The Galapagos Islands are a diverse set of islands off the coast of Ecuador full of distinct wildlife, idyllic beaches, and incomparable visitor sites that offer a range of interesting activities—from hiking, to snorkeling, close-ups with pre-historic looking animals, kayaking and treks across volcanic islands—to name a few of the endless possibilities. This one-of-a-kind destination is a must when visiting Ecuador.

 Puerto Villamil at Isabela IslandHighlights

  • Enjoy outstanding snorkeling in the Galapagos marine sanctuary
  • Visit one the most pristine, unspoiled National Parks in the world
  • Experience wildlife and scenery like you never have before
  • Get up close and personal with the fearless animals
  • Take a cruise to the best islands with at least two different stops per day
  • Go island hopping to four main towns with daily excursions to nearby sites


The Galapagos Islands are a distinct group of volcanic islands made up of 18 main islands, 3 smaller islands, and 107 islets. They are located on the equator off the west coast of South America, 973 km (605mi) from mainland Ecuador, and are spread out over 220 km (137 miles). Due to the distance between islands, the best way to visit the islands is with a cruise of varying lengths from 5-8-15 days. Endless highlights make this unparalleled universe a must-have on your bucket list. In addition to the above water places to visit mentioned below, the Galapagos are also a great destination for scuba diving

#1 Devil’s Crown (Floreana Island)

Devils Crown
Sea lions swimming underneath snorkelers

Snorkeling aficionados will be delighted by this volcanic crater, an underwater paradise, which is home to an array of fascinating marine species such as Tiger Snake Eels, White-tipped and Hammerhead sharks, Eagle Rays, sea turtles and sea lions.

#2 Bartolome Island

Bartolome Island

Climb the moonlike terrain to experience one of the most picturesque views of the Galapagos. The beach to the south is the nesting site for green turtles, whereas to the north you can see penguins near Pinnacle Rock.

#3 Punta Moreno (Isabela Island)

 Boat in port at Isabela Island
Punta Moreno (© Andando Tours)

This lava covered visitor points sometimes goes under the radar, but upon closer exploration, a whole new world of ducks, flamingoes, and more come to life. Great blue herons and flightless cormorants are also frequently found. Trekking along this pahoehoe lava makes for an exciting adventure.

#4 Elizabeth Bay (Isabela Island)

Elizabeth Bay
Elizabeth Bay (© Andando Tours)

This cove provides for arguably the finest kayaking in Galapagos. As bigger ships are not allowed, you can kayak through the Bay, meeting penguins, marine iguanas and be stunned by the exceptionally large mangrove trees.

#5 Urbina Bay (Isabela Island)

Urbina Bay
Urbina Bay (© Andando Tours)

Located at the foot of Isabela’s volcano, you will find all kinds of interesting artifacts, from coral to marine skeletons, as well as some of the biggest marine iguanas in all the islands.

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#6 Punta Espinosa (Fernandina Island)

Punta Espinosa
Punta Espinosa (© Andando Tours)

Bright-red Sally lightfoot crabs scatter over the lava outcrops, which is also home to the endemic lava cactus. You will marvel at the playful sea lions, whales, dolphins, and at low tide, spotted eagle rays and turtles can be found. Also one of the top snorkeling spots on the islands and perhaps on of the most beautiful places to visit on the islands.

#7 Punta Vicente Roca (Isabela Island)

Punta Vicente Roca
Punta Vicente Roca (© Andando Tours)

This visitor site is a wet landing for snorkeling; here you can swim through underwater caves and see the primitive bullhead shark as well as all other kinds of one-of-a-kind marine species.

#8 Buccaneer’s Cove (Santiago Island)

Buccaneer’s Cove
Buccaneer’s Cove (© Andando Tours)

A panga ride to this area where pirates once sought after food, can provide encounters with boobies, sea lions, fur seals and other marine birds, as well as the opportunity for snorkeling.

#9 Darwin Bay (Genovesa Island)

Darwin Bay
Darwin Bay (© Andando Tours)

Bird Lovers will delight at this island where most of Galapagos most iconic birds can be found from different colored boobies to sharped-beak ground finches, and Great Frigate Birds, as well as beautiful views.

#10 Post Office Bay (Floreana Island)

Post office Bay
Post office Bay (© Andando Tours)

An intriguing spot for tourists, which was historically used for communication purposes for whaling boat sailors, who traveled for long periods of time, to send letters to their families. Sailors homeward bound would pick up the letters from Post Office Bay and deliver them for the whalers, who wouldn’t return home until they had filled barrels of whale oil. At Post Office Bay, visitors can sort through thousands of postcards from tourists from around the world or leave your business card for fun.

#11 Rabida Island

Rabida (© Andando Tours)

On this mars-like island, you will have yet another out-of-this-world experience, with excellent bird-watching, featuring some of the rarest bird species on the archipelago, as well as a beautiful red landscape that is due to high iron content and is also covered in Palo Santo trees and prickly pear cacti.

#12 Cerro Dragon (Santa Cruz Island)

Dragon Hill Santa Cruz island Galapagos
Dragon Hill, Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos (© Andando Tours)

A panga ride around the shore will reveal land iguanas, green turtles, sharks, and rays, as well as different migratory birds. Along the 3km (2mi) trail you will travel through dry vegetation to a small hill, which is home to the exotic land iguanas. Don’t miss the lagoons full of flamingoes as well.

#13 Charles Darwin Station (Santa Cruz Island)

Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin (© Andando Tours)

At Charles Darwin Station you will see science at work; wander through various trails to discover the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center, once home to Lonesome George before his passing in 2012. A fascinating project is also underway to bring the Pinto species of giant tortoises back from extinction.

#14 Plaza Sur Island

Plaza Sur Island
Plaza Sur Island (© Andando Tours)

This small islet off the eastern coast of Santa Cruz is home to a large sea lion colony, diverse bird species as well as Nazca and blue-footed boobies, iguanas, and cactus trees. If you’re lucky to be traveling to Plaza Sur Island from May to December, you will have the pleasure of seeing the island change to a red color thanks to the Galapagos carpet weed endemic succulent which is very prevalent on this islet.

#15 Santa Fe Island

Santa Fe Island
Santa Fe Island (© Andando Tours)

Just south of Santa Cruz Island is where you may find incredible species such as the endemic Santa Fe Land Iguana, as well as lava lizards, Galapagos Hawk and an array of birds and sea life that will astound.

#16 Gardner Bay (Española Island)

Gardner Bay
Gardner Bay (© Andando Tours)

At Gardner Bay, you will find a pristine white sandy beach with turquoise waters, one of the longest in all of the Galapagos Islands. Here, sea lions lounge and the Española mockingbird scurries to greet you. Isla Tortuga and the Gardner Islet you can snorkel and see all kinds of different sea life.

#17 Punta Suarez (Española Island)

Punta Suarez
Punta Suarez (© Andando Tours)

As any bird lover will tell you, Española is where the waved albatross can be spotted from April to December, as well as the Española mockingbird and the Española lava lizards. You can also see three species of Darwin’s finches, different species of boobies, oystercatchers, and land marine iguanas, including the red males who change color during the breeding season. A geyser spraying water 25m (75 ft) in the air makes Punta Suarez without a doubt one of the most popular landing sites in the Galapagos.

When to Go

The Galapagos Islands are a year-round destination with a pleasant climate no matter what time of year you choose to go. Average temperatures range from 22°C- 25°C (72°F-77°F).

Getting there & away

Baltra Airport is the main jumping off point for most Galapagos tours. Here surrounded by salt brush and Palo Santo trees, is where your amazing journey will begin. Once clearing immigration, you will be transported by bus to the cruise ship or the hotel, which will serve as your base for your island hopping tour.


Written by Alex Molina, updated Feb 18, 2021