The 10 best things to do in Galapagos, Ecuador

I am certain that you could spend more than a month in Galapagos (Ecuador) and not get bored. This beautiful archipelago is located in the Pacific Ocean, 1000 km from mainland Ecuador. This pristine group of islands have  so many incredible places to visit and countless amount of activities. I am aware that most people visiting Galapagos are not going to stay for more than a few weeks therefore, I’ve only listed the 10 most incredible things to do in Galapagos.

Most of the places that you'll read about in this article are located in Santa Cruz, Isabela and San Cristobal which are the three main islands that you can visit by taking a ferry. Most of these places are free to visit; however, visiting other island and activities such as snorkeling and diving do require that you book a tour. Tours in Galapagos are not cheap therefore, your budget is a determining factor whether you're able to do some tours or not.

Whether you visit Galapagos for a long period of time or a short one, or if you're able to visit all the places on this list or not, I am certain that Galapagos will be one of the best trips you're ever done in your life.

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Table of contents

The 10 most beautiful places to visit in Galapagos, Ecuador

Below, you can find information about the 10 best places to visit and the best activities to do in Galapagos. The places i’ll talk about are my personal favorites.

1. Tijeretas (San Cristobal), one of the best places to visit in Galapagos

places to visit in Galapagos
Swimming with sea lions

Tijeretas is a small mountain roughly 2 kilometers away from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno in San Cristobal island. There are several view points with incredible views However, the best spot in this beautiful part of the island is the dock where you’ll be able to swim and snorkel in a beautiful bay.

In Tijeretas you can swim with sea lions, which will quickly become one of your favorite moments in Galapagos. It’s important to be a bit cautious with adult males Especially when they are out of the water as they sometimes can have a bit of a temper. Apart from swimming with sea lions, you can also see sea turtles and a many fish.

In order to get to Tijeretas, you first have to go to the Interpretation Center, where you’ll be asked to register yourself. Admission is free. Once you’ve registered, you must continue the walk along a wooden pathway surrounded by trees. It is quite nice.

I recommend that you take advantage of the whole afternoon and head to Punta Carola Beach for sunset. Once the sun sets, you can return to town along a sandy path that will lead you back to town, it is not necessary to head back to Tijeretas to return to town.

It is difficult to choose a favorite place to visit in Galapagos. If I was forced to choose, I’ll have to stick with Tijeretas. Why is this place so special to me? I blame sea lions, I really enjoyed swimming with them in Tijeretas.

2. Tortuga Bay (Santa Cruz), best beach in Galapagos

trip to galapagos
Tortuga Bay, Santa Cruz

In my humble opinion, Tortuga Bay is the most beautiful place to visit in Santa Cruz and one of the best beaches in Galapagos. Spending part of the day at this beach is a great thing to do in Galapagos.

It’s located 3 kilometers away from Puerto Ayora. In order to visit this pristine beach, you’ll have to walk on a paved road which is located right at the end of Charles Binford road. The path to the beach is flat for the most part. It’l take about 35 minutes to get to the beach. Right at the beginning of the path there’s a booth where you must register. Admission is free.

If walking isn’t something you’re looking forward to, you can take a boat from Puerto Ayora to Tortuga Bay. The boat ride will set you back $10.

Tortuga Bay is divided into 2 beaches: Brava Beach and Mansa Beach.

Once you’ve walked for 35 minutes on the path, you’ll be greeted by Brava Beach which is an incredible white-sand beach. In order to visit Mansa Beach, you must walk the full length of Brava Beach and then head to the right. It’l take approximately 10-15 minutes to get to Mansa Beach from the beginning of Brava Beach In Brava beach you can experience rough waves and currents; hence the name. Mansa Beach is much more peaceful and perfect for bathing and relaxing. Kayaks are also available for renting in Mansa Beach.

Although Mansa Beach is more suitable for swimming, my advice is that you stay at the end of Brava Beach. The currents aren’t very strong in this part of the beach which is suitable for swimming.

I like this part of the beach because the water is very clear. If you visit the beach during low tide, which is in the afternoon, small pools form and baby sharks get trapped. You can swim with baby sharks and marine iguanas in Brava Beach.

Schedule: 6:00AM – 5:00PM

3. Concha y Perla (Isabela), one of the best snorkeling spots in Galapagos

what to do in galapagos
Concha Perla, Isabela

Snorkeling in Concha Perla (Isabela) quickly became one of my favorite activities in Galapagos. During our 10-day stay in Isabela, we went snorkeling at this incredible place almost every day. It is impossible to get tired of Concha y Perla.

When you arrive, you will find a small dock built in a large natural pool surrounded by islets and rocks. There are very few currents in Concha y Perla. It is only a 10-15 minute walk from the center of Puerto Villamil. Admission is free.

My advice is that you visit Concha y Perla in the morning when there is low tide. If you visit Conca y Perla during the morning, you will avoid large crowds and swim during low tide which is ideal.

You will be able to see many marine animals: turtles, eagle rays, many fish, starfish, some sea lions and, if you are lucky, even penguins! Galapagos is the only place in the Northern Hemisphere where there are penguins and yes, they do live in Isabela. On the path to the dock you’ll also run into many marine iguanas sun bathing.

If you do not have snorkeling equipment, you can rent it at any tour agency in town.

4. Puerto Chino Beach (San Cristobal), a perfect beach for a swim

puerto chino galapagos
What to see in Galapagos

Puerto Chino Beach is one of themost beautiful beaches in San Cristobal. It’s a white-sand beach with turquoise water Apart from being a great beach for snorkeling, theres is also an incredible viewpoint where you can enjoy an incredible view of the beach and sea. The path to the viewpoint is locsated on the right side of the beach. You must climb over some rocks in order to access the viewpoint.

Unfortunately for us, we visited Puerto Chino Beach on a very cloudy day. We still enjoyed our visit but I can only imagine how Puerto Chino Beach is on a bright sunny day. Not sure if it’s like this every day but you can experience moderate waves at Puerto Chino Beach. The waves made swimming in Puerto Chino Beach extremely fun.

Puerto Chino is located 25 kilometers away from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. That being said, you must take a taxi, book a tour or pedal a lot to visit Puerto Chino Beach. The taxi costs $30 round trip to Puerto Chino Beach. It is quite expensive but there’s no way around it…it’s Galapagos.

The bike ride is approximately 3 1/2 hours each way. There are sections with steep slopes Bike rental in San Cristóbal costs around $15 per person. You won’t save much by opting for this option.

The last option is to book a guided tour. You can also book a tour which costs $30 per person. The tour also includes a visit toEl Progreso, Laguna El Junco and the Galapaguera de Cerro Colorado (where you can see giant tortoises)

5. Trip to The Tunnels (Isabela), one of the best things to do in Galapagos

things to do in galapagos
The Tunnels, Isabela

The tunnels are located in Isabela. They are a bit far from Puerto Villamil and the only way to visit the tunnels is by booking a day tour. The tunnels offer a very unique scenery above the surface and underwater. Get ready to swim through underwater tunnels and enter caves full of black-tip sharks. You have nothing to worry about; the sharks are very shy and won’t do anything!

The day trips are usually 6 hours long. We booked our day tour with an agency called Rosedelco. The 6 hour tour will set you back $90. We visited Isabela during the pandemic and we were able to negotiate the price down to $75.

During the tour, we went snorkeling on two separate occasions. During the first snorkeling session we were able to see penguins, giant marine turtles(much larger than I expected), black-tip sharks, raysand sea horses. During the second snorkeling session we swam through underwater tunnels. The tunnels are very beautiful and unique.

In the latter part of the tour, we went for walk and got the chance to see some amazing volcanic formations as well as some land animals.

On the way back, we saw some huge manta rays from the boat. It was an incredible moment. It was my first time seeing manta rays and I was mesmerized. The crew told us to jump if we wanted to but I coward out. No one jumped. I wasn’t really comfortable getting in the water in the open ocean.

6. Las Grietas (Santa Cruz) – Galapagos, Ecuador

las grietas galapagos
Las Grietas, Galapagos

Las Grietas is located in Santa Cruz and it’s one of the most beautiful places to visit in Galapagos. It’s a volcanic formation that is shaped like a canyon. Both fresh and salt water feed this beautiful canyon. The water is about 10 meters deep and it’s very clear. It’s a very popular place for both locals and tourists, not only because it’s a beautiful place, but because Las Grietas is an ideal place to swim and snorkel.

Las Grietas is not accessible by land, you must take a taxi-boat from Puerto Ayora. The boat is inexpensive. It costs $1.50 roundtrip. Once you get off the boat, you must walk for about 10 minutes to get to Las Grietas.

Here goes the bad news… admission was once free. There was also no limit as to the amount of time you could spend in Las Grietas. That has all changed. There is now a $10 entrance fee which includes a guide (a bit overpriced in my opinion). The worst part is that now you can only spend 45 minutes in Las Grietas.

Another great option is to visit Las Grietas on a tour, La Bahia tour. If you decide to book “Tour de la Bahia”, you’ll visit “La Loberia”, which is a sea lion breeding place, and Las Grietas. If you visit Las Grietas with the tour, you won’t have to pay an admission fee. Taking the tour is a great option if your looking to knock a couple of birds with one stone. “Tour de la Bahia” is a 4-hour tour that costs $25 per person.

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7. Snorkeling in Pinzon Island and Santa Fe (from Santa Cruz)

what to do in galapagos
Snorkeling in Galapagos

We went on a snorkeling trip to Pinzón Island on our very first full day in Galapagos (Ecuador). Pinzon is one of the best places to snorkel from Santa Cruz, which is one of the best things to do in Galapagos. We did this snorkeling tour with Guiding Galapagos Expeditions, a company that I highly recommend. Everything about this company was perfect: the boat, the equipment, the staff, the food… We were able to see many animals such as sharks, sea turtles, sea lions, starfish, lots of fish, and more.

Whether your snorkel in Pinzón Island, Santa Fe, or anywhere else, snorkeling in Galapagos is always an incredible experience because there is so much marine life.

8. Visiting Leon Dormido (San Cristobal), one of the best things to do in Galapagos

leon dormido galapagos
Leon Dormido, San Cristobal

Leon Dormido (also known as Kicker Rock) is hands-down one of the most beautiful places in Galapagos. It is located off the coast of San Cristóbal Island. These rock formations that protrude from the water are one of the best spots for snorkeling and diving in all of Galapagos.

Out of all the incredible marine animals that you can see here, possibly the most fascinating one is the hammerhead shark. We were able to see 4 hammerhead sharks but apparently you can see large schools of hammerhead sharks in Leon Dormido.

We visited Leon Dormido on a day tour (the 360 degree ​​tour). This tour is rated as the best tour in San Cristobal. We did the tour with Galapagos Eco Fishing. This company offers a comfortable and beautiful boat, delicious food and great hospitality. I highly recommend this agency.

The tour takes you on a circumnavigation of the entire island in addition to Leon Dormido. After visiting Leon Dormido (Kicker Rock) and going snorkeling, you later visit other beaches and snorkeling spots. The tour costs $150.

9. Bartolome Island (from Santa Cruz)

bartolome galapagos
Must see places in Galapagos

We didn’t have the opportunity to visit Bartolome Island but many say that it’s one of the best day trips in Galapagos. It is a tour that is a bit pricey as well. Although I was not able to visit Bartolome Island, the tour will still make this list based on reputation. The island is on of the newest in the archipelago and it’s named after James Sulivan Bartholmew who was a friend of Charles Darwin.

The tour includes a walk through Bartolome Island and snorkeling. The boat leaves from the pier in Santa Cruz and, as I mentioned before, the tour is one the most expensive tours and will set you back $200. During the Island tour, you’ll hike up to a viewpoint where you can enjoy a beautiful view of the island which is one of the most popular landscapes in Ecuador.

10. Diving in Seymour (from Santa Cruz)

galapagos ecuador
Diving in Galapagos

Galapagos will always have a special place in my heart for several reasons. One of those reason is because I went diving for the first time in Galapagos. Honestly, I was a bit fearful as I’ve always had tons of respect for the ocean. I thought I would get very nervous being at the bottom of the ocean. I was bit nervous at first but I was later able to relax and enjoy and incredible experience.

I went diving with Academy Bay Diving, in Santa Cruz. The diving instructor was very patient and helpful which gave me peace of mind.

They took us to Seymour North and Mosquera which are places with very little current, suitable for beginners. We were able to see many animals: sharks, starfish, rays, schools of fish, etc. Diving is pretty much a must in Galapagos. It is one if the best places to go diving in the world. It will blow your mind!

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Where to stay in Galapagos

Where to stay in Galapagos
Our hotel in Santa Cruz

Search for hotels in Galapagos.

We had quite a bit of time to visit Galapagos therefore, we decided to visit the three main islands: San Cristóbal, Isabela and Santa Cruz. There are people who visit Isabela or San Cristóbal on a day tour from Santa Cruz. If you have enough time, I recommend visiting all 3 islands and getting to know them well. Below, you can see which hotels we decided to stay in. I recommend them all.

SANTA CRUZ: Royal Palm Galapagos (high budget), Costa del Sol (affordable).
ISABELA: Cielo Azul (affordable).
SAN CRISTOBAL: Hostal Albatros (affordable).

I hope this post about the 10 tip things to do in Galapagos has been informative and of great help. I hope it has helped you plan your trip to this incredible archipelago in Ecuador. If you have any questions or concerns, I encourage you to leave a comment down below or reach out to me. Till next time, travelers!

Picture of Bartolome: Photo by Scott Ableman on Foter.com

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