Galapagos: Making the Most Out of a Bucket List Trip

In March a friend (my travel life partner) and I went to the Galapagos for about 12 days (10 days on the islands). The Galapagos were truly incredible and should be on everyone’s bucket list! I have never been to a place quite like it.

I have also never had a travel experience quite like this trips… It started off with flying out of upstate New York at the end of a LARGE snow storm that had even closed NYC airports. I ended up driving 4+ hours to Newark to catch a flight to Miami. While on the way, I got stuck in the snow and was convinced I wouldn’t make it to Newark in time. My entire plans would go to shambles! To say I was stressed is an understatement. Luckily I was able to get my car moving again and made it to the airport in time (thank you TSA pre-check!). My flight to Miami was fine, but my flight to Guayaquil, Ecuador was dramatic to say the least… Over three hours after our scheduled departure we finally took off. This means we got to Guayaquil around midnight and only caught a couple hours of sleep before I headed back to the airport to fly to the Galapagos.

This isn’t even the end! The trip home was plagued as well! My flight to Miami was delayed because the flight to Guayaquil from Miami was delayed. In Miami, there was damage to the plane after we had all boarded, delaying us on the runway for about another 2 hours. This meant I didn’t get into Newark until about 5pm, so trying to drive out I hit rush hour traffic. I was finally in the home stretch, driving through Pennsylvania when I got a flat tire! Changing a tire in the cold night (after being in hot Ecuador) is a true shock!

IMG_7890
Waiting for a tow truck: even the friendly cop couldn’t get our tire off!

Despite all these troubles, I wouldn’t change this experience for the world! Words cannot express how amazing the Galapagos were! Go! If you have a chance, go!

 

What I Did:

 

Galapagos: 12-Day Itinerary

 

Ecuador
Day 1: Arrive in Guayaquil at 9:50pm
  Stay: Dreamkapture Hostel
Santa Cruz, Galapagos  

Stay: Galapagos Best Home Stay

Day 2: 9:40am-10:58am Flight to Santa Cruz
  Afternoon:  Wander Santa Cruz
Day 3: Morning: Tortuga Bay
  Afternoon: Darwin Turtle Center
Isla Isabela, Galapagos  

Stay: Caleta Iguana Hostel

Day 4: Morning: “Ferry” to Isla Isabela
  Afternoon: Tuneles Tour
Day 5: Morning: Wander to the pier/ hang with sea lions
  Afternoon: Los Tintoreras tour
Day 6: Morning: Wander/Lay on the beach
  Afternoon: “Ferry” back to Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz, Galapagos  

Stay: Galapagos Best Home Stay

Day 7: Morning:  Rancho Primicias and Lava Tunnels
  Afternoon: Las Grietas
San Cristobal, Galapagos  

Stay: Casa De Laura Hostal

Day 8: Morning: “Ferry” to San Cristobal
  Afternoon: Playa Punta Carola- swimming with sea lions
Day 9: All Day:  360° Tour (including Kicker Rock) – booked with Galapagos Fan Dive
Santa Cruz, Galapagos
Day 10: Morning: Wander/ Lay on the beach (San Cristobal)
  Afternoon: Ferry to Santa Cruz
  Evening: Dinner at Binford St.
Guayaquil, Ecuador  

Stay: RE Bed and Breakfast

Day 11: Morning:  Flight to Guayaquil from Santa Cruz
  Afternoon: Dinner on the waterfront
Day 12: Morning: Wander the waterfront, and hike to the light house
  Evening: Flight Home

Highlights:

  • Eating and drinking on Binford St in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz
  • Los Tintoreras tour on Isla Isabela. This tour was beautiful. We saw and learned about local sharks, iguanas, and sea lions. Also I did the afternoon tour so the lighting was perfect.
  • Laying on the beach at Caleta Iguana Hostel on Isla Isabela, drinking smoothies and mojitos.
  • Swimming with sea lion pups and turtles on Playa Punta Carola on San Cristobal. This was seriously the best!
  • 360 Tour of San Cristobal- I got to visit lots of beautiful beaches, and swim with turtles, sea lions, sharks and various fish
  • On San Cristobal: walking only about 20 feet along a boardwalk and seeing sea turtles, sea lions, a pelican, a blue footied boobie, and rays
  • ALL THE WILDLIFE!

Type A Tips (General):

  • You could definitely spend a month plus in the Galapagos, but 10 days was a perfect length if you are tight on time.
  • There are a lot of hidden expenses to the Galapagos. This includes: $100 Park fee paid at the airport, $10 tax to enter Isla Isabella. Also, if you fly into or out of Isla Baltra you have to pay 50 cents for a ferry to get to Santa Cruz (the airport is on a separate island from Santa Cruz)
  • The “ferries” used to get to between the islands aren’t actually a ferries. It’s more of a speed boat. Also most of them are open in the back so if it’s raining and you are stuck in the back then be prepared to get wet (I learned this from experience 😛 )
  • “Ferries” between the islands cost $30/person and leave at about 7am and 3pm everyday. I say ‘about’ because they rarely left on time.
  • The “ferries” between Santa Cruz and Isabela and Santa Cruz and San Cristobal are about 2 hours in length.
  • Final “ferry” tip: tickets can be purchased the day before at any tourist shop. Most places that booked tours could also sell you tickets. If you purchased tours and “ferry” tickets at the same shop, you might get a discount (we did!)
  • Day trips/tours could be booked the day before. Two ½ day tours could be done together (ie times don’t overlap), just remember to book both the day before. Most morning tours left about 7/8am- this means you can’t book morning tours day of- shops are closed!
  • While I was there it rained almost everyday. Luckily the rain passed quickly- but definitely remember a raincoat!
  • Fly in and out of different airport on the Galapagos (Isla Baltra and San Cristobal). This saves you time so you don’t have to travel back to the same island (like I did)
  • Do a day trip to Isla Espanola- many people I met raved about the island and all the animals they saw.

 

Type A Tips: Guayaquil

  • Guayaquil is the cheapest city to fly out to the Galapagos from.
  • Guayaquil is safe in the light of day, but after about 9pm it gets very dangerous. It is not recommended to wander after 9pm.
  • Take only official taxi’s (people pose as taxi drivers then kidnap you for ransom). Better yet, have your hotel/hostel call a taxi for you.
  • Museums are closed on Mondays 😦
  • El Mono Goloso is an incredibly yummy bakery with pastries and sandwiches. I HIGHLY recommend grabbing at least a snack there!
  • Las Penas neighborhood is a charming area to wander. It is also the oldest neighborhood in Guayaquil. Once there take the 444 steps to the white and blue lighthouse at the top of the hill. From here you have a view of the entire city.
  • Only a couple blocks from the main boardwalk is Seminaro Park, or as it is more commonly known, Iguana Park. This park is full of iguanas! Don’t worry, they are fairly friendly and are just as likely to strike a pose for a picture as they are to run away from you.

 

Type A Tips: Santa Cruz

  • Bring plenty of water for the walk to Tortuga Bay. It’s only 2.5km, but it’s a long, hot 2.5kms. The beach is very beautiful and definitely worth the walk.
  • You must eat at Binford Street in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz. This streets closes down at 7pm every day and fills with chairs and tables. Here you can get a whole lobster for about $15.
  • Check out Las Grietas. Take a $2 ferry from the port (tell them you want to go to Las Grietas) then it is a short walk (less than a mile) to this amazing swimming hole. You might even see some locals jump from the cliff’s edge into the water.

Type A Tips: Isla Isabella

  • The main city is very walkable, aka small
  • It is one mile from the port to the main city
  • I think the Los Tuneles tour is a must! We got to snorkel with sea turtles, white tipped sharks and see some beautiful landscapes and some blue footed bobbies, along with various other animals. Some people have been lucky enough to swim with sea lions as well. ($100/person)
  • Las Tintoreras tour is also very lowly. The snorkeling at the beginning honestly isn’t that great considering some of the other snorkeling the Galapagos has to offer. However the land tour is breathtaking! I recommend taking the afternoon tour so you get some nice lighting to accompany the setting. ($45/person)
  • There is a nice path/boardwalk from the main road to the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center. The actual center isn’t that great (but it is free!) and along the way you get to see some flamingos!
  • Caleta Iguana Hostel is a nice hostel/hotel, but it also serves some yummy food and drinks in a fun, relaxing beach setting. Also a LOT of marine iguanas like to soak in the sun near and on the building.

Type A Tips: San Cristobal

  • Make sure you go to the pier in the evening/night to see all the sea lions. Also sometimes there are rays (lots on them) there too.
  • Playa Punta Carola is about a mile walk from the town center. Just head to the Interpretation Center, then follow the paths to the beach. This is where we had the best luck swimming with sealions
  • I highly recommend doing the 360° tour on San Cristobal. We booked with Galapagos Fan Dive- who I also highly recommend! The tour takes you all the way around the island San Cristobal. They stop at popular/beautiful locations. I don’t want you mistaken though… when I say popular, I don’t me populated! We were the only tour at each location! The final stop is Fidder Rock, where you can snorkel or scuba dive (if certified). Fidder Rock is known for the opportunities to swim with sea lions, sharks (sometimes even the rare scalloped hammerhead shark), fish and sea turtles. Plus the rock is just beautiful on it’s own.
  • Stay at Hostal Casa De Laura. This is a beautiful hostel owned by the sweet Laura. She gives you a book with lots of recommendations to help plan your time on the island. The rooms are very nice and she has a beautiful, well loved garden you can sit in.

 

Money:

Airline tickets cost about $600 to get to Ecuador (the only airports near me are small ones, so you could probably get better prices flying from a bigger city). Tickets to the Galapagos from Guayaquil was a little less than $300/person (Quito is more expense to fly out of).

Per usual, I only brought $2,000 US dollars with me (Ecuador’s currency is the US dollar so no exchange was needed). I never pulled out more money while there. This covered hostels, ferries, tour, food, souvenirs, etc. Since I was covering my friends hostels cost as well (she wrote me a check- I’m not that generous) I would say the in country cost per person was about $1,000 USD.




 

I hope this helps you plan your own an amazing trip! Leave and questions or comments below. I would love to hear from you!

Teresa, the Type A Trekker

 

Galapagos

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