First-timers to the Galápagos Islands will love this amazing introduction to the distinct wildlife that can only be found on this archipelago off the coast of Ecuador. Over the course of eight days, you'll base yourself on three islands—each with its own scenery and highlights—partaking in boat tours, snorkeling excursions, volcano hikes, and encounters with friendly residents like giant tortoises and marine iguanas.


  • Meet several species of friendly giant tortoises at a renowned breeding center 
  • Take two snorkeling excursions—one that includes underwater arches and tunnels
  • Get a workout (and views) by hiking the rim of an active volcano on Isla Isabela 
  • Paddle a kayak around Tortuga Bay and look for flamingoes and marine iguanas
  • Boat to one of the Galápagos's uninhabited islands to explore wildlife and beaches

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive on Isla San Cristóbal, Visit an Interpretation Center Isla San Cristóbal
Day 2 Snorkel Excursion at Kicker Rock Isla San Cristóbal
Day 3 Transfer to Isla Santa Cruz, Visit a Giant Tortoise Reserve Isla Santa Cruz
Day 4 Explore an Uninhabited Island Isla Santa Cruz
Day 5 Transfer to Isla Isabela, Snorkel Excursion at Los Túneles Isla Isabela
Day 6 Hike the Sierra Negra Volcano Isla Isabela
Day 7 Transfer to Isla Santa Cruz, Swim & Kayak on Tortuga Bay Isla Santa Cruz
Day 8 Transfer to Isla Baltra, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive on Isla San Cristóbal, Visit an Interpretation Center

Kick off your Galápagos adventure on Isla San Cristóbal

Welcome to the Galápagos! This beautiful archipelago off the coast of Ecuador offers 19 main islands. From the moment you approach Isla San Cristóbal—the easternmost of the islands and your first point of entry—you'll need to go through customs and immigration and pay a $100 per person cash fee to the Galápagos National Park. After claiming your bags, your guide will meet you and transfer you to your hotel for check-in.

Once you get settled, visit the San Cristóbal Interpretation Center to learn about the island's wildlife and conservation efforts. In a natural history room, see a presentation of the island's origins, and in another, human history since the Galápagos's discovery. Then see some of the archipelago's wildlife in their natural habitat with a hike up to Las Tijeretas Hill, named for tijeretas (frigatebirds) that inhabit and nest in this area. If you visit the island from June to October, you might see whales in the distance. Finish the day at La Lobería, a beach that's home to sea lions and marine iguanas.

Day 2: Snorkel Excursion at Kicker Rock

Snorkeling at Kicker Rock
Keep an eye out for rare bird species when you get closer to Kicker Rock

Normally you'll start the day with breakfast at your hotel, but today is a full-day snorkeling trip, which offers an excellent way to explore the vibrant underwater life of the Galápagos Islands. You won't have to prepare anything in advance as this guided tour includes breakfast and lunch, plus all the necessary snorkeling equipment.

Breakfast is served on dry land before you boat out to Kicker Rock, a dramatic volcanic rock formation that provides the perfect habitat for a variety of marine life. Once you arrive, you'll get to snorkel in crystal-clear waters and observe sea turtles, sea lions, colorful tropical fish, rays, and other marine life. After a few hours of snorkeling, you and your group will enjoy a delicious lunch before heading back to shore. 

Day 3: Transfer to Isla Santa Cruz, Visit a Giant Tortoise Reserve

Get up close to these gentle giants in the highlands of Isla Santa Cruz
This morning, you'll catch a ferry to Isla Santa Cruz, with a total travel time of about three hours. When you arrive, meet your driver, who will bring you to a farm in the highlands where you'll have the opportunity to see giant tortoises in their natural habitat. Then head back to the coast and check into your hotel. 

In the afternoon, visit the Charles Darwin Research Station. Here, scientists from all over the world meet to work together on environmental projects covering subjects like water analysis, animal protection, and the effects of tourism on nature. Nearby is the Fausto Llerena Breeding Center, named after the Galápagos National Park ranger who cared for Lonesome George, the last known Pinta Island tortoise. This is the best place in the Galápagos to view different tortoise species and see how the shapes of their shells have evolved differently to match the terrain and vegetation of their native islands.

Day 4: Explore an Uninhabited Island

Boat to one of the uninhabited islands, like Isla Bartolomé
Today is your chance to visit one of the Galápagos' stunning uninhabited islands, like Santa Fé, Plaza Sur, Bartolomé, and Seymour Norte. Which one you'll visit depends on the permit granted by the Galápagos National Park authorities. However it pans out, you'll have the chance to explore the archipelago's untouched natural habitats. After arriving by boat, hit the trails with your naturalist guide to see the island's wildlife, followed by some free time to have lunch and relax on the beach. At the end of your tour, return to your hotel on Isla Santa Cruz.
Plan your trip to Galapagos Islands
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 5: Transfer to Isla Isabela, Snorkel Excursion at Los Túneles

Green sea turtles can sometimes appear in Los Túneles

This morning, you'll transfer to Isla Isabela by ferry—a journey of about 2.5 hours. Once settled at your hotel, you'll take an excursion to one of Isla Isabela's best snorkeling spots called Los Túneles, a stunning islet and geological formation of distinct rock arches and tunnels that are fun to explore. Gear up and get in the shallow water while looking for tropical fish, rays, sea turtles, seahorses, and whitetip reef sharks. Then walk around the grounds while looking for penguins and other birdlife before returning to your hotel, where you can explore the Galápagos's largest island at your own pace.

Day 6: Hike the Sierra Negra Volcano

Snorkel along the rim of this 6-mile (10 km) diameter

Fill up at breakfast this morning! Today you'll take a daytime excursion that includes a moderate hike on the Sierra Negra volcano. This is one of the largest shield volcanoes in the world, with a distinctive low profile and crater that spans nearly 6 miles (10 km) in diameter. This is a six-hour roundtrip adventure that includes exploring lava landscapes and seeing views of both Isla Isabela and Isla Fernandina. End your day with chill time on the beach or snorkeling through Concha Perla's mangrove forests.

Day 7: Transfer to Isla Santa Cruz, Swim & Kayak on Tortuga Bay

Spend an afternoon among marine iguanas on Tortuga Bay
This morning, you'll catch a return ferry to Isla Santa Cruz for the last night of the trip. Don't waste a minute! Upon arrival, hike along an easy 45-minute trail from the town of Puerto Ayora to reach Tortuga Bay. Here you'll find an extensive white sand beach with calm turquoise water for exploring—the perfect way to while away the afternoon.
Grab a kayak to see the coastline from the sea and explore mangroves and cacti forests, with marine iguanas and bird habitats, like flamingoes, pelicans, and finches. Take a kayaking break to relax on the beach, and then put on your snorkeling gear to take a dip underwater. When you're ready, head back to your hotel and enjoy one more night in the Galápagos!

Day 8: Transfer to Isla Baltra, Depart

Take a sunrise stroll and say goodbye to the sea lions before your departure
The day has come to say goodbye to your new friends in the Galápagos! If there is enough free time before your transfer to the airport, do some last-minute souvenir shopping or take a sunrise stroll along the beach. At the appointed hour, your driver will pick you up at your hotel and take you to the Itabaca Channel for your ferry crossing to Isla Baltra. This is where you'll take the public shuttle bus to the terminal for your departure flight. Safe travels!

More Great Galápagos Islands Itineraries

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


Map of Classic Galápagos Tour: San Cristóbal, Santa Cruz & Isabela - 8 Days
Map of Classic Galápagos Tour: San Cristóbal, Santa Cruz & Isabela - 8 Days