Quick Tips for the Galapagos Islands

Quick Tips:


A short and sweet EcuadorTravel Guide

Ecuador Overview

Ecuador packs every type of nature (beach, jungle, mountain, volcano) into a small package making outdoor adventures easily accessible in a safe place with very nice locals.  This is another place I will be visiting again

My Adventurous side says: Endless mountains and volcanoes to summit, tons of trekking, and the Galapagos a short flight away make this an adventure traveler's jackpot without being touristy. My Cultured side says: The locals are friendly, the food is tasty, and Spanish is practically a requirement to enjoy yourself...which heightens the cultural experience. My Flashpacker side says: The expat population is starting a great craft beer scene, the graffiti art is catching on, and there are endless surprises like these throughout Ecuador.

Jump to the Adventure


Go Here & See This…

  • Go on the Floresta Street tour: A great balance of history and hipster worthy culture experiences (https://www.quitostreettours.com/)
  • Ride the Telefloriqo góndola to the viewpoint that overlooks Quito, and hike to another viewpoint from there
  • Go on the Guapulo Graffiti tour to see great graffiti art, see a very old church, and feel a different part of the city (https://www.quitostreettours.com/)
  • Visit Papallaca hot springs on a day trip: The resorts and city are a 2 hour ride from Quito
  • Parque Metropolitano Guangüiltagua: Great, huge park with tons of pick-up soccer games to watch and street vendors for food
  • Visit the house of late artist Guayasamin, now a musem of his art, the inspirations and his huge pre-colombian art collection.  The experience is breathtaking 

Eat & Drink Here

  • La Floresta Mercado: A working class farmers market full of working class food kioss. Get the aji spicy sauce and ceviche de pollo if available
  • Parque/Plaza de las comidas: Try the tripas (tripe), empanado de viento, marocho, chorizo complete, and any other meat sitting on a flame 
  • El pobre diablo restaurant: Occasionally they play live jazz and the fire lit ambiance is perfect for a date
  • Los tres monjes (monks) brewery: Located right next to plaza comidas and serving grey beer made by two Frenchies and an Ecuadoean (three drunk monks)

Eat These

  • Pacari Chocolate : Insanely cheap, amazing, and tons of flavors...available at most grocery stores for $1.50
  • Maracuya (Passionafruit) y chocolate cake
  • Aji spicy sauce and ceviche de pollo if available

Galapagos Islands
In General

Pro Tips for Travel The Galapagos Islands

  • Unless you are visiting Darwin or Wolf Islands, skip the boat cruise, plan your own trip, and head to the islands. You’ll save money, gain freedom, and focus on the animals you want to see
  • Don’t be afraid to skip the SCUBA dive and snorkel you see most of the same animal (sometimes more) with a lot less hassle
  • If you have 5 days or less, stick to only one island and maximize your time there – San Cristobal is the perfect pick
  • If you have 7 days or less, only do 2 islands
  • 10 days is the perfect amount of time for a self-guided to of the Galapagos islands
  • If the 3 inhabited islands were people, Isabella would be a hippie without shoes, Santa Cruz would be a functionally dressed hiker from New Mexico, and San Cristobal would be a flashpacker that did snorkeling by day and cocktails by night. Choose accordingly

Animals We Saw

  • Marine iguanas
  • Lizards
  • Crabs
  • Blue footed boobies
  • Tortoises 
  • Finch
  • Frigget (red gobbler)
  • Baby black tip reef shark
  • Golden sting rays
  • Sea lions
  • Tropical bird 
  • Sea turtles
  • White tip reef shark
  • Star fish 
  • sting ray
  • Manta ray
  • Nasca boobies
  • Octopus
  • Seahorse
  • Puffer fish 
  • Fur seal
  • Galapagos shark
  • Hammerhead shark (tiburon martillo)

Galapagos Islands
Santa Cruz and Baltra Islands

Go Here & See This…

  • The Darwin Research center and see tortoises at Centro de crianza de tortugas terrestres
  • Puerto Ayora fish market (East of the Pier): As fishermen pull their catch of fresh tuna, brujo, and lobster off the boats pelicans and sea lions wait politely for scraps. The interaction is fun to watch
  • Santa Cruz Highlands tour: Cab it to see the lava craters (Los Gemelos), the lava tunnels (Tuneles de Lava), and end walking with giant tortoises at the tortoise ranch (Rancho primicias, la tortuga reserva del chato) 
  • Loberia Snorkeling Tour: A cheap (~$40) starter snorkeling tour to view sea lions on an island, swim with sea turtles, and swim in a refreshing grotto.
  • Pinzon Snorkelling tour – AMAZING!!!:
    • snorkel La Fe beach, baby black tip reef sharks, sea lions sped past us under water, marine iguanas
    • Snorkel w/ sting ray, sea lions, fish, trolling carlos caught bonito fish
    • Pinzon snorkel w/ star fish, schools of fish, sea turtles, sea lion, bigger white tip reef shark

Eat Here

  • Food Kiosk street and Eat lobster!: visit the street full of kiosks for fresh lobster and brujo fish prepared to preference on the cheap (on Charles Binford street in Puerto Ayora)

Eat These

  • Saltenas (Empanadas): A cheap, delicious Bolivian snack available at small shops and street carts
  • Grilled Beef Hearts: A La Paz street food classic

Sleep Here

  • La Mirada de Solitario George Hostel: Clean, well priced, and the lovely owners are very helpful with planning activities…or anything!


  • Get the right wetsuit!!: If  you get cold easily make sure your wetsuit is a ful length one and at least 3mm...optimally 4mm or 5mm

Isabella Isand

Go Here & See This…

  • Trek to the Wall of Tears: Consider running or bringing a bike and definitely hike up to the several viewpoints along the way to the wall
  • Sierra Negra Volcano Tour: A one of a kind tour on an active volcano. One of the best non-aquatic experiences in Galapagos
  • Los Tunneles snorkel tour: A great experience with lots of wildlife, but smaller animals than on the Pinzon tour on Santa Cruz (reef sharks, sea lions, iguanas, and sea turtles)
  • Snorkel in Concha y Perla bay (Sellf Guided): Fewer larger animals here made it easier to focus on the beautiful fish, though a sea lion and marine iguana swam in as we left

Drink Here

  • The Mini Mart: Buy your beers at the mini marts before dinner to save money and get a better selection…you’ll notice the waiters walking to the same mini marts for your beer when they run out
  • Saltenas (Empanadas): A cheap, delicious Bolivian snack available at small shops and street carts
  • Grilled Beef Hearts: A La Paz street food classic

Sleep Here

  • Casa Rosada: Beachside hostel with amazing views to wake up to and a fun bar on the beach

Awesome Experiences

  • Death Road Bike Tour by Mountain Bike
  • San Pedro Prison: Legendary stories and a tempting (but a little too sketchy) tour
  • Walking Tour: Any will do – a great way to quickly experience La Paz’s real culture

Companies to Trust

  • Tito's Dive Shop: Great gear, honest an reasonable prices, and Tito is just awesome

Pro Tips (for the Flashpacker Crowd)

  • Hop a flight for $120 and 45 minutes to San Cristobal to save a day of travel, avoid an early wakeup, and avoid two very choppy ferry rides
  • Book snorkel trips at dive shops instead of travel agencies to get better gear, thicker wetsuits, and cheaper prices
  • Aim for a long wetsuit of at least 3mm for snorkeling and optimally 4mm, depending on how much “natural insulation” you may have
  • Renting gear and booking tours:

San Cristobal Island

Go Here & See This…

  • La Loberia: Play with the sea lions on La Loberia beach: Rent a snorkel (and wetsuit) and take a cab to this beach to play with sea lions, turtles, and sharks further towards the surf
  • Hike to cliff where Blue Footed Boobies Nest: Continue hiking past the Loberia up a trail that leads to a great view and a Booby nesting area
  • Kicker Rock/Leon Dormido Snorkeling Tour: Amazing experience! We played with sea lions, and swam with sea turtles and a hammerhead shark
  • Walk to Punta Carola Beach for a sea lion sunset: This less frequented beach filled with sea lions is perfect to sneak in a locally brewed beer (#EndemicaCerveza)

Eat Here

  • Golden Bay Bar: Amazing food (ceviche) and delicious cocktails (go for the local recipes) but pricey. Still worth every penny though

Eat These

  • Ceviche: Yes.  Eat lots of ceviche
  • Arepas: Cheap.  Fatty.  Delicious.

Sleep Here

  • Cann’s house: Nice, clean, what more can you ask for?

Awesome Experiences

  • Swimming with sea lions: At the Loberia
  • Swimming with Sea Lions again: At the Loberia
  • Playing with Sea Lion Pups: On Punta Carola beach, with a beer
  • Watching Sea Lions, while cocktailing: At Golden Bay Bar.  The sea lions were 10 feett away.  Seriously.
  • Cruz Andina/Expediciones Sajama (travel agency): Provided a great experience on the Salar de Uyuni trek and delivered “Super Mario”, or super hero of a driver/guide



Get Samsara’s Guide to the Galapagos Islands Free!

For the adventurer that outruns the herds. Where to go, what do, and how to do it solo in the Galapagos Islands
Samsara's Guide to Galapagos

Or discover what’s next in Samsara’s Galapagos Series

Samsara’s Guide to San Cristobal Island

Samsara’s Guidde to Santa Cruz Island

Samsara’s Guide to Isabella Island

Comments 1

  1. I wish I had seen this guide before travelling to Galapagos three weeks ago. It would have made planning our activities a lot easier. And I would have loved some food recommendations (maybe look through them again, I think you accidentally slipped some stuff from La Paz in there).

    We ended up cooking most of the time (except for on San Cristobal, where we didn’t have a fully equipped kitchen). As for Santa Cruz, I can also recommend the central market where you can get an empanada with a hot colada morada (a sweet corn drink) in the evening. It is quite delicious!

Tell us your thoughts!!