during our recent 9 week trip to Ecuador and Peru, we finally ticked a major item off of our bucket list, Galapagos Islands travel! We’ve wanted to visit these islands for years and finally, we had the opportunity to do it. I have to say that this place was well worth the wait.

Never before have we seen such awe-inspiring biodiversity. On San Cristobal island, you can barely walk a few meters without tripping over a sea lion. At dive sites like Kicker rock and Gordon Rock, hammerhead sharks, turtles and manta rays flock like birds around massive rock pinnacles.

Throughout the archipelago, tourists seem to be little a lot more than an nuisance to the animals, like paparazzi that get in the way of their day-to-day lives — but basically, the wildlife just seems curious and doesn’t care too much about travellers.

On the islands, you can explore lakes, lava tunnels, secluded beaches, tortoise sanctuaries, sinkholes and a lot more — all independently. If you’re planning a trip to the Galapagos Islands, one thing is for sure… you won’t be disappointed!

In this article, I’m going to share with you all of our best ideas for Galapagos Islands travel so that you can visit these excellent oceanic enclaves independently, without breaking the bank.
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Galapagos Islands travel Info

Where Are The Galapagos Islands?

Galapagos Islands travel Requirements

Marine protected area Regulations

Independent Galapagos Islands Travel

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Galapagos Islands travel Information

To help you make the most of your trip to the Galapagos, it’s crucial that you understand a few things about this part of the world. There is so much information online about Galapagos Islands travel that it can feel overwhelming to do any productive research.

Don’t worry, we’re going to clear things up for you.

Where Are The Galapagos Islands?

The Galapagos Islands are situated roughly 900 km (560 mi) off the Pacific coast of Ecuador. The volcanic archipelago straddles the equator and spreads out over an area of a lot more than 45,000 km² (17,000 mi²). a lot of visitors arrive by means of a 2-hour direct flight from Quito or Guayaquil, or as part of a cruise from other parts of the Pacific.

Galapagos Islands travel Requirements

Before checking out the Galapagos Islands, you’ll need to pay a $100 park entrance fee as well as a $20 immigration control card fee. Both of these need to be paid for in USD cash only to INGALA at either Guayaquil or Quito airport before boarding the flight to the Galapagos.

There is a booth set up to pay for these and have your bag searched for contraband (there are strict policies on what can be brought into the national park), you can’t miss it. just look for a massive line-up of travellers and make sure you arrive at the airport early to make sure you have time to navigate the queue.

Marine protected area Regulations

The Galapagos Islands have been protected by the Galapagos Marine Reserve considering that 1998, which is a large part of the reason there is still such biodiversity here. Populations of lots of species are still in decline and tourism is having a massive impact on the vulnerable ecosystems here, so it’s crucial to adhere to the policies of the park.

Park Rules:

You are only permitted to visit protected areas when accompanied by a GNPD Authorized Naturalist Guide

Stay on the Trails

Stay at least 6 feet (2m) away from the wildlife in any way times (try your best, even if they technique you). 

Never feed the wildlife

Don’t introduce any new food, animals, plants or seeds to the Galapagos Islands. You will be searched for these at the airport before boarding your flight to the islands.

Don’t use a flash when photographing wildlife

Camping is limited to a few authorized areas and need to be approved by the GNPD at least 2 days in advance.

Don’t take anything out of the environment including shells, sand, leaves, flowers etc.

No campfires

Fishing only permitted from GNPD licensed fishing vessels

No motorized aquatic sports or aerial tourism in the Marine Reserve or national Park

Nie zostawiaj śladów. Take out with you what you bring in and avoid purchasing single-use plastics including bottles and bags.

Each of these policies are in place for a reason and they help to keep the Galapagos the paradise that it is.

Independent Galapagos Islands Travel

The best way to see the a lot more remote areas in the archipelago and to see the a lot more undisturbed wildlife is to join a multi-day cruise around the Islands, but these cruises are expensive – often costing upwards of $500 per night per person – so lots of travellers opt to visit the islands independently instead.

Independent travel Budget

We checked out the islands independently and we were shocked at how budget-friendly it was. We flew from Guayaquil to San Cristobal Island, and then from Santa Cruz to Quito. It’s around $220 – $400 return from Quito, and $200 – $400 return from Guayaquil.

We selected a bit a lot more expensive accommodation on Airbnb, but we calculated that a couple could easily take pleasure in Galapagos Islands travel on as little as $100 / day.

Some Airbnbs and hostel private rooms are just $50 / night, while dorms are around $20 per bed, and there are plenty of cheap local restaurants to eat at.

If you want to save money here, make sure to venture back off the main roads in San Cristobal and Santa Cruz. find great local spots like lucky restaurant and Iguana point where you can pick up an almuerzo (set lunch), or set dinner for under $5 USD including soup, main course, and a drink.

The big expenses will be on tours. A day of diving will likely cost at least $220, while a taxi to take you inland on the island for 4-5 hours normally costs around $40 – $75 depending on where you go and how long you have the motorist for.

There are plenty of restaurants, bars and small supermarkets on Santa Cruz, Isabela, and San Cristobal, making it quite easy to travel here independently.

Ferries between the islands cost around $50 and tickets can easily be purchased a day or two in development from one of the excursion operators on the main roads in town. We paid $25 each for a ferry ticket from San Cristobal to Santa Cruz aboard the Osprey.  

*Note, we had calm seas, but this depends on which time of year you visit the Galapagos Islands.

Where To stay in The Galapagos Islands

We opted to use Airbnb during our time in Galapagos and it was perfect. We booked this charming little hostel in San Cristobal for $60 / night, and we stepped it up a notch a bit in Santa Cruz by staying in this beautiful private apartment or condo for $100 / night.

Both of these places were best for us and we highly recommend them, however, there are plenty of other hotels, hostels, and apartments available on Airbnb and other accommodation booking sites like Booking.com.

Our Airbnb on Santa Cruz

If you’re planning on booking with Airbnb, be sure to use our Airbnb voucher to save up to $55 off your first booking.

Where To eat in The Galapagos Islands

If you’re planning Galapagos Islands travel independently, then I’ll assume that you’re going to do what a lot of people do and visit the three main islands, San Cristobal, Santa Cruz and Isla Isabela.

Here are our much-loved and a lot of recommended places to eat in each. We didn’t end up checking out Isla Isabela, so we’re instead providing those that were recommended to us and come highly rated online.

San Cristobal

The seafood Stands at Playa De Oro Beach: People say that the middle shack here serves up the best food and you can tell because it’s always the busiest. Be careful though, the owner here can be very disrespectful and tries to give tourists a 2x upsell on the cost of food. ask for the almuerzo set lunch and agree on a price before ordering.

Midori Sushi: We ate at this little sushi bar that looks over the harbour and was surprised at how delicious it was. It’s absolutely a a lot more Americanized version of sushi, but it still satisfied my cravings. If you’re lucky enough to come here on the first Thursday of the month you can get all-you-can-eat sushi for just $30! Dariece’s meal was cheap at around $5 for a chicken breast and salad.

Restaurant Lucky: This was our much-loved place to eat budget-friendly local food on San Cristobal. Come here for set lunch or set dinner and get soup and a main course with a drink for $3 (lunch) or $4 (dinner).

Guiseppes: This place serves up the best pizza in the Galapagos and it’s actually surprisingly budget-friendly when compared to other restaurants on the Malecon. The pizza here is massive and a large ($15 for a pepperoni) can absolutely be shared by two people.

Muyu: An upscale restaurant / lounge with sensational outdoor seating and bar area — overlooking the sea lions, a pier and some boats. the food here is locally sourced, however, we only stopped here for sundowner drinks. 

Fresco Cafe: A good option for breakfast and for vegetarian meals. There are hammocks for chilling in, good music and budget-friendly food. .avocado on toast with a poached egg is tasty and around $4.

Nativo: another exceptional place to enjoy the sun go down…with a side of playful sea lions! This is a great spot for delighted hour drinks, but they also serve up seafood, salads, pasta, hamburgers and more. 

Santa Cruz

Kioskos: This hectic night food market on the street is a great place to sample the local seafood. The fish is out on display so make sure you check the one you’ll be served to make sure it is still clear-eyed and fresh.

There’s not much point separating these kiosks into different restaurants as they all serve up pretty much the same thing, but we personally took pleasure in the Italian stand that’s on the left when you first walk in from town. Click here for directions.

Coffee lab 1835: This won’t be the least expensive coffee you’ve ever had, but it may just be the most delicious. This funky little stop-and-go coffee shop serves up great lattes (locally sourced beans), cold brew, baked snacks and more. Click here for directions.

Almar: This restaurant is #1 on trip Advisor (at the time of our trip and at the time of writing) and for good reason. It’s set on a dock overlooking the bay and despite its extraordinary location, the food and drinks here are surprisingly affordable. We found that the prices here were comparable to some places on the back roads in Puerto Ayora, so we often opted to spend the same amount of money and have better food and a better view at Almar. Click here for directions.

Kale: This was the best locally owned and operated restaurant we found on Santa Cruz. The almuerzo lunches here are $5 and are huge. There are also empanadas available and a BBQ night. Click here for directions. 

Il Giardino: This multi-level bar and restaurant was the hot-spot during our Galapagos island travels. It was always packed with tourists — foreign and local. prices are good, and so is the food. Click here to find it on the map.

Isla Isabela

Booby Trap: This place is primary on trip Advisor and has a mix of local cuisine, seafood, American classics and some vegetarian options.

Shwarma Hot: A popular place with cheap middle Eastern food like shwarmas and some fish dishes as well as a respectable almuerzo (set lunch) option.

Iguana point Bar: Probably the best almuerzo option on the island, this is a great little place with great views and comes highly recommended by other travellers.

Galapagos Islands Travel: things To Do

Each island is very different and has lots of things to do. a lot of people base themselves in the main town on each island: Puerto Baquerizo Moreno in San Cristobal, Puerto Ayora in Santa Cruz and Puerto Villamil in Isabela. From those towns, you can organize pretty much any excursion or day trip as well as ferries between the islands.

Take A Multi-Day Cruise

Many people organize multi-day Galapagos cruises before they even arrive on the islands, but there are also some last-minute deals to be had. When you’re walking around the main towns on each island, you’ll see signs posted for these discounts, often using up to 35% off. 

A multi-day cruise is the only way to see the a lot more remote areas and endemic species of the Galapagos. You likely won’t see Galapagos Penguins unless you hop on a 2 or 3-day cruise, so lots of travellers to the Galapagos Islands travel the archipelago this way.

The cost of these cruises range from $200 per night per person, all the way up to $500 per night per person and the services and quality of boats vary greatly between companies.

As we selected independent Galapagos islands travel, we don’t have direct experience with any of these companies, but good friends of ours went with Ecoventura and were delighted with their experience.

Hire a Taxi To Drive around The Island

You can hire taxi trucks from the main town on each of the islands. This is the best way to get

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