Get off the beaten path on this 5-day cruise around the Galapagos archipelago. This short but fascinating journey offers world-class wildlife viewing at lesser-known points of interest throughout the islands. You'll sail from one rocky beach to another, disembarking for short guided hikes to see blue-footed boobies, cormorants, penguins, and flamingoes in their natural habitats. In the evenings, relax on the boat with a cold drink as the sun goes down.


  • Explore the Galapagos on a private boat
  • View flamingoes in flight at Moreno Point
  • See hundreds of giant tortoises at Arnaldo Tupiza Breeding Center
  • Get up close with wildlife at marine iguana colonies
  • Marvel at graffiti written by long-ago pirates and whalers

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive on Santa Cruz Island & Tour Highlands Puerto Ayora
Day 2 Hike & View Wildlife on Las Tintoreras  Isabela
Day 3 Explore Elizabeth Bay  Cruise Ship
Day 4 Birdwatch at Punta Espinoza  Fernandina
Day 5 Visit Bachas Beach & Transfer to Airport  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive on Santa Cruz Island & Tour Highlands

Giant Tortoise in the highlands of Santa Cruz
A giant tortoise in the highlands of Santa Cruz

Welcome to the Galapagos Islands! You'll start the trip on Santa Cruz Island. Go on a driving tour of the highlands leaving from Bellavista, a small village located a 15-minute drive from Puerto Ayora. You'll pass through agricultural areas, enjoying beautiful scenes of rolling hills and extinct volcanic cones covered with lush greenery year-round. Take a break from the drive to visit the Twin Craters and a local ranch where you can observe the giant tortoise of Santa Cruz Island in its natural habitat. Head back to Puerto Ayora for a relaxing evening, dining al fresco in an outdoor restaurant and getting some rest at your hotel.

Day 2: Hike & View Wildlife on Las Tintoreras 

Humboldt Penguins
Penguins on the rocky shore of Tintoreras Islet

The tour continues after breakfast. Tintoreras Islet, located a short distance from Puerto Villamil, is home to a great variety of wildlife. Its turquoise waters are inhabited by white-tip reef sharks, penguins, marine turtles, and sea lions. One of its beaches surrounded by mangroves is one of the few sites where marine iguanas can reproduce successfully.

After a break for lunch, you'll see hundreds of giant tortoises at Arnaldo Tupiza Breeding Center, then walk to the island's wetlands. Characterized by sandy beaches, rocky shores, and mangroves, the area has a number of trails where you can see all four species of mangroves found in the Galapagos as well as a great variety of migratory birds. Your last stop for today is the Wall of Tears. The wall was constructed between 1946 and 1959, when Isabela Island was a penal colony. As punishment, the prisoners were forced to build this wall from huge blocks of lava. Return to Puerto Ayora to relax in the evening.

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Day 3: Explore Elizabeth Bay 

Flamingos flying
Flamingos flying over Elizabeth Bay

In the morning, you will visit Moreno Point. Lava from many years ago has left craters in its wake, forming crystal tide pools that are now natural habitats for pink flamingos, white-cheeked pintails, and common gallinules. If you peer more deeply into the pools, you may see white-tip reef sharks and sea turtles.

In the afternoon, you will go to Elizabeth Bay on the east coast of Isabela Island. The bay contains many islets that can be visited by dinghy. Look for penguins and blue-footed boobies on the rocky islets. With an abundance of marine life and clear water, the area is perfect for snorkeling amid schools of colorful fish, sea lions, and perhaps even sharks.

Day 4: Birdwatch at Punta Espinoza 

Blue-footed boobies
Blue-footed boobies in the Galapagos

In the morning, your boat will cross the Bolivar Channel that divides Isabela and Fernandina Islands. You will land at Espinoza Point, and after walking past a colony of marine iguanas and a group of sea lions, you will reach the island’s highlight, the flightless cormorant nesting site. This area also provides a great opportunity to see the Galapagos hawk.

The afternoon continues with a visit to Tagus Cove. Walk along the cliffs to look for penguins, flightless cormorants, and other sea birds. You can also hike to get a view of Darwin Lake, a lake that's saltier than the sea; you can also spot several volcanoes from this location. Look carefully at the graffiti on the surrounding cliffs of the cove — it has been written over the years by pirates, whalers, and buccaneers.

Day 5: Visit Bachas Beach & Transfer to Airport

Sea lion resting on a bench
A sea lion resting on a bench

Named for some wrecked World War II barges (the ruins are still visible on the sand), Bachas Beach offers great swimming. Go for a walk along the shore and visit a lagoon that's home to marine iguanas and flamingoes. The area is also a favorite nesting site for green turtles. It's a great place to soak up some of the natural beauty of the Galapagos before heading to the airport and catching your flight to mainland Ecuador. Safe travels!

More Great Galapagos Islands Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to the Galapagos? Check out these other 5-day Galapagos Islands itineraries, with island-hopping cruises, land-based trips, and best-of tours to hit the highlights. 

Written by Linda Schulz Old, updated Feb 24, 2022