Day 1: Fly to Santa Cruz, SUP at Tortuga Bay or Devine Bay
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! As you make your way to Puerto Ayora, the capital of Santa Cruz, you’ll have time to get to know some of your fellow travellers. It can take up to two hours to get to town, so enjoy the landscapes and keep your eyes peeled for wildlife along the way. This is the “big” town of the Galapagos and much more developed than other islands. If you have forgotten any important travel items at home, this is the best day, and best to buy something in the islands.
After a quick check-in at your hotel, get suited up and ready for your first Galapagos SUP experience! We will head out to Tortuga Bay or Devine Bay, depending on sea conditions. Tortuga Bay has a sheltered area where you can paddle along some mangroves, looking for sea turtles or even baby sharks! Plenty of Marine iguanas are found here as well. Devine Bay offers a fun paddle across some mangrove and prickly pear areas where marine iguanas may also be found. There is even a small shipwreck to discover. Don’t forget your waterproof cameras, as we never know what wildlife may join us on our SUP excursions!
After returning from the paddleboard adventure, 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: Charles Darwin Research Station, Tortoises in the Highlands, Public Boat to Isabela
We’ll head to the edge of town this morning for a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station. We’ll learn about the station's successes 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, we’ll observe how the giant tortoises are raised and readied for life on their own. Lonesome George, the famous tortoise that died in 2012 is also found here in a special climate-controlled room.
After learning about the tortoises at the CDRS, head up to the highlands to see them in the wild! We will stop at 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 a nice lunch in the highlands, we’ll hop on board for our boat ride to Isabela Island – the largest island in the Archipelago. The ride can take 2-3 hours, and sometimes we will spot whales or dolphins along the way. After arrival and check-in, go for a stroll through the picturesque town of Puerto Villamil. Along its 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.
Day 3: Hike Sierra Negra Volcano, SUP Isabela Bay, Optional SUP Surfing
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, stopping at various lookouts along the way. Volcano vents dot the landscape and colourful minerals can be found in some lava rocks. Both “aa” and “pahoehoe” lava flows have occurred here, creating an otherworldly-looking landscape. We’ll cross fields of lava and small lava tunnels until we reach a lookout that boasts breathtaking views across the island.
A picnic lunch is typically enjoyed on the volcano at a special lunch stop after we successfully make it to the crater. As we rest up and prepare our descent, start thinking about what kind of SUP adventure you want this afternoon. In and around Isabela Bay you can find Galapagos penguins (the only penguin found north of the equator), sea turtles 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. Alternatively, (or additionally, if you’ve got the energy!) you can head down the beach a bit further to try some SUP surfing.
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: Walk and Snorkel at Tintoreras, Fly to San Cristobal, Bike to La Loberia
After breakfast, prepare yourself for more marine iguanas than you can imagine! A hike at Tintoreras takes us along some marine iguana breeding areas. You will likely see many juveniles plus some very big, colourful males. The lava landscape here is also quite interesting. Depending on tides, the Tintoreras excursion includes a snorkel before or after the hike. Colourful fish, seabirds, and perhaps some sleeping sharks may be seen. Sea stars, octopus and many other creatures are in this area too!
In the afternoon, after we’re dried off and have had lunch, an inter-island flight takes us to San Cristobal, the oldest and eastern-most island of the Galapagos archipelago. The flight takes about 20-30 minutes - hope for clear skies to get some good photos of the islands below!
The airport in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno is only a 5-minute drive from town, so it is a quick and easy transfer to your hotel. After all the hiking and paddling, let’s try something different this afternoon - biking! We start from a lookout in the highlands and cycle down, at a leisurely pace, to La “Loberia”. This is an area frequented by sea lions. 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, hop on in.
On the way back to town, your guide will point out their favourite spots to dine.
Day 5: SUP to Tijeretas, Snorkel at Kicker Rock, SUP along Coast, Optional Visit to Interpretation Center
Time to get back on your SUP! By now you’re probably quite comfortable on your board, so we’ve saved the longest (and potentially most challenging) stand up paddle boarding adventure for today. From town, head out along the coast, passing beaches and cliffs until you get to Darwin Bay. This is where Charles Darwin made his first landing in the Galapagos! Rising high above the bay is Tijeretas or Frigatebird Hill. Many frigate birds nest here, as do some other birds such as boobies. It is also a popular place for sea lions and marine iguanas to be seen swimming around. Soak up the wildlife, maybe jump in for a swim, and then get ready for Kicker Rock.
Leon Dormido as it’s known by the locals is the remains of a volcanic tuff cone rising over 143 meters out of the ocean. If Kicker Rock were a building, it would have almost 50 floors! Snorkelling 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!
After what is sure to be a thrilling snorkel, we head back towards the coast by boat. There are a few beaches and bays that we like to explore, and today we’ll check them out on our SUPs! Perhaps there will be some easy waves to try and surf, or maybe there will be some sea lions waiting for us. It is beautiful white sandy beaches along this part of the coast, a great way to finish off our final water activity of this tour! Enjoy lunch on board the boat (no food is allowed to be brought on land), before we head back to town.
We’ll head back to town late afternoon and have some time to explore the town. You are also free to visit the Interpretation Center on your own and learn about the history and mystery of the archipelago. This educational centre 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 up to Tijeretas as well, so you can look down on the bay where you visited by SUP in the morning!
Tonight, we head to one of our favourite spots for some dining. It’ll be a well-deserved farewell feast as this is the last night in the Enchanted Islands!
Day 6: Optional Morning SUP, Depart San Cristobal for Guayaquil or 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 grab your board for a final paddle with sea lions. Fly back to the mainland, usually in the morning.
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.