to Puerto Ayora and let passengers who boarded the cruise in San Cristobal leave the cruise in Santa Cruz or vice versa.
  • Ship comfort levels. Quality of boats varies widely. You generally get what you pay for. Less expensive tours use boats may not: i) be capable of traveling as quickly between islands, ii) be as comfortable, iii) have great quality guides, iv) have very attentive crew, v) have the greatest food or vi)be as well-maintained.

Note that while the majority of the islands will be off-limits without a guide, it is possible to travel via speed boat between the towns on San Cristóbal, Santa Cruz and Isla Isabela; trips to Floreana can also be arranged. Speed boats cost $30 one-way (a 0,50 cents fare is requiered in Santa Cruz for the water taxi that takes you to the ferry and $1 for the water taxi in Isabela to take you from the ferry to the pier). Each of these islands offers the possibility of joining organized local day trips or of traveling on your own while within the town limits.

Hotels and hostels are available on each of these islands from $10-$500+, while hotels along the water are generally full especially in Santa Cruz. During peak season (Christmas, Easter weeks and Carnival) as well as during special events all hotels are frequently sold out well in advance. However, if you are traveling at other times of the year you may be able to find availability by just showing up.

From Santa Cruz it is possible to book day trips to the uninhabited islands of North Seymour, South Plazas, Santa Fe and Bartolome. Advance reservations are normally required, however on occasion you can find space due to a last minute cancellation the night before.

Santa Cruz has endless options of travel agencies that offer last minute tours, but payment is only accepted in cash, notheless now you can book and pay online for day tours, inter-island ferries and even shared or private airpor trasnfers. Book-ec, viator are some options for that.

By day tour yachts

The Galapagos park has made new options available for hotel based travel in around the archipelago. From San Cristobal island there is now the option of navigating to visitor sites like Española Island, Punta Pitt and Kicker rock amongst other interesting wildlife locations.


  • Imagine Ecuador, 16 de Diciembre and Juan Montalvo, +593985238214 (), [1]. 8 am to 8 pm. Our company arranges a wide variety of cruises on different boats and catamarans. The expert team arranges honeymoon, wedding, bachelor party and family vacations in the Galapagos Islands. We can promise you the best rate and promotions all year. Last Minute Deals 30 days before the cruise.
  • Galapagos Cruise Links, [2]. This site connects you directly with the ship owners. It displays constantly updated last minute deals (within 90 days of the sailing date) with a variety of ships. Find your ideal cruise, and contact the owner directly for bookings or for further questions. Negotiate prices directly with the ship owner.
  • The Galapagos Tours, [4]. The Galapagos tours offers good rates for Galapagos cruises on Galaven II motor yacht (Tourist class), Xavier motor yacht (First Class) and Queen Beatriz Catamaran (Luxury) with 5, 6, and even 7 days itinerary in Galapagos Islands. Prices start at $875 5D/4N to $1,186.


  • Cultural & Natural Heritage Tours, (1-613-612-6269) (), [5]. Runs the original "ACTIVE GALAPAGOS" trip on the highly rated 14 passenger Samba. Due to high demand, this company went from offering 2 Active Galapagos charters a year in 2004 to 24 today, attracting guests that are keen on getting the most out of their Galapagos adventure.
  • Dive The Galapagos (dive-the-galapagos), Puerto Villamil, Isabela-Galapagos, 1-866-492-6645, [6]. Dive The Galapagos is the only company in the world that focuses exclusively on diving in the Galapagos Islands. This company also operates land-based tours from its base in Puerto Villamil.
  • Galapagos Advisor, [7]. A comprehensive searchable Galapagos cruise ship database - choose from 65 ships. Find your ideal cruise ship using filters such as ship class/budget, itinerary preferences, cruise length, cabin configuration, solo / family / limited mobility friendly, balconies and more. The site puts you in touch with the owners directly - no middleman.
  • Galapagos Legend, USA (1-888-810-6909) (), [8]. Operates the 100 passenger Galapagos Legend, one of the larger boats operating in the islands. Landing opportunities are limited due to the large number of passengers, but this ship offers a less-expensive way to visit some of the more popular sites within the Galapagos. Often offers discounted rates.
  • Samba Galapagos, Chimborazo SE 110, Cumbaya, +593 2 289 0418, [9]. M/S Samba offers 8 or 15 day cruises around the archipelago. Her Galapagos trips are oriented to live and experience an authentic adventure in a unique and incomparable natural world. You will live an unforgettable Galapagos vacation due to the dedication they place on the learning experience about the natural history of the archipelago
  • Galapagos Unbound, 1-800-451-6034, [10]. The original land-based tour of the Galapagos Islands. They are small group tours, 12 guests or less and includes kayaking and beach camping on the islands.
  • Voyagers Travel Company, 1-866-725-3255, [11]. Full travel planning service with fixed departure options on chartered yachts, Voyagers has served over 10000 passengers in the last 5 years, the company charters several Galapagos boats and offers full programs combining a Galapagos cruise with Ecuador land programs. From $1200 for 3 night cruises.


  • Galapagos Luxury Charters, +19549900976 (), [12]. Luxury Charters company based in Ecuador specializing in tailor-made private charters. Galapagos Luxury Charters true value is the ability to create a unique experience during your Galapagos charter, which truly will last a lifetime
  • Epicurean Galapagos, (), [13]. The comfort+++ portal for Cultural and Natural Heritage Tours (see above), Epicurean Galapagos represents only the highest-end half-dozen ships in the islands and the most comfortable boutique hotels on the mainland. For those who are set on the best that Galapagos has to offer.
  • Galapagos Boat, [14]. Galapagos Boat offers private crewed yacht charters in the Galapagos Islands. Tours feature customized itineraries and activities as well as a personal chef on board to prepare gourmet meals of choice. Charter yachts range from 145-foot Motor Yacht Grace to 84.5-foot sailing catamaran Rose of Jericho.
  • Nina and Athala Catamarans, [15]. Nina and Athala are the only two luxury catamarans in the Galapagos islands. The boats are the biggest boats out of all the small yachts in Galapagos. Cabins size is comparable to big ships (17 and 19 square mts). Nina has a private balcony in all cabins.
  • Galapagos Journey Fleet, [16]. The Galapagos Journey fleet is run by Latin Trails, boats are built entirely in Guayaquil - Ecuador, true pride of "Guayaquileño" artisans. The Galapagos Sea Star Journey offers 4 and 5 night cruises, while the Seaman Journey offers 3, 4 and 7 night cruises visiting a variety of National Park sites always in company of a naturalist guide. Both yachts support the IGTOA conservation programs and fundraising for Galapagos Conservancy conservation programs Cruises from $2500 for a 3 night cruise.
  • Galapagos Travel (US), [17]. An American company that specializes in 11 and 15 day trips around the islands. This company caters to photographers and provides service in luxury-class yachts with extensive itineraries. Costs begin at $5200 and do not include park entry fee or airfare to Baltra.
  • Galapagos Travel (Ecuador), [18]. Ecuador based tour operator offering 3, 4 and 7 night cruises on board the luxurious catamaran M/C Galapagos Seaman Journey, cruises feature a Galapagos Park guide, cruise director and 11 crew members to pamper 16 guests throughout a natural history tour visiting the less visited excursion sites in the archipelago.
  • INCA (International Nature & Cultural Adventures), [19]. INCA is an American company with unique itineraries on the luxury, 16-passenger small yachts M/V Integrity and M/V Reina Silvia. All INCA Galapagos adventures feature 7-night cruises including outlying islands, and most include stays at the Royal Palm Resort, Finch Bay Hotel or Galapagos Safari Camp on Santa Cruz Island. Private trips available on either yacht. Options for Amazon, Otavalo and Machu Picchu. Costs begin at $5295, not including park fee and airfare.. (5295,)
  • SunWind Travel, [20]. An Ecuadorian company with offices in Galapagos, Quito and Florida. SWT charter the finest yachts and arrange high quality cruises. Owners are +20 year-experienced level III naturalist guides. Costs begin at $3165 and include 7-night cruising, 3-night accommodation in Quito, a la carte welcome and farewell dinner, all-day tour of Quito, private transfers. Not included park entry fee and flight to/from Galapagos..
  • Anahi Galapagos Catamaran, [21]. Ecuador based tour operator offering 3, 4 and 7 night cruises on board the luxurious catamaran M/C Anahi. Ship owner based in Galapagos and operatating from Quito-Ecuador.
  • Treasure of Galapagos Catamaran, [22]. Treasure of Galapagos first class catamaran, compiles unmatched quality and comfort for a Galapagos Cruise experience, offering 5,7,9,11 and 15 days itineraries.

  • Galapagos Odissy, [23]. The Galapagos Odissy is a 16 passenger yacht that offers 5 and 6 day cruise programs Cruises from $5600 for a 4 night cruise.
Panorama from the West of San Cristóbal Island


The Blue-footed Booby (Sula nebouxii) is a bird in the Sulidae family, which includes ten species of long-winged seabirds.
Frigate bird
The Galápagos tortoise or Galápagos giant tortoise (Chelonoidis nigra) is the largest living species of tortoise, this is from the Island of Santa Cruz.
Marine Iguana ( Amblyrhynchus cristatus ) on the beach at Tortuga Bay in the Galapagos on the Island of Santa Cruz.

On each island, the number of visitors are limited and there are only a small number of official landing and visitor sites. You must follow the instructions of your guide to protect the wildlife and you are not allowed off the marked paths. This is not a problem as the animals are so tame they will sit right on the path or cross it without caring about mere tourists.

The Charles Darwin foundation [31] administers several research stations throughout the islands, including a large station in Puerto Ayora that is worth visiting for its animal and natural history exhibits, the Galapagos Interpretation Center in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno and the Tortoise Breeding Center are the most interesting of the breeding centers in Puerto Villamil.

Bartolome Island

A very small island teemed with great views and wildlife next to its neighbour San Salvador (James) island. The most photographed view of the islands is found here, the famous Pinnacle Rock and the distant islands. A wooden staircase allows us to gradually ascend to the top of this large cone, without adding physical damage (erosion) to the path itself. This small island offers plenty of rewarding activities.

Wildlife highlights: Being a young island, it only allows pioneer species to conquer and thrive here. Geology and scenery are fascinating. Pinnacle Rock is by all means the best photographic attraction.



Cruises are the only option to see the majority of remote islands.Galapagos Cruises on the Galapagos Islands

An important cruise review site to look at and find trip reports and comments refering to the different boats operating in the archipelago is: Galapagos Travel Advisor 39.

Although the Galapagos Islands are a beautiful once -in- a -lifetime experience no matter which boat you are on, remember that you'll still spend a considerable amount of your holiday on board. Here are the most common considerations when choosing a boat.

Some people question whether they should get a Galapagos Large or Galapagos Small Boat. Both have both advantages and drawbacks.

Small Galapagos Yachts:

For those who prefer a more intimate experience on-board and on the islands, we recommend choosing a small yacht. The small yachts that we offer are typically handmade romantic sailboats or swift modern motor yachts that offer high quality personal service. You can find utmost luxury and comfort on the Galapagos Catamarans.38

On small yachts, here is less impact on the fragile Galapagos environment. Another advantage to small yachts is the fact that large ships cannot anchor or disembark at some visitor sites due to their size or a high number of passengers.

Galapagos Cruise Ships: [Cruises]

For those that want the extra safety, social feel, amenities, stability, and spaciousness that cruise ships provide, larger ships may be the ideal way to visit the Galapagos. The Galapagos National Park sets a wise limit on ships to 100 passengers.

The cruise ships offer more spacious and often more comfortable standards in service and accommodations than you thought necessary. They will truly enhance your trip.

Consider chartering a Galapagos Boat If you are group of students, a corporation, a club, on a honeymoon and want a private experience, or any group of people who wants to explore the Galapagos Islands on a chartered boat.

Another question people ask is when they should go to the Galapagos Islands. Both the availability of space and the weather in the Galapagos Weather in the Galapagos may affect when you choose to go to the Islands. Most boats fill up months, or even years ahead of time for July, August, December and early January. In other times of the year, availability is greater. Still, there is no foolproof way to predict how many people will come; it is best to simply come whenever it is most convenient for you.

All cruise ships are required to have a certified naturalist guide. Each cruise ship has a fixed itinerary for the year which is set by the Galapagos National Park to control the number of tourists arriving on each island. Cruises are available in 2,4,5,8 and 15 day options. The following is a list of typical sights:

  • Climbing the hill on Bartolome for the classic Galapagos view
  • Visiting the Giant Tortoise breeding and rearing program at the Charles Darwin Research Center[32] on Santa Cruz.
  • Seeing the red neck sacks of the Magnificent Frigatebird on North Seymour or El Junco, San Cristobal.
  • Visiting unique and color species like the Galapagos penguins on Isabela or Floreana.
  • Going snorkeling with sea lions and pacific sea turtles as often as possible.

Observe the nature

Galapagos Tortuga

Gigantic Tortuga (Chelonoidis nigra)

Boats in Puerto Ayora

Tortuga Bay, Island of Santa Cruz

Galapagos Islands

Snorkeling & Scuba Diving

Snorkeling and diving are very popular activities as the sea life is very rich and colourful.

Snorkeling equipment should be available from your tour operator, but check first if you don't have your own. You should also bring a waterproof camera. Remember to wear at least a T-shirt and suntan lotion if you are snorkeling, as it's easy to get sunburned in the strong sun. Snorkeling offers a way to be in the water with fish, sea turtles, sea lions, and other creatures, and is a great option for those who don't have scuba certification. The older, further to the west islands often have cold temperatures. Wet-suits can be rented at the same locations as snorkeling equipment.

Diving in the Galapagos is incredible, as noted by Rodale's Scuba Diving Magazine. Darwin and Wolf Islands have been ranked as the best dive destination in the world for several years in the categories of healthiest marine environment, best big animal dive, and best advanced diving. Still, the Galapagos is not necessarily the right place for beginners or novices. Currents, surge, cold water, and sometimes poor visibility and depths make it a challenge for novices. Certification courses are available in both Santa Cruz and San Cristobal for those looking to learn, and there are several dive sites that are relatively beginner-friendly.

There are 2 ways to dive in the Galapagos Islands:

  1. Daily dives with a local tour operator from Santa Cruz, Isabela and San Cristobal.
  2. Galapagos liveaboards. Only liveaboards reach Darwin and Wolf.
These 2 sites are the reason most divers come to Galapagos.

Two of the world's premier diving destinations, Darwin Island and Wolf Island, are accessible only via live-aboard. These islands present challenging currents and are not suitable for beginners, but offer amazing opportunities to see huge schools of hammerhead sharks, Galapagos sharks, Silky sharks and whale sharks in season (July-Nov), in addition to other pelagic life like giant mantas, eagle rays, sting rays, huge schools of jack and tuna, sea turtles, sea lions and more.

Note that park regulations may change unexpectedly; in 2007, many divers were caught unaware as the National Park withdrew diving permits from quite a few cruise ships without notice, leaving many divers without dive cruises they had booked far in advance. For this reason, travelers are advised to get the most up-to-date information possible when planning a dive trip to the Galapagos Islands. As of 2010, the National Park is now regulating land-based diving for the first time and few of the many shops operating have the new permits necessary. It is best to ask if an operator has a dive permit, otherwise you may be turned back by Park Rangers and not permitted to dive. As of 2011, the National Park no longer permits dive liveaboards to offer land visits, except for the Highlands of Santa Cruz which is on all itineraries.


You can fish in the Reserve, for marlin, tuna, wahoo and many other species but only if you are using an operator and boat that have the requisite "Artisanal Vivencial Fishing" licences issued by the Galapagos National Park. "Sport Fishing", as such, is prohibited. The Galapagos National Park publishes a list of Vivencial Fishing licence-holders and their boats [33] but, unfortunately, they do not keep the list up to date.

When Vivencial Fishing, you can keep a limited quantity of fish for personal consumption but all marlin must be released unharmed.

Vivencial Fishing was conceived with the purpose of providing local fishermen with an ecologically sustainable alternative to commercial fishing. However, there is constant pressure, both political and commercial, to legalize "Sport Fishing" and open the market to better financed and better connected outsiders.


Hiking is often included as part of organized cruises or tours of the highlands. Although you will often see fewer animals during these tours, you will usually gain a greater understanding of the difference in terrain and vegetation as well as the formation of the islands. Hiking is restricted in all National Park land, however several sights, like the Wall of Tears on Isabela and Cerro Tijeras on San Cristobal can be hiked independently.


Biking provides quicker access to far sites from the ports. Bike rentals are available on Isabela, San Cristobal and Santa Cruz for around $15/day.


The Galapagos provides some good waves and many locals make it a daily activity. Boards can be rented by the day or month at port towns. In general sites are marked with a place to rest surf boards as to not damage the land. The following are beaches that allow surfing:

  • The Galapagos surf co, [24]. knows where the waves are and unlike everybody thinks waves are not only in San Cristobal with north swell, there are south swell waves in Santa Cruz and Isabela islands as well .
  • Lavawave Surf Adventures offers single and multi-day surf trips, and other activities, from San Cristobal


To minimize the impact of sightseeing on the unique ecosystem and to mitigate issues with introduced species, several organizations provide conservation based volunteering.

  • Hacienda Tranquila[34] works on envionmental, community and social issues. Volunteers stay on the grounds and cook for themsevles. The hacienda is owned and managed by locals.
  • Hacienda Esperanza[35] works to conserve the environment and promote sustainable technologies. Volunteers are provided room and board as part of volunteering. The hacienda is owned and managed by locals.
  • Jatun Sachu[36] works to conserve the Galapagos and covers a larger area. Volunteers are provided room and board as part of volunteering.


Kayaking allows you to navigate more of the water without a boat. Kayaks can be rented at Tortuga Bay in Santa Cruz and the port at San Cristobal to navigate the nearby beaches. Fish and sea turtles can often be seen while kayaking, however conditions should be checked before renting.

Horseback Riding

Horseback riding can be organized to allow you to see the highlands at greater depths. Tours are roughly $50. Additional tours may be found through inquiring with taxis or local tour agencies.




There are hotels and other accommodation in the towns of Puerto Ayora, Puerto Villamil, and Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, however if you really want to see lots of good wildlife, you will need to combine your stay on these islands with daily boat tours to other islands.

Hotels and hostels are available on San Cristóbal, Santa Cruz, Isabela, and Florena from $25-$500+, while hotels along the water are generally full especially in Santa Cruz. During peak season (Christmas & Easter weeks) as well as during special events all hotels are frequently sold out well in advance. However, if you are traveling at other times of the year you may be able to find availability by just showing up.

Stay safe

In general, crime is not a problem in the Galapagos. Misdemeanors may occur in the towns, and occasionally fisherman will stage strikes or demonstrations that affect tourists, but for the most part, there is little to be concerned about. It should be noted, however, that some items that have been reported missing have been found in the crews' quarters! As most boats do not have lockable cabins, it might be advisable to keep your items locked away in bags in your cabins.

The animal life in the islands is mostly docile with the exception of larger sea lions. Bulls, in particular, will vigorously protect their harems, and can inflict dangerous and potentially deadly bites. Do not snorkel close to sea lion colonies. If a bull sea lion approaches you, swim away from the nearest colony. Although the bulls can be dangerous, swimming with juvenile sea lions can be one of the most exciting parts of a trip.

In addition to sea lions, there is a slight danger from sharks. In general sharks will not attack unless provoked, although attacks can sometimes occur in murky water when sharks mistake humans for other animals. However, by exercising simple common sense, experiences will be almost always be positive.

Be careful with the tap water, especially in Puerto Ayora. It is not recommended to drink it or brush your teeth with it.


Do not disturb the wildlife

The park is strictly regulated. Outside of the towns visitors must be accompanied by guides, and visitors are only allowed on land from sunrise until sunset. Itineraries must be registered with the park prior to embarking on a trip, and animals should never be disturbed; while the wildlife in the Galapagos will usually ignore your presence, a general rule of thumb is that if an animal notices your presence then you are too close. Two meters is generally given as a minimum distance to keep away from animals; you will find that if you are calm and respectful that many animals will walk right up to investigate you.

One of the greatest dangers to the islands is introduced species. The park service is trying to eliminate goats, rats, cats, dogs, and introduced plant species on many of the islands, but it is a difficult battle; after evolving for thousands of years without predators, the Galapagos wildlife is not adapted to handle these new species. When traveling to the islands, do not bring any plant or animal life with you, and be sure to always clean your footwear when traveling between islands to avoid accidentally transferring seeds.

Illegal fishing is another threat to the park. Although park officials may deny it, illegal fishing for sharks and sea cucumbers occurs on a massive scale. The number of fishermen has increased rapidly over the last few years, while the number of fish have plunged. Due to ongoing tensions between fisherman, tourism, and science the level of enforcement of fishing laws can vary greatly, but even when policies are put in place to limit fishing enforcement is difficult due to the resources required to patrol the vast park area.

Another big threat to the park is the growing population. Although new rules make it impossible for people arriving from the mainland to live and work on the islands, the rules are hardly enforced, resulting in many people immigrating from the mainland to make quick money on the islands.

Conservation [37]

Though the first protective legislation for the Galápagos was enacted in 1930 and supplemented in 1936, it was not until the late 1950s that positive action was taken to control what was happening to the native flora and fauna. In 1955, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature organized a fact-finding mission to the Galápagos. Two years later, in 1957, UNESCO, in cooperation with the government of Ecuador, sent another expedition to study the conservation situation and choose a site for a research station. In 1959, the centenary year of Charles Darwin's publication of The Origin of Species, the Ecuadorian government declared 97.5% of the archipelago's land area a national park, excepting areas already colonized. The Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF) was founded the same year. The core responsibility of CDF, an international nongovernmental organization (NGO) constituted in Belgium, is to conduct research and provide the research findings to the government for effective management of Galápagos.

In 1986, the 70,000 square kilometers (27,000 sq mi.) of ocean surrounding the islands was declared a marine reserve, second in size only to Australia's Great Barrier Reef. In 1990, the archipelago became a whale sanctuary. UNESCO recognized the islands in 1978 as a World Heritage Site and in 1985, as a biosphere reserve.


The codified park rules are:

  1. To visit the National park you must always be accompanied by a certified Galapagos National park guide.
  2. Galapagos is a unique and fragile environment. Take only photographs and video. Professional shooting needs authorization from the National Park.
  3. Please stay within the limits of the walking trails, for your safety and that of the flora and fauna.
  4. To avoid affecting the wildlife's natural behavior please avoid getting closer than two meters to the animals.
  5. Camping is only allowed in specific sites. If you wish to camp, you must first obtain a permit from the Galapagos National Park.
  6. Help conservation by cooperating with the authorities in their inspection, monitoring and control duties. Report any anomalies to the National Park.
  7. Do not introduce foreign organisms to the islands, as these can have a negative impact on the ecosystem.
  8. Please do not buy souvenirs which are made from black coral, sea shells, sea lion teeth, tortoise shell, volcanic rock, or endemic woods.
  9. Galapagos animals have their own feeding behavior. Never feed the animals. Feeding them can be detrimental to their health.
  10. Galapagos landscapes are beautiful and unique. Do not spoil them by writing or etching rocks or trees.
  11. Do not litter while on the islands. Always dispose of rubbish in a safe and appropriate way.
  12. Smoking or making camp fires in the national park areas is strictly forbidden and can cause devastating fires.
  13. Fishing is strictly forbidden, except on those boats specifically authorised by the Galapagos National Park.
  14. Jet skiing, submarines, water skiing, and aerial tourism are all strictly forbidden.
  15. Do not disturb the animals. They can harm you.
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