Exploring the Galapagos Islands

Destination: Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

| Activities: Hiking, Snorkeling, Wildlife

The Galapagos Islands are loved the world over for their rich and accessible wildlife and fantastic geology. Widely known as the place where Darwin confirmed his theory of evolution, it also offers the opportunity for intimate viewing of wildlife on sea and land. In the Galapagos we'll swim with sea lions, snorkel in clear waters teeming with brightly colored fish, hike to a volcanic crater, and walk within a few feet of blue-footed boobies, marine iguanas, and Giant Tortoises. Our journey takes you to three unique islands as well as many coves and inlets that include a wealth of wildlife.


  • Immerse yourself in the amazing biodiversity of the world renowned Galapagos
  • Stay on three different islands and learn about the unique aspects of each
  • Swim and snorkel among sea lions and brightly colored fish
  • Hike to the rim of a volcano and see the effects of a 12-year-old eruption

Departures and Prices

October 30 to November 08, 2021
$3250.00 - FULL
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  • An English-speaking naturalist guide and an AGC guide (If there are fewer than 8 on the trip, there will not be an AGC guide)
  • Internal flights to/from the Galapagos Islands and private speed boat transport between islands
  • Double occupancy lodging in hotels (9 nights)
  • Meals as noted on the itinerary
  • All activities on the itinerary
  • Gratuities for day guides, drivers, boat crews and lodges

Not included: Travel to and from Quito, Galapagos National Park Entry Fee ($100), Galapagos Transit Card ($20), Isabela Port Fee ($5), alcoholic beverages, guide gratuities, travel insurance, meals not noted on itinerary, optional activities not on the itinerary.

NOTE: Travel insurance is NOT included, but it is required for this trip.

Trip Documents

Trip Intro

This trip is appropriate for women in good physical condition who want to spend 3 to 5 hours every day actively exploring the Galapagos, including hiking, swimming, and kayaking. With the exception of the hike up Sierra Negra Volcano, none of the days are strenuous; however, the days are full and some will involve early mornings. There are several opportunities to snorkel on this trip and being comfortable in the water is important if you want to snorkel. There are also several speedboat transfers and while the ocean is typically calmer this time of year, this trip may not be a good choice if you are very prone to seasickness. Please note, as in all international travel, flexibility is an absolute must and the ability to set aside our western expectations and enjoy the culture and country will make for a wonderfully enjoyable trip. Rating: 1 [2] 3 4 5.

This is truly a multisport exploration of the Galapagos Islands. Wildlife watching is a primary activity in the Galapagos and in addition we'll kayak, swim, snorkel, and hike. Our Galapagos guides will make sure you leave with an understanding of the complex ecosystem and interesting history.

We will spend the first and last nights in Quito at the Wyndham Airport Hotel, which offers an airport shuttle for arrival and departure convenience. In the Galapagos we'll be staying at three different locally-owned and small hotels (see itinerary for specifics). Hotel rooms are double occupancy with ensuite bathrooms unless you have requested a single supplement.
Of note: Purified/filtered water is available (free of charge) at all the accommodations that will be used during your trip. Water will be provided in large containers to enable you to fill and re-fill your personal water bottles and/or hydration systems.

Below is the proposed itinerary for the trip. As is true on any adventure travel trip, plans for any specific day may be modified due to weather considerations, unforeseen circumstances, new opportunities, and group interests.

Our trip starts in Quito, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Ecuador's Capital City. At over 9,000 feet, Quito is the highest capital city in the world, and it is likely you'll experience some symptoms of breathlessness as you walk around. The hotel has an airport shuttle so you can arrive anytime. We'll gather at 5 p.m. in the lobby for introductions and a trip orientation before sharing our first dinner together.

Overnight: Wyndam Quito or similar (D)
It's back to the airport early this morning for our flight to the Galapagos! Today will be a long travel day but it will be mitigated by our excitement about being in the Galapagos. We arrive in Baltra, formerly the location of an air base built by the US Navy during WW II, located just off Santa Cruz Island and one of the two main airports in the Galapagos. After paying our Galapagos National Park Entry fee ($100 each) and transferring to the Channel, we board our waiting speed boat for a 2.5-hour trip to Isabela Island. This seahorse-shaped island is the largest in the archipelago at 80 miles in length. Despite its remarkable beauty, Isabela is not a stop on most Galapagos cruises, making it a less-visited site perfect for our adventures.

Isabela was formed approximately one million years ago by the merger of six shield volcanoes: Alcedo, Cerro Azul, Darwin, Ecuador, Sierra Negra, and Wolf, all but one of which are still active. Two of the volcanoes, Wolf and Cerro Azul, stretch above the cloud cover and are therefore arid on their upper flanks. Because it is a relatively young island, Isabela's lava fields and surrounding soil do not have the varied vegetation zones of other islands. Despite this, the rich animal, bird, and marine life are beyond compare. Upon arrival on Puerto Villamil, the main town on Isabela, we check into San Vicente Hotel. On a walking tour we'll start learning about and get oriented to the area.

Overnight: San Vicente Hotel or similar (B, D)
We start our first full day on Isla Isabela with a short transport to the Tortoise Breeding Center, an initiative of the National Park for the conservation of Isabela's tortoises. With almost a thousand giant tortoises training for life on their own, we'll observe giant tortoises in all stages of development. After our visit, we'll walk back to town through the marshlands, or, humedales, where elevated walkways take us over tidal lagoons that include four mangrove species and provide habitat for flamingos and numerous migratory birds. We'll arrive back to the village with plenty of time to choose your lunch spot and relax a bit before the afternoon activities.

The afternoon begins with a boat ride to the small isolated islet of Tintoreras or Shark Alley. This island is a unique volcanic formation. On its west face a primitive species of lichen flourishes in the moisture brought by the prevailing wind. This is a popular iguana nesting site that's home to hundreds of marine iguanas. In the quiet lagoon there are also boobies, penguins and other birds. We'll explore by boat and then by foot, walking through the volcanic rock and observing the wildlife and then, we'll explore by water - snorkeling! We'll snorkel in a calm inlet with colorful fish and winding underground lava tubes. This area is frequented by green sea turtles that like to rest on the calm, sandy bottom. In the late afternoon, we'll return to town in search of our own sandy resting spot and enjoy our first Isabela sunset, arguably the most beautiful of all the islands.

Overnight: San Vicente Hotel or similar (B, D)
After breakfast this morning we drive to the highlands of Isabela for an entirely new view and feel of the Galapagos (and likely our most challenging day of the trip). After a 45-minute drive we reach the starting point of our hike up Sierra Negra, one of the most active volcanoes in the Galapagos. It last erupted on October 22, 2005 and deposited a new and dramatic layer of lava. The caldera of this volcano is the second largest in the world, with a diameter of approximately six and a half miles. On our hike we can spot a variety of birds, including finches and flycatchers and if we're lucky, the Galapagos hawk. From the rim of the caldera we can see the awesome force of nature and its aftermath.

At this point in our hike, there are choices. We can stop and enjoy our surroundings or continue our hike to Chico Volcano to see fumaroles and the unusual lava formations, a striking visual record of the geological history of these islands. From our highest vantage points, we'll enjoy views of Isabela's other volcanoes and nearby islands. Returning to the starting point of our hike and then driving back to town, we'll have time for a walk to the beach for a cool swim, or perhaps a stroll in town.

Mileage: 4 - 9, depending on choices. Overnight: San Vicente Hotel or similar (B, L)
We'll begin the day with a with a kayak excursion in a protected bay. While here, we'll search for the protected Galapagos penguin - the only penguin found close the equator. It's also the smallest and looks like a duck until you see it out of the water. Along the way, we'll also keep an eye out for eagle rays, sea turtles, and blue-footed boobies.

In the afternoon we head by boat to Isla Santa Cruz (about 2.5 hours), also called Indefatigable Island. The tourist capital of the Galapagos, Santa Cruz is located in the center of the Galapagos Islands archipelago. It is also the center of human activity, since the National Park Headquarters, the Darwin Research Station, and the largest settlement in the Galapagos Islands, Puerto Ayora, are all located on Academy Bay on the south side of Santa Cruz Island. We'll check in to the hotel and then go for a short walking tour of Puerto Ayora. Our hotel is close to the center of town and if you have been wanting to do some shopping, there are lots of choices here.

Overnight: Lobo de Mar hotel or similar (B, D)
Santa Cruz is the only island having a road that crosses its interior (running from Puerto Ayora in the south to the Itabaca Channel crossing in the north), thus providing visitors a rare opportunity to see the interior and higher elevations of a Galapagos island. This morning we drive to the Santa Cruz highlands where we will see wild Galapagos Tortoises. These huge creatures weigh 200 to 500 pounds and are scattered all over the island. Walking on level paths gives us the chance to observe the giant tortoise roaming in its natural habitat. Returning to town, in the afternoon we'll walk to Tortuga Bay, a gorgeous beach accessible only by foot. Do you prefer swimming, sunbathing, or bodysurfing? Or all three? It's totally up to you.

Overnight: Lobo de Mar hotel or similar (B, L)
This morning we'll visit the Charles Darwin Station, formerly the home of Lonesome George, the famous of his subspecies on Pinta Island. We'll learn about the Foundation's successes in repopulating the islands with the once endangered land iguana and several species of giant tortoise and see the most representative animals of the islands.

In the afternoon we'll take a speed boat to San Cristobal (about 2.5 hours), our last island on this journey. San Cristobal Island is the easternmost island in the archipelago chain. It is also one of the oldest and thus its volcanic peaks are greatly eroded, and vegetation is more abundant than on the other islands. Upon arrival in the provincial capital and second-largest town in Galapagos, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, we'll have some time to settle into our hotel, Casa de Nelly, before going on a walking tour to get oriented to the town.

Overnight: Casa de Nelly or similar (B, D)
This may be your favorite day, particularly if you like snorkeling. It begins with a short boat ride to Sea Lion Island where we'll disembark and take a short hike through and around the island observing the Frigatebird and their unusual mating rituals. The males have a distinctive red throat pouch, which they inflate during the breeding season to attract females. Sea lions and Blue Footed Boobies are also inhabitants and entertainers on the island. After observing the island by land, we'll next observe it by water - snorkeling! We'll snorkel the length of the island on the lagoon side where we'll be treated to a beautiful array of tropical fish and sea stars. We'll most likely be joined by playful young sea lions and enjoy their graceful antics in the sea. After snorkeling, we'll return to the boat for lunch and then head over to Ochoa Beach where we can choose between finding a shady spot to relax, soak up some sun on the beach or float around in this gorgeous lagoon watching for turtles - or maybe all three!

Returning to Isla San Cristobal we'll have a bit of free time to do whatever we want. Perhaps you might go for a hike to Frigate Bird Hill for panoramic views of the Pacific Islands and some bird watching. Or you may find it hard to leave Mann Beach, with its delightful setting and more opportunities to swim with sea lions. Perhaps you just want to sit on a quiet beach and reflect on everything you've seen and done in the past 2 weeks. However, you want to spend it, it will be just perfect.

Overnight: Casa de Nelly or similar (B, L)
This morning we'll visit the Interpretation Center where we'll learn about the history of the 'Enchanted Islands' and the conservation projects which seek to preserve the unique Galapagos wildlife. It's a fitting way to spend our last time here and particularly meaningful after we've seen it all up front. And then it's time to head to the airport for our flight back to Quito and transfer to the hotel. If you're extending your trip to the Amazon Jungle (which we recommend if time allows), you'll have a briefing that afternoon along with anyone who is joining for just that portion. Afterwards you'll share a final farewell dinner, saying goodbye to each other and to this amazing country.

Overnight: Wyndam Quito or similar (B, D)
DAY 10
This morning our adventure comes to an end. There are no planned activities and you can leave whenever you want. Our hotel is located almost directly across from the airport with a convenient airport shuttle.

*These are the unfiltered reviews of women who have been on this trip in answer to the question "What made this trip special for you?". We take reviews very seriously and often tweak itineraries based on feedback. Please feel free to contact us about any questions you have.


(10 reviews)
3.8 Food
3.9 Lodging
4.9 Safety
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Most Recent

Maryjane L.
1 year ago

Crystal C.
2 years ago

Jolynn T.
2 years ago

Snorkeling with the sea lions, seeing the three islands and the wonderful local guides.

Sue Y.
2 years ago

The Sea Lion Island walk was wonderful and snorkeling off San Cristobal, and all the sights and sounds!

Annette G.
2 years ago

Loved having both an AGC guide and a local guide from the islands. The wildlife was amazing. Would have enjoyed more kayaking and snorkeling.

Liz F.
2 years ago

I missed the initial briefing due to a delayed flight and therefore miss some important information regarding the 11 mile hike. I fell a couple of times and ended up with a pinched siatica nerve, blisters on feet. Was a great trip and enjoyed it trendously. Everything was very well planned.

R D.
2 years ago

I'm afraid of water (near drowning at age 7) and the guides made certain that I was comfortable enough to be able to snorkel and kayak to enjoy the beauty of the islands! I will add kayaking to my life.

Michelle H.
2 years ago

The snorkeling was great. The guide was excellent she was very knowledgeable and helpful. However the last place we stayed which words in San cristobal, The please clearly needed work. They were big gaps around the air-conditioner that let mosquitoes in and we got bit even in the bathroom. That needs to either be fixed or have mosquito netting.

Deborah D.
2 years ago

The Islands themselves. Getting to see the animals and swim with the seals.

Helen R.
2 years ago

  1. Where do we eat?

    Breakfasts and dinners will be in restaurants with a combination of planned group meals and individual 'order off the menu' depending on location/meal. Lunches will either be in restaurants or picnic style.

  2. What dietary preferences or restrictions can you accommodate on this trip?

    Vegetarian options for this trip are available but may be more limited than you are used to. If you are concerned about having enough protein during your trip, plan to bring some plant-based protein sources such as nut butter, instant dried hummus, or high-protein energy bars. If you cannot eat gluten or if you have other dietary restrictions i.e. vegan, you will need to bring some supplemental food with you.

  3. I will be coming by myself. Do I need to pay a single supplement?

    You only need to pay a single supplement if you want to guarantee you have your own room. Otherwise we’ll pair you up with someone and then switch roommates every time we switch lodging.