Where We Be
|The beach at Puerto Villamil on Isabel Island is a minute's walk from the packed-sand main street
|Island-Hopping in the Galapagos
|The black lines show our cruise route; the red lines show the island-hopping we did on our own
afterwards. We stayed in Puerto Ayora for three days, then took a water taxi to Puerto Villamil
where we stayed for three days. We took two water taxis (both in the same day) to Puerto
Ayora and on to San Cristobal. We flew back to mainland Ecuador from San Cristobal.
|The road turned into a set of stairs leading to a small check-in station. From there it was half an hour to the beach along a beautifully
paved path (shown above). The path was dappled with shade from overhanging trees and there were breezes to keep it relatively cool.
|Puerto Ayora's harbor is dotted with yachts, water taxis, and motorboats. Three shaded piers offer fun places to walk and see wildlife.
We saw sea lions, marine iguanas, Sally lightfoot crabs, and golden rays right from the pier. A convenient supermarket sits near the harbor.
|Lonesome George is the most famous tortoise in the Galapagos -- the last of his kind from Pinta Island. He does look sad!
|About a twenty minute walk from town is the Charles Darwin Research Station, where you are guaranteed sightings of Galapagos tortoises and land iguanas
|You also get up-close views of land iguanas like this one at the Charles Darwin Research Station
|Our favorite hangout in town was Isla Grill. It gets top marks on TripAdvisor and deserves them. Great pizzas and salads!
|We stayed at Hotel Salinas for $45 per night (a discount off the high-season price). It has AC, wifi, hot showers, comfy beds,
pleasant courtyard, and a central location. The only downside was the dour owner. Another good option is the nearby Hotel España.
|During the walk we saw lots of small wildlife including this finch taking a dust bath just a few feet away from us. Lava lizards darted everywhere.
|During our 6-hour layover in Santa Cruz between water taxi rides, we stored our luggage at the water taxi office and went for a
pleasant walk to Tortuga Bay. We began by following Av. Charles Binford west out of town, passing this stunning tree along the way.
|We reached the first beach, which was wide and long with white sand and pounding surf. We liked the patterns the waves had created in the sand.
|We continued on and came to the protected cove just on the other side called Tortuga Bay. This gentle bay offered a curved stretch of sand with stands
of mangrove trees providing exceptional shade from the hot sun. You could hear the surf pounding just beyond the opuntia cactus forest in the distance.
|You can snorkel, swim, suntan, or just sit in the shade and listen to the quiet sounds of nature here. Lovely! Another good option for whiling away the hours:
visit swanky Hotel Sol y Mar on Av. Charles Darwin and use their pool for $15 pp (the $15 can be put towards food and drinks at the bar and restaurant).
|DAYS 7-9: Santa Cruz Island -- Puerto Ayora
|Las Grietas offers a scenic swimming hole with a mix of saltwater and extra-chilly mountain freshwater. We found the snorkeling sub-par when we visited.
Finch Bay Hotel along the way offers a nice stop for a cool drink by the pool. The hotel is situated on a pretty beach. [NOT MY PHOTOS]
|DAYS 10-12: Isabela Island -- Puerto Villamil
|This is as busy as Puerto Villamil gets! Casual open-air eateries line the wide sandy streets and the vibe is very laid back.
|We stayed at Brisas del Mar for $40 per night. It's two blocks from the town center and has AC, hot showers, wifi, immaculate rooms, and a friendly owner.
|The beach at Puerto Villamil is gorgeous and goes on forever -- or at least as far as we cared to walk.
|The Iguana Bar at the end of this walkway is a great place for a drink -- and it lives up to its name, with several marine iguanas actually resting on the stairs!
|At the far end of town is Beto's Beach Bar. We stopped here on our second cruise day and were glad to return for drinks and a tasty grilled shrimp lunch.
|We went for an extended walk along the beach and came across sandpipers, lava gulls, and the occasional marine iguana
|The "malecon" or waterfront is nicely manicured and includes this circular walkway
around a sea lion "kindergarten" where pups play all day -- at least in March. Wonderful!
|Most of the restaurants in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno are pretty simple, with fixed lunch menus offering the best values. Anything seafood is a reliable bet.
|Island-hopping in the Galapagos is fun -- the pace is slower and you have time to enjoy the sunsets and smell the roses (not to mention the sea lions!)
|Sea lion pups wrestle while mom looks on
|We stayed the first night in Hostal Albatross. It cost just $20 per night but was too rustic even for our taste and lacked AC. The balcony was great and the
owner welcoming but a better fit for us was the Hotel Mar Azul which cost $40 per night. It included AC, the rooms were clean and well-lit, and there was wifi.
|Beto's Beach Bar has a wonderful end-of-the-road feel to it. From here we wandered further down the beach, which was wild and empty.
|We liked the quirky decor in the bar
|Bar stools are made of tree trunks and much of the floor is sand -- exactly what you'd expect of a beach bar
|Looking back towards town from Beto's Beach Bar
|Our three days at Puerto Villamil went down nice and easy. We enjoyed a final sunset at the Iguana Bar.
|DAYS 13-15: San Cristobal Island -- Puerto Baquerizo Moreno
|A must-do day trip is Los Tuneles ($60 per person), which combines an exciting boat ride through big waves with hiking and
snorkeling around the natural arches shown above. We got to snorkel with green sea turtles -- and penguins! [NOT MY PHOTOS]
|Looking up the street in the other direction. It's midday -- siesta time -- so the streets are deserted.
|View of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno from the worthwhile Galapagos Interpretation Center on the outskirts of town
|Looking to the right from a balcony at Hostal Albatross in the center of town, which has a pleasant waterfront and a marina dotted with yachts.
|This sea lion makes himself right at home on a bench along the waterfront at Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. Anywhere else this would be strange, but not here!
|This gift shop on the edge of town is painted with a mural of all the animals you can see above and below the water
|As the sun sets the sea lions nap. There are hundreds more of them on the nearby beach and they can make quite the racket at night!
|Each afternoon the sea lions move in and more or less take over the waterfront!
|High-speed Inter-island water taxis get you between the main tourist islands of Santa Cruz,
Isabela, and San Cristobal. Each leg costs $25 and takes about 2 hours. It is possible to go
from Isabela to Santa Cruz (6-8 am) then San Cristobal (2-4 pm) in one long day. During these
journeys we saw both dolphins and manta rays jumping and doing flips! [NOT MY PHOTO]
It IS possible to see the Galapagos without
taking a cruise. We spent our first week on a
yacht seeing the Galapagos the traditional way
and our second week island-hopping on our
own so we can provide some guidance on both
approaches. We talked on our last page about
booking a half-price cruise of the Galapagos,
which we think is the best option. But if a cruise
isn't right for you for whatever reason, then
island-hopping is a wonderful alternative.
You won't find as many photos of the amazing
Galapagos wildlife on this page but that isn't
because you can't see as much wildlife by
island-hopping. Rather, it's because we saw SO
much wildlife during the cruise we throttled
back during our island-hopping time. But to get
the most out of your island-hopping adventure,
the key is to add on DAY TRIPS. We note some
of the best day trips for each island below.
We stayed three nights each on three different
islands -- Santa Cruz, Isabela, and San Cristobal.
(You can also stay on Floreana/Santa Maria but
options are very limited). Basic lodging (not in
high season) cost us about $40 per night with
AC, a crucial feature for us. Rooms without AC
were $10 less, with dorm rooms being even
cheaper. We didn't pre-book but found lodging
upon arrival. Of course you could spend more
on nicer digs but there are good options in this
price range. Expect to pay more for food than
you would in mainland Ecuador; we averaged
$20 per meal for two for both lunch and dinner.
Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz has the most tourist
infrastructure and plenty of sights to see close
at hand. Within walking distance are the Charles
Darwin Research Station (for tortoises and land
iguanas), Las Grietas (a swimming channel
between cliffs), and Tortuga Bay (a gorgeous
beach where you may see marine iguanas,
turtles, and rays). You can take a bus to Rancho
Primicias (for tortoises in their natural habitat)
and to hike inside a lava tube (see our Cruise
Days 1-3), or visit Las Bachas and Cerro Dragon
in northern Santa Cruz (see Cruise Days 4-7).
Other popular day trips ($50 to $100 per person)
include Seymour and Floreana Islands.
Puerto Villamil on Isabela offers a laid-back vibe
and great day trips. The main street is packed
sand and a beautiful beach is right next door.
Restaurants are basic but the fish and shrimp
couldn't be fresher. A must-do day trip is to Las
Tintoreras, an islet chock-full of marine iguanas
and Sally lightfoot crabs, with good chances of
seeing blue-footed boobies, penguins, sea
lions, and white-tipped sharks. Local ferries go
there each day for $3 or $4 per person. The
other day trip we highly recommend is to Los
Tuneles ($60 per person), which combines an
exciting boat ride with hiking and snorkeling
near natural rock arches (we swam with green
sea turtles, penguins, and white-tipped sharks).
Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal: Sea
lion central! It's fun just to walk around the small
town enjoying all the wildlife. There's a good
Interpretation Center on the outskirts of town
and day trips to El Junco & China Beach, Kicker
Rock, and Española. We flew into Baltra/Santa
Cruz and out of San Cristobal, a nice combo.
|We saw the sights with our new friends
from the cruise (and fellow avid travelers),
Remko and Nicole from the Netherlands
|Pups playing in the pool. They love to chase each other's tails -- and also
sticks! We watched one pup catch a stick, let it go, catch it again, etc.
|During an evening walk we came across this group of sea lion pups
playing around -- and quite curious about this great blue heron too!
|We enjoyed watching this great blue heron hunt for fish