This incredible cruise itinerary explores countless species of distinct wildlife—and marine life—in the Galápagos Islands. Over the course of nine days, you and your nature guide will hop between the best places on this famous volcanic archipelago and meet rare birds, giant tortoises, marine iguanas, jolly sea lions, and friendly sharks. You'll also take part in hiking, kayaking, swimming, and snorkeling as well as relaxing on soft coral sand for the ultimate feel-good getaway.


  • Visit an 18th-century mail system developed by whalers that's still in use today
  • Get up close to giant tortoises in their natural environment on Isla Santa Cruz
  • Hike to the top of Isla Bartolomé for incredible views of lunar landscapes
  • Enjoy plenty of free time to snorkel and swim while looking for marine life

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive on Isla Baltra, Board Cruise Ship & Visit Isla Santa Cruz Cruise Ship
Day 2 Explore Cormorant Point & Post Office Bay on Isla Floreana Cruise Ship
Day 3 Explore Gardner Bay & Suarez Point on Isla Española  Cruise Ship
Day 4 Visit Isla San Cristóbal, Snorkel at Kicker Rock & Isla Lobos Cruise Ship
Day 5 Explore Bachas Beach & Plaza Sur Cruise Ship
Day 6 Explore Black Turtle Cove, Meet Giant Tortoises Cruise Ship
Day 7 Explore Prince Philip's Steps & Darwin Bay on Isla Genovesa  Cruise Ship
Day 8 Hike & Snorkel on Isla Bartolomé Cruise Ship
Day 9 Visit Isla Seymour Norte, Transfer to Isla Baltra, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive on Isla Baltra, Board Cruise Ship & Visit Isla Santa Cruz

The cheerful yellow warblers are a common sight on Isla Santa Cruz

Welcome to the Galápagos Islands! You'll first arrive at the ecological airport in Isla Baltra, one of the 19 main islands in the archipelago. This is where you'll go through a process to ensure that no foreign plant or animal species are introduced to the islands. From here, your guide will meet you at the airport, assist you with the luggage, and accompany you on the short bus ride where you'll board your cruise vessel. After greeting the crew and the captain, you'll enjoy your first lunch on board as you set sail.

Your first destination is a nature reserve in Isla Santa Cruz, where it's possible to admire different kinds of birds, such as tree and ground finches, vermillion flycatchers, yellow warblers, and cattle egrets. You'll drive on a road that goes from the coast through the agricultural zone and straight up to the dense humid forests. This spot is a birdwatcher's haven since almost every land bird present on the island lives or migrates here. Afterward, return to your ship for dinner.

Day 2: Explore Cormorant Point & Post Office Bay on Isla Floreana

Spend part of the day snorkeling while looking for green sea turtles and other marine life

This morning you'll set sail for the peninsula of Cormorant Point, which forms the extreme north cape of Isla Floreana. At the landing beach, you'll be welcomed by a small Galápagos sea lion colony. Check out the greenish sand on the beach with a high percentage of glassy olivine crystals. Meanwhile, the "flour sand" beach on the southern side of the peninsula is made up of even finer white coral sand that feels very smooth on the feet. Here you can look for schools of stingrays who love hiding in the sandy bottom and Pacific green turtles who come ashore to bury their eggs (seasonal).

Another stop on the morning itinerary is Devil's Crown, where you can enjoy one of the best snorkeling spots in the Galápagos due to the coral reef in its center that attracts marine life. Look for sea lions, sea turtles, many species of colorful fish, and even some dolphins. The current can be a bit strong sometimes, so novice swimmers should not attempt it.

After lunch, you'll head to Post Office Bay. Historically, this site is the location of a wooden barrel that was placed there in the 18th century by the crew of a whaling ship. Letters found inside the barrel were collected and delivered by sailors returning home. There was no postage fee, and surprisingly, this mailbox and its honor system are still in use today. Although letters are no longer important messages from sailors to their loved ones, tourists leave thousands of them today, and many still reach their destinations.

You can also relax on the beach, where in addition to sea lions, you may spot Pacific green turtles, golden rays, and Galápagos penguins. This is the only place in the southeastern archipelago where penguins reside. You can also climb the small basaltic cone of the Baroness Lookout and enjoy the coastline's paradisiacal views. This was the favorite spot of one of Floreana's first settlers, the eccentric baroness and self-proclaimed "Empress of Galápagos," Eloisa von Wagner, who built a house here in the early 20th century.

Day 3: Explore Gardner Bay & Suarez Point on Isla Española 

Keep an eye out for pairs of waved albatrosses on Isla Española

Today you'll take a day trip to Isla Española, starting at a striking white beach on Gardner Bay, which also happens to be an important breeding site for Pacific green turtles. However, without a doubt, its main attraction is the Galápagos sea lion colony. Females stay year-round in this natural nursery, suckling their pups up to the age of three years, though they learn how to fish at five months. Take some time to enjoy and photograph the spectacle.

In the afternoon, you'll head to Suarez Point, where huge ocean waves crash onto the southern basaltic cliffs. This forms a spectacular blowhole causing water to spray high into the air (depending on the season, the tide, and how strong the sea breeze pushes the waves). This is also a popular breeding spot for waved albatrosses who use the cliff as a launching pad. Take your time wandering the land and enjoying a meditative break on this emblematic viewpoint.

Day 4: Visit Isla San Cristóbal, Snorkel at Kicker Rock & Isla Lobos

The so-called "Sleeping Lion" offers incredible bird-spotting and marine life

Today's adventure starts with a trip to Isla San Cristóbal to visit an interpretation center. This modern and sophisticated architectural space was designed for the natural interpretation of the Galápagos. You'll learn about the volcanic formation of the islands, the evolution of various species, the history of human settlement, and complex systems and management models. Then, return to the cruise ship and have lunch.

Next, boat to Kicker Rock, also called "Sleeping Lion," one of the most incredible volcanic rock formations in the Galápagos. On land, you'll find an immense number of birds like frigates, blue-footed boobies, and Nazca boobies. Snorkeling is also an important activity here, and you can observe manta rays, sea lions, sea turtles, and safe sharks, such as hammerheads and whitetip reefs, among others. In the afternoon, visit Isla Lobos for panga (small wooden boat) riding, swimming, and snorkeling, where you'll spot seals, frigatebirds, marine iguanas, lava lizards, and small endemic Galápagos snakes. 

Day 5: Explore Bachas Beach & Plaza Sur

Marine iguanas like to swim off the coast of Plaza Sur

This morning you'll make your way to Bachas Beach, where you can still see the remains of one of the floating docks that American soldiers set up during World War II. The beach itself is covered in white coral sand, and it's a major nesting site for Galápagos green turtles. There's also a lagoon just behind the sand, which often hosts flamingoes, ducks, and migratory birds. Look for marine iguanas feeding on the rocky outcrops near the tide line. The main beach is perfect for swimming, being very sheltered from the ocean swells, and is a very pleasant spot to cool off and indulge in some snorkeling.

Next is a trip to Plaza Sur, one of the best visitor sites in the Galápagos, thanks to the number of species present here. The most noticeable (and noisiest) of Plaza Sur's residents are the sea lions, who have a large colony here. Less obvious are the land iguanas (the smallest in the islands) and marine iguanas. The inland terrain combines a mix of scrubby vegetation and giant opuntia cactus forest, providing food for the iguanas. You can also follow a circular hiking trail that leads to a cliff summit with countless nesting seabirds.

Day 6: Explore Black Turtle Cove, Meet Giant Tortoises

Say hello to the archipelago's famous gentle giants on today's excursion

Kick off the day with a visit to Black Turtle Cove on Isla Santa Cruz, which gets its name from the abundance of green sea turtles. There is no landing here, so you'll be doing a boat tour, exploring shallow channels and small coves surrounded by beautiful mangrove forests. Reef sharks, sea turtles, and several species of rays inhabit this beautiful area, which is considered an important mating area for turtles and a nursery for several species of sharks. Herons, pelicans, and boobies are also common here as they pray in schools of anchovies.

In the afternoon, a bus will take you to the highlands of Isla Santa Cruz, stopping along the way at one of the reserves to look for Galápagos giant tortoises in their natural environment. This is the best place in the Galápagos to see these gentle giants casually grazing and resting in freshwater ponds. You'll also find a great diversity of birds rarely found in the lowlands, including finches (tree, woodpecker, and vegetarian), flycatchers, and several species of water birds. You can also visit a lava tunnel and learn how ancient volcanic eruptions created these extraordinary formations.

Day 7: Explore Prince Philip's Steps & Darwin Bay on Isla Genovesa 

Genovesa Island
Spend a free afternoon on Isla Genovesa's Darwin Bay

It's time to explore another new island! Today's trip takes you to Isla Genovesa, where you'll make a steep climb along Prince Philip's Steps to reach a flat rocky plateau. Along your walk, you can observe large colonies of Nazca boobies, red-footed boobies, great frigatebirds, and storm petrels. Those not wishing to disembark can enjoy a longer panga ride along the cliffs (depending on weather conditions).

In the afternoon, you'll land at Darwin Bay, a beautiful beach where you can enjoy some free time for swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking. Then, take an easy stroll to observe hundreds of birds, mainly frigatebirds, red-footed and Nazca boobies, gulls, herons, finches, and mockingbirds, before returning to your ship.

Day 8: Hike & Snorkel on Isla Bartolomé

Galapagos Marin Life
Get up close to marine life off the coast of Isla Bartolomé

This morning's destination is Isla Bartolomé, where you'll take an educational hike on Sullivan Bay to understand the birth of the volcanic islands. You'll walk in a well-preserved flow, which will give you endless opportunities to see the delicate textures of these types of lava, which only appear in a few places throughout the world. At first sight, the barren landscape looks completely deprived of life, but look carefully for pioneer plants, lava lizards, and small birds. By the shore, you can find penguins, pelicans, and oystercatchers. You'll have the option to swim or snorkel from a coral sand beach.

In the afternoon, head to Pinnacle Rock, located on the northern side of the island, next to a beautiful, peach-colored sand beach. You can hike to the top of the island for incredible views of lunar landscapes with scattered volcanic cones as well as surrounding islands. This area also holds a well-deserved reputation of being one of the best snorkeling places in the Galápagos, not only because of its clear and calm water but also because of the presence of penguins, which are relatively easy to find while snorkeling.

Plan your trip to Galapagos Islands
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 9: Visit Isla Seymour Norte, Transfer to Isla Baltra, Depart

Until next time, Galápagos!
It's time to say goodbye to your new friends in the Galápagos! But first, you'll visit one more destination: Isla Seymour Norte. Walk around and look for blue-footed boobies performing their famous dance in the open areas while swallow-tailed gulls perch on the cliff edges. Land iguanas are common inland while their marine cousins bask in the rocks by the sea, close to sea lions who like to body surf in the waves. At the appointed time, you'll return to the boat and sail to Isla Baltra to catch your plane back to the mainland. Safe travels!

More Great Galápagos Islands Itineraries

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


Map of Island-Hopping Wildlife Cruise in the Galápagos - 9 Days
Map of Island-Hopping Wildlife Cruise in the Galápagos - 9 Days