From Quito at the equatorial center of the world, begin your journey to the Galápagos Islands, which you'll explore by boat, kayak, bike, foot, and swimming. See blue-footed boobies and swim alongside sea turtles on Isla Española and snorkel at the lion-shaped rock formations of Kicker Rock. Kayak through Tortuga Bay's mangrove forests and hike on islands uninhabited by humans on this adventure-full itinerary.


  • Spot the iconic blue-footed boobie on Isla Española
  • Snorkel among fish and sea turtles at León Dormido
  • Climb along the active volcanic crater of Sierra Negra 
  • Rappel inside a volcano and see penguins in Puerto Villamil

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Quito Quito
Day 2 Quito City Tour & Mitad del Mundo  Quito
Day 3 Fly to Isla San Cristóbal, Tijeretas Hill Hike & La Lobería Beach Isla San Cristóbal
Day 4 Isla Española Hike & Gardner Islet Snorkeling Isla San Cristóbal
Day 5 Kicker Rock Snorkeling Isla San Cristóbal
Day 6 Boat to Isla Santa Cruz, Kayaking at Tortuga Bay  Isla Santa Cruz
Day 7 Explore an Uninhabited Island Isla Santa Cruz
Day 8 Cerro Mesa Reserve Cycling & Garrapatero Beach Kayaking Isla Santa Cruz
Day 9 Boat to Isla Isabela, Snorkeling at Los Túneles  Isla Isabela
Day 10 Sierra Negra Volcanic Crater Hike Isla Isabela
Day 11 Rappel Los Trillizos Cave & Bike to Puerto Villamil Isla Isabela
Day 12 Puerto Villamil Standup Paddleboarding, Boat to Isla Santa Cruz Isla Santa Cruz
Day 13 Ferry to Isla San Cristóbal, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Quito

Views over Quito and the Cotopaxi Volcano
Ride a cable car to the top of Cruz Loma for high-altitude Quito views

Welcome to Ecuador! Upon arrival, meet your driver at Mariscal Sucre International Airport in Tababela for a 45-minute drive to your Quito hotel. After settling into your room, spend the rest of the day exploring the high-altitude capital (at 9,350 feet (2,850 m) above sea level, it's one of the highest in the world). Walk through Plaza Foch for people-watching or take a stroll through Parque Metropolitano Guangüiltagua, among the Americas' largest urban parks. For the perfect way to get your bearings in the city, ride a cable car to the top of Cruz Loma for skyline views.

As the sun sets, find a restaurant for dinner, and if you're up for it, check out the city's nightlife in neighborhoods La Floresta or La Ronda

Day 2: Quito City Tour & Mitad del Mundo

Colonial Quito City Tour & Mitad del Mundo (Center of the World) Monument
At Quito's equator monument, see the world's physical divide

This morning, meet your local guide for a walking tour of Quito's UNESCO-listed historic center. Start in Independence Square with La Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús, or more simply, La Compañía, a 17th-century volcanic rock, cedar, and gilt-decorated church. Next, see La Basílica de San Francisco and stroll through La Ronda, a pre-Columbian walking trail now a popular nightlife spot brimming with cafés, live music, and boutiques by day.

North of the city, you'll visit the monument marking where the Northern and Southern Hemispheres divide at the Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World). Stop for a photo op with a foot in each hemisphere, and pop into the neighboring museum. Back in Quito, find a restaurant for dinner to try dishes such as locro de papa (potato stew) and encocado de pescado (fish in coconut sauce). Afterward, settle in for an early night as you prepare for your flight to the Galápagos Islands tomorrow.

Day 3: Fly to Isla San Cristóbal, Tijeretas Hill Hike & La Lobería Beach

Begin your tour of the Galápagos Islands by spotting distinctive tijeretas birds

Today, your Galápagos Islands adventure begins. The volcanic archipelago's isolated location 621 miles (1,000 km) west of Ecuador's coast makes it home to unique wildlife and plants—many of which were first discovered by Charles Darwin. To start your island exploration, meet your private driver to arrive at the airport in Quito with plenty of time to prepare for your flight and purchase a transit control card (TCT) required for island entry. You'll board a three-hour flight west from Quito to Isla San Cristóbal and then check in to your hotel.

Learn about the islands and their conservation efforts as an introduction to the dynamic habitat you'll experience during the next 10 days by visiting an interpretation center. Then, start to see some of the archipelagoes' wildlife in their natural habitats while hiking Las Tijeretas Hill, named for tijeretas (frigatebirds) that inhabit and nest in the area. Depending on the time of year, watch for whales, especially from June to October. Finish the day relaxing on La Lobería, a beach home to sea lions and marine iguanas. Return to your hotel to rest for another full day tomorrow.

Day 4: Isla Española Hike & Gardner Islet Snorkeling

See Isla Española's blue-footed boobies on a hike with your guide

Set sail in the morning for Isla Española and Gardner Islet to see some of the Galápagos' most iconic wildlife, including albatross, blue-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, and Española iguanas. You'll take a two-hour boat ride from Isla San Cristóbal to Isla Española. Follow your boat ride with a two-hour hike to some of the island's best wildlife viewpoints, and then get back on the boat with your snorkeling gear ready.

Disembark at Gardner Bay to swim near sea lion pups, fish, and marine iguanas. Take a break for lunch on the boat, and then head back to Isla Isla San Cristóbal in the late afternoon. Spend the evening on a beach and watch the sunset before returning to your hotel. 

Day 5: Kicker Rock Snorkeling

Grab your snorkeling gear to explore Kicker Rock or León Dormido

Today's day trip is to León Dormido, also known as Kicker Rock, a nearly 500-foot (152 m) pair of volcanic islands connected by an underground channel. It's named for its appearance as a sleeping lion, and to get there, you'll ride a speedboat with views of the San Cristóbal coast. Make a stop to hike and see if you can spot tropicbirds, frigatebirds, and two types of boobies.

After exploring on land, it's time to get back on the boat for an underwater journey. With your snorkeling gear on, you'll have a chance to see fish, sea turtles, marine iguanas, and four ray species. Break for lunch on the boat and spend the afternoon on the beach at either Puerto Grande, Cerro Brujo, or Manglecito. Cruise along the coast back to Isla San Cristóbal, and get ready to see Isla Santa Cruz tomorrow.

Day 6: Boat to Isla Santa Cruz, Kayaking at Tortuga Bay 

Ride a kayak through Tortuga Bay to get up close to marine birds

Meet your guide in the morning to catch a speedboat from Isla San Cristóbal to Isla Santa Cruz, traveling about three hours. After a quick break in Puerto Ayora, it's an easy 45-minute hike to Tortuga Bay. Then take a seat in a kayak to paddle through mangroves, cacti forests, and marine bird habitats, including the homes for flamingoes, pelicans, and finches. Break for lunch and to relax and rest before your next activity. 

Grab your snorkeling gear and head underwater to swim with fish and sea turtles. At the end of the day, hike back to Puerto Ayora and your hotel.

Day 7: Explore an Uninhabited Island

On Isla Bartolomé, see the Galápagos' untouched nature

While some Galápagos Islands have full-time residents and hotels for tourists, others are home to only free-roaming wildlife. Santa , Plaza Sur, Bartolomé, and Seymour Norte are among those uninhabited islands, and today, you'll have a chance to explore one with your local guide. Depending on the specific permissions for your trip, set off in a boat for one of the islands from Puerto Ayora.

Off the boat, hike with your guide to remote island spots. Soak up some sun on the beach and return to the boat for lunch. Return to your Puerto Ayora hotel at the end of your full-day tour.   

Day 8: Cerro Mesa Reserve Cycling & Garrapatero Beach Kayaking

Garrapatero Beach
Cerro Mesa Ecological Reserve is a natural habitat for tortoises

Today you'll stay close to Puerto Ayora to see some of Santa Cruz island's oldest residents—Galápagos tortoises. At Cerro Mesa Ecological Reserve, cycle, hike, or horseback ride around the reserve's many trails while on the lookout for tortoises. Make your way to Garrapatero Beach to stop for lunch, and then grab your kayak to explore on the water. 

Watch as mallards and flamingoes fly overhead as you navigate your kayak around mangroves for a calm afternoon ride. As the sun begins to set, return to your Puerto Ayora hotel to move on to Isla Isabela tomorrow.

Plan your trip to Galapagos Islands
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 9: Boat to Isla Isabela, Los Túneles Snorkeling

At Los Túneles, see marine wildlife while swimming through natural tunnels and arches

Pack up your gear today to depart from the dock in Puerto Ayora. Then, ride a speedboat to Isla Isabela, where you'll spend the next three nights. The largest of the Galápagos Islands at 62 miles (100 km) long and an area of 1,770 square miles (4,586 sq km), it's home to penguins and peculiar geological formations. 

Los Túneles' arches and tunnels below and above the ocean are one of Isla Isabela's unique snorkeling spots. With your gear ready, start in shallow water and look for fish, rays, turtles, seahorses, and even whitetip reef sharks. Swim to a beach for lunch and then set off for an afternoon hike. As you follow your guide, walk slowly to avoid disturbing penguins and iguanas. Check in to your Isla Isabela hotel in Puerto Villamil at the end of the day.

Day 10: Sierra Negra Volcanic Crater Hike

Hike along the crater of active Sierra Negra, a shield volcano, so called for its low profile

At the southeastern end of Isla Isabela, the Sierra Negra volcano is one of the largest shield volcanoes in the world. The active volcano—one of six volcanoes on Isla Isabela—has a low profile and a nearly 6-mile (10 km) diameter crater.

Take an easy- to moderate-six-hour roundtrip hike to the volcanic summit starting from Puerto Villamil in the morning. As you approach the crater, see views of the islands' other shield volcanoes and explore Sierra Negra's dark lava landscapes. End your day with time on the beach or snorkeling through Concha Perla's mangrove forests. At night return to your Puerto Villamil hotel.

Day 11: Rappel Los Trillizos Cave & Bike to Puerto Villamil

Look out for flamingoes as you cycle through Puerto Villamil

In the center of Isla Isabela, near Sierra Negra, is the volcano Trillizos. Today, take your adventure up a level today as you rappel inside this volcano. Wearing your helmet and safety gear, you'll descend into the volcano's crater, rappelling to 493 feet (150 m). Use your headlamp and gloves to guide you through a subterranean wonderland of mineral formations, following your guide's direction.

Back above ground, take a break for lunch. The day continues as you hop on a mountain bike for the next part of your adventure, feeling the rush as you descend through hills and valleys, making bird-watching stops before returning to your Puerto Villamil hotel for the evening.

Day 12: Puerto Villamil Standup Paddleboarding, Boat to Isla Santa Cruz

Swim and snorkel through the clear waters of Concha Perla

See Isla Isabela from a new perspective today as you paddle around Villamil Bay. From atop your standup paddleboard, navigate through mangroves while staying on the watch for blue-footed boobies, pelicans, and frigates. Feel the calm of the ocean breeze and take your time on the bay.

Set your paddle board aside for lunch on the beach. Then, put on snorkeling gear to swim in Concha Perla, a mangrove forest where you may see penguins and sea lions. Dry off from your afternoon swim and catch a speedboat from Isla Isabela to Isla Santa Cruz. Enjoy your final night in Puerto Ayora with dinner out and one last sunset on the beach.

Day 13: Ferry to Isla San Cristóbal, Depart

End your time on the islands with memories of the wildlife living there

In the morning, your adventure ends with a boat ride and coastline views. Travel from Puerto Ayora by ferry to Isla San Cristóbal on an approximately 2.5-hour ride. From the airport in San Cristóbal, catch your flight to Ecuador's mainland for your next destination. Safe travels!

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, and discover the best time to visit the Galápagos.


Map of Ecuador Active Adventure: From Quito to the Galápagos Islands - 13 Days
Map of Ecuador Active Adventure: From Quito to the Galápagos Islands - 13 Days