The Galapagos Islands are one of the world’s most incredible places. Located a short flight from Ecuador, the Galapagos are filled with incredible wildlife opportunities, beautiful beaches, and fascinating history. There are also some fantastic Galapagos tours, hotels, cruises, and many things to do.
Here, we will mention our recommendation for the top 10 Galapagos Islands points of interest to provide you with an experience that covers nature, history, culture, activities, and beautiful places.
You can enjoy the activities from the Red Mangrove Hotel (pictured above) or on itineraries aboard the Ocean Spray, Perel, or Cormorant Cruise.
The following options coverthe best areas for maximizing your experience on the islands in only 10 top places.
If you would like a lot more suggestions, you can also see an ultimate guide of 100 top things to do on the Galapagos Islands.
Espinosa Point on Fernandina Island
Espinosa Point is one of the islands’ most wildlife-rich areas and a top attraction of the Galapagos. On organized tours, you can enjoy guided island walks to see iconic marine iguanas, Galapagos penguins, flightless cormorants, and sea lions.
Many of the animals enjoy the island’s black lava rocks, which absorb the day’s sun to create a warm area to rest. You can see one of the highest concentrations of wildlife at Espinosa Point and there are trail walks to get a little closer to the action. There are over 7,000 marine iguanas on Fernandina Island alone. You will even spot different burrows where the iguanas go during the night and when escaping predators. For example, Fernandina Island is where the incredible scene from Planet Earth II was filmed.
In addition to the incredible wildlife, you will enjoy some beautiful views and you can learn about the mangrove ecosystem. In addition to wildlife to spot on land, there are some fantastic snorkel and dive sites around Espinosa Point to see sea turtles, seahorses, and colorful fish. You will also spot marine iguanas as they dive underwater to graze on the seafloor.
Suárez Point on Española Island
Suárez Point on Española Island is another of the best wildlife areas of the Galapagos Islands. This is also where you can see one of the world’s largest groups of waved albatross as they visit the area to breed. The albatross are one of the island’s top attractions and only nest on Española.
As another remarkable feature of Suárez Point, this is one of the only places where you can see the red and green marine iguanas. The iguanas are at their most colorful in December and January. You can also find lava lizards, Sally Lightfoot crabs, Darwin’s finches, Galapagos hawks, sea lions, and both the famous blue-footed and Nazca boobies.
As you begin exploration, you will first arrive on a beautiful beach where you can spot sea lions resting on the shore. This is where you will find the start of the trail to enjoy guided walks to Suárez Point itself. This is a great area for photographs of the beautiful island scenery, diverse Galapagos wildlife, and dramatic blowholes that launch water high into the air.
Gardner Bay on Española Island
Gardner Bay is another great place to visit and one of the top places of interest on the Galapagos Islands. Although there are no trails, this is a beautiful area and one of the only visitor sites on Española.
When you first make land, you will be greeted by a beautiful beach and the island’s many sea lions. Other wildlife to see include the marine iguanas with their unusual red and green colors, sea turtles swimming close to shore, and Sally Lightfoot crabs.
The beach at Gardner Bay is one of the longest stretches of white sand on the Galapagos Islands and makes for some fantastic photos. This is also a great place to simply sit on the sand watching the wildlife.
As another great feature of Gardner Bay, this is where sea lions often come with their pups. Pups are most abundant during November. You can often see them playing on the sand and in shallow water.
The waters near the beach are also fantastic for swimming and snorkeling. Snorkeling is a great option to get some better views of the sea turtles.
Fisherman’s Wharf on Santa Cruz Island
For a glimpse into local culture while spotting wildlife, it’s a great idea to visit Fisherman’s Wharf on Santa Cruz Island. This is where local fishermen come to sell their catch. But being the Galapagos, they also have to share some of their fish with some other local residents.
Not only a great place to see local island life, you will also see large frigatebirds, pelicans, and sea lions attracted by the fish. There is also a small nearby pier to observe the mangroves and it’s a great point to observe the frigatebirds flying above.
The area surrounding Fisherman’s Wharf is also one of the best places on the Galapagos Islands for souvenir shopping, finding good restaurants and cafes, and enjoying a walk along the wharf.
Just a little walk from the wharf is the Red Mangrove Hotel and Charles Darwin Research Center, which we will mention further down.
Cormorant Point on Floreana Island
Cormorant Point on Floreana Island is where you can find two beautiful and remarkable beaches. One is beautifully colored green with olivine crystals and the other a brilliant white made from finely ground coral sand.
In addition to the beautiful beaches and scenery, enjoy spotting a diversity of birds. You can find the now well known Darwin’s finches, stilts, and pintail ducks.
You can also enjoy a trail to overlook the nearby lagoon. From here, you can see flamingos searching for food in the water.
Cormorant Point is also a great place to watch sea turtles coming to the beaches to lay their eggs. This often takes place in January. The hatchlings can be seen in April and May.
Unlike many other area of the volcanic and newly formed Galapagos Islands, on Floreana Island you will also notice a higher diversity of flowers and different plants.
Tortuga Bay on Santa Cruz Island
As one of the favorite activities for independent travelers to the Galapagos Islands, Tortuga Bay on Santa Cruz is a must-do.
After enjoying a fantastic walk to the bay and spotting marine iguanas and a beautiful beach enroute, you will arrive at Tortuga Bay. While here, you can relax on the sands taking in the beautiful view or snorkel and swim around the bay itself.
You can also hire a kayak to properly explore the area to find Galapagos green turtles, friendly reef sharks, and rays swimming in the water. It’s quite easy to see them here if hiring a kayak, as you will be given a helpful map. This will show you where to maximize sightings of each animal.
Devil’s Crown off Floreana Island
As a great snorkeling area, enjoy spotting abundant marine life in an area known as the Devil’s Crown off Floreana Island.
Formed from a volcanic crater where most eroded away creating a crown-like ring, this is a fantastic home for marine animals.
While snorkeling around the Devil’s Crown, you can find colorful reef fish, hammerhead sharks, eels, and king angelfish. You can also find Galapagos sea turtles and sea lions swimming around the area. In the deeper sections, sometimes visitors get lucky and see spotted eagle rays and even manta rays.
El Chato Reserve on Santa Cruz Island
On Santa Cruz Island, you can visit El Chato Reserve to walk with giant tortoises. The reserve offer these friendly giants an open range where they are free to explore and feed. This is natural habitat and the reserve protects an area where the tortoises move across the island.
Enjoy photographing and walking among the giant tortoises as they navigate the grasslands. You’re free to come across the tortoises in your own time and it’s a great choice for more of an up-close encounter. This is a fantastic choice for giant tortoise photo opportunities.
El Chato Reserve also offers lava tubes. These are large areas once filled with lava. As the faster flowing middle lava exited, it left behind giant lava tunnels that you can now explore. The cave system of lava tunnels has been well lit and makes for a fascinating visit.
Tagus Cove on Isabela Island
To visit one of the most historically fascinating areas of the Galapagos Islands, we recommend Tagus Cove as one of the best points of interest.
For hundreds of years, Tagus Cove is where whalers, pirates, and other sailors would moor their vessels while visiting the Galapagos Islands.
This is also where Charles Darwin visited on the Voyage of the Beagle in 1835. In the surrounding cliffs, you can see etchings made by various sailors. These include marks of sailors from the early 1800s and names of sailors from the US Navy in the 1900s.
In addition to the history, you can spot some different wildlife, such as Sally Lightfoot crabs and many different birds.
The Charles Darwin Research Center on Santa Cruz Island
A great idea before or after your adventure is to learn abou the Galapagos Islands at the Charles Darwin Research Center on Santa Cruz Island. If visiting before your exploration of the islands, this will prepare you for what to expect and help give a little background to these incredible ‘Enchanted Islands’, as they were once known.
You will also learn about the conservation work the Charles Darwin Foundation is doing on the islands while seeing some of the different animals at the breeding center. Enjoy spotting the different species of giant tortoises, the land iguanas, and see the baby tortoises that will be reintroduced to the wild.
The Charles Darwin Research Center is located on Santa Cruz Island right next door to the very comfortable luxury-class Red Mangrove Hotel. The hotel also offers a very nice restaurant for lunch and dinner even if you’re not staying at the hotel itself.
At the Charles Darwin Research, enjoy a trail walk around the various exhibitions to learn more about this incredible group of islands. In addition to seeing the exhibits and giant tortoises, there is also access to a small beach, different lookouts, and video presentations.