For me, traveling is a big part of healthy living. It allows you to gain a different perspective on life, and it gets you outside of your comfort zone. My latest travel adventure was The Galapagos Islands. Many people have asked me “Why the Galapagos?” Simply put, I love nature and more importantly I love animals. The Galapagos Islands did not disappoint.
About the Galapagos:
- Seasons: It’s slightly warmer and more humid from January to April and slightly cooler and dryer from May to December. Whale season is July to November. Animals on the islands also change during the season. For example we wanted to see the penguins on Bartolome Island in March, but they moved to another island because the water was too warm for them. This is the infamous location of the Pinnacle Rock (photo featured above).
- Animals: We traveled the last weekend of March and saw hundreds of sea lions & numerous other wildlife: Sea turtles, black tipped sharks, frigatebirds, Galapagos lizards, and many other birds.
- Time Difference: Check this before booking. Depending on the time of the year, the islands are 1-2 hours behind Eastern Time Zone.
- Currency: USA dollar bills. Do not bring any change bigger than a $20 bill. $100 bills are not accepted, and most venues prefer small change. There are ATM’s on the island, but you’ll need cash to get in.
- Galapagos National Park Entrance Fee: $100 per person. There’s a rumor that they will be increasing this price. You pay the entrance fee once you land in The Galapagos, and they only accept cash. Remember, $100 bills are not accepted.
- Airports: There are two main airports in the Galapagos Islands. One on Baltra Island (GPS) and one on San Cristobal (SCY). Both of these airports have flights to Guayaquil, Ecuador Airport (GYE) and Quito, Ecuador Airport (UIO).
- Travel information: You may bring one or two checked bags with a combined weight of no more than approximately 44 lbs and one carry on bag no more than 17 lbs. Click here for additional travel information.
- Tourist Control Card: Purchase this at the airport, before boarding your flight to The Galapagos. It’s $20 per person. Your luggage will be inspected & locked up after this.
To cruise or not to cruise:
Much of this depends on what you enjoy doing on a vacation, what age group you fall into, and your budget. Many of the older folks prefer the cruises, because everything is lined up for them. There’s not much planning on your part and the boat takes you from island to island. The cruises will run you much more money though, and hopefully you’ll like all your fellow cruisers.
For the younger crowd, the adventure seekers, or the budget planners I suggest planning your own trip. This is what my husband and I did. We spent about 2-3 weeks checking out the islands online and reading reviews from Tripadvisor. If you don’t already have one, create an account on Tripadvisor.com and start saving whatever looks fun, under the label “The Galapagos”. After you’re done saving all the things that interest you, look at if from a maps perspective and see where the majority of your pins are. Plan your trip around your top interests. Unless you have an unlimited amount of money and a month to travel, you’ll have to prioritize what Islands to visit. This is a much more affordable and flexible option, and even more important – you’re not stuck on a boat with the same people every day. Many of the Islands are not booked to full capacity, and you could even wait until you arrive there to book a room.
How to choose your flights:
Google flights make this super easy! Click here to check it out.
- Airports: There are two main airports in the Galapagos Islands. One on Baltra Island (GPS) and one on San Cristobal Island (SCY). Both of these airports have flights to Guayaquil, Ecuador Airport (GYE) and Quito, Ecuador Airport (UIO).
Transport between Galapagos Islands:
- Ferry Service to the 3 Main Islands: Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, and Isabela.
- Departs daily at 7am and 2 pm.
- Cost: $25-30 one-way.
- Travel time is approximately 2 ½ hours long.
- Buy your tickets from the Island at least one day prior to departure.
- Arrive at least 30 minutes prior to departure.
- If it’s raining, bring a poncho or rain jacket.
Things to Pack:
- Passports!!!! Expiration date cannot be within 6 months of travel.
- Copies of all travel documents, including your passport.
- GoPro and or water camera. I like the Nikon Coolpix more than the GoPro
- Keens hiking sandals – buy closed toed. There are lava rocks and coral everywhere. They’re perfect for hiking and swimming.
- Rain Jacket/umbrella (depends on season)
- Bug spray
- Sunscreen!!!! – Very expensive there and you’re close to the equator. Click here for a list of safe sunscreens to use.
- SPF chap stick
- Polarized Sunglasses- so you can see what’s in the water.
- Two Swimsuit’s – you’ll be in the water daily
- Probiotics (Florastor prevents travelers diarrhea), vitamin C (boost immune system), and charcoal (also helps with travelers diarrhea).
- Book bag – you’ll be doing lots of walking and hiking.
- Water bottle – I suggest the YETI with a closeable lid.
- Phone charger
- Flash Light – for going through the Lava Tunnels. Smart phone will suffice.
- Snorkel gear – you’ll use this a lot. Bring something you like and bring defogger.
- SPF Rash guard – great for snorkeling. This prevents you from burning and keeps you from using toxic sunscreen that kills the coral.
- Ear plugs- you may need this to block out the sound of the Sea Lions.
- Pillow – for the plane.
Things to do before traveling:
- Notify your bank of your travel.
- Make sure your passport is up to date. It cannot expire within 6 months of travel.
- Have enough cash to get into the Galapagos & for transportation. Bring $20 bills and smaller.
- Have your Itinerary & flights in your phone calendar with the exact addresses & share with a friend or family member who is not traveling with you. This is also beneficial when traveling around the island, because you can show your driver the location.
- Leave a spare key to your house with a friend. You may need packages of mail brought in.
- Learn basic Spanish. You can get by without speaking Spanish, but it’s much easier if you can speak it.
Our Galapagos Itinerary:
Traveling to the Galapagos
We flew from Fort Lauderdale Airport into Guayaquil Airport and stayed the night at The Holiday Inn. The next morning we flew to Baltra Island Airport on TAME. The flight was under 2 hours long. Once we landed, we waited about 20 minutes in line at the airport. This is where we paid $100 cash per person to enter the island. Credit cards are not accepted for this transaction. From there we took a free 15-minute bus ride to the ferry port. We boarded the Ferry to transfer over to Santa Cruz Island. The ferry cost $2 cash per person and is a quick 10-minute boat ride. We grabbed a $25 taxi ride from the ferry port to the downtown area of Santa Cruz Island. Because we stayed at the Angermyer Waterfront Inn, we had to take another $1 per person ferry ride from the ferry port in Santa Cruz Island. It was only a 5-minute boat ride over.
$20 Transit Control Card – take a picture for your records. You’ll need this to travel back home.
TAME flight to from Guayaquil Airport to Baltra Airport (Santa Cruz Island).
Free bus ride shuttle from Baltra Airport to the Ferry. Luggage is stored outside of the bus.
$2 per person Ferry ride from Baltra Airport to Santa Cruz.
$25 taxi ride from ferry port to downtown area of Santa Cruz.
$1 per person water taxi transfer to Angermyer Waterfront Inn.
Isla Santa Cruz Island
We stayed at the Angermyer Waterfront Inn for 4 nights. Click here for my Tripadvisor review. Finch Bay Eco Hotel is next to Angermeyer. It’s a beautiful hotel, but the biggest downside is that you can only access it by water (same as Angermyer), but you have to take an additional 10-15 minute walk to get there. Angermyer is located directly on the water, which made the ferry taxi transfer a breeze. While we stayed at Angermyer we did the Bartolome Tour and the Giant Tortoise Park at El Chato. Both tours are worth your time checking out. We also walked over to Las Grietas from our hotel at the Angermyer, but unless you’re bored it’s really not worth your time. There were so many people there, that we could barley move around.
If you’re looking to see lots of sea lions, stay at the Red Mangrove Ecoluxury Hotel. It’s been recently remodeled, but they kept part of the old dock for the sea lions to inhabitant. You may need earplugs to sleep though. The sea lions can be very loud.
Fish Market on Santa Cruz Island.
Giant Tortoise at El Chato.
You can actually eat pretty well on Santa Cruz Island. For authentic Ecuadorian food check out Lo&Lo Restaurant. It’s a hole in the wall kind of spot, but the bolon de queso con presa de pollo (tender chicken served with a Yukon/cheese fried hash ball) was more than worth it! For best scenery dine at either Almar at Red Mangrove Hotel or at Angermyer. For a foodie spot check out ANKER mar to table. For fine dining check out Finch Bay Restaurant.
Ferry from Santa Cruz to San Cristobal
Tickets cost $30 per person plus 50 cents for the water taxi transfer to the ferry. You’ll buy your tickets across the road from the ferry port. You must purchase at least one day prior to departure. Take a picture of your ticket incase you lose it. Departure times are 7am and 2pm. You must arrive at least 30 minutes beforehand for luggage check and to show your passports. They’ll hand you a boarding pass to place around your neck. The ferry from Santa Cruz to San Cristobal takes about 2.5 hrs.
Tips for the Ferry:
- Bring lots of sun block, rash guard, hat, sunglasses, and a snack. You may need a rain jacket, but this was not the case for us. The majority of the people will be able to fit inside, but you may be one of the 8 people stuck sitting outside. Be prepared for the outdoor elements.
- There is a small bathroom on board, but it’s best if you go beforehand.
- If you’re prone to seasickness, then sit outside. Inside is very bumpy. Bring probiotics and Dramamine to help. Take the 7am boat, because the ride is smoother.
- Download an audible book to your phone and bring headphones. Trevor Noah, or Kevin Hart’s book will help pas the time.
$30 Ferry ride from Santa Cruz to San Cristobal.
Isla de San Cristobal
We stayed at the Golden Bay Galapagos Hotel & Spa for 3 nights. This hotel was by far the best hotel we saw in the Galapagos. For the full review click here. You can walk out on their beach and snorkel with sea lions and sea turtles! You can also check out two other amazing snorkeling spots: Cerro Tijeretas and La Loberia. You can walk to both, but I’d recommend taking a $3 Taxi ride to La Loberia. Save your money and time and skip out on the tours. Just go first thing in the morning, because both spots fill up fast. At both locations we saw sea turtles and sea lions. If you’re not a strong swimmer, bring a life vest.
Golden Bay Galapagos Hotel & Spa Sunset view from our suite.
We swam with sea lions & sea turtles at La Loberia, Cerro Tijeretas and right on the beach at Golden Bay.
Blue Footed Boobie Bird
Restaurants on San Cristobal
San Cristobal is not known for its food. So keep that in mind, lol. The best food we ate was at Muyu Galapagos, which is part of the Golden Bay Galapagos Hotel. We pretty much ordered everything from their menu, and it was all excellent. We ventured away to a couple other spots as well. El Descanso Marinero is worth the time to check out. It’s a very eclectic and unique spot to grab lunch or dinner. If you want whole fried fish, check out Otoy Restaurant Organic Farms! It’s a great place to stop if you’re going to Galapaguera de Cerro Colorado (Giant Turtle Park) or Puerto Chino Beach.