Planning Your Galapagos Island Hopping Trip

Everything you need to know to plan the perfect Galapagos Island-Hopping trip!

There are 3 main islands to base out of:

  1. Santa Cruz
  2. Isabela
  3. San Cristobal

With 4-6 days, it is best to stick with just 2 islands, usually Santa Cruz and Isabela.  You need a minimum of 7 days to see all three islands (8-10 days is best).  If you do all 3 islands, you will want to do this order:

  1. San Cristobal (fly here from mainland)
  2. Isabela (fly from San Cristobal)
  3. Santa Cruz (2 hour speed boat from Isabela, fly out from Baltra to mainland)

Towns on the three islands are very different.  Santa Cruz (Puerto Ayora) is the largest and busiest with the most restaurants, bars, and shops.  San Cristobal (Puerto Baquerizo) has more of a small town feel to it, not as touristy.  Isabela is very laid-back, but is a true “beach town” experience (you will rarely change out of your flip flops).

SAN CRISTOBAL

There are 3 main activities that you do with a guide, 2 extra guided activities, and 2+ activities that you can do on your own.

Guided Activities:

  1. Interpretation Center + Snorkeling (sea turtles) + Carola Beach
  2. Kicker Rock with beach – snorkeling or Scuba diving
  3. Visit an uninhabited island (Lobos Island, Punta Pitt, Espanola)

Extra Guided Activities:

  1. Scuba diving
  2. Tortoise Breeding Center in Highlands

On Your Own Activities:

  1. Loberia Beach (great snorkeling with sea turtles and sea lions + hiking with iguanas + relaxing)
  2. Playa Mann (beach near town for relaxing + casual outdoor dining)
  3. Biking, kayaking, SUP

ISABELA

There are 3 main activities that you do with a guide and 3+ activities that you can do on your own.

Guided Activities:

  1. Tintereras Bay – Boat ride + short hike + snorkeling
  2. Los Tuneles – Snorkeling (amazing) + short hike
  3. Sierra Negra Volcano – Long hike to amazing landscapes

On Your Own Activities:

  1. Bicycle to Wall of Tears
  2. Walk to Tortoise Center and Flamingo Lagoon

SANTA CRUZ

There are 3 main activities that you do with a guide and 2 activities that you do on your own.

Guided Activities:

  1. Tortoises in Highlands with lava tunnels + Garrapatero Beach (swimming)
  2. Visiting an uninhabited island (North Seymour, Bartolome, Plazas, Santa Fe)
  3. Scuba diving (Gordon Rocks)

On Your Own Activities:

  1. Charles Darwin Center
  2. Tortuga Bay – Snorkeling + hiking + relaxing

Tortuga Bay

It is a 3km stone path from town to a nice, good-size beach.  It is good for snorkeling, and you can see swimming iguanas.  The second beach is for snorkeling and kayaking.

SCUBA DIVING

The two most popular scuba dives from the islands are

  • Kicker Rock (San Cristobal)
  • Gordon Rocks (Santa Cruz)

But there are other options as well.

GALAPAGOS FLIGHTS

There are 2 airports for flights from mainland Ecuador:

  • Santa Cruz (Baltra/GPS)
  • San Cristobal (SCY)

Isabela has a small airport with flights to the other two islands.

The flights to the Galapagos fly Quito->Guayaquil->Galapagos (GPS or SCY).  They fly back in reverse order.  The airlines servicing the Galapagos are TAME, Avianca, and LATAM.

There are 1-2 non-stop flights per day between Quito to the Galapagos (Avianca, LATAM).  They are slightly more expensive and sell out early (but worth it).

The transfer from the Baltra Airport on the north side of Santa Cruz to Puerto Ayora on the south side is a good hour.  You take a bus from the airport to the channel, a ferry ride across the channel, and a taxi across the island.

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