Perfect for outdoor enthusiasts, this 12-day adventure in the Galápagos features hiking, kayaking, and wildlife spotting—plus mountain biking, a diving lesson, standup paddleboarding, and multiple snorkeling excursions. You'll sleep in hotels on three islands, and visit a fourth island on a boat trip, in between day trips and activities around the archipelago's spectacular landscapes and animal habitats.


  • Swim with colorful marine life on snorkeling excursions
  • Cycle past lava formations and coffee farms on Isla Santa Cruz
  • Learn the basics of scuba diving with an expert guide
  • Encounter giant tortoises and blue-footed boobies in the wild

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in the Galápagos, Visit Charles Darwin Research Station Isla Santa Cruz
Day 2 Kayak in Tortuga Bay & Tour Isla Santa Cruz Isla Santa Cruz
Day 3 Explore Isla Santa Cruz by Bike Isla Santa Cruz
Day 4 Enjoy a Day Trip to Isla Floreana Isla Santa Cruz
Day 5 Explore an Underwater World on a Diving Day Isla Santa Cruz
Day 6 Speedboat to Isla Isabela, Try Standup Paddleboarding  Isla Isabela
Day 7 Snorkel at Los Túneles Isla Isabela
Day 8 Kayak in Puerto Villamil & Cycle in Cave Sucre Isla Isabela
Day 9 Speedboat to Isla San Cristóbal, Free Time Isla San Cristóbal
Day 10 Discover Isla San Cristóbal & Visit Interpretation Center Isla San Cristóbal
Day 11 Snorkel at Kicker Rock Isla San Cristóbal
Day 12 Depart Isla San Cristóbal  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in the Galápagos, Visit Charles Darwin Research Station

Encounter a giant Galápagos tortoise in the highlands of Isla Santa Cruz

Welcome to the Galápagos Islands! After arriving at Baltra Airport, a local guide will pick you up, and you'll hop over to Isla Santa Cruz and its main town of Puerto Ayora. En route, you'll stop at a local highlands farm where dozens of giant tortoises live. Wander around on your own to appreciate these magnificent creatures.

Enjoy lunch before continuing to the Charles Darwin Research Station. Witness firsthand the work of the international scientists who come to the Galápagos to conduct environmental projects. Head to the nearby Fausto Llerena Breeding Center next, dedicated to protecting giant Galápagos tortoises. This is the best place on the islands to see different tortoise species and learn about each one.

Day 2: Kayak in Tortuga Bay & Tour Isla Santa Cruz

Kayaking Adventure in Tortuga Bay & Afternoon Bay Tour of Santa Cruz Island
Marvel at bright blue waters off Isla Santa Cruz

Begin today's kayaking adventure with a 45-minute hike from Puerto Ayora to the heavenly Tortuga Bay, famed for its soft coral sand and spectacular scenery. Take a kayak out onto the water to see marine life up close and admire the coastline from a different perspective, observing colonies of marine iguanas and marine birds. Pelicans and finches are local to the area, and near the salt lagoon, you may spot flamingoes. After kayaking at the nearby cove, sunbathe on the beach before returning to Puerto Ayora.

In the afternoon, take a boat tour of the bay of Santa Cruz. Stop at the tiny islet of La Lobería, where you can snorkel around sea lions and tropical fish. Afterward, head to the Shark Channel, where you may spot harmless whitetip sharks and blue-footed boobies. You'll also visit the Canal del Amor, home to sea turtles and many tropical fish varieties. 

Day 3: Explore Isla Santa Cruz by Bike

Travel at your own pace as you cycle around Isla Santa Cruz
Today you're free to enjoy the island's beauty at your own pace, by bike. You'll have a bike reserved and waiting for you at your hotel so that you can set straight off on a two-wheel adventure. The island of Santa Cruz was formed by a dormant volcano that last erupted over 1.5 million years ago, and evidence of this explosive past remains, with black and rusty colored volcanic rocks across the island, as well as lava tunnels that you can cycle to and explore.
In the same area as the tunnels, pay a visit to an organic coffee farm called Lava Java where you can enjoy refreshments with a view of the Pacific Ocean. Then turn west toward the secluded El Garrapatero Beach or continue into the highlands. Back in Puerto Ayora, pedal to the Fishing Pier where sea lions watch the fishermen reel in their catches. Whatever route you choose, there's very light traffic across Isla Santa Cruz, so you'll often have the roads to yourself. Once you're done, leave the bike at your hotel and enjoy the rest of the day as you wish.

Day 4: Enjoy a Day Trip to Isla Floreana

Floreana Island
Ancient rock art on Isla Floreana
After breakfast at your hotel, you'll embark on a day trip to Isla Floreana, a place of mystery and vivid history. This island holds a few distinctions: it's the location of the first post office in the Galápagos (established in 1793), and it was the first island to be colonized by Ecuadorians. Throughout its history, Isla Floreana was home to a penal colony and a fish canning plant; today, it only has about 100 residents.
Your guide will take you to a pirate's cave and a freshwater spring in the highlands. Later in the day, you'll learn about the first families who settled in the Galápagos. Visit La Lobería to see sea lions and marine iguanas, and finish the afternoon at Playa Negra, where you can relax and enjoy some beach time. Then return to Isla Santa Cruz for the evening.

Day 5: Explore an Underwater World on a Diving Day

Exploring the Underwater World: Discovery Basic Diving Day in Santa Cruz
Swim with penguins on a diving lesson for all levels
Early in the morning, you'll leave the hotel for a discovery beginner diving tour off the coast of Santa Cruz. Certification is not required: today's activity is more like a diving lesson. Your scuba instructor will spend a little time with you to explain the basic principles of diving and give you an overview of your scuba gear. Once you feel comfortable, your instructor will take you into the water to help you learn basic scuba skills. 

Depending on the weather and authorizations from the national park, you'll continue on to visit one or more of the three different dive sites on the island. Each has its own thriving populations of rare sea life, and in these crystal clear waters, you can swim with hammerhead sharks, whitetip sharks, sea lions, golden rays, sea turtles, fish, and a variety of marine life. Return to Puerto Ayora to relax at the end of the day. 
Plan your trip to Galapagos Islands
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 6: Speedboat to Isla Isabela, Try Standup Paddleboarding 

Puerto Villamil Stand-Up Paddle Boarding
Try your hand at standup paddleboarding on a tranquil bay of Isla Isabela

Meet your guide in the morning for a ride to the dock in Puerto Ayora. From there, catch a speedboat to Isla Isabela, the largest island in the archipelago, where you'll base yourself in the town of Puerto Villamil for the next few days. After settling in, set out to explore nearby Puerto Villamil Bay on a standup paddleboard. Navigate mangroves and the calm bay and be on the lookout for blue-footed boobies, pelicans, and frigatebirds.

End your day with time on the beach or snorkeling through the mangrove forests of Concha Perla. This natural pool is a habitat for turtles, sea lions, and penguins, and the clear water offers excellent visibility. Head back to town for dinner and a laidback evening at your hotel.

Day 7: Snorkel at Los Túneles

Sea turtle
Spot a sea turtle while snorkeling near Isla Isabela
One of the island's unique snorkeling spots is Los Túneles, famous for its unique geological formations, including lava-formed arches below and above water. This area is excellent for swimming and snorkeling, as you can encounter a huge variety of wildlife in the shallow waters. You'll snorkel here today, arriving by boat. As you enter shallow water, keep your eyes open for seahorses, colorful fish, rays, turtles, and whitetip reef sharks. You might also spot some penguins or blue-footed boobies sitting on the rocks. 

Day 8: Kayak in Puerto Villamil & Cycle in Cave Sucre

Kayak in Puerto Villamil - Biking in Cave Sucre
Explore the coastline of Isla Isabela by kayak
Get ready to explore the coastline on a kayak! Your guide will pick you up early in the morning and take you to the starting point of the adventure. After receiving some basic safety instructions and choosing between a single and double kayak, you'll head out on the water with your guide. Stay alert for marine iguanas, sea lions, and Galápagos penguins as you paddle, then return to dry land in time for lunch.
In the afternoon, you'll start a biking excursion. Follow your guide to various points of interest on the island, including Cave Sucre (a volcanic island with interesting lava formations) and Campo Duro, where you can observe giant tortoises in their natural habitat. You'll stop along the way at scenic lookout points. Finally, return to the hotel and get some well-deserved rest after an active day!

Day 9: Speedboat to Isla San Cristóbal, Free Time

Speedboat to San Cristobal Island - Free Time
Basking iguanas on the beaches of Isla San Cristóbal
It's time to hop to another island in the Galápagos! After breakfast at your hotel, you'll catch a speedboat from Isla Santa Cruz to Isla San Cristóbal, a journey of about 2.5 hours. This is the easternmost island in the archipelago and is where the English naturalist Charles Darwin first came ashore in 1835.

After checking in at your hotel, you'll have the rest of the day to explore at your own pace. Perhaps take a stroll along the town's main waterfront area at Wreck Bay. It was here where Charles Darwin first landed in the Galápagos and compiled data that he later incorporated into his scientific work, titled "On the Origin of Species." For relaxation, spend time accompanied by sea lions as you swim and sunbathe on the beaches at Playa Carola or Playa Mann. For something more active, take a boat to Punta Pitt and hike along the rugged volcanic landscapes. 

Day 10: Discover Isla San Cristóbal & Visit Interpretation Center

A magnificent frigatebird at Las Tijeretas

Today you'll visit the local Interpretation Center to learn about the island's wildlife and conservation efforts. It's a great place to get oriented before exploring one of the archipelago's top destinations for wildlife viewing and outdoor adventures.

Later in the afternoon, you'll have your first chance to see some of the island's wildlife in its natural habitat while hiking Las Tijeretas Hill, named for the tijeretas (frigatebirds) that inhabit the area. The males, with their bright red features, are exciting to spot. Finish the day at La Lobería, a beach that's home to sea lions and marine iguanas. Enjoy a fresh seafood dinner at a local restaurant, then get some rest before tomorrow's outing.

Day 11: Snorkel at Kicker Rock

Snorkeling at Kicker Rock
Approaching the iconic landmark of Kicker Rock on a boat
Today's day trip is to Kicker Rock, a 500-foot (152 m) pair of volcanic islands connected by an underground channel. Jutting dramatically out of the water, it's one of the most iconic sights in the entire Galápagos archipelago. It's also a hugely popular spot for snorkeling and diving. Ride a speedboat along the coast to reach the island, watching for frigatebirds and two types of boobies as you approach.
Your expert guide will accompany you as you put on your snorkeling gear to see what's underwater! Spot tropical fish, sea turtles, marine iguanas, and four kinds of rays. Break for lunch on the boat and spend the afternoon on one of the deserted beaches in the area: Manglesito, Puerto Grande, or Cerro Brujo. You'll return to Isla San Cristóbal for dinner and a relaxing evening.

Day 12: Depart Isla San Cristóbal

Sunset over Baltra Island
Sunset over the Galápagos

The adventure has come to an end. After breakfast, your driver will pick you up at your hotel and help you make your connection back to the mainland. 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, and discover the best time to visit the Galápagos.


Map of Outdoor Thrills & Rare Wildlife Experiences in the Galápagos- 12 Days
Map of Outdoor Thrills & Rare Wildlife Experiences in the Galápagos- 12 Days