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.
Photo credit:Eric Schmuttenmaer