Shopping in the Galapagos islands

Cash or Card? Using Money in the Galapagos Islands

Updated July 9, 2017.

We often get asked about the best way to pay your way while you’re in the Galapagos Islands. Whether you’re on a cruise, land-based tour or independent trip, you’ll no doubt need to spend some extra cash at some point – perhaps for a drink in the bar, souvenirs, tips, snacks or anything else you might need.

You’ll also need cash for the $100 national park fee and, if you are going to Isabela Island, the $5 dock tax there. As well, often the price on restaurant menus does not include the 10% service (tips) or 12% IVA tax.

As these protected islands are 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) out to sea, it’s not as straightforward as simply whipping out your credit card. So before you go, be sure to read our top money tips.

Money, money, money
  • The currency used in the Galapagos Islands (and all of Ecuador) is the U.S. Dollar.
  • In Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island, there are two banks. Banco del Pacífico has ATMs accepting Mastercard, Cirrus and Visa (Avenida Charles Darwin across from the fisherman’s wharf; Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m.-1 p.m.). Banco Pichincha has an ATM (Avenida Baltra, between Española and Genovesa Streets; Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-4 p.m.). ATMs are also at the Proinsular supermarket at the end of Avenida Charles Darwin, past the post office.
  • In Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristóbal Island, Banco del Pacífico has a 24-hour ATM and changes Euros to US dollars (corner of Avenida Hernán Melville and Ignacio; Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m.-1 p.m.).
  • Note that there are no ATMs in the town of Puerto Villamil on Isabela Island or in Puerto Velazco Ibarra on Floreana Island. Bring plenty of cash with you.
  • Nicer hotels, restaurants and souvenir stores accept major credit cards, but there is often a 5-10% fee charged. Many shops and restaurants do not accept credit cards, and neither do all hotels – check in advance. MasterCard and Visa are the most accepted; few businesses take American Express.
  • Traveler cheques are not widely accepted, so it is better to stick to cash and credit cards.
  • Bring some extra cash with you from the mainland, just in case your credit card isn’t accepted or the ATMs are out of bills. (It happens!)
  • Bring small bills – $10s and $5s are ideal. You won’t be able to use bills over $20.

 

Have you already been to the Galapagos islands? Help other travellers by sharing your money tips in the comments below.

 

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Photo credit: Steve Nomchong

King Angelfish, Galápagos Islands

Galapagos Islands’ Best Snorkeling Sites – No Cruise Required

This is the third article of a three-part series about the Galapagos Islands’ best snorkeling sites, to help you plan your dream vacation.

The previous two parts of this special series about the best snorkeling sites in the Galapagos Islands focused on the Eastern / Central and Western parts of the archipelago.

But if you suffer from extreme seasickness that prevents you from even taking a day cruise (let alone a multi-day cruise), you won’t be left out of the action. You will still be able to explore the Galapagos’ underwater world by snorkeling.

On each of the major islands, there are sites worthy of a snorkeling excursion, with no guide needed. Each of these islands is connected by air flights, thus allowing you to avoid taking the local ferries.

 

San Cristobal Island

Near Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the main town on this island and the capital of Galapagos Province, are several beaches suitable for swimming and snorkeling: Playa de Oro, Playa de los Marinos and Playa El Cañón. A bit further on, though, are cleaner, more tranquil spots for underwater exploration.

Playa Mann

Playa Mann is located just west of downtown Puerto Baquerizo Moreno and Playa de Oro. This white beach of crushed shells fringes clear waters perfect for snorkeling. This is also a wonderful spot to catch the sunset.

La Lobería

A great site to observe myriads of tropical fish, rays, sea turtles and – as its name suggests – lots of sea lions. On the coral-sand beach you’ll see marine iguanas, finches and other birds. La Lobería is 10 minutes from the airport, southeast of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. You can walk there or take a taxi.

Punta Tijeretas

Punta Tijeretas is at the foot of Cerro Tijeretas, 3.5 kilometers (two miles) from Puerto Baquerizo. If you are a strong swimmer, you can snorkel with sea lions and tropical fish. Also, take time to enjoy the fantastic views of León Dormido rock from atop the hill.

Punta Carola

This famous golden beach is another place to snorkel with sea lions and marine iguanas as well as other marine life. Follow Avenida Alsacio Northía northward from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno; also accessible by trail from Cerro Tijeretas.

 

Santa Cruz Island

Tortuga Bay

This paradisaical bay has two beaches. The trail emerges at Playa Brava, which has strong currents. Walk to your right up the beach until you come to a small cove, which is named Playa Mansa. In these tranquil waters, you can see sea turtles, sea lions, rays and many colorful fish. Located about five kilometers (three miles) from downtown Puerto Ayora (45-60 minutes walking).

Las Grietas

These narrow channels are a delightful place to check out white-tipped sharks and a variety of tropical fish. To arrive to the trail to Las Grietas, you will have to take a water taxi across Puerto Ayora’s Academy Bay (about five minutes).

 

Isabela Island

Concha de Perla

Concha de Perla is a small lagoon edged by a narrow beach backed by mangroves. Within its calm waters lie wonderful creatures like chocolate chip starfish, rays, sea horses and lots of fish. You may even bump into sea turtles, white-tipped sharks, sea lions or even a penguin! The 250-meter (820-foot) trail to Concha de Perla is midways between the port and the town of Puerto Villamil. This is a popular spot, so go early morning or late afternoon to avoid the crowds.

 

Did we miss any Galapagos Island sites for incredible snorkeling? Tell us about it in the comments below!

 

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Photo credit: Derek Keats

Red-lipped Bat fish @ Galapagos

Galapagos Islands’ Best Snorkeling Sites – Western Islands

This is the second of a three-part series about the Galapagos Islands’ best snorkeling sites, to help you plan your dream vacation.

Multi-day cruises heading into the Western part of the Galapagos Islands include the archipelago’s youngest islands, Isabela and Fernandina, on the itinerary. Some of the highest-ranking snorkeling sites are on the coasts of these two islands. Other sites on Isabela can be reached by day cruise from the island’s main port, Puerto Villamil.

A few snorkeling destinations in the Central part of the archipelago, like James Bay (Santiago Island) and Prince Phillip’s Steps (Genovesa) are included in multi-day cruise itineraries. These are covered in the first part of this series,.

The western sector of the Galapagos Islands is home to land and sea animals you will see in no other part of the archipelago: flightless cormorants, Port Jackson sharks – and strange creatures like frogfish, moonfish and red-lipped batfish. Penguins are much more common in these cold waters. And, of course, you can expect to swim with the ever-popular sea lions, marine iguanas and sea turtles. Here it is also more common to see dolphins and whales during their migrations through the Galapagos.

 

Las Tintoreras (Isabela Island)

This islet is located 15 minutes by boat from Puerto Villamil. After hiking around the islote to see white-tipped sharks, sea lions, marine iguanas and other fauna, visitors are allowed to snorkel off-shore where sharks, rays, sea lions, multi-colored fish and other marine denizens can be observed.

Accessibility: Day cruise, Multi-day Cruise

 

Lava Tunnels (Isabela Island)

Locally called Los Túneles, these lava tunnels were formed when magma reached the sea. Today, these arches and other strange rock formations are home to penguins, sea turtles, sea lions and white-tipped sharks – as well as rays, sea horses and rainbows of tropical fish. Above the shimmering water, you’ll see blue-footed boobies, Sally Lightfoot crabs and marine iguanas.

Accessibility: Day cruise

 

Punta Vicente Roca (Isabela Island)

Located on the northwestern corner of the island, this sunken volcano forms two protected, turquoise coves. Bizarre beings lurk beneath the surface: red-lipped batfish, moonfish, frogfish and hinge-beak prawns. Also keep an eye out for the rare Port Jackson shark. Sea turtles and sea horses are common. This is another of Galapagos’ prized snorkeling sites, and one of the coldest.

Accessibility: Multi-day cruise

 

Tagus Cove (Isabela Island)

Underwater, Tagus Cove is carpeted with green algae where marine iguanas and sea turtles graze. Rare creatures are seen here, including flightless cormorants, penguins and Port Jackson sharks. This is among the top places to snorkel in the Galapagos Islands.

Accessibility: Multi-day cruise

 

Punta Espinosa (Fernandina Island)

On the other side of the Bolivar Channel across from Tagus Cove, is Punta Espinosa on the west coast of Fernandina Island. Swimming marine iguanas and sea turtles are common sights, as are Galapagos Penguins and flightless cormorants. In season, dolphins, humpback whales, orcas can be spotted in the channel.

Accessibility: Multi-day cruise

 

The last of this three-part series the Galapagos Islands’ best snorkeling sites will focus on ones you can reach by land.

 

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Photo credit: Rein Ketelaars

Frigate Birds, Galapagos Islands

New Galapagos Entry Requirements

The Galapagos Islands government has issued new entry regulations for both foreign and national tourists. These new requirements went into effect on June 5, 2017.

Visitors to the Galapagos Islands will now need to show the following when obtaining their tourist card at the Gobierno Especial del Régimen de Galápagos counters at the Quito and Guayaquil airports:

  • Round trip air fare.
  • Hotel and/or cruise reservation for the days they will be in the Galapagos Islands, from the time of arrival to departure from the islands.
  • If the tourist will be staying in the home of a Galapagos resident, a letter of invitation from the resident.

Once these documents have been presented, then the tourist can obtain the Galapagos tourist card which still costs $20US and is paid in cash.

An on-line registration form, which will save visitors time, is in the works. Check with your tour operator to see if you will have to supply this information, or if the tour agency will provide this service to their customers. Independent travelers should have copies of their air tickets and reservations printed off.

It is important that, before departing from the mainland, do-it-alone travelers make all hotel reservations on all the habitable islands where they will be spending the night. These include Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Isabela and Floreana islands.

Have you travelled to Galapagos since the new regulations came into effect? Share your experience with other travellers in the comments below.

 

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Photo credit: Sophie Robson

Galapagos

Galapagos Islands’ Best Snorkeling Sites – Eastern and Central Islands

This is the first of a three-part series about the Galapagos Islands’ best snorkeling sites, to help you plan your dream vacation.

The Galapagos Islands are renowned for its unique land animals – but a whole world of amazing creatures awaits you below the waves. Snorkeling is one way even novices can explore Galapagos’ underwater world.

To help you plan your Galapagos cruise, here are the top places to go snorkeling in the Eastern and Central sectors of the Islands. Some can be visited on day cruises, and others only with multi-day cruises.

Isla Lobos (San Cristobal Island)

As its name indicates, the main attraction of this protected cove is the large sea lion colony. These creatures, especially the young, love to leap and dive around the humans who visit their corner of the Galapagos, which has clear and tranquil waters.

Accessibility: Multi-day Cruise, Day cruise

Tour Region: Eastern

Kicker Rock (San Cristobal Island)

You’ll get your kicks at Kicker Rock. Within this narrow channel, you can see a startling variety of marine life, from rays to white-tipped sharks, from sea turtles to sea lions. With a bit of luck, dolphins and sharks (hammerheads and the endemic Galapagos) may swim by.

Accessibility: Day cruise; Multi-day Cruise (check itinerary to see if snorkeling is included)

Tour Region: Eastern

Gardner Bay (Española Island)

The clear, blue waters of Gardner Bay on Española, the southernmost Galapagos Island, is home to sting rays and colorful parrotfish, as well as sea lions, sea turtles and white-tipped reef sharks. From April to December, waved albatross are seen on the shores.

Accessibility: Multi-day cruise, Day cruise

Tour Region: Eastern / Southern

Chinese Hat Islet (Santa Cruz Island)

Here you’ll delight in the array of iconic Galapagos sea residents, including sea lions, green sea turtles, penguins and white-tipped sharks.

Accessibility: Multi-day cruise

Tour Region: Central

North Seymour Island

With little current around this island and low cliffs, this is a favorite snorkeling destination. White-tipped sharks are common, as are a rainbow of fish like parrotfish, hogfish, king angelfish and damselfish. Also on the agenda are rays and sea lions.

Accessibility: Multi-day cruise, Day cruise

Tour Region: Central

Devil’s Crown (Floreana Island)

Within this wave-worn, ancient volcanic cone beneath the waves lies a coral reef where you will observe sea urchins, moray eels and many species of fish, including the beautiful scorpionfish. Schools of spotted eagle and golden rays are also present, as are sea lions and green sea turtles. On the rim of the crater jutting above the water are blue- and red-footed boobies. This is one of the Galapagos Islands’ most treasured snorkeling spots. Accessible by panga (dinghy); current can be strong.

Accessibility: Multi-day cruise

Tour Region: Central / Southern

Pinnacle Rock (Bartholomew Island)

Bartolomé Island’s Pinnacle Rock is a common stop for cruises. On this stone obelisk’s beach sea turtles nest and sea lions rest. Beneath the waters is a jagged-rock labyrinth where colorful fish and white-tipped sharks live. This is also a great place to spot penguins.

Accessibility: Multi-day cruise, Day cruise

Tour Region: Central / Western

James Bay (Santiago Island)

This site delights on land and in the sea. On the shore lounge sea fur lions and sea lions. Offshore are penguins and vibrantly colored fish. Depending on the season, golden and spotted rays may also be present. Beginning snorkelers will enjoy this calm and shallow bay. Access is from the shore.

Accessibility: Multi-day cruise, Day cruise

Tour Region: Central / Western

Prince Phillip’s Steps (Genovesa Island)

On the southwestern side of Genovesa (Tower Island) is a submerged volcanic caldera in whose deeper waters reside hammerhead sharks and huge manta rays. On the eastern side of this island is Prince Phillip’s Steps, with more great snorkeling featuring large tropical fish like angelfish, parrotfish and unicorn fish.

Accessibility: Multi-day cruise

Tour Region: Central / Western

 

The next part of this series will explore the best snorkeling sites in the western part of the Galapagos Islands archipelago.

 

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Photo credit: pantxorama

EC8035034

Snorkeling in the Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands are one of the most stunning places on Planet Earth for snorkeling. Its underwater world is home to myriads of vibrant fish and other sea creatures including sea lions, marine iguanas and penguins.

 

What You Need to Know

Although the Galapagos Islands straddle the equator, the waters are not warm year-round. This is due to the cold Cromwell Current that flows from the west, and the Humboldt Current which surges northward from Antarctica. Between June and October, ocean temperatures are 18-22 ºC (64-72ºF), thus necessitating a wetsuit. The Humboldt begins to weaken in December. Between December and May, the water is much warmer (23-25ºC / 74-76ºF), calmer and clearer – thus creating fantastic conditions for snorkeling adventures.

Most boats cruising the Galapagos Islands supply snorkeling gear to their guests. Check to see if there is an additional charge for the use of gear or a wetsuit.

If you prefer to use your own snorkel, face mask and fins, it is quite easy to pick them up at home or in the major Ecuadorian cities, Quito and Guayaquil. Shops in the Galapagos towns also sell gear, though it will be more expensive than on the mainland, and some tour agencies rent it.

Another nifty item to have in your luggage is an underwater camera. It will let you capture and share the magical marvels you saw in the Galapagos.

If you are a newbie to snorkeling, try practicing in a local pool or pond before you take your Galapagos vacation. Guides on cruise ships can also teach you (and children) how to enjoy this easy sport.

To help preserve the Galapagos’ pristine environment, remember to keep respectable distance from animals (2 meters / 7 feet, according to Galapagos National Park regulations). Also, do not to stand on or touch coral reefs, as this can cause them to die.

 

 What You Can See

Because the Galapagos Islands lie at the confluence of three major currents – the cold-water Cromwell and Humboldt currents, and the warm Panamanian Current from the north – the waters surrounding the archipelago are rich in marine fauna. Hundreds of species reside here, with new ones being discovered every year.

Large schools of colorful fish brighten the deeps. These include Sergeant Major, striped deep blue with yellow fins; King Angelfish, pale blue with peach and brilliant yellow fins; Blue-chin Parrotfish, a green-rose-blue rainbow; and Yellowtail Surgeonfish, among many others.

Other creatures you may see are seahorses, sea slugs, starfish and sea stars. Eagle, golden and manta rays are also present (more common May-December), as are moray and other eels. Most Galapagos visitors, though, dream of snorkeling with sea lions, penguins, white-tipped sharks, marine iguanas and sea turtles.

Certain marine fauna can only be seen in certain areas of the Galapagos archipelago. If specific ones – like white-tipped sharks or penguins – are on your “to snorkel with” bucket list, then plan to visit their regions.

 

Best Places to Snorkel

Several Galapagos Islands have reefs that allow for fantastic snorkeling. Luckily, many of these are on the multi-day and day cruise ship itineraries. These include Devil’s Crown on Floreana Island, and nearby Onslow and Champion islets.

Bartolomé Island has not only reefs, but has a colony of Galapagos penguins. Another prime place to see this equatorial penguin species is on Chinese Hat Islet, off the southeast coast of Santiago Island. Here, you can also swim with sea lions, sea turtles and reef sharks. James Bay on Santiago is known for penguins, as well as sea turtles, sea lions, fur sea lions, and gold and spotted rays.

Many Isabela Island snorkeling sites offer not only penguins, but many fish species not found in other parts of the archipelago. Punta Vicente Roca is one of the most prized places to explore underwater. Tagus Cove is the only place where you can see giant sea stars.

Kicker Rock, northwest of San Cristóbal Island, is a dramatic snorkeling site where sea turtles, sharks and manta rays are easily observed. Also near San Cristóbal are Isla Lobos, renowned for its sea lions, and Islote Five Fingers, rich in bottom-dwelling fauna like sea urchins. In these sites, Galapagos sharks, eagle rays, multitudes of fish species and sea turtles are frequently seen.

North Seymour Island, north of Santa Cruz Island, has a fascinating array of fish, including damselfish, king angelfish and parrot fish. Black-blotched rays and sea lions are also common.

 

Have you gone snorkeling in the Galapagos Islands? Tell us about it in the comments below.

 

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Photo credit: Rinaldo Wurglitsch

9 Galapagos Day Cruises - Kicker Rock

9 Galapagos Islands Day Cruises

Land-based tourism in the Galapagos Islands doesn’t mean you’ll be confined to dry land on San Cristobal, Santa Cruz and Isabela islands. You can see the archipelago’s incredible wildlife on the uninhabited islands, too. Here are nine Galapagos day cruises you can add to your itinerary.

Navigation times are usually under two hours. Guides and lunch is included (and if the start time is early, also breakfast). Be sure to check whether snorkeling gear and wet suits are included in the price of the tour.

From San Cristóbal Island

Kicker Rock  Also known as León Dormido, this snorkeling or scuba diving tour is highlighted by three species of shark – white-tipped, Galapagos and hammerhead – and eagle rays. Frequently, tours include swimming and snorkeling at Manglesito Beach on Isla Lobos, home to a large sea lion colony.

Española  A day cruise to Española Island features snorkeling at Gardner Bay and hiking to Suárez Point.  This island’s unique Galapagos wildlife include waved albatross (April-December), marine iguanas (to see them blazing red and green, come in January), masked boobies and lots of land birds.

From Santa Cruz Island

Being in the center of the Galapagos archipelago, Santa Cruz is the launching point for many day cruises. Most depart from Canal de Itabaca, the channel between Santa Cruz Island and Baltra.

Bartolomé  Home of turquoise waters fringed with white-sand beaches, penguins (mating season in September) and nesting sea turtles (January-March). The tour includes a hike to the viewpoint of iconic Pinnacle Rock, and snorkeling with sea lions, white-tipped sharks and multitudes of colorful fish. Some tours continue to Sullivan Bay on the east coast of Santiago Island, where you can see the lava formations left by the 1903 eruption.

North Seymour  This destination features a two-kilometre (1.2 mile) trail through colonies of blue-footed boobies and frigatebirds. To see the boobies’ mating dance, plan your visit for April-May. Frigatebirds show off their red throat pouches year round. You can also snorkel with Galapagos sharks and sea turtles. Some tours to North Seymour also spend time at Bachas Beach on the north coast of Santa Cruz Island.

South Plaza  This islet is home to one of Galapagos’ largest sea lion colonies. Also resident are land and marine iguanas (and hybrid iguanas!), masked and blue-footed boobies, and tropic birds. Tours may include snorkeling at Carrion Point at the northeast tip of Santa Cruz.

Santa Fe  This island lies 40 minutes south of Puerto Ayora. Wildlife includes two species of land iguanas, Galapagos hawk and sea lions. Swimming and snorkeling with sea turtles, stingrays and tropical fish in the island’s crystalline waters is also on the agenda.

Floreana  On a day cruise from Puerto Ayora, you’ll hike to Asilo de Paz and other sites in the highlands, and snorkel at Black Beach. Unfortunately, visits to Post Office Bay and Devil’s Crown are limited to multi-day cruises.

From Isabela Island

Day tours to Isabela from Santa Cruz Island include the giant tortoise breeding center, flamingo-dotted lagoons and either Las Tintoreras or Concha de Perla. If you spend a few days on Isabela, though, you can see much more on cruises originating from the main town, Puerto Villamil.

Las Tintoreras  These small isles are located just off shore from Puerto Villamil, the main village on Isabela Island. They are named for the white-tipped sharks (tintoreras) that rest in the narrow inlets carved into the lava. Other residents are sea lions, marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies and penguins. Some tours to Las Tintoreras also include snorkeling at Concha de Perla lagoon.

Lava Tunnels  Also known as Cabo Rosa, the speed boat goes along the south coast of Isabela Island to tunnels formed by hot lava as it entered the sea. This landscape is home to sea turtles, sea lions, white-tipped sharks, rays and iguanas, as well as blue-footed and masked boobies, frigates and other birds. This tour includes snorkeling at Finados and a cruise around Roca Unión islet.

 

Have you taken a Galapagos Islands day cruise? Tell us about it in the comments below.

 

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Photo credit:Eric Schmuttenmaer

Multi-Generational Galapagos Vacations

3 Tips for Multi-Generational Galapagos Islands Vacations

The Galapagos Islands is an ideal vacation destination for the entire family. Not only mom and pop and the kids, but also grandparents or other generation of kinfolk can explore these incredible isles together.

Having three or more generations embarking on such a journey together poses some challenges. Here are three tips to help you plan your dream Galapagos adventure and create enchanting family memories.

Brainstorm Together

Lay out the snacks and sit down together (or schedule a Skype conference call). What would you like to see? What activities – birdwatching, snorkeling, bike riding, kayaking, hiking, scuba diving – would each of you like to do?  What are the younger travelers’ attention (and patience spans) like? Does anyone have physical limitations? Be sure to also discuss the budget of each of the participants.

Island Cruising or Land-Based Tourism?

The next decision to make is whether to take a multi-day Galapagos cruise or to island-hop through the archipelago.

Galapagos cruises last from four to ten days. Many larger ships offer separate activities for children, with programs and activities specially tailored for them. These boats also offer alternative activities for those with mobility issues. If your group is large enough, you may consider booking an entire, smaller yacht for your clan. All cruises have itineraries that allow for resting between visitor sites, and you don’t have to worry about finding a place to eat. All your needs aboard ship are taken care of. No matter if you choose a small or large ship, be sure to check for children discounts!

Land-based tourism is another choice, which would allow family members to rest more between activities, or set off in small groups to do different things. This is also a better option if someone in the family suffers from sea sickness. Many day trips can be planned on Santa Cruz, San Cristóbal and Isabela islands that the entire family can participate in, and it is easy to travel by local ferry or plane between the islands.

All Together to Create the Family Scrapbook

In the days of old, scientific expeditions to the Galapagos Islands included an artist, a photographer and a historian aboard. Your entire family can join their creative talents to create a scrapbook that will be an ever-lasting memento of your multi-generational vacation to these isles. The album can also include drawings, photographs and a video, and perhaps a bit of poetry.

 

To get more tips for planning your vacation, also check out those offered for family and older travelers to the Galapagos.

The Galapagos Islands has a bit of everything for everyone in your family, whether 7 years old or 77. You will create memories together that will last for generations to come.

Are you planning a multi-generational trip to the Galapagos islands? Or have you done one? If you have any tips to share with other travellers please leave a comment below.

 

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Photo credit: NAParish

Emily with Sea Lions, Isla Mosquera, Galápagos

Going Solo in the Galapagos Islands

While planning your Galapagos vacation, you undoubtedly have read many tips for families and honeymooning couples. But you, you will be journeying there alone.

Whether you decide to see the Galapagos with a multi-day cruise or on your own with land-based tourism, here are a few tips to get you on your way.

  • On multi-day Galapagos cruises, single rooms are usually scarce. Be sure to check whether there is a surcharge for staying as a single aboard, or whether you will be sharing a cabin with another solo traveler. In the latter case the cruise operator will match you with a cabin-mate of the same gender.
  • A smaller yacht or catamaran will allow you to mingle more with the other passengers.
  • In the low season, solo travelers will find it easier to get a last-minute spot on a cruise than a couple or family group.
  • Land-based tourism can offer you more freedom on when and where to go – thus allowing you to avoid groups of people and enjoy the islands’ pristine nature alone.
  • Many of the attractions on Santa Cruz, San Cristóbal and Isabela islands are easy and safe to do on your own, and do not require a guide.
  • Choose to stay at smaller hotels. You may meet other travelers with whom you can share a taxi for a private tour to the Highlands or Garrapatero Beach on Santa Cruz Island, or to Puerto Chino on San Cristóbal – or to take advantage of the 2-for-1 day tour specials often offered in the low season.
  • Without a traveling companion, it’ll be much easier for you to meet the local Galapagos residents and get an inside view of island life.

The Galapagos Islands are one of the most tranquil and safest places for solo travelers. It is a perfect destination if you are looking for deep chill time or to meet new faces. Going there solo will provide innumerable adventures to tell your family and friends.

 

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Photo credit: Paul Krawczuk

Common Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) – Galapagos

The Best Time to Take a Galapagos Vacation

No matter if you are a solo traveler, a couple, honeymooners, a family or retired, we all have the same question when planning our dream Galapagos vacation: When is the best time to go?

A number of factors should be considered in deciding the when to go to the Galapagos Islands, such as high versus low season, budget, climate and sea conditions.

High Season versus Low Season

Unlike other parts of the world, in the Galapagos Islands the weather has very little to do when the high and low seasons are. Rather, they are very closely tied to when humans take their vacations.

One of the biggest – and longest – high seasons is from June through August, corresponding with summer vacation of not only visitors from the Northern Hemisphere, but also of Ecuadorians from the Andean Highlands. During these months, children are off from school, making it easier for families to head out to the Enchanted Isles.

Other high seasons are Christmas-New Years, Carnival (February/March) and Easter Week (March/April) holidays.

During the high season, there will be many more tourists visiting the Galapagos. Also, air fares, hotel rooms and other prices are higher.

The low season brings not only lower prices all around, but also the possibility to book a Galapagos cruise at the last moment (which is especially helpful to solo travelers). Additionally, some companies offer two-for-one specials or discounts on Galapagos tours.

If you can, be flexible about when you take your vacation. And families, you may be able to vacation outside of the high season and during your children’s school year by talking with the teacher: perhaps your child can take a few weeks off from their studies in exchange for doing a presentation to their classmates about the enchantments of the Galapagos Islands.

Budget

For some travelers, the higher prices during the Galapagos high season may present a problem.

Again, be flexible with your vacation and go during the low season if you can. You can easily save several hundred dollars.

Older travelers, if you are going to be relocating to Ecuador, wait to go to the Galapagos Islands until after you have your residency. With your cédula (national identification card), you will qualify for lower Ecuadorian air fares and national park entry fees.

Climate

Like other tropical countries, the Galapagos Islands have two distinct seasons: hot and sultry, and rainy.

From December to April, temperatures can reach 31°C (88°F) during the day, especially in March and April. The sun is strong, humidity high and barely a breeze.

Cooler weather prevails from June to October, with temperatures ranging from 18 to 26ºC (64-76ºF). Evenings are cool. Garúa, a fine, drizzling mist, is common in the morning and evening. Also you can expect afternoon showers. During this rainy season, the Highlands on each of the islands get quite muddy. This will make hiking to see giant tortoises in their native habitat a bit more of a challenge.

May and November are dryer months with less extreme temperatures.

Sea Conditions

When is the best time to take a Galapagos cruise? The sea conditions may affect your decision.

If you have a tendency to seasickness you might want to avoid July through September when the seas are rougher. In August, currents are strong and waves high, especially along south and west-facing shores. If you take a Galapagos cruise during these months and are susceptible to seasickness, choose a larger ship. These are more stable and thus make seasickness less likely. Also, toss some remedy in your luggage to have on hand. As an alternative, you can opt for land-based tours.

If you have mobility difficulties, be forewarned that in March the northern winds make for challenging landings, particularly at Bartholomew, Gardner Bay, North Seymour and Puerto Egas (Santiago Island).

The seas are clearest and warmest from December to April, making for great snorkeling and scuba diving. During the rainy season (June-October), water temperatures are cold enough to necessitate using a wetsuit, especially for snorkeling and scuba diving.

A special treat on Galapagos cruises is seeing dolphins, whales and other sea mammals during their migration through the islands in June-August and again in October-December.

Some of the larger ships also offer special Galapagos cruises packages for honeymooners and activities especially tailored to children. Browse through Galapagos Travel Planner’s cruise tour listings to find the perfect ship to sail you across these beguiling seas.

 

Check out our special articles with dozens more tips for families, honeymooners and older travelers.

And browse through Galapagos Travel Planner’s exclusive calendar for when you can catch the Galapagos Islands’ wildlife activities and human festivals (including marathons and triathlon).

 

Galapagos Travel Planner - FREE Download

Photo credit: Gregory “Slobirdr” Smith