Experience the highlights of the Galápagos Islands both above and below the water on this eight-day adventure. It begins on Isla Santa Cruz, where you'll meet the local wildlife on dive tours and at the famous Charles Darwin Research Station. After enjoying kayak and boat tours, hop over to Isla Isabela for snorkeling and wildlife excursions before returning to Santa Cruz for some downtime before heading home.


  • Walk among giant tortoises in the Galápagos
  • Go diving off the coast of Isla Santa Cruz
  • Snorkel at some of the best sites at Isla Isabela, like Los Túneles

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive on Santa Cruz, Highland Tour & Charles Darwin Research Station Isla Santa Cruz
Day 2 Diving Isla Santa Cruz Isla Santa Cruz
Day 3 Kayak Tortuga Bay & Afternoon Boat Tour Isla Santa Cruz
Day 4 Speedboat to Isla Isabela & Wildlife Tour Isla Isabela
Day 5 Los Túneles Snorkeling Tour Isla Isabela
Day 6 Tintoreras Snorkeling Tour Isla Isabela
Day 7 Speedboat to Isa Santa Cruz, Dinner by the Sea Isla Santa Cruz
Day 8 Transfer to Isla Baltra & Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive on Santa Cruz, Highland Tour & Charles Darwin Research Station

A Galápagos tortoise and friend

Welcome to the Galápagos Islands! Located 603 miles (972 km) off the coast of Ecuador, this volcanic archipelago is one of the most biodiverse spots on earth. The wildlife alone has done much to further human understanding of natural history, starting with inspiring a young Charles Darwin during his visit here in 1835. Today, hundreds of thousands of visitors flock to this national park to enjoy nature excursions and to see exotic wildlife up close. On this adventure, you'll do the same.

You'll arrive at the main airport on the islet of Baltra, located at the tip of Isla Santa Cruz. After a short ferry ride, a driver will pick you up for the hour's ride south to Puerto Ayora, the main town of Isla Santa Cruz. After checking in to your hotel, you'll meet a local guide for a half-day nature excursion into the highlands. It's an excellent opportunity to spot giant tortoises roaming free in the wild. You'll see dozens of these animals (which can live over 150 years) and walk alongside them. Around midday, you'll stop at a local farm to enjoy a delicious lunch.

Later, you'll visit the famous Charles Darwin Research Station. Scientists from all over the world come to this nonprofit to meet and work together on environmental projects such as water analysis, animal protection, and the effects of tourism on nature. It's also a center for conservation where Galápagos tortoises are raised before being released into the wild. A very special part of the tour is visiting the breeding center, where you'll get to view live baby tortoises. There's also an educational aspect in which you'll learn how these animals have adapted to the environments of the various islands.

Day 2: Diving Isla Santa Cruz

Dive the Galápagos and see animals like sea lions in their element

Wake up early for a half day of diving off the coast of Santa Cruz. Your driver will pick you up at your hotel for the ride up the coast to a scuba school. Here, you'll meet your instructor and learn the basic principles of diving. The best part is that it does not require certification because this is a basic diving experience (you won't swim deeper than 32 ft/10 m).

Once you feel comfortable, your instructor will take you to the beach, where you'll continue the lesson underwater. Then you'll head to one of three dive sites in the area. Each one abounds with exotic marine life, and during your dive, you'll swim alongside tropical fish, sea turtles, rays, sea lions, whitetip reef sharks, and (perhaps) even hammerheads. After the experience, you'll return to your hotel and have the rest of the day free.

Day 3: Kayak Tortuga Bay & Afternoon Boat Tour

Tortuga Bay's famous white sands

Get ready for a full day of adventures on both land and sea. It begins in the morning with a 45-minute hike from Puerto Ayora to Tortuga Bay, famed for its soft white sands fronting turquoise waters. Take a kayak out onto the water and admire the scenery as you paddle along the beautiful coastline. You won't be alone either, as sea lions, marine iguanas, and birds like pelicans and finches will be frolicking around you. You might even spot flocks of wading flamingoes in the nearby salt lagoon. After kayaking, feel free to relax on the beach before returning to Puerto Ayora.

Later in the afternoon, you'll hop on a smaller boat for a six-hour tour outside Puerto Ayora. During this cruise along the coast, you'll first stop at La Lobería, a small islet named for its great colony of sea lions. Here, you can dive in and snorkel around these friendly animals as well as schools of tropical fish. Then it's on to Shark Channel, where you'll see blue-footed boobies and can swim with reef sharks (not to worry, as there's never been a fatal shark attack in the Galápagos).

Next, return to land and the Canal del Amor. The "love channel" is a romantic grotto of turquoise waters lined with volcanic rocks and home to turtles and tropical fish. After snorkeling here, you'll embark on a brisk 10-minute hike to see marine iguanas in their natural habitat. Lastly, you'll head back toward Puerto Ayora and stop at Las Grietas, a swimming hole comprised of three crystalline pools flanked by large cliffs. After doing some swimming, you'll return to Puerto Ayora.

Day 4: Speedboat to Isla Isabela & Wildlife Tour

See the very big and very pink flamingoes on Isla Isabela
Plan your trip to Galapagos Islands
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

After breakfast, 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. Then, with a local guide, head out for a tour of wildlife habitats, including Laguna de los Flamingoes. This lagoon is famous for having the largest population of American flamingoes in the archipelago. Despite arriving here from the American continent, these birds have adapted over time to the wetland ecosystem of this island, making them not unlike the other animals here. 

You can also visit the Arnaldo Tupiza Tortoise Breeding Center. Leave right from Puerto Villamil on a short trail that's lovely in its own right and passes wetland scenery and prickly pear cactus fields. Once at the breeding center, you'll see significant populations of Galápagos tortoises that have been bred and raised on-site. Around 330 juvenile and adult tortoises are here, comprising five different subspecies. All are native to Isabela but have had their habitats threatened by volcanic eruptions and other animals. The breeding center ensures their survival. At the end of the day, return to town.

Day 5: Los Túneles Snorkeling Tour

Swim with sea turtles at Los Túneles

This morning, more wildlife encounters are in store for you when you embark on an excursion to Los Túneles, one of the best snorkeling spots at Isla Isabela. From the marina at Puerto Villamil, you'll board a speedboat for the one-hour ride along the coast to the Cabo Rosa lava tunnels, locally known as Los Túneles. The unique geological formations at this coastal site are the result of lava flows that have created natural archways and tunnels both underneath and above the water.

Upon arrival, you'll put on your snorkeling equipment and take a swim through this network of channels, a haven for exotic marine life. In the shallow waters here, you can spot tropical fish, rays, turtles, seahorses, and whitetip reef sharks. Also, watch for penguins and blue-footed boobies hanging out on the rocks. At the end of the experience, you'll return to your hotel.

Day 6: Tintoreras Snorkeling Tour

Explore Tintoreras Islet
Humboldt penguins on the rocks around Tintoreras 
Walk to the marina this morning and board a boat for a 10-minute trip to the islet of Tintoreras. This tiny isle comprises mainly volcanic rock formations and water channels created by lava flows. It's an ideal spot for snorkeling, as the channels are a habitat for plentiful 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 7: Speedboat to Isa Santa Cruz, Dinner by the Sea

A colorful street scene in Puerto Ayora, Isla Santa Cruz
In the morning, head to the marina and hop in a boat for the 2.5-hour ride back to Isla Santa Cruz. After checking into your hotel, you'll have the rest of the day free. You can stop at plenty of colorful cafés for a coffee before visiting the Samay Latin Art Gallery or the interactive Maprae Museum. The latter is the first museum of pre-Columbian art to use augmented reality in its exhibits. In the evening, change into your formal wear because you have a reservation at one of the best restaurants in Puerto Ayora, where you'll enjoy an unforgettable meal overlooking the water.

Day 8: Transfer to Isla Baltra & Depart

Farewell, Galápagos
Time flies when you're having adventures on exotic islands. In the morning, your driver will pick you up for the ride north back to the airport on Baltra, where you'll catch your connecting flight home. Safe travels! 

More Great Galápagos Islands Itineraries

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


Map of Galápagos Under the Sea Adventure - 8 Days
Map of Galápagos Under the Sea Adventure - 8 Days