Land-based tours are a more economical and comfortable alternative to cruising the Galapagos. This 6-day itinerary takes in the highlights of the three main inhabited islands — from watching giant tortoises to hiking around an active volcanic crater and snorkeling with penguins and sharks.


  • See giant tortoises in their natural highland habitat on Santa Cruz
  • Hike around Sierra Negra, the second largest volcanic crater in the world
  • Spot the Galapagos Penguin, the only penguin found north of the Equator
  • Snorkel with sea lions and sharks on San Cristobal


This 6-day island-hopping tour enables you to see a diverse range of sites in the Galapagos, using shuttle boats and internal flights to save time. 

Be amazed by an array of wildlife every day, while enjoying local food and hospitality in towns such as Puerto Ayora, Puerto Villamil and Baquerizo Moreno. You will also gain a deeper understanding of the history of Galapagos and the importance of sustainable tourism in this fragile environment with visits to The Interpretation Center on San Cristobal, the Breeding Center on Isabela, and Charles Darwin Station on Santa Cruz.

Snorkeling at Kicker Rock, hiking Sierra Negra Volcano and visiting Tintoreras on Isabela are just a few of the highlights. Playful sea lion pups, gliding rays, and nonchalant sea turtles entertain you in the water, while the blue-footed boobies and iguanas fascinate you on land. 

Brief Itinerary

Day  Highlights  Overnight
Day 1 Arrival: Santa Cruz highlands, giant tortoise reserve & Puerto Ayora Puerto Ayora
Day 2 Tortuga Bay swim, Charles Darwin Station & boat to Isabela Puerto Villamil
Day 3 Tortoise Breeding Center & flamingos, Hike Volcano Sierra Negra Puerto Villamil
Day 4 Marine iguanas at Tintoreras, fly to San Cristobal, & sea lions at la Loberia Baquerizo Moreno
Day 5 Snorkel with sea lions & swim with sharks at Kicker Rock Baquerizo Moreno
Day 6 Opc. Interpretation Center & Tijeretas lookout, departure Mainland Ecuador

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive Santa Cruz - Visit giant tortoises in the highlands, explore Puerto Ayora

Giant tortoises thrive in the leafy highlands of Santa Cruz.

This morning, you’ll fly to the tiny island of Baltra, home to the airport. Your guide will be waiting for you to cross a narrow channel to Santa Cruz.

As you drive across the island, your first activity is a visit to a private giant tortoise reserve. Enjoy watching these massive creatures in their natural habitat, cooling off in a watering hole or munching the greenery. You’ll also explore nearby lava tunnels to better understand the geology that created these islands.

Continue on to Puerto Ayora, check in to your hotel, and head out to explore the town. Santa Cruz is the most populated island and its bustling port is the tourist capital of Galapagos with many excellent restaurants. 

Day 2: Santa Cruz - Walk to Tortuga Bay, optional Charles Darwin Research Station visit, public boat to Isabela

Tortuga Bay is one of the archipelago's most spectacular beaches.

This morning is all about white sand beaches and lapping waves. Tortuga Bay is a gorgeous stretch of sand, ideal for swimming, sunbathing and surfing. A leisurely 45-minute walkway through forest leads to the beach, and along the way look out for lava lizards and birds in the trees.

The first soft, white sandy beach, is perfect for surfing. Further along is a calmer bay sheltered by mangroves and best for swimming. There’s a pleasant walk through cactus forest behind the beach, and you may spot nesting blue-footed boobies or resting marine iguanas.

We’ll head back to town at your leisure and there is an optional visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station. You’ll learn about the Station's program of repopulating the islands with once endangered land iguana and several species of giant tortoise. From the collection of the eggs to rearing them for release, see how giant tortoises are readied for life in the wild.

After lunch, take a boat ride to Isabela, the largest island in the archipelago. After check-in, we wander through the picturesque town of Puerto Villamil and relax on its white sand beach for sunset.

Day 3: Isabela - Hike Volcano Sierra Negra, optional Tortoise Breeding Center & flamingos

Sierra Negra Volcano, the world's second largest volcanic crater. 

Today it's time to get your hiking boots and experience the geological highlights of Isabela. Sierra Negra is one of the most active volcanoes in the Galapagos. Its last eruption was in October 2005 and it's the second largest crater in the world. As we hike to the perimeter of the caldera, watch for bird species found only in the highlands, such as the bright red vermilion flycatcher and short-eared owl. Once we reach the crater rim, the view stretches 9 kilometers across one of the most active calderas in the world.

We’ll continue around the rim, stopping at lookouts along the way, en route to Volcan Chico. Volcano vents dot the landscape, colorful minerals are found in some lava rocks, and “pahoehoe” lava flows have created an otherworldly landscape. We’ll cross fields of lava until we reach a lookout with breathtaking views over the north of Isabela.

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Day 4: Isabela - Visit Tintoreras, fly to San Cristobal, visit La Loberia

The Galapagos Penguin is one of the smallest in the world, and the only penguin found in the northern hemisphere.

After breakfast we explore islets in a protected bay to search for the Galapagos Penguin – the only penguin found north of the Equator. We’ll go out for a short walk at Tintoreras or Shark Alley, where white-tipped sharks can often be seen. It's also a popular iguana nesting site, home to hundreds of marine iguanas.

In the afternoon, you’ll take an early flight to the island of San Cristobal, the oldest and most easterly island of the Galapagos archipelago. After lunch in the port Baquerizo Moreno, head out for your first activity: a visit to La Loberia.

La “Loberia” is an area frequented by sea lions. There we’ll be able to watch sea lions sunbathing and competing for our attention. They play, nap and sometimes even pose for pictures. On the way back to town, your guide will point out favorite spots for dinner.

Day 5: San Cristobal - Snorkel with sea lions, spot sharks at Kicker Rock, relax on sheltered beaches

Kicker Rock is the perfect place to get into the water and look for sharks, sea turtles and rays. 

Today we take to the ocean to explore the underwater world of Galapagos. First, we’ll cruise along the coast identifying shorebirds such as the magnificent frigate and famous blue-footed booby. Then we stop for an introductory snorkel in search of tropical fish and a chance to play with curious sea lion pups.

Next, we’ll continue to Kicker Rock, or Leon Dormido (sleeping lion) as it’s known by the locals, to explore the waters around a tuff cone rising over 143 meters out of the ocean. Swim and snorkel along the edge and through a channel of this dramatic, compact ash formation. Highlights include sea turtles, spotted eagle rays, chocolate chip starfish, and various species of shark including the Galapagos Shark and reef sharks, harmless to humans. 

A beautiful beach accessible only by boat is our final stop. After lunch onboard, spend your time swimming in the turquoise water or taking photos of Kicker Rock and the stunning surroundings.

We’ll head back in the late afternoon and have time to explore the town. There is optional kayaking or paddle boarding or simply relax over a drink on the waterfront. In the evening, we head to one of our favorite spots to dine for a farewell feast before departure.

Day 6: San Cristobal - Optional visit to the Interpretation Center & Tijeretas, depart San Cristobal

Spend your last day on the Galapagos relaxing on San Cristobal Island.

Today is the last day of your tour and you can choose how to spend your morning. Swim at a beach near the port or visit the Interpretation Center to learn about the history of the archipelago, Charles Darwin’s visit and the current efforts to protect this amazing World Heritage site. There’s an optional short hike to Tijeretas, a panoramic lookout over the town and surroundings.

Later you’ll fly back to mainland Ecuador. If you are extending your stay, consider booking a day tour or excursion to see another part of the country.



Map of Galapagos Islands Land-Based Adventure Tour: 6 Days
Map of Galapagos Islands Land-Based Adventure Tour: 6 Days