Among the great dive sites in the world, the Galápagos easily ranks among the very best. Over nine days of aquatic adventures, you'll see why on multiple dives around the diverse underwater ecosystems here. During these excursions, you'll swim with tropical fish, sea lions, rays, sea turtles, various species of sharks, and much more.


  • Explore Quito, one of the world's highest cities, on a guided city tour
  • Go scuba diving amid colorful marine life at the best dive sites in the Galápagos
  • Enjoy a multiday cruise around various islands
  • Visit the Santa Cruz highlands to see giant Galápagos tortoises

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Quito, Optional Activities Quito
Day 2 Fly to the Galápagos, Transfer to Cruise Ship Cruise Ship
Day 3 Cape Marshall & City of the Mantas Dive Cruise Ship
Day 4 Darwin Dive Cruise Ship
Day 5 Darwin & Wolf Dive Cruise Ship
Day 6 Wolf Dive Cruise Ship
Day 7 Vicente Roca Point & Cape Douglas Dive Cruise Ship
Day 8 Cousin's Rock Dive & Isla Santa Cruz Highlands Isla Santa Cruz
Day 9 Transfer to Baltra Airport, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Quito, Optional Activities

Independence Square, in Quito's Historic Center

Welcome to Ecuador! This relatively small South American nation boasts an impressive array of ecosystems ranging from the towering Andes mountains to tropical jungles to misty cloud forests and tropical islands. You've come to enjoy world-class scuba diving at the most famous islands of all, the Galápagos. However, before flying to that hotbed of biodiversity, you'll spend a day in the nation's capital, Quito. Upon arrival at the airport, a driver will transfer you to your hotel in the city.

After settling in, you can explore this dynamic metropolis and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Founded in 1534 on the ruins of an Inca city on the slopes of the Pichincha volcano, Quito is the oldest capital in South America. You can see vestiges of this colonial legacy in its well-preserved Historic Center. Among other highlight buildings, here you'll find some of the most incredible churches on the continent, including La Iglesia de la Compañía and the Convent of San Francisco. There are also pre-Columbian sites just outside the city, like the Pucará de Rumicucho ruins.

Back in town, there are fine museums that you can visit. To see pre-Columbian and contemporary art, head to La Capilla del Hombre; to see a vast collection of ancient artifacts, tour the National Museum of Ecuador. For street art, head to the bohemian La Floresta neighborhood. Whatever activities you choose, remember that Quito sits at 9,350 feet (2,850 m) above sea level, so take it a little easy. At the end of the day, enjoy dinner at one of Quito's fine restaurants, followed by a nightcap. 

Day 2: Fly to the Galápagos, Transfer to Cruise Ship

Pinnacle Rock in the Galapagos Islands
Sail around the coast of the Galápagos Islands

In the morning, you'll transfer to the airport in Quito for the two-hour flight to the islet of Baltra, located at the tip of Isla Santa Cruz. Congratulations, you've arrived in Galápagos National Park! A driver will then pick you up for the ride to the marina, where you'll board a yacht that will be your home for the next six nights. The crew will welcome you aboard, at which point you can settle into your cabin. After a safety briefing and quick inspection of your dive equipment, the boat will weigh anchor, and you'll be underway. Enjoy lunch on board.

The first dive stop is on the northeast side of the island. This is the perfect spot for your maiden dive, as the currents are moderate, and the area abounds with the volcanic rock formations that have made the Galápagos famous. Here, you'll dive to around depths of 56 feet (20) and should have enough visibility to spot a wide variety of marine life, such as sea turtles, rays, and a couple of shark species, including whitetip reef sharks and threshers. Hammerheads have occasionally been spotted in the area, too. Don't be shocked if a few curious sea lions also accompany you.

Day 3: Cape Marshall & City of the Mantas Dive

Diving excursion - Galapagos
Be on the lookout for manta rays

In the morning, you'll arrive at Cape Marshall, on the northeast side of Isla Isabela, the largest island in the Galápagos archipelago. This area offers excellent drift diving and features an almost vertical wall of volcanic rock that drops to the sea floor. It's a great dive site where you'll spot whitetip, hammerhead, Galápagos sharks—and the occasional whale shark. Smaller fish you'll see include large schools of black-striped salema and barracuda. Don't miss the fascinating black coral growing on the volcanic wall.

However, Cape Marshall's main highlight is a site called Ciudad de las Mantas (City of the Mantas). This name is not a misnomer—the area is a popular congregating spot for giant manta rays. These majestic creatures weigh thousands of pounds and have wingspans that can measure up to 13 feet (4 m). They come to this site to feed on its plankton-rich waters, so you may have to contend with lower visibility. After swimming with the mantas, you'll return to the boat for the overnight journey north to Darwin Island.

Day 4: Darwin Dive

See hammerhead sharks

The small, uninhabited isle of Darwin is the northernmost island in the Galápagos. Its abundance of incredible dive sites makes this one of the best scuba locales in an archipelago with no shortage of them. That's why you'll have a few different options for dives this morning. Marine and weather conditions of the day will determine which sites you visit, as will the opinion of your expert guide. 

One can't-miss option is Darwin's Arch. This natural rock archway was an icon of the Galápagos, but natural erosion caused the top to collapse in 2021. Not to worry, as the real treasure was always beneath the rocks. A dive in this underwater menagerie will put you up close with reef sharks, Galápagos sharks, and scalloped hammerheads.

Plan your trip to Galapagos Islands
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
A great nearby site is Darwin's Theater. Here, two forked ridges run from the reef foundation of Darwin's Arch beneath the splashing waves. At about 60 feet (18 m), you'll find a drop-off sea wall that forms a kind of grandstand. It's the perfect spot to relax and hang out as if you're an audience member witnessing an aquatic performance. The players you'll see here include massive schools of hammerheads and various species of tuna, including yellowfin, wahoos, bonitos, and amberjacks. Whale sharks are known to pass by here too.

Day 5: Darwin & Wolf Dive

Eagle Ray
Spotted eagle rays

After breakfast, you'll travel to some other great dive sites around Darwin. The first stop is at El Arenal. Here, sharks, turtles, and tuna maintain a fascinating symbiotic relationship with the resident barber fish and king angelfish. If the currents aren't too strong, you should be able to get close to schools of creolefish and perhaps find yourself face-to-face with hammerhead sharks. Eels, starfish, giant mantas, whale sharks, and bottlenose dolphins are other highlights at this site (depending on the season). 

Later, the boat will head south to Wolf Island, another small islet in the northern archipelago. Like Darwin, it features prime dive sites. You'll visit Shark Bay, located on the east coast of Wolf. It's an ideal site due to the shallow water here, which makes it easier to spot the resident sharks. There is also plenty of tropical fish as well as hawksbill and Pacific green turtles. Definitely be on the lookout for spotted eagle rays gliding elegantly through the water.

Day 6: Wolf Dive

Swim with turtles

Get ready for day two of exploring the dive sites around Wolf Island. The first stop is at the Landslide, a spot that offers excellent drift diving in which it's possible to swim with schools of hundreds of hammerheads. Swimming amid the pavona corals here, you'll also spot moray eels, scorpionfish, Pacific green turtles, eagle rays, mobula rays, giant mantas, reef sharks, and bottlenose dolphins.

In the afternoon, you'll head over to the Pinnacle. This area offers some of the best diving in the Galápagos, as it features four underwater caves abounding with marine life. All entrances to these caverns are at depths of 50-70 feet (15-21 m), and there's a sandy ledge that runs below the entrances and is a gathering spot for hawksbill and green turtles. Other sea life you'll witness include soldierfish, guineafowl puffers, moray eels, reef sharks, marble rays, and cardinalfish.

When the sun goes down, you'll have a couple of options for night dives around Wolf. The Secret Cave is another underwater cavern where it's common to see hammerheads, plus species with nocturnal habits like cardinalfishes, spiny lobsters, moray eels, Pacific green turtles, and sea lions. You can also visit Anchorage, a cove that's the only dive site on Wolf's sheltered west coast. Along the surface of the waters here, you might spot sharks and reef fish as well as birds like blue-footed boobies. Deeper under the water, you can see more exotic specimens like the red-lipped batfish.

Day 7: Vicente Roca Point & Cape Douglas Dive

Diving with Marine Iguanas
Diving with marine iguanas

In the morning, you'll return to Isla Isabela. The first dive of the day is at Vicente Roca Point. To get there requires entering a gaping sea cave. The calm waters under this natural archway are protected from the exterior ocean swells and thus are popular with plenty of marine animals. On a dive here, you'll see various species of sharks, pufferfish, penguins, and even seahorses. It's also common to spot sunfish. 

The boat will continue to Isabela's west side and the adjacent Fernandina Island. Here you'll enjoy an afternoon dive at Cape Douglas. Animals found in this area include penguins and marine iguanas. The latter is an interesting species as they're the world's only swimming iguanas, and they only exist here in the Galápagos. You'll also spot flightless cormorants, horned sharks, and perhaps whales.

Day 8: Cousin's Rock Dive & Santa Cruz Highlands

Come for air with a visit to hang out with land animals

Travel to the east side of Isabela and Santiago islands, stopping at Cousin's Rock. This lone volcanic rock pyramid rises just above the waters off the coast. It is a habitat for blue-footed boobies, brown pelicans, Galápagos fur seals, sea lions, and (depending on the season) penguins. After riding around the rock formation in a small boat, you'll then admire the underwater wildlife on a dive. The world beneath Cousin's Rock features terraced walls and ridges where hammerheads, rays, turtles, and tropical fish congregate.

Afterward, you'll transfer to Puerto Ayora, the main town on Isla Santa Cruz. Leave the yacht behind and venture into the highlands to visit the El Chato Tortoise Reserve. This is one of the best places in the Galápagos to see giant tortoises in their natural environment. Besides the tortoises, there's also a verdant forest of native scalesia trees you can explore. It's a birder's dream, as the area is home to endemic species, Darwin's finches, vermilion flycatchers, and yellow warblers. In the tortoise pond are also aquatic birds like the paint-billed crake. You'll stay overnight in Puerto Ayora.

Day 9: Transfer to Baltra Airport, Depart

Goodbye, Galápagos
Today marks the end of your grand scuba adventure around the Galápagos. No doubt you'll have made memories to last a lifetime. At the appropriate time, you'll transfer to the airport on Isla Baltra, at the northern tip of Isla Santa Cruz, and catch your connecting flight home. Adiós!

More Great Galápagos Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to the Galápagos? Check out these other Galápagos itineraries, or learn about the best time to visit the Galápagos.


Map of Galápagos Diving Adventure - 9 Days
Map of Galápagos Diving Adventure - 9 Days