Galapagos Islands Vacation

The Galapagos Islands are a bucket-list destination for good reason: due to a lack of natural predators, friendly wildlife such as playful sea lions and gigantic sea tortoises let visitors get up close and personal. This Galapagos Islands Vacation, Galapagos Islands beaches, best beaches in Ecuador, Ecuador beaches, beach travel, things to do in Galapagos Islands, best hotels in Galapagos Islands, best restaurants Galapagos Islandsarchipelago of about 19 islands an smaller islets scattered over 620 miles off Ecuador’s coast in the Pacific Ocean is a double World Heritage site (both land and sea are protected).  Each island has its own unique landscape, from barren black, volcanic rocks to white sand beaches and gemstone-blue waters.  A Galapagos Islands Vacation is going to be wonderful but, it is best to book at least a few months in advance. This is a major tourist destination, boats often fill up during high season and there aren’t very many of them.

Galapagos Islands Weather (When to Visit)

The busiest months for tourism are June, July and August, as well as mid-December to mid-January (prices are often highest at these times as well). The hot, rainy season of December through May is when the ocean is the calmest, daily rains give way to mostly-sunny skies, and temperatures are in the 80s.

The cooler, dryer season is June through November with temperatures in the 70s. Though the seas are rougher, experienced divers believe it’s the best time to visit because colder water attracts even more fantastic marine life (such as big schools of hammerhead sharks). It’s also when visitors have a better chance of spotting legendary whale sharks at Wolf and Darwin islands.

Visiting the Galapagos Islands:  Land or Sea

The first decision you have to make about visiting the Galapagos Islands is also the most difficult. Do you want to stay in a hotel on one of the three inhabited islands, exploring other islands and areas via day-trip boat rides? Or do you want to be based on a live-aboard boat, which provides your accommodation and your mode of travel from island to island?  Here are three considerations to think about when deciding:

  1. Cost: A trip to the Galapagos Islands is expensive. However, it’s easier to have a less expensive experience if you choose to be land-based. There are hotels and restaurants at many price points on San Cristobal Island, Santa Cruz Island, Isabela and Floreana islands. Live-aboard boats come in a range of price points but, all but the most bare-bones boats still add up to more than a land-based vacation.
  2. Time management: If you choose a land-based vacation, you will spend a lot of your time getting from your hotel, onto a day-trip boat, out to the day’s destination, then back to your hotel. Travelers on live-aboard boats sleep in cabins on the boat, which navigates from place to place during the night. So passengers wake up in a new destination ready for a full day of exploration.
  3. Access: Because land-based explorations are limited to the five islands that can be reached in one day, land-based travelers will never be able to visit the more distant islands that boat-based itineraries include.

Best Beaches in the Galapagos Islands

Tortuga Bay Beach, Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos Islands Vacation, Galapagos Islands beaches, best beaches in Ecuador, Ecuador beaches, beach travel, things to do in Galapagos Islands, best hotels in Galapagos Islands, best restaurants Galapagos IslandsTortuga Bay Beach, Santa Cruz Island

Tortuga Bay is one of the largest and most famous beaches of the Galapagos Islands. This beautiful white coral sand beach lies about a 2.5 km walk from Puerto Ayora and behind the main beach is a natural bay that is an excellent spot for sea kayaking and snorkeling. Discover the amazing underwater world of the Galapagos, including sea turtles, sea lions, and white-tipped sharks. Watch birds like pelicans, flamingos, and lava gulls, which come to this beach in search of food.

Gardner Bay Beach, Galapagos Islands Vacation, Galapagos Islands beaches, best beaches in Ecuador, Ecuador beaches, beach travel, things to do in Galapagos Islands, best hotels in Galapagos Islands, best restaurants Galapagos IslandsGardner Bay Beach, Espanola Island

This beautiful beach is famous for the multitudes sea lions you’ll find lying around in the sand. You can meet these friendly animals up-close while witnessing amazing sunsets. Another great beach for snorkeling, with a diversity of tropical fish, and white-tipped reef sharks.

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El-Garrapatero, Galapagos Islands Vacation, Galapagos Islands beaches, best beaches in Ecuador, Ecuador beaches, beach travel, things to do in Galapagos Islands, best hotels in Galapagos Islands, best restaurants Galapagos IslandsEl Garrapatero, Santa Cruz Island

Lined by mangroves and Manzanillo trees, this white sand beach is visited by pelicans, marine iguanas, ghost crab, shrimp, and penguins. This 3 km long beach lies about 20 km northeast of Puerto Ayora and is a great place to enjoy snorkeling, sunbathing and picnics.

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Puerto-Villamil-Isabela-Island, Galapagos Islands Vacation, Galapagos Islands beaches, best beaches in Ecuador, Ecuador beaches, beach travel, things to do in Galapagos Islands, best hotels in Galapagos Islands, best restaurants Galapagos IslandsPuerto Villamil, Isabela Island

This white sandy beach, in front of the town Puerto Villamil, is shaded by coconut palms and dry tropical forest and offers shelter to wildlife like marine iguanas, sea lions, boobies and many different kinds of birds. There are several other beaches nearby Puerto Villamil, but those are only accessible by cruise ship.

Puerto Egas, Santiago Island, Galapagos Islands Vacation, Galapagos Islands beaches, best beaches in Ecuador, Ecuador beaches, beach travel, things to do in Galapagos Islands, best hotels in Galapagos Islands, best restaurants Galapagos IslandsPuerto Egas, Santiago Island

This beautiful white sand beach is home to numerous sea lions and is an excellent spot for snorkeling with sea turtles and tropical fish. To the right of the beach are lava rock outcroppings dotted with marine iguanas, birds, and other wildlife. The infamous “Darwin’s Toilet”, a bizarre tidal phenomenon that resembles a gigantic toilet is a big attraction. Just don’t fall in!

Best Galapagos Islands Tours & Activities by Viator

Viator.com – Tours, sightseeing tours, activities & things to do

6-Day All Inclusive Galapagos Island Hopping

Each island in the Galapagos archipelago offers a different experience. Visit several during this all-inclusive island hopping adventure. By day, travel by speedboat to some of the islands’ most important sights, and at night sleep peacefully at hotels on solid ground. A small group size means you’ll have more time to ask questions of your naturalist guide and observe native wildlife at close range.  Learn more about the 6-Day All Inclusive Galapagos Island Hopping Tour.

8-Day Galapagos Classic Island Hopping Tour

From Darwin to the present day, the Galapagos Islands have thrilled visitors with their abundance of diverse native wildlife. Tour the highlights of the 19-island archipelago on this 8-day Galapagos island hopping tour, which includes guided visits to top attractions, accommodations in well-regarded hotels, and some meals and transportation as per the itinerary.  Learn more about this 8-Day Galapagos Classic Island Hopping Tour.

8-Day Galapagos Adventure: San Cristobal, Santa Cruz, Isabela Island

If you’re an active traveler wishing to explore Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands then opt for this 8-day tour of San Cristobal Island, Santa Cruz Island, and Isabela Island. As well as visiting highlights such as the Charles Darwin Research Station and Puerto Villamil Bay, you’ll snorkel with sea lions at Concha Perla, hike to elevated viewpoints surrounding the Wall of Tears (El Muro de las Lágrimas), and trek to the crater of the Sierra Negra Volcano. Seven nights accommodation, all meals and excursions, and transfers are included.  Learn more about this 8-Day Galapagos Adventure Tour.

Day Tour to Pinzón Island and La Fé/Palmitas Bay with Snorkeling & Fishing

This tour is operated on a very spacious, comfortable boat, with an excellent crew that offers the best possible service, warm and freshly prepared lunch, high-quality snorkel equipment, the best naturalist guides and one of the most active tours you can do, including snorkel activities at two of the best snorkel spots of Galapagos, a fishing activity as well as a beautiful walk at Palmitas Bay/La Fe Bay, along mangrove and cactus trees in order to observe many different species on land.  Learn more about this Day Tour to Pinzon Island & La Fe/Palmitas Bay.

Bartolome Island Full-Day Tour: Snorkeling & Hiking Trip

Explore the iconic area of Bartolome Island on a full-day tour from Puerto Ayora. This volcanic island is rich in biodiversity both on land and underwater. Take in the beautiful landscapes from the viewpoint at the top of the island and discover the abundant marine life with a snorkeling excursion. Enjoy a boxed lunch and listen to informative commentary from your guide throughout the day.  Learn more about the Bartolome Island Full-Day Tour.

Best Galapagos Islands Restaurants

Finch Bay Restaurant – Puerto Ayora  $31 – 60

Finch Bay Restaurant, part of the award-winning Finch Bay Hotel in Puerto Ayora, is considered by many to be one of the best fine dining restaurants in the Galapagos Islands with excellent menu options for seafood-lovers, vegetarians, Ecuadorian, and international dishes.  Telephone:  +593 5 2526297  Web:  Finch Bay Restaurant.

Coco Surf – Puerto Villamil  $11 – 30

This sidewalk cafe serves up some of the tastiest seafood dishes in all of the Galápagos, and you’ll hardly notice the high price points once the live band starts jamming out to jazzy island tunes. The tuna tartare and patanachos mar y terra (appetizer platter with an assortment of seafood and meat) are highly recommended.  Telephone:  +593 5 2529465  Web:  Coco Surf.

Oasis – Puerto Villamil  $11 – 30

Esmeraldas native Geanny Bennett Valencia cooks up some of the best dishes in town. Mouth-watering encocados (coconut stews) are the favorite, served in versions like camarones (shrimp), langosta (lobster) or pescado (fish). The restaurant only opens by reservation; call ahead or stop by during the day.  Telephone:  +593 5 2529054  Web:  Oasis.

Isla Grill – Puerto Ayora  $11 – 30

This buzzing grillhouse serves satisfying plates of grilled meat and seafood. Among the top picks: costillitas (pork ribs), mariscada (char-grilled shrimp, octopus and calamari) and churrasquito de mimi (a particularly tender cut of steak). The plump salads are also first-rate.  Telephone:  +593 98 462 7240 Web:  Isla Grill.

Garrapata – Puerto Ayora  $11 – 30

Good tunes, cool breezes and tasty Ecuadorian and international dishes (seared tuna, grilled seafood platters and fish in coconut sauce) draw a lively crowd most nights. It’s pricey but casual, with open sides and a pebble floor.  Telephone:  +593 5 2526264  Web:  Garrapata.

Best Galapagos Nightlife

Bongo Bar

The Bongo Bar is the top hot spot in Puerto Ayora. Located on the second floor of a building on Avenida Darwin, it is open from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. The bar has a wide variety of clientele that includes locals as well as tourists and naturalist guides who take their guests around the islands. The Bongo Bar serves some of the best sushi in the Galapagos.  Telephone:  +593 98 493 0894   Web:  Bongo Bar.

Buganvilla

Buganvilla is located at the northern end of Avenida Darwin and is open from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. This outdoor lounge features loads of fanciful decoration. You will enjoy fairy lights and trickling fountains as well as cozy, recessed alcoves that have couches. On many weekends, the Buganvilla offers live music, and patrons enjoy a pool and a Foosball table.  Telephone:  +593 98 694 6342  Web:  Buganvilla.

Limon y Cafe

Limon y Cafe is an outdoor bar where the casual, local younger crowd gathers. This is the most popular meeting place on Santa Cruz. It has a bar as well as wooden tables and serves ice-cold beer. Guests are welcome to hang out and chat, play cards or play pool. There is a TV over the bar where subtitled movies are often played. The locals call it Puerto Ayora’s local Cheers because the staff members know all the names of repeat patrons. Telephone:  +593 99 601 7793  Web:  Limon Cafe.

La Panga

La Panga is the most popular disco in Puerto Ayora. It is a hotspot until closing time every weekend, which is 3 a.m. It has a full bar that offers drinks with a local flavor. Salsa partners are found on the small dance floor, and others just dance the night away however they want. The music is an eclectic combination of Latin, pop and electronic. Telephone:  +593 98 898 4670  Web:  La Panga.

Madera Fina

Madera Fina is frequented by the older crowd. You will not find the wild dancing like that of La Panga, but it is a great place to relax, and the dance floor has plenty of room. It is open from 8:30 p.m. to 3 a.m. on weekends and serves from a full bar. Telephone:  +593 99 164 9260  Web:  Madera Fina.

Best Galapagos Islands Hotels

28 Comments

  1. Sarah

    Wow, what a superb website and what a great and informative article about Galapagos island holidays. Usually we have to search a lot about options and facilities before going on holidays but your website has made the job way easier. Thank you so much for sharing your superb and useful work with us.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You are very welcome Sarah, thanks for visiting!

      Reply
  2. Andrew

    What a dream destination for any lover of nature and wildlife! I’m surprised that a holiday here costs so little as you have outlined in the reply to Clement above. I therefore have to add it to my bucket list. I imagine that this is one of the few places left in the world where we can be surrounded by animals that are still unafraid of man.
    Thanks for sharing this jewel of a destination.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You are very welcome Andrew, and yes, you can go here on a budget. And still have a fantastic time 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  3. Lane Onson

    Hi Leahrae,

    I’m glad you made this site and post such wonderful information.

    First of all, I’ve never even heard of Galapagos Islands.

    Secondly, I’m glad you mention to book ahead ’cause it’s popular with tourist. I’m a planner but I can be a spur of the moment girl. Some things, such as, renting boats ahead of time, is great to know.

    Sad to say, though, a trip here might be a little too exotic for me. While I want to travel, I just don’t feel that adventurous.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Well Lane, I will have to find another destination for you that might be more aligned with your tastes 🙂 Thanks for visiting and I am glad you enjoyed reading 🙂

      Reply
  4. Rebecca Arnold

    I appreciate the options you have provided in terms of price point and experience. I have heard of the galapagos islands as they are quite famous in terms of their coverage on nature and geography educational programs I have seen. It looks magnificent in terms of the animals and activities that you can enjoy. I am so enamoured with this site Leahrae! You really dial in all the details one would need to be equipped with the right knowledge to enjoy a fruitful and satisfying vacation. Thank you!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      I am glad you enjoy visiting beach travel destinations. Yes, the Galapagos Islands are wonderful for many reasons, not just for their great beaches. I hope you can vacation there sometime soon 🙂

      Reply
  5. Arun Sabharwal

    Hi
    I was just planning to be at a new location this summer and what a coincidence. I hit your post at the right time. The Galapagos Islands seems to be the right destination. But I may have to decide the cost factor also. In case the difference is too much I would prefer land-based. May I request you to please inform how much would I be able to save if I go land-based?

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Hi Arun, I just need a little more information as I am really not sure what you are comparing. If you can tell me what all you are considering, I can tell you which one is going to be more economical for you.

      Reply
  6. Evald

    Hey there Leahrae,

    what a gorgeous and stunning place Galapagos Islands is, simply wow! It honestly looks like heaven. There are so many things & aspects that make visiting this place a truly unforgettable experience. Some of my favorites of those are definitely that sky-blue, crystal-clear ocean water which looks to be so calming and relaxing, those lush & green forests with gorgeous sceneries & environments, and of course that rich wildlife with lots of very unique & interesting animals to witness and discover for Yourself! Can’t wait to get there one day. 

    Thank You for such informative and helpful article with lots of very valuable info, I found it to be very enjoyable. Keep up the great work 😉

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thanks Evald and glad you enjoyed my Galapagos Islands vacation post!  Hopefully you can vacation there in the near future 🙂

      Reply
  7. Clement

    Honestly this is a nice post, The detailed post makes Galapagos a tempting place to visit any time soon, but it is quite expensive I suppose, do you have any idea of the average budget for the visit?, I like wildlife alot and it will be nice to visit the Galapagos island to see diverse kinds of animals and plants that awaits. 

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Basing yourself on an island and taking day tours is the most affordable way to see the Galapagos. There are only four islands that tourists can stay over nigh on without a tour:  Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Isabela, and Floreana. Here is your cost breakdown:  

      Accommodation prices start at $25+/night for a single, budget private room.  A basic double room is $40/nigh on average.  

      Food is going to be $5 – $15+ per meal (always cheaper to eat outside of the tourist zone).

      Tours and activities are going to be $50 – $200 per tour (land tours are cheapest and diving tours are most expensive).

      Total for 5 nights (varies depending on accommodation, # of tours, and where you eat) will be $550 – $800

      Reply
  8. James

    I didn’t realize the Galapagos was a destination you could visit.  I always thought it was a protected wildlife preserve.  And that you needed special permission to go.  I didn’t realize people lived on the Islands year round.  I’m really surprised there are actual Air B&Bs; on the Islands.  I had no idea!  Thanks so much for sharing!

    Do you know if there are any Darwin Tours they offer there?  Tours that specifically take you to places that Darwin visited?  I think that would be an amazing idea.  I was always a fan of his in highschool, and would love to retrace his footsteps.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Hi James, and yes the Galapagos Islands has more than most people think .  I had to look up Darwin tours, but I did not find any.  That does not mean you could get a tour operator to take you on a more specific tour.  I know that they do that.  It would be pretty cool to retrace his footsteps!  Thanks for visiting my Galapagos Islands Vacation post.

      Reply
  9. Kabirat

    Galapagos Island is indeed one of the wonders of nature and very fascinating tourist destination where one can experience first hand experience of rare aquatic animals. It would be a pleasure to see a sea lion and a blue sea.

    The visit will be a most enjoyable and an unforgettable one. As one would catch a glimpse of animals only seen in documentaries. 

    Ultimately one gets value for money and blissful rest.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      I agree 100% Kabirat!

      Reply
  10. Alejandra

    Hi,

    I always thought about the Galapagos Islands as a different place, after reading your article I see why many people put this place into their bucket list.

    So thank you for putting up a great article to read, I will bookmark your website so I can show your article to my husband, I think it would be a nice place to visit next year.

    Alejandra. 

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Great Alejandra, and yes a wonderful vacation destination. The Galapagos Islands are gorgeous with so much to offer. Please let me know if I can help when you do start to plan.

      Reply
  11. Nicole Stiles

    Oh, wow. That’s a beautiful picture. I’ve never thought of the Galapagos Islands as a place to visit. They’ve always had the spot in my mind of being the location where the theory of evolution was  born. It never occurred to me to visit. I don’t know why. The reason the theory of evolution came about was because of the diverse life across the islands. It would be amazing to see all the different plants and animals. We never had a honey moon. I’m thinking maybe we should plan for this sometime haha.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      I do think that a visit to the Galapagos Islands would make a great honeymoon!  🙂  Never too late that is for sure.  Thanks for stopping by Galapagos Islands Vacation.

      Reply
  12. JB

    Honestly, I would love to vacation here! And I didn’t know about the boat option to stay. That’s exactly what I would love to do wake up at a new place every morning – beautiful idea.

    I had a few friends go visit several years ago, they loved it. One of their favorite things was the wildlife. And how the animals were never scared of humans and the seals were super playful. I’m definitely going scuba diving though! Great article.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thanks JB and glad you enjoyed your digital visit to my Galapagos Islands vacation post! Yes, scuba diving is a must here. One of the top ten scuba diving locations in the world. Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  13. PEARL AWA

    Hmmmm, that beach is calling me. LOL
    When I finally decide to take a vacation, I’m sure I’ll get confused where to go.
    This is because all the places you’ve talked about are lovely:)
    Thanks as always for your spectacular content.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You are so welcome Pearl, and thank you for your continued support and visits to my site. Yes, I do have a lot of amazing places! When you are ready for your vacation, just let me know and I can help you find the perfect beach!

      Reply
  14. Daniella

    So beautiful the Galapagos! I didn’t know about this place, but now that I know, I’ll put it on my bucket list. There are so many turtles there; it’s one of my favorite animals. My son wants to make a trip with his friends just for fun, and they still don’t know where to go. I’ll show them the Galapagos; I am sure they will love it. I am just curious. My son is only 16 years old, so I am not sure if he is allowed to fly at this age without being accompanied by an adult?
    Thanks a lot!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Hi Daniella and thank you for visiting my Galapagos Islands Vacation post. Yes, your son can fly alone. Most airlines allow children to fly alone once they reach the age of 14. He can most certainly fly with any airline at his age. The Galapagos Islands are beautiful.

      Reply

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