The Galapagos Islands have had a change of image since their first accidental discovery. Once described as worthless by a shipwrecked bishop in 1535, the islands are now regarded as an ecological paradise and one of the world’s top tourist destinations.
Adding to their popularity, there are some fantastic things to do on the Galapagos Islands. Not just home to incredible nature and wildlife, the Galapagos Islands offer some beautiful scenery, fantastic beaches, interesting trails, and a fascinating history of discovery filled with explorers, whalers, naturalists, and pirates.
The Galapagos Islands are an archipelago located off the coast of Ecuador. Home to some incredible wildlife, the Galapagos are famous for the many unique species that helped shape the theory of evolution. This was after Charles Darwin visited the islands over 150 years ago.
Let’s have a look at some of the fantastic things to do.
First, let’s have a look at the best things to do for the Galapagos Islands as a whole.
Take a Luxury Galapagos Islands Cruise
To make the most of these incredible islands, we recommend a luxury Galapagos Cruise.
On the following tours, explore the islands in comfort enjoying delicious food while you cruise from island to island. Enjoy guided tours that include both land expeditions and exploring the marine environment of the Galapagos. Enjoy an island cruise, expert guided walking tours, kayaking tours, and snorkeling experiences.
Each of the itineraries has been carefully crafted to offer the best experience according to your interests and time available. As these are luxury-class catamarans, the vessels offer more stability than many other cruises and offer three of the top luxury experiences for the Galapagos.
The three recommended luxury cruises include the Petrel Galapagos Cruise, the Ocean Spray, and the Cormorant. All of these cruises include itineraries with a mix of the following things to do on the Galapagos Islands.
Choose from a range of itineraries, including a 15-day mega cruise to really make the most of this incredible area.
Stay at a Luxury Galapagos hotel offering package tours
If you prefer the idea of a Galapagos luxury hotel, the Red Mangrove Hotel offers some incredible views, very comfortable accommodation, and some fantastic package tours to explore the islands.
The Red Mangrove Hotel offers a choice of luxury suites. You can choose from either the ocean-view suites or the superior rooms. The hotel then has an in-house restaurant where you will enjoy delicious breakfasts with incredible views. You can even enjoy spotting sea lions, marine iguanas, pelicans, and Darwin’s Finches as you dine. The restaurant also offers some delicious lunch choices and evening meals.
At the Red Mangrove Hotel, you can either choose accommodation only (including breakfast) or select the hotel package tours to explore the Galapagos Islands.
The hotel is centrally placed to enjoy some of the main attractions of Santa Cruz Island, including the Charles Darwin Research Center, which is located next door. While back at the hotel, you can enjoy views of the mangrove forests and coastal area of Puerto Ayora bay.
The Red Mangrove HotelThe Galapagos, Ecuador
Currently, TourTheTropics.com cannot help you book this experience. However, you can visit the tour operator's website for more information.
Now let’s have a look, island by island, at some of the best things to do on the Galapagos.
- South Plaza Island
- Santa Fe Island
- Española Island
- Floreana Island
- Genovesa Island
- North Seymour Island
We will first introduce Santa Cruz, which is one of the main Galapagos Islands.
Things to do on • Santa Cruz Island
Santa Cruz Island is often the base for many Galapagos visitors and will likely be the first main island you will visit after you arrive at Baltra Island airport. Note that Baltra Island is reserved almost exclusively for the airport. After Isabela Island, Santa Cruz is the second largest island in the Galapagos archipelago. The island’s main town is called Puerto Ayora, which is where you can find many of the island’s activities.
Puerto Ayora will be your base while exploring Santa Cruz. Puerto Ayora is also home to the largest human population on the islands and there are some fantastic restaurants, souvenir shops, and hotels on the seafront. You will also spot many of the iconic Galapagos animals simply by walking around town. Some favorite areas for wildlife in Puerto Ayora include Charles Darwin Avenue and Fisherman’s Wharf.
Let’s have a look at some of the top things to do on Santa Cruz Island.
Kayak and snorkel Tortuga Bay on Santa Cruz Island
One of the the most popular attractions on Santa Cruz Island, kayaking or snorkeling Tortuga Bay is a must do while on the island. This starts with a 20 minute walk to a beautiful white sand beach. At the end of the beach, you can find many different marine iguanas relaxing on the sands and under the mangroves.
If you continue walking, you will then find Tortuga Bay beach. This is a fantastic enclosed bay where you can relax on the sands or swim, snorkel, and kayak in the water. Giving the bay its name, while snorkeling and kayaking you’re likely to find different sea turtles swimming around the bay.
You can also see many different colorful fish, Sally Lightfoot crabs, and harmless whitetip reef sharks.
Visit the Charles Darwin Research Center on Santa Cruz Island
Located next door to the Red Mangrove Hotel mentioned further up, you can find the entrance to the Charles Darwin Research Center. This is an initiative by the Charles Darwin Foundation to help preserve and restore the Galapagos Islands.
Enjoy walking the trails to see a range of exhibits about the work the research center is doing on the islands. Learn about the center’s history and see one of the most famous animals of the Galapagos, the iconic giant tortoises. The center has a breeding program in place to recover the different giant tortoises and re-introduce them to their home islands.
Spot the difference between the different giant tortoise species and also see a small number of land iguanas.
Enjoy a relaxing spa session on Santa Cruz Island
What better way to compliment your tour of the Galapagos Islands than relaxing with a massage in this incredible environment. Choose from different spas on Santa Cruz, such as the fantastic Zenia Spa on Charles Darwin Avenue in Puerto Ayora.
See pelicans and sea lions at Fisherman’s Wharf on Santa Cruz Island
While walking along Charles Darwin Avenue in Puerto Ayora, you will come across an area called Fisherman’s Wharf. This is where fishermen sell their catch twice a day. This isn’t just a great place to see local life on Santa Cruz, but you will also see the many pelicans, frigate birds, and even sea lions that come for a free meal. Near the wharf is a small pier where you can also see marine iguanas relaxing on the pavement.
Take a diving tour from Santa Cruz Island
The Galapagos Islands offer some of the world’s best diving experiences. There are many different sites around the islands where you can see some incredible wildlife. On Santa Cruz Island, there are many different tours offering dive tours to different areas.
Enjoy delicious food at the Almar Restaurant on Santa Cruz Island
The Almar Restaurant is found inside the Red Mangrove Hotel. The restaurant has been recently renovated and they have reserved an area exclusively for sea lions that would frequently visit.
In addition to indoor and outdoor comfortable seating and beautiful views, enjoy the bar and lounge to watch the sunset with a delicious cocktail.
The Almar Restaurant is a project between the fantastic Isla Grill and the Red Mangrove Hotel. Enjoy a range of dishes for lunch or dinner with an Argentinean and Ecuadorian influence. The restaurant uses local suppliers and is committed to sustainability.
Rent a bicycle and explore Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island
Puerto Ayora offers some great cycle lanes and there are many places that rent bicycles. This is a great way to get around and explore the different sights around Puerto Ayora and in the nearby areas.
Visit Black Turtle Cove on Santa Cruz Island
Black Turtle Cove on Santa Cruz requires exploration without a motor to see the abundant wildlife here. The three different species of mangroves provide protection and nurseries for different fish and other species. Enjoy spotting sea turtles, reef sharks, and different rays. Explore the red, black, and white mangroves to also spot the herons, pelicans, and other birds scouting for fish.
Spot giant tortoises and enjoy a beautiful hike in the mountains of Santa Cruz Island
There are many different farms in the highlands of Santa Cruz where you spot giant tortoises. There are also different hikes through the areas. For experienced hikers, you can visit El Chato Reserve where you can see the tortoises in their natural habitat. However, the farms are often easier to visit and although monitored the tortoises are free to wander where they like. The highlands are also a beautiful area to visit in their own right and on Santa Cruz you can approach 1500 meters above sea level.
See the two volcanic depressions of Los Gemelos (the twins) on Santa Cruz Island
Another fantastic sight in the highlands of Santa Cruz, enjoy a visit to Los Gemelos (the twins). These are located at the highest point of Santa Cruz Island. The two pit craters can be reached from a short trail near the highland road. The large craters are a fantastic natural sight and were formed by the surface of a magma chamber collapsing following a lava flow. In addition to the craters themselves, you can see a range of different Galapagos birds. Notable species include the vermillion flycatcher and Galapagos dove.
Walk the Cerro Dragon (dragon hill) trail on Santa Cruz Island to see land iguanas
Located on the opposite side of the island to Puerto Ayora, you can find Cerro Dragon (Dragon Hill). Although located a little off the usual tourist route, the area is worth the visit one of the only populations of land iguanas on the island. The iguanas are threatened by human influence on the islands, including habitat destruction and the introduction of rats, goats, and dogs. However, with help from the Charles Darwin Foundation the iguanas here have been protected.
Enjoy a walk on the trail through the forests of Opuntia cacti, which provide a favored food for the iguanas. On the trail, you can also spot different birds, such as Galapagos mockingbirds and Darwin’s Finches.
Visit the incredible lava tunnels on Santa Cruz Island
The lava tunnels on Santa Cruz Island are one of the island’s popular attractions. This is often combined with other attractions in the highlands. The tunnels were formed when the crust of a large lava flow solidified while the contents continued to flow. They have now left behind tunnels and caves that make a fascinating area to explore. There are many different tunnels to visit and most require paying the landowner a small fee to enter.
Walk with giant tortoises at Rancho Primicias on Santa Cruz Island
You can enjoy the Rancho Primicias on Santa Cruz Island, which is a fantastic Giant Tortoise Ranch to walk among the giant tortoises. Enjoy walking the ranch surrounded by giant tortoises as they go about their day. You can take some fantastic photos of these slow-moving giants in your own time as you find them dotted around the tall grass.
See fantastic marine animals at Carrion Point on Santa Cruz Island
Carrion Point on Santa Cruz Island is a sheltered lagoon that has become very attractive to a diversity of marine animals. Enjoy spotting many colorful fish, rays and whitetip reef sharks in a beautiful lagoon of turquoise water. The lagoon is located north of Santa Crus Island near the Itabaca Channel.
See chocolates being made at Chocolapagos on Santa Cruz Island
In Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island, you can find a small local chocolate shop called Chocolapagos. You can enjoy seeing the small turtle shaped chocolates being made at the shop then purchase some delicious handmade chocolates (made from local ingredients). The chocolates are then packaged in a tasteful chocolate box as an ideal gift.
From Santa Cruz, enjoy day trips to visit other nearby Islands
From Santa Cruz, you can enjoy day trips to Santa Fe Island, North Seymour Island, Bartolome Island and South Plazas Island. Each of these islands have their own fantastic things to do, which we will mention below. You can either visit the islands on a tour or make your own way using the inter-island water taxi services. The other nearby islands provide some fantastic wildlife sightings, great trail walks, and also snorkeling and diving areas.
Sovenir shopping on Santa Cruz Island
There are some great shops at Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz to buy some souvenirs. Many of the favorites are found on Charles Darwin Avenue. For jewelry, you can visit Tortoise Jewelry on Charles Darwin Avenue to find exclusive handmade jewelery by Ecuadorian jewelers. For different artworks, you can visit Galeria Aymara. See some fantastic sculptures of Galapagos wildlife made from recycled metal. The Galeria Aymara also hand selects other works from some of the top craftsman around Central and South America.
Visit the beautiful Nymph Lagoon on Santa Cruz Island
A lesser visited attractions, the Nymph Lagoon offers a beautiful area to relax looking at the beautiful water and different fish. The lagoon is an area of crystal clear fresh water that collects from the highlands before making its way to to the ocean. On the boardwalk, you can learn about the different mangroves and see a diversity of Galapagos birds. There is also an area to simply sit and look at the different fish swimming around below.
Drink some Galapagos Island coffee on Santa Cruz Island
In Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island you can find OMG Moments, which offers some of the best coffee on the Galapagos Islands. The coffee shop provides a premium and organic coffee, which has been sourced from local coffee growers. The shop also encourages the local farms to operate in an environmentally responsible manner, such as using sustainable energy. Adding a fantastic unique flavor, the Galapagos Islands provide an ideal range of conditions for producing a unique and flavorful coffee. Also, the coffee is sourced from some of the same line of plants that were planted on the islands in 1875 direct from Ethiopia.
Enjoy some refined dining at the Finch Bay Restaurant on Santa Cruz Island
For a taste of gourmet cuisine on the Galapagos Islands, you can visit the Finch Bay Restaurant within the Finch Bay Hotel. Ingredients are locally sourced from the Galapagos Islands and the restaurant specialises in seafood and vegetarian dishes. Many of the ingredients are sourced from the restaurant’s own organic vegetable garden. The meals are then prepared by the restaurant’s Cordon Bleu-qualified Head Chef. There is also a bar to enjoy some fantastic ocean views as you drink and dine.
Snorkel Itabaca Channel at Punta Carrion on Santa Cruz Island
Enjoy snorkeling near Itabaca Channel to find whitetip reef sharks, colorful fish, rays, and sea lions. This is a beautiful stretch of turquoise water that separates the Baltra Island from Santa Cruz. The best area for snorkeling is known as Punta Carrión where the canal meets the Pacific Ocean.
Relax on Playa de los Perros on Santa Cruz Island
Another short but beautiful beach, Playa de los Perros is a great place to relax on the sands and to observe a pool where you can see whitetip sharks.
Enjoy the beautiful Garrapatero beach on Santa Cruz Island
A longer beach than many of the other beach sites of Santa Cruz, Garrapatero is a little further away from Puerto Ayora and requires a vehicle to reach. However, after making the journey and enjoying the short trail, you will be greeted with beautiful sands, an excellent area for some birdwatching, and a lagoon where you can watch flamingoes.
Visit the Islets of Venecia off Santa Cruz Island
On a dinghy ride to the Islets of Venecia, you can enjoy watching different marine life in the water, such as sea turtles, rays, and sharks.
Take a glass bottom boat tour from Santa Cruz Island
A glass-bottom boat provides a way for people to get a glimpse of life under the sea without needing to get wet. Enjoy gentle tours around the bay to see some colorful fish, sea lions, and the occasional marine iguana.
Enjoy scuba diving at Daphne Minor from Santa Cruz Island
Daphne Minor is a popular scuba diving site where you can see a diversity of fish, sea lions, Galapagos sharks, eagle rays, and even manta rays.
Dive Gordon Rocks from Santa Cruz Island
For more experienced divers due to strong currents, you can enjoy one of the famous areas for diving on the Galapagos Islands. This is where you can see the schools of hammer head sharks, which is a main attraction for many Galapagos divers. You can also see a diversity of other animals, such as rays, sea turtles, and different fish.
Volunteer on the Galapagos Islands from Santa Cruz
To have a meaningful positive impact on the Galapagos Islands, you can volunteer at different organizations to help with the management of the Galapagos Islands National Park and the many conservation objectives. Organizations you can contact include The Charles Darwin Foundation.
Things to do on • San Cristobal Island
San Cristobal Island is the fifth largest island in the Galapagos and has the second largest human population after Santa Cruz. The island is also home to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, which is the capital of the Galapagos Islands. The island has a major tourism industry and is home to some of the top things to do on the Galapagos Islands.
Let’s have a look at some of the top things to do on San Cristobal Island
Enjoy the Galapagos Interpretation Center on San Cristobal Island
Through a series of interactive exhibits at the Interpretation Center on San Cristobal Island, you can learn about the history and wildlife of the Galapagos Islands. Through a series of exhibits you will learn more about the settlement of the Galapagos. There are many photographs, small exhibits, and descriptions in English and Spanish. Examples of information include the volcanic origin of the islands, when different animals and plants arrived, and human history.
Visit La Galapaguera de Cerro Colorado to see giant tortoises on San Cristobal Island
You can learn about the Galapagos National Park giant tortoise breeding programme at La Galapaguera de Cerro Colorado on San Cristobal Island. La Galapaguera de Cerro Colorado is a reserve that was established by the national park to help protect the island’s giant tortoises. You wan walk the reserve’s trails to see the giant tortoise adults living freely in the reserve and also the breeding areas to see the babies. You can also listen to talks on the giant tortoises and the work being done to help protect these iconic animals.
View the colony of sea lions on Isla Lobos on San Cristobal Island
The islet of Isla Lobos is located a short way from the coast of San Cristóbal Island. Enjoy seeing different Galapagos animals, such as blue-footed boobies, frigatebirds, marine iguanas, and a colony of sea lions that the islet was named after. You can also spot fur seals around the islet and the water makes a great place for snorkeling to spot turtles and rays. On the islet, you can enjoy a trail walk through changing habitats to see some different animal and plant life.
See the famous Leon Dormido Islet of San Cristobal Island
One of the most well known tourist sights in the Galapagos Islands, Leon Dormido (sleeping lion), or Kicker Rock, is a fantastic area to see marine wildlife. The islet was formed from an eroded volcano and in addition to superb snorkeling and diving opportunities, the area is also well known for different Galapagos birds. Enjoy spotting the different tropicbirds, frigatebirds, and blue footed boobies. The marine life you are likely to see when diving and snorkeling includes the different colorful reef fish, pelagic fish, sea turtles, sea lions, and the many different sharks. The area is best known for whitetip reef sharks, Galapagos sharks, eagle rays, and even manta rays are sometimes seen.
Visit Pit Point on San Cristobal Island for lava lizards and red-footed boobes
You can watch the lava lizards and birds of Pit Point. Found on the northeastern side of the island, the area is also a fantastic place to see nesting seabirds. Differing from other Galapagos islands, at Pit Point you can see all the different Galapagos boobies. These include the red-footed boobies, rarely seen on other islands, blue-footed boobies, and the Nazca boobies. You can also spot the Chatham mockingbird and enjoy some fantastic views.
Walk the beautiful white-sand beach of Cerro Brujo on San Cristobal Island
On San Cristobal Island, you can also visit a fantastic section of white sand beach called Cerro Brujo. This is a great area to spot many pelicans, blue-footed boobies, sea lions and marine iguanas. There is also a nearby lagoon to spot different herons and other birds. Enjoy some fantastic views and snorkeling in the beautifully colored waters. As an additional point, this is one of the first areas of the Galapagos visited by Charles Darwin on his Voyage of the Beagle.
See the spectacular El Junco Lagoon on San Cristobal Island
El Junco Lagoon is one of the favorite sights on San Cristobal Island. This is a lake of freshwater and one of the only water sources on the islands. Enjoy spotting a diversity of birdlife and some different plants. Because of the water source, the area was home to one of the first settlements on the Galapagos. The lake itself was formed from an extinct volcano where a magma chamber collapsed to create a water-filled caldera.
Enjoy the view from Cerro Tijeretas on San Cristobal Island
Named after the many frigatebirds that visit the area, you can enjoy the view from Cerro Tijeretas and spot different sea birds. This is one of the only areas where you can see two species of frigatebirds nesting together. The view also overlooks the bay where Charles Darwin first set foot on the Galapagos Islands. In addition, you have a beautiful panoramic view of different Galapagos tourist attractions. You can also enjoy swimming and snorkeling in the nearby turquoise waters of Tijeretas Cove.
Walk the streets of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal Island
Puerto Baquerizo Moreno is a fantastic area to visit and is the capital of the Galapagos Islands. Located on San Cristobal, enjoy walking the streets to enjoy the relaxed atmosphere plus spotting the occasional sea lion and marine iguana. There are a few interesting things near Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, such as a beautiful beach, the Interpretation Center, and some fantastic areas for views.
Enjoy the beautiful beach of La Lobería on San Cristobal Island
La Lobería is a very attractive beach where you can spot sea lions and marine iguanas. The area is named after the many sea lions that visit the beach. In fact, this is one of the largest colonies on the Galapagos Islands. When the water is calm, people enjoy snorkeling in the water. However, the water can get quite rough, which is why the area is also a favorite place for surfing. Other wildlife to see in the area include frigatebirds, finches, and others Galapagos birds.
Visit El Chato Tortoise Reserve on San Cristobal Island
At El Chato Tortoise Reserve on San Cristobal Island, you can walk among giant tortoises, which is a fantastic place to see these giants in their natural habitat. In addition to the many giant tortoises, the reserve is a great place for birdwatching. You can spot yellow warblers, vermillion flycatchers, Darwin’s finches, and others. Enjoy exploring the area to see the different plants, ponds, and then see the many different giant tortoises moving through the habitat.
Enjoy a beautiful sunset at Punta Carola on San Cristóbal Island
A fantastic place to watch the sunset for a relaxed evening on the Galapagos Islands, you can visit the beach at Punta Carola. Not only a great place to watch the sunset, you will also see a few different sea lions relaxing on the sands. You will also spot the baby sea lions playing in the water. The waters of Punta Carola are also a favored spot for Galapagos surfers.
Relax at the beautiful stretch of white sand beach at Puerto Chino on San Cristobal Island
Punto Chino is another beautiful beach on San Cristobal Island. You will enjoy a trail walk to spot different Galapagos animals before you reach the beach. This is another great place for birdwatching and you can spot the Darwin’s finches, warblers, and mockingbirds. The beach is a fantastic place to relax while watching the birds and occasional sea lion. You are also likely to see frigatebirds and blue footed boobies diving into the sea. Note to pay attention to warnings and signs on all the beaches to be aware of water conditions.
Snorkel around Playa Mann on San Cristobal Island
Located close to Puerto Baquerizo, you can visit Playa Mann to see the sea lions and enjoy some relaxed snorkeling and swimming in the calm water. Locals enjoy visiting the beach on the weekends and it’s a great place to see how locals of San Cristobal spend their free time.
Visit Sapho Bay (Puerto Grande) on San Cristobal Island to see hermit crabs and blue-footed boobies
Sapho Bay is another beautiful area of San Cristobal. Here, you can see see hermit crabs and blue-footed boobies. The bay is also where people often search for buried treasure, as the area was used for hundreds of years by visiting ships. In addition, there are some beautiful views over the bay. The water is a calm place to relax, swim, and snorkel with the visiting sea lions.
Enjoy a live-aboard dive cruise to see iconic marine wildlife
From San Cristobal, you can begin your live-aboard diving tour to have an underwater exploration of the Galapagos Islands. Led by specialist guides, enjoy some of the best opportunities to see hammerhead sharks, whale sharks, and manta rays.
For the best seasons to see the Galapagos marine icons:
- Manta Ray Season: December – May
- Whale Shark Season: June – November
- Hammerheads: December – May
Things to do on • Isabela Island
The largest island on the Galapagos archipelago, Isabela was a favorite island to anchor vessels for hundreds of years. Pirates, whalers, and explorers would regularly moor their vessels off Isabela. Most famously, Charles Darwin first set foot on Isabela and landed at Tagus Cove in 1835. The island was formed with the merging of six volcanoes and all of these except for one are still active. Notably, Isabela Island is home to more giant tortoises than other islands and the island’s geology and vegetation create habitats for abundant wildlife. This is also one of the best places to see whales on the Galapagos Islands.
Now let’s have a look at some of the top things to do on Isabela Island.
Visit Vicente Roca Point on Isabela Island
At Vicente Roca Point on Isabela Island, an ancient volcano has formed two turquoise coves with a bay protected from ocean swells. You can enjoy spotting a diversity of Galapagos animals in the area. See Nazca boobies, sea lions, sea turtles, blue-footed boobies, rays, and many different fish. Although there is no landing at Vicente Roca Point, you can enjoy some fantastic snorkeling, diving, and simply spotting wildlife from your cruise vessel.
Visit Tagus Cove on Isabela Island
At Tagus Cove, you can enjoy seeing the penguins, Sally Lightfoot crabs, sea lions, and marine iguanas on Isabela Island. The cove has also been a place where pirates and whalers would land their vessels for hundreds of years. Charles Darwin also visited the cove in 1835 making it a fantastic place to think about the history of these incredible islands. You can even see etchings made in the cliffs from some of the visitors, such as recent sailors of the US Navy in the 1900s as well as visitors from much earlier. The surrounding area is also a great place for birdwatching and many different species can be seen.
See penguins and shore birds at Moreno Point on Isabela Island
Moreno Point is another top attraction on the west coast of Isabela Island. The area is surrounded by various lagoons visited by a number of different birds, including the commonly seen flamingoes. Other species seen include pintails and gallinules. In the surrounding water, you can spot sea turtles, whitetip reef sharks, and even penguins. You can also have a look in the smaller ponds to see some smaller Galapagos life.
See turtles and rays in the waters of Urbina Bay on Isabela Island
You can enjoy seeing the turtles and rays in the waters of Urbina Bay on Isabela Island. After this, you can walk a trail to visit the nearby coral reef. There are many different birds you can see, such as pelicans, Galapagos hawks, blue-footed boobies, and even flightless cormorants. The bay is also home to marine iguanas, land iguanas, and you may even spot giant tortoises.
See the birds of prey circling in the sky and schools of fish in the waters of Elizabeth Bay on Isabela Island
Formed by the Alcedo and Sierra Negra volcanoes and located on the eastern side of Isabela Island, Elizabeth Bay is a great area for snorkeling and diving. There are no land visits allowed but you’re sure to see a range of wildlife near the bay. Spot the birds of prey, pelicans, flightless cormorants, blue-footed boobies, and much more. In the water itself, you will likely spot sea turtles, penguins, and rays.
Visit the small island of Las Tintoreras near Isabela Island
A small island off the coast of Isabela Island, Las Tintoreras is a favorite area to explore on your Galapagos tour. Around these small islands, enjoy spotting Galapagos penguins, sea turtles, sea lions, whitetip reef sharks, marine iguanas, and blue-footed boobies. Las Tintoreras provides a great place for snorkeling, diving, and there are some hiking opportunities through the lava formations.
Climb the fantastic Sierra Negra Volcano on Isabela Island
Isabela Island is home to five different volcanos. Two of these are the Sierra Negra and Alcedo Volcano that merge together. You can climb Sierra Negra for some incredible views of the Galapagos Islands. This is one of the most active volcanoes on the Galapagos Islands. It’s unlikely that you will see actual lava flows, but you will no doubt see thermal vents. The views you will enjoy are some of the most spectacular on the Galapagos and you will see the island’s other volcanoes plus the volcanoes on the nearby Fernandina Island.
Visit the Tortoise Breeding Station on Isabela Island
The Tortoise Breeding Station on Isabela Island offers an area to see the giant tortoises up close, including some of the baby tortoises. The tortoises on the island face many different introduced threats, such as goats, dogs, and pigs. They are either in competition for food or have their young and babies eaten. To help rectify the situation, there are giant tortoise breeding centers on the island to care for young and re-introduce tortoises back to the wild while the threats are being controlled.
See the wetlands of Isabela Island
Located just outside Puerto Villamil, the Isabela Island wetlands are full of lagoons, swamps, and mangroves that offer homes to abundant animals and plants. A fascinating area to visit at the south of Isabela Island, enjoy a trail walk through the mangroves to see different species. The birds you can spot include a diversity of species, such as gallinules, common stilts, white-cheeked pintails and more.
Visit the Muro de las Lágrimas (Wall of Tears) on Isabela Island
Although not a happy attraction, the Muro de las Lágrimas (Wall of Tears) is a reminder to the island’s darker history. The wall stands as a reminder to when the island was home to a penal colony. The prisoners would build the wall from lava blocks as punishment. The wall is 25 m (65 ft) tall and was built between 1945 and 1959 when the penal colony was active just after World War II.
See the lava tunnels at Cabo Rosa on Isabela Island
You can visit the incredible maze of lava tunnels to snorkel with the abundant wildlife at Cabo Rosa on Isabela Island. The lava tunnels that formed here eventually collapsed into the shallow water, which has created abundant nooks and crevices that have become havens for a range of ocean life. The clear water provides high visibility as you snorkel around the area looking for tropical fish. In addition to the diversity of colorful and interesting fish, enjoy spotting rays, sea turtles, reef sharks, penguins, marine iguanas, and sea lions. You can also see different birds, such as blue-footed boobies, frigatebirds, penguins, and even flamingoes.
Snorkel with penguins at Concha de Perla on Isabela Island
An attraction close to Puerto Villamil, Concha de Perla can be reached from a wooden walkway from the dock. Enjoy walking through the mangroves to a nice bay where locals come to swim and snorkel. Enjoy seeing some of the famous Galapagos animals close to shore, such as sea lions, colorful fish, and even the occasional penguin. The shallow and clear water make it a great place for some relaxed snorkeling.
Things to do on • Fernandina Island
Fernandina Island is the third largest island in the archipelago after Isabela and Santa Cruz. The youngest of the Galapagos Islands, Fernandina itself is an active volcano and home to abundant wildlife. One of the top areas to see different animals is a narrow piece of land named Punta Espinoza, which we will mention below. As its a young island, there is little vegetation aside from mangroves and cactus, but as with other areas on the Galapagos, there are still some fantastic examples of animal life to be found. Many iconic species live both on and in the waters surrounding Fernandina.
Let’s have a look at the top places to visit on Fernandina Island
See the marine iguanas at Espinosa Point on Fernandina Island
One of the best wildlife sites on the Galapagos, at Espinosa Point on Fernandina Island you can see hundreds of iconic marine iguanas sunbathing on the black lava rocks. You can see a diversity of species rarely seen in other areas. Enjoy spotting the marine iguanas, Galapagos penguins, sea lions, and flightless cormorants. There is a trail you can enjoy to get a closer look at the iguanas and even to see some of their hides. See some beautiful views and walk through the mangroves. The area offers some great dive areas to see marine iguanas, sea turtles, and seahorses.
Enjoy beautiful views from Mangle Point on Fernandina Island
One of the most popular attractions on Fernandina Island is an area known as Mangle Point. The area provides some fantastic snorkeling and diving opportunities. See fantastic views and enjoy spotting sea turtles, pelicans, rays and penguins. You can also spot flightless cormorants on the shoreline.
Things to do on • Sombrero Chino Island
Sombrero Chino Island is a very small Galapagos Island and is named after its resemblance to a chinese hat. Only visitors on multi-day cruises are allowed to visit the island and you can enjoy a few sights of interest. The island provides fantastic snorkeling and diving opportunities to see a range of Galapagos wildlife. You can also enjoy a trail walk on the island after landing at the beautiful beach.
See the crescent-shaped beach with its sea lions and Sally Lightfoot crabs on Sombrero Chino Island
There is a fantastic crescent-shaped beach on Sombrero Chino Island where you can find beautiful white sands and hundreds of resident Sally Lightfoot crabs. The crabs present a fantastic spectacle with their bright colors as they patrol the beach for food. You will also spot the sea lions resting on the shore. This is the landing site for your cruise vessel to explore the tiny island.
Walk a trail on Sombrero Chino Island to see marine iguanas, Sally Lightfoot crabs, and lava lizards.
You can enjoy a trail on Sombrero Island for a closer look at the wildlife resting on land. Walk among the lava rock to see a fantastic landscape of this recently formed landmass. In addition to seeing the interesting lava formations and wildlife, the trail walk provides some fantastic views of the Galapagos.
Enjoy some fantastic snorkeling opportunities off Sombrero Chino Island
One of the favorite things to do off Sombrero Chino Island is snorkeling. You can see a variety of colorful fish, sea lions, and whitetip reef sharks in the surrounding water. The water is calm and clear, but also has enough depth to find some different wildlife than the other gentle snorkeling areas. See whitetip reef sharks, penguins darting through the water, rays, sea turtles, and a diversity of tropical fish.
Things to do on • South Plaza Island
South Plaza Island is one of the lesser visited sites of the Galapagos Islands. Although a small island, the plants and animals are distinct from other islands. The short ground vegetation changes color depending on the season from green to orange and red. There is also a lot of wildlife to see on South Plaza Island, including one of the largest populations of sea lions, one of the largest populations of land iguanas, many different birds, and a diversity of colorful fish. You can also see rays, sharks, sea turtles, and penguins.
Let’s have a more in depth look at things to do on South Plaza Island.
See the largest population of Galapagos land iguanas on South Plaza Island
South Plaza Island is known for a large population of land iguanas. The iguanas are colorful and visually distinct from their marine cousins. They feed on the island’s many Opuntia cactus and are often seen as they sun themselves on the rocks.
See the sea lions at South Plaza Island
You can visit one of the largest colonies of California sea lions on the Galapagos at South Plaza Island. There are around 1,000 sea lions to see in different colonies as they laze on the rocks.
Things to do on • Santa Fe Island
Santa Fe Island is a small island located in the middle of the Galapagos Islands. Although small, this is one of the oldest land masses on the archipelago. On the island, you can find forests of some of the largest species of Opuntia cactus. These provide food for the island’s population of iguanas. This is also the only place on the Galapagos to see the endemic Santa Fe land iguana.
Walk the trails to see Opuntia cactus forest of Santa Fe Island
You can enjoy the trails to see Opuntia cactus forest of Santa Fe Island where you can also see land iguanas and different birds. The cactus here are very large and provide many habitats for a variety of birds. Galapagos hawks also patrol the area for prey. The cactus are also the favored food of the many iguanas that live on the island. In addition to the wildlife, the trail provides some fantastic views.
Visit Barrington Bay to see the sea lions on Santa Fe Island
Barrington Bay is the only visitor area on Santa Fe Island and is the start for the island’s trail walks. At Barrington Bay itself you can enjoy the small beach and see a large number of sea lions.
Enjoy fantastic snorkeling and diving off Santa Fe Island
Santa Fe Island offers some fantastic snorkeling to see colorful fish, turtles, rays, and maybe even some marine iguanas just off shore. There are also some dive sites where you can see sharks, rays, and sea turtles. However, the dive areas have a relatively low diversity of fish compared to other sites on the Galapagos.
Things to do on • Española Island
Española is found at the far southeast of the Galapagos archipelago and is one of the oldest of the Galapagos islands. The most loved wildlife sighting here are the waved albatross, as this is where the majority of the world’s population comes to breed. The island is also home to a large population of sea lions. Due to its isolation from other islands, there are a higher number of species here that are found nowhere else on the Galapagos.
Visit the fantastic Suárez Point on Española Island
One of the best areas for wildlife on the Galapagos, enjoying seeing one of the largest colonies of waved albatross on the archipelago. You will also see the blue-footed and Nazca boobies, lava lizards, Darwin’s finches, Galapagos hawks, and sea lions. Suárez Point is also home to red and green marine iguanas and these are only found on Española. There are also other species you may be lucky enough to spot that are rarely found in other parts of the Galapagos.
See the beautiful turquoise waters and a large group of sea lions of Gardner Bay on Española Island
Gardner Bay is one of the main visitor sites of Española Island. Enjoy spotting the many sea lions resting on the shore. The bay has a beautiful white sand beach, which is one of the longest stretches of sand in the Galapagos. You will also spot other iconic Galapagos wildlife, such as the marine iguanas and Sally Lightfoot crabs. From the beach, you can also spot sea turtles swimming offshore. The main wildlife attraction on the beach itself are the sea lions that come to relax and breed. You can also see sea lion pups playing on the sand.
Enjoy snorkeling off Gardner Bay on Española Island to see colorful fish and sea lions
Gardner Bay also offers some fantastic snorkeling opportunities. Explore the nearby Gardner Islet and Isla Tortuga to see turtles, sea lions, whitetip reef sharks, rays, and hammerhead sharks. There are also many different colorful fish to see, including angelfish, parrotfish, and surgeonfish.
Try snorkeling and swimming near the Osborn Island of Española Island
Enjoy snorkeling and swimming to see colorful fish near the Osborn Island of Española Island. Located to the southeast of Gardner Bay, enjoy some incredible wildlife experiences. See shoals of fish, including parrotfish, butterfly fish, and more. You will also enjoy the beautiful corals, starfish, and sea urchins.
Things to do on • Floreana Island
Floreana Island was of great importance to early whalers due to the famous post office that sailors would use to send mail to their loved ones. The island has some other fascinating human history, such as the disappearances of an Austrian baroness and several other island residents. In addition to the human history, you can enjoy some fantastic wildlife. Spot flamingoes, interesting plants, and many marine animals in the surrounding waters.
Let’s have a look at some things to do on Floreana Island
Visit the famous Post Office Bay on Floreana Island
This white sand beach is a famous area on the Galapagos Islands where sailors at one time used to leave their letters in a barrel for their loved ones. The sailors would leave their letters with an address in the hopes that passing vessels heading in the recipient’s direction would deliver their messages. While here, think about the different things that were said across the seas. You can also leave your own letter in the hopes the next visitor heading near the address will deliver your message.
See flamingos of Cormorant Point on Floreana Island
See the flamingos of Cormorant Point on Floreana Island from a trail overlooking the salt-water lagoon. The area also offers two contrasting beaches. One is colored green by olivine crystals and the other is made from fine pulverised corals. Enjoy spotting many different Galapagos birds, including Darwin’s finches, flycatchers, pintail ducks, and stilts. Over certain months, you can also watch sea turtles climbing the beach to nest. You will also notice a richer diversity of plants than other areas of the Galapagos.
Snorkel Devil’s Crown from Floreana Island
Visit one of the best diving and snorkeling sites of the Galapagos Islands with an incredible diversity of colorful fish. Known as the Devil’s Crown, this is a top visitor site on Floreana. There are different coral reefs here, which are home to an abundance of marine life. Wildlife you’re likely to see include hawkfish, hammerhead sharks, sea lions, sea turtles, king angelfish, eels, and more. The rocky outcrops are also great places to see different birds, including pelicans and frigatebirds.
Enjoy snorkeling and diving off Champion Islet on Floreana Island
Champion Islet is another great dive and snorkeling site off Floreana Island. Enjoy spotting sea lions, sea turtles, moray eels, rays, and reef sharks. On the shoreline, you can also see blue footed boobies, pintail ducks, and even penguins.
Visit the Baroness’ Observatory on Floreana Island
You can visit the Baroness’ Observatory on Floreana Island to see a fantastic view of La Lobería and the island’s geographical features. This is also where you where learn about the mystery surrounding the Austrian Baroness Eloise Wehrborn de Wagner-Bosquet.
Visit the Cerro Alieri on Floreana Island to see a diversity of Galapagos plants
Cerro Alieri is found on the higher reaches of Floreana Island. The main attraction here are the plants. You can see different species of flora, such as the attractive shrubs, trees and bushes. A third of all species you can find are found nowhere else on Earth.
See Asilo de la Paz and a pirate cave on Floreana Island
At Asilo de la Paz, you can see a cave that was once used by pirates as they hid from Spanish vessels. Some of the pirates later ended up as Floreana Island residents. There is also a nearby area that houses giant tortoises, which were once pets of Floreana Islanders.
Things to do on • Bartholomew Island
Bartholomew Island was named after the lieutenant and principal surveyor of the HMS Beagle, Sir Bartholomew James Sulivan who was also a good friend of Charles Darwin.
Enjoy the island’s most famous view off Bartholomew Island
One of the most popular attractions of the island is the iconic Pinnacle Rock. This is a great area for diving and snorkeling. However, Pinnacle Rock is also the most famous view of the Galapagos Islands and was even featured in the movie ‘Master and Commander’.
Snorkel around Pinnacle Rock off Bartholomew Island
Try snorkeling around Pinnacle Rock off Bartholomew Island, which is one of the best sites for snorkeling in the Galapagos. See penguins, sea lions, turtles, and colorful fish.
Enjoy the beach on Bartholomew Island for relaxation or snorkeling
Enjoy the beach on Bartholomew Island for relaxation or snorkeling in the water while spotting the famous blue-footed boobies The beautiful crescent-shaped beach is also a great place to spot the sea lions and penguins from the shore. The turtles nest on this beach. After the young hatch and spend many years at sea, they return to lay their eggs on the same beach in an astonishing navigational feat.
Things to do on • Genovesa Island
Genovesa Island is found at the northeastern edge of the Galapagos Islands. The island is most famous among bird lovers for the abundance of species. Enjoy spotting red-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, frigatebirds, tropicbirds, mockingbirds, and the Darwin’s finches. You can also see many of the iconic marine iguanas sunning themselves on the rocks.
See the seabird colonies of Darwin Bay on Genovesa Island
You can see the seabird colonies and coral beach of Darwin Bay on Genovesa Island and enjoy the 750 meter walking trail. This is also where you will disembark the vessel to explore Genovesa. On the trail, you can also see the world’s only species of nocturnal gull and other birds, including red-footed boobies and frigatebirds.
Climb the steep path of Prince Phillip’s Steps on Genovesa Island
Enjoy climbing the steep path of Prince Phillip’s Steps on Genovesa Island to admire the seabird colony and tall cliffs. The steps are named after Prince Philip who visited Galapagos on two separate occasions. There are a variety of different birds to spot on the trail, including red-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, and red-billed tropicbirds
Snorkel around the Prince Phillip’s Steps or near Darwin Bay on Genovesa Island
Snorkel around the Prince Phillip’s Steps or Darwin Bay on Genovesa Island to see abundant marine wildlife, including hammerhead sharks, sea lions, turtles, and manta rays.
Things to do on • Santiago Island
Santiago Island has some fantastic areas to visit to enjoy beautiful beaches, pirate hideouts, lava fields, and incredible Galapagos wildlife in the surrounding waters. However, Santiago itself has been struggling with conservation issues from when people first set foot on the island. The removal of all goats, pigs, and donkeys from the island has helped with the recovery.
Let’s have a look at some of the top things to do on Santiago Island
See the marine iguanas and Sally Lightfoot crabs of Espumilla Beach on Santiago Island
At Espumilla Beach, you can enjoy watching the marine iguanas and Sally Lightfoot crabs on Santiago Island. The beach is also known as a nesting area for sea turtles. There is a trail from the beach to spot different birds, including flamingoes in the nearby lagoon. Around the beach, you can also see some interesting lava formations.
Visit Buccaneer Cove on Santiago Island
Giving the bay its name, Buccaneer Cove on Santiago Island was once used as a safe area for British buccaneers. The area provided the perfect destination to stock up on supplies and many sailors visited the cove throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. There is also wildlife to see, including fur seals, sea lions, and different birds.
Visit the incredible black sand beaches of Puerto Egas on Santiago Island
Puerto Egas offers a beautiful black-sand beach colored by the eroded hardened lava. There is also some fantastic wildlife to see around the pools and caves. Enjoy spotting Sally Lightfoot crabs, fur seals, Darwin’s finches, iguanas, and lava lizards. The area was the main reason for human impacts on the island as this was once used as a salt mine. You will be able to see some remnants from this on your visit.
See the beautiful lava field of Sullivan Bay on Santiago Island
Sullivan Bay is another site named after the HMS Beagle first lieutenant Bartholomew James Sullivan. The lava that once flowed here has created some fascinating structures, such as the many different cones. The lava flow occurred just over 200 years ago, but appears to be much more recent. See the plants that are starting to reclaim the area as a fantastic example of primary succession. You can also see marine iguanas, fur seals, and different Galapagos birds.
Enjoy snorkeling around Santiago Island
You can enjoy snorkeling and diving around Santiago Island to see abundant marine life, including fur seals, sea lions, turtles, many different fish, rays, and sharks.
Things to do on • North Seymour Island
North Seymour is a small island located by the airport island of Baltra. While exploring the island, enjoy spotting blue footed boobies, pelicans, frigatebirds, and land iguanas.
See the iconic birdlife of North Seymour Island
The island is home to one of the largest populations of the magnificent frigatebirds. On the trail, see these fantastic animals, the famous blue-footed boobies, and both land and marine iguanas.
Watch the sea lions on the nearby Mosquera Islet from North Seymour Island
Mosquera Islet off North Seymour Island is where you can see one of the largest populations of sea lions on the Galapagos. Mosquera Islet is a flat islet between North Seymour and the nearby Baltra Island. The most popular attraction of Mosquera are the sea lions, but you can also see some different Galapagos birds.
See Flamingo Lagoon near Bachas Beach on North Seymour Island
Flamingo Lagoon on North Seymour Island, as its name would suggest, is a fantastic place to see flamingoes on the Galapagos Islands. The lagoon is small and the flamingoes visit the body of water to feed. Bachas beach itself is also a great place to snorkel in the welcoming water. Because it’s located nearby, this is one of the most popular day trips from Santa Cruz Island.
Things to do on • Marchena Island
Although Marchena Island has no visitor landing sites, the waters surrounding the island are excellent for snorkelling and diving.
Scuba dive at Punta Espejo and Punta Mejía near Marchana Island
Marchana Island itself is off limits to Galapagos Islands visitors, however, you can enjoy some fantastic snorkeling and scuba diving at Punta Espejo and Punta Mejía nearby. Enjoy spotting different shark species, such as hammerheads and rays, Moray eels, sea lions, and dolphins.
Things to do on • Pinta Island
Pinta Island is another small Galapagos Island. However, Pinta was very well known because this was once the home of Lonesome George, the most famous animal of the Galapagos. Despite Pinta Island having no visitor sites, you can see a diversity of wildlife in the surrounding water. Spot marine iguanas, fur seals, and different fish.
Enjoy diving at Punta Neros near Pinta Island
As another island off limits to Galapagos Islands visitors, the nearest dive site near Pinta Island is Punta Neros. See Moray eels, sea lions, turtles, and red-lipped batfish.
Things to do on • Pinzón Island
Pinzón Island is located in the middle of the Galapagos archipelago and there are no facilities for visitors. In fact, you will need to acquire a special permit to set foot on the island. However, there are some fantastic dive sites nearby.
Dive No Name Rock near Pinzón Island
Near Pinzón Island, you can enjoy diving No Name Rock to see Galapagos sharks, hammerheads, rays, and other wildlife.
Things to do on • Rábida Island
Rábida Island is a fantastic island for wildlife. Although one of the smaller Galapagos Islands, you can see a high diversity of birds including pelicans, penguins, Darwin’s finches, and more. You can also spot the other iconic wildlife, such as sea lions, marine iguanas, and sea turtles.
Visit the beach on Rábida Island to see marine iguanas and sea lions
The beach at Rábida Island is a fantastic place to see some iconic wildlife. The beaches here are made with red sand and often have lounging sea lions and marine iguanas. The color comes from the amount of iron within the eroded volcanic rock.
Walk the short trail on Rábida Island to find different birds
There is one short trail on Rábida Island to enjoy some beautiful scenery, admire the unique colored sands, and to see a diversity of birds. Spot the pelicans, Darwin’s finches, flycatchers, and others. The plant life is also interesting to see.
Dive the area around Rábida Island
You can dive the area around Rábida Island to see sea lions, sea turtles, and rays. The area offers one of the best snorkeling and dive areas on the Galapagos with many crevices where a diversity of species can be seen.
Things to do on • Wolf Island
Wolf Island is another of the Galapagos Islands off limits to land visits. However, you can visit some fascinating dive sites to see different marine life.
About the Author: Ash Card is a frequent visitor to the Tropics and has a passion for helping visitors get the best experiences from tropical locations. Ash is a contributor to both TourTheTropics.com and ThinkJungle.com writing about tropical destinations, rainforests and wildlife. Feel free to contact Ash for tour help in the tropics. When not helping tourists with tours and info, Ash can be found salsa-ing the night away or posing near waterfalls.
Dive El Derrumbe near Wolf Island
You can dive El Derrumbe near Wolf Island to see rays, hammerhead sharks, Galapagos sharks, sea turtles, and a diversity of fish. Occasionally, divers are even lucky enough to see the giant whale sharks.