Get ready for 13 days of active excursions and wildlife outings across three major Galápagos Islands. You'll hop around the most popular sites on this volcanic archipelago as you enjoy snorkeling adventures, cycling, and encounters with exotic wildlife. Tour a coffee farm on Isla Santa Cruz, rappel into a dormant volcano on Isla Isabel, and continue to San Cristóbal for more diving, kayaking, and outdoor fun.


  • Visit a giant tortoise research station on Isla Santa Cruz
  • Tour organic coffee farms and cycle to island viewpoints
  • Snorkel at some of the best dive spots in the Galápagos
  • Spend time with sea lions, penguins, and other exotic wildlife

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive on Isla Santa Cruz, Cycle & Kayak Isla Santa Cruz
Day 2 Day Trip to Organic Coffee Farm Isla Santa Cruz
Day 3 Highland Tour & Charles Darwin Station Isla Santa Cruz
Day 4 Discover Isla Pinzón & La Fé Isla Santa Cruz
Day 5 Transfer to Isla Isabela, Optional Activities Isla Isabela
Day 6 Rappel & Cycle on Isla Isabela Isla Isabela
Day 7 Los Túneles Snorkeling Tour Isla Isabela
Day 8 Isla Isabela Kayak Tour Isla Isabela
Day 9 Transfer to Santa Cruz, Boat Tour & Grottoes Isla Santa Cruz
Day 10 Day Trip to an Uninhabited Island Isla Santa Cruz
Day 11 Transfer to Isla San Cristóbal, Optional Activities Isla San Cristóbal
Day 12 Day Trip to Isla Española & Wildlife Tour Isla San Cristóbal
Day 13 Isla Lobos Wildlife Encounter, Transfer to Isla Baltra, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive on Isla Santa Cruz, Cycle & Kayak

Enjoy a little kayaking at Garrapatero Beach

Welcome to the Galápagos Islands! Known as the "enchanted islands," there are 13 major isles in this volcanic archipelago located 603 miles (972 km) off the coast of Ecuador. While there are great beaches here, the main draw is the wildlife. Few ecosystems on earth are as diverse as the Galápagos, and none have contributed more to humans' understanding of natural history and evolution—after all, the animals of the Galápagos first inspired a 22-year-old Charles Darwin.

You'll arrive at the main airport on the islet of Baltra, located at the tip of Isla Santa Cruz. After crossing by ferry, a driver will pick you up for the hour ride south to Puerto Ayora, the main town in Santa Cruz. After checking in to your hotel, you'll head out and stretch your legs on some fun activities around this scenic island. First, enjoy a bike ride and walk around the Cerro Mesa Ecological Reserve, a natural habitat for the Galápagos' famed giant tortoises. Also, the reserve's location on a hill at 1,607 feet (490 m) above sea level offers some incredible viewpoints over the coast.

Then you'll ride down to the lovely Garrapatero Beach and enjoy a picnic lunch on the white sands. After eating, take a kayak ride along the coastal mangroves. Keep an eye out for exotic birds like flamingoes and mallards. You'll return to your hotel in Puerto Ayora at the end of the day.

Day 2: Day Trip to Organic Coffee Farm

Visit a working coffee farm in the highlands of Santa Cruz
You're in for a treat, as your driver will take you into the highlands to an organic coffee operation this morning. Lava Java is an ecotourism initiative that began on an abandoned farm. After discovering stunted coffee bushes on the property, the owners returned the endangered plants to health and production capacity. The result was a working coffee farm that's also a haven for Galápagos birds and other animals. On a visit here, you'll tour the fields and learn about the synchronicity between the environment, animals, and coffee plants, as well as sample some of the best organic brew in the region.

Day 3: Highland Tour & Charles Darwin Station

See dozens of giant tortoises in the wild 

After enjoying a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, you'll head back into the highlands of Santa Cruz for a half-day nature excursion. It's a great opportunity to spot giant tortoises roaming free in the wild. You'll see dozens of these animals (which can live over 150 years) and walk right alongside them. Around midday, you'll enjoy a delicious lunch at a local farm before returning to Puerto Ayora.

Later, you'll visit the famous Charles Darwin Station. Scientists from all over the world come to this nonprofit to meet and work together on environmental projects such as water analysis, animal protection, and the effects of tourism on nature. It's also a center for conservation where Galápagos tortoises are raised before being released into the wild. A special part of the tour is visiting the breeding center, where you'll get to view live baby tortoises. There's also an educational aspect in which you'll learn how these animals have adapted to the environments of the various islands.

Day 4: Discover Isla Pinzón & La Fé

Explore the underwater world of the Galápagos 

Leave early in the morning for a full-day snorkeling tour around the islets off the coast of Santa Cruz. At the marina in Puerto Ayora, you'll board a boat and head west to Penguin Bay on Isla Pinzón. This is one of the many great diving destinations in the Galápagos, as it's home to a vast array of marine life, and the clear waters offer excellent visibility. Here, you'll strap on your snorkel gear and hop in the water, where you'll swim with sea lions, whitetip reef sharks, sea turtles, rays, penguins, and other exotic marine animals.

Afterward, you'll travel 30 minutes around the island to Playa La Fé, an unspoiled white sand beach fronting crystalline waters. Here, you'll disembark the boat and can spend time sunbathing, swimming, and generally relaxing on the beach. You'll also get to do more snorkeling right off the boat. A bonus is that the tour is run by fishermen, which means the lunch served on this tour is fresh-caught sashimi. After eating, you'll return to Puerto Ayora and have the rest of the day free.

Day 5: Transfer to Isla Isabela, Optional Activities

Lava outcroppings on the beach at Puerto Villamil

After breakfast, you'll meet your guide at the marina in Puerto Ayora and hop on a speedboat for the two-hour ride west to Isabela, the largest island in the Galápagos. You'll arrive in the port village of Puerto Villamil, where you'll check in to your hotel. You can then spend the remainder of the day however you like. Perhaps rent a bicycle and ride to various viewpoints, or spend the day relaxing, snorkeling in the mangrove lagoon at Concha Perla, or sunbathing on Puerto Villamil's long white-sand beach.

You can also visit the infamous El Muro de las Lágrimas (Wall of Tears), a 65-foot (25 m) high stone wall constructed by inmates of the island's penal colony from 1945 to 1959. The forced labor used to build the wall reportedly resulted in thousands of deaths. According to local myth, a heavy energy surrounds this wall, and some even say it emits cries and wails. At the end of the day, you'll head to one of the best waterfront restaurants on the island, where dinner reservations await. Enjoy a lovely meal before returning to your hotel for a good night's sleep.

Day 6: Rappel & Cycle on Isla Isabela 

Descend into Trillizos for a fun morning of rappelling

Your guide will pick you up early this morning for the drive a few miles north from Puerto Villamil to the Trillizos volcano. Upon arrival here, you'll embark on a short hike to the crater, where the abseiling (rappelling) adventure starts. After strapping into a harness, you'll descend 493 feet (150 m) through a steam vent deep into this dormant volcano. These internal chambers are a marvel of geology, as here you'll see various rocks, minerals, and incredible quartz formations. 

After the volcano abseiling adventure, you'll return to Puerto Villamil for lunch. Then you'll hop on a bicycle for a ride around the island, taking you to scenic viewpoints and incredible landmarks. These include the Mango Viewpoint, which overlooks the south of Isabela; Cuevas del Sucre, a group of lava tunnels and caves you can explore; and Campo Duro, an ecolodge on the slope of the Sierra Negra volcano. Here you can stroll amid the farms and orchards and spot Galápagos tortoises roaming about. At the end of the day, you'll return to your hotel.

Day 7: Los Túneles Snorkeling Tour

Enjoy a speedboat outing to Los Túneles for excellent snorkeling

Get ready for more wildlife encounters with a thrilling excursion to Los Túneles, one of the best snorkeling spots on Isla Isabela. From the dock at Puerto Villamil, you'll board a speedboat for the one-hour ride along the coast to the Cabo Rosa lava tunnels, locally known as Los Túneles. The unique geological formations at this coastal site are the result of lava flows that have created natural archways and tunnels both underneath and above the water.

Upon arrival, you'll put on your snorkeling equipment and swim through this network of channels, a haven for exotic marine life. In the shallow waters, you can spot tropical fish, rays, turtles, seahorses, and whitetip reef sharks. Also, watch for penguins and blue-footed boobies hanging out on the rocks. At the end of the experience, you'll return to your hotel and have the rest of the day free.

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Day 8: Isla Isabela Kayak Tour

Kayak in Puerto Villamil
Go kayaking off the coast of Isla Isabela
Leave early in the morning from your hotel in Puerto Villamil and make your way down to the beach. Here, you'll grab a paddle and set off on a kayaking adventure along the southeastern coast of Isabela. This is a fun and scenic ride with stunning views of the island's coastline, and you'll also do plenty of wildlife spotting. Examples of wildlife you'll see while on tour include marine iguanas, sea lions, and Galápagos penguins. At the end, you'll return to your hotel and have the rest of the day free to relax.

Day 9: Transfer to Isla Santa Cruz, Boat Tour & Grottoes

Swim beneath the cliffs of Las Grietas

In the morning, you'll head to the dock and board a boat for the two-hour ride back to Puerto Ayora on Isla Santa Cruz. Upon arrival, you'll check in to your hotel and will have the rest of the morning free. 

After lunch, you'll hop on a smaller boat for a six-hour tour outside Puerto Ayora. During this cruise along the coast, you'll first stop at La Lobería, a small islet named for its great colony of sea lions. Here, you can dive in and snorkel around these friendly animals as well as schools of tropical fish. Then it's on to Shark Channel, where you'll see blue-footed boobies and can swim with reef sharks (not to worry, as there's never been a fatal shark attack in the Galápagos).

Next, return to land and the Canal del Amor. The "love channel" is a romantic grotto of turquoise waters lined with volcanic rocks and home to turtles and tropical fish. After snorkeling here, you'll take a brisk 10-minute hike to see marine iguanas in their natural habitat. Lastly, you'll head back toward Puerto Ayora and Las Grietas, a swimming hole comprised of three pools of crystalline water flanked by large cliffs. After swimming, you'll return to your hotel in Puerto Ayora.

Day 10: Day Trip to an Uninhabited Island

Isla Bartolomé
Experience untouched islands like Isla Bartolomé on today's tour
After breakfast, you'll take a full-day boat tour to an uninhabited island around Isla Santa Cruz. Depending on the permit granted by the park authorities, you'll get to visit either Santa Fé, Plaza SurPlaza Norte, Seymour Norte, or Bartolomé. To experience one of these isles in their unspoiled state, home only to endemic wildlife, you'll see the Galápagos the same way Darwin did on his arrival in 1835. After exploring some wildlife habitats, enjoy lunch on the boat's deck and then cruise back to Puerto Ayora.   

Day 11: Transfer to Isla San Cristóbal, Optional Activities

Soak up the sun alongside the locals on San Cristóbal

Catch a speedboat for the 2.5-hour ride east from Puerto Ayora to Isla San Cristóbal today. Comprised of four extinct volcanoes, this island is famous for its excellent dive sites, long white-sand beaches, and diverse wildlife. After checking in to your hotel, you'll have the rest of the day free.

Perhaps take a stroll along the main waterfront area at Naufragio (Wreck) Bay. It was here in 1835 that the English naturalist Charles Darwin first landed in the Galápagos and compiled data that he later incorporated into his scientific work, "On the Origin of Species" (1859). For relaxation, spend time accompanied by sea lions as you swim and sunbathe on the beaches at Playa Carola or Playa Mann. For something more active, take a boat to Punta Pitt and hike along the rugged volcanic landscapes. 

Day 12: Day Trip to Isla Española & Wildlife Tour

A blue-footed booby on the southernmost island of Española
Board a boat this morning for the two-hour ride to Isla Española, the southernmost island in the Galápagos. This uninhabited island is home to some of the most impressive animals in the archipelago, including the waved albatross, Española iguanas, blue-footed and Nazca boobies, mockingbirds, lava lizards, and tortoises. Once you arrive, you'll see these animals on a two-hour hike, plus you'll head west to Gardner Bay to do a bit of snorkeling with sea lion pups and marine iguanas. After lunch on the boat, you'll return to San Cristóbal in the late afternoon.

Day 13: Isla Lobos Wildlife Encounter, Transfer to Isla Baltra, Depart

Wildlife Encountering at Lobos Island
Experience unforgettable wildlife encounters at Isla Lobos
Celebrate your final morning in the Galápagos with a boat trip to Isla Lobos. Literally translating to "Sea Lion Island," this islet off Isla San Cristóbal is appropriately named due to the large colony of sea lions here. It's a great place to observe sea lion pups in the wild, as you'll see when you stroll the island's white-sand beaches. But sea lions aren't the only exotic wildlife—it's also a haven for fur seals, blue-footed boobies, and frigatebirds. In the water, you'll find trumpet fish, rays, and whitetip reef sharks.
After spending time with the animals, you'll head back to Isla San Cristóbal to say your goodbyes and pack your things, then meet your driver and make your way to the airport for your departing flight. Adíos!

More Great Galápagos Islands Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to the Galápagos? Check out these other Galápagos itineraries, explore other ways to spend 13 days in the Galápagos, or learn about the best time to visit the Galápagos.


Map of Active Galapágos: Santa Cruz, Isabela & San Cristóbal - 13 Days
Map of Active Galapágos: Santa Cruz, Isabela & San Cristóbal - 13 Days