The Galapagos Islands consist of over 120 islands, islets and rocks. Of course, not all of them have tourist accommodation or are even inhabited. From the main islands, you can easily explore the surroundings by cruise. Nevertheless, the Galapagos Islands are far too big to explore and do everything within a single holiday. So, you will have to make choices about what you want to do and don’t want to do at the Galapagos Islands.
Some islands are known for their ocean sports such as snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking and surfing. Other islands are more suitable for hiking and wildlife watching. If you are looking for relaxation, you can easily reach some deserted, yet pretty well-known beaches.
If you want to have a complete Galapagos experience, you should visit multiple islands. The best way to do this is by cruise. During the night, it will cruise from one island to another. There are plenty of comfortable, complete and efficient services. However, this is rather expensive.
A cheaper option would be to pick one Island (generally Santa Cruz or Isabela) and book day tours from there. Or you could divide your stay over both Santa Cruz and Isabela. There is a daily ferry between the islands. It takes about half a day to get across.
Which option is best for you really depends on what you want to do and what your budget is.
Let’s look deeper into what activities there are to do at the Galapagos Islands.
There is probably no more popular sport at the Galapagos islands than snorkeling. It doesn’t matter where you want to practice it (or your level). You will see sea lions, sea turtles, penguins, manta rays, or even reef sharks on the way! But do not worry, you will always be safe and surrounded by professionals.
A great spot to snorkel at is Playa Mansa, a small mangrove-laden bay located in Puerto Ayora. On the way from Ayora to Puerto Villamil, ask for Concha de Perla, another popular place not far away from the harbor. One hour away from here, heading to the west, you will find Los Túneles. This place is an ideal route for beginners. It has fantastic inhabitants such as fluorescent fishes and colorful reefs.
There are also three incredible places to snorkel at Isabela. One of them is Tagus Cove, a deep-diving site filled with turtles where you will be snorkeling amidst lava rocks! Puente Vicente Roca is also famous because of its rocky, sandy bottoms and rock walls that will guide you to a limitless underwater depth. Finally, there is an easier route at Bahía Elizabeth, with its calm, crystal-clear waters.
The Galapagos Islands are a world-famous destination for scuba diving. There are over sixty dive sites at the Galápagos, most of them for experts. But do not let that stop you! You can also have your first experience in diverse areas. There are day tours and multi-day cruises destined for this activity.
There are diving sites near the main ports of towns. On the other hand, other ones are several hours (even up to a day or night) away from the islands. One popular place is the Bolivar Channel, located between the Isabela and Fernandina islands. It is known for its incredible fauna, which includes the majestic blue whale.
Sharks are the main characters of this activity. Kicker Rock is a popular scuba diving place because of the great diversity of sharks. Stingrays and exotic fishes are easily found in the surroundings. We recommend this place to those who are looking for an adventurous yet safe experience.
Kayaking is a recent activity at the Galapagos Islands. Only five years ago, the first guides of this sport were certified. Since then, it has become popular because it allows for reaching new sites. For example, the way from Las Grietas to Punta Estrada is only reachable by kayak. The channel is an incredible place to practice it, because of the brown noddies, frigate birds and blue-footed boobies that are always flying around.
La Lobería, in San Cristobal, is another good option for sea kayaking. You can spot friendly sea lions (leones marinos) at its shore; this is why the place is called lobería. Bahía Tortuga in Santa Cruz is also known for the diverse fauna that interacts with you while kayaking in its surroundings.
Galapagos Islands Surfing
It is always the surfing season at the Galapagos Islands. However, if you want to make your holidays a dedicated surf trip, you should come during the wet seasons (December – April). During that time of the year, you will find the biggest waves. In fact, this is not only the best time for a surf trip to the Galapagos Islands, but also to the Ecuadorian Pacific coastline at its mainland.
San Cristobal is the main surfing destination. Places like La Lobería, Punta Carola and Tongo Reef have the perfect waves for any level. El Manglecito and El Cañón are also popular because you can have a closer approach to its fauna.
Santa Cruz offers incredible surfing beaches such as La Ratonera and Tortuga Bay. This last one is one of the top ten beaches of the world on TripAdvisor.
If you are a beginner and you want to have the experience to catch an easy wave and enjoy the landscapes, go to Isabela. El Faro, Los Túneles and Puerto Villamil are beautiful places to get this experience.
Hiking and Trekking at the Galapagos
After several days in and at the ocean, you may want to walk around on the Galapagos Islands and enjoy its beautiful landscapes. A good starting point is Sullivan Bay, at Bartolomé Island. The main attraction of the place is its lava fields, which were formed by several eruptions. Do not worry, because the last one took place over a hundred years ago, in 1904.
Santa Fé is also a good idea if you want to hike. It is a small island that can be explored either by walking around it or reaching its cliffs. If you take the first option, it is possible to meet with lots of land iguanas, sea lions and paths filled with endemic cactus (opuntias). Over six-thousand iguanas inhabit the area. There is also a new rescued tortoise population.
If you are a bird fan, you should visit North Seymour. It is a two square kilometers island with easy side-to-side trails. Seymour is the home for blue-footed booby and frigate bird colonies. Sea lions and land iguanas are also playing around the palo santo trees that decorate the place.
Santa Cruz is one of the populated areas that can transform into a natural exploration. Reaching the top of Cerro Dragón, Cerro Crocker, Puntudo or Media Luna is a great experience. From any of the summits, you will be able to have a complete view of the island and far away on a clear day.