In March a friend and I went to the Galapagos for about 12 days (10 days on the islands). We did a self guided tour of the Galapagos, aka our own island hopping. We decided to explore the Galapagos this way because it was cheaper, and we were supporting the local economy (the big boat tours are typically run by foreign companies and therefore the money doesn’t reach the locals). The Galapagos were truly incredible and should be on everyone’s bucket list! Words cannot express how amazing the Galapagos were! Go! If you have a chance, go!
What is a Self Guided Island Hopping Tour? And Why Should I do it?
A self guided island hopping tour is a way to explore the Galapagos without paying for an expensive cruise. Instead of hopping on a multi-day cruise of the Galapagos, you stay on the inhabited islands and explore them. You can also also do day trips to see some outlining islands. The Galapagos has four inhabited islands that can easily be reached by ferries. This option is not only cheaper, but also supports the local economy. I enjoyed by island hopping tour of the Galapagos, and would do it again in a heart beat!
Below you will find my 10-day itinerary. In the itinerary you can see what activities I did along with the hostels I stayed at. You will also find all my type a tips for exploring the Galapagos on your own. So keep reading to get all this helpful information!
|My 10-day Itinerary|
|Day 1||Santa Cruz: Galapagos Best Home Stay|
|am||Arrive to Santa Cruz, Galapagos (most flights in the am)|
|pm||Wander Santa Cruz|
|Day 2||Santa Cruz|
|pm||Darwin Turtle Center|
|Day 3||Isla Isabela: Caleta Iguana Hostel|
|am||Ferry to Isla Isabela|
|Day 4||Isla Isabela|
|am||Wander the beach, relax on the beach|
|pm||Los Tintoreras tour|
|Day 5||Isla Isabela to Santa Cruz|
|am||Wander & relax on the beach|
|pm||Ferry to Santa Cruz|
|Day 6||Santa Cruz|
|am||Rancho Primicias and Lava Tunnels|
|Day 7||San Cristobal: Casa de Laura Hostal|
|am||Ferry to San Cristobal|
|pm||Playa Punta Carola|
|Day 8||San Cristobal|
|All Day||360° Tour (including Kicker Rock)|
|Day 9||San Cristobal to Santa Cruz|
|am||Wander/ Playa Punta Carola|
|pm||Ferry to Santa Cruz, then dinner on Binford St.|
|Day 10||Fly Home|
|am||Flight to Guayaquil|
- 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: 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.
- 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.
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, tours, 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 has helped you in planning your trip. If you have any questions or comments please leave them below. I would love to hear from you!