With five days to spend in the Galápagos Islands, travelers have a variety of options. Choose a land-based tour that takes you to the archipelago's highlights for outdoor adventures and bird-watching, or go on a cruise that focuses on a particular interest area, like nature or wildlife. If you're certified, opt for a diving trip with daily excursions underwater to see reef sharks, sea turtles, seahorses, and more. Whichever itinerary you choose, you're sure to enjoy the natural beauty of this magnificent island chain. Read on to learn more about your options.

Itinerary #1: Highlights of the Galápagos

See the best of the Galápagos archipelago on this five-day trip around the islands, where you'll have the chance to encounter giant tortoises in the wild, take sailing trips to various coves, go snorkeling, and even swim with sea lions.

Sea lions on the beach
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive on Isla Santa Cruz & Free Day Santa Cruz
Day 2 Transfer to Puerto Ayora & Visit Charles Darwin Station Puerto Ayora
Day 3 Free Morning & Afternoon Boat Tour around Santa Cruz Puerto Ayora
Day 4 Puerto Ayora Free Day Puerto Ayora
Day 5 Transfer to Airport on Isla Baltra & Depart  

Welcome to the Galápagos! The adventure begins with your arrival on Isla Santa Cruz. If you're tired after the long flight, feel free to spend the rest of the day relaxing in your hotel or stretch your legs with a walk on the beach. The next day, your guide will drive you to the Santa Cruz highlands and Charles Darwin Research Station. Here you'll learn about conservation efforts on the Galápagos and get your first glimpse of the famous wildlife, such as land iguanas and giant tortoises. Afterward, check into your hotel in Santa Cruz's main port town of Puerto Ayora and enjoy a relaxing evening.

Feel free to sleep in on Day 3 and relax throughout the morning. Be sure to eat a hearty breakfast, though, because, in the afternoon, you're off on a boat tour around Santa Cruz. Zipping around the bays and coves, you'll do some snorkeling and swim with sea lion cubs. Day 4 is another free day to spend however you choose. Perhaps take a stroll through Puerto Ayora or a hike around Tortuga Bay. The scenery here is stunning, as turquoise waters front long white-sand beaches filled with sun-bathing sea lions. The next day transfer to the airport at Isla Baltra for your flight home. Learn more

Itinerary #2: Diving in the Galápagos

Divers will delight in this underwater adventure that takes you deep into the waters around different islands to swim with sharks, rays, sea turtles, and other exotic marine life, such as parrotfish and clownfish.

Diving in the Galápagos
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive on Isla Santa Cruz & Visit Charles Darwin Station Puerto Ayora
Day 2 Go Diving Near Isla Floreana Puerto Ayora
Day 3 See Galápagos Sharks Underwater at Gordon Rocks Puerto Ayora
Day 4 Dive Offshore on Two Different Islands Puerto Ayora
Day 5 Transfer to Airport, Depart  

On the first day of the trip, you'll stay on dry land. Arrive on Isla Santa Cruz and visit Charles Darwin Station, where you'll get an overview of the islands' history and learn about conservation efforts. Then prepare for the next day's underwater adventures. The diving begins on Day 2 when you plunge into the sea offshore of Isla Floreana. Choose between three dive sites—Punta Cormorant, Champion, and Enderby—where you'll see unique marine life, including the endemic red-lipped batfish and the birdlike Galápagos Sea Robin. Return to Puerto Ayora to relax in the evening, as you'll do each day of this itinerary.

The next day's diving adventure takes you to Gordon Rocks. Here you'll spot Galápagos sharks, hammerheads, the weird and wonderful oceanic sunfish (mola), giant sea turtles, various kinds of rays, reef fish, Galápagos eels, and barracuda. On the last full day of the trip, you'll dive at two different sites: Seymour Channel, a popular spot for shark-viewing, and Mosquera Islet, where you'll see Galápagos eels popping their heads out of the sandy floor. Enjoy a final dinner in one of Puerto Ayora's lovely restaurants before catching a flight out the next day. Learn more

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Itinerary #3: Galápagos Nature Cruise

Sail around the Galápagos on a catamaran, viewing rare wildlife on and around rocky islands, quiet coves, and pristine bays, on this nature-focused five-day cruise.

Flamingoes flying over Elizabeth Bay
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive on Isla Santa Cruz & Tour Highlands Puerto Ayora
Day 2 Hike & View Wildlife on Las Tintoreras  Isabela
Day 3 Explore Elizabeth Bay  Cruise Ship
Day 4 Birdwatch at Punta Espinoza  Fernandina
Day 5 Visit Bachas Beach & Transfer to Airport  

The trip kicks off on Isla Santa Cruz. Instead of the usual activities, this adventure begins with an off-the-beaten-path driving tour of the highlands to see volcanic craters and giant tortoises in their natural habitat. Then it's time to board a catamaran and embark on a cruise. The next day, you'll drop anchor at Tintoreras Islet to visit hundreds of tortoises at Arnaldo Tupiza Breeding Center and hike through mangroves and wetlands home to exotic migratory birds.

Continue on to Moreno Point and Elizabeth Bay. Within craters formed by lava flows exist a rich variety of marine life, including white-tip reef sharks and sea turtles. The region is also a habitat for pink flamingoes and blue-footed boobies. You'll see more rare birds on Day 4, including flightless cormorants at Espinoza Point and penguins at Tagus Cove. Hike to a lookout point over Darwin Lake, a body of water that's saltier than the sea. Finish the trip with a relaxing morning on Bachas Beach—look out for green turtles and marine iguanas!—before the trip comes to a close. Learn more

Itinerary #4: Wildlife of the Galápagos

Focus on the flora and fauna of the Galápagos archipelago as you boat, hike, and swim around the islands on this five-day trip, spotting frigate birds, blue-footed boobies, penguins, flamingoes, and giant tortoises along the way.

Sea lion walking on Las Tintoreras, Galápagos
Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive on Isla San Cristóbal & Visit Interpretation Center  Cruise Ship
Day 2 Birdwatch at Gardner Bay & Suarez Point  Isla Española
Day 3 Hike to a Lagoon & Snorkel Near Isla Floreana Floreana
Day 4 Visit Charles Darwin Station & Explore Eden Islet Puerto Ayora
Day 5 Boat on the Itabaca Channel & Depart for Airport   

Begin your journey on Isla San Cristóbal. Visit the Interpretation Center for an overview of the islands' flora and fauna, then see frigate birds nesting at Tijeretas Hill, followed by visiting the sea lion colony at La Lobería. Then board your boat to start the island cruise.

On Day 2, you'll enjoy the gorgeous coral beach of Gardner Bay and see mockingbirds and finches at nearby Osborn Islet. Later, you'll view the Galápagos albatross, Nazca boobies, blue-footed boobies, and swallow-tailed gulls at Suarez Point. After a detour to the oldest "post office" in the Pacific, the wildlife tour continues at Cormorant Point. Hike to a lagoon filled with flamingoes, then see green turtles nesting on a white-sand beach. You'll also snorkel with sea turtles, reef fish, and sea lions at Devil's Crown.

On the last full day of the trip, you'll tour the Charles Darwin Center. Then move on to Ballena Bay or Eden Islet for snorkeling, kayaking, or riding in a glass-bottomed boat. It's a wonderful way to finish the trip! Learn more

More Great Galápagos Islands Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to the Galápagos? Check out these other Galápagos itineraries, with island-hopping cruises, land-based trips, and best-of tours to experience the highlights. 


Map of 5 Days in the Galápagos Islands - 4 Unique Itinerary Ideas
Map of 5 Days in the Galápagos Islands - 4 Unique Itinerary Ideas