When-Where-Why?

For us, it was impossible to go to Ecuador without stopping at the Galapagos. We did not want to cruise so we spied all the blogs to find as much information as possible. Unfortunately, the items were old and not necessarily detailed but enough to convince us to go and stop on three islands: Santa Cruz, Isabela and San Cristobal. We arrived in Santa Cruz and then left for Quito from San Cristobal. We left 14 days from Quito in May-June 2019. I can not tell you if this is the best season because the water starts to be cold (it was not really) and the plankton comes in droves which could hinder visibility (but we saw what we came to see). In this article I describe what you can do on these three islands and also, how not to spend too much if you want to come and you do not have a big budget!

Transports

Company: LATAM

Duration: 2.5 hours

Price: 170 euros

You make a stop in Guayaquil but you do not get off the plane.

Once at Baltra Airport (Santa Cruz), you will queue for immigration for a long time. At the ticket office you will have your stamp Galapagos, you will be reduced by 100 USD (entrance fee of the park) and you will be charged directly 5USD for the bus that will take you to the boat (5min bus ride) and for the ferry that will be 1USD for 5min boat. To finish, you will have the taxi ride (25USD to share with people in the taxi) or bus (5USD per person) to go to downtown Puerto Ayora. Basically expect 126USD just to set foot in Puerto Ayora.

You will have to take a ferry. There are two daily: one in the morning around 7am and one in the afternoon around 14h. You will rarely leave on time. The duration is about 2h.

The price is 30USD but I recommend two things:

-to go through an agency, any one and negotiate the price. They go down easily to 25USD

-to go to the port and ask how much it costs and negotiate on the spot.

Once in Isabela you have to pay (again!) The right to go on the island: 10USD. Do not ask me why you have to pay in addition to 100USD for the park.

Another scam, the boats are moored in the open sea so you will take taxi boat to go to the boat. The race costs (and yes you have to pay!) In 50cts and 1USD.

To return to Santa Cruz, there is a boat at 6 o’clock and an afternoon at 15h. Duration of 2h.

No choice, you will have to go back through Santa Cruz.

To do everything the same day:

* Take the boat Isabela-Santa Cruz at 6am (duration around 2h).

* Take the Santa-Cruz-San Cristobal boat in the afternoon at 14h (duration approximately 2h).

The price is 30USD but I recommend two things:

-to go through an agency in Santa Cruz, any one and negotiate the price. They go down easily to 25USD

-to go to the port and ask how much it costs and negotiate on the spot.

You will have to pay the taxi boat that will take you to your boat. Count less than 1USD.

Santa Cruz-Isabela

– Departure 7h30 and 14h

-return 6h and 15h

Duration 2h each way.

Santa Cruz-San Cristobal

– Departure 7h and 14h

-Return 7h and 15h

Duration 2h each way.

Santa Cruz-Floreana

– leaving 8h

-return 15h

Duration 2h each way.

There is no direct boat Isabela-San Cristobal. You must go back through Santa Cruz.

Company: LATAM

Duration: 2.5 hours

Price: 200 euros

To go to the San Cristobal airport, take a taxi if you have big bags, it is 2USD otherwise it is 2km from the city center (30min walk maximum).

IMPORTANT – Mandatory Expenses!

You will not escape certain expenses.

* Pay 20 USD at Quito Airport even before you have checked your luggage. We will give you your VIP card which you will have to keep carefully. What’s the point ? no idea (it is the government that gets in the pockets), but you have to pay. Remember to have your tickets or proof of purchase for the return trip, we may ask you.

* Payment of 100 USD entrance to the park.

* Payment of 5USD for the bus that goes from the port to Puerto Ayora. Otherwise the taxi is interesting if you are 4 because it is 25USD the race.

* Once in Isabela you have to pay (again!) The right to go on the island: 10USD. Do not ask me why you have to pay in addition to 100USD for the park.

* Plan to pay taxis that take you to the boats for excursions or cross-island boats. It is between 50cts and 1USD. You can complain to your agency if it did not warn you (we got a refund).

Advices

* Buy sunscreen (two tubes) before arriving at the Galapagos. It’s super expensive on the spot, and in addition it is too boring to spread and sticks. A hat would not be luxury too, I regretted not having had one.

* Take a lot of cash on you, we do not pay card on the island and some distributors in Santa Cruz refuse some cards.

* There is no (yet) distributor on Isabela but on the other islands yes.

* Do not book your excursions before arriving on site because you can negotiate everything. Similarly for cruises (I do not speak luxury cruises which are ultra expensive and armored months before departure); there are offers on the spot that are interesting and you can even negotiate cheaper.

* Even if you do not have seasickness, take meds on you (the Nausicalm has proven itself!). The boats go to the bottom and break the waves. The first ten minutes is funny but after that gives the sheaf if you are inside (yes, because there are only a few places to have hair in the wind … the others it is in the box, without air, and we feel all the shocks).

* On the internet … good luck to have a great network. You can send what’s app but it’s going to row. Try to disconnect, it feels good (says the girl who has a blog and bombed his instagram …).

Activities

Isla Santa Cruz

Tortuga Bay

What: There are two beaches in Tortuga Bay. A beautiful fine white sand but where you can only swim at the ends because of super strong currents that are dangerous. By cons you can swim in the center. There is an area with dozens of marine iguanas between the two beaches where it is possible to swim. The beach where you can swim safely is just after the iguanas. There are mangroves where you can see sharks (if you are patient and lucky). The water is cloudy so for snorkeling is blah.

How: There are several ways to go:

– At the end of Charles Binford Street.

-The taxi will drop you at the foot of the steps.

-The taxi boat will drop you at Tortuga Bay.

If you go on foot and by taxi, you will have to walk for 45 minutes. There is a path that goes up and down, right in the middle of the cactus but in the middle of cacti. You will see pretty birds and lots of lizards.

How much: Free.

Duration: You can spend hours there if you like to hang out. It is possible to rent kayaks. If you want to surf you will have to come with your board.

Tips: Snorkel near mangroves. Go early enough not to get hot.

Las Grietas

What: It’s a basin in a canyon where the water is super clear; you will see huge parrot fish! Fresh water mixes with salt water; that’s really cool. For those who went to Iceland and swam in Silfra, it’s very similar.

How: With a Bahia tour or by taxi boat (0.80USD one way).

How much: The site is free but it will pay the taxi boat 1USD.

Duration: As you want but the water is not very hot.

Charles Darwin Station

What: It is a scientific center where scientists are raising giant tortoises that are in danger of extinction. Some are endemic to Isabela Island and will be transferred there when they are older. You can see the last turtle of its kind that has been stuffed. It’s pretty weird but interesting. There is also an amarillo iguana that is very beautiful and can not be seen elsewhere (Amarillo iguanas are in other islands in sites not accessible to tourists).

How: On foot. At the end of the main street (the one with all the shops and all the restaurants). Follow the Charles Darwin path, it is well indicated.

How much: Free.

Duration: 30-45min.

Laguna Ninfas

What: Small park in which you will follow a wooden path. You will see different species of mangrove and pretty birds. There are some iguanas and lizards that wander too.

How: On foot, on the road to Tortuga Bay.

How much: Free.

Duration: 30min.

El Chato

What: This is a reserve where giant tortoises are semi-free. We can approach them (not less than 2m) and observe them. There are turtle bones and an empty carapace that can be seen and touched.

How: By taxi from Puerto Ayora or with a ride.

How much: 5USD the entry.

Duration: 30-40 min.

Tuneles of lava

What: A lava tunnel.

How: By taxi from Puerto Ayora or with a ride.

How much: Free.

Duration: 15min

Tip: If you do not have a lot of time, do not go, it’s a hole in the lava, it’s dark, it’s not extraordinary and there is no explanation on the geology.

Tour de la Bahia

What: You take a small boat with a guide that will take you to the following places:

-Islote Caamano & Las Grietas

-Playa de Los Perros & Punta Estrada

-Mirador Canal del Amor & Tiburones

You will see a geological fault on which cactuses have grown, and which is filled with water. If you are lucky you will be able to see endemic birds of the island, turtles, sea lions, and sharks. The tour will continue with a walk that will show you Galapagos endemic cacti and marine iguanas. You will finish at las Grietas which is a basin in a fault where the water is super clear; you will see huge parrot fish! Fresh water mixes with salt water; that’s really cool.

How: By boat with an agency.

How much: 30USD negotiable.

Duration: about 3 hours.

Snorkeling in Pinzon

What: Two hours of boat going to go three dives 45min-1h each. It’s really great! The first stop will be on the island of Santa Cruz in a bay where there are tons of huge sea turtles, iguanas and sea lions. The other two stops will be at the foot of Pinzon Island. Superb place, we saw sharks, turtles, huge lobsters, rays, sea lions, dolphins …

How: With an agency.

How much: After negotiation we paid 110USD the day. There was lunch.

Duration: The day.

Tip: If you do not have a lot of money and want to go on an excursion, do this one!

Floreana

What: This is the pirate island. You will take 2 hours by boat to arrive on the island, if you are lucky endemic red iguanas of the island will welcome you, as well as pelicans and sea lions. The visit will be guided and we will talk about pirates and refugees German. You will see a kind of cave where people lived. The day ends with a good hour (see more) of snorkeling on a great beach. We saw sea lions, rays, turtles, and beautiful birds.

How: With an agency.

How much: After negotiation we paid $ 105 a day. There was lunch.

Duration: The day.

Tip: Do not do it if you count your money, it’s not essential. There is a great snorkeling spot that is only accessible to those on a cruise.

Snorkeling / Diving in Seymour

What: Snorkeling day and bird watching on the island, or diving. Apparently (we did not do it too expensive) we can see hundreds of birds and it’s a great snorkeling sport. For the dives, our friends saw a huge skate (not Manta), and hammerhead sharks.

How: With an agency for snorkeling and bird watching, and with a dive center for diving.

How much: 170USD the day or 190USD both dives.

Duration: The day.

There are other options but they seemed less interesting or too expensive. But you can always find out.

It is possible to make the exit Los Tuneles (see section on Isabela) from Santa Cruz to the day.

We stayed in two different places.

* Hostal Gardner Galapagos

Address: Calle Tomas de Berlanga and Islas Plazas, Puerto Ayora

Price for two people in a shared room with private bathroom and bath towel: 33.75USD for 2. Breakfast was included.

The accommodation has WiFi but it is not very good (it is good nowhere to Galapagos). There is a terrace and a kitchen that can be used.

* Hostal Puerto Ayora

Address: Av Baltra # 440, Indefatigable, Puerto Ayora

Price for two people in a shared room with private bathroom and bath towel: 36USD for 2.

The accommodation has WiFi but it is not very good (it is good nowhere to Galapagos). There is a kitchen that can be used.

You have tons of restaurants of all kinds, boubouis, snacks, restaurants bobos etc. You will have the choice!

There is a very busy street, rue Charles Bonford, where at noon and in the evening the small restaurants make very attractive prices. It’s good and well served. The evening is nice because it’s lively. We recommend the restaurant TJ which makes super ceviche fish for less than 7USD.

A lot of restaurants offer menus with starter and main course (sometimes juice and dessert) for 5USD.

There are panaderias in Baltra Street that have a choice. You can make sandwiches and buy your breakfast.

Isla Isabela

Concha de Perla

What: A great snorkeling spot! We swam there with sea lions, rays, turtles, iguanas, penguins and even sharks! Of course, you will not always be lucky. We have been there 5 times and three times have been very lucky. Sea lions are very often near boats or on the beach but there are always some on the pontoon.

How: On foot. It’s right next to the pier, first path on the left, next to the little lady who sells snacks.

How much: Free.

Duration: As much as we want! From 6h to 18h.

Tips: Go in the morning at low tide, you will see more things and there will be a lot less people. I understand that sharks come at high tide, but there is a lot of current and it can be very strong so take fins. In the morning there is no power.

Muros de las Lagrimas

What: This is a wall that was built by the island’s former prisoners. Some died of exhaustion. The people of the island wanted to keep the wall to show the cruelty of the former representatives of the law and in memory of the people who built it and died. There are several things to see in this path: beaches, lagoons, a lava tunnel, watchtowers.

How: On foot or by bike. You can have them drop off at the trail entrance. From the center to the beginning of the path, on foot there is an hour of walking already. By bike it is 15min.

How much: Free.

Duration: If you come on foot, plan a few hours. There is a good three hour round trip to see everything, go up to watchtowers and not to swim, so if you swim plan more. By bike it’s much faster.

Tips: Go early, especially if you come on foot because it is really too hot. Remember to take at least two liters of water per person. There is a viewpoint often overlooked by tourists and much better than the one on the trail. You go to the wall, on the left there is a staircase. Take it and ride 15-20min. The view is top!

Sierra Negra Volcano

What: Hiking to see the second largest crater in the world. When the weather is clear you can see the other islands around and the coast.

How: With an agency because you need a guide.

How much: 35USD not negotiated.

Duration: 4-5h.

Tips: Book directly on Isabela it’s cheaper.

Los Tuneles

What: Exit that you can only do with an agency. You will be shown lava formations that look like tunnels. It’s a very pretty place where the water is very clear and where we can see blue-footed boobies, turtles, rays etc. Then you will have a good hour of snorkeling. We could see rays, sharks, seahorses, and huge turtles.

How: With an agency.

How much: 110 USD after negotiation, and going through an agency from Santa Cruz.

Duration: Half day.

Tips: Go as early as possible so people will not have moved the sediment too much and the visibility will be a bit better. If you do not have a lot of money, it can be one of the best excursions because you are sure to see animals and the site is pretty.

We booked this accommodation on booking.com: Hospedaje Sarita.

Address: Avenida conocarpus y calle pepinos s / r, 200250 Puerto Villamil, Ecuador.

Price for two people in a double room with private bathroom: 56 USD per night (we had no choice when booking, it was the cheapest, but we discovered that there was a hostel just next door with a kitchen!).

It is super clean, the room was large and they provide the towels. Off the street with bars and restaurants so quiet. A ten minute walk from the harbor and restaurants. Very good address.

The restaurants offer menus for lunch and dinner between 6 and 8 USD. If you do not have big hunger and a small budget it is a good compromise. Otherwise count about fifteen dollars to eat. We have tried almost all the restaurants in front of the place, all the menus are worth it.

We tried the Palm Beach restaurant which has no menu but is very good, nicely presented and adequately served.

Beside the centro de salud there is an old gentleman who has a panaderia. He has homemade bread and cakes. He does not renew them every day but they are super good. The piece of cake costs 1USD and it puts you well for breakfast. It opens from 6 am-10am then from 4 pm-8pm.

There are some mini markets. The prices are exorbitant (15USD the average pot of Nutella) but for tight budgets it’s not bad to make sandwiches (the cheese does not really taste but it does the job).

Isla San Cristobal

I did not stay long enough to have done hikes and excursions, but know that it is possible. There are several volcanoes and lagoons that can be seen without paying a guide (they are outings to the day by cons). For excursions there are some, especially on Espanola Island and to spots to see hammerhead sharks snorkeling or diving! I only stayed one full day, which allowed me to discover beautiful beaches and see animals. One or two more days would have been really nice … next time!

The Loberia

What: At low tide you can swim with sea lions, multicolored fish and perhaps turtles. It is also a surf sport, the waves are very beautiful. The setting is nice, it is far from the city and the water is super clear.

How: Take Azogues street and walk along the runway of the airport, it will be indicated.

How much: Free.

Duration: As much as you want. If you go on foot take 45min walk. You can get there by taxi for 2USD, or come by bike.

Tips: Go at low tide before noon.

Playa Mann

What: Nice little beach of golden sand where dozens (see more) of sea lions. There are small restaurants to eat or drink. It is quite small and depending on the time (knowing that the sea lions take half of the beach) but off-peak is nice.

How: Take Avenida Alsacio Northia, you will fall on it. This is the first beach.

How much: Free.

Duration: As much as you want.

Tips: Go early enough on weekdays to avoid the massive arrival of locals with their children.

Playa Punta Carola

What: My favorite beach on the island. Sand and white and transparent water. It is big enough and you can see pretty sunsets. There is also a crowd of sea lions there. You can swim well and sometimes even cross turtles. There is a nice lighthouse on the tip of the bay.

How: Take Avenida Alsacio Northia, pass Playa Mann, follow the path of stones they have built and you will fall on it. It is well indicated.

How much: Free.

Duration: As much as you want.

Tips: Go early enough on weekdays to avoid the massive arrival of locals with their children. Take some water because there is nothing to buy.

Bay of Tijeretas

What: Super snorkeling spot. It is very beautiful, we can see the volcanoes in the distance. Sea lions come to play with the swimmers. The water is transparent.

How: Take Avenida Alsacio Northia, pass Playa Mann and Playa Punta Carola, follow the path of stones they have built and you will fall on it. There is nothing to bask in the pill, just hang on and jump in the water.

Duration: As much as you want.

Tips: There can be a lot of people but it’s great. Hang up your belongings on the racks provided. No one will steal you, however, if you do not, the sea lions can steal your stuff and put them in the water! (I know what I mean).

Playa Baquerizo

What: Another white sand beach where sea lions and turtles swim with you.

How: When you reach Playa Punta Carola, go to the watchtower and follow the arrow. There, the path will not be so pretty, you will have to walk in the plants and volcanic stones. It’s pretty sporty, it’s in full sun and it can hurt your feet if you’re in Tongue.

How much: Free.

Duration: As much as you want.

Tips: Do not forget to take two liters of water per person and a good sunscreen. Do not leave at the end of the day because the road is long and doing it in the dark would be a serious mistake. Take your headlamp just in case.

We booked this accommodation on booking.com: Hospedaje Swiza.

Address: Isabela and Gonzalo Morales, 200150 Puerto Baquerizo Moreno

We paid 35.5 euros per night (for two in a double room).

Very good address. The rooms are large; there is a private bathroom. They provide the bath towels. There is a kitchen area where you can use water and make tea and coffee. There is another kitchen but I do not know if it can be used (guests cooked in but to be confirmed, they were Swiss so maybe had a special treatment;)).

There is a great panaderia (great with choice!): Panaderia Sabor Cuencano, on the corner of Avenida Alsacio Northia and Avenida Isabella. It opens at 6 am and closes very late. Good plan to make sandwiches and for breakfast.

There are plenty of mini markets in the city.

We tested the restaurant LUCKY’S that our host had advised us. Evening menu at 4USD; it was super good and plentiful, plus we had a juice.

Address: Angle Ignacio Hernandez

The Galapagos for “poor people” tight budget

You want to go to Galapagos but you have a tight budget. Here are some ideas to help you organize your stay so that you do not get too expensive and not miss out.

* Step One: What do you want to see? What do you like to do ?

Depending on what you want to see you can know if you have to stay on an island, or see more. See also what you like to do: snorkeling, diving, party (it’s dead I tell you in advance), walk etc …

Here is roughly for the three islands I visited, what we can do:

1) Santa Cruz

-Animals that you are certain to see (unless you have bad luck): birds, turtles (at the harbor), iguanas, sharks (at the harbor), sea lions, tortoises

-Snorkeling free possible: Las Grietas, Tortuga Bay, beaches to Darwin center (birds, turtles, iguanas, rays, sharks …)

-Diving: 80USD diving (hammerhead sharks, manta rays, turtles etc)

-Excursions: between 30 and 200USD, everything is negotiated; you must also pay taxis between 0.50USD and 1USD the race

-Beautiful free beaches

-Meals: all prices, an average menu costs 5USD, panaderias and mini markets for sandwiches and for cooking

-Accommodations: there are hostels with kitchens

-City: “animated”.

2) Isabela

-Admission fees: 10USD (in 2019)

-Animals that you are certain to see (unless you have bad luck): birds, turtles, iguanas, rays, penguins, sea lions, tortoises

-Snorkeling free possible: Concha de Perla, beaches, Playita, Playa del Amor (birds, turtles, iguanas, rays, sharks, penguins, sea lions)

-Diving: 80USD diving (hammerhead sharks, manta rays, turtles etc)

-Excursions: between 30 and 150USD, everything is negotiated. Los Tuneles (110USD) for animals and the Volcano for walking (35USD).

-Beautiful free beaches

-Walks to walk around

-Meals: an average menu costs 7USD, panaderia and mini markets to make sandwiches and to cook

-Accommodations: there are hostels with kitchens (but you have to find them and have a room, it’s quite popular)

-City: very very calm. There is a Karoké anyway;)

3) San Cristobal

-Animals that you are certain to see (unless you have bad luck): birds, turtles, sea lions

-Snorkeling free possible: (birds, turtles, sea lions)

-Diving: 80USD diving (hammerhead sharks, manta rays, turtles etc)

-Excursions: between 30 and 200USD, everything is negotiated.

-Beautiful free beaches full of sea lions

-Meals: Small inexpensive restaurants, large panaderia and mini markets to make sandwiches and to cook. There are lunch and dinner menus at 4-5USD.

-Accommodations: there are hostels with kitchens

-City: “animated”.

* Second step: Which budget?

Above all, as mentioned above, remember that there are MANDATORY expenses (you can not escape). I give them to you here:

* Your plane ticket: It depends on when you take it. I paid about 170euros one way Quito-Santa Cruz and 240 euros return San Cristobal-Quito (yes there are two airports on two different islands). But you can pay less as you can pay more.

* Payment20 USD at Quito Airport before even checking in your luggage. We will give you your VIP card which you will have to keep carefully. What’s the point ? no idea (it is the government that gets in the pockets), but you have to pay. Remember to have your tickets or proof of purchase for the return trip, we may ask you.

* Payment of 100 USD entrance to the park.

* If you arrive in Baltra:

-5USD payment for the bus that goes from the port to Puerto Ayora. Otherwise the taxi is interesting if you are 4 because it is 25USD the race.

-5USD payment for the bus that will take you to the boat (5min bus ride) then for the ferry it will be 1USD for 5min boat.

-To finish, you will have the taxi ride (25USD to share with people in the taxi) or bus (5USD per person) to go to downtown Puerto Ayora.

By and large expect 126USD just to set foot in Puerto Ayora (counting the entrance to the park).

* If you go to Isabela: once in Isabela you have to pay the right to go on the island: 10USD.

* For all trips between islands and even excursions: plan to pay taxis that take you to the boats for excursions or for boats crossing the islands. It is between 50cts and 1USD. You can complain to your agency if it did not warn you (we got a refund).

Then you have to see how much you want to put in:

-the food: count (if you do not cook) on average 1USD for breakfast (panaderia) + 8 USD (for menus with more drink (not beer is 5USD)) lunch + 8 USD in the evening. That is 17USD maximum per day, knowing that you can make sandwiches for less than 8USD at noon, so it can lower your daily budget to 12USD for example. On Isabela the food is a little more expensive (menu at 8USD max but there is a juice included and a dessert). On San Cristobal there are more options not expensive (menus at 4-5USD and panaderias).

-the accommodation: the earlier you book, the more choices you have. Privilege hostels with kitchens. For rates, it depends on the type of room. I had seen shared rooms at $ 13-15 a night.

Also plan a little for extras: beers (5USD), ice cream (3USD) … must not be gone either frustrated!

* Third step: Choice of islands or island

Once you have these expenses in mind and you know what might interest you on the islands (look at the details a little further in the article), you can quickly find out if it’s worth doing an island, two , or three, with or without excursions.

* If you have a very tight budget, stay on Santa Cruz. I did not stay long enough on San Cristobal to tell you to stay only there, I only made beaches. Make a snorkeling outing (Pinzon for example (110USD), to have more chances to see things, you will compensate on the food, otherwise skip the excursion and try your luck where it’s free.After you can go on Tortuga Bay walk to see the iguanas and maybe sharks and turtles (by boat tax will pay but it is not very expensive). Then go swim to las Grietas.The tour of Bahia (30USD) is nice Also, you can see birds and iguanas, or if you want great beaches full of sea lions, land on San Cristobal and make excursions from this island.There is one to see hammerhead sharks in snorkeling apparently.

* If you have a little more under, two options:

– Stay on Santa Cruz, Make a snorkeling outing (Pinzon for example (110USD), to have more chances to see things, do all the other free activities and those who just ask to pay the taxis.

– Go on Isabela and make the Los Tuneles exits (110 USD see less, to negotiate). On site you can do free snorkeling at the concha of Perla where you will have the chance (I hope for you) to swim with sea lions, rays, turtles, penguins etc.

If two excursions are too much, people talk a lot about Los Tuneles but I prefer Pinzon. In both we see sharks. After Los Tuneles, what is nice is the part where we will see the lava tunnels and where we approach the blue-footed boobies.

If you have more money, do everything I did! We did activities but suddenly we ate the menus or we made sandwiches. We walked, we did not take taxis or bike. It’s all about measurement, you have to balance it.

Here, I hope this article will help you in your preparations!

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