Santa Cruz, Isabela & San Cristobal
Galapagos Island Hopping Tour
Travel through the Galapagos with this 8-day program that covers the highlights of the three islands Santa Cruz, Isabela and San Cristobal. The program includes must do excursions to the most astonishing destinations as well as instructions for self-guided activities during your free time. It’s designed to discover as much incredible Galapagos wildlife – both on land as under water at spectacular snorkeling sites – as possible, without having to worry about your accommodation and finding your way around.
Day 1 – Arrival, Twin Craters, Giant Tortoise Reserve and Charles Darwin Station (L)
Upon arrival at Baltra airport you will be met with our English speaking guide. At the airport you will first take a shuttle transfer to the Itabaca Channel. A short ferry ride will get you to the other side of the channel in a couple of minutes. From here you will be brought in private transportation to Puerto Ayora, the town of Santa Cruz island.
On the way you will make a short stop at the Twin Craters, a pair of collapsed craters that were formed when the land sunk down into empty magma chambers from ancient volcanoes. You might also encounter some birdlife here. Afterwards you will visit the El Chato Reserve where you can observe the giant tortoises in the wild that are endemic to the Galapagos. Near the ranch you will also have the opportunity to see a lava tunnel from inside. These tunnels were formed as the outer skin of molten lava solidified while the liquid magma continued flowing during a volcanic eruption many years ago. You will have lunch on the private ranch in the El Chato Reserve, before continuing the drive to the town Puerto Ayora. During a guided visit at the Charles Darwin Research Station you can observe more giant tortoises and a couple of yellow land iguana in captivation and you will learn more about the islands’ conservation efforts.
Day 2 – Tortuga Bay and speedboat to Isabela (B)
This morning you will have time off to spend on your own. We highly recommend a visit to Tortuga Bay. This white-sand beach gets its name from the black sea turtles that lay their eggs here. Marine iguanas, crabs and birds can also be spotted here and it is an excellent site to enjoy a relaxing swim. It takes about an hour to walk from the main port on the boulevard in Puerto Ayora to get to Tortuga Bay.
In the afternoon you will take the speedboat to Isabela island, which takes about 2,5 hours. After checking in at your hotel, you might want to visit the Flamingo Lagoon near town, which is the largest coastal lagoon found in the Galapagos and is one of the main reproductive sites for the grand majority of flamingos.
Day 3 – Las Tintoreras and Concha Perla (B)
Today you will go on an excursion to Las Tintoreras. This islet is home to a great variety of wildlife. Its turquoise, crystalline waters are inhabited by white-tip reef sharks, Galapagos penguins, marine turtles and sea lions. One of its beaches surrounded by mangroves is one of the few sites where marine iguanas can reproduce successfully. After a visit on land you will have the opportunity afterwards to go snorkeling nearby the islet to see more of the incredible underwater wildlife from up close.
In the afternoon you will have time off to spend on your own. We highly recommend a visit to Concha Perla, a natural pool with crystal clear and calm sea water (mainly at low tide), that is ideal for swimming and snorkeling with sea lions, marine iguanas, sea turtles, a wide range of fish and occasionally penguins and stingrays. The last part of the route up to this snorkel site – that is about 15 minutes walking from town – consists of a wooden walkway where many sea lions like to take a rest. If you don’t have your own snorkel equipment, you can rent these in any of the many tour agencies in town.
Day 4 – Wetlands, Wall of Tears and speedboat to Santa Cruz (B)
This morning you will have time off to visit the Wall of Tears. It’s recommended to rent a bike as this site is about 8 km away from town. As you travel towards the Wall of Tears you will pass several beautiful beaches where you can stop and observe many marine iguanas. You will also pass the Wetlands where there are short trails you can take to explore the area and see various lava formations. On your ride you will likely see giant tortoises and many Galapagos sea birds. At the end of the road you’ll find the Wall of Tears, an important historical site of Isabela island. From 1945-1959, a penal colony hosted prisoners who were forced to build this wall, stone by stone, in isolation. This now historical site, towering at 25 m high, took the lives of thousands during its construction. Locals claim to hear cries emanating from the heavy energy surrounding the site. Another option is to visit the Giant Tortoise Breeding Centre in Puerto Villamil where you can see baby tortoises and learn about the important Galapagos Islands breeding program.
In the afternoon you will take the speedboat to Santa Cruz island, which takes about 2,5 hours. After checking in at your hotel, you’ll have the rest of the evening off.
Day 5 – Bartolome, North Seymour, South Plaza or Santa Fe (B,L)
Today you will go on a full day excursion to one of these four special uninhabited islands. Which island you will visit will be communicated with you before departure and depends on availability. Besides a visit on land you will also get the opportunity to go snorkeling during the tour to discover the underwater wildlife of Galapagos. A box lunch will be served on board.
Home of the famous Pinnacle Rock, Bartolome consists of an extinct volcano with a variety of red, orange, black and even green volcanic formations. A trail of stairs leads to the summit of the volcano, boasting one of the best views of the islands. The beach is perfect for snorkeling and possible sightings of the Galapagos penguin.
Galapagos sea lions, blue-footed boobies and magnificent frigate birds are abundant on North Seymour Island. The island was formed by a series of submarine lava containing layers of sediment that were uplifted by tectonic activity. The island is characterized by its arid vegetation zone. Land and marine iguanas can also be encountered here.
This small island with steep cliffs was formed by rising lava and is now covered by Opuntia cacti. It is also home to one of the largest sea lion colonies as well as colorful yellow and red land iguanas. The most characteristic plant is Sesuvium. During the rainy season its color is a greenish to yellowish tone and in the dry season (end of June through January) a bright red.
Santa Fe is home to the small picturesque bay and anchorage on the island’s northeast coast. The bay has two visitor trails, one leading to a scenic viewpoint atop a cliff, and the other spanning from a small beach to a tall prickly pear cactus forest. You might also encounter land iguanas on this island.
Day 6 – Las Grietas and speedboat to San Cristobal (B)
This morning you will have time off to spend on your own. We highly recommend a visit to Las Grietas, a narrow crack between tall lava rock walls where you can take a swim. The path that leads you to up to Las Grietas passes by the small white sand beach Playa de los Alemanes, a salt lake and interesting cacti. To reach the trail you will first have to take a short water taxi ride from the port in town. Once back in Puerto Ayora you’ll have time to check out the little fish market on the boulevard, where fishmongers cut and sell their wares. Chances are that you’ll see pelicans and sea lions here hoping to catch a free fishy snack.
In the afternoon you will take the speedboat to San Cristobal island, which takes about 2,5 hours. Upon arrival in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, chances are high that you will be welcomed by many sea lions that are resting on a small part of the beach right next to the port. After checking in at your hotel, you’ll have the rest of the evening off.
Day 7 – Kicker Rock or San Cristobal Island Tour (B,L)
Today you can choose between a full day snorkel tour to Kicker Rock or an excursion on the island of San Cristobal itself. You can let us know your preference when booking your trip. A (box) lunch is included during today’s tour.
This striking rock formation is located a couple hours off the western shore of San Cristobal. Jutting out of the water, the rocks stand vertically at hundreds of feet above the ocean divided by a small channel. Blue-footed boobies, Nazca boobies and frigate birds often rest here. It’s also the perfect snorkel spot as you could encounter different sharks, tropical fish, turtles, manta rays and sometimes even hammerhead sharks here. After the snorkel activity you will visit one of the nearby beautiful remote beaches before heading back to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.
San Cristobal Island Tour
During the visit of the highlands of San Cristobal, your will first stop at the El Junco lagoon, a small lake located in an ancient crater. The lake is frequented by frigate birds that come to bath in the lake to wash the salt of their wings. Other bird species that you can see here are the San Cristobal mockingbird, white-cheeked pintail and Bahamas ducks. At the breeding center La Galapaguera you will encounter more giant tortoises at different stages in life that walk freely around here. During the walk at Puerto Chino beach you can enjoy the vegetation of rare Opuntia cactus trees and possibly Darwin’s fiches, blue footed boobies and pelicans. In town you will pay a visit to the Interpretation Center, where you can learn about the geological and natural history of the Galapagos islands, as well as the efforts to protect its uniqueness. The trip will conclude with a walk from Playa Punta Carola to the lookout point of Tijeretas Hill, that serves as a nesting spot for two species of frigate birds.
Day 8 – Departure (B)
Enjoy your last morning on the Galapagos Islands strolling around the boulevard or nearby beach Playa Mann. You will be picked up from your hotel and brought to the San Cristobal airport, from where you will fly back to the mainland of Ecuador.
|Budget accommodation||Standard accommodation||Comfort accommodation|
|Price per person
(based on 2 passengers)
|Price per person
(based on 1 passenger)
Take a look at the photos of our Budget, Standard and Comfort accommodations.
Other Galapagos Island Hopping Tours
- Meals as indicated in the itinerary (“B”=Breakfast, “L”=Lunch)
- Shared group excursions as described in the itinerary
- Bilingual local naturalist guide during excursions
- Snorkeling equipment during excursions
- Transfer in on the first day in private transportation with an English speaking guide
- Transfer out on the last day in private transportation with a Spanish speaking driver
- Itabaca Channel ferry
- Transportation by public speedboat between islands
- Information package with clear instructions for self-guided activities and other helpful tips
- Flight from/to Galapagos (around $500 p.p.)
- Galapagos National Park entrance fee ($100 p.p.)
- Migration Control Card ($20 p.p.)
- Isabela dock fee ($10 p.p.)
- Transportation between your hotel and port when travelling between islands (we recommend to take a taxi; some hotels are at walking distance from the port)
- Water taxis (about $1 p.p.)
- Personal expenses
This is a partially Shared Tour / Group Tour and partially Private Tour. This means that there will be other people besides yourself (or your travel party) taking part in most of the excursions of this program. As every traveler is following their own itinerary on the Galapagos the group composition during your excursions can vary from day to day. Your airport transfers on the islands will always be on a private basis for you (or your travel party) only.
This tour can start on any day of the week.
You will be picked up from Baltra airport (GPS) upon arrival.
Make sure to buy a flight on the first day that flies into Baltra Island (GPS) and flies out of San Cristobal Island (SCY). Your arrival flight can arrive any time, but it’s recommended to book a flight that arrives between 9:00 AM and 12:30 PM at Baltra Island to enjoy the activities on the first day on a nice pace. Your departure flight can leave any time of the day, but it’s recommended to book a flight that leaves a little later in the morning / afternoon, to enjoy your last morning on the Galapagos.
What to bring?
- Sunscreen and sunglasses
- Hat or lightweight scarf
- Layered clothing
- Bathing suit and towel
- Hiking shoes
- Motion sickness pills
- Insect repellent
- Reusable water bottle