Pack your bags for a whirlwind island-hopping tour of the Galápagos Islands, one of the most biodiverse places on earth. You'll visit three different isles, beginning with San Cristóbal, where you'll take boat tours, go snorkeling, and embark on wildlife excursions. Then you're off to Santa Cruz and Isabela for volcano hikes, abseiling, a visit to a coffee farm, and much more.


  • See Nazca, red-footed, and blue-footed boobies at Punta Pitt
  • Snorkel amid rays, turtles, iguanas, and even hammerhead sharks at Kicker Rock
  • Descend through a steam vent deep into the dormant Trillizos volcano
  • Explore an uninhabited island near Isla Santa Cruz

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive on Isla San Cristóbal, Island Tour Isla San Cristóbal
Day 2 Tour of Isla San Cristóbal: Highlights, Beaches & Marine Life Isla San Cristóbal
Day 3 Day Trip to Punta Pitt Isla San Cristóbal
Day 4 Speedboat to Isla Santa Cruz, Optional Activities Isla Santa Cruz
Day 5 Day Trip to Isla Floreana & Isla San Cristóbal Isla Santa Cruz
Day 6 Day Trip to an Uninhabited Island Isla Santa Cruz
Day 7 Speedboat to Isabela Island, Explore Tintoreras Islet Isla Isabela
Day 8 Hike the Sierra Negra Volcano Isla Isabela
Day 9 Rappel & Cycle on Isla Isabela Isla Isabela
Day 10 Day Trip to Hacienda & Coffee Farm Isla Isabela
Day 11 Ferry to Isla Santa Cruz, Optional Activities Isla Santa Cruz
Day 12 Transfer to Isla Baltra, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive on Isla San Cristóbal, Island Tour

Meet the locals as you land on Isla San Cristóbal

Welcome to the Galápagos Islands! Located 603 miles (972 km) off the coast of Ecuador, this national park and UNESCO World Heritage is famous for its biodiversity and abundance of wildlife. More than that, the animals found in this archipelago's three main ecosystems have done much to further our understanding of natural history. Back in the 19th century, it even helped inspire Darwin's theory of natural selection.

You'll arrive in Ecuador's capital, Quito, then transfer by plane for three hours to Isla San Cristóbal, the easternmost island in the Galápagos. Upon arrival, you'll continue to your hotel to get settled, then head out for a tour of the area.

Start at the Interpretation Center, a science hub that offers insight into these volcanic islands' unique ecosystems and natural history. Then hike a couple of hours up to Tijeretas Hill, a nesting site for the Galápagos' famous frigatebirds. You'll also be treated to stunning views out over the coast to Kicker Rock and Wreck Bay, the main port in town. Fun fact: it was at Wreck Bay in 1835 that a young Charles Darwin first landed in the Galápagos.

Day 2: Tour of Isla San Cristóbal: Highlights, Beaches & Marine Life

Swim with sea turtles on a snorkeling tour

Wake up early and board a boat for a loop tour around Isla San Cristóbal, first stopping at Rosa Blanca. Located on the island's east side, this small bay is hemmed in by volcanic rocks and boasts a beautiful white-sand beach fronting turquoise waters. You'll do some snorkeling here and spot marine life like tropical fish, sea turtles, rays, and whitetip reef sharks. Later, stop for lunch at Punta Pitt, on the northeastern tip of San Cristóbal. Locals here will demonstrate their traditional fishing methods, and afterward, you can relax and marvel at the many endemic birds in the area, like the red-footed booby.

Then sail around the island's tip to the north and Bahía Sardina, a scenic bay featuring two white-sand beaches. You can do more snorkeling here and perhaps even swim with sea lions. Afterward, continue south to Cerro Brujo (Witch's Hill), whose rocky headland and wide open beach are among the most scenic locales in the Galápagos.

Finally, you'll arrive at Kicker Rock. This 500-foot (152 m) pair of volcanic islands may not look like a legendary dive site, but underneath the water's surface is a diverse ecosystem filled with exotic marine life. Once here, you'll strap on your snorkel, dive in, and swim alongside sea life like eagle rays, tropical fish, sea turtles, marine iguanas, and even hammerhead sharks. After a break for lunch on the boat, you'll spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing at nearby white-sand beaches like Puerto Grande, Cerro Brujo, and Manglecito

Day 3: Day Trip to Punta Pitt

Blue-footed boobies
See Blue-footed boobies at Punta Pitt

In the morning, you'll embark on a boat trip for a day tour to Punta Pitt. It's a real treat for wildlife lovers, as this area at the tip of San Cristóbal is the only spot in the Galaápagos where you can see frigatebirds plus all three species of boobies: Nazca, red-footed, and blue-footed. Once here, you can view the birds' nesting sites as you hike up a short trail to the top of a hill made of volcanic tuff. Along the way, there are plenty of viewpoints where you can take incredible photos overlooking the coast. After the hike, return to the boat for a snorkeling excursion, then return to Isla Isla San Cristóbal.

Day 4: Speedboat to Isla Santa Cruz, Optional Activities

Giant tortoise in the highlands of Santa Cruz
See giant tortoises in the highlands of Santa Cruz
After breakfast, head to the marina and board a speedboat for the 2.5-hour ride west from San Cristóbal to Puerto Ayora, the main town on Isla Santa Cruz. Meet your guide at the dock and hop in a car for the ride up to the island's interior. This highland region is a special place, as it's a natural habitat for the famous Galápagos giant tortoises, which can live up to 150 years. You'll see plenty of these magnificent animals up close, then head to a local farm for lunch. After doing more wildlife spotting, you'll return to Puerto Ayora later in the afternoon and check in to your hotel. 

Day 5: Day Trip to Isla Floreana & Isla San Cristóbal

Floreana Island
Stone sculptures on Isla Floreana 
Plan your trip to Galapagos Islands
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

In the morning, you'll meet up with a small group tour and board a ferry for the two-hour ride south from Santa Cruz to Isla Floreana. Whereas most of the Galápagos Islands are known for their wildlife, this island is fascinating in that it is more famous for the myths surrounding it. It boasts a rich history, romantic sites, and unsolved mysteries, including the disappearance of a wealthy baroness in the 1930s.

Upon arrival, your group will head to the highlands of Floreana to visit Asilo de la Paz, the site of the first human settlement on the island in the 18th century (and where the first baby was born in the Galápagos). There are many points of interest here, including a freshwater spring that sustained the settlers as well as caves used as a hideout by pirates. 

After hiking around Floreana, you'll return to the boat and travel north to Isla San Cristóbal. One of the last stops of the day is at La Lobería. This beach gets its name from the large colony of sea lions that call the area home. You can take a nature hike along a half-mile (1 km) trail here, where you can spot these sea lions and marine iguanas. Then continue to Playa Negra to relax and enjoy beach time on the volcanic sands before returning to Santa Cruz. 

Day 6: Day Trip to an Uninhabited Island

Venture to untouched Isla Bartolomé or another uninhabited island today
Leave this morning on a full-day boat tour to some uninhabited isles around Santa Cruz. Depending on the permit granted by the park authorities, you'll get to visit either Santa Fé, Plaza SurPlaza Norte, Seymour Norte, or Bartolomé. To experience one of these isles in their unspoiled state, home only to endemic wildlife, you'll see the Galápagos the same way Darwin did on his arrival in 1835. After exploring some wildlife habitats, you'll enjoy lunch on the boat's deck and then cruise back to Puerto Ayora.   

Day 7: Speedboat to Isla Isabela, Explore Tintoreras Islet

Explore Tintoreras Islet
Humboldt penguins on Tintoreras

In the morning, hop on a speedboat for the two-hour ride west to Isla Isabela, the largest island in the Galápagos. You'll arrive in the port village of Puerto Villamil, where you'll check in to your hotel. After settling in, you'll meet a local guide and board another boat tour.

It's a quick 10-minute trip to the islet of Tintoreras. This tiny isle is comprised mainly of volcanic rock formations and water channels created by lava flows. It's an ideal spot for snorkeling, as the channels are a habitat for exotic marine life. After strapping on your mask and diving in, you'll see Humboldt penguins, sea turtles, marine iguanas, starfish, sea lions, and whitetip reef sharks. Pelicans and blue-footed boobies are also common here. At the end of the tour, you'll return to Puerto Villamil and have the rest of the day free.

Day 8: Hike the Sierra Negra Volcano

Hike the Sierra Negra crater, the second largest of its kind
Leave early from Puerto Villamil to Sierra Negra volcano, located in the south of Isabela. At 3,687 feet (1,124 m), this is one of the largest active shield volcanoes in the world—and today, you'll get to hike it. Upon arrival at the trailhead, you'll embark on a six-hour roundtrip guided hike to the summit. Here, you'll be treated to incredible views of the expansive crater, nearly 6 miles (10 km) in diameter. At this altitude, you'll also be able to see out to volcanic peaks on adjacent Isla Fernandina. After hiking back down, you end the day with a snorkeling tour of the mangrove forests at Concha Perla.

Day 9: Rappel & Cycle on Isabela Island

Abseil into the dormant Truzillos volcano

Your guide will pick you up early this morning for the drive a few miles north from Puerto Villamil to the Trillizos volcano. Upon arrival here, you'll embark on a short hike to the crater, where the abseiling (rappelling) adventure starts. After strapping into a harness, you'll descend 493 feet (150 m) through a steam vent deep into this dormant volcano. These internal chambers are a marvel of geology, as here you'll see various rocks, minerals, and incredible quartz formations.

After the volcano abseiling adventure, you'll return to Puerto Villamil for lunch. Then you'll hop on a bicycle for a ride around the island, taking you to scenic viewpoints and incredible landmarks. These include the Mango Viewpoint, which overlooks the south of Isabela; Cuevas del Sucre, a group of lava tunnels and caves you can explore; and Campo Duro, an ecolodge on the slope of Sierra Negra volcano. Here you can stroll amid the farms and orchards as well as spot Galápagos tortoises roaming about. At the end of the day, you'll return to your hotel.

Day 10: Day Trip to Hacienda & Coffee Farm

Tour coffee fields in the Galápagos
Enjoy a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, then meet your guide for the 30-minute drive up into the highlands and 30 minutes to a hacienda in the community of Tomás de Berlanga. Here you'll meet some friendly locals and tour the area's coffee fields and fruit plantations. Naturally, this excursion includes a tasting of some of the fine brew made from Galápagos beans, as well as a snack made with fruit grown right on the farm. Afterward, you'll return to your hotel and have the rest of the afternoon at your leisure.

Day 11: Ferry to Isla Santa Cruz, Optional Activities

Kayaks at Garrapatero Beach
Wake up early and enjoy the sunrise on the beach, followed by breakfast in town. Set out on one last nature hike or savor some more beach time before hopping on the ferry for the ride back to Puerto Ayora, on Isla Santa Cruz. After checking in to your hotel, you can spend the rest of the day however you like. Perhaps visit the Cerro Mesa Ecological Reserve, a natural habitat for the Galápagos' famed giant tortoises. Or go kayaking at Garrapatero Beach.

Day 12: Transfer to Isla Baltra, Depart

Until next time, Galápagos!
Your grand island-hopping adventure around the Galápagos has, unfortunately, come to an end. In the morning, your driver will pick you up for the transfer north to the airport on Isla Baltra, where you'll catch your connecting flight home. Safe travels!

More Great Galápagos Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to the Galápagos? Check out these other Galápagos itineraries, explore other ways to spend 12 days in the Galápagos, or learn about the best time to visit the Galápagos.


Map of Galápagos Island Hopping - 12 Days
Map of Galápagos Island Hopping - 12 Days