Exploring the Galapagos Islands

Destination: Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

| Activities: Hiking, Snorkeling, Wildlife

The Galapagos Islands are loved the world over for their rich and accessible wildlife and fantastic geology. Widely known as the place where Darwin confirmed his theory of evolution, it also offers the opportunity for intimate viewing of wildlife on sea and land. In the Galapagos we'll swim with sea lions, snorkel in clear waters teeming with brightly colored fish, hike to a volcanic crater, and walk within a few feet of blue-footed boobies, marine iguanas, and Giant Tortoises. Our journey takes you to three unique islands as well as many coves and inlets that include a wealth of wildlife. Add on the Amazon Extension to make the most of your time in Ecuador!

Highlights

  • Immerse yourself in the amazing biodiversity of the world renowned Galapagos
  • Stay on three different islands and learn about the unique aspects of each
  • Swim and snorkel among sea lions and brightly colored fish
  • Hike to the rim of a volcano and see the effects of a 12-year-old eruption

Inclusions

  • An English-speaking naturalist guide and an AGC guide (If the trip is not full, there may not be an AGC guide)
  • Internal flights to/from the Galapagos Islands and private speed boat transport between islands
  • Double occupancy lodging in hotels (10 nights)
  • Meals as noted on the itinerary
  • All activities on the itinerary
  • Gratuities for day guides, drivers, boat crews and lodge staff

Not included: Travel between Quito and your home, Galapagos National Park Entry Fee ($100), Galapagos Transit Card ($20), Isabela Port Fee ($10), alcoholic beverages, guide gratuities, travel insurance, meals as noted on itinerary, and optional activities not on the itinerary.

NOTE: Travel insurance is NOT included, but it is required for this trip.

Trip Documents

Trip Info

This trip is appropriate for women in good physical condition who want to spend 3 to 5 hours every day actively exploring the Galapagos, including hiking, swimming, and kayaking. With the exception of the hike up Sierra Negra Volcano, none of the days are strenuous; however, the days are full and some will involve early mornings. There are several opportunities to snorkel on this trip and being comfortable in the water is important if you want to snorkel. There are also several speedboat transfers and while the ocean is typically calmer this time of year, this trip may not be a good choice if you are very prone to seasickness. Please note, as in all international travel, flexibility is an absolute must and the ability to set aside our western expectations and enjoy the culture and country will make for a wonderfully enjoyable trip. Rating: 1 [2] 3 4 5.

This is truly a multisport exploration of the Galapagos Islands. Wildlife watching is a primary activity in the Galapagos and in addition we'll kayak, swim, snorkel, and hike. Our Galapagos guides will make sure you leave with an understanding of the complex ecosystem and interesting history.

We will spend the first and last nights in Quito at the Wyndham Airport Hotel, which offers an airport shuttle for arrival and departure convenience. In the Galapagos we'll be staying at three different locally-owned and small hotels (see itinerary for specifics). Hotel rooms are double occupancy with ensuite bathrooms unless you have requested a single supplement.
Of note: Purified/filtered water is available (free of charge) at all the accommodations that will be used during your trip. Water will be provided in large containers to enable you to fill and re-fill your personal water bottles and/or hydration systems.

Below is the proposed itinerary for the trip. As is true on any adventure travel trip, plans for any specific day may be modified due to weather considerations, unforeseen circumstances, new opportunities, and group interests.

DAY 1
Our trip starts in Quito, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Ecuador's Capital City. At over 9,000 feet, Quito is the highest capital city in the world, and it is likely you'll experience some symptoms of breathlessness as you walk around. Our hotel is located in Quito while the airport is located outside of the city. The group shuttle from the airport to the hotel is approximately 45 minutes and will leave the airport at 3PM. If you arrive early and want to get to the hotel before this timeline, we will help you arrange a shuttle for an extra fee. We'll then gather at 5PM in the lobby for introductions and a trip orientation before sharing our first dinner together.

Overnight: Reina Isabel Hotel or similar (D)
DAY 2
Today we explore the highest constitutional capital in the world! After a walk around Quito's historic Old Town district, you'll see why Quito was the first city to be named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We'll admire the famed Basilica and if time allows, climb inside to explore its towers before continuing on to the main square the Archbishop's Palace. Before lunch we'll get to see Quito's best viewpoint at El Panecillo. Free afternoon to relax and get ready for Galapagos. (B, L, D)

Overnight: Reina Isabel Hotel or similar
DAY 3
It's back to the airport early this morning for our flight to the Galapagos! Today will be a long travel day but it will be mitigated by our excitement about being in the Galapagos. We arrive in Baltra, formerly the location of an air base built by the US Navy during WW II, located just off Santa Cruz Island and one of the two main airports in the Galapagos. After paying our Galapagos National Park Entry fee ($100 each) and transferring to the Puerto Ayora via bus, we board our waiting speed boat for a 2.5-hour trip to Isabela Island. This seahorse-shaped island is the largest in the archipelago at 80 miles in length. Despite its remarkable beauty, Isabela is not a stop on most Galapagos cruises, making it a less-visited site perfect for our adventures.

Isabela was formed approximately one million years ago by the merger of six shield volcanoes: Alcedo, Cerro Azul, Darwin, Ecuador, Sierra Negra, and Wolf, all but one of which are still active. Two of the volcanoes, Wolf and Cerro Azul, stretch above the cloud cover and are therefore arid on their upper flanks. Because it is a relatively young island, Isabela's lava fields and surrounding soil do not have the varied vegetation zones of other islands. Despite this, the rich animal, bird, and marine life are beyond compare. Upon arrival on Puerto Villamil, the main town on Isabela, we check into San Vicente Hotel. On a walking tour we'll start learning about and get oriented to the area.

Overnight: La Laguna Hotel or similar (B, L, D)
DAY 4
The morning begins with a boat ride to the small isolated islet of Tintoreras or Shark Alley. This island is a unique volcanic formation. On its west face a primitive species of lichen flourishes in the moisture brought by the prevailing wind. This is a popular iguana nesting site that's home to hundreds of marine iguanas. In the quiet lagoon there are also boobies, penguins and other birds. We'll explore by boat and then by foot, walking through the volcanic rock and observing the wildlife and then, we'll explore by water - snorkeling! We'll snorkel in a calm inlet with colorful fish and winding underground lava tubes. This area is frequented by green sea turtles that like to rest on the calm, sandy bottom. After lunch we'll get to snorkel again, this time at a spot called "Concha y Perla" or shell and pearl where sea lions are usually plentiful.

Overnight: La Laguna Hotel or similar (B, L)
DAY 5
After breakfast this morning we drive to the highlands of Isabela for an entirely new view and feel of the Galapagos (and likely our most challenging day of the trip). After a 45-minute drive we reach the starting point of our hike up Sierra Negra, one of the most active volcanoes in the Galapagos. It last erupted on October 22, 2005 and deposited a new and dramatic layer of lava. The caldera of this volcano is the second largest in the world, with a diameter of approximately six and a half miles. On our hike we can spot a variety of birds, including finches and flycatchers and if we're lucky, the Galapagos hawk. From the rim of the caldera we can see the awesome force of nature and its aftermath.

At this point in our hike, there are choices. We can stop and enjoy our surroundings or continue our hike to Chico Volcano to see fumaroles and the unusual lava formations, a striking visual record of the geological history of these islands. From our highest vantage points, we'll enjoy views of Isabela's other volcanoes and nearby islands. Returning to the starting point of our hike and then driving back to town, we'll have time for a walk to the beach for a cool swim, or perhaps a stroll in town.

Mileage: 4 or 11 miles roundtrip. Overnight: La Laguna Hotel or similar (B, L)
DAY 6
We'll begin the day with a kayak excursion in a protected bay. While here, we'll search for the protected Galapagos penguin - the only penguin found close to the equator. It's also the smallest and looks like a duck until you see it out of the water. Along the way, we'll also keep an eye out for eagle rays, sea turtles, and blue-footed boobies.

In the afternoon we head by boat to Isla Santa Cruz (about 2.5 hours), also called Indefatigable Island. The tourist capital of the Galapagos, Santa Cruz is located in the center of the Galapagos Islands archipelago. It is also the center of human activity, since the National Park Headquarters, the Darwin Research Station, and the largest settlement in the Galapagos Islands, Puerto Ayora, are all located on Academy Bay on the south side of Santa Cruz Island. We'll check in to the hotel and then go for a short walking tour of Puerto Ayora. Our hotel is close to the center of town and if you have been wanting to do some shopping, there are lots of choices here.

Overnight: Lobo de Mar hotel or similar (B, L)
DAY 7
This morning you have two options for the activity. The first is an easy 15 minute stroll to a lovely snorkeling and swimming area called "Las Grietas". The second is a 1.5 mile (each way) walk to Tortuga Bay, a gorgeous and pristine beach accessible only by foot. Do you prefer swimming, sunbathing, or bodysurfing? Or all three? It's totally up to you at Tortuga Bay. In the afternoon we'll get to see the interior of the island. (Santa Cruz is the only island of the Galapagos that has a road crossing its interior (running from Puerto Ayora in the south to the Itabaca Channel crossing in the north), thus providing visitors a great opportunity to easily see the higher elevations. We'll drive to the Santa Cruz highlands where we will see wild Galapagos Tortoises. These huge creatures weigh 200 to 500 pounds and are scattered all over the island. Walking on level paths gives us the chance to observe the giant tortoise roaming in its natural habitat.

Overnight: Lobo de Mar hotel or similar (B, L)
DAY 8
This morning we'll visit the Charles Darwin Station, formerly the home of Lonesome George, the famous of his subspecies on Pinta Island. We'll learn about the Foundation's successes in repopulating the islands with the once endangered land iguana and several species of giant tortoise and see the most representative animals of the islands.

In the afternoon we'll take a speed boat to San Cristobal (about 2.5 hours), our last island on this journey. San Cristobal Island is the easternmost island in the archipelago chain. It is also one of the oldest and thus its volcanic peaks are greatly eroded, and vegetation is more abundant than on the other islands. Upon arrival in the provincial capital and second-largest town in Galapagos, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, we'll have some time to settle into our hotel, Casa de Nelly, before going on a walking tour to get oriented to the town.

Overnight: Casa de Nelly or similar (B, L)
DAY 9
This may be your favorite day, particularly if you like snorkeling. It begins with a short boat ride to Sea Lion Island where we'll disembark and take a short hike through and around the island observing the Frigatebird and their unusual mating rituals. The males have a distinctive red throat pouch, which they inflate during the breeding season to attract females. Sea lions and Blue Footed Boobies are also inhabitants and entertainers on the island. After observing the island by land, we'll next observe it by water - snorkeling! We'll snorkel the length of the island on the lagoon side where we'll be treated to a beautiful array of tropical fish and sea stars. We'll most likely be joined by playful young sea lions and enjoy their graceful antics in the sea. After snorkeling, we'll return to the boat for lunch and then head over to Ochoa Beach where we can choose between finding a shady spot to relax, soak up some sun on the beach or float around in this gorgeous lagoon watching for turtles - or maybe all three!

Returning to Isla San Cristobal we'll have a bit of free time to do whatever we want. Perhaps you might go for a hike to Frigate Bird Hill for panoramic views of the Pacific Islands and some bird watching. Or you may find it hard to leave Mann Beach, with its delightful setting and more opportunities to swim with sea lions. Perhaps you just want to sit on a quiet beach and reflect on everything you've seen and done in the past 2 weeks. However, you want to spend it, it will be just perfect.

Overnight: Casa de Nelly or similar (B, L)
DAY 10
This morning we'll visit the Interpretation Center where we'll learn about the history of the 'Enchanted Islands' and the conservation projects which seek to preserve the unique Galapagos wildlife. It's a fitting way to spend our last time here and particularly meaningful after we've seen it all up front. And then it's time to head to the airport for our flight back to Quito and transfer to the hotel. If you're extending your trip to the Amazon Jungle (which we recommend if time allows), you'll have a briefing that afternoon along with anyone who is joining for just that portion. Afterwards you'll share a final farewell dinner, saying goodbye to each other and to this amazing country.

Overnight: Wyndam Quito or similar (B, D)
DAY 11
This morning our adventure comes to an end. There are no planned activities and you can leave whenever you want. Our hotel is located almost directly across from the airport with a convenient airport shuttle. (B)

4.6

(26 reviews)
4.1 Food
3.9 Lodging
4.7 Safety
5
(17)
4
(7)
3
(2)
2
(0)
1
(0)

*These are the unfiltered reviews of women who have been on this trip in answer to the question "What made this trip special for you?". We take reviews very seriously and often tweak itineraries based on feedback. Please feel free to contact us about any questions you have.

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Laurie L.
0 months ago

This is a unique and memorable trip.

Linda B.
0 months ago

Judy R.
0 months ago

Lorie B.
0 months ago

Really enjoyed the wildlife, landscape, guides, travel companions and experiences!

Heather K.
0 months ago

Alexa our guide, and the other participants

Anita B.
0 months ago

The Local Guides Jessica and Johanna were very knowledgeable abount the culture. Jessica had amazing information on all the aminmals and geologic formations in Galapagos. Alexa was very sweet and her knoledge of spanish really was helpful

Kathryn P.
11 months ago

I have always wanted to go to the Galapagos Islands. This was a wonderful trip. I walked among sea lions, tortoises, iguanas and swam with the sharks. Our days were packed with fun filled activities, hiking, snorkeling and kayaking. The best part was meeting the other lady travelers and our wonderful local guide and Lainie our AGC guide. Our guides were great, would not seen or done half the activities without them.

Sue R.
1 year ago

Getting to see the Galapagos, and its amazing wildlife and geology, fulfilled a life long dream. The guides and participants made it extra special.

Bonnie S.
1 year ago

The wildlife. I have wanted to see the tortoises for decades. Then frigate birds, boobies, and sea lions were thrown in the mix. Wahoo. I also loved that the 3 towns we stayed at were very different from each other. The first was super quiet with sandy streets. The second was lively with shops and restaurants. The third was in between. I also loved that the island management was geared to preserving and protecting their wonderful environment. The trip to Santa Cruz highlands was super special. They said we would see tortoise in the wild. I was hoping to see a few. But they were everywhere! WOW!

Judith L.
1 year ago

We had tons of variety and different kinds of activities, the places we stayed were fine, our guides Lainie and local guide Jessica were great. I like the land based as we were able to walk around the towns and interact with people there. I really liked the long hike to the Chico Volcano on Isabela, loved the farm with all the tortoises, loved Sea Lion Island viewing the sea lion colony and birds, and snorkeling over the whales was truly special.

Jill C.
1 year ago

All the animals, local guide Jessica.

Nancy S.
1 year ago

Cindy S.
1 year ago

a great, special place with an excellent guide and good food and accommodations. I guess it had it all! Plus, the daily options could be modified to meet my interests and abilities...just what i needed now.

Libby D.
1 year ago

Close up encounters with all the animals. Jessica's knowledge of the Galapagos

Suzanne W.
1 year ago

Lainie Reisman and our local guide Jessica were fantastic! I couldn't have been in better hands!

Charlotte L.
1 year ago

Galapagos is a special place and we had two exceptional guides (Jessica a native and Lainie from AGC). We learned a lot of historical and current information about the Islands and the animals. We were able to get up close and personal with the wildlife with plenty of opportunity to take memorable pictures. The food was great and the company was cordial. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. Plenty of activities to keep us busy and plenty of activity options to choose from. It helped greatly to have both guides being able to speak Spanish and English. Some situations required to have to communicate with the locals in Spanish which we were able to do through the guides. A very successful trip and a good time was had by all.

Maryjane L.
2 years ago

Crystal C.
3 years ago

Jolynn T.
3 years ago

Snorkeling with the sea lions, seeing the three islands and the wonderful local guides.

Sue Y.
3 years ago

The Sea Lion Island walk was wonderful and snorkeling off San Cristobal, and all the sights and sounds!

Annette G.
3 years ago

Loved having both an AGC guide and a local guide from the islands. The wildlife was amazing. Would have enjoyed more kayaking and snorkeling.

Liz F.
3 years ago

I missed the initial briefing due to a delayed flight and therefore miss some important information regarding the 11 mile hike. I fell a couple of times and ended up with a pinched siatica nerve, blisters on feet. Was a great trip and enjoyed it trendously. Everything was very well planned.

R D.
3 years ago

I'm afraid of water (near drowning at age 7) and the guides made certain that I was comfortable enough to be able to snorkel and kayak to enjoy the beauty of the islands! I will add kayaking to my life.

Michelle H.
3 years ago

The snorkeling was great. The guide was excellent she was very knowledgeable and helpful. However the last place we stayed which words in San cristobal, The please clearly needed work. They were big gaps around the air-conditioner that let mosquitoes in and we got bit even in the bathroom. That needs to either be fixed or have mosquito netting.

Deborah D.
3 years ago

The Islands themselves. Getting to see the animals and swim with the seals.

Helen R.
3 years ago

  1. Where do we eat?

    Breakfasts and dinners will be in restaurants with a combination of planned group meals and individual 'order off the menu' depending on location/meal. Lunches will either be in restaurants or picnic style.

  2. What dietary preferences or restrictions can you accommodate on this trip?

    Vegetarian options for this trip are available but may be more limited than you are used to. If you are concerned about having enough protein during your trip, plan to bring some plant-based protein sources such as nut butter, instant dried hummus, or high-protein energy bars. If you cannot eat gluten or if you have other dietary restrictions i.e. vegan, you will need to bring some supplemental food with you.

  3. I will be coming by myself. Do I need to pay a single supplement?

    You only need to pay a single supplement if you want to guarantee you have your own room. Otherwise we’ll pair you up with someone and then switch roommates every time we switch lodging.
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