Day 1: Arrive Santa Cruz, Visit Tortuga Bay, Explore Puerto Ayora
This morning, you’ll fly to Santa Cruz, or Baltra, to be exact. This little island off the coast of Santa Cruz is home to the airport. Your guide will be waiting for you and the adventure will begin right away! It is a bus-ferry-taxi combination ride to get from the airport to town, which is on another island.
After check-in, we’ll take a walk out to Tortuga Bay, which is often named among the best beaches in South America. that ends in white sand and luscious waves. Tortuga Bay is a gorgeous beach accessible only by foot and laden with choices. Do you want to swim, sunbathe, bodysurf or do all three? A leisurely 45-minute path leads to the beach area and along the way you may spot lava lizards and birds in the surrounding trees.
Upon arrival at the first soft, white sandy beach, you’ll be greeted by some perfect surf. Further along, you can reach Tortuga Bay, a calm bay that is sheltered by mangroves and ideal for swimming, sometimes friendly baby sharks can be seen here too! There’s a nice walk through a cactus forest, a chance to spot nesting blue-footed boobies or massive marine iguanas.
You are free to head back to town at any time, where you can wander the streets of the largest town in the Galapagos Islands. Santa Cruz is the most populated of all the islands and its bustling port city is the tourist capital of Galapagos. Tonight, your guide will lead you to the Calle de Los Kioskos (Kiosks Street). This little back street is closed down each night as the small stall restaurants set up table and chairs in the middle of the street for open-air dining. If you’re looking for where the locals eat, look no further!
Day 2: Optional Charles Darwin Research Station Visit, Visit Tortoises in the Highlands, Public Boat to Isabela
For those interested, an optional visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station is suggested this morning. You can learn about the successes the station has had in repopulating the islands with the once endangered land iguana and several species of giant tortoise. From the collection of the eggs to the age of release, observe how the giant tortoises are raised and readied for life on their own. Lonesome George, the most famous Galapagos tortoise who died in 2012, is also on display in a special enclosure.
Puerto Ayora town has plenty to see and do for those who are not interested in heading to the research station. A stop at the fish market is always an interesting insight into local Galapagos life!
Your first group activity today is a morning trip to the highlands to visit a private giant tortoise reserve. You’ll be able to see these massive creatures in their natural habitat cooling off in a watering hole or munching away on some tasty greens. You’ll also have the chance to explore some nearby lava tunnels and gain a better appreciation of the natural forces that created these islands.
After lunch in the highlands, we’ll hop on board for our boat ride to Isabela Island – the largest island in the Archipelago. After check-in, we’ll go for a stroll through the picturesque town of Puerto Villamil. Along the white sand beach, we’re sure to find the perfect spot to toast in our first Isabela sunset, arguably the most beautiful of all the islands.
SURFING: Sometimes it’s possible to surf or boogie board at Tortuga Bay. Please tell your guide ahead of time if this is something you’d like to do.
Day 3: Morning Hike at Sierra Negra Volcano, Bay Kayak in the Afternoon
Lace up your hiking boots – we’re hiking up a volcano! Sierra Negra is one of the most active volcanoes in Galapagos; its last eruption was in October 2005. As we hike to the perimeter of the caldera, we’ll be on the lookout for bird species found only in the highlands like the bright red Vermillion Flycatcher and the elusive short-eared owl. Once we reach the rim, we’ll be met with a 9km view that stretches across one of the most active calderas in the world.
We’ll continue around the rim for a short time, stopping at various lookouts along the way. Take some time to contemplate the powers of nature and how amazing it is that these special islands were formed in the middle of the ocean. After enjoying a hearty sense of accomplishment, we’ll make our way back to town.
Seafood is the name of the food game in the Galapagos, but there are always plenty of options available to choose from. Once you've finished lunch today, get your water cameras and bathing suits on, as we are heading kayaking around the sheltered bay area of Puerto Villamil. Galapagos penguins (the only penguin found north of the equator), sea turtles, sea lions and rays frequent these shallow waters and blue-footed boobies, frigate birds, and pelicans may be seen resting along the shore and in some nearby mangrove trees.
If you prefer, you also have the option to rent a bike and head to the Wall of Tears. Return to town just in time for a sunset dip before your independent dinner. As always, your guide will be more than happy to help you find a local spot to dine.
Day 4: Tinoteras Hike and Snorkel, Fly to San Cristobal, Bike from Highland to La Loberia
After breakfast, we’ll head off for a leisurely walk through some lava fields at Tintoreras. The boat ride over may get us close to penguins, so keep your eyes out for them! The lava fields at Tintoreras provide a great environment for nesting marine iguanas. It is mostly aa lava here, which is different from the big lava tunnels you would have seen on Santa Cruz.
Along with many marine iguanas, Tintoreras is a safe zone for sleeping sharks! They come to this area to rest, as it has many calm channels where they can relax without being disturbed - except for maybe a nosy sea turtle or sea lion swimming by.
This afternoon, you’ll take a flight to the island of San Cristobal, the oldest and eastern-most island of the Galapagos archipelago. You’ll arrive just in time for lunch before you head out for your first activity: a downhill biking adventure to La Loberia.
Mostly on a paved path, beside the road, it is a scenic and easy ride that takes you from La Soledad in the highlands, through El Progresso town, and onwards to the beach. You'll be surprised by the contrast in landscapes from where you being the journey to where you end!
La “Loberia” is an area frequented by sea lions. In other words, it’s a sea lion hang-out! There we’ll be able to watch sea lions sunbathing and vying for our attention. They play, they nap and sometimes, they pose for pictures! If you’re keen for a swim or snorkel, hop on in.
On the way back to town, your guide will point out their favourite spots to dine.
Day 5: Snorkel at Kicker Rock, Optional SUP
Today we take to the water to get a glimpse of the underwater world of Galapagos. First, we’ll cruise along the coast in our boat identifying shorebirds like the great frigate and famous blue-footed booby. Then we’ll drop anchor for an introductory snorkel where we’ll get our fins wet in search of damselfish, puffer fish, and, hopefully, curious sea lion pups.
Next, we’ll continue to Kicker Rock, or Leon Dormido as it’s known by the locals, to explore the final remains of a tuff cone rising over 143 meters out of the ocean. If Kicker Rock were a building, it would have almost 50 floors! Along the edge and through a channel of this drastic compact ash formation, we’ll be on the hunt for sea turtles, spotted eagle rays, chocolate chip starfish, and, with any luck, a Galapagos Shark or two. Don’t worry: they won’t be as interested in you as you are in them!
A beautiful beach accessible only by boat will be our final stop. After lunch on board, feel free to spend your time swimming in the turquoise water or snapping photos of Kicker Rock in the distance.
We’ll head back to town mid-late afternoon and have some time to explore the town. Perhaps you’ll want to grab a sunset beer or cocktail by the waterfront and watch the spectacular sunset. Another optional activity is to grab a stand up paddleboard and head out for a SUP session.
Tonight, we head to one of our favourite spots for some open-air dining. It’ll be a well-deserved farewell feast as this is your last night in the Enchanted Islands!
DIVING: the option to dive is available. Please inquire in advance.
Day 6: Optional Visit to Interpretation Center and Tirjeretas, Fly to Quito
Today is the last day of your tour and you get to choose how you’d like to spend your morning. Squeeze in some souvenir shopping, head to the beach for one last swim or visit the Interpretation Center to learn about the history and mystery of the archipelago. This educational center explains how the islands were discovered and what makes them so special. You can learn about Charles Darwin’s visit and the present day efforts to protect this amazing World Heritage site. There’s a short hike to Tijeretas, a panoramic lookout over the town and Kicker Rock, for those who are interested.
This afternoon, you’ll fly back to the mainland. If you are spending more time in Ecuador, you may want to book a day tour or excursion to see another part of the country. Safe travels!