Discover two large islands in the Galápagos archipelago—and enjoy day trips to smaller islands—on this land-based itinerary. Over nine days, you'll base yourself on Isla San Cristóbal and Isla Santa Cruz, taking time to hike, snorkel, kayak, interact with giant tortoises, and look for wildlife with expert naturalist guides. Venture to a pair of uninhabited islands on shorter boating excursions before the trip comes to an end.


  • Explore the exquisite Tortuga Bay in a kayak
  • Boat to two different uninhabited islands
  • Spot giant tortoises at a natural reserve on Isla Santa Cruz
  • Enjoy open-air dining with water views

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive on Isla San Cristóbal & Visit Interpretation Center Isla San Cristóbal
Day 2 Encounter Wildlife on Isla Española Isla San Cristóbal
Day 3 Tour Isla San Cristóbal's Highlights Isla San Cristóbal
Day 4 Explore Isla Lobos & Enjoy Dinner by the Sea Isla San Cristóbal
Day 5 Transfer to Isla Santa Cruz, Tortoise Reserve & Research Station Isla Santa Cruz
Day 6 Kayak in Tortuga Bay & Tour Isla Santa Cruz Isla Santa Cruz
Day 7 Discover an Uninhabited Island Isla Santa Cruz
Day 8 Venture to a Second Uninhabited Island Isla Santa Cruz
Day 9 Transfer to Isla Baltra & Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive on Isla San Cristóbal & Visit Interpretation Center

Frigate birds nesting on Tijeretas Hill
See nesting frigatebirds on Tijeretas Hill

Welcome to the Galápagos Islands! Upon arrival at San Cristóbal Airport, your driver will escort you to your hotel. After settling in at the hotel, you'll learn about the islands and local conservation efforts at the Interpretation Center. It's a great place to get oriented before exploring one of the world's top destinations for wildlife viewing and outdoor adventures.

Later in the afternoon, you'll have your first chance to see some of the archipelago's wildlife in its natural habitat while hiking Las Tijeretas Hill, named for the tijeretas (frigatebirds) that inhabit the area. The males, with their bright red features, are exciting to spot. Finish the day at La Lobería, a beach that's home to sea lions and marine iguanas. Enjoy a fresh seafood dinner at a local restaurant, then get some rest before tomorrow's outing.

Day 2: Encounter Wildlife on Isla Española

Sea lions basking on the beaches of Española 
Today's destination is Isla Española, one of the archipelago's most remote islands. Its isolated location has led to the evolution of many unique and rare species. On today's tour, you'll get the chance to see some of these wonders of nature, including the waved albatross, the Española mockingbird, and the Española lava lizard. A two-hour boat ride takes you to the island, where you'll step ashore and set out on a two-hour hike.
Head back to the boat and get your snorkeling gear ready as you cast off for nearby Gardner Bay. This stunning stretch of white sand is the perfect setting for a swim, and you'll share the clear waters with sea lion pups, fish, and marine iguanas. Take a break for lunch on the boat before returning to San Cristóbal for a free afternoon.

Day 3: Tour Isla San Cristóbal's Highlights

Kicker Rock
Take a day trip to the magnificent Kicker Rock

Wake up early today and get to know some of the most iconic places on Isla San Cristóbal on a guided tour. If time and weather conditions allow, make a full loop around the island by boat, beginning at Rosa Blanca, a small bay. The main attraction here is the largest beach at the center of the bay, lined with sand dunes. You can snorkel here to see marine life up close, including sharks, rays, and sea turtles. Later, stop at Punta Pitt for lunch and a demonstration of traditional fishing. Relax onboard as you watch for many endemic bird species, including the red-footed booby.

Then head for Bahía Sardina, a scenic bay that's home to two white-sand beaches. The water here is perfect for snorkeling. You'll have a chance to spot (and maybe swim with) sea turtles, rays, and sea lions. Afterward, pass by Cerro Brujo to snap breathtaking photos and look for birds. Finally, you'll arrive at Kicker Rock, an uninhabited islet that resembles a large rock formation. The area is home to blue-footed boobies, sea lions, numerous fish species, hammerhead sharks, sea turtles, and rays. 

Day 4: Explore Isla Lobos & Enjoy Dinner by the Sea

Wildlife Encountering at Lobos Island
A sea lion mother and pup at Isla Lobos
Plan your trip to Galapagos Islands
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
In the morning, visit Isla Lobos, about 6 miles (10 km) across a channel from San Cristóbal. You'll arrive by boat, taking in coastal views along the journey. The island's proximity to San Cristóbal makes the channel sheltered and quiet, and the water is almost perfectly clear. 
Noisy, jolly sea lions will welcome you to their home, a relatively flat island with white-sand beaches. Relax on the sand, swim with sea lions, or try snorkeling with rays, turtles, and tropical fish. On the shoreline, keep your eyes open for colorful Sally Lightfoot crabs and Darwin's finches. Return to the main island in the late afternoon. At night, you'll enjoy dinner in a restaurant by the sea.

Day 5: Transfer to Isla Santa Cruz, Tortoise Reserve & Research Station

Adult Galapagos Tortoises
Get up close with Galápagos tortoises

Catch a speedboat from Isla San Cristóbal to Isla Santa Cruz this morning. The trip takes around two hours. On the ride, you'll coast by Isla Santa Fé, a perfect moment to take pictures of the region's seabirds. Disembark at the dock, then head to the highlands to see giant tortoises in the wild. With your guide, enjoy lunch at a local farm. Next, visit a spectacular natural lava tunnel, then continue to a reserve home to another giant turtle species.

Finally, arrive at the Charles Darwin Station, where scientists from all over the world meet and work together. Environmental projects include water analysis, endemic wildlife protection, and tourism's effects on nature. Visit the turtle rearing station to see where animals are raised before being released into the wilderness. Look out for land iguanas who live around the station! Finish the day by traveling to the island's main town of Puerto Ayora, where you'll check in to your hotel and have dinner.

Day 6: Kayak in Tortuga Bay & Tour Isla Santa Cruz

Kayaking Adventure in Tortuga Bay & Afternoon Bay Tour of Santa Cruz Island
Meet the curious locals as you kayak around Tortuga Bay

Begin today's adventure with a 45-minute hike from Puerto Ayora to the heavenly Tortuga Bay, famed for its soft coral sand and spectacular scenery. Take a kayak out onto the water to see marine life up close, and admire the coastline from a different perspective, observing colonies of marine iguanas, marine birds, mangroves, cacti forests, and fascinating flora. Pelicans and finches are local to the area, and near the salt lagoon that backs onto the mangroves, you even may spot flamingoes wandering.

After kayaking at the nearby cove, sunbathe on the beach before returning to Puerto Ayora. In the afternoon, take a boat tour to visit places along the bay of Santa Cruz. Visit one or more sites, depending on how much time you have. Head to the Shark Channel, where you may spot harmless whitetip sharks and blue-footed boobies. You'll also visit the Canal del Amor, where you may find sea turtles and many tropical fish varieties. A 10-minute walk will allow you to see marine iguanas in their natural habitat.

Day 7: Discover an Uninhabited Island

Isla Bartolomé
The uninhabited island of Isla Bartolomé

Of the many islands in the Galápagos, only four have permanent settlements. The others are wild and home to many endemic species. Visits to these islands are highly regulated by the park's authorities and are limited to small groups. You'll visit one of these untamed islands today. Aboard a modern yacht, and take a 1.5 to 2.5-hour ride to one of the following islands: Bartolomé, Seymour Norte, Plazas Sur, or Santa Fé. The island visited will depend on park permits and the boat's schedule.

Every island has a different landscape and unique flora and fauna. For example, on Santa Fé, you'll likely see the Santa Fé iguana. Meanwhile, colonies of sea lions, frigatebirds, and blue-footed boobies populate Seymour Norte. Lunch will be served on the yacht, and you'll be taken to a snorkeling spot in the afternoon. After an exciting day, you will return to Puerto Ayora in the early evening.

Day 8: Venture to a Second Uninhabited Island

Sally Lightfoot crabs
Sally Lightfoot crabs on an island in the Galápagos
Another day, another boat trip to an uninhabited island—this time, you'll go to a different one than yesterday. Once again, you'll get incredible opportunities to see endemic wildlife in its natural habitat and protected lands. The boat trip is also a joy, as you'll enjoy magnificent ocean scenery on the way to and from the island. Afterward, enjoy your evening in laid-back Puerto Ayora, dining al fresco in one of the restaurants in town and doing some souvenir shopping.

Day 9: Transfer to Isla Baltra & Depart

Sunset over Baltra Island
Sunset over Isla Baltra
After breakfast, your driver will pick you up at your hotel and bring you to the edge of the Itabaca Channel, which you will cross by ferry to catch your flight back to the mainland. Safe travels!

More Great Galápagos Itineraries

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


Map of Explore Two Islands in the Galápagos: San Cristobál & Santa Cruz - 9 Days
Map of Explore Two Islands in the Galápagos: San Cristobál & Santa Cruz - 9 Days