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Exploring Galapagos Islands on the Cheap: A How-To Guide

galapagos islands travel cheap

S oft, snow-white sand. Belching sea lions at your feet. Radiantly coloured fish swimming before you. These are the things that come to mind when one daydreams of a visit to the Galapagos Islands.

For many, that is all the Galapagos ever is – a mere daydream. It's often dismissed as unfeasible to visit due to its exorbitant costs.

But what if you could travel the Galapagos on a first class, all-inclusive cruise with a personal guide for up to a third of the retail cost? What if you could dine and sleep on <$60 a day in one of the world’s most sought-after holiday destinations? I’m happy to tell you that you that this is not a dream , but a feasible reality that we ourselves have done.

Intrigued? Here's our ultimate guide on how to see Galapagos on the cheap!

  • 1 Galapagos 101: What you need to know
  • 2 How much does a trip to Galapagos cost?
  • 3 Why last minute cruises exist
  • 4 How to book a last minute cruise in Galapagos
  • 5 Where to book a last minute Galapagos cruise
  • 6 Booking a last minute cruise: Must-know facts
  • 7 Last minute cruise booking checklist
  • 8 When to visit Galapagos
  • 9 Getting there: Flights & inter-island transfers
  • 10 Where to stay
  • 11 What if you don't book a last-minute cruise?

galapagos islands travel cheap

Galapagos 101: What you need to know

First off, yes, you can visit the Galapagos Islands without a tour . This is the most important myth to dispel, as there are four islands that tourists can reside on without being on any sort of tour. These islands are Santa Cruz, San Cristobal (a.k.a. Chatham), Isabela, and Floreana (a.k.a. Charles or Santa Marta). The islands are serviced by ferries.

You can fly into the Galapagos yourself and stay on any of these islands. Santa Cruz and San Cristobal are the busiest, most populated islands and have the most to offer in terms of tours, restaurants, and accommodation. However, all of the islands have beaches, sights, and activities which can be explored for cheap or free on your own. For tips on that, read our post here !

galapagos islands travel cheap

How much does a trip to Galapagos cost?

This depends on how you want to explore the Galapagos, and the flexibility of your trip. If you want to do a pre-booked multi-night cruise, this is the most expensive option. A midpoint alternative would be booking a last minute cruise after arrival. The cheapest approach is to stay on an island and do day tours. In this post we'll compare all of these options!

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Land based, day tours only

Concept : Stay on an island (and/or island hop), do land or sea-based day tours and visit local sites Pros : Cheaper, flexible option & easy-going pace Cons : Cannot access many islands by day tour Average cost : $500-$800 USD  for 5-nights with activities & food (breakdown below) Example tours: – Puerto Ayora: Bartolome Island and Sulivan Bay Day-Trip – From Santa Cruz: Galapagos, Excursion to Tortuga & Tour – Cerro Mesa Reserve and Garrapatero Beach Tour Book through: GetYourGuide , Viator

Last minute cruise

Concept : Stay on an island & attempt to book a last minute discounted cruise Pros : Significant savings, able to visit more distant islands Cons : No guarantee of finding a cruise, requires flexibility Average cost : $800-$1800+ USD  for a 5+ night cruise (breakdown below)

Pre-booked cruise

Concept : Book a cruise in advance Pros : Security of knowing you have the cruise, route, and class you want Cons : Expensive! Average cost : $2500+ USD  for a 5+ night cruise (breakdown below) Example tours: – Galápagos Islands 5-Day Nature Tour – 6-Day Galápagos Adventure Tour on 4 Islands – San Cristobal: 4-Day Galapagos Island Tour Book through: GetYourGuide , Viator , Intrepid Travel , G Adventures

Land-based, day tours only: Cost breakdown

galapagos islands travel cheap

Basing yourself on an island and taking day tours is the most affordable way to see the Galapagos. Take note once more, there are only four islands in the Galapagos that tourists can stay over on without a tour : Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Isabela, and Floreana.

Detailed cost breakdown:

  • Accommodation : prices start at $25+ USD/night for single, budget private room. A basic budget double room is ~$40 USD/night on average.  is comprehensive for Galapagos and includes hostels.  AirBNB has comparable listings too.
  • Food : $5-$15+ USD per meal out (cheaper to eat outside of tourist zone!)
  • Tours and activities : $50-$200 USD per tour (land tours cheapest, diving tours most expensive)

GRAND TOTAL : $550-$800+ USD  for 5 nights (varies depending on accommodation, # of tours taken, and where you dine e.g. such as local or DIY meals vs tourist restaurants)

Booking a last minute cruise: Cost breakdown

Photo from our last minute, first class cruise in 2013

This approach works for those who are flexible with their trip duration and  are okay with the possibility of not finding a last minute cruise. If you don't find a last minute cruise, you can simply do land-based day tours/island hopping.

Here is a cost breakdown of finding a last minute cruise:

  • 5-night cruise : $800-$1700+ USD total (varies by cruise class, duration, route). This is inclusive of accommodation costs.
  • Food : included
  • Tours and activities : included (note: tipping and other items like wet suits could be extra)

GRAND TOTAL: $800-$1700+ USD

Note: Keep in mind you must also allocate extra costs for accommodation &/or activities before and after your cruise.

Pre-booked cruise: Cost breakdown

cruise galapagos

A pre-booked cruise is the most costly way to see the Galapagos. This is why people envision The Galapagos as an expensive place. Prices vary by company, class, and route, but you will pay a premium to have a secured spot on a particular ship in advance. There are endless company options, but  Viator , Intrepid Tours , and G Adventures  are popular and have accessible reviews.

  • 5-night cruise : $2500-$5000+ USD (varies by class, ship, route, etc.). Accommodation costs included.
  • Tours and activities : included (note: tipping and other items like wet suits for diving could be extra)


Note: Keep in mind you must also allocate extra costs for accommodation &/or activities before and after your cruise. Prices vary hugely by company, class, boat size, route, and more.

Why last minute cruises exist

Cruise ships charge outrageous prices in advance for their tickets, preying on holiday-goers who have a fixed annual vacation slot to fill. In reality, these seats do not always sell out and as a departure date approaches, remaining tickets are hugely slashed in price to fill the spots. In both the Galapagos and mainland Ecuador (Quito and Guayaquil), there are businesses that operate entirely on selling last minute cruise tickets.

Now, one can never guarantee a booking within a set timeframe, but there's usually at least some options within a few days window. The worst case scenario is that you don't book a multi-night cruise and do a land-based approach instead. This is arguably not a bad alternative, given the abundance of wildlife and world-class beaches that  can be seen for free or via day tours . We've done this on our second trip to Galapagos, and it worked out great.

At the bottom of this article is a map marked with important reference points. It includes where to book last minute tours and cheap/free activities. 


How to book a last minute cruise in Galapagos

As the name implies, “last minute” cruises must be booked on short notice – typically a few days before departure . Last minute cruises are booked in person, usually at tour shops that specialize in selling vacant cruise spots.

Where to book a last minute Galapagos cruise

Guayaquil, Quito, and the Galapagos Islands (Santa Cruz and San Cristobal specifically) all have shops that sell discounted tours. Below is a list of shops offering last minute tours.

Personally we've only booked on arrival to Galapagos (in Santa Cruz), which is usually the cheapest option. Mainland tourist shops find cruises the exact same way as Galapagos-based companies; that is, by making a phone call to contacts in the islands. However, cruises sold on the mainland often involve increased pressure to book and (false) claims that you definitely won't find cruises on arrival.

Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz

Moonrise tour agency.

About : This is a family run business that mainly specializes in last minute cruises. We used them in 2013 to book several day trips and were pleased with their service and the tours themselves. Address : Avenida Charles Darwin near the corner of Charles Binford (See map) Website : Phone : 05/2526-589

Joybe Tours

About : This is another family run business that sells day tours and last minute cruises. We used them in 2013 to book our multi-night last minute cruise and were hugely impressed with our first-class cruise! Address : See map Website : N/A Phone : N/A

Quito & Guayaquil

About : Based in Quito and Guayaquil, this company occasionally posts last minute deals on their website, otherwise visit in-person in Quito. Note: this recommendation comes from Frommer's (we haven't personally used them). Address : Quito – Almagro N31-80, Edificio Venecia. Guayaquil – in the Edificio Samborondon Business Center, Torre A Piso 3. Website : Phone : Quito – 02/2907-396, Quayquil – 04/2839-390

Quasar Expeditions

About : One of the bigger cruise operators and also has an office in Puerto Ayora. Note: this recommendation comes from Frommer's (we haven't personally used them). Address : Quito – Almagro Plaza, Ponce Carrasco E8-06 y Av. Diego de Almagro, Oficinas 1101-1106 Website : Phone : USA – 1.866.481.7790, UK – 0.800.883.0827, Australia – 1.800.463.266

Zenith Ecuador Travel

About : Has access to ~100 boats and can reach contacts to try and find a last-minute deal. Simply provide your dates and requirements and ask to speak to eh owner, Marcos Endara (tell him you are a Frommer's reader). Note: this recommendation comes from Frommer's (we haven't personally used them). Address : Quito – Juan León Mera 453 and Roca Website : Phone : 02/2529-993

Booking a last minute cruise: Must-know facts

Choosing a route, boat, and company, routes & itineraries.

Whatever you do, don't book a last minute tour blindly. Research your preferences ahead of time, including which islands you want to see. Each island and cruise route offers unique wildlife and scenery. Some itineraries focus more on landscapes, while others feature diving or wildlife.

There are more “typical” cruise ship routes which include visiting islands that you can see independently on day tours (e.g. Floreana, Bartolome, etc.). These routes tend to be cheaper since they are closer to the main islands, whereas those going to more remote islands are more costly.

land iguana

Companies & boat types

When choosing a boat and a company, try to look up reviews in advance. Where possible, find out who will be the naturist guide, as this is the wildlife narrator of your entire trip! Trip Advisor is a good place to get trip reports on companies, boats, and tour guides. It can also be a useful place for determining the going rate for full price and last-minute bargains for ships, routes, and classes.

As you research, make a shortlist of boats and routes that meet your approval (we've got a handy list below). It will be hard to remember this on the spot, so we really do advise making a “must have” list. You can then cross-check this against the last-minute options available. You may wish to print this out beforehand in case wifi is not accessible.

Allow buffer time & bring CASH

If your holiday time is fixed, you may want to book two weeks off if you want to do a 5-7 day cruise. Buffer room is essential. In our experience, we had 12 days which was plenty to book a 5-night cruise in two days time. It may take a couple days  of popping in and out of cruise shops to find a ship/route you like that works with your departure date.

Take note that most last minute tour offices only accept cash for tour bookings.  Be  sure to know your bank’s daily withdrawal limit, bring some cash ahead of time, determine your tour budget and ensure that you can withdraw that amount over a couple of days beforehand to pay for your cruise.

Know what's included in your tour

When booking, be sure to clarify what is included in the price (meals, diving equipment, tours, etc.) . Most often alcohol is not included, so if you want to drink, factor this into your on-board cash stash. Finally, tipping is expected. Be sure to bring cash for this too so you can tip crew members after your tour ends.

Be wary of bottom of rock bottom deals

Tread cautiously around extremely cheap cruises.  Reduced costs may be due to under-qualified guides with limited English, or boats that are crammed or unreliable. There's nothing like forking out a wad of cash for a disappointing trip. Know what you want, be prepared to ask questions, then show up and see what's on hand.

Last minute cruise booking checklist

Here is a checklist when booking!

Our experience booking a last minute tour

In 2013 we booked a 5-night, first class cruise for less than one third of the retail price. We did so within two days of arrival to Santa Cruz and booked at Joybe Tours. Our boat was The Odyssey , a 16-person yacht that included visited the Isabela, Fernandina, and Bartholomew Islands. We had a very knowledgeable and friendly guide, great food, and tours. It was the rainy season when we visited (December), which meant occasional drizzle, warmer ocean water for swimming, and less tourists.

In total, we paid $840 USD each for our all-inclusive first-class cruise . We splashed out on this once-in-a-lifetime experience, but there were cheaper alternatives available. The less pricey options were lower class boats that visited islands we could (and later did) access via day tour.


When to visit Galapagos

When is the best time of year to visit the Galapagos? The truth is, there are benefits to visiting in different months. Galapagos birds, fish, and animals have different breeding  seasons, so you can see surges of particular species at various times of the year.

  • The warm, rainy season is from late   December to June . This means warmer waters for swimming, but the chance of cloud and showers (though these are often quick passing).
  • The cool, dry season is from  late June to December.  “Cool” is a relative term here as the days are still warm but the water is cooler. As the temperatures are a bit more comfortable, this is the breeding season for sea lions, shore birds, fur seals, marine iguanas, which is exciting for wildlife viewing.
  • Peak periods include Christmas/New Years (late December/early January), and June to September. Consider that you will have a harder time finding last minute cruises and accommodation during these periods. It may be wise to at least book accommodation ahead during peak times.

Getting there: Flights & inter-island transfers

The cheapest way to get to Galapagos from Ecuador is between  Quito, Ecuador and  Baltra Airport, Galapagos (GPS).  Baltra is the airport for Santa Cruz, even though it is physically located on a different island. After landing in Baltra, tourists are immediately transported to Puorto Ayora, Santa Cruz by bus and ferry. Be sure to have small cash for these transports (a few dollars will suffice). Alternatively, you can pre-book an airport arrival transfer direct to your hotel, which includes all ferry tickets and coach transfers, and the option to stop at the Charles Darwin Station. Departure transfers are also available.

If you wish, it is possible to plan an open-jaw trip by flying into one island and out of another. You can transfer between islands by ferry ( pre-book on Viator ), and fly in or out of San Cristobal (SCY) airport.

Ecuador flights

Flight costs

If you book in advance (~6+ weeks), a flight to Baltra should be around $200+ USD  one-way from Quito. You will find the best rates by searching  Skyscanner , and we recommend selecting “whole month” when searching to find the cheapest day.

If you're not planning to start or end in Quito, try searching from your preceding destination to the Baltra Airport anyway. There's a good chance Skyscanner will be able to find a cheap route between the two points, usually connecting via Quito or Guayaquil.

For more hacks on how to find cheap flights to Galapagos , check out our other posts:

  • How to Book the Cheapest Flight Possible to Anywhere
  • How to Fly Cheap in South America: A Guide to Budget Airlines and Air Passes
  • How to Find Airline Mistake Fares (& Get Ridicuously Cheap Flights)

How to get between islands in Galapagos

galapagos islands travel cheap

A handful of islands in the Galapagos can be accessed by transfer ferries. You can book these yourself in person by showing up at the relevant dock. Transferring islands is essential if you wish to book an option-jaw flight (flying into one island and out of another).

Generally speaking, there is one early morning (e.g. 6AM) and one afternoon (e.g. 2PM) ferry between islands each day. These are general time estimates subject to change, and you must confirm this on arrival as it varies by island. It's recommended to buy ferry tickets the day prior so you know the timing in advance.

Prices range from around $20-$60USD one-way depending on the island. As of 2016 prices between San Cristobal and Santa Cruz were $30 USD one way.  This website provides a schedule, but we cannot take liability for errors in the schedule or price ( confirm in person and in advance of your travel plans). Alternatively, pre-book your island transfer with pickup direct from your hotel on Viator ( San Cristobal to Santa Cruz  and  Santa Cruz to San Cristobal ).


Where to stay

Before flying into the Galapagos Islands, you'll likely start your trip in Quito or Guayaquil. From there, you can fly to Baltra or San Cristobal and stay in one of four islands where tourists are allowed to stay. These include Santa Cruz, San Cristobal (a.k.a. Chatham), and Floreana (a.k.a. Charles or Santa Marta).

Quito, Ecuador

Hotel plaza internacional.

The Hotel Plaza Internacional is what I call a budget “boutique” hotel. This colonial-style accommodation will set you back $26 USD/night for a private double room with an ensuite.

My best friend and I stayed here in November 2015 on our “flashpacking” trip (i.e. you can get cheaper but this is good value for what it is). We loved the generous free breakfast (eggs are extra but worth it!), and the gorgeous city view. The hotel staff were very helpful and were always be happy to flag a taxi on our behalf to ensure a fair price.

Hotel Plaza Internacional

Guayaquil, Ecuador

Villa garza inn.

The Villa Garza Inn  ( read reviews ) is another mid-range budget option that is clean, spacious, and with a friendly staff on board. Most attractively this hotel includes FREE transport to and from the airport. The price per night is $44/USD, but factoring in the inclusion of transport, free wifi, and a private ensuite room – this is a pretty good option. Ask the owners for food recommendations nearby, we had phenomenal asado (BBQ meat) up the street!

Villa Garza Inn

Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos

Santa Cruz is the busiest of the four tourist islands. Its capital, Puerto Ayora, is filled with tourist shops, tour booking agencies, bars, and even a small grocery store. There are several land-based activities accessible here, including lava tunnels, a tortoise sanctuary, and a lagoon (check our post here for ideas).

Santa Cruz has the most booking agencies for day trips and last minute tours, so this is arguably your best starting point if you're trying to snag a discounted cruise.

Hotel España

We stayed at Hotel España  ( read reviews ) in 2013 and once again in November 2015. This is a clean, centrally-located budget option that starts at ~$29USD/night for a single private room with an ensuite. It's definitely a great “flashpacker” style option, especially if you get a room in the newer half of the building. Free functional wifi and a TV are included. The main lobby has hammocks that are perfect for swinging in with a beer at the end of a jam-packed day!

Hotel Espana

San Cristobal Island, Galapagos

San Cristobal is the second busiest of the islands that tourists can stay on. It is noticeably less buzzing and built up, but is still freckled with tourist shops and restaurants. The peace and quiet can certainly be a welcome reprieve from the busyness of Santa Cruz, and it does offer some stunning hikes and snorkel sights accessible on foot.

Hostal Laura de Casa

This cute little hostel is clean, fairly close to the main strip, and is colourfully outfitted. During our visit in November 2015 the wifi was strong and so too was the hot water. The owners have created an adorable garden here where guests can lounge. Single rooms start at $25 USD/night.

hostal casa laura

Floreana Island, Galapagos

Floreana is the quietest inhabited island, with a population of just 150. Unfortunately (or fortunately!), the tranquility means far less options for accommodation and dining. Most commonly tourists stay on Santa Cruz and/or San Cristobal, but if your budget allows it, there are definitely more off-the-beaten track vibes to be had here.

Isabela Island

One of the most volcanically active places on earth, this is the largest island in the Galapagos. On offer here is plenty of volcanic landscapes, the second largest volcanic crater on earth, and colourful wildlife including flamingos and sea turtles. We haven't stayed overnight at this island but made a day visit to it during our multi-night cruise in 2013 and it was incredible! Transfers from Santa Cruz to Isabela Island can be pre-booked on Viator .

Book in advance or on arrival?

Accommodation in Galapagos is a bit pricier to book ahead online, but can be essential during peak travel periods such as Christmas and New Years. We've visited twice (in November and February) and booked accommodation on arrival during these visits. While not booking ahead is a gamble no matter what, you can usually determine how busy it is based on remaining availability on sites like .

Keep in mind that in South America, many accommodation options are not listed online. Countless times while backpacking we would panic upon discovering no accommodation vacancies online, only to find that there were many (unlisted) places available when we arrived.  If you're hesitant to book on arrival , you can always book your first night or two and then explore your options when you get there.

For more tricks and websites to help get the best hotel rates when you travel, check out “ How to Book the Cheapest Hotel Possible “!

What if you don't book a last-minute cruise?

Put simply, being land-based is not a bad way to explore the Galapagos. If you aren't looking to visit remote islands or particular diving/spots sights, then you probably won't be disappointed with this option!

If you want to see the main highlights of Galapagos – sea lions, volcanic craters, tortoises, marine iguanas, glimmering beaches and the like – you can do all of this being land-based . Remember, you can also island hop to San Cristobal, Santa Cruz, Isabela, and Floreana without a tour, offering your own DIY island exploration.

Day tours are highly recommended (do at least a couple!). This will allow you to see islands that you can't access without a tour (which is the majority of them). Prices range from $70-$200+ USD and most include a meal (diving/snorkel trips are priciest). Bartolomé Island is an excellent tour for stunning scenery. South Plaza Island (Isla Plazas) showcases yellow land iguanas and gorgeous contrasts of red and green flora from cacti and shrubbery.

Besides booking tours, you can also visit beaches, lagoons, lava tubes, tortoise reserves entirely on your own. Keen to snorkel or kayak? You can even rent that gear yourself. For detailed ideas on how to explore the islands yourself, check out our article on cheap & free Galapagos activities .


Eating cheap & local

Get off the tourist strip.

If you wander a bit, you'll find Mom and Pop restaurants lining the backstreets, just North of the tourist strip. Prices are around the $5 mark per meal. Take note these are true hole in the wall places (to keep well, check our health tips here to avoid food poisoning!).

When in doubt or lost in translation, just ask for the platos del dia or almuerzo (plate of the day) which is usually a tasty, filling combination of soup, salad, rice, and a meat (often fried fish or chicken). Yum!

Make or bring your own food & snacks

Making your own meals helps stretch the funds here. San Cristobal actually has a small grocery store where you can stockpile items like tuna, bread, and produce for a DIY picnic anywhere. Prices are still shockingly higher than the mainland, but these DIY meals are much cheaper than a meal on the tourist strip.

Keep in mind that you cannot bring any produce (e.g. fruit, veg) out of protection for the flora here. Even some packaged goods like nuts may be sacked by airport security.


The Thrifty Gist

  • Consider a land-based approach to seeing Galapagos via day tours or free/cheap activities on your own
  • Avoid booking ahead for a multi-night cruise if you can
  • If booking a last minute cruise, be sure to bring cash and/or know your bank's daily withdrawal limit
  • Consider basic accommodation, pack some of your own meals, and/or check out local dining spots to cut costs. Save your budget for tours and exploring!

Related Posts

  • 10 Ways to Explore the Galapagos on a Budget
  • How to Plan Your Own Trip (& Save Big Travel Bucks)

Have you travelled the Galapagos on a shoestring? How did you cut costs? Have a general question or comment on how to do the islands cheaply? Share below!

Thrifty Nomads has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Thrifty Nomads and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author's alone. Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Thanks for the info Jen. I have a couple of questions – do you have any advice/comments on a single woman travelling alone? and since day trips don’t go to some islands, would it be a good idea to check for day trips first and then maybe book a multi-day cruise to islands that don’t have day trips? thanks, Maggie

I was wondering how you would book a last minute cruise yet still be able to have nice accommodations in case you don’t find one.

Thanks, Mary

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Budget Tours & Trips to Galapagos Islands

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7 Days Galapagos Express Adventure Tour

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Die gesamte Reise war traumhaft und unvergesslich. Von Anfang bis Ende sehr gut organisiert. Ich kann nichts negatives berichten.
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Galapagos Discovery Tour

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Galapagos Discovery

Beside the magnificence of the place and its residents, our guide, Priscila Sotomayor, was also exceptional. Very knowledgeable, always sharing information and answering all sort of questions while preparing us every day as well for what it would be the next experience. She also provided a very kind and special attention to every single need of the group participants. Visiting Galapagos is a great experience. Tourradar, through Intrepid and its staff made it very pleasant to me.

Golondrina I Yacht Budget Cruise - 8 Days Tour

Golondrina I Yacht Budget Cruise - 8 Days

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Galapagos Experience Tour

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What a great trip! So close to the animals, seeing them do what they do, and feeling a new connection to our planet was a great take-away. Competent aware guide with laid back attitude. Accommodations good and it was nice to have the ferry tickets and transfers handled. Recommend and take your reuseable water bottle.

7 Days Galapagos Expedition: San Cristobal & Santa Cruz Island Tour

7 Days Galapagos Expedition: San Cristobal & Santa Cruz Island

5 Days San Cristobal Island Wonders Tour

5 Days San Cristobal Island Wonders



When we arrived in the Galapagos, Johnny, the owner of Natura Gardens welcomed us with a sign. He showed us how to get a bus ticket, rode with us in the boat taxi and then transported us in his vehicle to the hotel. Upon our arrival at the Natura Gardens, Johnny, his family and staff were so welcoming, accommodating and generous. My husband and I were celebrating our Honeymoon. Johnny created the word "LOVE" with rose petals on our bed and made us a romantic candlelit dinner with fresh flowers. We were astonished and overjoyed with his thoughtfulness to make our stay so special. You can feel Johnny's love for his community and excitement for the excursions we participated in. He always asked about our experiences and our thoughts. Johnny knows a lot about the Galapagos and told us a lot about the area. He did a wonderful job giving us our itinerary and what to expect for each activity. The food was excellent and always served in a timely manner. We absolutely recommend the Natura Gardens for your next stay! The staff are so friendly and welcoming, their generosity is unmatched.

Galapagos Experience: 5 days Tour

Galapagos Experience: 5 days

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Highlights of Quito and Galapagos Cruise Tour

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7 Day Galapagos Island Hopping Budget Tour

  • Hiking & Trekking

7 Day Galapagos Island Hopping Budget

The tour was very good and met the expectations. Some points, however, can be improved: 1. when moving from Isabela to Santa Cruz, the coffee break should be offered upon arrival in Santa Cruz, as the one offered by the hostel in Isabela was insufficient; 2. the tour to the flamingos lagoon could have been done together with the visitation to the research center in the morning, due their proximity; 3. the guide service on the tour (snorkeling) near Puerto Ayora was not good. It seems that she was more interested in taking her own photos with the turtles than to give support to the tourists.

Nature and Adventure: 5 Days in Santa Cruz and Isabela. Tour

  • Ocean Cruise

Nature and Adventure: 5 Days in Santa Cruz and Isabela.

Very good tour. The attention was very personalized and allowed me to know more things. I only wish I could have gone to the tunnels tour instead of the dry cleaners, otherwise, everything was excellent.

4-day Galapagos Surprising Tour (Private Tour) Tour

4-day Galapagos Surprising Tour (Private Tour)

10 Days Galapagos Highlights Small Group Tour Tour

10 Days Galapagos Highlights Small Group Tour

Really enjoyed it. Our guide was Pedro, and he really knew his stuff. The canoe rides and sightseeing were unforgettable. The food and restaurant service was great. The only suggestion I have is to give warning when the power and water are to go off, so we could plan around it.

What people love about Budget Tours in Galapagos Islands

lovely tour - very good itinerary and comfortable pace
Genesis was one of the Best Tour Guides ever. It was very wonderful
Too short, but that was our fault. They do nickle and dime you to death; $1here, $5 there for all the transport. The location was beautiful, the hotel was good. Guides were nice and helpful. The trip was overall worth it, will most likely go back.

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How to Travel the Galapagos on a Budget: Travel Guide & Tips

April 22, 2019 By John Widmer 132 Comments

Is it actually possible to travel the Galapagos on a budget?

Many assume a trip to the Galapagos will be a very expensive proposition. You wouldn’t be wrong to think so.

Even Googling “Galapagos Tour” may send could send someone into sticker shock. One of the first organic search results shows a National Geographic 10-day itinerary, with prices ranging from $7,000-$15,000 per person, plus flights to Ecuador! So realistically, that comes out to at least a $20,000 vacation proposition for a couple. Ouch.

Yet we’re here to let you know that it’s not necessary to take such a pricey Galapagos trip .

You can , in fact, tour the Galapagos on a budget and still maintain a relative level of comfort. Independent travel in the Galapagos can actually be an affordable reality! With a little planning, it’s possible to formulate a cheap Galapagos island hopping budget trip on your own. We wrote this post to help other travelers experience the rich wonders of the Galapagos on the cheap.

Galapagos marine iguana with sea lions are some of the wildlife you can see for free in the Galapagos

Here’s a quick glance at what this comprehensive travel guide covers in detail.

  • Last-minute Galapagos cruise deals: can cost $750-$1,200 plus flights for a 5-day trip. We’ll show how.
  • Four islands have decent affordable accommodation , as low as $30/night, and
  • are connected by local ferries . We’ll detail where to go and stay.
  • There are actually many free things to do on these islands with lots of wildlife to see. Yet spending on a few day tours on boats (~$100) allows independent travelers to explore more. This post reveals where to find marine life for free and the best Galapagos day tours to splurge on.
  • Eating delicious two-course local seafood meals can cost as little as $4-$6, once you know where to look.
  • Roundtrip flights from Ecuador to the Galapagos can be booked for under $200, each way. With the $120 national park fees that go along with the flight, a minimum of $500 is needed for roundtrip flights.
  • It is easily doable to get  by in the Galapagos on a budget of less than $50 per day . In fact, we achieved days with a spend of $30 per person that included incredible wildlife encounters, eating lots of seafood, and retreating to a hotel with A/C.

Overall, an entire trip to the Galapagos may not be entirely cheap. The flight alone can bust budgets. Added travel expenses once in the Galapagos can quickly accumulate for those who aren’t careful.

Yet this post explores proven money-saving strategies and the Galapagos budget travel tips you need to know to maintain low expenses without sacrificing the quintessential experiences one would expect to have in these famed islands. A budget trip to the Galapagos can indeed become an awesome reality for those who do a bit of advanced planning and research.

So while there are some significant expenses that can be incurred on a trip to these famed islands, it is indeed possible to visit the Galapagos on a relatively modest budget . Such a trip will certainly cost far less than that aforementioned $10,000 Nat Geo tour!

Come take a peek at our actual Galapagos island hopping budget too. We meticulously tracked all travel costs and all the Galapagos tour prices during our visit, as there isn’t much pricing listed on the web. Hopefully, this will provide a realistic look at what may be spent on a Galapagos budget trip.

So read on to understand exactly how to travel the Galapagos on a budget by pursuing a DIY Galapagos island hopping trip, among other cost-cutting strategies.

Visiting friendly sea lions is an amazing experience you can do in the Galapagos on a budget

Galapagos on a Budget: Table of Contents

✌️ The Two Methods to Travel to Galapagos on a Budget       🏝️ DIY Galapagos Island Hopping 🚢 Last-Minute Galapagos Cruise Deals

🐢 What Can Be Experienced by Traveling the Galapagos Independently 

💵 Galapagos Island Hopping Budget Revealed

🔖 Day Tour Prices & Recommendations

🥽 Free Things to Do in the Galapagos

🍽️ Galapagos Food & Drink Prices + Tips for Cheap Eats

🛥️ Where to Buy Cheap Ferry Tickets

🏨 Budget Accommodation in Galapagos

📅 Galapagos DIY Land-Based Island-Hopping Itineraries       • 5-Day Galapagos Itinerary • 1-Week Galapagos Itinerary • 2-Week Galapagos Itinerary

🎒 What To Pack for the Galapagos

✈️ How To Book a Cheap Flight to Galapagos

Two Ways to Do Galapagos on a Budget:

There are two tried & true methods to travel to the Galapagos on a budget:

1) Do It Yourself (DIY) Land-Based Galapagos Island Hopping 2) Last-Minute Boat Tour / Budget Galapagos Cruise Deals

First, let’s dive into what each of these two different experiences entails.

DIY Independent Travel Island Hopping in the Galapagos on a Budget

Anyone can fly to the islands and explore them on your own, which makes for a great way to experience the Galapagos on a budget. There are three islands in the Galapagos that are connected by regular, twice-a-day ferries . These three islands are developed with loads of decent budget-friendly accommodation and restaurants serving reasonably priced meals. The three islands to go “island-hopping” on are:

  • Isla Santa Cruz (Puerto Ayora)
  • Isla Isabela (Puerto Villamil)
  • Isla San Cristobal (Puerto Baquerizo Moreno)

Galapagos islands map showing inhabited islands (Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Isabela, Floreana) and ferry connections

Each of these islands has places to walk to, to enjoy hiking, museums, snorkeling areas, tortoise sanctuaries, and lots of wild sea lions & marine iguanas (among other wildlife), all for FREE. These three Galapagos islands also have plenty of tourism agencies to book day trips and excursions. During these day tours, even more islands can be accessed throughout the Galapagos archipelago.

There is also a fourth island to consider, Isla Floreana, which similarly has budget-friendly accommodation and restaurants. But ferry connections to Floreana change frequently and run irregularly (1-2 times per week). This can make it impossible to stay on Isla Floreana for just a night or two. But there are still plenty of sights to see and activities to do from the other three main Galapagos islands. Those three islands alone can easily keep a traveler busy for weeks!

Independent travel in the Galapagos is most definitely the most economical way to tour the islands, as it is realistically possible to get by on a budget of about $30 per person, per day, before factoring in the costs of optional day tours. More on that later.

This post dives into detail on how to travel independently in the Galapagos on a budget. But first, we’ll cover the possibility of scoring a last-minute Galapagos cruise deal.

Bike riding in Puerto Ayora is a great free activity in the Galapagos for DIY independent travel

Booking a Last-Minute Galapagos Boat Tour

There are many liveaboard Galapagos boat tours that ply multi-day routes throughout the Galapagos, where snorkeling, hiking, and wildlife viewing ensues.

During these liveaboard boat tours, at the end of each day passengers sleep in a cabin on the boat, while either anchored or moving to the next location. There’s a chef on board who cooks three meals a day. A naturalist guide accompanies passengers throughout the voyage.

These boats primarily range in size from about 12-24 passengers (some even larger) and vary from sailboats, to catamarans, to full-on yachts.  The boats also range in comfort, which tends to be categorized by four classes of boats:

  • $ Tourist Class – Lowest standard possible, often not recommended. Cabins may or may not have A/C or private bathrooms.
  • $$ Tourist Superior – No frills yet comfy. Some cabins may be bunk beds, but has A/C. Good option for lower budgets who want to maintain some level of comfort.
  • $$$ First Class – High standards, very comfortable air-conditioned rooms, and great meals.
  • $$$$ Luxury – Super high end. Expect large cabins, jacuzzis, gourmet meals, spas, and pampering.

If not full, this sailboat could offer a last minute Galapagos cruise deal

If booking any of these trips in advance, prior to arriving in the Galapagos, you’ll likely spend well upwards of thousands of dollars per person. But if arriving in the Galapagos with a flexible schedule to book a last-minute Galapagos cruise deal within a few days of departure, it is possible to find budget Galapagos cruise prices around $700-$1,500 for a 4-8 day itinerary.

So where can you find cheap last-minute Galapagos cruise deals?

The best last-minute Galapagos cruise prices will be found on the ground, after arriving in Puerto Ayora in the Galapagos. Many tourism agencies in Puerto Ayora slash prices on last-minute Galapagos cruises departing within a week or less. Visiting these Puerto Ayora agencies in person will yield the best prices.

There are also a number of travel agencies that can be contacted to begin an email exchange, inquiring about what last-minute cruises may be available. One website that lists some of these deals is Galapagos Cruise Links .

That site will give you some idea of the going rates being offered for last-minute Galapagos cruise deals. But just realize that it is NOT an all-inclusive list. There are many additional boats to consider which aren’t listed on this website. Also, it’s possible to negotiate prices lower than what is listed there. So consider those prices as a starting point. Despite this, we still find this website to have the most up-to-date listings with actual prices posted anywhere else on the web today. So it can be a good place to begin searching to get a gauge on last-minute Galapagos cruise prices.

Still, the lowest prices will be found in Puerto Ayora in the days just before these cruises depart. Yet scoring those deals will entail some effort, luck, and taking a bit of a gamble. Last-minute Galapagos cruises do sell out .

Cheap last-minute Galapagos cruises are no longer a secret among travelers. There are many other travelers arriving to the Galapagos, who are also trying to score to cheap last-minute Galapagos cruise deal. They may beat you to a deal or be willing to pay more. We regularly saw last-minute Galapagos cruise deals that became sold out, several days before the boat was embarking.

Another burden of attempting to get a last-minute Galapagos cruise is that it can be a time-consuming process . Doing so requires travelers to go from agency to agency in search of these elusive last-minute deals. The time spent shopping around can pay off. Yet with limited time in the Galapagos, time can be much more enjoyable in nature than on the city streets visiting tourism agencies.

So although the cheapest and best deals do await travelers on the ground in the Galapagos, it can be worth paying a bit more to organize a sure-thing in advance. If not wanting to deal with the uncertainty of a last-minute Galapagos cruise, it’s best to either make advanced reservations or pursue a DIY island hopping trip that is further detailed in this guide.

Where To Book Less Expensive Galapagos Tours in Advance

Because of the uncertainty and effort involved to seek out last-minute cruise deals while in the Galapagos, it can make sense to book in advance. Sure, it may end up costing a few hundred dollars more, but that can often be worth the time and effort that’s forgone.

Booking a non-last-minute Galapagos cruise with set departure dates can be the best way to go to the Galapagos for those who have limited time and/or set dates. While not quite as cheap as the last-minute tours and certainly more than creating a DIY independent trip, there are some decent deals out there on Galapagos cruise tours that can be booked in advance.

When making advanced reservations, expect to pay at least around $2,000 for a tourist superior (or above) ship. But do note that most of those tours with a $2k+ price tag also include airfare from mainland Ecuador. So that’s a $500 value that can help to justify the cost.

Here are a few booking companies offering liveaboard Galapagos cruise tours around that price:

  • Viator – This Galapagos Island Cruise starting at $1,250 the lowest price we’ve seen bookable online. Airfare is extra. (Note: sometimes it becomes unavailable/sold-out. Check back.)
  • GAdventures – starts at $3,199 $2,144 for a 7-day cruise, including flights from Quito. It’s a great deal, considering airfare from Quito is included, receives high reviews, and put on by this leader in adventure tourism. They’ve been running sales lately too, so check current pricing and availability .
  • Tour Radar   – starts at $3,400 for 5-day cruise on a first-class ship including flights from Quito.

Which Is Better: DIY Galapagos Island Hopping or Last-Minute Cruise Deal?

This depends on personal preferences and what is valued more. Anyone who has gone on a Galapagos cruise tour loves it. A cruise is certainly a more convenient option of the two. Meanwhile, we can personally vouch that we loved our DIY island hopping trip across the Galapagos, using independent travel techniques. We were satisfied that we experienced all of the Galapagos’s highlights without spending a fortune.

So which is better? There are pros and cons to each method. It’s highly debatable and most people who have traveled to the Galapagos carry strong opinions on both sides of the debate.

Which cost less? That has more of a clear-cut answer. Any way it’s sliced, a DIY island hopping itinerary always costs much less than even the lowest last-minute cruise deal. It is even possible to do a backpacking Galapagos trip on a shoestring, given all the free things to do in the Galapagos.

sea lions in front of shipwreck in the Galapagos

Weighing the Pros & Cons of a Last-Minute Galapagos Cruise :

Galapagos Cruise Pros:

  • A liveaboard cruise tour is the most convenient way to experience the Galapagos. Everything is planned. No thought or energy needs to be expended searching for day tours and finding somewhere to eat. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy.
  • It’s not necessary to return to town each day. Instead, a liveaboard allows passengers to remain in a natural environment of the islands and drift off to the sound of the ocean.
  • A liveaboard cruise also has the exclusivity of exploring some Galapagos islands that are not accessible to day tours.
  • Another perk of a liveaboard is building camaraderie and making friends with travelers you’re cruising around with, sharing these incredible experiences together.

Galapagos Cruise Cons:

  • To get a last-minute deal, it can be necessary to spend time and effort in the Galapagos inquiring with multiple tourism agencies. This comes at the expense of your time otherwise enjoying all the Galapagos has to offer.
  • Not knowing in advance whether or not there will be a deal awaiting that fits your time & budget will prevent your ability to further plan out a Galapagos itinerary in advance.
  • For those who become easily seasick, the inability to return to land each night may be a negative point to consider.
  • It’s pricey. Even the last-minute “deals” tend to be much more costly than traveling independently throughout the Galapagos.

Last minute Galapagos cruises sit in the harbor at sunset awaiting passengers

Last-Minute Galapagos Cruise Prices

In the name of independent travel research, we ducked into dozens of Galapagos tour agencies in attempts to find the lowest last-minute Galapagos deals possible. The best deal we found during our last visit in 2017 was $750 for a 5-day itinerary on a tourist superior ship .

Having returned to Ecuador in 2019, we sought out the most recent pricing to keep this article up-to-date. Here are some examples of some of the cheapest last-minute Galapagos cruise prices that were found on the ground in the Galapagos in 2019 :

  • $1,100 for 6 days on a tourist class ship
  • $1,100 for 5-days on a tourist superior ship
  • $1,300 for 8-days on a tourist superior ship
  • $1,400 for 4-days on a first-class ship
  • $1,550 for 5-days on a first-class ship

Beware that travel guidebooks or other blogs may cite these last-minute Galapagos cruise prices to be much less than some of the examples listed above. While it is most definitely possible to find lower rates than these listed prices (particularly during low season), we caution that prices have risen dramatically during the past few years. Last-minute Galapagos cruise prices listed in 2016 and prior are outdated and don’t reflect a major price increase what occurred that year. One Galapagos travel agent showed us his budget Galapagos cruise prices from 2014. They were about half the costs of what they are today for the exact same boats and itineraries!

🙋 Help keep future Galapagos travelers stay up-to-date on latest prices & last-minute deals : If you travel to the Galapagos and find prices have changed wildly from what is listed here (whether higher or lower), please let us know in the comment section. We will continue to update this article to further help other travelers who are planning a budget-friendly trip here. Gracias!

Considerations When Deciding on a Last-Minute Galapagos Cruise Deal

Some of the last-minute cruise deals will seem very enticing on the surface, but it’s important to scrutinize the deal carefully to decide whether it’s worth it for you.

Our best offer for a last-minute Galapagos cruise – a 5-day cruise for $750 – is normally priced around $3,000. So we found $750 to be a great deal and we seriously considered booking it. But it’s important to take a closer look at such bargains to fully understand what is involved.

Consider Ship Class, Configuration, and Cabin Location

Having a nice cabin with a window could be worth splurging on, compared to a tiny interior room with some bunk beds. Be sure to ask lots of questions about the ship itself. Here are some questions to ask about a last-minute Galapagos cruise deal :

  • What is the bed configuration (bunk beds)?
  • Is there a private bathroom?
  • Is there air conditioning?
  • Is the cabin an upper or lower deck?
  • Does the cabin have a window?
  • What additional expenses can be expected?

Enquire About Galapagos Cruise Additional Expenses

It’s also important to factor in additional expenses. It’s customary to tip the crew $10 per person, per day. So add that into the total liveaboard cruise budget. Also, some cruises will charge extra for snorkeling equipment and wetsuits. This hidden fee can reach $30 per day for these rentals. So mask rentals would add $200 to a week-long cruise. Be sure to understand exactly what is included and what is not.

Look Closely at the Galapagos Cruise Itinerary

Boats must obtain permits for each of the locations they visit in the Galapagos and each of these permits will cost the operator a different amount. Some of the popular landing sites have more expensive permits. Hence some low-cost itineraries avoid the best landings to save money. As a result, the cost savings can be passed on to passengers. That’s good. However, such itineraries may also pass right by some of the best sites in the Galapagos. That’s not good.

For example, the 5-day itinerary we examined completely bypassed arguably the most famed and photographed site in the Galapagos, Isla Bartolome. Instead, the budget itinerary went to neighboring Albany Rocks, which is a much less notable site in the Galapagos.

Similarly, this 5-day Galapagos cruise itinerary completely skipped the notoriously awesome birding and snorkeling island of Seymour to instead snorkel just a few kilometers away, next to the airport. This itinerary was going to B-list sites in the Galapagos instead of A-list sites. While even B-list sites in the Galapagos can still be amazing, an itinerary that skips some of the best sites makes it all the more difficult to justify splurging on.

Understand that “5-Day Cruises” Are Actually 3-Day Tours

On most Galapagos cruises, there isn’t much happening on the first and last day of the itinerary.

Let’s continue to use that 5-day last-minute cruise deal ($750) as an example. For that itinerary, the first and last day is void of much activity. Day 1 is really just a half-day of transferring onto the boat, then going to a beach. Day 5 simply tours the tortoise sanctuary on the inhabited island of Santa Cruz, which can easily be pursued on your own for $3 per person and a cheap cab ride.

So during 5-day Galapagos cruises, passengers are really only spending three full days out in the Galapagos islands . Similar scenarios are realized with longer tours too. 8-day tours are really 6 days sailing in the Galapagos, with seven nights of accommodation covered on the boat. These can still be awesome cruises, but the reality of what occurs on the first and last days is something to understand if attempting to perform a fair price comparison.

A Galapagos tourist class ship on tour

Price Comparison: Last Minute Galapagos Cruise Deal vs. DIY Island Hopping      

The agent who offered us the last-minute 5-day / 4-night cruise deal for $750 claimed: “it would cost more to stay on Santa Cruz and take day tours than it would to take his last-minute Galapagos cruise deal.”

So we decided to examine this claim more closely.

Let’s assume you stay in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz for four nights, five days, in a decent hotel room with air-conditioning. On Days 2, 3, and 4, you take expensive day tours on boats that return to Santa Cruz each night. This would be comparable to spending Days 2-4 snorkeling and touring islands during the 5-day liveaboard cruise tour. Meanwhile Days 1 and 5, you visit the tortoise sanctuary, go to a beach, tour the lava tunnels, check-out museums, free snorkeling, etc. (similar to Day 1 & 5 of the 5-day cruise itinerary).

Here’s what this 5-Day Galapagos independent travel budget looks like, as based in Puerto Ayora:

5 Day Galapagos budget in Santa Cruise Puerto Ayora

This would be an action-packed 5-day Galapagos itinerary based in Puerto Ayora all for less than $500 per person.

Now let’s compare that to the 5-day cruise itinerary, which was priced at $750. On the liveaboard cruises, it’s customary to tip the deserving crew $10 per day, so that adds another $50 to the $750 cruise. The last-minute cruise tour deal included snorkeling gear but not wetsuits. That would add even more to the total cruise tour price, but let’s assume we could get by without any wetsuits.  This totals a price of $800 for the last-minute Galapagos cruise tour.

Compare that $800 to the $475 spent on a packed DIY-itinerary outlined above.  For couple travelers, that’s an expense of $1,600 for the cruise compared to $950 while staying on the island to pursue day tours.

Traveling independently instead of a 5-day tour adds to a cost savings of $650 for a couple . For some, the $650 difference may be negligible. In which case, take the cruise! A last-minute Galapagos cruise can be a sweet deal and a great experience!

But, personally, we’d rather have that extra $650 in our pockets to further spend on more awesome travel adventures throughout South America, like all of these .

Can You  Really Experience the Galapagos Without Taking a Cruise?

Opinions circulate in online travel forums of people claiming that it is not possible to really experience the Galapagos unless taking a cruise around the islands. That is simply not true .

Again, Galapagos cruises can be a fantastic option if you have the budget for it. We can’t argue that. But you should know that it is possible to have all of the following experiences without taking a liveaboard cruise tour :

✔️️ Swim with sea lions ✔️️ Gaze upon wild flamingos ✔️️ Watch wild penguins frolicking in the ocean ✔️️ Stumble across marine iguanas & land iguanas ✔️️ Snorkel with loads of sharks ✔️️ Glide past dozens of sea turtles ✔️️ Hike up an active volcano ✔️️ Visit with wild Galapagos tortoises ✔️️ Be alone on a remote island with only a small group ✔️️ Dive with rays ✔️️ Climb through (and swim through) lava tunnels ✔️️ Come face-to-face with blue-footed boobies ✔️️  Tour around deserted islands with a naturalist guide ✔️️ Spot Galapagos hawks, finches, frigate birds, among other  endemic species .

Wildlife you can see in the Galapagos on DIY island hopping trip includes: blue-footed boobie, tortoise, sea turtle, flamingo, marine iguana, and sharks

These quintessential Galapagos experiences can all be pursued without going on a liveaboard Galapagos cruise. We know this because we were fortunate to enjoy every single one of those above highlights without spending the extra cash on a liveaboard cruise tour. We saw and experienced all of this simply by independent travel in the Galapagos in addition to a few day tours. Later in this post, we’ll show you exactly where in the Galapagos you can experience each of these activities and wildlife encounters, even for free!

Further Advantages of Traveling Galapagos Independently

There are even a few additional benefits that come with forgoing a liveaboard cruise tour to travel the Galapagos independently:

  • Price : This is the biggest advantage, as a DIY island hopping tour will always cost less than taking a liveaboard cruise.
  • Flexibility : Independent travelers can do whatever they want, when they want. Sites are picked and chosen based on personal preference or how you’re feeling that day. There’s also no strict agenda to follow.
  • Sites Visited : Day tours often visit some of the same amazing sites that cruises go to. Naysayers will mention that there are further flung islands liveaboard cruises can reach, in which day tours do not. That is true. But there are also some sites day tours visit that the liveaboard cruises do not go . Los Tuneles on Isabela Island is one example of that and it is an incredible place! Just take a look at our video below:

A DIY Island Hopping Example Galapagos Budget: Two Weeks

So what does a DIY Galapagos island hopping trip cost? Below shows sample prices that we incurred firsthand during our island hopping Galapagos trip in 2017. Update: costs in 2019 have mostly remained the same.

  • Roundtrip flights to/from mainland Ecuador: $364 (including taxes & baggage)
  • Mandatory fees to Galapagos: $120
  • Breakfasts: $2-$5
  • Lunches: $3-$6
  • Dinners: $3-$10
  • Day tours: $40-$135
  • Scuba, 2 dives including equipment: $150
  • Beer in a restaurant: $4
  • Budget accommodation with A/C: $30 per night

Below shows our complete Galapagos island hopping budget for a 13-day trip . Note that prices listed here are per person and accommodation is based upon double occupancy.

Galapagos Island Hopping Budget for Two Weeks of Independent Travel

Island Hopping Galapagos Budget Per Day

We were able to keep our daily expenses in the Galapagos less than $100 per person, per day ($1,129 spent ÷ 13 days = $86.85 per day). This included decent private accommodation, local seafood meals, splurging on a day tour about every other day, and even pursuing a full day of scuba diving.

Within this average, there were days that cost about $200 when we went scuba diving. On other days, we managed to spend less than $30 per person, going snorkeling from shore and relaxing on the beach. These two extremes averaged out to about $90 per person, per day.

Spending nearly $100 per day is certainly higher than typical travel expenses throughout South America and in most places around the world. Yet we are quite content at everything that a budget of $100 per day can attain in the Galapagos!

yellow land iguana in the Galapagos

Island Hopping Galapagos Budget Breakdown: Day Tour Prices

The biggest expense with a DIY island hopping Galapagos trip is day tours. Including the scuba dives, we each spent about $700 on Galapagos day tours total. Ouch!

Day tours alone compose nearly half (43%) of our entire Galapagos budget. Accommodation and eating in the Galapagos can be cheap. But these pricey day tours really add up. Yet we found them to be largely worth the splurge.

Galapagos day tours tend to average about $100 per tour but do widely vary in price, higher and lower.

While Galapagos day tours can be expensive, they can prove to be extremely worthwhile experiences. We’d suggest budgeting to take a minimum of one day tour for each of the three main islands. For longer trips and bigger budgets, consider more, particularly so for the many day tours that depart Puerto Ayoro.

Heather standing atop the tunnels during "los tuneles" day tour in the Galapagos

Finding the Best Deals on Galapagos Day Tour Prices

There are plenty of tour agencies all in each town in the Galapagos, particularly so in Puerto Ayora. This is where you go to inquire about day tours.

Similar to finding last-minute cruise deals, it’s worthwhile to price compare around a few different agencies before booking. Doing so can really help to stretch your Galapagos budget! Different agencies will offer the exact same day tour, often even on the same boat, at completely different prices. We found the price you’re offered can come down to how much commission the agent is willing to forgo to achieve the sale.

List of Galapagos Day Tours with times: Isabela, florana, pinzon, santa fe, bartolome, pinzon, san cristobal, seymour - we show the prices in this post

So how can you get the lowest prices on these Galapagos day tours?

Here are some tried and true methods we can recommend:

Book last minute day tours. We found the agencies tend to offer good prices the afternoon/evening before each tour began. Shop around from about 3:00-6:00 pm. Just be careful with this, because popular tours do fill up. So if there’s an in-demand tour that you’re really excited about, you may want to book further in advance. This holds particularly true during high season.

Ask for a deal . When entering a travel agency, be straightforward and ask if they have any promotions for tours tomorrow. This is a polite way to let the agent know immediately that you’re price-sensitive. Hopefully, they’ll offer you a good price.

Be flexible . Particularly with last-minute bookings, sometimes operators are anxious to fill particular boats, rather than do a tour with a few empty seats. As such, you’ll often find deals on a tour one day, but it may unavailable the next. So when a day tour deal comes up, jump on it even if it may alter what you had initially planned.

Book in numbers . Agencies tend to give bigger discounts to larger groups since they’re collecting multiple commissions. So if you make some friends who all want to take the same Galapagos day tour, visit an agency together and book as a group.

Book multiple tours . Some agencies are willing to cut you a deal if you book multiple tours together at once.

Book direct if possible. Most of the tour operators don’t have a way to book direct, which is why you rely on the tour agencies. But occasionally they do, particularly for scuba diving. Book your dives directly with the dive shop rather than through an agency.

Know the Galapagos day tour prices . It’s good to have some sort of idea how much each Galapagos day tour costs. We saw some Galapagos day tour prices to vary greatly between agencies. One agency quoted us a Bartolome day tour price of $200, while another offered it for $130. That’s quite the difference in price!

Galapagos Day Tour Prices & Best Tours To Take

Below are the most common day tours you’ll find offered on each of the main islands and the associated lowest price offered, updated for 2019 prices:

Isla Isabela Day Tour Prices & Advice

  • Tintoreras half-day tour: $45
  • Sierra Negra half-day volcano hike $35
  • Tuneles (The Tunnels): $100

The Tunnels day tour is Isabela’s most expensive for a reason. It’s pretty incredible. The unique environment of the otherworldly sea tunnels is such an interesting sight to see. Yet standing on those rocks reveal blue-footed boobies atop the surface as sharks swim below. The nearby snorkeling spot further reveals some sharks, turtles, seahorses, and possibly penguins for those who are lucky. If only doing a single tour on Isabela, this is one to splash the cash.

See video below to get some idea of what the Tunnels day tour is like.

Yet with Isabela’s other two main tours being less than $50, these are both worth pursuing too. The half-day snorkeling tour of Tintoreras boasts an environment with some of most turtles we encountered in the Galapagos. Trekking the Sierra Negra volcano can prove to be an invigorating diversion away from the many oceanic activities. And it’s a deal well-worth pursuing at $35.

Isla San Cristobal Day Tour Prices & Advice

  • Kicker Rock snorkeling day tour: $90
  • San Cristobal 360 Tour (includes snorkeling Kicker Rock): $135

Kicker Rock is a premier snorkeling and dive site in the Galapagos accessible by day tour. Some say it’s the best and we can’t argue. The famed rocks jutting out of the ocean are awe-inspiring on their own. Yet it’s the vast marine life that can be found while snorkeling though them that further amazes. Kicker Rock is one of the only day tour snorkeling trips where hammerhead sharks are known to frequent. We suggest a visit to Kicker Rock as a must-do. There are two different day tours to get there.

While on San Cristobal, choose either the Kicker Rock day tour or the San Cristobal 360 tour, not both. The San Cristobal 360 Tour is a boat trip that goes entirely around the island, with several interesting stops along the way, culminating with snorkeling at Kicker Rock for about 30 minutes. Yet the Kicker Rock tours allow much more time snorkeling at Kicker Rock, which may be preferred. So decide if you’d rather have more time at this awesome site or a more full day tour to see more of the island. You really can’t go wrong either way.

Natural cave tunnel formation on Kicker Rock 360 tour

Isla Santa Cruz Day Tour Prices & Advice

  • Isla Pinzon: $100
  • Sante Fe day tour: $110
  • Seymour day tour: $130
  • Plazas day tour: $130
  • Bartolome day tour: $130+
  • Floreana day tour: $150
  • Diving: Seymour/Daphne (2 dives) $150
  • Diving: Gordon Rocks (2 dives) $180

Puerto Ayora on Isla Santa Cruz has, by far, the most day tours on offer. We’ve gone on most of them and they’re all great. It’s tough to suggest one over another. Additionally, the marine life experienced will vary with each trip. Rather than steering people towards one tour over another, we’d suggest for those traveling the Galapagos on a budget to pursue a good day tour deal that may be offered. The agencies in Puerto Ayora are happy to sit down with travelers to explain the details of each tour, along with up-to-date pricing for a last-minute sale.

🙋‍♂️ Help other travelers! Those who are venturing to the Galapagos are relying on this price information to help plan their trip. So please come back by to help them with the small effort of chiming in the comments section with the day tour prices you found while in the Galapagos. Gracias!

Take Advantage of the Many Free Things to Do in the Galapagos!

The best way to cut Galapagos expenses is to not take a day tour every day.

Thankfully for those trying to experience the Galapagos on a shoestring, there is a surprising amount of free things to do in the Galapagos. These free activities can really help to lower costs. Below is a roundup of what we found to be some of the best free things to do in the Galapagos :

Free Beaches in the Galapagos

Visitors can find amazing free beaches in the Galapagos to bask on, snorkel, or even go surfing! Scheduling some beach days into a Galapagos independent itinerary can be a nice relaxing break in between many excursions. And it can also be a nice break for your budget!

Tortuga Bay beach is a beach you can walk to for free within Galapagos National Park on Santa Cruz Island

Best Beach in the Galapagos : The beach at Tortuga Bay made Tripadvisor’s list in for Top 10 Beaches in the World, and deservedly so! Pictured above, Tortuga Bay is a pleasant 45-minute walk down a path from Puerto Ayora on an easily-traversed trail. It’s never very crowded either. Beach bums in the Galapagos should not miss this place!

Here are some other Galapagos beaches you can easily access for free:

More Free Beaches on Santa Cruz:   Playa de La Estacion (on the way to Darwin Center) and Playa Los Alemanes (take a quick $0.80 water taxi from the ferry docks) are small but easily accessible beaches from Puerto Ayora.

Free Beach on Isla Isabela: Puerto Villamil Beach . Just walk towards the ocean from anywhere in town to find this long sandy stretch. Puerto Villamil Beach also boasts a lookout and marine iguanas.

Free Beaches on San Cristobal: La Loberia is a forty-minute walk from town to this beach that has many sea lions and surfers. Playa Mann is closer to town with cheap food vendors and nice sunsets. Punta Carola is a pretty beach that’s a short hike into the National Park area. Yet continue further to find the secluded Playa Baquerizo .

Free Snorkeling in the Galapagos

Visitors can also find some great free snorkeling in the Galapagos. Isla San Cristobal has most free snorkeling sites. (And the best, in our opinion.) Yet all of the three main islands have some great snorkeling sites that you can jump right into, entirely for free!

On Isla Santa Cruz , be sure to go snorkeling through the lava canyon that is Las Grietas . It’s just a 1-minute water taxi ride ($0.80) across the harbor, then a quick walk, to experience what is the most unique free snorkeling site in the Galapagos.

Las Grietas Galapagos free snorkeling Santa Cruz

On Isla Isabela , try the Concha de Perla. By snorkeling in this lagoon, visitors often encounter penguins, sea lions, rays and even sharks!

On San Cristobal : Be sure to take a peek under the surface at both Las  Tijeretas and Playa Loberia  in San Cristobal. We saw sea lions, turtles, octopus, and lots of fish. This video gives an example of what the marine life you can see for free doing shore snorkeling in San Cristobal.

Free Hiking in the Galapagos

There are some nice free hikes in the Galapagos to embark on. Most hikes through the Galapagos are fairly short, but some do extend beyond a few kilometers. Hiking in the Galapagos is a nice reminder that there’s much beauty to see above the surface too!

On Isla Santa Cruz there are a few short hikes you can take from Puerto Ayora:

  • Just North of Puerto Ayora, you can find El Mirador de Tuneles which is the only free lava tunnel site in the Galapagos we know of (usually they’re on private property and ~$3 admission is charged).
  • Los Gemelos in the highlands has a few kilometers of trails to view the collapsed craters.
  • There’s a very short stroll along the boardwalks of Lagunas de las Ninfas .
  • The trail to get to the aforementioned beach at Tortuga Bay makes for a nice 40-minute walk to the beach.
  • Also, the Darwin Center has a mile-long trail just before its entrance.

On Isla Isabela  take the short hike across the boardwalk at Lagunas Salinas  where you’re almost certain to come across some flamingos. Trek along further to see the Wall of Tears .

Isla San Cristobal has the most hiking opportunities, easily accessible from town. We recommend the rocky and rugged hike (shoes required) from Playa Loberia to Barranco , where you’ll step over marine iguana until reaching a steep cliff where blue-footed boobies hang out. The well-maintained network of trails that climb atop Cerro Tijeratas begins at the San Cristobal interpretive, which you can use to trek to free beaches, free snorkeling, and a fantastic lookout point.

Cerro Tijeretas trail on San Cristobal is a free hiking trail in the Galapagos

Free Tortoise Breeding Centers

Each populated island in the Galapagos has its own tortoise-breeding center that can be toured for free. The breeding centers on Isabela and Santa Cruz can be easily reached by walking, so those are perhaps best for those traveling to the Galapagos on a budget since no taxi expense is incurred.

free tortoise breeding center galapagos

Free Tortoise Breeding Center on Santa Cruz:  Go to the Darwin Center to see the giants from Puerto Ayora.

Free Tortoise Breeding Center on Isla Isabela: Centro de Crianza Arnaldo Tupiza can be easily reached from Puerto Villamil by taking the trail that crosses Lagunas Salinas.

Free Tortoise Breeding Center on Isla San Cristobal:  The Galapaguera de Cerro Colorado is the breeding center on San Cristobal but it requires a taxi to visit.

Free Museums in the Galapagos

There are also a handful of museums to check out with an entry cost of $0! A bonus point is that many of the Galapagos museums are air-conditioned. This can provide some much-needed relief while walking around the islands in the hot afternoon weather. The Darwin Center is the most famous of the free museums. Yet our favorite was the information-filled interpretive center on San Cristobal.

Darwin Center free Galapagos museum

Free Museums on Isla Santa Cruz: The Darwin Center is a must-visit museum in the Galapagos. There’s also a little, lesser-visited  museum of renewable energy just before the trail to Tortuga Way.

Free Museum on Isla Isabela: The tortoise breeding center contains a small museum all about these gigantic reptiles.

Free Museum on Isla San Cristobal: The  San Cristobal Interpretive Center is the most informative free museum of them all in the Galapagos.

Where to Find Wildlife for Free in the Galapagos

There are many free wildlife viewing opportunities, even near the towns throughout the Galapagos. Sea lions and marine iguanas are most present. Yet those who know where to look may even be able to find penguins and blue-footed boobies, without spending on a tour.

close-up of giant galapagos tortoise

Here’s where to find some of the Galapagos’s more notorious residents without spending a dime:

Sea Lions : Everywhere . They can easily be found lying around the docks and beaches of all the Galapagos islands. Yet they were most thick in San Cristobal. You can even swim with sea lions at Playa La Loberia and Las Tijeteras on San Cristobal.

Penguins : Among the three main islands, Isabela is the only one where these tuxedo-clad birds hang out. We saw them swimming around the ferry docks  of Puerto Villamil, but they’re also known to frequent  Concha de Perla and Puerto Villamil Beach.

Tortoises : The only place that we saw truly wild tortoises while in the Galapagos was in the Santa Cruz Highlands . You can easily explore this area with an inexpensive bike rental. Otherwise, you can find semi-wild tortoises in the El Chato sanctuary which has a mere $5 entry fee.

Marine Iguanas : Everywhere . You’ll almost trip over them at most beaches and even the ferry docks.

Flamingos : You’ll find these pink birds feeding in the shallow waters of Lagunas Salinas on Isla Isabela.

Sea Turtles : While it’s possible to see them at any of the free snorkeling spots, the only free snorkeling site we saw a sea turtle was at Playa La Loberia on San Cristobal .

Blue-footed boobies : The only spot we found these famed Galapagos birds without a day tour was on San Cristobal at the end of the trek to Barranco. Take a look around the edge of the cliffs to find those funny birds.

Galapagos Budget Breakdown: Food & Drink Prices

Eating in the Galapagos can be surprisingly affordable for those who know where to look.

Cheap Eats for Dinner in the Galapagos

Most restaurants in the Galapagos appealing to tourists are on the pricier spectrum. Expect to pay about $20 per person for a decent meal at a midrange restaurant. There is plenty of American/International/Western food from pizza to cheeseburgers to sushi. It’s all rather expensive. Instead, we suggest enjoying the delicious local seafood found throughout the islands!

By sticking to the local seafood, it’s easy to find plentiful dinners around all the populated islands for well under $10 per meal. A well-known area to partake in cheap eats in Puerto Ayora is the food kiosks that are strung all along Charles Binford street . Here, you’ll find delicious full fish dinners starting at $10. Any of the greeters with menus will eagerly give you some suggestions, vying for your business. But instead of taking menu holders suggestions, look for the set dinner deals written on whiteboards, and cost even less!

Charles Binford is a street in Puerto Ayora where you can find inexpensive set menu dinners in the Galapagos known as meriendas

Know About Meriendas for the Cheapest Local Dinners

These set meal specials on the whiteboards are called “meriendas.” These meriendas are 2-course dinners that include juice for $4 . The greeters with menus generally don’t like to point out the meriendas, so be observant to look for them and seek them out.

Also, if opting for the merienda, diners are sat at a table inside with the locals, rather than out on the street with other tourists. Merienda options usually range among fish and shrimp, which are either fried, grilled, or smothered in a tasty garlic sauce. They are always filling, delicious, and of exceptional value for a mere $4!

On Isla Isabela, meriendas can also be found on the main street, Antonio Gil, for slightly more than in Puerto Ayora. The going rate for a set dinner on Isabel ranges from $4-$8.

The merienda dinner deals are less prevalent on San Cristobal, although there are plenty of cheap eats on San Cristobal too. Yet instead of eating meriendas in San Cristobal, try the food vendors at Playa Mann who grill up a variety of things-on-a-stick around lunchtime and sunset.

Grilled corn and chicken is a cheap lunch option at Playa Mann San Cristobal Galapagos

For Cheap Lunches in the Galapagos: Eat Almuerzos

Any day tour in the Galapagos includes your lunch. Keep that in mind to help justify the high costs of day tours. Sometimes lunch may consist of a mediocre tuna fish sandwich, while other instances you may be delighted with some delicious freshly prepared ceviche like this.

Ceviche is included on the Santa Fe Galapagos day tour

Yet when not on a day tour, you’ll want to find a way to keep your lunchtime expenses low. For that, you can find set menus referred to as “almuerzos.” These almuerzos are composed similarly to the meriendas mentioned above.

For prices starting at $3.50, you’ll get an enormous bowl of soup, a main dish with seafood & sides, and a fresh-squeezed juice ! These are excellent lunchtime meal deals that can also be a great way to immerse with the local crowd, rather than the overpriced tourist restaurants.

Galapagos set lunch: almuerzo of fish, rice, beans, salad, and juice

Budget Breakfasts in the Galapagos

It’s important to eat a good breakfast in the Galapagos before those long day tours. Often lunches during tours tend to be later in the afternoon, so don’t skip on the breakfast. Many of the restaurants serve typical American and English breakfasts for $10 and up. Instead, eat local.

First off, there are some decent bakeries throughout the Galapagos that have interesting pastries. Go the night before and grab some sweet chocolate bread or cheese-filled rolls to snack on the following morning. Restaurants tend to open late in the Galapagos (after 8:00 or 9:00 am), and many of the day tours and ferries leave well before that. So bakeries are not only an economical option. It may be the only option for breakfast. So plan accordingly to stock up on the croissants on the night before.

For Isabela, there’s a bakery on the main street, $1 per item. In Puerto Ayora, the supermarket may be your best bet with pastries $0.50-$0.80. On San Cristobal, the Sabor Cuencano bakery has the best baked goods in all of the Galapagos and prices each item at about $0.60.

Pasteries are a good budget breakfast in the Galapagos such as the Sabor Cuencano bakery

There are some local restaurants offering more complete breakfasts in the $4-$6 range. Be sure to get the set breakfasts for the best value. The only problem is that these cafes and restaurants often aren’t open early enough before a day tour or morning ferry. So such places are better options for leisurely mornings. Try the bolon, a ball of plantains & cheese that is a local specialty in coastal Ecuador and a personal favorite of ours!

Descanso Del Guia (by the ferry docks in Puerto Ayora)   sells delicious bolons to-go in a plastic bag for $2, which is nice if in a hurry. Or sit down there for a full breakfast for just a few bucks more.

Bolon is a traditional cheap breakfast in the Galapagos of plantains and cheese

Another cheap breakfast option we can recommend in Puerto Ayora is the outdoor café at the ferry docks. The friendly guy behind the counter will make you a simple, yet great,  grilled cheese sandwich (toastie) plus a coffee for $2.50 . It’s the perfect pre-ferry breakfast snack.

How To Drink in the Galapagos on a Budget

One expense not previously meticulously itemized in the Galapagos budget is the cost of drinking, whether that be for water or beers. That’s because drinking can be a great place to scale back when traveling Galapagos on a budget, as you don’t need to spend much at all in this area. There is usually free water at most (not all) decent hotels and hostels. And booze in the Galapagos can be pricey, so it can best to save the partying for back in mainland Ecuador.

Although we love to drink around the world, drinking alcohol in the Galapogos can become an expensive proposition. Boozing isn’t really what you come all the way to the Galapagos for. Aside from the occasional cold cerveza or two at the end of a long hot day, there’s really not a strong urge to party on the islands. Personally, we were exhausted from a full day’s worth of activities and fun in the sun and would want to be fresh for the next early morning of adventure.

A beer on the beach in the Galapagos is a relaxing way to drink for cheap in the Galapagos

Use Happy Hours to Save on Cocktails

It’s not unusual to see $10 cocktails at Galapagos bars and restaurants. Drink prices can be much higher than that at swanky places. Thankfully some bars in the Galapagos do have long happy hours. Two-for-$10 drinks are the most prevalent happy hour deal in the Galapagos. The cheapest cocktail prices we found was a three-for-$10 happy hour at a handful of places in Puerto Ayora.

If you’re a real boozer, it could prove worthwhile to bring a bottle with you from the mainland. Although liquor is sold at the supermarkets at the Galapagos, expect to pay at least $50 for lower-end bottles.

Beer in Galapagos is More Economical

Beers tend to be a more thrifty way to wind down the day. $4 for a cerveza grande (large, 750-ml, bottle of beer) is fairly standard at most restaurants, although some charge more. Better yet, go to the supermarket to get a cold beer for even less and enjoy it on the beach. When you’re finished, just be sure to return the bottle and you’ll get back a $0.50 deposit for each one.

On Isla San Cristobal, you’ll find what is the first microbrewery in the Galapagos . Endémica brews up a blonde ale that is a refreshing change from Ecuador’s two main national beers you’ll see everywhere throughout the Galapagos. It’s possible to visit Endémica during daytime hours to buy this Galapagos craft beer to-go for $2 per bottle . It’s a tiny operation and not really a place to hang out and drink beer. Yet it can be an interesting detour for any beer nerds out there or to get some decent local beer on the cheap. Otherwise, Endémica beer is priced $4-$7 in most restaurants throughout the Galapagos.

Endemica is a craft beer in the galapagos on San Cristobal

Drinking Water Adds Up But Doesn’t Have To

Drinking water is often provided complimentary from big jugs at hotels and hostels in the Galapagos. Meanwhile, the price of a liter bottle of water can range around $1-$2. You’ll go through many of those plastic bottles during a hot Galapagos day, so having access to drinking water can help to save money and be more environmentally-friendly.

Refilling bottles at your hotel can accrue a savings of $5 per day. It may not seem like much but that adds up to a net savings of $140 for a couple on a two-week Galapagos trip.

Don’t fret if your accommodation doesn’t provide drinking water. You can find the big 6-liter bottles for less than $2 in the supermarkets in the Galapagos. Since the 1-liter bottles are often nearly the same price as 6-liter bottles, it can be well worth it to buy the 6-liter bottles and use them to refill smaller 1-liter bottles.

Where to Buy Cheap Ferry Tickets for $25 Instead of $30  

Ferry tickets cannot be purchased directly with the ferry at the dock. Instead, ferry tickets must be purchased from an agency. It’s a set price of $30 one-way, regardless of the island being traveled to.

But there’s one and only one agency throughout all the islands that book ferry tickets for $25 instead. Go see the ladies at the kiosk, right between the church and the supermarket, located right about here . That’s conveniently just across from the ferry docks in Puerto Ayora. There’s a sign that says “Cristine” below another sign that says “Operadora Turistica Travel Agency.” The picture below to help you find it. It saves you $5 per ferry ticket, so booking these tickets for $25 instead of $30 will ultimately save a couple $50 if taking multiple ferries throughout the islands.

Cheap ferry tickets in the Galapagos

( Note: a reader has reported that the Cristine sign may longer be there, but the $25 tickets at this booth are still available as of July 2019.) 

Another way to save on ferry tickets is to buy roundtrip. In this case, most all agencies will honor a rate of $50 or $55 for return tickets.

Galapagos Budget Breakdown: Accommodation

It is very possible to find decent and inexpensive places to stay all throughout the Galapagos. $30 per night can achieve a clean room in a great location in Puerto Ayora with air conditioning, private bathroom with hot water shower , and even satellite TV. Wifi was usually pretty bad or non-existent, so don’t expect to stay connected. Despite that minor annoyance, we were pretty impressed with the budget accommodation in the Galapagos.

You can just as easily find some rather expensive places if you do want to spend more, but we found the budget-friendly accommodations to be very adequate. We always prefer to spend more on doing things, rather than sleeping.

For those who are backpacking Galapagos on a shoestring, you can find dorm beds around $10/night or even free couchsurfing. Yet, given that you can share a decent hotel room for $15 per person, per night, we recommend going that route.

Is Air Conditioning Necessary in the Galapagos?

Some of the budget accommodation in the Galapagos are equipped with air conditioning. Others only have a fan. So are those fan rooms viable in the heat?

Despite the extremely hot temps during the day, it usually cools off to about 66-70° F (19-21° C) at night. Having air conditioning is nice. Yet we felt comfortable at night in a few of the non-A/C rooms that had fans only. You’ll have to decide that for yourself. Rooms without A/C tend to be the least expensive. So choosing a room without A/C can be a good way to save and there are still some nice affordable places with fan-only rooms. So don’t rule them out entirely.

Booking Hotels in Advance vs Booking Upon Arrival

It can be possible to find slightly cheaper room rates by booking upon arrival, rather than booking online in advance.

However, there are some very compelling reasons to book in advance . For one, all of the best do get booked up full in advance, particularly so during busier periods. It’s imperative to book in advance to lock in a good rate at some of the Galapagos’s best budget accommodation.

Yet perhaps an even more dire reason to book in advance is that as of 2017, a new Galapagos regulation require s visitors to have accommodation reservations . When showing passports and filling out the necessary entry paperwork at the airport, it is now also mandated to show proof of accommodation reservation.

This new regulation mandates visitors have advanced bookings for the entire length of stay in the Galapagos. In practice, many Galapagos travelers report that officials are only checking for reservations for a least the first night. Still, it’s best to follow the official rules and book for the entire stay, just in case. If you want travel plans to remain flexible, book Galapagos accommodation that has a free cancelation policy.

With this new hotel reservation requirement, we have scouted out a few of the most economical and best value places to book online , as of 2019. So you don’t have to scour through all the different website to find the best deals. But first, let’s examine the best booking sites to use in the Galapagos.

The Best Sites to Book Cheap Accommodation in the Galapagos

Most regions around the world seem to have a dominant site that is best for booking accommodation. But in the Galapagos, the best deals really tend to vary across different booking sites and across the different islands. Here’s what we found: seems to have the biggest inventory of places to stay in the Galapagos and often the lowest prices. (In only a few instances Expedia/ offers lower prices.)

Airbnb is an interesting option for the Galapagos. While we typically only use the site to rent rooms or full apartments, there are quite a few hostels and actual bed & breakfasts listed on Airbnb in the Galapagos, with some great prices. And if you’ve never used Airbnb before, you can use this coupon to save $40 off your Galapagos booking !

Hostelworld has only a few good deals that make the most sense for solo travelers. Couples are often charged double the price for the same room. We use Hostelworld in many places around the world, but it’s not the best in the Galapagos.

Budget Accommodation in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz

Hotel España – We stayed here for 5 nights and recommend.

Sign for a room at Hotel Espana Puerto Ayora - cheap accommodation in Galapagos

I don’t think you can find any centrally located hotel in the Galapagos with A/C, private bathroom, hot water shower, and even satellite TV for only $35 per night. This hotel is a steal. It’s also in perhaps the best location in Puerto Ayora. It is surrounded by restaurants & tour agencies. It’s also just a few blocks from the ferries and supermarket. The $35 nightly rate is the current price for economic rooms, which are pretty small but suited us just fine. Standard and deluxe rooms (nicer) are also available online but at a slightly higher price. Currently, the best price to book an economic room is on HostelWorld: Check prices here .

Yet for a nicer Standard Room, we’ve found the best rates on, starting at $42/night .

It’s such fantastic value in the Galapagos for a centrally located hotel w/ air-conditioning included!

🏨 Cheapest Rates : Galapagos Dove has what we find to be among the cheapest private rooms of any decent hotel in Puerto Ayora. Rates start at $30 per night. Check current prices.

🏨 Inexpensive Apartment Rental : Patty Hospedaje – The big rooms at these private apartments are spacious and having a kitchen can help to keep meal costs low. The onsite pool can be heavenly to return to in the afternoon heat. The only downside to staying here is a somewhat inconvenient location. But free bikes help to make up for that! Yet perhaps the best thing is the value – they often offer deals for private one-bedroom apartments for less than $35 per night. Check prices for your dates .

🏨 Affordable Comfort : La Mirada del Solitario George – If you don’t mind a 15-minute walk to the main part of town, this is an excellent option for inexpensive private rooms with air conditioning that receives stellar reviews. tends to give discounts on certain dates – check current deals here .

🏨 Great Find: Hospedaje Germania : Boasts a prime location, consistent rave reviews, nice rooms, low-ish prices of about $40/night and even has air-conditioning. What more do you need, really? Check rates for Germania on Booking .

Cheap Accommodation in Puerto Villamil, Isla Isabela

🏨 Cheapest Rates: Hospedaje Neptuno   currently has the lowest rates for anywhere on Isla Isabela that can be booked online. It’s a good location and decent rooms. Travelers requiring no-frills will likely be plenty comfortable here. But there have been some complaints about the lack of staff presence, hot water, and minor cleanliness issues. So those who want to ensure comfort may be best spending more to book elsewhere. Check the latest reviews here .

🏨 Great Guesthouse : Hospedaje Sarita is a great centrally located guesthouse to stay at on Isla Isabela with affordable rates and local touches. Yet there’s only one single room here. So once it’s booked, it’s gone. Check availability .

🏨 Cheap Hotel w/ AC: Cerro Azul – For an economical hotel with A/C in Isabela, we suggest Cerro Azul. You’ll pay a bit more than the other recommendations, but it may be worth it. Check Cerro Azul rates on Booking here .

Cheap Accommodation in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, San Cristobal

🏨 Hostal Suiza – This lovely place has among the lowest rates on the island. We stayed there and recommend Hostal Suiza without any hesitations. It’s centrally located, very clean & comfortable, and has friendly hosts. Their $30 rooms (like this twin room , this second twin room , and this room with a double bed ) have no A/C, yet we kept perfectly cool with the ceiling fans. This $45 suite has A/C and further includes a full private kitchen! So you can keep costs down by cooking your own meals. Hostal Suiza is listed on Booking, but the lowest rates can be found on Airbnb. (Those new to Airbnb can save $40 with this coupon. )

Twin Room at Hotel Suiza, budget accommodation in Galapagos

🏨 Hostal Terito – This is another great option on Isabela. We met travelers staying here who said it was their favorite place they’ve stayed in all of South America and it has hundreds of similar reviews to back that up. This is of particularly great value for solo travelers who can find private rooms on Booking for just above $20. Couples will pay more, but it’s still good value. Search your dates here on Booking .

🏨 Casa de Jeimy – For a budget room with A/C, consider Casa de Jeimy. It receives similarly great reviews, is about the same price, and has an awesome rooftop terrace to watch the sunset after a long day in the sun. You can find the best rates for Casa de Jeimy on Booking .

Sample Itinerary for a DIY Galapagos Budget Trip

Now that you understand the free things to do from land, the worthwhile Galapagos day tours to take, where to find cheap, accommodation, the lowest ferry tickets, and where the cheap eats are, lets now put that all together to form a land-based Galapagos itinerary.

Use the following Galapagos itinerary suggestion as a base for idea formation. Then tailor to your specific interests and your budget. The following example Galapagos itineraries are budget-friendly and less expensive than liveaboard cruises of the same length. Yet those who are really attempting to travel the Galapagos on a shoestring may want to consider fewer day tours than what’s proposed in the following land-based itinerary.

So how much time to spend in the Galapagos? If spending the money and time to get to the Galapagos, we’d suggest a bare minimum of at least five days. Yet a one-week or two-week itinerary in the islands is much more ideal and possible to do on a budget.

Five Days in the Galapagos DIY Land-Based Itinerary

Day 1 : Fly into Baltra airport by mid-day. Take a series of ferry, taxi, bus to Puerto Ayora. Get situated at your hotel, explore the town, visit tourism agencies to book a day tour for tomorrow, and eat a merienda for dinner.

Day 2 : Eat a quick breakfast and take a day tour to Pinzon, Sante Fe, Bartolome, or Plazas ($100-$150).

Day 3 : Pursue free activities! Visit the Darwin Center, have a cheap  almuerzo for lunch, go snorkeling at Las Grietas, and if time permits take the 45-minute walk to the beautiful beach of Tortuga Bay (closes at 5:00 pm.) Book another day tour for tomorrow.

Day 4 : Take another day tour. Again, consider the trips to Pinzon, Sante Fe, Bartolome, or Plazas ($100-$150).

Day 5 : Pursue cheap activities on Isla Santa Cruz. Get a half-day bike rental ($10) and have a truck taxi ($20) take you and your bikes to Los Gemelos, a collapsed crater in the middle of the island for a look. Bike down to El Chato – Giant Tortoise Reserve ($3). Then cycle to the Lava Tunnels of Bellavisita before returning on bike to Puerto Ayora. With any extra time in the afternoon, hit up a beach or relax.

One Week in the Galapagos DIY Island Hopping Itinerary

With one week in the Galapagos, follow the above itinerary in Santa Cruz, basing yourself in Puerto Ayora, then head to San Cristobal island. We suggest 4-5 nights in Puerto Ayora and 2-3 nights in Isla de San Cristobal.

Day 6 : Take the morning ferry ($25-$30) to Isla de San Cristobal. Drop bags at hotel/hostel and pursue free activities. Walk or take a taxi to Playa Loberia ($2) to trek from there Barranco to find blue-footed boobies. Return to Playa Loberia for snorkeling in the bay. Have lunch in town or a Playa Mann before continuing onto the San Cristobal Interpretive Center. Hike to Las Tijeretas for more snorkeling. (Note: this is an aggressive plan.)

Day 7 : Take the San Cristobal 360 tour or the Kicker Rock day tour. Depart directly from the San Cristobal airport in the late afternoon or next day.

Two Weeks in the Galapagos DIY Island Hopping Itinerary

With two weeks in the Galapagos, follow the 5-day itinerary for Santa Cruz, and spend one more day there before taking a ferry to Isla Isabela and ultimately departing from San Cristobal. In total, 6 nights in Puerto Ayora, 4 nights on Isla Isabela, and 4 nights on San Cristobal.

Day 6 : For Scuba divers, consider booking a dive to Daphne ($150) or Gordon Rocks ($180) for a good chance to see hammerheads. Or take another day tour you haven’t done yet. Or just relax and pursue some of the aforementioned experiences you may not have had a chance to do.

Day 7 : Take the morning ferry to Isla Isabela. Do the Tintoreras half-day boat tour ($45) to snorkel with loads of sea turtles.

Day 8 : Spend the morning on the Sierra Negra half-day volcano hiking tour ($35). In the afternoon, cool off at the beach.

Day 9 : Pursue free activities! Take a short hike across the boardwalk at Lagunas Salinas to spot wild flamingos, visit the tortoise breeding center, trek further to see the Wall of Tears. In the afternoon go snorkeling in Concha de Perla for a rare chance to possibly swim with penguins.

Day 10 : Take the Los Tuneles Day Tour. ($100)

Day 11 : Long travel day. It requires two separate ferries ($25-$30, each) to travel from Isla Isabela to San Cristobal. So take the morning ferry from Isla Isabela back to Puerto Ayora. Then transfer to the afternoon ferry from Puerto Ayora to Isla San Cristobal. Relax at the beach for sunset. (Alternatively, there’s a small plane flight between these islands, which will save time at the trade-off a much higher cost.)

Day 12 : Free activities! Walk or take a taxi ($2) to Playa Loberia to trek from there to Barranco, where you can find blue-footed boobies. Return to Playa Loberia for snorkeling in the bay. Have lunch in town or at the Playa Mann food stalls before continuing onto the San Cristobal Interpretive Center. Hike to Las Tijeretas for more snorkeling.

Day 13 : Take the San Cristobal 360 tour ($135) or the Kicker Rock day tour ($90).

Day 14 : Final day! Use this as a flexible day to pad your two-week itinerary. Maybe it rains one day, seas are rough, or you just grew tired. So you’ll need an extra day to fit in everything. It’s a good idea to have an extra day to use however you may deem fit. San Cristobal has what we find to be the best and most free activities, so it can be a good idea to plan a flexible day here. Go slower and split up some of the aforementioned suggestions. Enjoy the magical Galapagos Islands!

Pack These Things Before You Arrive in the Galapagos to Save!

You can find just about anything you may need in the Galapagos. But you’ll pay a premium for it since almost everything has the added expense of being flown in.

If you’re trying to do the Galapagos on a budget, it pays dividends to stock up on essentials in advance and bring them with you. This holds particularly true for sunscreen, which is crazy expensive in the Galapagos! Be sure to pack lots of it. Meanwhile, masks & snorkel sets tend to cost about $100 on the islands. Even on mainland Ecuador, expect to pay close to $60 for a questionable-quality mask, like the one below we saw in Quito.

galapagos islands travel cheap

So here’s a packing checklist of things to ensure you bring to the Galapagos so you don’t overspend once you’re here.

galapagos islands travel cheap

These Athletic Sandals Are Perfect for the Galapagos : In the Galapagos, you’ll constantly be changing from beaches to walking over rough terrain like rugged lava rocks. Rather than continue to change back and forth between shoes and flip-flops, these Columbia Athletic Sandals make for the perfect hybrid between the two. They’ve got the traction, durability and grip of sneakers, yet the comfort of a sandal. I was so glad I had these and highly recommend. They’ve become my favorite pair of flip flops I’ve ever owned.

Columbia Athletic Sandals on a free Galapagos beach

More Packing Tips : See our Ultimate Packing Checklist , which shows everything that we traveled to the Galapagos with.

⚠️ And Don’t Forget To Buy Travel Insurance!

We always recommend travel insurance whenever roaming around South America. And for the far-flung Galapagos, it can prove to be particularly useful. There is even discussion in Ecuador politics about having mandatory health insurance and emergency medical coverage a mandatory requirement for entering the Galapagos. For now, such an insurance requirement has been delayed, although it is expected to potentially be enforced in the future.

Still, don’t travel to the Galapagos without it. Given all the outdoor and water-based activities, there’s certainly plenty of room for risk of injury way out in these remote islands. But having travel insurance will also protect you by covering other unexpected heavy expenses such as tripping on a rock, dealing with lost baggage, emergency evacuation from way out there, trip cancelation, an unexpected illness, missed connections, theft, and so much more.

During our trip, we thwarted off a sea lion attack (see video below!) Thankfully we were not injured and I departed the Galapagos with all my fingers. But medical expenses from a sea lion attack would add up quickly if we did not have coverage from travel insurance!

We use World Nomads as we find they tend to have the best mix of coverage and cost. We’ve been happy with the outcome of the many claims we filed with them too. For the Galapagos, we recommend their Explorer plan, since snorkeling is not a covered activity in their Standard plan. Just enter your travel dates here to get a quick quote .

How To Find a Cheap Flight to the Galapagos 

In addition to the expense of day tours, the other pricey line item to try to minimize is airfare to the Galapagos. There are three airlines and only two airports to book a flight to the Galapagos, without the need for changing planes:

  • Guayaquil, Ecuador, and
  • Quito (which stops at Guayaquil in route to the Galapagos)

There are many things to consider when attempting to book the lowest-priced flight to the Galapagos:

  • Book a Flight to Galapagos or Fly To Ecuador First
  • Book Round-trip or One-way

What Airports to Fly Into and Out Of

  • Which Airlines to Fly
  • What Site Is Cheapest to Book On
  • When To Book

View of Galapagos from plane window on our cheap flight to the Galapagos

💡 Book a window seat – it can be a pretty flight with clear weather.

Book A Flight to Galapagos or Fly To Ecuador First?

Don’t only search for a flight from your home airport directly to the Galapagos. While sometimes that can yield attractive, usually you can find lower fares by booking a flight to Ecuador, specifically to Quito, then booking a separate flight to the Galapagos. Plus, it’s worth doing it that way to spend a few days in Quito . There’s so much to do in Ecuador’s capital. (Read  in a new tab: 20 Best Things to Do in Quito .)

However, just realize that when attempting to book flights directly from the US, Europe, and elsewhere to the Galapagos – you are likely going to sustain at least 2 (possibly 3 or more) layovers. For this reason, we instead recommend flying to Quito first and spending a few days there if you have the time .

There are two airports in the Galapagos that serve flights from mainland Ecuador:

  • Seymour Airport (AKA Baltra, airport code: GPS) and
  • San Cristobal Airport (airport code: SCY).

Seymour Airport (GPS) is technically on Baltra Island but serves as the airport for Santa Cruz. This is the airport that is used to reach the biggest city in the Galapagos, Puerto Ayora, where you can find the most tours and last minute cruises. As a result, it receives the most flights into the Galapagos.

This is also the island that acts as a ferry hub, as it is the only island that has ferry connections to the other three islands we mentioned earlier. For this reason, we recommend flying into GPS .

If you’re planning to do a cruise tour of the Galapagos, most tours begin and end on Baltra / Santa Cruz, so it would make sense to fly in and out of GPS.

If you’re planning to do a DIY island hopping trip around the Galapagos, it can make sense to fly into GPS and fly out of SCY. That way, if visiting San Cristobal, you’ll save yourself the time and money of a return ferry trip from San Cristobal to Santa Cruz.

Do note the ground transportation costs and logistics flying into GPS (Baltra). It requires a bus ($5) + ferry ($1) + either another bus ($5) or taxi ($25) to get from the airport to Puerto Ayora. Getting to/from the airport in San Cristobal is much more simplistic, as it’s close to town and a taxi to the airport costs just a few dollars.

Book Round-trip or One-way to the Galapagos

If breaking up your flights by flying to Quito first, you’ll likely find a cheaper fare by flying round-trip to Quito.

But when booking your airfare from Quito to the Galapagos, consider booking two separate one-way tickets . Here’s why:

First of all, you can mix and match airlines this way. Perhaps one airline has a cheaper fare or a better time on the way to the Galapagos, but a competing airline has a lower-priced or more convenient return fare. There tends to be no cost savings when booking round-trip from Ecuador to the Galapagos. So it can prove very beneficial to book two separate one-way tickets on two separate airlines. We saved a few hundred dollars on our airfare doing it this way.

Secondly, by booking two one-way tickets, you now have the ability to fly into and out of two different airports, which is ideal for a DIY island-hopping itinerary as it will save time and money of backtracking using ferries.

Which Airline to Fly to the Galapagos

There are three airlines that fly from mainland Ecuador to Galapagos.

  • LATAM (formerly LAN)

All three are fairly comparable in terms of quality of service. For those traveling to the Galapagos on a budget, we simply suggest choosing whichever airline has the best price and/or schedule for your Galapagos trip. Yet if prices are similar across the board, we’d suggest Avianca and LATAM over TAME, based on our experience flying with these airlines.

Lowest Price Flights to Galapagos

Each of the three airlines fly from Ecuador into both Galapagos airports. Prices do vary depending on dates, booking time, and general rate fluctuations. Yet aim to spend about $200, each way, on flights from mainland Ecuador to either airport in the Galapagos.

At the time this article was last updated (July 2019), here are the lowest airfare prices from mainland Ecuador to Galapagos for each of the four routes:

  • Quito to Baltra (GPS): $213 | Return: $230
  • Guayaquil to Baltra (GPS): $189 | Return: $215
  • Quito to San Cristobal $176 | Return: $168
  • Guayaquil to San Cristobal: $182 | Return: $175

Search Skyscanner for up-to-date prices.

What Site Is Cheapest to Book a Galapagos Budget Flight

For the Galapagos, we found searching with Skyscanner  to provide some of the best real prices. Often searching Skyscanner yields lower prices than searching the airlines directly. Note: Skyscanner is just a metasearch and will ultimately link to a booking site (Expedia, the airline, etc.), where you can complete your transaction.

Also, Skyscanner conveniently omits the misleading lower Ecuadorian-only prices that the searches on Kayak and Google Flights show.

When To Book A Cheap Flight To Galapagos

We recommend booking your flights to the Galapagos as soon as possible in order to secure the best rate. The airfare prices tend to rise based on demand. Typically, booking at least a month or two in advance will still achieve getting the lowest available price, except for high-demand periods such as dates around Christmas.

Check airfare prices now .

Why Plan Stopovers in Quito and Guayaquil?

It can be a very wise idea to plan stopovers in mainland Ecuador on the way in or out of the Galapagos. If booking separate tickets, having at least a night or two in mainland Ecuador can be a safeguard to unexpected canceled or delayed flights. These do occasionally happen!

But also, the connection cities of both Quito and Guayaquil are actually very interesting and fun places with lots of things to do on a budget. For more info, be sure to check out our complete travel guides to these two fascinating Ecuadorian cities:

🚡 Read: 20 Best Things To Do in Quito, Ecuador: Travel Guide

🎡 Read: 15 Best Things To Do in Guayaquil, Ecuador: Travel Guide

Galapagos on a Budget Travel Tips

Heather is in a Galapagos tortoise shell showing a Galapagos budget attraction

We hope that this detailed Galapagos on a Budget Travel Guide has helped to show that it is possible to have a budget-friendly trip to the Galapagos while still being able to experience what makes these islands so special. Now go stretch your Galapagos budget as far as you can and experience this incredible ecosystem in the world!

If you have any questions, please chime in the comments section below. And after your trip to the Galapagos please do stop back by our little space on the web to let us (and other travelers) know how your trip went.

And for more travel ideas and trip inspiration throughout all of Ecuador, be sure to check out our big post about the 20 Best Things to Do in Ecuador & Interesting Places to Visit .

We realize this was a lot of info to take in, so feel free to bookmark this page or save it to your Pinterest boards and check back later. Until then, happy travels and we wish you an awesome trip to the Galapagos on a budget!

Publishing note: This article was initially written in February 2017 and was last updated in July 2019 to reflect up-to-date information and prices.

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May 20, 2022 at 7:42 PM

May 2022 When it comes to daily tours we were able to find Santa Fe for 100$ Pinzon for 100$ Daphne for 110$ In the agency named Levero Trans which is a little bit of the port on the Avenida Baltra

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February 10, 2022 at 12:06 PM

Hello! Thanks for all of the great information! It’s really helped me plan my trip to the Galapagos 😀 I wanted to give an update as of Feb 2022. Unfortunately, Las Grietas is no longer free to snorkel on your own. They require a $10 fee and a required guide to accompany you. You’re also limited in how long you can swim and snorkel to an hour and a half. The guide will also take you to the look out point over the canyon. I think someone already mentioned too, but the Charles Darwin Research Station is a $10 fee and has a required guide as well. Thanks so much! Love the blog!

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April 12, 2021 at 8:29 AM


Hi guys, thank you so much for this great article! It helped me a lot and was a huge pish for me to reach Galapagos even I was on a very tight budget.

I’ve just come back after 4 weeks there (4 days Santa Cruz, 3 days Isabela and 3 weeks volunteering on San Cristobal).

Unfortunately, many things that very free, now they charge. This include visits to turtoise breeding and research centers on Santa Cruz and Isabela (each one is 10USD, however you get a private tour) and Las Grietas (10USD also with guide).

However, the thing that really pissed me off was a scandalous robbery on the very first transport we had. Bus that drove us from Baltra airport to the boat taxi, that used to be free, now you have to pay 5USD – for 6km! And it’s just crowded minibus, not the private taxi. If I didn’t have that huge backpack I’m sure I’d walk 45 minutes instead.

All the museums were closed as well as playa Ninfa on Santa Cruz.

If you rent a bike or walk, you can see wild turtles close to El Rancho, they walk on the road and also close to Wall of tears on Isabela. You can see them for free on San Cristobal at breeding center (it is quite far away from the city however).

Bike rental 10USD per day, snorkel 3USD but you’ll have to look around and to haggle.

Public bus from Santa Cruz to Bellavista is 0,5USD and to Santa Rosa 1USD. You can take your bike to the bus, it’s free.

I swim with sharks, turtles, iguanas, sea liones and a bunch of different sized, shaped and colored fish. Saw blue footed boobies and bunch of other birds.

Get some cheap action camera with the underwater case and you’ll be more than happy with crazy underwater footage!

There’s a list of articles you can bring to Galapagos, so check that on the Internet and bring as much as you can (the grinded coffee is added to that list, but not updated – however you can bring the instant coffee). Everything is double more expensive than in Ecuador and on Isabela even more.

Buy plane ticket through the airline directly, now because of the covid issue agencies are not reliable. I’ve got huge problems with EXPEDIA, and in the end was robbed for 40USD, but I had to pay it cause they didn’t let me use my credit otherwise.

Enjoy your stay!🐢

April 12, 2021 at 10:10 AM


Nobody checked me the “salvoconducto” at the airport, I’ve heard that this is mainly addressed to Ecuadorians, however any hostel will send you it, but the process takes a couple of days so don’t leave it for the last moment.

Nobody checked health insurance.

They just asked about my returning day, nobody checked the flight. If you’re not sure about return date, I advise you to buy “fake ticket”, google it. It costs just 5USD and will give you a lot of flexibility if you want to change your plans.

I highly recommend hostel “Posadas del caminante” on Isabela. It’s super cheap but very nice. I’ve found private double room for 15USD with fridge and bathroom. Snorkel equipment for free as well as some bananas. Go there directly so you won’t pay Booking fee.

Stay away from the apples you’ll find everywhere. Usually, there are signs, but people don’t read. They are toxic.

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February 11, 2021 at 5:39 PM

Very helpful and of course with the pandemic much must be updated. Here are the main things : – from San Cris to Santa Cruz you can still get the 25+$ ferry if you take both ways, now impossible to get below 30$ to/from isabela -1$ Fee each time you use the jetty of Santa Cruz (ferry, tours – usually included, anything…) – Darwin center costs 10$/person – we passed… – all tortoise centers are now supposed to cost you something, 10$. – las Grietas is not free anymore, costs 10/person. We passed. – most tour prices were significantly higher than mentioned here even prior to the pandemic. Tuneles is now 120$ (No one i know got it for less), dives at top spots like Gordon or Leon Dormido are 140-150$.

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February 20, 2020 at 10:01 PM

Hi y’all! I used this blog to help plan an extremely last minute trip to the Galapagos when I found a $250 r/t airfare on Spirit to Guayaquil. I spent 2 weeks in the islands and about $3K total but I did everything I wanted to do. The bus, ferry, bus to Puerto Ayora is $11 total now. I felt like they really stuck it to you with every little trip – the water taxis being an extra .50 or $1 for the ferries, $10 to get on Isabela etc. but at least I was prepared for it. I got some fellow travelers to join me for a taxi tour on the way in to PA to see Los Gemelos and El Chato where there are lava tubes AND giant tortoises. That was a great tip I got from the comments here. I got a trip from PA to Isabela for $270 including r/t ferry, tours to Tuneles and Tintoreras, and 2 nights hotel – loved all of this. I really liked the laid back vibe of Isabela and the beach right in town. I booked a last minute 5/4 cruise for $1250 that included Genovesa and Bartolome (top of my list) but started in Baltra and ended there too – not great because you had to do the bus, ferry, bus thing to get there and then find your own way back at the end – I just stayed in PA and went to SC on a ferry; the last day was just Charles Darwin research center. Overall I didn’t feel like the cruise was worth it but I had fun, saw lots of cool animals, and got to meet great people. It just got repetitive and I should’ve spent more time just hanging out on Isabela or San Cristobal (my two favorites). I felt like the guide was just dragging things out to make people feel like they were getting their money’s worth (I was also overheated and grumpy though so take that for what it’s worth). Things to be prepared for: I was underwhelmed by the food, I bought hot sauce to take on the boat, the hotels were extremely basic but for $40 or less, to have hot water, cold a/c, and semi-functioning wifi you get what you pay for. My favorite by far was Sueños Silvestres in PA but they only had availability for one night I needed. It was an unforgettable trip and I’m, glad I went but I’d definitely skip the cruise and spend more time exploring on my own if I did it again. I saw tons of animals without being on any tours – including flamingos. Penguins, sharks, and red footed boobies were the only things I needed a tour to see. Anyway thanks for the tips and hope this comment helps on prices!

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January 11, 2020 at 8:19 PM

A lot of great information, thank you! I’m in the Galapagos at the moment, my flights were more expensive than what you managed to get even though I booked them about 5 months ago, however I suspect this is because of the time of year. I did however find cheaper accommodation, hotel with air con and a kitchen (kitchen is a big bonus as I can make my own breakfast and take lunches with me when not doing a day tour). It’s closer to the Darwin centre end of town and I paid $140 for 6 nights so only $23 per night, I’m on my own but the room has a double and single bed so could potentially sleep 3 people. It’s called Hostal Sueños Silvestres.

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January 11, 2020 at 10:26 AM

Fantastic blog thank you so much. We’ve just finished 8 days in the Galapagos as part of our honeymoon and used this blog so much to make it affordable and run. Really appreciate you taking the time to write it!

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December 9, 2019 at 7:41 AM

OMG, thank you so much for such a wonderfull blog. I would like to ask, if do you think that is possible, on the day of arrival, take a Taxi from the airport (after crossing the channel) and doing the visits to El Chato, Los Gemelos, Lava Tunnels and Darwin Museum. Second thing, do you give the advise to book all the day tours, on the day of arrival for all islands? Or is it better to od on the prior day of those visits? Do they some discounts if you book more than onre?

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December 20, 2019 at 4:37 PM

Yes, El Chato, Los Gemelos, and the Lava Tunnels are all on the way from the airport to Puerto Ayora. You can easily negotiate with a taxi to stop by each of those sites on your way to Puerto Ayora. It can be a good and convenient strategy to do just that! Then once you get to Puerto Ayora, you can venture over the Darwin Museum, if you still have time before it closes for the day.

As for booking the day tours when you arrive or the night before each one, either way should work. It just depends on a few different factors. Booking them all when you get in may prove to be more convenient to have all your tours lined up each day. If booking multiple tours all at once with the same agency, they may be able to offer a discount. Booking tours the night before, you may further be able to get some last-minute discounts and it may be nice to have the flexibility depending on what you’re feeling. The trade-off is that you could potentially run the risk of a particular day tour being sold out and you’ll also have the chore of shopping around for tours each afternoon/evening. Really, there are pros/cons to each way. Have a great trip!

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November 11, 2019 at 7:45 AM

Thanks a lot for this great post! It has been our guidebook during 2.5 weeks Galapagos!

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November 5, 2019 at 3:20 PM

You are absolutely amazing! Thank you so much for such a thorough review of traveling to the Galapagos Islands, DIY versus structures tours and all the tidbits of advice in between. My fiancé and I are planning to go to the Galapagos for our honeymoon but we were getting concerned it might not be realistic as the prices were so expensive for tours. I now feel equipped to continue to research and plan a 2 week DIY honeymoon in the Galapagos Island. You rock!

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November 3, 2019 at 7:12 PM

Update November 2019 – maybe you csn update your post 🙂 We just came back from a trip to Floreana today. There is a regulary ferry from Santa Cruz to Floreana now. It departs daily at 08:00 am from Santa Cruz to Floreana and returns at 03:00 pm from Floreana to Santa Cruz. We did it as a day tour, because we already booked the accomodations for Santa Cruz, Isabela and San Christobal in advance. We would recommend to stay 1 night at Floreana, that you can go to the Pirate Cave in the Highlands and have a bit more time in total. It is a very relaxing island and we had a great “island feeling”, because it isn’t crowded and touristy. We booked the ferry for 25$ each way per person. So 100$ in total for 2 persons. We also booked all other ferries (Isabela and San Christobal) for that price. The official price is 30$, but you can easily get it for 25$ at different booking agencies or ticket sales points, so save that money for other things.

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February 14, 2020 at 9:41 AM

HiMichael, were you able to get to Devil’s Crown or lava cave on your own or do you have to do it with a guide?

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October 29, 2019 at 3:12 PM

Thank you, best blog i’ve ever read! Great suggestions.

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October 12, 2019 at 1:49 PM

OMG!!!! Absolutely AMAZING information. I’m home sick and planning my retirement trip in 2022 when I turn 70. Thank you ever so much!!!!!!

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September 14, 2019 at 10:14 PM

What an awesome job you did on this blog, this has come in very handy for me with our trip to the islands, we are going to ecuador(2nd time) for the month of february , we fly into guayaquil, then off to puerto lopez, then 4 days to riobamba, banos, puyou, then off to the islands for 4 days staying in puerto ayro and puerto villamil, We are flying into guayaquil and flying out of quito so we will be seeing alot of ecuador on this trip, i was going to preplan our day trips for the island but now reading your blog im going to the island hopping and just plan our days while there, thanks for all the good ideas you just made my trip to the islands much better and saved me alot of $$ by buying stuff before going. Just an addition to your blog visiting the coast is awesome as well, you can spend day trips all along the coast for a bus ride of $4 dollars

October 4, 2019 at 12:41 AM

So glad this proved helpful and hope you have an awesome trip ahead of you! It sounds like a great itinerary and hope you enjoy every bit of it. ¡Buen viaje!

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August 30, 2019 at 10:57 AM

Where can I find discount cruises for the islands in Galapagos. Im looking for early Dec 19. Thanks Denise

September 7, 2019 at 9:47 PM

You can check some of the recommendations and links mentioned in this post. There could be some deals in the first half of December. But the latter half (over the holidays) is peak travel time in the Galapagos, so unlikely during that time.

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August 29, 2019 at 7:08 AM

Your blog was unbelievably HELPFUL! Thanks for all your hardwork and putting it into one place that’s easy to read.

If you ever get to update your site again, perhaps add something about luggage costs from UIO to GPS on the various airlines. I was looking that up recently and it is confusing.

August 29, 2019 at 11:44 AM

That’s a great idea, thanks for the recommendation! Those baggage fees can vary and they can definitely add up. Will look into it and try to add in the next time we update this post.

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July 25, 2019 at 9:40 PM

Love this information so much!!! THANK YOU!!!! Me and my boyfriend will go now in the begining of August! Will stay for a week! 🙂 Thank you once again! I will doing a plan according to your info!

July 26, 2019 at 12:45 PM

Awesome!!! Hope you have a great trip and enjoy these magical islands! Stop back by and let us know how the adventure goes. 🙂 Have fun!

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July 25, 2019 at 8:28 PM

Thanks for the post, it’s been very informative while I’m currently in the Galapagos! One thing to note, I don’t think the sign with “Christine” is accurate anymore. I still got a ferry ticket for $25 in the same place with two women working, it just has a different name! Also, El Chato was $5 and my Highlands tour by taxi was $50. He said El Chato + lava tunnels was $40 and adding Los Gemelos would be $50 total, so not sure if he ripped me off or that’s the true going rate now. (Side note, El Chato was totally worth it. For other travelers, I’d suggest booking a tour the takes you from the airport to see everything since it’s on the way and seems to cost as much as the taxi tour. Plus, you have a nicer way to get to Puerto Ayora than by bus!) Also, my Isabela tour (highlights, not lava tunnels) was $120 and the same place quoted Bartolome at 200-250. I didn’t do any price comparisons with other places so I can’t give better data than that. Thanks again for the post, and hopefully I can give back to other readers like you helped me!

July 26, 2019 at 12:52 PM

Thanks for the update about the “Cristine” sign. But glad to hear the lower $25 is still in place in that spot for the ferry tickets. Also thanks for the update on the El Chato price increase. I’ve just updated this post to reflect those two changes, so muchas gracias! El Chato really is awesome! It’s difficult to comprehend the size of those giant tortoises until actually seeing them in person. $50 for a 3-stop taxi tour from the airport to the Puerto Ayora sounds like a fair price, so I don’t think he ripped you off at all. And that’s really a good tip and great idea to pursue from the airport. The bus is definitely the cheapest way, but it can be very practical and well worth it to do exactly as you did, since those sights are all along the way and it’s much comfier than the bus. Thanks again for all the feedback and hope you’re having a fantastic trip!

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June 20, 2019 at 6:35 PM

Hi Heather and John,

Just a note to say thank you for your post about Galapagos – I actually stumbled upon your website about a couple of years ago whilst researching another destination. I always dreamt about visiting the islands but never in million years would have thought it possible. It simply felt it was out of reach. You opened my eyes and I started researching land based travel in more detail and discovered to my surprise that it is doable – cost wise and time wise. You have recently updated the blog but your budget, planning tips etc even back then were so helpful, inspiring and gave me a spark of excitement and hope that I could also one day visit this place. The dream turned into a reality a couple of months ago when my partner and I spent wonderful two weeks island hopping and exploring the amazing Enchanted Islands! I’m still feeling drunk with all excitement and buzz of the place and seeing so much wildlife up so close. I’m so grateful to have had the privilege and opportunity to visit the islands. It was truly an experience of a lifetime.

I wish you many happy travels and hope you inspire many more travellers keen to discover the world.

June 23, 2019 at 6:41 PM

Wow, thank you so much for such a kind message! It makes us so happy to know that this information is getting out there to inspire awesome travel adventures like the one you just had! It puts smiles on our faces to hear you had such an awesome trip – am giddy for you! The Galapagos is really such an incredible place as you no doubt just experienced first hand. Thank you so much for taking the time to come back to this post to let us know. It really means so much. It’s comments like this that give us renewed encouragement to keep writing and working on this blog of ours. We may have initially sparked your excitement but now you’ve just helped to spark our blogging motivation. Thank you and happy travels ahead!

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May 19, 2019 at 4:18 PM

I think its always possible, you just have to know how to save money, do your research, be prepared. Galapagos is beautiful! So if you wanna go you can.

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May 19, 2019 at 2:31 PM

Hey you guys! Thank you so much for your amazing blog, it’s absolutel incredible! We discovered you when we were travelling Mexico two years ago and we still love reading about your adventures. I have a question about diving on Santa Cruz, please. With which dive operator did you do your Gordon Rock’s dives and how was your eyperience with them? Would you recommend booking dive trips in advance? Online or even per email request to various dive centers the dive trips are much more expensive than what you mention in this post. Looking forward to an answer & keep doing what you do! All the best, Barbara

May 19, 2019 at 8:25 PM

Oh so nice to hear these info blogs have been proving helpful – puts smiles on our faces! 🙂 Regarding the dives, we actually dove at Seymour/Daphne. It was a good experience there, but I’ve always regretted not pursuing Gordon Rocks. We decided against it simply because Heather only had about 10 dives or logged and we feared with the currents it may be a little technical/advanced for her experience level. One day we’ll go back to tackle Gordon Rocks!

We went with a dive shop called: Macarron. Scuba Iguana is often cited as the best and most reputable dive agency in Puerto Ayora, but they also have higher prices. We were happy with Macarron and thought that they were safe and professional.

We booked our dives by just going to the dive shop a day or two in advance. You should be able to find Gordon Rocks dive trips for less than $200. The prices posted online are always much more than what you will find on the ground. If you can be a little flexible with your itinerary and aren’t going to be there during a holiday weekend of high season, it could prove worthwhile to book the dives once on the ground. Please let us know how it goes and/or if dive prices on the ground have changed.

Have a wonderful trip!!

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May 3, 2019 at 12:28 PM

Am planning a trip last minute from Quito. Will do DIY land based trips but don’t want to be pinned down to a specific itinerary. We will be looking forward to a last minute cruise as well. Do you have any updates on the need to have reservations? I guess I’ll be makIng “free cancellation” reservations on

Also, what do you do with your belongings in a day trip boat while snorkeling? I wouldn’t trust to leave my new iPhone behind in my backpack but I’ll need it to be my camera on the trip.

May 4, 2019 at 5:09 PM

The official requirement for reservations is to have bookings for every day of your stay. However, in practice, we’ve been hearing that officials at the airport are currently only checking for reservations for when you’re arriving. So you could chance it and just have reservations for the first night or two, but it’s probably best to play by the rules in case they begin enforcing or you encounter an agent who is. So cancelable reservations can come in handy, just in case.

For your belongings, they’ll likely be safe on the boat. We always left our electronics. Still, it can be unsettling to do so, particularly with a shiny new iphone. So consider a good waterproof phone pouch and take it snorkeling with you. That’s what we do now whenever we go snorkeling and the waterproof case we use and recommend in the packing section of this post works quite well.

Have a great trip!

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March 26, 2019 at 9:37 AM

Thanks so much for this article!! I just got back from a trip and Im already dying to go on another lol. I have a question though, with the sunscreen and insect repellent being above 3 ounces, you have to check your bag every time? I really don’t like checking my bag, cause I hear so many stories of bags being lost and never found! Especially since flying to the Galapagos has so many layovers, that makes the risk even higher. Has that ever happened to you, since you can’t carry on? I want to buy the eco friendly products but Im so nervous about having to check a bag.

April 3, 2019 at 9:16 PM

We always check one bag, partly so that we can travel with liquids. In more than 5 years of constant travel around the world, only once has our checked bag gone temporarily lost, and not in Ecuador. Lost luggage can always be a risk, whether traveling to the Galapagos or elsewhere, but it’s not too terribly common. We never pack anything we care dearly about in our checked luggage, just in case. We also use travel insurance, which reimburses us a good amount if luggage does get lost. It’s still a total headache to deal with, but it’s nice to have that coverage to replace everything. When it did happen to us, we basically got reimbursed for $1,000 shopping spree to cover our missing possessions and ultimately we even got the missing bag back too. There are certainly lots of benefits to doing carry-on only, but would be tough to get all those eco-friendly liquids under 3 ozs.

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March 13, 2019 at 11:58 AM

Thank you for your detailed program and info. Seems affordable to me, for God’s sake, it’s even cheaper than Key West or other places in America

March 14, 2019 at 5:44 PM

Oh yes, having visited Key West just a few months ago, we can confidently confirm that prices here are overall much much lower, particularly so for hotels and eating! 🙂

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February 21, 2019 at 12:33 PM

Guys, your blog is amazing! So detailed information. I’ve already read all your posts on Ecuador and find them very helpful. Appreciate your effort in sharing your own experience!

February 22, 2019 at 8:53 PM

That’s so encouraging to hear! 🙂 Thanks for dropping us a comment to let us know. We’re currently back in Ecuador exploring further, so hoping to churn out many more Ecuador posts in the upcoming weeks and months, so stay tuned. And hope you have a great trip here too!

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February 14, 2019 at 9:16 PM

Dang guys – awesome post! Thank you so much for taking the time to write all this up. Super helpful.

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January 25, 2019 at 7:56 AM

Hello, thank you so much for your incredibly detailed posting. I am flying to the Galapagos in 4 days and this info is a godsend.

One question: you mentioned wifi is pretty slow regardless of where you stay, but what about using a SIM card data plan for internet? I would think that cell phone coverage is pretty good there, so maybe data plan surfing would be also? Do you have any experience with using sim cards in Ecuador?

January 28, 2019 at 4:16 PM

When we were there, we used our international T-mobile plan, which worked fine but they throttle you to 2g speeds internationally even if 4g is available. If you have an unlocked phone, you can definitely pick up a local Ecuador sim card to use for data when you’re there. I can’t comment first-hand how fast it is or how good the coverage is, but I’d assume it would be fine within each of the towns you can stay at. Probably just not way out on the boats.

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April 25, 2019 at 8:14 AM

You need to use Claro operator, Movistar is slower and less extended. It is 10 dolars for 2 Gb for 15 days. I myself used Tuenti, which gives you more gb (3gb for 10 dolars for 30 days). It worked more or less well on Cristóbal and Santa Cruz, but there wad no coverage on Isabela.

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January 22, 2019 at 12:14 PM

Heyy you guys!

I assume that you guys dove with Macarron dive center to Isla Daphne/Seymour for 150$? Can you tell me which kind of animals you encountered?

Kind regards,

Ingmar Rondeel

January 24, 2019 at 1:10 PM

Yes we did dive with Macarron and paid $150 for 2 dives each. We saw many fish, eels, sea lions, and rays. Others saw a school of hammerheads during the same dive, but we missed them. We put together a short Youtube video of the dives here:

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November 21, 2018 at 11:25 AM

Hello. We will be at Galapagos from 30/08 to 09/09. Can this program fit? We are two adults and a child of 8 years Sorry for the errors but I’m Italian and I use goolgle translate 😊

30/08 Guayaquil – Isla Santa Cruz – isla isabela 31/08 isla isabela tour Tunnels 01/09 isla isabela TOUR VULCANO SIERRA NEGRA 02/09 isla isabela – TOUR TINTORERAS E CENTRO DI CRIANZA 03/09 isla isabela-santa cruz 04/09 Isla Santa Cruz Bartolome e Pinnaculo Beach 05/09 Isla Santa Cruz Isola Santa Fe e Playa Escondida 06/09 Isla Santa Cruz Isola Seymour e Bachas beach 07/09 Isla Santa Cruz-san cristobal visita a Tijereta, punta carola e La Loberia 08/09 san cristobal Leon dormido, Manglecido, cerro Brujo 09/09 sna cristobal -santa cruz-guayaquil

December 1, 2018 at 6:14 PM

Yes, I think such an itinerary would work. The only aspect I’d caution you about is on your proposed first and last day. It will depend on what time your flight times are. If your flight to the Galapagos lands in the afternoon it will be difficult or impossible to catch the ferry to Isabela on the same day. You would need to go to Isabela on the following morning. You may run into a similar problem on the final day too, trying to get back from San Cristobal to Santa Cruz then flying out all in the same day. There is an airport directly from San Cristobal with flights to Guayaquil, in which I’d recommend instead. Hope that may help in your planning and you have a great trip. Buon viaggio!

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November 1, 2018 at 9:34 PM

OMG. What a well written and comprehensive website! I will be booking my outbound flight to Ecuador in a few days. That date won’t change but what might change is that now I may include the islands in my itinerary. Like everyone else, I took a cursory look at prices and was put off by just the gringo airfares from Ecuador mainland and the park entrance fees. But now that I see how the land portion of the islands can be done economically, I’ll sit down and do some hard research. Your blog is over a year old so prices will have gone up but I’ll see if we could swing it. I’d planned to instead visit the Cuyabeno Reserve in the Amazon 5D/4N. Probably can’t afford to do both side trips but we’ll see. This will be a very tough decision if the Galapagos aren’t unreasonably more costly than the flights and lodge in Cuyabeno and I can afford only one of them. They are both bucket list items for me. Decisions, decisions!! 😉 Given all the details you’ve given of names of places to stay and tours to take and other references has made my “job” of researching SO much easier. THANK YOU. And thank you for opening my eyes to the economic possibility of us visiting the Galapagos. Fingers crossed, we’ll see. We’re both seniors but adventurers. Two of our weeks in Ecuador will be a home exchange in Cuenca. Then two weeks on our own based in Quito with day trips.

November 10, 2018 at 2:11 PM

Hope that you’re able to swing the Galapagos and enjoy it! We certainly found it to be worth it and still fairly budget-friendly when traveling independently. So glad this guide was helpful. I wouldn’t anticipate that the prices have gone up too much from a year ago. Hope you enjoy Quito, Cuenca, and all that Ecuador has to offer! 🙂

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October 23, 2018 at 7:51 PM

Hey guy! Your guide is super helpful! thank you so much. I just have a question. I have read somewhere that before entering the Galapagos you need to proof that you have all your accommodation book for the entire period of your stay. Is that true?

thanks a lot for your help cheers Isabella

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April 17, 2018 at 10:04 PM

Thank you for this great post. It has inspired me to try my own DIY trip this June. Any chance you’ll post your sample itinerary blog soon? I really need it!

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April 9, 2018 at 1:35 PM

Hi! I just wanted to thank you for this post, it helped tremendously when we were in Galapagos for ten days a couple of weeks ago. We did island-hopping and didn’t end up taking even a single day tour, but still got to see just about everything we wanted (excluding the penguins, but it was the wrong time of year for them and so we would have only seen them if we’d booked a cruise). We were lucky when snorkelling in Concha de Perla and saw manta rays, sting rays and a sea turtle! Thanks again!

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April 11, 2018 at 4:02 AM

We’re delighted that you found our tips helpful, Andy! It sounds like you had an incredible trip. Your detail of snorkeling with the wildlife has me reminiscing and wanting to return. Being in the water so close to observe the animals was the absolute highlight of our time in the Galapagos.

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January 14, 2018 at 11:22 PM

Hi, great article and thanks for the info. Still a bit confused and need guidance. We’re in our 50’s and am hoping to arrive Quito late night Friday Feb 23 or early Feb 24 and need to depart Quito on Thursday March 1, what should we do for either day tours, live aboard or other suggestion, not sure how to get around, need suggestions on how to plan this one… HELP! Thank you.

January 15, 2018 at 7:36 PM

That decision really comes down to personal preference and budget. A liveaboard will make any planning and logistics a total breeze, so that may be a good route to consider if you have the budget for it. As to how to get around, there are buses and taxis from the two airports in the Galapagos. Once in Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz), Puerto Baquerizo (San Cristobal), Puerto Villamil (Isabela), walking or renting a bike is the mode of transportation. In Puerto Ayora, taxis or bikes can help get you further afield across Santa Cruz to see lava tunnels or tortoise sanctuaries. Meanwhile regular daily ferries connect Santa Cruz, Isabela, and San Cristobal. While day tour boats help you to reach other islands. Hope that helps! But if it all still sounds a bit confusing, I’d suggest a liveaboard if you can. It’ll take any confusion away as the entire trip will be planned for you.

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January 4, 2018 at 12:18 AM

Absolutely FABULOUS post !!!! Thanks so much for all your details. We’re heading to the Galapagos in April and I’m so excited – it’s been on my bucket list for many years.

January 5, 2018 at 7:53 PM

Awesome! Thanks for the feedback! Hope you have an amazing trip in April – such an incredible place in the world!

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December 21, 2017 at 5:43 AM

Regarding the ferry between the islands, is it possible to buy tickets from Christine at Santa Cruz to the other islands and back again? Or do I have to pay again when I want to go frem one of the islands to Santa Cruz at another agency to 30$? Love the details of everything on this site btw.

December 21, 2017 at 9:03 PM

Yes, it is definitely possible to buy all of your ferry tickets in advance from the Cristine agency in Santa Cruz. So, for example, you can buy a roundtrip ferry ticket to Isabela for $50 from that agency. Other agencies sell the same ticket for $30 each way or will do $55 for round-trip.

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November 15, 2017 at 8:50 PM

What about credit cards. Can I use those on trips and tours or should I bring more cash? Conversion rate?

I am going to be traveling to the islands late January as a solo, planning on staying in a hostel. Is it best to stay in one and use that for my base or plan to move to the other islands during the 5-7 days that I paln there.

Great site! Love all of the information.

November 18, 2017 at 4:22 AM

Credit cards can be used for big purchases in the Galapagos, as some travel agencies and hotels will accept them. However, they always tack on a hefty fee for anyone using credit cards. That credit card fee usually amounts to 5% or even higher. So we recommend to use cash instead.

USD is the currency for Ecuador, including the Galapagos, so conversion rates will depend on whatever currency you may be trying to convert. If you don’t have USD, you’ll likely find better conversion rates before arriving. There are some ATM machines Puerto Ayora which is what we used since we have a no-fee ATM card. But just be aware that they have daily withdrawal limits of a few hundred dollars per day and there are not ATMs on Isabella.

For 5 days, I’d recommend picking two islands and base yourself in Santa Cruz for 3 nights and base yourself on one of the other for the other two islands (San Cristobal or Isabella) for the remaining two nights. If you have a full seven days, you may be able to squeeze in all three islands.

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November 13, 2017 at 4:32 AM

I would love to do the Galapagos. I think the last minute cruise deal sounds good, but a bit risky? I guess I would need to have a backup plan!

November 13, 2017 at 11:00 PM

Yeah, the last minute cruise deals can be a gamble. There are some real bargains to be had on the ground, but best to have a back-up plan.

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November 9, 2017 at 9:51 PM

Thanks so much for the info, i’m planing to travel to Galapagos in December, please let me know which scuba center used for your scuba day trip? Regards

November 14, 2017 at 12:08 AM

We dove with a dive shop called: Macarron. Scuba Iguana is often cited as the best and most reputable dive agency, but they also have higher prices. We were happy with Macarron and they were safe and professional.

November 15, 2017 at 10:19 AM

Thank you John for the info, I will try with Macarron!! keep having a nice trip around the world!

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October 28, 2017 at 1:37 PM

Thanks for sharing your experience! Really helping with my planning. When you did DIY activities like snorkelling, where did you leave your belongings? Especially those that aren’t waterproof. I was thinking of bringing along a backpack to more secluded areas so leaving my stuff in my accommodation may not be a feasible option.

October 28, 2017 at 8:28 PM

So glad it’s helping! 🙂 When venturing out on our own to do snorkeling, we usually just took a small backpack with us to hold bottled water, sunscreen, camera, and perhaps a small amount of cash for the day. When going in the water, we would risk leaving the backpack on shore and would occasionally look up at it. The only item of value left in the backpack was our camera, so we did undertake a small risk in leaving it there. But these places usually weren’t crowded and we didn’t get a sense that theft was an issue, so it seemed safe for us to leave these items ashore for short periods. Still, there is of course some risk in doing so. I’d recommend to take as little as possible with you during these day trips and leave any valuables at your accommodation. Even if you’re checking out, they all will hold luggage for you.

April 25, 2019 at 8:33 AM

On San Cristóbal we were told by locals that there is no stealing there. On Santa Cruz and Isabela we were told that there were cases of stealing, so we left all valuable items in the hostel. You also can buy some waterprof small bag to take items like money or credit cards with you to the water. We did this on Cristóbal, since our hostel did not look like a safe place (we chose the cheapest one).

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October 4, 2017 at 1:58 PM

I can’t seem to find the 2nd part of this post – pardon me if I’m being slow! Could you post a link? I love all of the information you have provided! I’m planning a trip likely May 2018!!

October 25, 2017 at 12:31 AM

You’re not being slow. It’s us that are being slow! 😉 We’ve been traveling pretty aggressively lately which hasn’t left us much time to write and I never got around to writing the second part to this. I still do hope to finish writing that and publishing it before the end of the year. In the meantime, please feel free to let us know if you have any questions.

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September 30, 2017 at 12:02 AM

A quick question about using your underwater camera (I just ordered one!): Did you hold it in your hand for most of the videos on this blog or did you use a head strap or something else. Any tips would be appreciated.

Where are you travelling now?

Thanks, Gerri

October 25, 2017 at 12:51 AM

Hi Gerri and sorry for the delayed reply as we’ve been crossing the Pacific with limited Internet. (currently in Japan!) We used this GoPole Floating Handgrip attachment:

It’s made for a GoPro but it also fits onto the DBPower cam that we used. I definitely recommend having some sort of floating attachment because the camera will otherwise sink if you drop it. Hope you have a great trip!

October 25, 2017 at 1:10 AM

Hey John, thanks so much for the info. Wow, your travels sounds amazing! Enjoy Japan 🙂

September 29, 2017 at 10:22 PM

Hey guys, what a great post! I love all the detailed information. I have been researching and it’s difficult to find the price of the day trips, so thanks so much! Also, I’m so excited to hear your underwater camera recommendation as I need a new one for our trip to the Galapagos in April 🙂

I really appreciate the time and effort you took to educate the rest of us!

Happy Travels, Gerri

October 25, 2017 at 12:54 AM

So glad you found our post helpful. Yes, there seemed to be a lack of (or outdated) info on pricing for day trips in the Galapagos, so hopefully this gives travelers some ideas on what to expect when planning. We were pretty pleased with the underwater camera, particularly so for the price! We still use it. Hope you have a great trip come April!

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August 27, 2017 at 6:48 PM

I’m heading to the galapagos in the begining of october and I think I’ve read 50+ guides, tips, reviews etc. But this is BY FAR the most useful. It helped me to make quite a few decisions 🙂 Thank you só much and now I am even more excited to be going.

August 30, 2017 at 6:33 PM

That is so nice to hear! Thank you very much for taking to time to drop us a comment. When we were researching about the Galapagos we found a lack of detailed information, so was hoping this will help others to plan. Glad to hear that it is. 🙂

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August 20, 2017 at 9:43 PM

this is so sweet!! great blog!! and cool thread too!!

August 21, 2017 at 5:28 PM

Glad you enjoy! 🙂

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August 20, 2017 at 9:51 AM

We’re in our 50’s/60’s and are doing a 15 day independent trip in March 2018…and we’ve actually come quite close to your budget. We just have to figure out where to cut back on some of the day trips. The shopping list was great and my amazon cart is filling up! Can’t seem to find that specific “knockoff” camera though.

August 20, 2017 at 10:25 AM

Very cool – hope you have a great trip next year! Yeah, those day trips can be the biggest budget busters. It’s hard to say which of the day trips are “worth it” over others because they are each pretty special in their own regards. But easing off the day trips is definitely the place to be able to cut back on expenses. Glad to hear the shopping list was helpful. That knock-off camera always seems to move around on Amazon, disappear, and reappear. Strange, not sure why it does that. I’ve changed the link a few times in this article since I initially posted it. Looks like that action cam is now located here: I still have it, use it, and find it to be a fantastic bargain for $50! Hope you have a wonderful Galapagos adventure!

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August 6, 2017 at 9:44 PM

Very good information. I have a question for you. Do they accept credit cards especially the last minute cruise deals? Had heard they charge outrageous credit card fees.

August 16, 2017 at 8:45 PM

Most (not all) places will accept credit cards but what you heard about the credit card fees is absolutely true. Usually they agency will charge at least a 5% fee, sometimes more. For such a big purchase, potentially in the thousands of dollars, that can really add up. So while credit card is possible, it’s definitely best to have cash if at all possible. There are ATMS in Puerto Ayora to access cash, but they do have daily withdrawal limits.

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June 30, 2017 at 4:11 AM

Wow – what a wonderful amount of information. Thanks loads!

I have a question for you though. We are planning on travelling to The Galapagos and like you want to be flexible with our travels. Basically we want to make up our mind where to go and what to see when we are there.

But we see that there are some new rules that tourists have to show hotel or cruise bookings for the whole trip when they leave Ecuador or they won’t be allowed entry. Have you heard about this? If so, do you have any thoughts on either (A) whether they are really rigid about this, or (B) whether there are any ways around it?

We would really hate to have to lock down our trip now.

June 30, 2017 at 2:02 PM

I had heard about that new rule going into effect in May this year but had also heard it wasn’t being strictly enforced since it hadn’t been too widely publicized. Still, I would be prepared in the instance that it is being enforced during your visit. What I would recommend is to see if you can book a place online that is completely cancelable and refundable. Print that out and then cancel the reservation. To be extra careful, you may want to wait until you get through to the Galapagos to cancel, but I doubt a customs official would go as far as calling the hotel to confirm your reservation. Most hotels that offer free cancelation only do so up until a certain date though, so you may likely have to make the cancelation before you arrive. …just an idea. Hope that helps!

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August 26, 2017 at 9:33 AM

I flew into GPS yesterday and I wasn’t asked for any of those things. I had them prepared, just in case…

August 26, 2017 at 6:07 PM

Thank you so much for the update on that – very helpful to know!

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May 4, 2017 at 10:14 AM

Thanks for the information! My husband and I did our own DIY trip. Ended up only staying on Isabela and Santa Cruz. My husband couldn’t handle any more of the boat trips. Thank you for posting the picture of the cheaper ferry option. 25.00 each way was a nice savings. I was able to do Santa Fe for 90 pp and it was our favorite trip. I can’t remember the tour operator but it was near the street with the restaurants (same side) heading down towards the water. Maybe 4 operators down. I just walked in and out of each one and 90.00 won it for us. Sierra Negra can be booked through most of the hostels (ours was Gran Hostal Tintorera for 35.00 a person. And the tour agency you walk by on the way to Isabela from the port can do Los Tuneles for 100.00 pp. Just have to ask nice:) The emenandas at the port in Isabela were amazing. I loved the Galapagos and hope to go back soon!

May 7, 2017 at 4:59 PM

That’s great to hear! Yes, that $25 ferry is a real saver. We looked long and hard and never saw anything other than $30 except that one or occasionally some would do $55 for a roundtrip. Awesome that you found Los Tuneles for $100, and Sante Fe for $90 – that’s a steal! Thanks for chiming in with those prices – really good for others to know to try and find them. And Santa Fe, yes, such a great day tour! Glad you had a great trip to Galapagos. We’re also hoping to make it back there some day. Really amazing and totally lives up to its fame. Cheers!

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April 21, 2017 at 6:47 PM

Thank you for so wonderfully informative and clearly written piece. I flinders it extremely helpful in planning my trip to the Galapagos which was great!

April 29, 2017 at 4:19 PM

Hi Josh, Thanks for the comment! We’re thrilled that you found our budget tips helpful when planning your trip to the Galapagos! Enjoy your time exploring these beautiful islands!

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April 15, 2017 at 6:24 PM

Wow! Amazing information! Thank you so much 😃

April 17, 2017 at 6:24 PM

Hey Sari, thanks for the comment. We’re happy that you found our information helpful!

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April 10, 2017 at 6:41 PM

Galapagos seems like an amazing destination, Heather! Now as I know that I can go there on a budget, I added it to my bucket list!

April 17, 2017 at 5:57 PM

Fantastic! You’ll love it, and it’s absolutely possible to enjoy the Galapagos without breaking the bank 🙂

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April 2, 2017 at 6:39 AM

Being in the great places in the world is like having a thousand memories put together.

April 3, 2017 at 11:54 AM

Hi Lorraine, Thanks for the comment and we couldn’t agree with you more!

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March 28, 2017 at 9:41 AM

Very exhaustive report John (and Heather), very nice of you. I created the Galapagos Cruise Links website you reviewed above. It’s a very fair review – thanks. I have consciously limited access to only 15 ships, and folks can only contact 2 ships / 24 hour period. The idea was to direct quality inquiries to ship owners, and avoid the situation of travellers peppering all ship owners at the same time, and to drive a reasonable amount of enquiries to the owners.

Just a note on prices – for some ships, it MAY be possible to find a lower price (e.g. $20 or $30) through some other agent elsewhere, but at the end of the day, there is a real value in dealing directly with the ship owners (or their official sales team) e.g. if anything goes wrong (and it can happen – read the forums), you’ll be talking with the folks with whom the buck stops. They won’t be able to give you the run-around. I think that is worth $20 or $30. And typically, if anything goes wrong in this “last minute” sales environment, it’s usually the fault of the intermediary agent.

Keep up the great work! I’m impressed!

April 3, 2017 at 11:00 AM

Hi Marc, Thanks for the comment and sharing your valuable insight with our readers considering a cruise deal. We completely agree with the benefits you pointed out about dealing with the ships directly, such as avoiding possible disappointments from promises made by some agents.

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March 28, 2017 at 6:15 AM

Ecuador still on my list and this detailed blog confirms i will be there in 2017 🙂

April 3, 2017 at 10:48 AM

Hi Michelle, Thanks for the kind comment! We’re thrilled that we’ve provided some inspiration to add Ecuador to your 2017 travel itinerary. You won’t be disappointed!

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March 27, 2017 at 3:01 PM

Great article and very detailed, which is much appreciated! Thank you for spending all the time to put this together.

Based on your experiences and maybe some you have heard from other travelers, which “off of Isla Santa Cruz” day tours would you recommend? We are travelling in August so the water temp will be quite cool. Given that, snorkeling might not be in the cards for me — maybe 30 years ago!

Thanks again, greg

April 3, 2017 at 10:47 AM

Hi Greg, Thanks for the comment and question. From personal experience, we really enjoyed the Pinzon tour. It’s a fairly new tour for day trippers that was formerly only available to cruise tours. The snorkeling was remarkable and the highlight was the curious sea lions that would swim right up to us. It’s so hot in the Galapagos that the cool waters during your visit might be welcome. Also, most agencies have wet suits that are either included in the package or you can rent for an extra fee. Enjoy your time in the beautiful Galapagos!

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March 27, 2017 at 7:44 AM

Amazing blog!

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March 12, 2017 at 12:26 PM

Very informative and full of details on how to get the real deals

March 15, 2017 at 5:45 PM

Hey Leonora, thanks for the comment! So happy you found our tips to be helpful 🙂

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March 9, 2017 at 5:15 PM

So glad I found this post! I’m off the Ecuador this year and it’s great to know that Galapagos can be done more inexpensively.

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March 7, 2017 at 4:09 PM

Thanks for such a thorough article! I just got back from the Galapagos on a DIY (mostly, with a few tours) trip and it can be done. I was surprised at how easy it was to navigate on my own.

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March 7, 2017 at 7:14 AM

This is an amazingly detailed list of wonderful ideas. You were able to find significant savings especially after reading that the price can be 7000 – 15000 not including the flight. Those streets better be paved in gold. Lol. The Galapagos islands are on my to go to list so I’ll be save this post

March 9, 2017 at 5:11 PM

Hey Christopher, thanks for the comment! Glad to hear that the Galapagos Islands are on your wish list. It’s truly a remarkable place that can absolutely be enjoyed without breaking the bank 🙂

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March 6, 2017 at 4:31 AM

What a comprehensive post about Galapagos! Amazing tips as well. I haven’t really thought of visiting this place before but I’ve been seeing more and more people going and having a great time that its making me want to visit as well.

March 6, 2017 at 9:48 AM

Hey Janna, thanks for the comment. We’re thrilled to hear that this post helped to provide some additional Galapagos inspiration 😀

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March 5, 2017 at 9:37 PM

Fantastic post – I think the perception is that you have to get a luxury cruise to experience the Galapagos, but we went for a DIY land based experience and saved so much money while still having a once in a lifetime experience. Based ourselves on San Cristobal and didn’t actually do any island hopping – caught cheap taxi’s everywhere and snorkelled so close to marine mammals we could touch them just from the local beaches. Hit up grocery stores because we had an apartment with self catered facilities. Was very cheap 🙂 Loved it!

March 6, 2017 at 9:41 AM

Hey Meg, thanks for the comment and sharing your experience! I loved San Cristobal and found it to be my favorite island. How fantastic that you had an apartment there. Snorkeling with the sea lions and turtles was such an incredible experience and something I’ll never forget.

April 25, 2019 at 8:52 AM

We spent more than a week on each island (abril 2019) and San Cristóbal turned out to be our favorite as well. So many free activities you can do! And snorkling at Loberia is just amazing (another great one and free is on Concha Perla, Isabela). In the last case, if you come at different times, at low or high tide respectivly, you will see different animals.

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March 5, 2017 at 7:47 PM

I´m so glad to know that is possible to gon on a budget to Galapagos. It seem like a wonderful place to go 🙂

March 6, 2017 at 9:33 AM

Thanks for the comment! The Galapagos is an extradonary place to visit and it is absolutely possible to plan a vacation there without breaking the bank.

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March 5, 2017 at 12:41 AM

Awesome post, great details. We visited Ecuador a couple of years ago but did not go to the Galapagos because of the perceived cost. After reading all of your great tips I see that it can be done with a little more of a budget than I thought. We are headed south again later this year I think I will have to put visiting the Galapagos back on our list of things to experience.

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March 4, 2017 at 10:35 PM

I love all of your DIY suggestions for visiting the Galapagos. The food sounds awesome, especially the almuerzos lunches and pastries. Also – great tip about bringing enough sunscreen. I’d hate to spend $30 dollars for a bottle!

March 6, 2017 at 9:30 AM

Hey Mindi, thanks for the comment! The seafood was so good and economical (at the right restaurant 😉). I was so glad I stocked up on sunscreen prior to our visit (two large bottles). I would have hated to pay those prices!

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March 4, 2017 at 6:57 PM

Very thorough post. When I visited the Galapagos, I chose to suck it up and to the full cruise and I don’t regret it. I liked staying out on the water at night and being able to visit some of the more remote areas. It’s worth going at whatever level you can afford. The wildlife is unparalleled.

March 6, 2017 at 9:27 AM

Hey Carol. Thanks for the comment and sharing your experience with a Galapagos cruise. The wildlife is absolutely amazing. We’d love to return sometime and visit some of the areas we didn’t get to on our first trip.

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March 4, 2017 at 6:07 PM

This just makes me want to visit the Galapagos even more now! Thank you for sharing so much detail about your trip, i’ll definitely be referring to it when i make y own trip.

March 6, 2017 at 9:24 AM

Thanks for the comment Lauren. We’re so happy to hear that we’ve give you some Galapagos inspiration 😀

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March 3, 2017 at 5:25 PM

Holy oh my god this is the most detailed travel guide I’ve ever seen! Saving it for later part of my South America trip! Currently in Brazil, going south.

Thanks so much!

March 6, 2017 at 9:21 AM

Hey Owen, thanks for the comment! We’re so happy you found our guide to be helpful. Enjoy Brazil and your continued travels through South America!

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March 2, 2017 at 8:21 PM

A long but very informative blog post. Well done. That would have taken a bit of effort to research and write up.

March 3, 2017 at 7:23 AM

Thanks, yeah we generally try to cover all the details. It makes for some lengthy posts, but we hope it really helps people to be able to take a Galapagos trip like this without having to spend all their savings. It is quite an effort to organize our thoughts and write up a post like this. But we’re always meticulous about researching destinations, so that part almost comes natural these days. It’s getting all that info up here that certainly takes quite a bit of time. Sometimes too much, lol!

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March 1, 2017 at 12:02 PM

Great post, thanks for all of the tips!!

March 3, 2017 at 7:25 AM

Thanks Jessica! The Galapagos was such an awesome trip, so we’re now happy to show how’s it is possible 🙂

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March 5, 2018 at 6:17 PM

Brilliant blog, got me excited, heading there soon, thanks this is uber helpful Lilia

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Home » South America » Ecuador » Galapagos

Backpacking Galapagos Travel Guide

“ A man who dares to waste an hour of time has not discovered the value of life ”- Charles Darwin.

Follow in Darwin’s footsteps and embark on an adventure unlike any other to a place with untouched islands and undisturbed eco-systems… I’ve always wanted to explore the Galapagos Islands; there is something truly incredible about this rarely visited place and, in the future, I very much hope to head on out there.

This week, I chatted to Galapagos veteran Lisa Swenson and she filled me in on everything I needed to know to explore Galapagos on a backpacker budget…

I had always wanted to explore the Galapagos, with its confusing and utterly fascinating creatures – a land where a Godzilla like creature is a harmless vegetarian and tortoises grow to the size of a fully grown man; what’s not to be curious about? My husband and I decided to not get bogged down by the daunting tour prices and instead try and do Galapagos on a budget. And a pretty tight one at that. Here is a great travel guide to backpacking Galapagos on a budget…

Exploring Galapagos on a budget

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Galapagos budget backpacking guide

We  flew into Quito and bought our Park Pass for Galapagos, an essential, at the airport which cost us about $100 per person. Once we reached Baltra we had to taxi across the dry desert island to get to a water taxi that would then take us to Santa Cruz. Our ‘real’ journey to Galapagos had begun, and it did not seem like an easy one.  

The bus was cramped and people were squished together like canned sardines. The air was humid and stuffy and there wasn’t any air-conditioning – this certainly wasn’t any luxury tour but we didn’t care; we were heading somewhere amazing and would be seeing Galapagos on a budget. We were so thankful when we saw the ferry. But of course, we were once again jammed in with as many people as they could fit on the $2 water taxi. Finally, we could begin the last leg of our first journey and head on over to Santa Cruz.

Galapagos budget backpacking guide

Backpacking Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz was a destination in itself. We could have spent an entire week here seeing all that it had to offer – sandy beaches, colourful villas and ever smiling locals. Once we got to Puerto Ayora we realised it had everything we needed – restaurants, cheap places to stay, shops and even a couple of bars. The small island town was always busy with the locals walking or riding their bikes from home to work.

The town was directly on the blue sapphire water with access to piers, beaches, and water taxis and this made it to the perfect place to arrange Galapagos day trip . The day trips ranged from $45 – $95 dollars for an all-day snorkelling and land excursion to Isla Daphne including lunch. There are a lot tourist excursion kiosks so make sure you shop around and bring your haggling A-game to get the best price.

Galapagos budget travel guide

Backpacking Isla Daphne

The boat ride out to the island was beautiful; the water was calm and crystal blue. Birds soared through the salty blue sky squawking overhead as we skirted over the water. The island jetted out of the waterm full of life. We spotted a ton of birds: frigates, boobies, and some stunning tropic birds…

backpacking galapagos budget backpacking guide

While snorkelling we saw sea lions, a few eagle rays, sea turtles, and a white tipped shark. Although the cost of this excursion isn’t crazy cheap, it is well worth doing and is one of the better value trips whilst exploring Galapagos on a budget.

Spotting Tortoises

After the trip we ventured out on our own to the El Chato Tortoise Reserve to see some unique species of birds. We then cabbed to Rancho Primicias where the Galapagos tortoises grazed about throughout the free range property. We walked along the lush green trails weaving in and around ponds and trees and constantly spotting many giant tortoises. They were massive- much larger than the ones at the Darwin Center and El Chato.

Backpacking through the Lava Tunnel

The Lava Tunnels were very similar to many caves I had previously explored in the US but with one major difference; the tunnels are surrounded by hardened lava rock. We paid the taxi driver extra so we could see these tunnels and crawl through the narrow openings. The tunnels had a string of dim lights that helped us see our way.

Galapagos backpacking budget travel guide

The driver picked us up on the other side of the tunnels where a bucket of water awaited us to wash ourselves off after clambering through the admittedly mucky tunnel. We then went to see Los Gemelos – two huge sinkholes that look like gorges. We went on a short walk and guess what we saw…

Giant iguanas and flamboyant flamingos in the lagoons near the Darwin Station. Our first tryst with these super fascinating beings. What an incredible experience! It was at this point that we really felt that our budget Galapagos adventure was off to an amazing start… We were seeing the highlights of the islands, on the cheap, without the need for an expensive tour.

backpacking galapagos budget backpacking guide

It was almost sunset by now. We were absolutely exhausted but so overwhelmed and happy at what we had seen today. Not bad for the first day of a budget trip yeah?

Backpacking Isabela

The following day we returned to the same kiosk we had gotten the day trip deal from. The salesman gave us a map of Isabela, marked out locations for us and told us that we could see much of the island on our own. We went ahead and bought the ferry ticket, loaded our backpacks in and left on a 2 hour journey to Isabela. Our search for accommodation took way longer than we anticipated. We found a nice private room with a private bath for $50 – expensive I know! You can find hostels in the area for as cheap as $8.

Backpacking Los Tunneles

We embarked on a day trip to the beautiful Los Tunneles, early next morning. There were lava bridges over the sapphire blue waters and tunnels under the water. In the shallow snorkelling area, the snorkelling guide pointed out a sea horse for us all to come over and see! This was my first sea horse sighting and I was so happy to see one in the wild. We saw shoals of parrot fish darting in and around prettily through the lava formations.  I even spotted a squid, spotted eagle ray, sting rays, and a couple of sharks. This area is so fascinating to explore. The snorkelling experience was truly one of a kind because of the beautiful formations.

Backpacking Punta Tortuga

After returning to the island we had a few hours to kill before taking the long water taxi back to Santa Cruz so we explore the small mangrove cove close to the pier called, Punta Tortuga. We saw some colourful fish and a couple of rays but we weren’t very impressed so we ventured to the beach area on the other side of the docks. Best decision ever! We left our backpacks on the shore with the sunning sea lions standing guard, and dove right in. We swam off shore with the friendly sea lions and a ton of little penguins.

I was constantly tapping, poking, and grabbing my husband to show him the little torpedo of penguins diving through the mangroves chasing the shimmering fish. While swimming I felt what I thought was my husband grabbing my toes to point out some more sea life and turned around to look, I saw two wee little penguins nibbling at my toes! Such an endearing experience.

backpacking galapagos budget backpacking guide

Backpacking the Other Islands

Galapagos has many other islands to see that offer more wildlife viewing on the land as well as in the ocean surrounding them. Many of the Islands are only accessible by long cruises. Wolf Island is one of those due to its distance from Santa Cruz. Many islands also only allow scuba divers so make sure you do a bit of research before venturing out & bring your hammock with you if you want to camp!

Galapagos is famous for its splendid wildlife. Most adventurers come here to get their fill of spotting beautiful creatures that aren’t found anywhere else. The most famous animal of all would be the giant land tortoise. The islands where they can be spotted are Santa Cruz, Isabella, and San Cristobal. Another famous reptile is the Galapagos Land Iguana which can be found on Isabella, Santa Cruz, Fernandina, Baltra, and North Seymour. Another rare beauty is the Marine Iguana, which can be spotted on all the islands as they travel through the ocean all over Galapagos.

Galapagos budget travel guide

In the ocean waters you might happen across a Manta Ray or as the locals called them the Diablo Ray or Devil Ray. We spotted two doing somersaults as we cruised on the deep blue sea. Some mantas were doing flips while eating so we caught sight of their white bellies. These rays are found in deep channels and in the Canal Bolivar. Hammerhead sharks and white tip sharks can also be spotted all over Galapagos. The famous and ultra vibrant Sally Lightfoot Crab is also easy to spot. We saw many of these rock hopping along the shoreline.

Galapagos Budget travel guide

Galapagos is the most famous for the Darwin’s Finch, which can be spotted on Santa Cruz and Espanola. The Galapagos is also home to the Galapagos Flamingo which is one of the largest flamingos. They can be found in shallow lagoons in Isabella and Floreana. The Blue-footed booby  is a popular favourite and is found all over the Islands, you can’t miss their bright blue feet! My favourite of bird by far were the inquisitive wee little penguins that swam all around the islands and dove in and out of the mangroves. A land so rich in wildlife, you will end up spotting most of these animals while backpacking Galapagos on a budget.

Galapagos budget travel backpacking guide

The main cost of going to Galapagos is the air fare. First you have to get to Quito (flights from the states are around $500 for a roundtrip) and then you have to make your way to Baltra, a $200 return flight from Quito. Of course, if you’re already in South America, you can travel overland from Colombia or Peru and enter Ecuador that way. Once you’ve made it to Baltra, you must pay a park entrance fee of $100 per adult and $50 per child. The rest of the trip was pretty budget friendly.

The food in general was amazing and there was always plenty of yummy beer to go with it. Meals ranged from $3 a person to $15 a person. If you eat where the locals eat you can get a good wholesome dinner for just $5 a meal. If you plan to eat where the tourists do, you’ll end up spending around $10-$15. Our most expensive dinner was $15 for the two of us to share a pizza and drink cokes at a tourist restaurant. So, yeah a word of advice; eat local if you aim to backpack Galapagos on a budget.

You can find plenty of hostels with private rooms and shared rooms. They charge per person for rooms – starting from $8 for shared, going to about $15 a night for a private room.

Couchsurfing is another viable option in the Galapagos. CS is a great platform for backpackers who want to crash on a couch for free. I would advise you to do a thorough check on the host though. 

There are plenty of budget hostels in The Galapagos , but if you are still wondering  which is the best part of the Galapagos to stay in?  Well, let me give you a few suggestions.

Santa Cruz Galapagos

In terms of tourism, Santa Cruz is the most popular island in the entire archipelago! The main airport is actually on a separate island – Baltra – however, Santa Cruz is the closest inhabited island, and is only a short ferry ride away.

San Cristobal Galapagos

San Cristóbal

San Cristóbal is the most populous island in the Galapagos, and is home to the administrative capital – Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.

Isabela Island

Isabela Island

The largest island in the archipelago, Isabela is nevertheless quite small population-wise – making it a great pick if you want an easy going and relaxed beach holiday!

Floreana Galapagos

Floreana is easily the most unique of all the islands in terms of culture! By far the least populated, and smallest in size of the inhabited islands.

We did not have any service while we were in the Galapagos and we were fine with it. But if you absolutely must have reception, grab a local SIM card for about $5 and activate 3G on it. You can also use free WiFi that most hostels offer. Also, make sure you have a good Virtual Private Network for your cell; which basically prevents others from stealing your info while you’re using public Internet.

Volunteering abroad is an amazing way to experience a culture whilst giving something back. There are loads of different volunteer projects in Galapagos ranging from teaching, to animal care, to agriculture to pretty much everything!

Despite high levels of tourism, poverty is common throughout the Galapagos and there are plenty of opportunities for backpackers to volunteer. Most gigs you’ll find are helping with permaculture, and sustainability projects, helping the landscape recover from the damaging effects of mass tourism. It’s also possible to find opportunities in English teaching and housekeeping. If you plan to volunteer in Galapagos for more than three months, then you’ll need to apply for a volunteer visa.  


Our go-to platform for finding volunteering gigs is Worldpackers who connect travellers with host projects. Have a look at the Worldpackers site and see if they have any exciting opportunities in Galapagos before signing up.

Volunteer programs run through reputable work exchange programs like Worldpackers and platforms like Workaway are usually very well-managed and reputable. However, whenever you are volunteering do stay vigilant, especially when working with animals or children.

galapagos islands travel cheap

Worldpackers: connecting travellers with  meaningful travel experiences.

Alternatively, Workaway is another excellent common platform used by travellers searching for volunteering opportunities. Workaway is pretty massive, with over 40,000 hosts registered (that’s 40,000 opportunities) and over 350,000 reviews on the site. With a database base that big, odds are you’ll be able to find something that strikes your fancy. You can read our review of Workaway for more info on using this terrific platform.

Volunteer programs run through reputable work exchange programs like Worldpackers and platforms like Workaway are usually very well-managed. However, whenever you are volunteering do stay vigilant, especially when working with animals or children.

Global Work and Travel

Last, but certainly not least, Global Work and Travel is another viable option for finding volunteer opportunities in Galapagos. What sets Global Work and Travel apart from other volunteering platforms is the amount of assistance they give, from a 24/7 global help-line, help with VISA processing to airport transfers and continued support once you are in Galapagos. It may be a smaller platform, but the projects you’ll find are high quality and immaculately organised. There are new programs and opportunities listed constantly as Global Work and Travel continues to grow its reach.

For those interested in volunteer work in Galapagos, Global Work and Travel offer a fantastic project one where you’ll get to choose between community conservation or assistant teaching . There are options to stay anywhere from 2 to 10 weeks with weekends off. As with all volunteer abroad programs, there’s a cost, but you’ll be able to pay it off in interest-free instalments. Don’t forget to bring your camera and make sure you are between the ages of 18-85 to qualify!

Global Work and Travel Promo Code

If you’re en route to Galapagos and you want to check out what’s available in terms of a last-minute Galapagos cruise, you should check out  Galapatours. This is an online portal of all the cruise operators in Galapagos, and it’s updated daily. This means you can check out any last minute offers before you arrive and grab a place on a boat with a great island itinerary that will get you to the islands and wildlife you most want to see.

Feeling crushed by the extravagant pricing of cruises – from $6500 all the way to $14,000 for a ten day cruise, I was pleasantly surprised by how inexpensive they could be if you just rocked up and looked around a bit.

A great tip for those wanting to backpack Galapagos on a budget – go for a last minute trip. Once you get to the island you can find specials and deals being offered everywhere for last minute trips.

Day trips range from $40-$95 depending on where you want to go. Tour costs very much depend on what you want to do and see. For a week of adventuring, I would estimate spending between $400-$800 dollars on cruises to see all of the islands.

That’s a total steal compared to the prices quoted online… If you want to see the Galapagos on a budget; just go and figure it out once you have arrived.

All of that said, sometimes it makes sense to book a tour in advance, especially if you are picky and limited on time, looking for an eco-tour, etc. You’ll find our guide to the best Galapagos tours hire .

On every adventure, there are six things I never go traveling without:

Pacsafe belt

Travel Security Belt

This is a regular looking belt with a concealed pocket on the inside – you can hide up to twenty notes inside and wear it through airport scanners without it setting them off.

sea to summit towel

Microfiber Towel

Hostel towels are scummy and take forever to dry. Microfibre towels dry quickly, are compact, lightweight, and can be used as a blanket or yoga mat if need be.

Gifts for backpackers

Petzl Actik Core Headlamp

A decent head torch could save your life. If you want to explore caves, unlit temples, or simply find your way to the bathroom during a blackout, a headtorch is a must.


‘Monopoly Deal’

Forget about Poker! Monopoly Deal is the single best travel card game that we have ever played. Works with 2-5 players and guarantees happy days.

Mesh Laundry Bag Nomatic

Hanging Laundry Bag

Trust us, this is an absolute game changer. Super compact, a hanging mesh laundry bag stops your dirty clothes from stinking, you don’t know how much you need one of these… so just get it, thank us later.

For plenty more inspiration on what to pack, check out my full  backpacking packing list.

To keep your spending to an absolute minimum whilst traveling in South America in general I recommend sticking to these basic rules of budget adventuring….

  • Camp: With plenty of gorgeous natural places to camp, the Galapagos is an excellent place to take a tent, though camping is highly restricted. There are still a few opportunities, however. Check out this post for a breakdown of the best tents to take backpacking.
  • Cook your own food: I took a small gas cooker with me to the Galapagos and cooked a few of my own meals as I could and saved some cash – check out this post for info on the best backpacking stoves.
  • Haggle: Haggle as much as you can. You can always get a better price for things especially while in local markets, though you might find that the locals won’t budge much on certain things.
  • Pack a travel water bottle : save money (and the planet) every day! Stop buying bottled water! I may be repeating myself, but having your own water bottle is that important!

Why You Should Travel to Galapagos Islands with a Water Bottle

Plastic washes up on even the most pristine beaches… so do your part and keep the Big Blue beautiful

You aren’t going to save the world overnight, but you might as well be part of the solution and not the problem. When you travel to some of the world’s most remote places, you come to realise the full extent of the plastic problem. And I hope you become more inspired to continue being a responsible traveller .

Plus, now you won’t be buying overpriced bottles of water from the supermarkets either! Travel with a filtered water bottle instead and never waste a cent nor a turtle’s life again.

grayl geopress filter bottle

Drink water from ANYWHERE. The Grayl Geopress is the worlds leading filtered water bottle protecting you from all manner of waterborne nasties.

Single-use plastic bottles are a MASSIVE threat to marine life. Be a part of the solution and travel with a filter water bottle. Save money and the environment!

We’ve tested the Geopress  rigorously  from the icy heights of Pakistan to the tropical jungles of Bali, and can confirm: it’s the best water bottle you’ll ever buy!

  • Lonely Planet Ecuador & the Galapagos Islands  –  This book is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Spot an iguana, swim with penguins, get out there and discover the heart of Galapagos islands.
  • Galapagos: Islands Born of Fire  –  This book offers an unforgettable photographic tour of the Galapagos. Explore with the author the incredible diversity of wildlife and habitats of the most fascinating and exotically beautiful places in the world.
  • Huasipungo: The Villagers: a Novel  – “The Villagers” is a story of the ruthless exploitation and extermination of an Indian village of Ecuador by its greedy landlord. An interesting read.
  • The Queen of Water  – Virginia’s story will speak to anyone who has ever struggled to find his or her place in the world. It will make you laugh and cry, and ultimately, it will fill you with hope.
  • Galapagos Regained  – The book centres on the fictional Chloe Bathurst, an unemployed Victorian actress who finds work on Charles Darwin’s estate, nurturing the strange birds, exotic lizards, and giant tortoises he brought back from his trip around the world. An interesting take on the theory of evolution.
  • Galápagos  – A story of the character Kilgore Trout who watches and broods over his no-longer-human descendants who have made natural selection a matter of debased survivalism.
  • Beyond the Islands  – A hilarious and troubling take that recreates the Galápagos Islands as the famous cradle of evolutionary theory and as an earthly paradise.

Galapagos Islands Offline Map Travel Guide

You will end up exploring the islands mostly on foot or by boat. Because of the lack of connectivity you will need something that will go off-grid with you. The Galapagos Islands Offline Map Travel Guide app is your best bet. It is detailed and will help you save all the info offline. Perfect if you’re backpacking Galapagos on a budget and want to save money on transport.

Galapagos budget backpacking guide

Are you a native English speaker looking to earn cash whilst traveling the world? Teaching English online is a great way to earn a consistent income—from anywhere in the world with a good internet connection. Depending on your qualifications (or your motivation to obtain qualifications like a TEFL certificate) you can teach English remotely from your laptop, save some cash for your next adventure, and make a positive impact on the world by improving another person’s language skills! It’s a win-win! Check out this detailed article for everything you need to know to  start teaching English online .

In addition to giving you the qualifications to teach English online,  TEFL courses  open up a huge range of opportunities and you can find teaching work all over the world. To find out more about TEFL courses and how you can teach English around the world, read my in-depth report on  teaching English abroad .

Broke Backpacker readers get a 50% discount on TEFL courses with  MyTEFL  (simply enter the code PACK50), to find out more, please read my in-depth report on teaching English abroad.

Whether you are keen to teach English online or looking to take your teaching game a step further by finding a job teaching English in a foreign country, getting your TEFL certificate is absolutely a step in the right direction.

The waters surrounding the Galapagos Islands make up some of the best scuba diving opportunities to be had in all of South America. The marine life is so abundant due to the heavy ecological protections placed upon the island by the Ecuadorian government years ago.

Joining a Liveaboard trip in the Galapagos is a great way to experience both the islands and the underwater marvels of the sea surrounding them.

Going to the Galapagos is an expensive affair generally. Plus it can be difficult to move around the islands.

Liveaboard trips go to remote dive sites and parts of the islands otherwise inaccessible to foreigners (and other divers). Eat, sleep, and go diving, all from the comforts of an awesome boat…

Sounds pretty awesome right?

For more information,  check out Liveaboard scuba diving trips in the Galapagos here.

Check out our  Ecuadorian safety guide  for tips and advice for visiting. Otherwise, you can read our  Backpacker Safety 101  for some more general information on staying saf while backpacking.

Pick yourself up a  backpacker security belt  to keep your cash safe on the road.

Check out this post for plenty of ideas on ingenious ways to  hide your money when travelling.

I strongly recommend travelling with a headlamp whilst in Galapagos (or anywhere really – every backpacker should have a good headtorch!) – check out my post for a breakdown of the  best value headlamps to take backpacking.

Travel Insurance for Galapagos

Traveling without insurance would be risky so do consider getting good backpacker insurance sorted before you head off on an adventure.

I have been using World Nomads for some time now and made a few claims over the years. They’re easy to use, professional and relatively affordable. They may also let you buy or extend a policy once you’ve started your trip and are already abroad which is super handy.

If there’s one insurance company I trust, it’s World Nomads.

ALWAYS sort out your backpacker insurance before your trip. There’s plenty to choose from in that department, but a good place to start is Safety Wing .

They offer month-to-month payments, no lock-in contracts, and require absolutely no itineraries: that’s the exact kind of insurance long-term travellers and digital nomads need.

galapagos islands travel cheap

SafetyWing is cheap, easy, and admin-free: just sign up lickety-split so you can get back to it!

Click the button below to learn more about SafetyWing’s setup or read our insider review for the full tasty scoop.

Being a Responsible Backpacker in the Galapagos Islands

Reduce your plastic footprint:  Perhaps the best thing you can do for our planet is to make sure you do NOT add to the plastic problem all over the world. Don’t buy one-use water bottles, the plastic ends up in landfill or in the ocean. Instead, pack a  tough travel water bottle .

Go and watch A Plastic Ocean on Netflix – it’ll change how you view the plastic problem in the world; you need to understand what we are up against. If you think it doesn’t matter, get off my fucking site.

Don’t pick up single use plastic bags, you’re a backpacker – take your daypack if you need to go to the shop or run errands.

Bear in mind, that many animal products in countries you travel through will not be ethically farmed and won’t be of the highest quality. I’m a carnivore but when I’m on the road, I only eat chicken. Mass-farming of cows etc leads to the rainforest being cut down – which is obviously a huge problem.

Need more guidance? – Check out our post on  how to be a responsible backpacker.

Backpacking South America and the Galapagos Islands can be one hell of a party at times. Take it from me, it can be easy to get carried away. It is important to keep in mind that you are an ambassador for your country, which is awesome. We can make a positive impact on people when we travel and get rid of any ugly stereotypes that may be associated with your country.

If you visit indigenous villages or small communities always ask before taking photos. The people who live in these villages are not exhibits in a museum. They are normal folks just living their lives.  Always show them the complete respect that they deserve.

When buying a local craft, do not haggle so low that the price is unfair to the person who spent countless hours crafting it. Pay people what they are worth and contribute to the local economies as much as possible.

Avoid eating at fancy gringo-owned restaurants. I don’t care how badly you want that lasagne and red wine.  You make a choice with every dollar you spend. Try to spend your money in places where the experience is mutually rewarding.

I know it can be hard, but do your best to use the  least amount of plastic water bottles  that you can. Refill the ones that you do buy!  Use a Grayl Geopress . Refill at your hostel! There are plenty of ways to reduce plastic!!!

Backpacking South America or any region for that matter often illuminates some of the great socio-economic inequalities of the world. Never take it for granted that you are healthy and financially able to go traveling. Show the world around you some gratitude and help to make a positive impact on it. Most of all have the time of your life and spread the love!

Hope this budget travel guide has inspired you to stop freaking out about expensive tours and get out there and explore Galapagos on a budget!

galapagos islands travel cheap

And for transparency’s sake, please know that some of the links in our content are affiliate links . That means that if you book your accommodation, buy your gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). That said, we only link to the gear we trust and never recommend services we don’t believe are up to scratch. Again, thank you!

About the Author:  Lisa Swenson

Lisa Swenson is a third grade teacher at a local Arts Integration and Dual Emersion School in Georgia. Lisa enjoys adventuring outdoors with her family; Nathan, Stephanie, and Rebekah. She enjoys traveling to new places and exploring outdoors by hiking, kayaking, biking, camping, and photoghoraphing.

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How to Travel the Galápagos Islands on a Budget

Home » Blog » Budget Travel » Backpacking Destinations » How to Travel the Galápagos Islands on a Budget

Everyone wants to know: “Is it expensive to travel to the Galapagos?” YES. No question about it. But lucky for you, we’re going to share our best tips for traveling there on a budget because we believe it’s a place that not only the rich should experience.

Galapagos Islands on a Budget sea lion

Soaking up sunshine and frolicking with sea lions in the Galápagos Islands seems like a far-off dream, doesn’t it? But it doesn’t have to be.

But I bet now you’re wondering: “Isn’t it expensive to travel to the Galápagos?”

YES. No question about it.

But lucky for you, we’re going to share our best tips for traveling there on a budget because we believe it’s a place that not only the rich should experience.

We’ll even share exactly how much we spent, so you have an idea of what you’re in for.

Though not as budget-friendly as many other South American destinations, visiting this stunning archipelago is definitely doable even if you’re not a millionaire.

Galapagos Islands on a budget

While backpacking in South America, we had no intention of visiting the Galápagos. From everything I had read, I knew it was hella expensive, and that was enough to keep us away. We had a pretty tight budget to stick to, after all. But after countless travelers we met along the way recounted stories of this magical place, we finally convinced ourselves that since we were already in   Ecuador , going to the Galápagos would never be cheaper.

We thought of it this way: Sure, in 10 years we will (hopefully) have more dough in our savings account, but it’s highly likely that the ecological wonder will no longer be the same. The ecosystem on the islands is already being damaged in large part due to tourism .

Side note: When you do visit the Galápagos, please travel consciously . Don’t litter (go the extra mile and pick up a few pieces of trash while you’re there!), choose companies that treat the environment with respect, and don’t harm the animals!

Once we realized that there’s no better time to visit the Galápagos   than the present, we bit the bullet and bought a last minute flight. We were fully aware that this excursion would break the budget we’d set for our 3-month trip , but we were determined to do our best of keeping our costs as low as possible. And we did a pretty good job of it!

So are you thinking of packing your bags?

Galápagos Islands on a Budget Tortuga Bay

Great! I promise this is a trip of a lifetime that you won’t regret. There are so many things to do on the Galápagos Islands , and you will be talking about this experience for years to come.

And we’re here to help you plan!  We learned a lot along the way and are excited to share all we know about traveling to the Galápagos on a budget so you’ll be able to maximize each dollar! 

And this includes having the right travel gear. Our friends at Practical Wanderlust have a great Galapagos Islands packing list to get you ready for any adventure on the islands. 

Okay, let’s get started…

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Come with a plan

I’m about to divulge all of our best tips for traveling the Galápagos on a budget, but first I’m going to get the bad news out of the way… Even if you follow these tips exactly, you will still spend a good chunk of money while visiting these islands. Yes, these tips will save you money (hopefully lots of it!), but it is still a very expensive place to travel. There’s no way around it. 

What you can do, though, is come with a solid budget plan. This way, you’ll be prepared and will find it much more enjoyable than if you come with unrealistic expectations.

So let’s talk numbers:

First things first: you’ll need to book a flight . There are only a few airlines that fly to the Galápagos, and prices typically hover between $350 – $450 (round trip from mainland Ecuador) depending on how far in advance you book.

Tip # 1: The cheapest city to fly from is usually Guayaquil. And yes, this means you need to first account for the cost of getting to Ecuador.
Tip #2: If you can be flexible with your time, use Skyscanner’s “whole month” function to find the cheapest dates to fly. (When selecting departure and return dates, click on “whole month” instead of a specific date.)

Once you have accounted for the cost of the flight, add $110 per person. This is a conservation fee that each visitor must pay before stepping foot out of the airport. No bargaining here!

Now, add to this the cost of getting from island to island via ferry – $30 each way, which adds up fast. So if you’re like us and want to see the 3 main islands, you’re looking at $120 per person just in ferry costs.

I know you’re not going to want to hear this, but the cost of accommodation, food, and entertainment in the Galápagos is much more comparable to the United States than it is to the rest of Ecuador. Be prepared to spend at least 3 times what you would in the rest of the country.

If you already know that’s going to break your budget, consider a cheaper alternative: visiting Isla de la Plata (also known as the “poor man’s Galapagos”).

1. Rethink the cruise

The absolute cheapest way to explore the Galápagos is by basing yourself on land. You can take day trips to the ocean and hop from island to island. If you are on a tight budget, this is definitely the way to go!

Another way of seeing the islands is on a cruise. Though I don’t have personal experience with seeing the islands this way, we met both travelers who had great experiences and terrible ones. If cruising seems more your style, there are a few things you’ll want to consider.

Sure there are “budget cruises” advertised, but remember, you get what you pay for.  Why come to one of the most spectacular places in the world, only to have your experience tainted by staying in a stuffy boat with subpar staff and sketchy food. There are some great medium-priced companies out there and there are some pros to traveling this way, but make for sure you’re going with a quality, ethical company before you make a reservation.

Be sure to look at reviews and rankings for any cruise you take. We’ve done a little research for you and we really like . They have quality boats from all over the world in their network and can hook you up with the best trip in the Galapagos. They specialize in scuba diving trips so if you want to see this magical place underwater, look no further. 

Remember that you can see everything you would on a boat, by basing yourself on the islands and taking day trips to sea. This way, even if you wind up staying in a bad hotel, you only need to sleep there. If you are on a cruise, you’re stuck.

2. Book accommodation in advance  

We found that there were many luxury and mid-range options for accommodation, but inexpensive hotels were seriously lacking.

If you’re looking only for budget rooms, you will have a limited number of places you can stay. I will tell you, some of these budget places are absolutely disgusting. Think rude owners, rooms with stained sheets and rotting ceilings… oh, and waking up in the middle of the night with a cockroach scurrying across your face is not enjoyable either.

We stayed in two such places when we first arrived on the islands because we hadn’t done our research.

The good news for you is that you can avoid the duds. The bad news is that decent, inexpensive hotels book up quickly. Plus, the Internet in the Galápagos is terribly slow, so doing your research ahead of time really is a must.

Below is one hostel we recommend from personal experience:

Galapagos Best Homestay (Santa Cruz Island)

An all-around great place to stay, each room has a kitchenette and an unlimited supply of purified drinking water. This place is it is a bit out of the way – about a twenty-minute walk to the town center. Taxis on the island are cheap though, and it will only cost you $1 to get downtown if you really don’t want to walk.

Here’s how we find other affordable accommodation on the Galapagos Islands .

3. Time your trip right

Galapagos Islands on a Budget Islabela Sunset

You may not always have control over the time of year you visit, but obviously peak season (June – September, and December – January) will cost more than off-season.

In addition to the time of year, consider how many days you will spend in the Galápagos.  Visiting for a short amount of time does not always mean you will save money. Generally speaking, the longer you stay, the less you will actually spend per day. 

It goes without being said that a month in the Galápagos will cost you a small fortune. You’ve got to find that sweet spot where you have enough days to travel slowly, but not so many that you spend unnecessary money.

We spent one week in the Galápagos, which was enough to see the three main islands. We did have to rush around a bit in our last couple of days though, costing us more money than we would have spent otherwise. In my opinion, 10 days would be ideal. 

4. You need to search, but there is cheap food

Galapagos Islands on a Budget Binford Street

While most tourists flock to the Italian pizzerias and Western joints, follow the locals for some cheap, Ecuadorian cuisine.

On Santa Cruz Island: At night, look no further than Binford Street for great people watching and even better food. The seafood looks delicious and is no doubt very fresh, but it is still expensive. Instead, sit at one of the many open-air restaurants and order the Cazuela de Camarones – a traditional “stew” of plantains, spices and shrimp. This $12 dish was delicious and more than enough for two of us to share.

On Isabela Island: Head outside the main drag to Restaurante el Tropical where the locals gather.

5. Buy (most of) your drinks at the supermarket

As with most of our travels, we bought our drinks at a market to avoid paying top dollar at bars.

There are countless restaurants that advertise “happy hours” that last nearly all day. Despite being discounted, the drinks are still not cheap. Too rich for our backpacking blood!

So grab a box of wine or a bottle of rum, head to the beach, and enjoy the sunset with class! 

6. Choose your tours wisely

Galapagos Islands on a Budget snorkeling

You could easily spend a month on the islands, taking a new excursion every day. But eventually they will start to blend together… and take a toll on your budget because they ain’t cheap!

Do your research and pick a few tours that interest you and stick with those. Hiking, SCUBA diving, snorkeling, sunset cruise, sailing… pick your poison. Expect to splurge, but go in knowing that you can’t do it all if you’re trying to stay on budget.

Our top tour pick:  If you are on Isabela Island, the Los Túneles tour is a must! At $95 per person, it is a splurge, yes, but totally  worth it.

Tip: Ask the tour agency if they will give you a discount for booking multiple tours with them. Sometimes it pays off to be loyal to one company instead of booking each excursion through a different operator.

7. Bring cold, hard cash to Isabela Island

Although the Galápagos thrives on tourism, it is less developed as a whole than we were expecting. This was a pleasant surprise after having traveled to many places that have lost their luster due to a surplus of visitors. 

The island of Isabela, with its sandy streets and lack of infrastructure, is seriously charming. It was my favorite place in the Galápagos, but there was one tiny – well, actually huge – problem.

There is not a single ATM on the island. And apart from one crazy expensive restaurant, no place on the island accepts credit cards.

So there we were, stuck on the island without any money. So there I am thinking, The only way I’m going to be able to eat is to shell out $25 per meal at this Western restaurant that also charges a 7% credit card fee. Holy sh*t… there goes all of my money!

And then there was the issue of getting off the island. Turns out we didn’t even have enough cash on us for us for a ferry ticket back.

If it weren’t for the generosity of the manager at our hostel (and the wonders of PayPal), I don’t know how we would have gotten off the island. One of us may have had to stay. Which wouldn’t have been too bad, after all…

Don’t get yourself in this situation. Learn from our mistake and bring plenty of US dollas to Islabela!

8. Take advantage of free activities

Galapagos Islands on a Budget Snorkeling with sea lions

On Santa Cruz Island:

Las Grietas: More popular with locals than tourists, Las Grietas is a unique place to spend an afternoon. Observe teenagers jumping off the jagged cliffs into the crevice filled with crystal water below. Better yet, join in the fun and take the plunge yourself!

Tortuga Bay: It’s a bit of a walk to reach this secluded beach, but you’ll be glad you made the trip. Head out in the morning to avoid the scorching afternoon sun. If you’re lucky, you might even see baby sea turtles scurrying away from their nest and out to sea!

Fish Market: Watch as fishermen bring in their fresh catch to be fried up for a long line of hungry customers. A crowd of pelicans will likely be waiting for scraps to be thrown in their direction, making for a great photo opportunity. The nearby dock is usually crowded with local children pushing each other into the water, which is a sight in itself!

On Isabela Island:

Concha de Perla: This wooden boardwalk is home to many lazy sea lions getting their tan on! Be careful not to step on any of them as you make your way to the end of the boardwalk, where you will find a shallow bay. Put on a snorkel and fins, and swim with schools of fish, sea turtles, and manta rays.

Enjoy a sunset: Yes, the token “free sunset” tip. But seriously, the sunsets on Isabela are spectacular. They are made even better with some boxed wine. I’m classy, I know.

On San Cristobal Island:

Swimming with sea lions: Totally free! Just bring a snorkel and mask so you can see these friendly creatures up close. (Many hotels or tour agencies rent them out for $5.)

How much did we spend?  

To give you an idea of what to expect, we spent $1,000 each for one week. This includes our flights, ferries, tours, accommodation, food and drinks. We did it just about the cheapest way possible, so expect to spend at least this much per person per week! 

You might also like…

Galapagos Islands Ecuador

One Action-Packed Week in Baños

Border Crossing: Colombia to Ecuador

7 Best Hostels in South America

Planning a trip to Galapagos? Save this article for later!

Galápagos on a Budget

We want to hear from you!

Have you traveled to the Galapagos? Did you find it hard to stick to a budget? What are your best money saving tips? Comment below!

Comments (39) on “ How to Travel the Galápagos Islands on a Budget ”

great article….

great article.. thanks for the information…

Thank you so much for your insight! I have always wanted to go to the Galapagos, but didn’t think we could ever afford it. You have given me great hope!

What a great blog, thank you for the tips. Do you have any recommended hotels/hostels in Santa Cruz and San Cristobal? Thanks!

Hi Jade, we recommend Galapagos Best Homestay for Santa Cruz (link in the article). It’s a nice hostel/guesthouse but it’s a bit far and you’ll need to take a taxi there or a 20-30 minute walk from the city center. Unfortunately, we did not stay on San Cristobal Island, so I can’t personally recommend anything. Hope this helps!

I am traveling with my 15 year old son. We are vegetarian and looking forward to going in July or August. Any advice or great places to sleep, eat, and see. We hope to be on the islands for 8-10 days and would love to know if you can recommend days and which islands would be best. We love snorkeling, wildlife and sunsets. 🙂 We are planning to stay in Quito for a few days prior so also looking for central affordable places to stay before flying to Galápagos. Look forward to your advice!

Hi Bina. What a great trip you have planned with you son. As you can see from this article, we recommend Santa Cruz Island because there are many things to do there. We also recommend Isla Isabella, because it has an untouched feel in certain places. We also like the Los Tuneles Tour because you get to snorkel around underwater arches that were formed by lava. Please check out our details in this article and our other Galapagos articles to see what places we recommend on each island.

We also have a Quito article where we show you what we did in the city and where to stay. Feel free to check it out.

I was curious if you stayed on one island the whole time and did day trips from there, or did you stay in a few different places? If you were to do the trip again (as a first timer), would you stay in the spots? Not meaning the same hostels or hotels, but the same towns?

Hey Laura. We stayed in two hotels on Isla Santa Cruz and two hotels on Isla Isabela. Day trips can become very long days if you base yourself on Santa Cruz. I would recommend, if you have time, to choose an island in addition to Santa Cruz, and stay there for a few nights. That way you are able to explore around that island easier.

I am planning 2 weeks trip to ecuador in July with a 12 yr old. Thinking of going to Quito, Guayaqil, and the Galapagos islands. How shall I divide the days of our trip? How many on the islands? We want to connect local people, expand on our Spanish speaking, food, soccer etc.

I am going to Galapagos in February so this was useful. Thanks!

Wonderful read, so glad I came across your blog. Wondering how one travels within the island? taxi cabs? tuck-tucks?

Hey Angela! There are tuk tuks throughout the entire island and they are easy to flag down. They typically cost about $1 per ride anywhere within the city. Happy planning!

Thank you very much for this review and we have found it most helpful. We are planning a trop to the Galapagos within the year 2018. thank you. the Lacy’s

Hey Stephanie. You’re welcome! Happy planning!

Just want to say, what a great guide!! I am planning on doing a month in every country in south america starting in March, never been travelling before and I am from Northern Ireland so I am going to stick out like a MASSIVE sore thumb, think it might have something to do with the ginger hair and freckly skin, I will be using this guide religiously!! it just seems like one of them places whilst expensive….I JUST CANT MISS IT!! thats the problem I’m having at the moment when trying to plan my trip is seeing everything at the right time, because i want to do EVERYTHING in south america from iguazu falls to seeing Patagonia to taking samba lessons in brazil haha so this sort of guide is tremendously helpful!! 🙂

Thank you!!

I’m glad you found our guide helpful. It is super tempting to do everything when traveling in South America, but remember it is a HUGE continent. So if you don’t do everything that is okay. It sounds like you have an incredible trip planned and I wish you the best of luck. Take in every moment.

Hi Katie i was just wondering if you went on your travels I am planning to go to Columbia and Ecuador in November 2018 I am also from Northern Ireland so would be grateful of your advice

Hey Mary, we first traveled to Colombia and Ecuador in February and March, and we have been back to Colombia in Dec and July and have had great weather. For more information check out our Colombia and Ecuador pages in our Destinations Page.

Sorry meant to say Lee

Hi Lee I assume you completed your trip – i am from NI too and heading off next month for a month – did you have an itinerary or any tips

Hey Mary! Sounds like you have some fun travel plans coming up. Most of our tips are in this blog article so feel free to have a look. We would recommend to have a few days on at least two different islands. We spent about a week in total and spent 4 days in Santa Cruz and 3 days in Isla Isabella. We also took a day trip to San Cristobal. Hopefully this gives you a start. Let us know if you have any more questions!

Whilst it’s great to save money by staying on land and "rethinking the cruise", just be aware that by doing this you are limiting where you can go and what you can see.

Some of the more out of the way islands (Genovesa and Espanola to be specific) which are also some of the most amazing islands can only be reached on a small ship cruise (large cruise ships are too big to reach them and it’s illegal/not possible for day trips from the main islands to go here).

One company that is really big on environmental sustainability AND giving back to local communities of the countries it goes to (pretty much any country you’d want to visit) is INTREPID! They have a great range of Galapagos tours, most of which are on board the Daphne which is a really good, small ship (8 rooms total).

this is such an awesome blog, i am planning our trip and this is very helpful

Thanks Jane for the kind words! Happy planning!

Thanks for these great tips! There are so many options that it is important to investigate a lot before choosing the best option for you! if you decide to book a cruise, ask if you will have different activities to choose, so that you won’t have to stick with the same group all the time, and be able to choose depending on your interestes.

Thanks so much for writing this great blog! I am planning a trip to the Galapagos and was wondering which day tours you used for your activities? It seems to me like most of the tours are several days long. Thanks in advance!

Hey Victoria, we actually only did day tours while we were in the Galapagos. We asked out hotels/hostels for recommendations, and shopped around a bit. There’s no need to book in advance unless you’re really limited on time. We usually just booked each tour the day before and didn’t have a problem. Hope this helps!

Thanks for the great info! You didn’t mention which tour company you used for your snorkel tour, I would love to know! Thanks!

Hey Catlin, good question… We actually can’t remember the name of the company. Our hostel recommended them and booked it for us. And we can’t for the life of us find the name. Sorry! But it didn’t seem like you needed to book far in advance. We just arranged the tour for the next day, so I’m sure you could do the same and get recommendations from the hotel you’re staying at. Sorry we couldn’t be more help! Best of luck!

I hope this post will inspire more people to explore Galapagos on their own. I just was there for three month and I know from the locals how much they hate the cruises. Most of the money will go the the cruises operators based in Quito. But the Galapagos are so safe and easy to travel. Never really cheap but also not that horrendously expensive as the agencies are trying to sell it to you.

People listen to this and explore the Galapagos independently!

Thanks Céline for your thoughtful comment. We are big advocates for traveling independently because not only do you get to support local people financially (instead of large tour operators), but you also get a much more authentic experience. It’s fun connecting with like-minded people like you 🙂 I’m so glad you had a great experience in the Galapagos!

Thanks for all these tips and for a well designed, easy to read site. We are heading to the Galapagos on Friday so will take your tips in my back pocket. 😉 I am also reading your Philippines section as we will be there in Dec / Jan. Nice work! Keep it up.

Hey Astrid, thanks so much for the kind words. Have an amazing time in the Galapgos – threes no other place quite like it! Let us know how your trip goes. And how exciting to be going to the Philippines too! It’s one of our favorites 🙂

I booked my accommodation by AirBnB and it was great! Half the price and excellent local free advice. Highly recommend to do the same, check for reviews and prices

Yeah, we love AirBnB too, Flor! And if you sign up through our site, you’ll get $25 free toward your first stay! Such a fun way to see a "local" side of a new place!

Any specific AirBnB recommendations?

I will strongly recommend your readers to really pay attention while selecting your day tour operator. They lack safety control from any entity and it shows. Be careful!

Hi Manuel, Thank you for taking the time to comment. I think it’s good to shop around and read reviews online to help you choose tour companies, and by doing this we were very pleased in our choice in tour companies.

The company we went with for the Los Tuneles tour on Isabela Island was 100% safe, reliable and had great service. They have top ratings on TripAdvisor, and we were very pleased in our experience.

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Galapagos Islands Tours & Vacations

Male Marine Iguanas and Sally lightfoot crab on the rocks of the Galapagos islands, Ecuador.

Step into an isolated world. See giant tortoises roaming and unforgettable landscapes unfurl before your very eyes. 

Inquisitive sea lions and spiky marine iguanas breach and bask between island and shore. Friendly hammerhead sharks patrol the depths and blue-footed boobies cut through the sky. Come with us on our Galapagos Islands tours & holidays and observe the local wildlife in the same, untouched way Charles Darwin did hundreds of years ago. Nowadays, these Ecuadorian islands host a steady stream of modern-day explorers from animal-seekers who long for face-to-face encounters to sun-chasers itching to relax on a pristine beach or two. Embark on your own adventure as you wander from isla to isla, soak in crystal-clear waters, traverse volcanic landscapes, and spot animals you've only ever seen pictures of . To be honest, there's simply no place on Earth quite like the Galapagos.  

Our Galapagos Islands trips

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Galapagos Islands highlights

Transport in the galapagos islands.

Intrepid believes half the fun of experiencing a new country is getting there, and getting around once there! Where possible, Intrepid uses local transport options and traditional modes of transport - which usually carry less of an environmental impact, support small local operators and are heaps more fun.Depending on which trip you're on while in the Galapagos Islands, you may find yourself on:

Galapagos Islands tour reviews

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Galapagos Discovery

Galapagos at a Glance: Southern Islands (Grand Daphne)

Classic Galapagos: Central Eastern Islands (Grand Queen Beatriz)

Ultimate Galapagos: Central Islands (Grand Daphne)

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Galapagos Islands at a glance

Capital city.

Puerto Baquerizo Moreno

US dollar (USD)

(GMT-06:00) Galapagos



Type A (North American/Japanese 2-pin), Type B (American 3-pin)

Learn more about Galapagos Islands

Best time to visit.

Simply put, there’s no bad time to visit the Galapagos Islands. Good weather is mostly found year round, as are the animals. This being said, November through to June is the preferred time to visit, with clearer skies, calmer seas and decreased winds. Of these, March and April have less rain, while November and December are the warmest. July to November is the best time for divers as whale sharks can often be spotted at Wolf and Darwin islands.

Learn more about the best time to visit the Galapagos Islands

Culture and customs

Ever since Charles Darwin brought attention to the giant tortoises, sea lions, hammerhead sharks and other spectacular wildlife of the Galapagos Islands, people have been fascinated by this archipelago of volcanic islands. Originally a pirate hideout, people started migrating to the islands from Ecuador after it became part of the country in 1832. Of the 13 major islands and scores of smaller islands and islets that make up the Galapagos, only five of them are inhabited – about 26,000 residents spread over the islands of Isabela, Santa Cruz, Floreana, Baltra and San Cristobal. The wildlife rules the rest of the islands, which are carefully managed to help protect the precious environment.

Geography and environment

Located in the Pacific Ocean about 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands are a volcanic archipelago of 13 major islands, six smaller islands and more than 100 islets. Some are sparsely vegetated with largely mountainous interiors, whereas others are comparatively lush with white-sand beaches. Many of the islands are in a state of flux, as continual volcanic eruptions cause them to erode and expand.

The largest island, Isabela, makes up half the land area of the Galapagos and is characterized by three active volcanos, a blue lagoon, clear lakes filled with flamingos and beaches where iguanas and sea lions roam. Santa Cruz is the second largest island with giant tortoises, marine iguanas and Galapagos crabs residing in Tortuga Bay. The oldest and most remote island, Espanola (also called Hood), boasts boobies, albatrosses and many species of birds and lizards not found anywhere else in the world. 

Top wildlife to spot

1. Sea Lions

Whether you're loafing about on the beach or snorkeling offshore, you’ll be hard-pressed not to come face-to-face with these frolicsome critters at some stage. Playful, plentiful, and pretty much fearless, you’re supposed to keep a 2-meter distance from these guys at all times - though their insatiable curiosity can make this hard.

2. Marine Iguanas

The only lizards in the world that can live and forage in the ocean, the marine iguana is found solely in the Galapagos. Fierce and ferocious though these Godzilla-like reptiles may appear (Darwin called them ‘Imps of Darkness’), it’s all bluff – they only feed on algae. And with lung capacities permitting up to half an hour of underwater foraging, you’re just as likely find them gorging on the islands’ surrounding seabeds as scampering about the craggy rocks they inhabit.

3. Hammerhead Sharks

Boasting one of the animal kingdom’s most puzzling physiologies, hammerhead sharks are found in abundance off Wolf, Bartolome, Santa Cruz and Darwin islands. Unlike most sharks, they will often merge into schools of over 100 during the day - making for some incredible and surreal photo opportunities. And with no known human fatalities and a wealth of choice natural prey on offer, diving amongst them isn’t as scary or dangerous as one might think.

Darwin finches gave rise to one of the most game-changing theories of all time. By studying the differences between finches from different islands, Darwin hypothesized that the birds’ adaptations to their habitats resulted in their mutation into different species: his Theory of Evolution.

5. Giant Tortoises

No trip to the islands is complete without a visit to its most famous residents. Weighing up to 882 pounds, regularly living for more than 100 years, and able to go for up to 1 year without food, these gentle and slow-moving monsters are an intriguing and humbling spectacle to observe.

6. Sea Turtles

Snorkeling alongside these majestic creatures of the deep (or more accurately, the shallows) is one of those rare, life-affirming moments that makes a trip to the Galapagos immediately worthwhile. Keep your eyes peeled on the beaches for turtle nests too - the Galapagos is a hotbed of activity for these critters. 

7. Blue-Footed Boobies

Despite essentially looking like handsome seagulls with painted toenails, blue-footed boobies, when caught hunting, serve up one of the Galapagos' most thrilling spectacles. Diving from heights of up to 100ft, groups of boobies hit the water at speeds up around 60km per hour. They usually let out a shrill whistle before letting rip, which means you'll usually have warning enough to get your camera out too. How considerate.

8. Flightless Cormorants

Granted, a flightless cormorant spotted on land isn't one of the most invigorating sights you'll see during your time here. But wait until you don your snorkel gear and spot one weaving elegantly through the water - the flightless cormorant will likely become one of your favorite discoveries in the Galapagos Islands for this reason alone.

9. Frigatebird

With its striking wingspan and deeply-forked tail, the magnificent frigate bird is easily one of the most impressive birds in the skies of the Galapagos archipelago. But they don't have such a swell reputation amongst other birds. Whilst they hunt fish on the oceans surface, they also force their winged brethren to regurgitate their food, which then they eat - a process known as kleptoparasitism. Still, they look gorgeous – particularly the males, with their bright-red chin sac.

Healthy and safety

Intrepid takes the health and safety of its travelers seriously, and takes every measure to ensure that trips are safe, fun and enjoyable for everyone. We recommend that all travelers check with their government or national travel advisory organization for the latest information before departure:

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Further reading

Similar destinations.

Thinking about a trip to the Galapagos Islands but still browsing other destinations? Check out our tours to neighboring countries:

Colombia tours

Brazil tours


Galapagos or Madagascar? 

Galapagos Islands travel FAQs

Do i need a covid-19 vaccine to join an intrepid trip.

Trips from 1 January 2023 onwards

From 1 January 2023, Intrepid will no longer require travelers to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19 (excluding all Polar trips and select adventure cruises).

However, we continue to strongly recommend that all Intrepid travelers and leaders get vaccinated to protect themselves and others.

Specific proof of testing or vaccination may still be required by your destination or airline. Please ensure you check travel and entry requirements carefully.

Do I need a visa to travel to Galapagos Islands?

Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveler. Entry requirements can change at any time, so it's important that you check for the latest information.

Please visit the relevant consular website of the country or countries you’re visiting for detailed and up-to-date visa information specific to your nationality.

Check the Essential Trip Information section of the itinerary for more information.

Is tipping customary in the Galapagos Islands?

While tipping isn’t mandatory, tips are very much appreciated by service workers and guides.

Leaving a 10% tip is customary in restaurants.

Some automatically add a 10% service charge to your bill, in which case an extra tip isn’t required.

What is the weather like in the Galapagos Islands?

The Galapagos Islands enjoy almost perfect weather all year with two distinct seasons offering warmer, rainier months and cooler, drier months.

Temperatures rarely dip below 70°F or reach higher than 90°F. You can travel to the islands anytime throughout the year and experience fantastic weather.

Light rainfall is expected from January to May (along with high humidity levels), but it never lasts for long and doesn't often turn into heavier downpours.

What is the internet access like in the Galapagos Islands?

There are reliable internet cafes in Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz Island) and Puerto Baquerizo (San Cristobal Island).

Some hotels and restaurants on other islands will have a Wi-Fi connection, but it is best not to rely on it.

Can I use my cell phone in the Galapagos Islands?

There's good cell phone reception on the larger islands, but don’t expect it when at sea. The best local telephone companies are Porta and Movistar.

Ensure you have global roaming activated before leaving home if you wish to use your cell phone.

What are the toilets like in the Galapagos Islands?

Most towns have Western-style flushable toilets, though you will likely encounter squat toilets as well. Regardless, it’s a good idea to carry your own toilet paper and hand sanitiser, as they are not always provided.

What will it cost for a...?

  • Juice = USD 1
  • Street food snack = USD 1.50
  • Simple lunch at a local restaurant = USD 3-5 
  • Sit-down dinner at a cafe or restaurant = USD 10–20

Can I drink the water in the Galapagos Islands?

Tap water isn’t considered safe to drink in the Galapagos Islands.

Avoid drinks with ice and make sure to peel fruit before eating it.

Help the environment and try to avoid buying bottled water. Instead, fill a reusable water bottle with filtered water. Your leader or hotel can tell you where to find filtered water.

Are credit cards accepted widely in the Galapagos Islands?

No, credit cards are not widely accepted.

There are a handful of shops on Santa Cruz that may accept major credit cards, but it’s preferable to pay in cash.

How many islands make up the Galapagos Islands?

The Galapagos Islands are made up of 13 larger islands and more than 60 smaller islands and islets. 5 islands are habitable to just over 30,000 people.

These 5 islands are Isla Baltra, Isla Floreana, Isla Isabela, Isla Santa Cruz, and Isla San Cristobal.

What is ATM access like in Galapagos Island?

The banks in Puerto Ayora and Puerto Baquerizo have ATMs.

The Banco del Pacifico in both towns is open from 8 am to 3:30 pm Monday to Friday and 9 am to 12.30 pm on Saturdays.

It's best to withdraw your money on the mainland in case these are out of order.

Check each bank's website for up-to-date opening hours.

What public holidays are celebrated in the Galapagos Islands?

  • 1 Jan: New Year's Day
  • 6 Jan: Epiphany
  • 1 May: Labour Day
  • 24 May: Battle of Pichincha
  • 10 Aug: Independence Day
  • 9 Oct: Guayaquil Independence Day
  • 2 Nov: All Soul's Day
  • 3 Nov: Cuenca Independence Day
  • 25 Dec: Christmas
  • 31 Dec: New Year's Eve

Please note, Galapagos Islands public holidays may vary.

Are the Galapagos Islands a safe destination for LGBTQIA+ travelers?

The Galapagos Islands are a relatively hassle-free destination for LGBTQIA+ travellers.

Same-sex marriage was legalised in Ecuador in 2008. The country hosts several fiestas where it’s acceptable for men to cross-dress as women.

However, homophobic attitudes do exist among the older generations. It is best to avoid public displays of affection where possible.

For more detailed advice, we recommend visiting   Equaldex   or   ILGA   before you travel.

What to drink in the Galapagos Islands

Quench your thirst after a glorious day spent exploring the Galapagos  by sipping on a glass of canelazo, horchata tea, or freshly made fruit juice.

During your cruise around the islands, it makes sense to try as many traditional Ecuadorian drinks as you can, especially since there are heaps to choose from.

Do I need to purchase travel insurance before traveling?

Absolutely. All passengers traveling with Intrepid are required to purchase travel insurance before the start of their trip. Your travel insurance details will be recorded by your leader on the first day of the trip. Due to the varying nature, availability and cost of health care around the world, travel insurance is very much an essential and necessary part of every journey.

For more information on insurance, please go to: Travel Insurance

Are Intrepid trips accessible for travelers with disabilities?

We are committed to making travel widely  accessible , regardless of ability or disability. We do our best to help you see the world, regardless of physical or mental limitations. 

We are always happy to talk to travelers with disabilities and see if we can help guide them toward the most suitable itinerary for their needs and, where possible, make reasonable adjustments to our itineraries.

Does my trip support The Intrepid Foundation?

Yes, all Intrepid trips support the Intrepid Foundation. Trips to this country directly support our global Intrepid Foundation partners, Eden Reforestation Projects and World Bicycle Relief. Intrepid will double the impact by dollar-matching all post-trip donations made to The Intrepid Foundation.

Eden Reforestation Projects

Eden Reforestation Projects are helping to mitigate climate change by restoring forests worldwide; they also hire locally and create job opportunities within vulnerable communities. Donations from our trips support restoration across planting sites in 10 countries around the globe. Find out more or make a donation World Bicycle Relief

World Bicycle Relief provides people in low-income communities with bicycles to mobilize school kids, health workers, and farmers in far-out areas – giving them access to vital education, healthcare, and income. Donations help provide Buffalo Bicycles – specifically designed to withstand the rugged terrain and harsh environment of rural regions – to those who need them most. Find out more or make a donation

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  • Antigua & Barbuda
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  • Galapagos Islands
  • Mental Health
  • Volunteering

Six Days for $900: How to Visit the Galapagos on a Budget

galapagos islands travel cheap

“Can we really stay in the Galapagos on a budget?”

Sherri’s voice carried quickly in the early morning air. A mother walking her son to school looked back over her shoulder at us; along the road, cars filled with diving gear and men in board shorts passed by.

We were waiting for our tour guide to arrive: for a man we’d never met who was about to take us to San Cristobal island for a day of snorkelling .

Except we happened to be an hour ahead of schedule – hence sitting on the kerb outside his closed-up shop at 7am. And they say the Galapagos islands are luxurious…! 

Six Days for $900: Doing the Galapagos on a Budget

6am is time for napping

Traveling to the Galapagos on a budget

Of course, if you’ve decided to take one of the (hopefully!) affordable Galapagos cruises around the islands , then you probably don’t need to worry about missing the start of your tour.

But for those of us on a definite Galapagos budget – those who opt to spend their visit searching out the cheap Galapagos tours and day trips to different islands – there’s no time to waste.

crabs on a Galapagos island pathway

Going back in time in the Galapagos Islands…

Travellers who’ve already been in South America for a while might be confused about the Galapagos. This isn’t mainland Ecuador – not at all.

First up, the Galapagos islands have a different timezone (hence why I neglected to wind my watch back an hour as the plane landed, and got out of bed an hour earlier).

Second, the hospital, dentists and at least twenty pharmacies are all clustered together on the main road; the sole purpose of the vast majority of shops is to sell boat tours; and there’s one long street with all the evening’s food options flanking either side, with tables jostling for space on the tarmac.

Most of all, there’s an overwhelming sense of safety and security. While Quito may be known as one of the most likely cities in South America to get pick-pocketed, this small island couldn’t feel more different.

Six Days for $900: Doing the Galapagos on a Budget

Puerto Ayora is an Ecuadorian city with a great deal of wealth. There are sealions lazing on the pier, iguanas scuttling along the pavements and herons swooping overhead.

And Santa Cruz island, located in the middle of an infamous archipelago, is the place where pretty much every Galapagos-bound visitor arrives.

Six Days for $900: Doing the Galapagos on a Budget

So what’s the cheapest way to visit Galapagos?

When I decided to volunteer in Ecuador I knew that the Galapagos islands were a must-see, but I didn’t want to spend a large part of my budget on an expensive cruise. So I decided to try attempt the cheapest way to get to Galapagos:  fly to the archipelago, stay on the main island of Santa Cruz and take day trips to the surrounding islands.

While this can start off as a good idea, it’s very easy for the money to start vanishing. We met people who were spending two weeks on Santa Cruz and taking day trips almost every day: when you add up the $70+ day trip price, plus nightly dinners and accommodation, it starts to look like an all-inclusive cruise would be more economical!

My friend Sherri and I were certain we could get the majority of the Galapagos experience without the huge price tag – but obviously that comes at a price of its own.

  • We didn’t eat a huge amount, and the meals we had weren’t at all fancy.
  • We walked most of the time, resulting in occasional flipflop blisters and a fair amount of sunburn.
  • We hungrily searched out every free activity we could – even if it involved extra effort and time.

But it worked!

We managed to experience a large amount of what the Galapagos had to offer for a surprisingly cheap price – each spending approximately $900 (or £600 of my own native British currency) for a six day trip.

Intrigued? Sceptical perhaps? Here’s how I saw the Galapagos islands on a budget of $900…

Six Days for $900: Doing the Galapagos on a Budget

How to visit Galapagos Islands on a budget – the full breakdown

First up, I don’t suggest this method for everyone.

This is essentially the ‘Galapagos Islands Backpacking Method’: it’s for the long-term travellers who are happy to cut all possible corners, rather than families with only a few weeks holiday to travel Ecuador with. Put simply, it’s not the glitziest style of travel!

Secondly, it’s helpful to know the cheapest time to visit Galapagos. Many will say there’s no ‘bad’ or ‘best’ time, but avoiding the summer and Christmas/New Year influxes of tourists is a good start. We went in April when the rainy season was finishing, which meant lots of lush green vegetation and not many tourists. August to November is the coolest part of the year, which is best for clear diving waters. September is the least touristic month and so probably the best for scoring last-minute Galapagos tour deals.

Thirdly, decide how long to spend in Galapagos. We opted for just under a week: bearing in mind that arrival and departure days are mostly spent travelling, that gave us three or four days of solid exploring.

Finally, you should be relaxed about this style of trip, and have enough free time to play with.  That’s because we booked everything last-minute, from flights to accommodation to day trips once we’d arrived. It’s the absolute best way to guarantee you’re getting the best Galapagos Islands deals (and bartering in Spanish is pretty fun too!)

Flights to/from the Galapagos:  $430 (£274)

There’s no doubt about it: when flying to the Galapagos cheap tickets are hard to find. But the vast amount of visitors seem to come to Ecuador for these islands only – when it’s surely much more cost effective to combine a budget Galapagos trip with a few weeks in the rest of the country?

– Fly to the Galapagos from somewhere close. Because I’ve been living in Cuenca for the last five months it was no hassle to book the two hour internal flight to the Galapagos. And instead of flying from Quito, I flew from Guayaquil, my nearest airport, which cut my air fare pretty much in half.

– Book your flights last-minute. By booking flights just two weeks before I wanted to be in the Galapagos, I got a great deal: just $430 round trip (or £274 for us Brits).

Six Days for $900: Doing the Galapagos on a Budget

Galapagos airport tax on arrival: $100 (£64)

The other major sting in transport prices is the requisite Galapagos entrance tax of $100 – unless you can prove you’re Ecuadorian national, when it’s $6.

But I don’t recommend attempting the identity fraud method unless your passport looks suspiciously like an Ecuadorian one. The last thing you want is to be thrown back on the plane without having seen a single sea lion.

Local transport in Galapagos:  $10 (£6.40)

Emerging from Baltra airport was a tad confusing. We weren’t met by a guide and whisked away, and there weren’t any visible directions for those not joining a cruise (presumably because not many people do it!). Luckily we worked it out soon enough.

The airline bus ride to the water is free. This is followed by a five minute $1 boat ride across to Santa Cruz island. After that you either wait patiently for a non-visible bus (timetable not strictly adhered to), or sight three other people in your eye-line and approach one of the many pick up truck drivers, waiting patiently in the parking lot, to be your taxi for the next 45 minutes.

The journey cost us $12 split four ways, and making conversation with our driver resulted in good tips for what to do for free on the island.

Six Days for $900: Doing the Galapagos on a Budget

There’s little need for transport in the actual town of Puerto Ayora, as it’s small enough to walk everywhere. That said, heading to the various beaches on the island’s coast require the use of a water taxi to cross the bay –  but at 60 cents a ride, it’s not exactly expensive!

Galapagos accommodation:  $15 a night (£9.50)

After 45 minutes of rudimentary Spanish while driving through the bizarrely sparse but bird-filled Santa Cruz, we were firm friends with our taxi driver. So when we mentioned we had no accommodation sorted, he dropped us in the centre of town near a cluster of hotels, and threw his arms around vaguely to ensure us that everywhere here would be fine.

Six Days for $900: Doing the Galapagos on a Budget

Check out some Galapagos hostels here!

The first place we walked into had decent enough private rooms with heavy duty fan and an ensuite for $15 each a night, and the smilingly rotund Miguel, the owner, rubbing his stomach in satisfaction that we wanted to stay there, sealed the deal for me.

Hostal Lirio del Mar was parallel to the main street of Avenida Baltra and only a few minutes walk to the harbour, which made it easy for us to come and go as we pleased. There are cheaper places to be found in town, but Lirio del Mar was more than suitable for what we needed.

Galapagos food:  $90 for six days (£57)

Spending money on food is where the budgeting really shows – and it’s much easier to do if you’ve only recently been living the “I’m an impoverished student” lifestyle.

Six Days for $900: Doing the Galapagos on a Budget

Avoiding the $5 or $6 ‘American Breakfast’ options on the harbour, we headed further into town where we had a typical breakfast of bollon de queso and aji plus a coffee for $3 .

On trip days, we breakfasted on yoghurt and fruit purchased from the tienda next door and kept overnight in the hostel fridge. Being in a hot climate tends to make me less hungry anyway, so we usually just had a snack for lunch; an empanada from a street stall, some cookies or a bag of crisps, none of which cost much.

Occasionally a doughnut from the supermarket if we were feeling particularly rebellious.

Six Days for $900: Doing the Galapagos on a Budget

But dinner time on Santa Cruz is where a budgeter can really see the pay off. While there’s plenty of dining options for tourists, Puerto Ayora is fundamentally an Ecuadorian town – and Ecuadorians like to eat.

So every night, the main food street is littered with whiteboards advertising that evening’s ‘ cena ‘ offering; a soup, main dish of meat, rice and salad, and a glass of juice, all for the princely sum of $4.

It also arrives on your table faster than any other order – perfect if you’re hungry.

Six Days for $900: Doing the Galapagos on a Budget

Our hostal did have a kitchen, so while we never fully utilised its cooking capabilities there was clearly an option to eat even cheaper than we already were. For supplies we headed the supermarket on the waterfront, where there was more than enough available to cook with, if we’d so fancied.

As there’s no potable water on the island we also picked up bottled water in bulk (four litres for a couple of dollars), and refilled little bottles each day.

Six Days for $900: Doing the Galapagos on a Budget

Galapagos day trips:  approx $70–$100 per trip (£45–£64)

Without a doubt, the bulk of your galapagos islands budget will be spent on day trips..

Day trips from Puerto Ayora allow tourists already staying in land-based accommodation to catch a small tour boat in the early morning, spend the day at sea and return to Santa Cruz in the early evening.

The downside to day trips is that many of the most popular islands to visit aren’t that close to each other, so it’s only possible to see a few via the day tour method – hence why so many visitors take multi-day cruises instead. (It’s also possible to book a few short, multi-day tours if you fancy a longer stint at one specific island (ie two days/one night or three days/two nights) – just make sure you’re getting a good deal. And be sure to check the accommodation you’ll be using on board! 

Read more: How to find a Galapagos cruise on a budget

However, the upside of a day trip – apart from the much cheaper cost! – is that you’ve got the freedom to decide exactly when and where you want to go.

If you fancy a full day of snorkelling in the waters around San Cristobal , followed by a day off exploring Santa Cruz, and then a day on land at Isla Isabela, it’s perfectly doable.

Six Days for $900: Doing the Galapagos on a Budget

As a general rule, all day tours should include:

  • transport to and from the island
  • a guide (specify that your guide gives his tour in English too if you don’t feel your Spanish is up to scratch)
  • lunch either on board the boat or on the island
  • depending on the company, they may also include snorkel gear (mask & fins) for free / for a rental price

NB: Bear in mind that Isabela island charges you a $20 tax upon arrival which is never normally included in the tour price – i.e. you’ll have to pay it as an extra.

In the Galapagos, it’s a good idea to haggle

After six days, we felt like we’d talked to pretty much every agent – including Stalin, an enterprising young guy who constantly alternated between smiling, winking, and asking us out for beers, which we turned into an opportunity to successfully bargain for a discount!

Remember: the same tour will often be sold by multiple agents in different shops, but it’s ultimately up to your particular agent to choose the end price of the tour (which essentially means he’s able to work out what commission he’s going to make). So spend enough time bartering and you can easily save $20.

Galapagos activities:  free!

Ah, the magic word! Everything touristy on Santa Cruz island is free, from the otherworldly rock chasm of Las Grietas to the Charles Darwin tortoise breeding centre to the stunning white sand beaches of Tortuga Bay.

All you need are a couple of willing legs and a large dollop of suncream. We explored the island thoroughly over three days, and spent our other two days on trips to other islands.

Six Days for $900: Doing the Galapagos on a Budget

I’d also recommend heading to the Tourist Information office on Avenida Charles Darwin to pick up a free guide book with maps of all the main islands and highlights of each.

This little book was indispensable for me and Sherri – not least because we both have a pretty terrible sense of direction!

Six Days for $900: Doing the Galapagos on a Budget

Unexpected bonuses to seeing the Galapagos on a budget

While I couldn’t help being overwhelmed by the amount of nature and wildlife in the Galapagos, I’m more of a people person at heart. One of my favourite things to do when travelling is seek out the hidden elements of a place, to really feel like I’ve discovered something special – and through choosing to stay on Santa Cruz rather than onboard a boat in the water, we were able to see parts of the island that many people probably never experience.

We had the time to stumble across a hidden mosaic garden, for instance, delighting in the detail the creators had clearly worked hard to achieve.

Six Days for $900: Doing the Galapagos on a Budget

We discovered the local graffiti and gorgeous colours that make Puerto Ayora a wonderfully bright and exciting place to wander through.

Six Days for $900: Doing the Galapagos on a Budget

We spent hours at the fish market, watching the birds flutter excitedly over the latest catch.

Six Days for $900: Doing the Galapagos on a Budget

And all the while, the sealions slumped under the tables and snored in total relaxation.

Six Days for $900: Doing the Galapagos on a Budget

He’s not dead. Promise. He’s just trying his damnedest to get extra fish thrown to him.

Budget versus all-inclusive: which style of Galapagos trip is best?

We spent a large portion of our time postulating about how our trip compared to a cruise.

Although the benefits of cruising are more than evident, I still whole-heartedly believe that I had just as good an experience of the Galapagos when doing it cheaply. We visited three different islands, snorkelled with giant turtles, sea lions and sharks, sunbathed as much as we were physically able and ate a great deal of fresh fish.

Six Days for $900: Doing the Galapagos on a Budget

Plus, by the end of six days spent on Santa Cruz, primarily in Puerto Ayora, we felt like we knew the place backwards. We’d discovered the best place for a local breakfast of bollon de queso and unholily delicious fresh homemade ahi ; chatted with the friendliest tour operators; befriended the supermarket staff; rode with a variety of different water taxi drivers; and had sampled the majority of the evening cena plates on offer.

The Galapagos is an incredible place, but its not just about the animals, the weather and the landscapes. The people who live on these islands are incredibly warm and welcoming, and deserve equal recognition for why this destination is so favourably touted worldwide.

If you’re still considering opting for a budget Galapagos cruise instead of spending your time here, by all means do it – but perhaps tack a few more days onto the end of your trip, and take some time to explore Puerto Ayora too. Because for the ever-constant influx of tourists who experience Santa Cruz and the archipelago as their sole impression of Ecuador, there are few better places in which to form their opinion.

Have you ever budgeted like this on a ‘luxury’ destination? Do you think you could spend less money in the Galapagos than I did?

Let me know in the comments (and please pin this article if you found it helpful) .

Galapagos On A Budget - Pin

A bite-sized budget guide

Round trip flights from Guayaquil: $430 | £274 Airport arrival tax: $100 | £64 Local transport: $10 | £6.40 Accommodation for six nights at $15 per night: $90 | £57 Food: $90 | £57 Two day trips at approx $80 each: $160 | £102

Total: $880 | £560

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Flora Baker is the founder and editor of Flora the Explorer, where she writes about her travels around the world, her volunteering exploits and her ongoing attempt to become fluent in Spanish by talking to anyone who'll listen. Follow her on Facebook , Twitter , and Instagram .

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Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Every review of story I’ve heard of people visiting the Galapagos makes it sound so much harder to get to and much more expensive. This guide is so helpful and makes it seem a bit easier to visit than I thought. Thanks for sharing all the facts from your trip. I’m really keen to visit one day. Although would like to do a lot of diving here on top of touring the island.

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Wonderful to hear Bobbi – I’m so glad you found it useful! You can easily do a range of day trips to different islands and practice your diving. The only reason I didn’t dive was because I’m a tad scared of the whole ear pressure thing (I’ve never dived before) – plus it was obviously a bit more expensive than snorkelling 🙂

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Tim Meredith

Brilliant – as always. Thanks Flora.

Tim! Thanks so much for reading, I didn’t know you were a regular visitor here 🙂

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I love reading about how to achieve perceived “expensive” trips on a budget. I am sure this will be priceless information for budget travellers who previously thought the Galapagas unachievable. I love the way the seals own the place.

Same here – it’s a great challenge to try and experience these ‘pricy’ places for less money. Hopefully the tips I’ve provided will help out the more budget minded amongst us!

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Michael Hodson

Comprehensive. Impressive. Glad you had a great time and this is a fantastic resource, Flora. Well done.

Thanks so much, Michael – really glad you enjoyed the piece!

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So good to hear that it’s possible to do it on a budget. Thanks for this great guide!

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You are one of my favorite travel bloggers and I love the advice you’ve given in this post. The Galapagos are now on my bucket list – and I’ll have to use your tips to do it on the cheap! Thanks for this one. It’s bookmarked, for sure.

Aww thanks so much Coti! They’re definitely a buck list destination, particularly when it’s not half as hard to see them cheaply as everyone seems to think! Looking forward to hearing about your Ecuadorian adventures 🙂

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huge THANK YOU, Flora!

As a solo wanderlust “of a certain age” presently expatting in Vietnam (Mongolia! Laos! Cambodia, et al, oh my!) – I’d pretty much given up on the notion of ever setting my baby blues on those legendary Galapagos Isles. Far too spendy for this budget traveler, and worse, I figured it was all sewn up with touristy cruise boats.

You make it sound so lovely, so easy and so very DOABLE!

Shoot, I may have to change continents here shortly! 😉

Seriously. Thanks for breaking it down so sweetly. Your report is truly an inspiration!

You are so very welcome Daynne! Your expat adventures sound absolutely amazing – Mongolia is high up there on my list of where to head to next. But I’ve got to admit, much as I love Asia, South America is definitely the place to be :p

“South America is definitely the place to be”.

No doubt purely wondrous Flora, but I spent 20+ years as an int’l tour operator in Latin America (specializing in Belize and Costa Rica) so I’m now enjoying exploring this half of the globe.

Do give a shout when you’re ready to head to Mongolia, I spent a month there in the Gobi and western Mongolia staying with local eagle hunters in the Altai Mountains, and would be happy to give you a few tips.

Sounds like an incredible twenty years experience, Daynne! And of course I didn’t mean that South America is the only worthy place to spend time – it’s just proving incredible for me at the moment 🙂 I’ll definitely take you up on your offer of Mongolia tips too!

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This Battered Suitcase

This is SUCH a great guide to the Galapagos. I had an extremely similar experience to you – I spent 8 days there last year and about $1500. The difference was that I went scuba diving, which cost $350. I wish this post had been around last year because I seriously travelled there on a wing and a prayer, hoping that I could do it as cheaply as possible. I think I could have even cut down a little bit more, but I agree with you, I thought that my experience was just as great as those who choose to take an expensive boat tour. I also felt right at home in Puerto Ayora, and yes, I met Stalin, too!

I will definitely be sending people to this guide in the future! Thank you for such a comprehensive piece.

Aha Stalin gets everywhere doesn’t he?! Really glad to hear you agree with my pricings though Brenna, and it wasn’t just a fluke that I spent so little – I’m still debating whether it would’ve been worth it to try my first attempt at diving while in the Galapagos. Thanks for reading!

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Hi. Can you tell me how many dives was the $350 for? Thanks

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It’s always been a dream to visit these islands, but I’ve always brushed them off as being too expensive for me… This post was absolutely perfect in convincing me I can do it on my budget, so thank you so much!

Wonderful Jaime! I’m so glad I’ve convinced you that the Galapagos are doable 🙂

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Melissa @ Suitcase and Heels

Thanks for this detailed post. I actually wasn’t really aware that the Galapagos could be experienced in any way *but* a cruise. Glad to know there are other options. 🙂

It’s crazy how many people aren’t aware of the non-cruising option: myself included before I started researching!

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Great tips! I’m thinking of heading there as part of my RTW tour & it’s always good to know how to get a bit more bang for your travel buck.

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Hi, thanks for this post, we are busy planning our 3 month trip and we are super keen ontthe galapagas, but its so expensive! This gives us other inspiration! I’m curious though, do you think this would be possible with very little (almost no) Spanish?

Thanks agaifor the post.

Yeah probably – I don’t think my Spanish was an integral part of making this trip so cheap. But I’d recommend asking around for cheaper hostels, as that’s usually where a lack of Spanish catches you out. Shoot me an email if you’ve got more questions about the Galapagos as I’d be more than happy to answer!

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Thanks for the info. I am a science teacher looking to go there with my wife and two daughters (10 and 11), and had only been looking at the tours. I think I might try a hybrid trip – 3-4 day tour mixed with a couple days on our own… Will let you know what happens, assuming the trip happens this summer.

Sounds like a great idea Steve – I think doing a mix of both styles of Galapagos trips is a really good way to get a cohesive experience of the islands. Plus you normally have to spend at least the day you arrive and day you depart on Santa Cruz anyway, so you may as well do some day trips too! I hope you and your family have a wonderful time. Definitely keep me updated on how it goes!

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Thanks for the great information. I am planning to go in late April with my daughter for 4-5 days. We also plan to be very budget conscious with day trips etc. She is already in Equador for a semester abroad. I was planning to meet up with her in Guayaquil and leave from there. My thoughts were to wait until I get to Guayaquil to book a flight. (I will be a couple days ahead of her) Do you think late April is slow enough that I could expect to get two seats on a flight with only a day or two notice?

Glad you found the article useful, Patrick! Because I’ve only booked flights to the Galapagos once I’m afraid I don’t have knowledgable info about whether that time of year will be safe enough to book flights a few days before, but I think there’s probably a good likelihood that you’ll be fine. Just keep tabs on how many flights there are available for a week or two before you plan to go and then make a decision from there 🙂

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Wow, 900$! Everyone I spoke to spent at least twice that amount, and I’m sure they weren’t stumbling upon any mosaic gardens. Makes me regret not going to the Galapagos when I was in Ecuador… But I’ll definitely be heading back, and then I’ll do the islands broke backpacker style!

Great to hear it Nikita – the backpacker experience of the islands is absolutely worth it, and you’re really not missing a huge amount doing it that way either.

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Really usefull ! Thanks a lot. May I ask you, where did you sleep? Because when I’m surfing the internet, I can only find very expensive hotels…

Hey Elise, I stayed at the Hostel Lirio del Mar which was $15 a night. There are a few other options in Santa Cruz that are similar in price: Hostel Elizabeth, on the sea front, is pretty good value, and Los Amigos is the cheapest around at $10 a bed but it’s usually overbooked because of that fact. The latter can be booked online/over the phone though!

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Hi thank you so much for all of this wonderful information. I am planning on going to the galapagos this june with my mom and your blog is EXTREMELY helpful for trying to plan a trip on a budget! Thank you!!!

I’m so glad this helped you out, Talia! If you need any more help don’t hesitate to let me know 🙂

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Great stuff, Flora. Thanks for writing this up, very helpful for my upcoming trip!

You’re welcome, Martin! Let me know if you need any more help with planning your Galapagos trip 🙂

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Great post! Makes it seem so easy. I love that you got to know the local people and explore local culture as well as see the natural wonders. Cheers!

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Dear Flora, Thanks for the info. I’m planning to go in July but we are concerned that we won’t find a hotel/great hostel/apartment for 2 couples (4people) I’ve been doing searches in the web but find the prices high .

Do you suggest to book a place once we get there? What do you recommend that has a good view/clean and it can even be a house rental?

Please help

Are you looking for a place to stay in Santa Cruz? There are a lot of different options but it completely depends what you’re after. I specifically spent as little as I possibly could both times I visited the islands, so the places I stayed really weren’t that great! There aren’t really any hostels on Santa Cruz though so you’ll probably be staying in two double rooms. I’d say just wander around when you arrive as then you’re more able to negotiate for a lower price, and you can see what the place is like before you agree to stay there.

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Do you have to bring your own snorkel gear?

No, not at all – every day tour company will normally provide snorkel equipment, and you can rent sets from a lot of places on the islands for a few hours or a day etc if you’re just wandering to a beach without a tour.

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Flora- Thanks for your guide- it’s awesome!

So here’s my dilema; I am travelling to the galapagos islands, but alone.

I am debating a hostel based tour, but I know that everything on offer is totally doable alone!

My question is- did you meet fellow travellers doing the trip alone too? Ideally, i’d like to make some hostel friends and tag team together for day trips (at least the ones that don’t involve paid for day tours). I’ve been reading a lot about people taking similar trips to yours, but am yet to find someone who went without a friend!

Hi Sophie, glad you enjoyed the article! I travelled to the Galapagos twice, but for both visits I was with someone I already knew before. I did meet other travellers on the islands who were travelling solo but didn’t spend that much time with them. I think there’s definitely a chance you’ll meet other people in hostels who want to go – particularly if you stay in hostels in Guayaquil, as most people go there solely to hit the Galapagos 🙂

When are you going to Galapagos? If you would like – we can connect. I just purchased my ticket from Canada from Calgary. I am going to fly into Quito Dec 16th 2014 and will leave from Quito back on Jan 1st. And yes, all alone as well! Not a whole lot of time but if you are going there this upcoming holiday, hit me up at [email protected] .

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Nathan or Sophie- I too will be traveling to the Galapagos solo from December 24th to Jan 2nd- maybe we could all connect. I’m actually trying to figure out where to stay. I’m a little nervous about staying in hostels by myself since I’m not familiar with the area and do not know if it is safe. Any recommendations?

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How was your experience to the Galapagos?! Was it easy to meet up with fellow solo travelers?

I am going Feb 1, 2015 – Feb 10. Just curious how your experience was and if you had any advice.

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Thanks Flora, this was very helpful in deciding on how many days to spend in Galapagos, I have decided on spending 5 days (Mar 1 / 15 – Mar 7 / 15) including travel days from / to Quito. You are quite the traveler!!

Hope you have a great trip, Steve!

Thanks for this enlightening post Flora!

However, I’m still relatively unclear as to how the boat tours work? i.e. do we sleep on the boats, or is it a day tour to a specific island, also price-wise, would it be cheaper to go on a boat tour or just hop on boats yourself and visit various islands and places?

I’m planning on making a trip in Feb. 1 – Feb. 10. Any feedback would be appreciated!

Thanks, Ken

Hi Ken, thanks for your comment!

The boat tours I’ve mentioned in this article are day tours only, so tourists would already be staying in accommodation on Santa Cruz island, getting a tour boat at 8 or 9am and returning to Santa Cruz in the evening. The issue with doing this is that a lot of the most popular islands to visit aren’t that close to each other, so it’s only possible to see a few via the day tour method – hence why so many people do the cruise option (from anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks on board a boat).

If you check out my other article about booking a last minute Galapagos cruise that might help you out further. Doing a few day tours is undoubtedly cheaper than a two week cruise but it totally depends on what you’re wanting from the experience. Hope that helps a bit!

Thanks, just checked out your last minute Galapagos post–extremely informative!!

However, I just had a few more follow up questions.

1. How long did it take for you to get such a good bargain deal for a cruise? Is it common to fly to the Galapagos and book cruises at a discount?

2. Would it be more difficult for a solo traveller to get the same deal as what you had gotten?

Usually the closer to the departure date of the cruise, the cheaper it will be – boats often have a few spaces left over and it’s in the organiser’s best interest to sell it for cheap rather than not sell it at all. Obviously the timing can be a tricky task though, as you’d almost certainly book your flights to/from the islands ahead of time so you’re somewhat stuck to a rigid window of how many spare days you have to play with for cruising.. Ultimately you just have to chance it, I think! If you’re more concerned with saving a substantial amount of cash then it’s worth it.

I don’t know about the solo traveller thing. Because I speak good Spanish and was booking for two of us I was able to bargain with the price, so obviously there’s less leverage with just one traveller. Shouldn’t make too much of a difference though!

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Hi! Just wondering what months you were in Galapagos? We are going in late June to mid-July and wondering whether we need to book in advance day trips to islands/snorkelling trips/guided half-day trips etc, considering it is peak season. Or would it be safe to barter and look around when we get there? Cheers 🙂

Hi, so sorry I missed your comment! I visited the islands first in May and again in March the following year. I’m afraid I can’t remember what counts as peak season but I think it’s safe to say that day trips should always be cheaper/more reasonable when you’re booking on the ground & have a chance to barter and ask around 🙂

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Such a great post and love your constant feedbacks to your reader’s comments! We’re planning a trip to Galapagos in mid-April and we’re planning to do the same thing as you did and stay in Puerto Ayora and take day trips throughout our trip. However, the more tour companies I contacted, it seems they don’t offer day trips to San Cristobal and Isabela. Is that true?

We’d love to visit San Cristobal (Punta Pitt and Cerro Brujo) and Isabela (Volcano Sierra Negra) but these companies are saying we have to stay 1-2 nights to work. Consequently, from your experience, are we able to actually find tours once we arrive there that do 1 day trips to those places?

Thanks so much for your help!!

Hi Sherman, sorry I didn’t respond to your comment earlier (especially after you mentioned my level of feedback!). I hope you had a fantastic trip to the islands though 🙂

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This is great insight about the islands. If I don’t want to do the cruise, is there another way to get to the galaapagos other than an airplane that you can purchase from Quito or Guayaquil? And you mentioned there are hostels in Santa Cruz that we can find once we land? I didn’t realize you can grab daily tours once we arrive at santa cruz. I thought everything had to be booked ahead of time. Good to know.

I’m pretty sure the only way to arrive in the Galapagos archipelago is via plane from Guayaquil – but maybe there’s some kind of boat option!?

Galapagos Islands are in! | Epic travels in Ecuador

[…] money is still a big concern for our adventures, I want to use this blog (Six Days for 900 USD: Doing the Galapagos on a budget) as a guideline on what to do and when and […]

Galapagos Tour Guide on a Budget: $600 to 900 | Adrian Sanchez's Peace Corps Paraguay Blog!

[…] See the pictures below of me in the Galapagos and this other helpful guide: Six Days for $900: Doing the Galapagos on a Budget […]

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Planning a trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos for next year and this has been so helpful, but also reassuring. Very worried that costs will skyrocket, I’m glad it seems achievable. Any tips for Quito and surrounding area as we would have to fly into there?

I haven’t actually spent a huge amount of time in Quito, sadly — you’re probably better off researching some other bloggers 🙂

Where to travel in 2016: The Wishlist | Dan Flying Solo

[…] The ultimate untouched, man escaping, nature trip. As an avid Scuba Diver and a lover of all things wildlife this is one of those places that smashes it out of the park. It is certainly no cheap trip, but Flora The Explorer has got some tips on have to save some pennies when you head to the Galapagos on a Budget. […]

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Great article! Any additional thoughts for a pair of septuagenarians who are heading there this February of 2016?

Hi Jack, sorry for not getting back to you sooner – I must have missed your comment! Hope you had a fantastic trip to the Galapagos though 🙂

Thanx for responding

A Last Minute Galapagos Cruise

[…] days trying to experience the best of the Galapagos as cheaply as I could. And I managed to do so with only $900, something I was very proud […]

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Amazing and useful post! Would love to hear more. I’ll be going through your blog in minute detail in the next few weeks 🙂

Aww that’s lovely to hear! Hope you enjoy more of my writing 🙂

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Thanks for the excellent info. I will be heading there on September 2 and already have my flight and lodging paid for so that takes care of a big chunk. I am planning to do lots of day trips and hope to get to know Puerto Arroyo well. Thank you.

So glad I could help out, Jan! Hope you have a fantastic trip to the Galapagos 🙂

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Hey realy like your blog about Galapagos, but I booked a tour on the Astrea Yacht and the service was very very good. I think that you also get to know very much if you travel like zou did , but you can not compare it with a tour on the yacht because you get to see other islands and diving places. But still I hope you keep writing your amazong blogs.

Cheers for the recommendation, Ralf!

Galapagos Islands Tours On A Budget

[…] you can do Galapagos on your own –– however you’ll get a lot more from your Galapagos trip if […]

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Hi Flora, loved reading about your experience and the tips. Am thinking of heading to the Galapagos in late December or early January. One daughter is already living somewhat near Cuenca, and the other would fly down with me to visit her. The boat tours sounded amazing b/c they go to so many islands — but way beyond our budgets. However, a good friend of mine who went there a few years ago and is VERY athletic (swam a 5K while there), says that the day trips on the boats are just exhausting physically and she wouldn’t do it that way again. What can you tell me about that? I have one 22 year old who gets seasick (but took Dramamine and managed well on a couple rough Atlantic one hour excursions). My friend was highly recommending we NOT do day trips. How did you find the trips? Which islands did you go to? And what wildlife did you see and what did you miss? So many questions!! Thank you!!!

Hi Anne, thanks so much! I’m not sure which of these questions I’ve already answered in our emails, but I really enjoyed taking day trips (I don’t usually get seasick unless it’s really rough/bumpy though) and I didn’t have prior expectations/desires about seeing specific wildlife so was really happy with everything we saw. Not totally sure about every species I saw, but we went snorkelling with turtles, baby seals and above groups of sharks on the day trip to San Cristobal (my other day trip was more island than animal focused)

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Just found a round trip flight from Quitos for $200! & hoping I can be just as lucky for a few days on a boat.

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This…is a bloody brilliant blog post. Thank you so much! It’s been ridiculously helpful in our planning of a Galaps-on-the-cheap trip as part of our Americas trip. 🙂

That’s fantastic to hear Hayley! I’m so glad you’ve found this article useful – have a fantastic trip to the Galapagos!

Had a great time with my two daughters (18 and 22) — LOVED Nemo III — they treated us so well and gave us a great last minute cruise deal for 3 nights, 4 days — 3 of us in 2 bunk room — one Q size, 1 almost double size upper bunk.. Stayed at Estrella del Mar — $70 a night for 3 of us and was right on the bay, quiet, 2 rooms, one with windows with a great view. Be careful at agencies — arranged a 1 day trip to Isabel, and almost got ripped off — make SURE you get an invoice that says exactly everything that is included. Young man met us at our hotel, took us to the dock, and we were put in the “lesser” group without all we had been told was included. Called him from Isabel and with much pushing and assistance from others, rearranged on the fly. Speaking Spanish helped, but I trusted the young man too much at the start. Thank you for all your tips, Flora.

Fantastic news, Ann! I’m so glad you had a fantastic time with your daughters – and that you managed to negotiate for both a last-min cruise AND for the elements you actually paid for! Well done 😀

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Hi Flora, Thank you for the great info!! What time of year did you visit ? We are planning to go there in late Oct to early Nov. We are interested in doing land based tours and visiting a few islands. I know Oct. is not the peak season, but would you recommend we book a land based tour a few months ahead or do you think we will be able find tours easily once there for a better price too? Also, If we do risk it by booking there will we have difficulty communicating with the tour agencies as I speak little to no spanish? Thank You for any information you have.

Hi! I visited the islands first in May and again in March the following year 🙂 As I’ve said in earlier comments, I never booked anything before arriving at the islands so I can’t honestly compare prices, but I found booking on the ground to work well for me. My Spanish certainly helped when discussing prices, but tour operators usually speak some English too!

Ahh!! Thank You Flora!!! Again, great information and much appreciated!

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I would love to do exactly this someday, stay in Equator for 2 weeks and 1 week doing the islands but on a budget. The cruises seem very expensive and not my thing anyways, thanks for the wonderful article

Galapagos Islands Tours On A Budget | Barefoot Expeditions

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  • Destinations

Wild Junket

How to Visit the Galapagos IsIands: Travel Guide 2019

How to Visit Galapagos Islands: Travel Guide 2024

Last Updated on March 15, 2024

The Galapagos Islands are some of the best wildlife destinations in the world. Here’s a detailed guide on how to visit Galapagos Islands.

The Galapagos Islands are one of the most beautiful and unique places I’ve ever been. Having been isolated from the world for thousands of years, they are home to unique animal species found nowhere else on Earth. Blue-footed boobies, sea lions, and marine lizards roam freely on this archipelago.

A Galapagos Islands trip might come with a hefty price tag, thanks to the $100 entry tariff and pricey island cruises. But don’t let that stop you. It’s one of the best wildlife destinations in the world for good reason. We have been twice and it  remains our favorite place on Earth! For those are planning to visit Galapagos Islands, here’s my Galapagos Islands travel blog and comprehensive guide.

How to Visit Galapagos Islands

Table of Contents

How to Visit ​Galapagos Islands

What make the galapagos islands special, a brief history of the ​galapagos islands, when to visit ​galapagos islands, how to visit the galapagos islands, the 2 airports on the galapagos islands are:, 1. go on a galapagos cruise, 2. do day tours on the galapagos islands, 3. take the inter-island shuttles, puerto ayora, santa cruz, puerto baquerizo moreno, san cristobal, puerto villamil, isabela, what to eat on the ​galapagos islands, 1. santa cruz island, 2. san cristobal island, 3. isabela island, 4. north seymour island, 5. bartolome island, 6. floreana island, 7. española island, 8. genovesa island, 9. fernandina island, 10. santiago island, how much time to visit ​galapagos islands, how to stay connected on the galapagos islands, cost of travel on the galapagos islands, rules of the ​galapagos islands national park, packing list for galapagos islands, final tips for galapagos islands travel, travel resources, galapagos islands travel guide.

The ​Galapagos Island​ archipelago is a collection of 13 major islands, seven smaller islands and about 125 islets and rocks. They lie about 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) off the coast of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean and are some of the world’s most secluded islands .

Historically the Galapagos Islands were uninhabited and only served as bases for everything from scientific research to English pirates raiding Spanish treasure ships. They remained relatively undeveloped until Ecuador claimed them not long after gaining independence from Spain.​

How to Visit the Galapagos IsIands: Travel Guide 2019

The plants and animals that live on the Galapagos Islands today are descended from animals that arrived by sea or air. Because the islands are so remote and far from one another, the animals evolved and adapted to conditions unique to their new homes. That’s why wildlife here are so special and cannot be found elsewhere on Earth.

Because of a lack of predators, most Galapagos animals never developed a fear of humans. Don’t be surprised to find sea lions lying by the streets and giant lizards swimming around your boat in the Galapagos. They are not the least bit afraid of us. The Galapagos is such a great destination for kids as they can get up close to wildlife and learn all about the planet here. Read my guide to traveling the Galapagos with kids.

Today, over 97 % of the land is national park , and Ecuador limits who may live there and how many tourists may visit. The Galapagos Islands are some of the most unspoiled places on Earth thanks to protection laws and conservations efforts.

During Charles Darwin’s nearly five-year circumnavigation of the globe aboard HMS Beagle, he spent only five weeks on the Galapagos Islands. His discoveries on the islands were paramount to the development of his Theory of Evolution. His book “The Origin of the Species: also put the Galapagos Islands on the world map.

Santa Cruz Island is now home to the Charles Darwin Research Station, which serves as the front line for long-term preservation programs protecting the unique Galapagos animals and plants for future generations.

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One of the perks of the islands’ location along the equator is that the weather is going to warm and sunny all year round. Regardless of when you visit the Galapagos Islands, prepare for high temperatures.

There are two main seasons in the Galapagos: January to May is the hot season, giving calmer seas and warmer ocean temperatures. July to December is the dry season which sees cooler temperatures, making it great for hiking inland.

In general, the best time to visit the Galapagos Islands is from January to May for the best conditions to go snorkeling or scuba diving and cruising around the islands. The Galapagos Islands offer some of the best scuba diving in the world .

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It’s easy to add the Galapagos into any Ecuador itinerary . You just need to plan (and save!) in advance to make the most of your time in the Galapagos.

Most foreign tourists over the age of 12 pay $100 , while children pay $50. Visitors from the Andean Community and Mercosur nations over the age of 12 pay $50, and children pay $25.

This entry tax may seem a bit high, but it is important to keep in mind that these fees are helping to protect the fragile environment here. Funds from the entry tax are said to finance the conservation of biodiversity of flora and fauna, and benefit the local community.

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How to Get to the ​Galapagos Islands

The only way to get to the Galapagos Islands is to fly from Ecuador. Flights to the Galapagos Islands depart from only two cities in Ecuador: Quito and Guayaquil.  Guayaquil is the main gateway city to the Galapagos, check out this list of things to do in Guayaquil .

You can fly direct to Quito from Miami, and return flights cost around US$400. Check for flights from USA to Ecuador . From Europe, most flights go from Amsterdam or Madrid to Quito for around US$700 return.

Flights from Quito/Guayaquil to Galapagos Islands cost around US$300 to $400 return. All flights are with either LATAM or Avianca , which are both reliable South American airlines. Foreigners are only allowed to book flights on premium class (and sadly they are very strict about it).

  • Baltra Airport (GPS): Baltra is the airport closest to Santa Cruz Island. To get to Santa Cruz island, take a ferry for $5 and another $5 bus to Puerto Ayora, the main town on Santa Cruz. Or book a fuss-free airport transfer here .
  • San Cristobal Airport (SCY): This airport is less than 5 minutes drive from the center of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. It costs only $2-$4 per taxi (not per person). Most flights to San Cristobal will make a stopover on Baltra.

*TIP: I recommend flying into Baltra and out of San Cristobal like we did on our recent trip. It’s the same price as flying return to either island. 

Book Your Flights to Galapagos Islands

Getting Around the ​Galapagos Islands

Traveling to the Galapagos Islands requires some planning (and saving!) as it isn’t the cheapest or easiest place to get around. It’s easy enough to do it yourself so you don’t have to book a Galapagos tour. There are three possible ways to explore the Galapagos Islands and hop from one island to the next:

The most popular way is going on a luxury Galapagos cruise, which brings you to several islands within a short time. You sail at night and arrive to a different island every morning. Cruise packages typically include all accommodation and meals, visits to the islands with a certified naturalist, and access to snorkeling gear and kayaks.

A 1-week Galapagos cruise can set you back around US$2,500 for budget standards or $3500 for luxury cruises. This includes all expenses, food and snorkeling equipment. You can save some money by showing up on the Galapagos Islands and shopping around for last-minute deals.

Those traveling the Galapagos Islands with kids might find that cruises aren’t particularly suitable for kids due to the intense schedule and limited space. Also, it can get choppy on the waters of the Pacific Ocean; many people get seasick while cruising the Galapagos. My friend was seasick the entire time he was on a Galapagos cruise. If your kids aren’t comfortable at sea yet, I wouldn’t recommend going on a cruise.

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Budget travelers can opt to go island-hopping round Galapagos Islands independently, which was what we did on our first Galapagos Islands trip. We based ourselves on Santa Cruz and did day tours to other islands from there. There are plenty of local operators offering Galapagos tours online or at certain locations on the islands. Most Galapagos Islands day tours cost around $200-300 depending on where you’re visiting.

There are four islands that you can stay on without being on any tour:

  • Santa Cruz: This island has the biggest tourist town and has most sights
  • San Cristobal: It has a quieter town with iconic attractions
  • Isla Isabela: Smallest town with few options but great for wildlife
  • Isla Floreana: Only 1 hotel and no scheduled speedboats to other islands

Here are the most popular Galapagos Islands tours:

  • Kicker Rock day tour from San Cristobal island (pictured)
  • North Seymour day trip from Santa Cruz island
  • Bartolome day trip from Santa Cruz island
  • Floreana day tour from Santa Cruz island
  • Snorkeling in lava tunnels on Isabela island

visit galapagos islands - galapagos islands travel - kicker rock

Besides day tours, there are also several speedboat companies that offer an inter-island shuttling service. You need to plan really well as there are limited departures each day and journeys can be long! For instance, the shuttle from Santa Cruz to Isabela takes around three hours.

The public ferries cost between  $25-35US per person each way . It’s best to check with a couple of ticket sellers in town before buying your tickets.  Or book these ferry transfers that include hotel pickups!

Public ferries only run these routes (back and forth):

  • Santa Cruz (Puerto Ayora) – Isabela (Puerto Villamil)
  • Santa Cruz (Puerto Ayora) – San Cristobal (Puerto Baquerizo Moreno)

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Where to Stay on the Galapagos Islands

I’ve listed my hotel recommendations for the three most popular towns to stay at. If you’re wondering where to stay on the Galapagos Islands, these are the biggest towns.

Puerto Ayora , the main town on Santa Cruz island, is a lively town with a good range of midrange hotels and affordable guesthouses. Puerto Baquerizo Moreno , the town on San Cristobal island, is smaller but its accommodation options are more affordable. Puerto Villamil on Isabela island is the smallest but accommodations are cheapest.

Luxury: Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel — Undoubtedly the best hotel on Santa Cruz, this stylish hotel is slick and unpretentious. It’s got a beautiful swimming pool and beachfront location, with even its own pier and private yacht. Excellent place if money isn’t an issue! Check the rates.

Midrange: Hotel La Isla — A beautiful boutique hotel with stylish designs that blend naturally with the surroundings, and its small scale provides an intimate atmosphere. It’s within walking distance from Tortuga Bay and the town centre of Puerto Ayora. Check the rates. 

Midrange: El Descanso del Guia — This new midrange hotel offers panoramic views over the coast from its rooftop. It also has a nice swimming pool, and clean and spacious rooms. Check the rates.

Budget: Hostal Gardner Galapagos — We stayed at this place located in the heart of town and minutes from the pier. Rooms are cheap and spacious, and relatively well maintained. Great value! Check the rates.

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Midrange: Eco Hotel Katarma — The best hotel on the island is an eclectic and colorful eco lodge with an indoor swimming pool. Katarma is inspired entirely by art; it mixes different architectural, design, painting and sculptural influences to create a space where peace and life take the upmost importance. Check the rates.

Midrange: La Zayapa — Located right on the dock, La Zayapa is the heart of the town, offering room with views of the pier. We absolutely loved staying here. Good prices for such excellent location. Check the rates.

Budget: Hotel Cactus & Cactus — With a minimalistic design, this artistic hostel features clean lines and very simple but beautiful decor. Rooms are well-priced for what it is, highly recommend it! Check the rates.

visit galapagos islands - san cristobal

Luxury: Flip Flop House — With capacity for four people, this beautiful, modern house has 2 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms and a hot tub. The property was built in 2016, and makes a comfortable home away from home. I highly recommend this if you are traveling with family or friends. Check the rates.

Midrange: Drake Inn — Located right on the beach, this simple but comfortable guesthouse offers well-priced rooms just three minutes from town. Its rooftop has excellent ocean views and makes a great spot to chill in the evenings. Check the rates.

Budget: Hotel La Jungla — This budget place offers great value for money, and a rustic jungle setting despite being just a few feet from the sea. All of its rooms have wide windows that look out to the ocean. Check the rates.

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Food, especially seafood, is a huge part of island culture here and the restaurants to ​not disappoint. There are full spreads fit for kings as well as authentic, local eateries that boast fresh and cheap grub.

Here are four places I highly recommend checking out:

Los Kioskos — Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz

This row of street food was our favorite spot to eat at night! Los Kioskos is basically a street lined with small, local stalls selling freshly caught seafood. You’ll hear sizzling from the charcoal parillas  and smell smoky, grilled fish long before you stumble across this little alley. Food here is reasonably priced and oh so bueno!

Galapagos Deli — ​Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz This deli is famous for its brick-oven pizza ranging in price from $6.50 to $9.75 USD and high-quality deli sandwiches from $4.70 to $8.75. Of course, it wouldn’t be a seaport deli without fish and chips, as well as piping hot espresso and delicious frozen gelato. Read reviews here.

Booby Trap —​ Puerto Villamil, Isabela Island Booby Trap is the best place to grab a slice of pizza, but it’s their fish tacos that I loved. The lobster also comes highly recommended at a very reasonable rate. The restaurant is owned by a greagarious retired American man and his Ecuadorian wife.  Read reviews here.

Muyu Galapagos — Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, San Cristobal

If you’re looking to splurge, definitely book a table at Muyu Galapagos, one of the best restaurants in the whole archipelago. They serve up modern fusion food, focusing on fresh seafood with a contemporary twist. Read reviews here.

visit galapagos islands - galapagos islands travel - lobster at the market

Things to Do on the Galapagos Islands

With over 21 islands spread out over a large area, the Galapagos Islands really do have a lot to offer for active travelers who like to get out and about. Here’s a round-up of the BEST things to do on the Galapagos Islands and the best Galapagos tours to book. I will indicate below how to visit each site below.

See Lizards and Sea Lions at Tortuga Bay

A 45 minute hike leads you to Santa Cruz’s most beautiful beach and bay. There are plenty of marine iguanas and sea lions lounging on the beach when we were there. It’s also a great spot for snorkeling with white tip reef sharks, and occasionally tiger sharks. It was the first spot we visited and we were blown away!

How to : Visit independently by walking or taking a taxi from Puerto Ayora.

visit galapagos islands - galapagos islands travel - tortuga bay

Snorkel in Las Grietas

Las Grietas is a beautiful naturally formed freshwater pool formed in a crack between two volcanic cliff faces. During midday when the sun is high, the pool is a bright, clear blue. There isn’t a lot of wildlife here, but the crystal clear waters make it just a fun swimming spot. Plus it’s free to visit the site! No guide or tour needed. We absolutely loved it here and could have spent a day here if not for our fomo!

visit galapagos islands - galapagos islands travel - nellie at las grietas

Visit the Charles Darwin Research Center

The Charles Darwin Research Center is a breeding centre and rehabilitation facility for animals from local islands. First stop by the Ruta de las Tortugas for a guided tour ($10) — they run tours in both English and Spanish every hour. The guide brings you on a short walk and talks about the endemic wildlife and plant life on the Galapagos, before showing you the tortoise breeding area (which is fenced up). At the end of the tour, you’ll be led into a room where the famous Lonesome George (the last tortoise of its kind who passed away in 2012) stands immortalized.

After the tour, walk to the end of the centre to visit the museum and learn more about the wildlife of the Galapagos. There’s also a station beach where you can swim and see black-tip reef sharks. All in all, the research center is a great spot to visit for those traveling the Galapagos with kids .  

See Giant Tortoises at Reserva El Chato

Just a short drive from Puerto Ayora, Reserva El Chato is the best place in the Galapagos to see the rare Galapagos Giant Tortoises. You’ll see their ancient animals roaming around in their natural habitat, with no cages, fences, or walls to obstruct the view – and all for just $3. Book your entrance tickets here.

visit galapagos islands - galapagos islands travel - giant tortoise

Swim with Sea Lions at La Loberia

San Cristobal is the best island to go for sea lions. Here at La Loberia, not only can you snorkel with tons of sea lions, but you will also see marine iguanas, lava lizards, frigate birds, and more. We had SO much fun swimming with the sea lions! Those animals can be really cheeky. It’s free to enter, just rent snorkeling equipment beforehand.

How to : Visit independently by walking 30 minutes or taking a taxi ($3 ride) from Puerto Baquerizo.

visit galapagos islands - galapagos islands travel - swimming with sea lions

Snorkel or Scuba Dive at Kicker Rock

Around 3 miles north of San Cristobal island is this volcanic cone that rises from the sea. Kicker Rock, known locally as León Dormmido, is home to a smattering of blue-footed boobies and fregate birds, but it is really its below-water inhabitants that has visitors in awe.

The natural erosion of the cone has created a channel between the rocks that serves as the ideal place to view sharks and rays. If you come at the right time, you can see hundreds of Galapagos sharks (and come into touching distance of them if you choose to snorkel through the canyon). You might have the chance to see schools of spotted eagle rays, turtles, jellyfish, and sea lions.

How to : Only by cruise or on a day tour to Kicker Rock from Puerto Baquerizo.

visit galapagos islands - galapagos islands travel - kicker rock

Hike around Punta Pitt

Punta Pitt is one of the best places to see a huge variety of wildlife on the Galapagos. Both the blue-footed and red-footed boobies, and various species of frigates live in the area. They have chosen this site because its rugged geography prevents species that would be a threat to these birds from accessing here. Another species commonly found here are the iguanas, also due to its complex geography.

How to: Visit independently or a day tour from Puerto Baquerizo .

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See the Views at Mirador Cerro Tijeretas

The Cerro Tijeretas lookout point offers a panoramic view of Shipwreck Bay and Kicker Rock. It’s definitely a spectacular spot and well worth the two-mile hike there from the visitor center. You’ll be hiking through a dry forest area full of cacti, acacia trees and lava lizards. The trail also leads to a calm, protected inlet along the shore which is a great spot for snorkeling.

How to: Visit independently by taking a taxi to the visitor center and walking from Puerto Baquerizo.

visit galapagos islands - galapagos islands travel - cacti desert

Hike and Snorkel around Los Tuneles

Los Tuneles or lava tunnels is a hugely popular site to visit. We hired a guide and came here on a day tour. A boat first takes you along the coast to a landscape characterized by bizarre lava formations and tunnels that provide shelter for an abundance of sea life.  You’ll then need to hike for a bit before getting the chance to snorkel with sea lions, turtles, sharks, rays, sea horses among innumerable fish species.

How to: The only way to get here is on a cruise or day tour from Puerto Villamil .

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Snorkel at Las Tintoreras

Las Tintoreras is an islet just off the main dock of Isabela Island. It’s often called mini Galapagos since almost a ll the Galapagos marine wildlife are found here. There is actually more wildlife here than on the main island.

It’s one of the few places to see the Galapagos penguins, the second smallest penguins in the world. It was incredibly getting to swim with them and see them in the water! You can snorkel in the area without a guide.

How to: Take a half-day tour from Puerto Villamill.

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See Flamingos at the Wall of Tears

The Wall of Tears, or El Muro de Las Lagrimas,   is one of the most famous hikes on the Galapagos Islands . It’s the only place to see the Galapagos Flamingos and you can do it without a guide. The name comes from the wall at the end of the hike. The Wall of Tears was built in the 1950’s by 300 prisoners, toiling away under the hot sun to cut and haul heavy black volcanic rock in order to build their own prison.

How to: Visit independently by walking from Puerto Villamil.

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Our favorite spot, North Seymour, is a small uninhabited island that is hugely popular with all kinds of birds that live in the Galapagos. It’s a fascinating place with open nesting grounds of blue-footed boobies and the archipelago’s largest colonies of fregate birds. If you’re lucky, you might even see blue-footed boobies perform their courtship dance in the more open areas.

How to: The only way to get there is on a cruise or a day tour from Santa Cruz island .

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Bartolome Island is the most scenic island in terms of landscapes. Be sure to climb up to the top of the viewpoint for a 360 degree panorama. There are black volcanic formations, which contrast sharply with the red, orange and green of the rest of the island. Also don’t miss the Pinnacle Rock, home to a colony of Galapagos penguins.

How to: The only way to visit is on a cruise or a day tour from Santa Cruz island .

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Another island I really enjoyed visiting was Floreana, where Charles Darwin visited and collected the Floreana Mockingbird. On the island, you can find beaches of different color and a fresh water lagoon where flamingos can be observed during the hot season.

Devil’s Crown is an old eroded, semi- submerged, volcanic cone where you can spot penguins, sea lions, sea turtles, dolphins and colorful fish. It’s one of the best snorkeling sites in the Galapagos Islands because of the coral reef in the middle which is a perfect attraction for marine life.

How to: Visit on a cruise, public ferry (no fix schedule) or day tour from Santa Cruz island .

visit galapagos islands - galapagos sea lions on floreana

One of the oldest islands of them all, Española Island is about 4.5 million years old and located on the southern east corner of the archipelago. This island is home of the Española Mockingbird, the only carnivorous one. Here there is also the only Marine Iguana population that remains red and green throughout the year. About 1500 tortoises live there today.

This is the only nesting site for the  Galapagos Waved Albatross, thanks to the cold waters from the Humboldt current. This endemic animal nests on the flat grounds of this island. They breed from the month of April to December.

How to: You can only visit by cruise or on a day tour from San Cristobal island .

visit galapagos islands - galapagos sea lion

Also known as the “Bird Island“, Genovesa Island most certainly lives up to its name in a spectacular way. It’s common to spot these birdlife on the island: puffball chicks, crowned and lava herons, red footed boobies, Nazca boobies and also the swallow–tailed gulls, the only nocturnal gulls in the world that will be nesting at the cliff’s edge.

Be sure to visit Prince Philip’s Steps, an 81-foot stairway that leads to a narrow stretch of land which opens out onto the plateau surrounding Darwin Bay on the north side of the island.

How to: The only way to visit this island is on a Galapagos cruise.

visit galapagos islands - bird life

Fernandina Island is often referred to as a “land without time” as it is a volcanic island without any introduced species. The island is 300 thousand years old and it is still active.

There are an estimate of around 100,000 black and gray iguanas on Fernandina Island. As you look out the lava rocks they may look like they are moving – they are covered in these reptiles basking in the sunshine. Their dark coloration is an adaptation that allows them to hold onto heat so that they can stay under the water and search for food.

galapagos islands travel - marine lizard and cormorant

Despite being the fourth largest island, Santiago Island is an uninhabited island that can only be visited on a cruise. The   black lava pools at Puerto Egas are  home of a great variety of fauna, including marine iguana basking in the sun, hundreds of   red crabs ,   herons ,   fur seals   that will swim with you.

From there it’s a 2km walk to Sugarloag Volcano where you can get a spectacular view of lava lizards, Galapagos doves, and Darwin finches.

galapagos islands travel - santiago island

On our first trip there as backpackers, we spent 5 days in the Galapagos Islands and based ourselves on Santa Cruz the entire time. This time round, we had 1 week and stayed on Santa Cruz and San Cristobal, but we still wished we had more time. Ideally, I would recommend spending 10 days in the Galapagos Islands so you can enough time to base yourselves on the three main inhabited islands.

You’ll probably want to combine another week or so on mainland Ecuador to make the most of your trip. On this recent trip, we spent two weeks in Ecuador , combining time in the historic center of Quito with hikes in Otavalo and Cotopaxi National Park.

Our 1-week Galapagos itinerary:

  • Day 1: Fly to Santa Cruz
  • Day 2: See Tortuga Bay + Visit Charles Darwin Center
  • Day 3: Do a day trip to Bartolome Island
  • Day 4: Take the ferry to San Cristobal
  • Day 5: Explore the Loberia, Puerto Chino, and the Giant Tortoise Reserve
  • Day 6: Do a 360 day trip around the island + Kicker Rock
  • Day 7: Fly to Quito from San Cristobal

Recommended 10-day Galapagos itinerary:

  • Days 1-3: Santa Cruz Island  
  • Days 4-6: Isabela
  • Days 7-10: San Cristobal

visit galapagos islands - galapagos islands travel - sea lion

Internet connection is limited and slow on the Galapagos Islands. Even in our hotel and Airbnb, the download speeds were very slow. Get prepared to disconnect abit while you’re here.

I recommend getting an eSIM card with data plan as that works faster than the WiFI in hotels. I personally use eSIMs wherever I travel these days as they are SO much more convenient – you can buy them online, and don’t need to go to the shop or activate your eSIM through the store. Most phones are compatible with eSIMs, including all of the new iPhones, Samsung, Google and Huawei phones. For a comprehensive list of phones compatible with eSIMs you can check out this article .

Airalo is the world’s first eSIM store and it has eSIMs from over 190 countries and regions around the worlds. I have bought eSIMs from Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Ecuador and Peru from Airalo and never had any issues.

Check out  Airalo’s eSIMs  here. 

Let’s face it: the Galapagos is quite an expensive destination mainly due to the tourist tariff and the flight to get there. First you’ll be spending around US$500 for your flight and entry tariff . Day tours are around US$200-300 each, and a week-long cruise can set you back at $2500 .

Galapagos Islands travel is not cheap as the archipelago is so remote, almost everything needs to be imported. Accommodation on the islands are more expensive than on mainland Ecuador but you can still find decent guesthouses at $40/night for a double room and luxury hotels for $200/night.

Food is quite affordable especially at the local eateries. Expect to spend around US$8-10 on a local meal, and $20-30 in a hotel restaurant. There are also supermarkets in towns and you can cook on your own to save money.

All in all, you’ll have to budget for the kind of adventure you want. Just remember, the Galapagos Islands are a truly unique place in the world and they are definitely worth saving up for!

visit galapagos islands - galapagos islands travel - lying on red lava beach

80% of the Galapagos Islands is actually protected as a national park and there are rules in place to protect the fragile ecosystem in the park.

  • Some protected areas can only be visited with a licensed guide, so make sure you research before venturing out on your own.
  • When you encounter wildlife, remember to stay back and not get too close as you might cause them stress. Don’t feed them or use flash photography.
  • If you are traveling to the Galapagos Islands with kids , make sure they stay close to you and remind them not to go near or touch the animals as they’ll be interfering with the natural environment.
  • Any professional photography or filming recorded for commercial purposes must be authorized by the GNPD.
  • Camping is only allowed in a few authorized spots. To get permission, you need to request authorization from the Galapagos National Park’s offices at least 48 hours in advance.
  • The Galapagos Islands take the practice of “leave-no-trace” very seriously. Since fire poses a serious risk to the flora and fauna, smoking of any kind, as well as campfires, are strictly prohibited.
  • When shopping for souvenirs, do​ not​ take or buy any products made from banned substances like black coral, lava rock, native woods, and animal parts.

visit galapagos islands - galapagos islands travel - fregate bird

What to Pack for the Galapagos Islands

Any Galapagos Islands travel involve lots of time in the water and under the sun. Be sure to prepare yourself for the weather and pack sunscreen, sun-proof swimming gear and snorkeling gear . We didn’t bring our own snorkeling gear as we were traveling South America for a few months, but I highly recommend bringing your own to avoid having to rent one everywhere you go.

One item that I strongly recommend bringing is waterproof footwear. My favorite shoes from KEEN footwear have never failed me. They’re perfect for both land and water activities (like walking on corals or waterfalls). Also don’t forget a sun-proof swim shirt that can protect your skin even while snorkeling (bikini/shorts are not enough!).

  • SPF 70 Sunscreen
  • Mosquito repellent with DEET
  • Snorkel mask and fins
  • UPF50+ rash guard swim shirt
  • Dry bag for snorkeling/kayaking
  • Quick-dry towels
  • Sun hat that covers the neck
  • KEEN covered sandals
  • SteriPen to sterilize water
  • Dramamine for motion sickness
  • GoPro Hero 7 for waterproof photos/videos!
  • Quick-dry t-shirts for the hot weather

galapagos islands travel - snorkeling

  • Bring cash in US dollars, which is the main currency on the Galapagos Islands.
  • There are limited ATMs on Santa Cruz and San Cristobal, and none on Isabela island. Most places won’t accept credit cards, or will charge a high fee to do so. So having some spare cash is definitely useful.
  • Learn some Spanish! Knowing some basics like ‘gracias’ (thank you), ‘por favor’ (please), and ‘como estas?’ (How are you?) will go a long way.
  • The water conditions between islands can be rough, remember to bring motion sickness medication ! Even if you don’t usually get seasick, it’s best to be prepared for the rough conditions. I didn’t get seasick at all, but my friend who went on a cruise got seasick many times during the whole voyage.
  • Print your flight itineraries and bring them just in case, because sometimes smaller international airports want to see a printed copy before they let you inside.

visit galapagos islands - bartolome island - galapagos islands travel

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How to Visit Galapagos Islands

Over the years (and traveling to 140+ countries), I’ve learned a thing or two about travel planning. I’ve put together this list of travel resources that I personally use to find the best deals and book travel! For more details, check out my travel tips resource page .

  • Booking Flights : Kayak is brilliant for finding the best dates to fly as it allows you to search for the lowest airfares within a 3-day period. Then I use Skyscanner as they’ve consistently given me the lowest airfares.
  • Accommodations:  I always use   to book hotels, mainly because of the flexible cancellation policy and good customer service. You can also find short-term rental apartments there (I prefer not to use Airbnb due to the extra charges).
  • Travel Insurance:  It’s important to have travel insurance, regardless of whether you’re traveling for a few days or months. Safety Wing is the most popular travel insurance company for COVID19-coverage. I use their Nomad Insurance plan , which covers any healthcare expenses I may have worldwide. Refer to my travel insurance guide for more details.
  • Health Advice:  I always refer to the travel guides on the   CDC website  for recommended medications and vaccines. You can get them at your travel doctor’s office or a walk-in pharmacy.
  • Tours:  If you’re looking for all-encompassing tours, I recommend small-group adventure tour outfitter, G Adventures . I’ve traveled with them to Antarctica, Mongolia, Svalbard, and Nepal, and loved every single trip. For day tours, I always book with  Viator  and  GetYourGuide ; they have easy booking systems and free cancellations.
  • Car Rental: I always book car rentals on Discover Cars , as they’ve consistently given us the best rates and customer service (with free cancellations). We’ve used them in Seychelles, South Africa, Spain, Peru, and Mexico.
  • Transportation : Whenever possible, I book local transportation online using  Bookaway and Busbud . They’re more reliable than many local transport websites and cover trains, buses, and car hire.
  • Restaurants: TripAdvisor is my go-to resource for restaurant reviews and bookings. I also make restaurant reservations on OpenTable .
  • Travel WiFi: I recommend getting an Ecuador eSIM before arriving here. Airalo is the world’s first eSIM store and it has eSIMs from over 190 countries and regions around the worlds. Check out  Airalo’s eSIMs . 

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Nellie Huang

Nellie Huang is the founder of WildJunket. Originally from Singapore, Nellie has traveled to over 140 countries across 7 continents. As an adventure travel blogger, she has a special interest in unusual destinations and deep experiences. Her work has appeared in many major publications including BBC Travel, CNN and Read more about her here and get more life updates from her on her Facebook and Instagram .

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The Comments

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Awesome post! Thank you!

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Great info…thank you! Would love more luxury cruise recommendations.

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very informative and very helpful

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Thanks Richard!

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After being in Guayaquil for a week, I have only 2 days for the Galapagos Islands. Do you have a recommendation for a 48 hour tour?

I will be there in mid-November 2023.

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Fitness Travel

Amazing post and awesome pictures.

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Backpacking Galapagos: How to visit Galapagos on a budget

galapagos islands travel cheap

Imagine a place where the ocean is full of sea turtles, rays and tropical fish, the forests are home to 100-year-old giant tortoises, and the shores are covered with colonies of sea lions and marine iguanas. These are the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, a remote volcanic archipelago abundant with species that are found nowhere else in the world. It’s the ultimate paradise for nature lovers and a place that will make you feel like you’re a part of a David Attenborough documentary. 

Many people dream of visiting these enchanting islands but never make this trip happen since Galapagos is perceived to be an extremely expensive travel destination. However, this is not entirely true. We spent two weeks backpacking Galapagos and found that it’s certainly possible to explore these islands on a budget without missing out on many of the incredible experiences Galapagos has to offer. 

In this article, you’ll find everything you need to know for backpacking Galapagos on a budget.

P.S. You might find it useful to also read my article on all the free and cheap things to do in the Galapagos Islands as well as my guide on the 10 best beaches in the Galapagos .

Two people posing with a giant Galapagos tortoise in El Chato reserve on Santa Cruz island

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links from which I may make a commission at no additional cost to you if you make a purchase.

How to get to Galapagos Islands?

Getting to Galapagos is quite straightforward. First, you need to fly to mainland Ecuador and then take another flight either from Quito or Guayaquil. The prices for a round trip start at 200 USD and the flight takes a bit less than two hours.

Keep in mind that there are two airports on the Galapagos Islands – one on Santa Cruz Island and the other one on San Cristobal Island. If you plan to visit both of these islands (which you should), I recommend flying into one of the airports and out from the other one, unless it significantly increases the cost of your flights. This way, you won’t have to waste time and money on going back to the same airport where you arrived.

A marine iguana, one of the most common animals you'll see when backpacking Galapagos

Backpacking Galapagos on a budget

The best way to visit Galapagos on a budget is to do land based tours and free activities instead of taking a cruise. Many articles tell you that taking a Galapagos cruise is the only ‘real’ way to see the islands but that’s simply not true. I’m sure the cruises are awesome but that doesn’t mean that you won’t have amazing experiences if you do a land based trip. 

We spent two weeks backpacking Galapagos without taking a cruise, and our days were filled with constant excitement and the most epic adventures in the nature. 

From relaxing on gorgeous white-sand beaches and snorkeling with exotic marine life to hiking through cactus fields and having up-close animal encounters on land, there are lots of things to do in the Galapagos Islands which cost very little or nothing at all. More on that below.

We also did two rather pricy day tours on a boat (Bartolome Island and Kicker Rock) and while they were lovely, our most precious memories from the Galapagos Islands were actually made during the activities that cost us nothing. This convinced me that it is definitely possible to explore Galapagos as a backpacker on a tight budget and still have a wonderful time.

A sea turtle swimming in turquoise water, an animal you can easily spot even when you're backpacking Galapagos on a budget

Which islands to visit when backpacking Galapagos on a budget?

Out of all the islands in the Galapagos archipelago, only four are inhabited. These islands are Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Isabela and Floreana. The latter only has a tiny population of 150 people and fewer things to do. Therefore, in this article, I’ll focus on the three other islands which offer affordable accommodation options, beautiful places to visit and various Galapagos day tours. 

When you’re backpacking Galapagos, I recommend visiting at least two of the inhabited islands. My favorites were San Cristobal and Santa Cruz.

And if you want to splurge a little to see some of the uninhabited islands or more remote parts of Galapagos, there are plenty of daily boat tours departing from Santa Cruz or San Cristobal.

A girl sitting on white sand in Puerto Chino beach, one of the best beaches in  the Galapagos Islands

How much does a backpacking trip to Galapagos Islands cost?

  • Flights: As I already mentioned above, flights from mainland Ecuador to the Galapagos Islands start at 200 USD for a round trip. We bought our flights just a few weeks before our departure and paid 207 USD per person for our round trip from Guayaquil to Santa Cruz and back including luggage.
  • Entry fees: Before getting on your Galapagos flight, you’ll have to pay 20 USD for a Transit Control Card at the airport in Quito or Guayaquil. Once you arrive at the airport on the Galapagos Islands, you’ll need to pay a 100 USD Galapagos National Park entrance fee in cash (50 USD for kids and visitors from Mercosur countries), which goes towards the conservation of flora and fauna, and supporting the local communities.

A sea lion standing on a staircase on Isabela island, Galapagos

  • Transport: If you fly into Santa Cruz, getting to the island’s main town Puerto Ayora costs 10 USD by public transport and about 25 USD by taxi. The taxi will of course be cheaper if you’ll find others to share the ride with.  To travel between the three main islands, you can take a ferry for 30-35 USD per person (note that there’s no ferry connection between Isabela and San Cristobal). We took this ferry four times but for instance, if you only choose to visit San Cristobal and Santa Cruz, and fly into one of the islands and out from the other, you’ll only have to take this ferry once. If you want to rent a bike to get around, the price is 10-20 USD per day.
  • Food: You can find restaurants offering a meal for as little as 5 USD, and some of them even have a full menu consisting of a soup, main course, small dessert and a juice for this price! These are the places where the locals eat and they’re typically a few blocks away from the touristy areas. We had several of those 5 dollar meals while backpacking Galapagos on a budget and they kept us full for a long time.
  • Accommodation: In the main towns, there are lots of cheap Galapagos Islands hostels perfect for backpackers. Prices start from 19 USD per night for a shared room or a very simple private room. More on that below.
  • Tours: This cost depends entirely on which tours you want to take and whether you even want to take any at all. Some tours cost as little as 10 USD per person and go all the way up to hundreds of dollars for a day trip on a boat.

Total Galapagos Islands trip cost

We spent two weeks on Galapagos Islands and spent 1400 USD per person including the flights from and to mainland Ecuador. However, we didn’t stay in the cheapest hostels, we ate in restaurants every day, took the inter-island ferry four times and took two quite expensive boat tours (260 USD in total per person), so you can DEFINITELY do it cheaper if you want to!

A blue-footed booby standing on a lava rock, one of the coolest animals to see when you're backpacking Galapagos

Free or cheap Galapagos land based tours and activities

Although getting to the islands is quite pricey, the good news is that once you’re there, you’ll find lots of free or affordable tours and activities that won’t break your bank.

Santa Cruz Island offers probably the largest range of free/cheap things to do when you’re backpacking Galapagos. The three must-see places are Tortuga Bay beach, El Chato Giant Tortoise Reserve and Las Grietas natural pool. Consider also visiting La Estacion beach, El Garrapatero beach and Charles Darwin Research Station or taking a Bay Tour.

There’s also plenty of affordable things to do in San Cristobal. Snorkel at Muelle Tijeretas, learn about the history of Galapagos in the Interpretation Centre and visit all the amazing beaches, such as Puerto Chino, La Loberia, Playa Mann and Playa Punta Carola.

On Isabela Island, go snorkeling at Concha de Perla, bike to the Wall of Tears and relax on La Playita beach.

Make sure to read my article on all the cheap/free things to do in the Galapagos Islands for more tips!

A girl looking at a black marine iguana on the white sand at Tortuga Bay, one of the best places to see in Galapagos

Cheap Galapagos Islands hostels for backpackers

You definitely don’t need to spend a fortune on accommodation while backpacking Galapagos on a budget, since there are lots of hostels and guest houses to choose from.

Here are the hostels we stayed at, my honest reviews of them and a few more options that caught my attention.

Santa Cruz Galapagos hostels

Hostal El Pinzon – This hostel was great value for money. What we liked about it was its location, spotless and spacious rooms that are cleaned every day, air conditioning, shower with hot water, the possibility to use a kitchen and free purified drinking water. The cons were a lack of natural light in the rooms and poor wifi connection.

Hostal Sir Francis Drake – Another place that looks like amazing value for money. The location is super central, close to all the restaurants, the harbor and the main street. The rooms look cute and have AC, a TV and a private bathroom.

San Cristobal Galapagos hostels

Hostal Nathaly – This was a lovely guest house with super clean rooms, free drinking water, a tiny but spotless kitchen and very helpful owners. Out of all the places we stayed at, Hostal Nathaly had by far the best wifi connection. A great affordable option for anyone backpacking Galapagos on a budget.

Hostal Suiza – Very reasonably priced hostel with spacious rooms located just a few blocks from the main street. They also have a shaded garden where you can relax.

Isabela Galapagos hostels

Posada del Caminante – A simple hostel with comfortable and spacious rooms that stayed cool despite the heat outside. There’s a free laundry service and free snorkeling gear you can use. They also provide free drinking water and bananas! The disadvantages are that you might have issues with the shower (no hot water during our stay), the kitchen is super tiny and the wifi connection is weak, which is the case all over Isabela.

Hospedaje Muro De Las Lagrimas – This place is located just one block from a beautiful sandy beach. The rooms look pretty with lots of natural light and there’s also a garden with hammocks and palm trees.

Sally lightfoot crabs standing on a volcanic rock, one of the most common animals to see when visiting Galapagos on a budget

Final tips for backpacking Galapagos on a budget

  • Sunburns – Since the Galapagos Islands are located on the equator, the sun here is seriously strong. Get yourself some reef safe sunscreen so you wouldn’t harm the pristine underwater world and even consider swimming/snorkeling with a T-shirt on to protect yourself from the harsh sun.
  • Cash – Most businesses only accept cash so make sure you have enough with you. There are several ATMs in Santa Cruz and San Cristobal. In Isabela, however, there is only one ATM. There, we found ourselves in a situation where we were running out of cash and the only ATM on the island was out of order! 
  • Snorkeling – Galapagos is a snorkeling heaven so buy yourself a mask and a snorkel so you wouldn’t have to rent them every time you visit a beach. Not only will you end up saving money but it’s also much more convenient to always have your own mask with you. 
  • Horseflies and mosquitoes – This might be dependent on the season, but when we were backpacking Galapagos, there were lots of horseflies and mosquitoes harassing us. Remember to bring a repellent with you everywhere you go!
  • Reusable water bottle – Like in most of South America, tap water in the Galapagos Islands is not safe to drink. Some hostels provide filtered water free of charge so bring a reusable bottle with you. Even better, get yourself a bottle that can purify water for you, so you won’t have to worry about running out of drinking water. We swear by the Grayl water purifier bottle and have been using it during all our travels to purify unsafe tap water and even water from rivers.

You might also be interested in my other blog posts about the Galapagos Islands:

  • Best beaches on the Galapagos Islands
  • Free & cheap things to do in the Galapagos Islands

For more photos and videos of our Galapagos budget trip, check out my Instagram account. Look for the highlight called Galapagos.

Enjoyed reading about backpacking in Galapagos? Pin it!

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Galapagos land based tours and activities that won’t break your bank

This post is super helpful thank you! Definitely saving for my upcoming trip

So glad you found it helpful, Steph! 🙂 I hope you’ll have an amazing trip!

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Solo Travel The Galapagos on the Cheap (ish): How I Did 7 Days/Nights for $994, Including Flights!

by Crazy Travelista | Mar 18, 2017 | Ecuador , Off the beaten path , South America , Travel Tips | 23 comments

Solo Travel The Galapagos on the Cheap (ish): How I Did 7 Days/Nights for $994, Including Flights!

Visiting the Galapagos is a dream for most and I honestly didn’t think I would ever make it there as it is known to be extremely expensive. Due to it’s remote and isolated nature of the Galapagos, as well as its endemic animal species which aren’t found anywhere else in the world, it’s clear why this is such a sought after destination.

Visiting the Galapagos is a once-in-a-lifetime trip and one that people usually plan for years in advance. But I decided to go on a whim and got my plane tickets less than 3 weeks before. Because that’s how I roll.

Galapagos on a budget

In all honesty, I wanted to see if I could challenge myself to do this destination for under $1000, without a cruise, just on my own. And when I found out I could use miles to fly there, I was sold.

The entire trip ended up costing me $994 total, true story (I even surprised myself). But I was determined to prove that it CAN be affordable.

So here’s how I did it…

Galapagos On a Budget

Plane tickets.

I used airline miles for this trip and I thought it was a great deal for the amount of miles it required. It required 40,000 miles roundtrip (using Mileage Plus/Star Alliance) from Washington Dulles, to Baltra Island, Galapagos. The regular ticket price is around $750 and up. I picked multi destination and flew into Baltra island and out of San Cristobal island. This worked out well since I didn’t have to waste time   (and money) backtracking back to Baltra.

Total cost: 40k miles + $88.16 in taxes

Visas/National Park Fees

The Galapagos is one of the most protected areas on earth. 97% of the islands are protected to be exact. In order to enter, you must pay a few mandatory National Park fees and for a tourist card. There is no way around these fees so make sure to bring enough cash to cover them.

Galapagos on a budget

One of only 1,200 penguins on the Galapagos

Fees I paid to enter the Galapagos:

  • $20 for a tourist card (upon departure in Guayaquil or Quito)-they don’t tell you this and I got all the way to the gate without it. I had to run back to the check in area to get one real quick and go all the way through security. The only reason I didn’t miss my flight is because it ended up being delayed. Make sure you get your visa card BEFORE boarding your flight to the Galapagos.
  • $100 National Park fees upon entrance to the Galapagos
  • $10 to enter Isabela island ($5 for locals)

Total: $130

Galapagos on a Budget | Accommodation

I always thought accommodation on the Galapagos would cost a fortune. But it’s the complete opposite. You can do it super cheap if you want. I saw hostels for $15/night. They also have some super fancy eco resorts that are very pricy as well. But overall, it was very affordable to stay on the islands.

I went on the cheap (ish) side and paid an average of $30 a night , including a mixture of hotels, a private room in a hostel, and an Airbnb. The standards are not as high as one might be used to, but overall it wasn’t a problem. The only problem I had was the presence of little tiny bugs (smaller than ants) that were in almost every place I stayed. I think they just have a problem with bugs being a tropical climate.

Oh and the wifi….the wifi. Wifi on the Galapagos was officially the worst wifi I had ever experienced. It hardly every worked in my room (although the hotels claimed wifi in all rooms) expect for Iguana Hotel on Isabela island. And when it did work, it was so slow you couldn’t even open anything if more than a few people were on the network. I couldn’t open any videos at all while I was there. It was kinda nice to disconnect, but at some points I really needed wifi to look stuff up so it was an annoyance for sure.

Where To stay in the Galapagos:

Puerto villamil, isabela island.

Hotel Iguana ($40/night).

This was the cleanest and best place I stayed in the Galapagos. It was also the only place I didn’t see many bugs and the wifi actually worked (slowly) in my room. It was the most expensive accommodation on my trip, but well worth it. Check rates for Hotel Iguana on here . 

Galapagos on a budget

Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz

Hostal Vista al Mar ($30/night)

I got a private room here right near the port and good dining options. However, it wasn’t as clean as I would have liked, it had NO air conditioner (only a fan), the wifi was the worst I had experienced, and there were many bugs. I wouldn’t recommend this place honestly.  

Hotel España ($30/night)

A cute little hotel with a chill lobby filled with hammocks. When I alerted them of the many bugs in my room, they sprayed it while I was out and it got rid of the problem. The staff was super nice and helpful! Check rates on here . And if you’re new to, use my $20 off coupon here . 

Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, San Cristobal

Airbnb San Cristobal ($18/night)

I rented a room in a huge house and was very large and spacious. It had 3 double beds and could have slept 6. It was an 8 minute walk from the main port in a quiet neighoborhood. The host gave me snorkel gear to wear to the beach, which was nice.  Oh, and it was a 5 minute walk to the airpot! The only problem was the huge black beetle bugs I found the first night. When I arrived, all the windows were open so I’m sure thats where they came from. I kept all the windows closed and only saw one more the next day. You can view the listing here . 

Galapagos on a Budget |  T ours

Tours in the Galapagos are highly regulated and not every tour company will operate every day. The reason is they limit the amount of people that can visit each island to a small number per day. This prevents damage to the environment from mass tourism. I wish more places would adopt this method because you can really see how clean and well preserved the environment is over there.

how to do the Galapagos on the cheap

Tours in the Galapagos are not cheap and this is where you will spend a majority of your budget. BUT, the key is to book LAST MINUTE on arrival. DO NOT book tours online, as they are up to 3 times as much! I was quotes as much as $325 for a tour that I eventually went on for $160, by booking last minute.

It can be a little nerve wrecking getting there without any booked tours, especially ones you really want to do. But you will save a shit ton doing it this way. Don’t forget to bargain down about 20% of the asking price as well. They are more negotiable last minute.

Note: they were fully booked for my tour to Bartoleme when I inquired the day before. Apparently tho is one of the most popular tours and not every company will operate daily. I really wanted to do this tour, so I had to move my schedule around and change 2 hotel dates (which both hotels surprisingly let me do free of charge!).

Recommended Tours To Do in The Galapagos:

Bartoleme island (day trip from santa cruz island).

→(10-hour tour including pickup from hotel, breakfast, and lunch)

Galapagos on a budget

This tour takes you to the infamous Pinnacle Rock lookout and to snorkel on a nearby beach on Santiago island called Sullivan Bay. It requires light hiking up to the summit for the viewpoint, but it isn’t hard at all.

  • Regular tour price in-person: $180-$200 (and up to $325 online in advance!)
  • Price I received last-minute: $160 (I found one company that offered me as low as $150, but the day didn’t work out)

Los Tuneles (day trip from Isabela Island)

→(5-6 hour tour including lunch. Usually leaves twice a day at 7:30am and 11:30am)

Galapagos on a budget

This tour takes you to some great snorkelling spots where we saw sharks, turtles, and sea horses. It also takes you to the otherworldly Los Tuneles, underwater tunnels formed from volcanic lava. It’s like no other landscape you will ever see! We also saw blue-footed boobies here as this is a popular nesting site for this species.

  • Regular tour price in-person: $120
  • Price I received last-minute: $100

I went with the Pahoe Hoe tour company and I was really impressed! Our guide Juan Carlos was super friendly and showed us all the cool animals, including a sea horse! I would have never seen it on my own. He even went down into the caves to find sharks for us to see! Lunch was yummy chicken and yellow rice in an individual tupperware jar.

Kicker Rock (day trip from San Cristobal Island)

→(6 hours and leaves at 9am)

Galapagos on a budget

This tour takes you to the iconic Kicker Rock, a popular spot for viewing sea turtles, hammerhead sharks, white tip sharks, manta rays, and sea lions. We saw ALL these and it was incredible! From the second I jumped into the water and looked down, I saw 2 white tip sharks! If you only do one tour in the Galapagos, do the Kicker Rock. It was hands-down my favorite tour and a day I will never forget.

  • Regular tour price in-person: $100-$120
  • Price I received last-minute: $90

I went with Scuba Eden company and I highly recommended them! They have awesome/upbeat tour guides and very small group sizes. We only had 6 people in our group! They also take GoPro footage of you and give you the footage for free if you want it!

Total spent on tours: $350

Galapagos on a Budget |  Rentals

For the days I didn’t do an organized tour, I rented a bike one day on Isabela island and snorkel gear on Santa Cruz.

Galapagos on a budget

Galapagos “traffic”

  • Snorkel rental: $8/day in Puerto Ayora
  • Bike rental: $15/day Isabela island

Galapagos on a Budget |  Transport

Ground transport on the islands is very cheap (although you can walk to lots of places as well). There are taxis readily available and I paid $1-$2 for each ride.

On Isabela and Santa Cruz, the boats can’t dock and you will need to take a water taxi to the boats. Each ride costs $.50-$1.

A word about ferries…

The so-called ferries are actually little speed boats they pile a bunch of people into. It wasn’t the most comfortable situation, especially when the boats are full. The sea can get choppy so make sure to take some Dramamine and sit at the back of the boat to avoid sea sickness.

Ferries between the islands cost $30 one-way. You can only travel to Santa Cruz, Isabela, and San Cristobal by ferry (the only 3 inhabited islands on the Galapagos). All other island require a day trip or cruise to get to.

Note: there is no ferry between Isabela and San Cristobal. If you want to travel between these islands, you must go back to Santa Cruz first and then buy another ticket. So essentially, it would cost $60 to go from Isabela to San Cristobal and vice versa.

Buy tickets as soon as you can because they can fill up, especially in the peak season.

What I spent on transportation in the Galapagos:

  • Water taxis: $4
  • Ferries: $90

Total: $104

Galapagos on a Budget |  Food

How much I spent on food:

  • Dinners: $52
  • Grocery store snacks/lunch/bottled waters: $37
  • Coffee: $3.50

Total: $92.75

How I did it so cheap:

I brought 2 boxes of protein/granola bars from home which I ate for my breakfasts. I went to the local markets for lunch foods (I never sat down for lunch once, mostly due to no time…but I usually don’t eat a big lunch anyways because it makes me tired and lethargic).

I also inadvertently cut back on 2 of my usual (expensive) habits: coffee and wine. It was so hot and humid that I couldn’t drink much coffee and I was too dehydrated and hot to drink any alcohol. Being hot saved me a lot of money!

There was also one day when my awesome tour guide bought me dinner right after the tour at a local stand that only costed $2 for a fried plantain stuffed with salsa and tuna (sounds like an odd combo, but it was actually really good!)

solo travel the Galapagos on the cheap

Through my research, most online sources said that food will be your biggest expense in the Galapagos. Well, that might be true if you go to the super touristy places on the waterfront. I walked past menus where the average prices were $18-25 per dish. Oh hell no, that’s absurd!

Out of all my expenses, I spent the LEAST on food. And honestly, it’s one of the cheapest places I’ve ever eaten dinner.

The key to eating cheap in the Galapagos is to eat where the locals go. The 2 words you’re going to want to learn are ALMUERZOS  and  MERIENDAS.

  • Almuerzos (what it’s called at lunch time)
  • Meriendas -(what it’s called at dinner time)

This is a pre-set type of menu that the locals indulge in. It usually consists of soup, fresh juice, rice and main dish of seafood, beef, etc. One place even served dessert with it! And the greatest part is that you can have dinner or lunch for $4-$7 . True story.

Where to Eat in The Galapagos:

Kiosco Voluntad de Dios  (Santa Cruz): cheap eats from $4.50. I decided to order something off the more “expensive menu” and tried an awesome shrimp with coconut sauce dish (it was $9.50 and well worth it). It’s also a cool spot where you eat at big community tables.

I met some really cool Austrian traveler’s this way. They offered me a bite of fresh fish they had ordered, and it was one of the best fresh fish I ever tried! It was so meaty and huge so definitely try the fish here if you want to splurge on a great meal.

Encanto de la Pepa (Isabela island): it’s on the main strip but super cheap and had a cute little vibe. They offered a $7 set menu consisting of soup, papaya juice, choice of one main (fish, beef, calamari,etc) and one side (rice, salad, fries), plus banana cake. I ordered the calamari in coconut sauce and it was delicious.

Lucky’s  (San Cristobal): the cheapest dinner I had in the Galapagos for $4. Included is juice, chicken and veggie soup, chicken or beef and rice, and salad. I couldn’t believe I had all that for dinner for only $4! Ecuador for the win!

Free (or cheap) things to do in the Galapagos:

For full details and elaboration of this list, I have put together a separate blog post and you can read it here: Best Free (or Cheap) Things to Do in The Galapagos. 

Santa Cruz Island

  • Tortuga Bay (free)
  • Charles Darwin Research Station (free)
  • Las Grietas(free-ish)

Isabela Island

  • Self-guided bike tour ($15/day)
  • Wall of Tears (free)
  • El Estero (free)
  • Playa del Amor (free)

Galapagos on a budget

  • Las Salinas (free) 
  • Concha la Perla (free) 

San Cristobal Island (all free activities)

  • Cerro Tijeretas Hill
  • Punta Carola
  • Playa Mann beach 
  • Interpretation Center

Summary of Costs in the Galapagos

  • Airline tickets $88
  • Visas/National Park Fees $130
  • Accommodation $206
  • Rentals $23
  • Transportation $104

Grand total of $994

Travel Insurance for The Galapagos

I never travel without travel insurance anymore, it’s just silly. Shit happens when you least expect it. You especially want to be covered when you’re visiting more report places like small islands. If something happens and you need to be air-lifted to the nearest hospital on the mainland, this would cost a fortune!

My go to travel insurance that I have been using for the past 4 years is World Nomads . I have made 3 claims and have been reimbursed without any hassle. I highly recommend them.

Other Things to Note About The Galapagos

  • Ecuador uses the dollar
  • Ecuador uses the same outlets and voltage as the U.S., meaning no need for a convertor/adaptor
  • They charge an absurd amount of interest in credit card purchases so try to pay cash
  • There are ATMs on Santa Cruz and San Cristobal but none on Isabela island (try to bring cash because sometimes the machines are empty)
  • Wifi is virtually non-existent so expect to be “disconnected” during your time there. Some hotels have wifi but in my experience it never worked in the room and only in the lobby. If more than a few people were on at the same time or didn’t work. When it did work it was slower than dial up internet and I couldn’t watch any video of any type, couldn’t view Snapchat, etc. It was ok for sending WhatsApp messages
  • It’s hot AF (the islands are located right around the equator after all) so re-apply sunscreen every few hours. I got burnt bad and I re-applied about 5 times a day
  • Bring bug spray or repellent bracelets (I got eaten alive)
  • Don’t feed or touch the animals…just don’t (please practice responsible tourism)
  • They charge 22% credit card fees to book tours! Wtf

Liked it? PIN it for later♥

solo travel to the Galapagos on the cheap

Have you been to the Galapagos? Were you able to do it on a reasonable budget? If you can add any budget tips, please do!

PS: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may earn a small commission if you book using my link, at NO extra cost to you. It’s what helps this site remain add free (ads annoy the crap out of me!). Thanks ♥

Share this:

galapagos islands travel cheap


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hello really liking your trip. Want to go in August of 2018 solo.

I live in Canada, and looks amazing.

Once you landed in Baltra Island what was your first destination and how did you get there from the airport?

How long did that take?

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Hi Rick, Once you land in Baltra, there will be buses that coordinate with the flights to take you to the channel crossing. Then you will board a boat to cross which takes like 15 minutes. From there, you can take a taxi or bus to the Porto Ayora in Santa Cruz. I was able to share a taxi with a few others so it costed next to nothing. I think the taxi took like 45 minutes to get to Porto Ayora. The whole thing takes like 1.5 hours to get from the airport to Porto Ayora. Just make sure you have cash to pay for the bus and taxi. I started in Santa Cruz, then went to Isabela island and then to San Cristobal. Hope that helps!

Hi Rick, Once you land in Baltra, there will be free buses that coordinate with the flights to take you to the channel crossing. Then you will board a boat to cross which takes like 15 minutes. From there, you can take a taxi or bus to the Porto Ayora in Santa Cruz. I was able to share a taxi with a few others so it costed next to nothing. I think the taxi took like 45 minutes to get to Porto Ayora. The whole thing takes like 1.5 hours to get from the airport to Porto Ayora. Just make sure you have cash to pay for the taxi. I started in Santa Cruz, then went to Isabela island and then to San Cristobal. Hope that helps!

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Thanks for sharing your experience! Really helping with my planning. As a solo traveller, when you did DIY snorkelling, where did you leave your belongings? Especially those that aren’t waterproof.

Hi! I’m so glad my article was helpful! Well, if i wasn’t on a tour and knew I was going snorkeling, I usually just brought my Gopro and phone, I left all my other camera gear at my hotel. But I just left my stuff on the shore and tried to keep an eye on it. Most the place I went, there were hardly any people there. I guess it’s up to you if you wanna leave your stuff behind in the hotel and just bring a waterproof camera.

' src=

Wow I love your blog! I’m planning a trip to the Galapagos later this year myself and this is just the resource I needed. I have a question- did you travel there solo or with others? I’m asking because I’m just a bit worried about the safety of exploring the walks and beaches alone. Any ideas? Sorry if that’s an obvious question! Thanks 🙂

Hi! Yes I travelled there solo and felt completely safe 100%! I had no issues at all. I would definitely recommend it as a solo trip!! 🙂

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really amazed to read your nicely you described the beautiful places,budget ,transport everything,,i will definitely plan my trip to galapagos for sure…thanks a lot for sharing the amazing writing with us

Glad I could help and show that it can actually be an affordable destination! Good luck with your trip! 🙂

really amazed to read your post… it is full of information,,how nicely you described the different places,budget,transport everything…i will definitely plan my trip to galapagos for sure..

' src=

Wow I’ve never been to the Galapagos and honestly didn’t know much about it before reading your post. What a comprehensive guide of what to do, how and how much it costs. Thanks a lot about the tips of booking last minute and where to find cheap food. (the baby sea lion is sooo cute!!)

Glad it could help! And yes, the baby sea lion almost had me in tears! hehe 🙂

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Thanks for this! I may be travelling to Ecuador later in the year for work and I want to see if I can take a few extra days off for the Galapagos Islands! I’m bookmarking your post.

Awesome, i would definitely look into it! You can make it an affordable trip for sure! 🙂

Thanks for this! I may be travelling to Ecuador later in the year for work and I want to see if I can take a few extra days off for the Galapagos Islands!

' src=

I’m hoping to get here early next year, so this article is fantastic! You’ve got some amazing photos too, love it!

Thank you! Hope this helped. If you have any more questions, please let me know. I’d be happy to help!

' src=

OMG! Galapagos is on our bucket list. This is so helpful. im saving it for when we decide to go.

Vrithi Pushkar

It’s such a special, unique, and amazing place. And WAY more affordable than I ever imagined! Hope you get to make it there soon! Good luck 🙂

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I really had ZERO idea this trip could be done so inexpensively! I love how you broke this down and how informative you are in this post. And can we talk about how gorgeous your photos from there are?! I’m already looking up flights LOL

Honestly, I had NO idea it could have been done that cheap! I challenged myself to a $1000 budget but didnt think i would come close haha. And only having to use 40K miles was awesome! It takes 60K to go to Europe and 80-90K to go to Australia so i definitely thought it was SO worth it!

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This is a great resource! I was just looking at how to visit the Galapagos islands recently and was having so much trouble finding out how to do it without spending a fortune. Thanks for sharing!

No problem, glad it could help. The key is booking the tours last minute in person and eating where the locals do! It can be done at a reasonable price!

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The Ultimate Galápagos Islands Travel Guide

Discover the islands that inspired Charles Darwin.

galapagos islands travel cheap

The Galápagos Islands, located roughly 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, remained a closely guarded natural secret for millions of years. Over that time, the archipelago evolved into a home for an all-star cast of plants and animals. Sometime in the 1800s, some swashbuckling pirates and intrepid explorers started arriving in the Galápagos Islands. The most famous early visitor was Charles Darwin, a young naturalist who spent 19 days studying the islands' flora and fauna in 1835. In 1859, Darwin published On the Origin of Species , which introduced his theory of evolution — and the Galápagos Islands — to the world.

Since then, word of these islands and their magnificent beauty has steadily grown. In 1959, the Galápagos became Ecuador's first national park, and in 1978, it was named a UNESCO World Heritage site . Today, more than 275,000 people visit the Galápagos every year to see those incredible animals and landscapes for themselves.

As amazing as you think the Galápagos Islands will be, they routinely exceed expectations. It's a place where lizards swim, birds walk, and humans — for once — don't take center stage.

Reasons to Visit

Biodiversity brings over 100,000 visitors each year to these remote islands that were totally unknown to the world until 1535. Without the influence of a human presence, the island's flora and fauna, and the surrounding marine life, thrived for thousands of years by evolving into unique species you won't find anywhere else in the world, such as the charismatic giant tortoises and blue-footed boobies. Beyond seeing the main stars of the island, many visitors also enjoy the beautiful beaches and choose the Galápagos Islands as their honeymoon destination .

This is also one of the world's top scuba diving destinations, so spending time on or in the water is a must, whether that means you're ready to jump in with your snorkel for a sea lion swim or are happy to enjoy the views from the deck of your adventure cruise . Brimming with natural beauty, the Galápagos is for many a once-in-a-lifetime destination where the marvels of the natural world are waiting to astound you.

Best Time to Visit

There's no bad time to visit the Galápagos Islands. No matter what time of year you go, the adventure is sure to be unique and wonderful. June through December are the cooler and drier months. Even though this is the dry season, a garúa (or light, misty rain) is still possible, particularly in December, and skies can be cloudy and gray.

January through May are the warmer and wetter months, but the rain creates brilliantly clear blue skies between showers — great for photography. March and April tend to be the hottest and wettest months, while August tends to be the coolest time.

Water temperatures vary throughout the year because of the powerful ocean currents in the archipelago. Between June and December, the colder currents dominate and the water temperature dips low. A wet suit (likely provided by your boat or hotel) may be required while snorkeling during these months. However, the upside is that the cold current brings in huge quantities of plankton, which attract hungry marine life.

If you're set on seeing a particular species in the Galápagos, talk to the tour operator and pick the month and itinerary that will give you the best chance for a sighting. Some species are seasonal, and many exist only on specific islands. For example, the waved albatross, also called the Galápagos albatross, is not a full-time resident. These birds just show up for mating in the spring and summer.

How to Get There

Getty Images/Mauricio Handler

Flights to the Galápagos Islands depart multiple times each day from Quito or Guayaquil on mainland Ecuador. Flights from the U.S. are plentiful to both cities. Hotel options are better in Quito and, in general, this city is more compelling with a stunning colonial center, which was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1978. It's also home to ample museums, shopping, and restaurants to easily fill a few days. However, Quito is over 9,000 feet above sea level, so altitude can be a problem for travelers arriving from lower elevations. Steamy Guayaquil, Ecuador's largest city, is at sea level, so altitude is not an issue. However, the hotel and restaurant selection is much more limited in Guayaquil.

If you're booking your own flights from mainland Ecuador to the Galápagos Islands, remember that there are two airports on two different islands in the archipelago. San Cristóbal Airport is on the island of the same name. Seymour Airport, which runs entirely on sun and wind power, can be found on tiny Baltra Island, which is separated from Santa Cruz Island by a narrow channel. Be sure to book your flights to the same island you'll be based on, or where your boat departs and returns.

By Land or By Sea

Getty Images/Westend61

The first decision you have to make when visiting the Galápagos Islands is also the most difficult. Do you want to stay in a hotel on one of the three inhabited islands, exploring other islands and areas via day-trip boat rides? Or do you want to be based on a live-aboard boat, which provides accommodations and transportation from island to island? There are three main factors to consider when choosing between land and sea: cost, time management, and access.

A trip to the Galápagos Islands can be pricey. However, it's easier to craft a less expensive experience if you choose to be land based. These days, there are hotels and restaurants at many price points on San Cristóbal Island, Santa Cruz Island, and, to a much lesser extent, Isabela and Floreana Islands. Live-aboard boats come in a range of price points, too. However, all but the most bare-bones boats still add up to more than a land-based vacation.

If you choose a land-based vacation, expect to spend a lot of time getting from your hotel onto a boat, out to the day's destination, then back to your property. On the other hand, live-aboard boats do most of their navigating during the night when travelers are asleep in cabins on board. This means passengers wake up in a new destination ready for a full day of exploration. Because land-based explorations are limited to the five islands that can be reached in one day, travelers won't be able to visit the more distant islands that boat-based itineraries include.

Unless you're terrified of sailing, suffer from seasickness , or hate the idea of being on a boat for a week, book a cruise. You'll waste less time running back and forth, plus you'll see as many distinct areas of the Galápagos Islands as possible.

Most live-aboard boats offer five- to eight-day itineraries, with set departure dates and routes. Routes are dictated by Galápagos National Park officials to mitigate crowding and environmental stress. Your boat will provide a northern or southern itinerary (sometimes called eastern and western itineraries), alternating weekly. Both include wonderful land excursions, plenty of time in the water, and ample opportunities to see the famous flora and fauna of the Galápagos.

Boats in the Galápagos Islands are limited to a maximum of 100 passengers, but most carry fewer than that. The benefit of traveling on a smaller-capacity vessel is a more intimate onboard experience and faster transfer times between your main vessel and the rubber dinghies. Smaller boats also tend to have more character and history. And if you're traveling with a big group, don't worry, as larger-capacity boats tend to have more onboard services, like guest lectures and medical facilities.

Ecoventura , which has several vessels that allow for up to 20 passengers at a time, is another excellent operator. In addition, two naturalists take guests onshore and explain every animal and plant in great detail.

Scuba divers who want to focus on underwater adventures have a few options in the Galápagos Islands as well. The Galapagos Sky , Galapagos Aggressor III , and Galapagos Master are live-aboard boats that were designed specifically for scuba divers. They ply the waters all the way to the little-visited northernmost islands in the archipelago, where deep, cold, current-filled diving yields time with manta rays, whale sharks, sunfish, and hammerhead sharks. Note that these are for experienced divers only.

Best Hotels and Resorts

A wide range of hotels can be found on Santa Cruz Island and San Cristóbal Island, and several boats operate out of harbors on those islands as well. Be sure to book a hotel that's located near the harbor (not in the highlands), so you can be close to the boat's boarding spot for day trips.

For example, the 19-room Golden Bay Galapagos is situated right on the harbor of San Cristóbal Island. You can watch sea lions cavort on a small beach directly in front of the property, and day-trip boats leave from a dock that's no more than a three-minute stroll away. Book the corner suite, which features a living-room bathtub and glass walls that slide open to eliminate all barriers between you and the nature outside. Meanwhile, the Angermeyer Waterfront Inn is right on Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island. The hotel's newest room has been cleverly fashioned inside a beached wooden boat.

Or, book a hotel that owns and operates its own boats to ensure a seamless standard of service and the most practical and convenient itineraries. For example, the unparalleled Pikaia Lodge , located in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island, has its own boat that is used exclusively for guests on packages that include land and sea adventures.

The Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel , set in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island, also has its own yacht, dubbed the Sea Lion . This vessel can hold up to 20 passengers plus two guides (many other day-trip boats carry 16 passengers and have just one guide). Sea Lion itineraries also encompass all five islands that day-trip boats are allowed to visit.

Last-minute deals are sometimes available for travelers who can afford to spend a few days searching for sales after arriving. However, the Galápagos Islands are a major tourist destination, so it's advisable to book well in advance. Dive boats, in particular, tend to fill up fast because there are so few of them.

If you are spending the night in Quito or Guayaquil, there are a few nice hotels that we also recommend checking out. In Quito, Casa Gangotena , on Plaza San Francisco in the heart of the capital's colonial center, is the best hotel in Ecuador, combining history, style, and service. Another top option is Illa Experience Hotel , a 10-room boutique hotel in the city's central San Marcos neighborhood. The property sits in a renovated mansion, and each floor presents different decor, including colonial, republic, and contemporary styles. In Guayaquil, Hotel del Parque , located in the city's leafy Parque Histórico, is a sophisticated boutique property with 44 rooms. The restored building dates back to 1891, and houses a spa where you can book a massage in a repurposed church bell tower.

Best Restaurants

pxhidalgo/Getty Images

As you can imagine, the seafood in the Galápagos Islands is extremely fresh and the islands have many fine dining establishments to cater to hungry visitors. You'll find a range of dining options across all the islands' main hubs, many of which are associated with hotels, such as the Finch Bay Restaurant in Santa Cruz, which blends local Ecuadorian cuisine with international style. Another popular restaurant is the FraFre GastroBar , where the fish is served with a regional flair that's popular among locals and tourists. You'll also find more casual eateries like the humorously named Booby Trap that serves up fish tacos and pizza on Isabela Island alongside wonderful oceanfront views.

If you are looking for a memorable meal in Quito, Zazu is the only Relais & Châteaux restaurant in Ecuador. For a more casual experience, head to sibling restaurant Zfood , where a Hamptons-style fish-shack vibe is replicated perfectly and seafood reigns supreme. At Urko , chef/owner Daniel Maldonado stays focused on showcasing Ecuadorian ingredients and flavors. Go for the tasting menu to get a full sense of what he calls cocina local .

Things to Do

Getty Images/Layne Kennedy

Aside from observing the fabulous animals above and below the water, you can incorporate many other striking landscapes into your adventures. If you want to island-hop, you can coordinate visits to these sites yourself, but if you're on a cruise you may have to follow the pre-planned itinerary.

Throughout the islands you can enjoy the white sands of beaches like Tortuga Bay and Puerto Villamil, or take the adventurous route for a hike to the top of the Sierra Negra Volcano, an active shield volcano that last erupted in 2018, providing a dazzling show for offshore boaters. For something more tame, you can pay your respects at the Charles Darwin Research Station in Puerto Ayora, which has been used as a scientific base since 1964. Visitors can access the exhibition hall, gardens, and public library.

Best Islands to Visit

guenterguni/Getty Images

There are 127 islands that make up this tropical archipelago, but only about 20 are frequently visited by tourists, and only four have major populations. Isabela Island is the largest of these, but despite its size, it has fewer people than Santa Cruz, which is the most populated island with approximately 12,000 inhabitants between the towns of Puerto Ayora and Santa Rosa. When you fly into the Galápagos, you will most likely arrive through Baltra Island, which is separated from Santa Cruz by a short ferry ride. Meanwhile, the province's capital is located on San Cristobal Island.

Booking a live-aboard boat trip will give you more opportunities to see the many different islands that make up these enchanted isles. However, if a particular attraction or animal captures your attention, you may want to seek out specific sites like Bartolomé Island, known for its volcanic rock formations like Pinnacle Rock, and Española Island, where you'll find the nesting sites of the waved albatross at Punta Suarez. If you're interested in the history of human discovery, Floreana Island was the first to be visited by people. Here, you can hear the stories of the many seamen who rolled into these waters and learn about the fascinating postal system they set up using a simple wooden barrel. Bird-watchers are especially fond of Genovesa Island, where frigatebirds and red-footed boobies are frequently spotted. For Galápagos penguins and flightless cormorants, the sparsely vegetated Fernandina Island is another popular spot.

Packing Tips

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A trip to the Galápagos is a big adventure, so you should come prepared with the right clothes and tools to face the elements. It may be tough to find what you need once you arrive on the islands — especially if you are spending most of your time at sea — so we've broken it down into essential categories and created a packing list to get you started.

Basic supplies are available at small shops on both San Cristóbal and Santa Cruz islands, but prices are high and the selection is limited. It's best to have the essentials with you. These include sturdy closed-toe walking shoes with durable soles. Although land excursions are generally short and trails tame, you may be walking over jagged volcanic rock and other obstacles from time to time. However, you will also want sandals or flip-flops to wear in towns and on boats. Leave the heels at home, especially if you've booked a boat-based itinerary. Even the most luxurious boats have narrow, steep stairways that are nearly impossible to navigate safely (or gracefully) in heels.

You'll also be glad to have rain gear and good weather protection for your camera. You will be traveling on boats and in dinghies, and rain showers can occur at any time. If you're exploring an island when wet weather rolls in, there will be no place to shelter out of the rain.

Health and Comfort

Stock up on lots of insect repellant and water-resistant, high-SPF sunscreen. As you might have guessed Ecuador is on the equator, which magnifies the strength of the rays, and most Galápagos excursions are completely exposed to the sun. We also recommend purchasing reef-safe sunscreen to help protect the coral, animals, and waters around the islands. A hat with a brim for sun protection during land excursions is also recommended. If you're planning to participate in kayaking and snorkeling excursions, a rash guard is also useful for sun protection. When water temperatures are colder, a wet suit will be provided. If you have fins, a mask, and a snorkel that you love, bring them with you. Snorkeling gear is provided, but the quality and cleanliness vary.

Seas are generally calm, and boat captains take great care in choosing protected anchoring spots. However, if you're prone to motion sickness, bring some Dramamine with you. Prescription preventions like scopolamine patches work well, too. Note that scopolamine is generally not available for sale in Latin America. Bring a reusable water bottle , so you can fill it up for day-long excursions and reduce your plastic waste.

There are ATMs on Santa Cruz and San Cristóbal islands, but they can run out of cash, so bring some with you to cover tips. Credit cards are also often accepted at shops and restaurants. The official currency of Ecuador is the U.S. dollar.

What Not to Bring

The introduction of non-native plant species is considered a top environmental threat to the Galápagos Islands, so do not bring any fruits, vegetables, or plants of any kind with you. Anything that might have seeds or spores clinging to it, such as the soles of your shoes and any outdoor gear or camping equipment, should be washed and inspected thoroughly before being brought to the islands. The threat of invasive plant species is so great that visitors arriving in the Galápagos have to sign an affidavit swearing that they're not bringing in any food, animals, seeds, or dirty camping gear.

In 2012, Ecuador's then-president Rafael Correa abolished fees at national parks and reserves in the country. However, Galápagos National Park was not part of that exemption and still requires a $100 entrance fee per person, which is payable only in cash upon arrival at either airport in the Galápagos Islands. In addition, each visitor must buy a $20 transit card, which is also payable only in cash at the airport. The transit card is a measure of immigration control, so all visitors must purchase one at the airport when they arrive and return it when they leave. If you are booked on a tour, your tour operator might take care of this for you, but it's better to ask ahead of time.

Before Visiting the Galápagos Islands

With the anticipation building for your trip, you may be looking for books and movies to get into the spirit of an adventuring naturalist. Here are some of our recommendations of what to read and watch to prepare for your trip.

  • My Father's Island by Johanna Angermeyer: Published in 1998, this book provides an account of the author's German ancestors, who were among the first to settle on Santa Cruz Island. Their challenges and triumphs are humbling, offering valuable perspectives on the Galápagos. Members of the Angermeyer family still live on Santa Cruz Island, where they run the Angermeyer Waterfront Inn.
  • The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden: Released in 2013, this documentary cleverly splices video footage, letters, and other archival material to recount a real-life murder mystery involving a self-proclaimed baroness, her lovers, and other settlers on Floreana Island in the 1930s. Cate Blanchett narrates one of the main characters.
  • On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin: This classic and its author will be referenced repeatedly during your time in the Galápagos. Read up on Darwin's seminal theory of evolution, which was inspired, in part, by observations he made in the archipelago.

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Galapagos Islands On a Budget: Is it Possible?

Puerto Ayora's dock in Santa Cruz, Galápagos

  • Last Updated: March 29, 2024

Are you dreaming of visiting the Galapagos Islands but worried about the cost? Well, I have good news for you! It is possible to experience the unique wildlife and stunning natural beauty of the Galapagos Islands on a budget. In this article, I’ll share my tips and tricks for making a budget-friendly trip to the Galapagos Islands a reality.

From finding affordable accommodation options to identifying cheap and free activities, and affordable places to eat, I’ll provide you with the cheapest guide to enjoying your Galapagos adventure. I’ll also touch on responsible tourism practices and safety considerations when traveling in the Galapagos Islands on a budget. And for those wondering about the budget, I’ll tell you that a minimum of 500-600$ is enough for a 4-5 day trip.

Table of Contents

Ecuador and Galapagos Interactive Guide with Itineraries

Why Visiting The Galapagos?

This stunning archipelago off the coast of Ecuador is home to some of the most unique wildlife and breathtaking natural scenery in the world. From swimming with sea lions to hiking through volcanic landscapes, the Galapagos Islands offer an unparalleled travel experience. Whether you’re a nature lover, adventurer, or simply looking for a relaxing escape, the Galapagos Islands have something for everyone.

A cute baby sea lion and its friend a blue-footed booby

How to Travel Galapagos on a Budget

There are three main ways to travel in the Galapagos Islands on a budget: The budget way, Island hopping , a last-minute Galapagos Cruise  (with a trustworthy company), and volunteering .

Island hopping involves staying on the main islands and taking day trips to nearby islands. You have to do your research and knock on a few doors to find the cheapest options (The DIY (do-it-yourself) way), even though it’s more time-consuming it allows you to plan your itinerary and visit the islands at your own pace, and it’s usually cheaper than taking a cruise.

If you’re interested in a last-minute cruise , there are some deals available (especially on-site), which can help you save money on your trip. However, keep in mind that cruises can be expensive, and last-minute tickets may still be out of reach for some budget travelers.

Just as a reference, I’ve found last-minute cruise deals in one shop in Puerto Ayora for 4 Days (3 Nights) – 1100$, 5D4N – 1200$, and 8D7N – 1600$. These figures are merely indicative of what you may come across by chance, but it’s important to be cautious and rely on your intuition, as some unscrupulous companies may deceive you, leading to a negative experience overall.

I personally wouldn’t recommend booking last-minute arrangements unless you can find a trustworthy agency. Also, be sure to check everything that is included in the liveaboard cruises as sometimes wetsuits aren’t included and you have to rent them separately, the tips to the crew aren’t usually included either, and on some cheap boats, you might even need to rent the snorkeling gear.

The third option is by volunteering . Some places like the Charles Darwin Research Station offer volunteering jobs in the area of conservation. It’s in this research station most of the environmental work done to protect the Galapagos Archipelago is developed. There are probably other companies offering volunteer work in the Galapagos but this is the most famous one.

El Junco Crater in San Cristobal, a budget activity you can do

How to Get to Galapagos Islands on a Budget

The only way to reach the Galapagos Islands is by taking a flight from mainland Ecuador. It’s not possible to fly directly to the Galapagos from another country, as the Galapagos is a National Park with strict regulations in place to preserve its delicate ecosystem.

Flights to the Galapagos depart from either Quito or Guayaquil, the two main cities in Ecuador. While flights can be expensive, there are ways to save money. It’s best to book your flight well in advance , as prices tend to go up closer to your travel date. You can also try to be flexible with your travel dates , as flights on certain days of the week may be cheaper than others. 

Another amazing tip I can give you and it really worked for me is to install a VPN service on your computer and check the prices of the flights with your location set in Ecuador or some Latin American country. I believe I saved at least 100$ doing that the last time I was there. 

There are some cases where the flight companies trick you into thinking the flight is less than 100$ but that’s usually for Ecuatorian residents only and you’re requested to fill in your Ecuatorian ID Nr. and Credit Card at the end. 

Check the websites of Avianca and Latam as they tend to have special promotions and you can find very cheap tickets.

Make sure you plan your trip before you buy your flight tickets as it might be cheaper for you to book a flight to Santa Cruz Island and return from San Cristobal or vice versa you will understand each ferry in-between islands costs 30$ so if you manage to only have to use a ferry once instead of two times you’re saving 30$.

There is another topic regarding getting to the Galapagos which is the fees you need to pay to enter . So as of 2023, you need to pay 100$ to enter the National Park and 20$ for the airport fee (Tarjeta de control de tránsito TCT) . If you’re a local or a resident in Ecuador the prices go down to 6$ instead of 100$. You can check all this information on the Galapagos National Park Website .

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Galapagos Islands on a Budget - How much will it cost?

Accommodation Options for Budget Travelers in the Galapagos

There are several budget-friendly choices available that will allow you to stay in the Galapagos without going poor.

I’ve written comprehensive articles about where to stay on each island with accommodation options ranging from Budget to luxurious, with that in mind here is a list of the best budget options on the three main islands, and if you’re interested in something fancier do check these articles:

Hotel La Casa de Marita


Pikaia Lodge in Santa Cruz, Galapagos


Golden Bay Hotel in San Cristobal


The following list has rooms for 2 people in a private room. If you check those hotels some of them also have dorms and single rooms. And a great thing about Ecuador is if you’re a solo traveler they usually make you a different reduced price for the same room but for one person. For example: If a double room costs 33$ per night for two people, you might have the same room for almost half the price for solo occupancy.


Maytenus Galapagos (9.2)

Suites Hermosas (9.0)

Galapagos Morning Glory (9.2)

El Arco de Darwin (9.1)


Cactus Hostal (8.8)

Hospedaje Romy (9.5)

Hostal Cattleya  (9.2)

Hostal Terito  (8.9)


Apartahotel Casa Soleil (9.2)

Hostal Punta Arena (9.0)

El Rincon de George (8.8)

Posada del Caminante (8.8)

In addition to these hostels, there are also plenty of hotels and guesthouses in the area that may offer last-minute deals. It’s always worth calling or stopping by in person to see if they have any available discounts or empty rooms. This can be a great way to save money, especially if you’re willing to be flexible with your travel plans.

One tip for saving even more on your accommodations is to avoid booking online. While these sites can be convenient, they often charge additional fees that can add up quickly. By going directly to the hotel or hostel, you can sometimes negotiate a better rate and avoid these extra fees altogether.

Those are especially good tips if you can afford to lose time and if you don’t go in high season as the hotels tend to get full quickly.

Cheap and Free Activities to do in the Galapagos Islands

If you’re considering a self-guided trip to the Galapagos Islands, these articles I’ve put together could be helpful. They feature the top free or budget-friendly activities on each main island, including the best beaches, hikes, and other attractions that won’t require a lot of spending. You may only need to cover transportation costs, which can be done through shared taxis or hiking to your destination.

Loberia beach in Floreana Island,a must in any Galapagos Itinerary


Our guide in the immensity of Sierra Negra volcano


Looking at Puerto Villamil


The Love Channel from a higher viewpoint


Darwin's statue in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno


Volcan Chico in Sierra Negra Volcano Tour, one of the best Galápagos Islands tours.


Diving in the galapagos on a budget.

Even though it might seem impossible, there are ways to go diving in the Galapagos Islands on a budget and enjoy the underwater wonders of this unique ecosystem. One option is to book a day trip rather than a multi-day liveaboard cruise , which can be much more costly.

The second way is to book multiple non-diving tours and ask for a discount at your travel agency – they usually do give you a discount since you give them a bigger commission by booking all the tours with their company.

Another option could be to go directly to the dive school and ask if they have a free spot for the boat that leaves the next day , you might be lucky they’d rather make a quick buck and have the boat full than go with an empty spot.

I have another suggestion that’s similar to my previous recommendation for volunteering at the Charles Darwin Research Station. During my time at Tortuga Bay, I met a volunteer who was working at a scuba diving center . In exchange for some ranger work at the beach, such as leading tourists out before closing time and completing other tasks, he was able to earn an Open Water Certification for free . While I don’t know which specific dive center he volunteered with, you could try reaching out to several centers by email to inquire about any available volunteer positions they may have.

A Hammerhead Shark while diving in Gordon Rocks dive site, Santa Cruz, Galápagos

Best Places to Eat on a Budget in the Galapagos

Eating in the Galapagos Islands on a budget is possible, especially if you know where to look. Most restaurants in the Galapagos that cater to tourists are on the pricier spectrum, with a decent meal at a midrange restaurant costing around 20$ per person. Instead, try the local seafood, which is much cheaper and can be found throughout the islands.

The best place for cheap eats in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island is the food kiosks on Charles Binford Street, where you can find set dinner deals known as “meriendas” for 4$. On Isabela Island , meriendas can also be found on the main street, Antonio Gil Street, for slightly more than in Puerto Ayora. On San Cristobal Island , try the food vendors at Playa Mann Beach who grill up a variety of food-on-a-stick around lunchtime and sunset. Alternatively, you can also explore the streets away from the Malecón to discover small, local restaurants in town.

For lunch , consider getting set menus referred to as “almuerzos” that are composed similarly to the meriendas mentioned above. These almuerzos start at 4$ and come with a nice bowl of soup, a main dish with chicken or fish and sides, and fresh-squeezed juice. They are an excellent way to immerse yourself in the local crowd and avoid overpriced tourist restaurants.

If you’ve booked a half-pension room, breakfast won’t be a major concern. Simply request a doggy bag from the reception to take with you on your tour, and they are typically accommodating. However, if this option isn’t available to you, many restaurants in town serve American and English breakfasts for ca. 10$, as well as local cafes that offer breakfast for 4-6$. Please note that these cafes and restaurants may not open early enough for morning ferries or day tours. Instead, consider visiting one of the many bakeries in the Galapagos that offer unique pastries at a much lower price. It might be wise to purchase croissants or pastries the night before to ensure a good breakfast on a budget. With some careful planning and research, it is possible to eat well without filing for bankruptcy in the Galapagos.

A typical breakfast at the hotel, eating in Galapagos Islands on a budget


The galapagos islands, the best hotels in galapagos – from affordable to luxurious.

A Sea Lion in Los Tuneles Tour, inlcuded in the best Galapagos Itinerary


Puerto Ayora's dock in Santa Cruz, Galápagos


Horizon Trimaran II from Royal Galapagos


Price breakdown for a budget galapagos trip.

In this section, I’m going to reveal the costs of a trip to the Galapagos Islands on a budget, while Island Hoping, in different days’ itineraries. From 4 days to 5, 7, and 10 days.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the major expenses you can expect while traveling in the Galapagos Islands on a budget:

  • Flights: The cost of flights to the Galapagos can vary widely depending on the time of year and the airline. However, it’s generally recommended to book in advance and look for deals to save money.
  • With Avianca , from Quito to San Cristobal and back, in September, with the lowest fare XS (with a stop in Guayaquil) – 110$. From Quito to Santa Cruz (same parameters) – 136$.
  • From Guayaquil to San Cristobal and back in September, with the lowest fare XS- 128$. From Guayaquil to Santa Cruz (same parameters) – 128$
  • With Latam , from Quito to San Cristobal and back, in September, with the lowest fare Plus (with a stop in Guayaquil) – 310$. From Quito to Santa Cruz (same parameters) – 425$.
  • From Guayaquil to San Cristobal and back in September, with the lowest fare Plus- 310$. From Guayaquil to Santa Cruz (same parameters) – 417$

2. National Park fee: All non-resident foreign visitors to the Galapagos must pay a national park fee of 100$. This fee goes towards conservation efforts on the islands, and 20$ for the airport fee.

3. Accommodation: Budget accommodation options include hostels, camping, and budget hotels. Prices can vary, but it’s possible to find options for under $30 per night.

4. Food and drink: Eating out in the Galapagos can be expensive, but there are options for budget meals. Local cafes and bakeries offer cheaper breakfast options, while small restaurants away from the main tourist areas can offer affordable lunch and dinner options.

5. Tours and activities: The cost of tours and activities can vary widely, but it’s possible to find budget options. Opting for group tours or booking in advance can often result in savings.

Let’s say you chose the cheapest flights with the cheapest fares available (110$ from Quito to Santa Cruz), you paid the entrance fees (120$), and you will share a room between two so a 31$ room will cost 16$ per person. You will have breakfast included with the room, a 4$ lunch every day, and a 4$ dinner too. For tours let’s say in the cheapest way possible you did only the free things and went on no organized tour.

With that in mind, the budgets would be:

Super Budget Trip

4 days trip: 306$

5 days trip: 394$

If you did what a typical person would do which would be to do at least 1 full-day (150-200$) tour and two half-day tours (40-60$ each) that would add on the lower-end +230$ but the full-day tour includes lunch so reduce 4$.

Short Budget Trip

4 days trip: 532$

5 days trip: 620$

If you go for a 7 to 10 days trip, you’re probably going to be settled in two if not all the three main islands. That means 30$ for each ferry in between islands, at least one more full-day tour and two more half-day tours (on the 7 days trip), and two more full-days and 4 half-days (on the 10 days trip).

Normal Budget Trip

7 days trip: 868$

10 days trip: 1230$

Embarking on a 10-day adventure to the Galapagos Islands may seem like a hefty investment at 1230$ , especially when compared to other destinations in Latin America and around the globe. However, this trip offers an unparalleled opportunity to witness breathtaking endemic flora and fauna, explore majestic volcanoes, and snorkel in crystal-clear waters. You’ll be able to check off one of the most renowned natural wonders of the world from your bucket list without breaking the bank.

Remember that this budget is purely theoretical, as you’ll likely want to indulge in some extras during your trip. You may want to purchase some refreshing water bottles, sip on a tasty beverage every now and then, or pick up some souvenirs to commemorate your adventure. You might also opt to rent a bike or surfboard for some added excitement, treat yourself to a gourmet meal at a local restaurant, or splurge on a luxurious lodging option. For those seeking underwater exploration, booking a scuba-diving tour for around 180$ or venturing to Bartolome Island or Española Island for a full-day tour (which typically costs around 200-250$) may also be on the agenda. You will probably book a flight ticket with a fare that allows you to carry more than just a handbag, which will increase its price to 200-250$.

All things considered, a 10-day trip to the Galapagos Islands could easily total around 1800-2000$ with these added experiences . While it may not be the most budget-friendly option, the memories, and experiences you’ll gain from this once-in-a-lifetime journey will undoubtedly be priceless.

A delicious burguer restaurant on the Malecón in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, San Cristobal, Galapagos Islands on a budget

Responsible Tourism in the Galapagos

Responsible tourism in the Galapagos Islands is an achievable and important goal for travelers looking to explore this remarkable archipelago. In order to preserve the unique biodiversity and cultural heritage of the islands, sustainable tourism is a must. Tour providers are required to conserve water and energy, recycle and treat waste material, source locally produced products, hire local employees and pay them a fair wage, and offer additional training. Some companies go beyond these regulations and support community and conservation projects. Visitors are encouraged to choose licensed tour providers with a strong commitment to conservation. Simple rules must be followed, such as respecting wildlife and purchasing souvenirs wisely .

The Galapagos Archipelago is considered one of the most valuable natural treasures on the planet, and a culture of love and respect for nature is essential to preserve it. The participation of the local community and efforts by various organizations are crucial to achieving this goal of building a culture of sustainable practices that can protect the natural resources and unique biodiversity of the Galapagos Islands while also preserving the cultural heritage of its people.

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Conclusion: Is it Possible to Visit the Galapagos on a Budget? How much money do I need?

The Galapagos Islands are an absolutely breathtaking travel destination that offers a one-of-a-kind experience filled with stunning natural beauty and unique wildlife. Even on a budget, you can still enjoy all the highlights of the archipelago with just 500-600$ for a 4-5 day trip . Island hopping, last-minute Galapagos cruises, and volunteering are all fantastic options for budget-conscious travelers looking to make the most of their trip.

To go to the Galapagos Islands on a budget, it’s essential to research and compare options for flights, accommodations, activities, and food. There are many ways to save money on flights, such as being flexible with travel dates and using a VPN service. Staying on the main islands and taking day trips can also be a more cost-effective alternative to taking a cruise.

You’ll be delighted to know that there are plenty of affordable accommodation options in the Galapagos, including hostels, and charming guesthouses. And when it comes to responsible tourism practices and safety, you can rest assured that the islands take these matters seriously.

If you’re looking to book a last-minute cruise, you can find some fantastic deals on-site. However, it’s always wise to be cautious and trust your instincts, as some unscrupulous companies may try to take advantage of you.

All in all, a budget-friendly trip to the Galapagos is entirely possible, and with a little bit of planning, research, and flexibility, you can experience the adventure of a lifetime without breaking the bank. The normal budget price for a 10-day trip can range from 1200-1800$ or even 2000$, but by following these tips, you can save money while still enjoying everything that the Galapagos has to offer.

Me exploring the underwater passages in Los Túneles tour, Isabela, Galápagos, one of the best Galápagos Islands tours.

All the Articles About the Galapagos

San Cristobal Island  – The easternmost island of the Galápagos, the “Isla Bonita”

Santa Cruz Island  – The island with the best tourism infrastructure.

Isabela Island  – The most adventurous and less explored island of the main three.


Are non-Ecuadorians even allowed to book an XS fare on avianca airlines without incurring additional charges at checkin?

Hey Polly, i went last year and this year both times in April/May with Avianca and I always chose XS and i was never charged a non-resident extra fee. I just saw on a forum this fee was discontinued in March 2023 but I can’t vouch on that. In any case good luck!

What an informative article! I have only just started researching and have opened up all of the links on my computer from this article. They all look so informative and also very sensible (which I love!). Thank you!

How can you find a licensed guide for the National Park? I’m looking to travel in August and was wondering if I need to do that in advance since it’s high season. Thanks!

Hey Jenny. You don’t need to specifically find a guide for the National Park. Every tour has its own guide so wherever you go there will be one designated for you/your group. Since it’s August tours might be sold out so you can either book your tours online in Viator or contact the agencies. I suggest in my articles all the agencies I used. If you want help reserving your trip without the Viator fees I can send you the contact of a Travel Agency i trust and i usually work with them and they can reserve everything for you. Let me know.

hi Joao – thank you for your article! can you provide the name of the local Travel Agency you trust and work with?

Hey Irena of course. They are Ecuatraveling, my friend’s name and owner is Pablo, tell him you come through the blog and he will do his best to try and plan the trip according to your needs.

You can also choose one of my Suggested Itineraries and he will find a way to reserve everything for you.

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Snorkeling in the Galápagos


Leon Dormido Kicker Rock on the 360 Tour in San Cristobal


La Loberia beach in Floreana island, a must in any Galapagos Itinerary


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Galapagos Budget Cruises

A selection of the best budget cruises in galápagos.

Budget cruises in Galapagos typically have compact cabins, often with bunks and portholes. The amenities and services are basic, but they offer the best value for travellers on a tight budget.

What to expect from a budget ship?


While it is true that many people looking to visit Galápagos want a real "trip-of-a-lifetime" luxury experience, we also have a good range of budget Galápagos cruises for those people who are prepared to sacrifice some facilities in exchange for a wallet-friendly Galápagos adventure.

So what can you expect from a budget Galápagos cruise? Well, the first thing to say is that all of our budget class vessels are completely safe and very well-maintained. There are never any savings made when it comes to safety. On a budget Galápagos cruise, your main sacrifice will be space. Most of the budget vessels offer small cabins, most usually with bunk beds. You may have no windows at all if you are below decks, or perhaps a porthole rather than panoramic windows. Most cabins should still come with a private bathroom, but it will be smaller and more functional. You can still expect everything to be clean and well-presented, and for there to be a housekeeping service.

When it comes to communal facilities on a budget Galápagos cruise you will find cosy but smaller lounges, and there is usually less outside space, with smaller sundecks. Your food will be of a good quality, but will tend to be more simple than on a mid-range Galápagos cruise for example.

Budget Galápagos cruises tend to be very popular with younger travelers and those visiting Galápagos as part of an extended South American adventure, and this tends to make these boats have a fun and chilled vibe, as you'll see from some of the photos under each boat listing.

The final thing to note is that budget Galápagos cruises visit almost all the same Galápagos visitor sites as all the others, and they all have great itineraries that you can choose from. When it comes to a budget cruise you are not going to see less of the Galápagos, just a bit less space and slightly fewer facilities.

Why should I book a budget Galápagos cruise with Galapatours?

At Galapatours we live and breathe the Galápagos islands . They are our passion! It's this personal touch that makes booking your budget Galápagos cruise through us a simple and rewarding experience.

Firstly, we hand-pick the ships in our listings to ensure you only get the best in the fleet, no matter what class of cruise you select, from budget and mid-range Galápagos cruises all the way up to Luxury experiences. We personally visit every vessel and speak to every captain or owner, and we only list those who we know will give you a wonderful Galápagos experience.

Secondly, when you book your budget Galápagos cruise with us we only need to take a 20% deposit to secure your booking on your adventure of a lifetime. The balance of your cruise is not then fully due until 80 days before your cruise is due to sail. Because we are a German travel company we must operate under German and EU laws, which means your deposit, balance payment and holiday are completely safe, even in the unlikely event of any corporate bankruptcy or financial stress, giving you peace of mind.

Finally, we have the most comprehensive and detailed listings of Galápagos cruises to suit any budget. We also have extremely dedicated and knowledgeable Galápagos travel advisors on hand to help you every step of the way, Why not call or live chat with us now? We can start to help you put together a wonderful budget Galápagos cruise you'll remember forever.

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6 Best Galapagos Cruises For Every Kind of Traveler

By Meena Thiruvengadam

View from Bartolom Island GalÃpagos Islands

All products featured on Condé Nast Traveler are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Galapagos cruises are the best way to experience the collection of remote, mostly uninhabited islands about 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador. But cruises in the Galapagos Islands aren’t like cruises anyplace else. The ships here are smaller, with some carrying as few as 16 passengers. There are no water slides, elaborate Broadway shows, casinos, or wild nightclubs. And don’t expect big bus tours in port either. 

Galapagos cruises are about experiencing nature and wildlife while limiting environmental impact as much as possible. Ships are built for sustainability and toting items like kayaks, paddleboards, and scuba gear. Itineraries may feature two active excursions a day, limiting downtime on board the ship. Instead of museums and historic sights, you’ll visit uninhabited islands to encounter marine iguanas, sea lions, unspoiled beaches, and the adventures of a lifetime. 

Trips to the Galapagos Islands are logistically complicated, making cruises an especially good way to experience the area. Travelers to the Galapagos Islands must first fly to Quito or Guayaquil, Ecuador, for a night before flying to the Galapagos to board their ships. All travelers must also be accompanied by National Parks Guides who can help them navigate these largely undeveloped islands. 

Galapagos cruise itineraries are typically a week long and cover a portion of the islands, sometimes more. Here's everything to know about cruising in the Galapagos, from frequently asked questions to the best itineraries to book now.

  • Best luxury Galapagos cruise
  • Best Galapagos cruise for stargazing  
  • Best Galapagos cruise for adventure seekers  
  • Best Galapagos cruises for solo travelers  
  • Best small ship Galapagos cruise  

Best Galapagos cruises for families

When is the best time to cruise the galapagos islands .

With pleasant temperatures all year long, the best time to visit the Galapagos Islands is whenever you’re ready to go. Several cruise lines sail to the Galapagos Islands all year long. While you can see wildlife all year, December is hatching season for the giant tortoises, and July is mating season for blue-footed boobies and short-eared owls. Sea turtles lay their eggs early in the year and fully formed marine iguanas typically hatch in April and May. 

Are Galapagos cruises expensive?  

The Galapagos Islands aren’t a bargain destination. Expect to pay somewhere between $5,000 and $12,000 per traveler depending on the ship, itinerary, and length of the voyage. 

One thing’s for sure: Whatever your preference, there’s a Galapagos Islands cruise for you. These are six of the best Galapagos cruises for every type of traveler.

All listings featured on Condé Nast Traveler are independently selected by our editors. If you book something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Silver Origin cruising the Galapagos Islands.

A suite on board Silver Origin comes with butler service.

Best luxury Galapagos cruise 

There’s no more luxurious way to sail the Galapagos Islands than on  Silversea's Silver Origin , a ship custom-built for cruising these islands. Silver Origin is Silversea’s first destination-specific ship and includes several features meant to minimize its environmental impact. The all-suite ship can carry up to 100 passengers, is all-inclusive down to the premium spirits in your stateroom's minibar, and includes the luxury cruise line’s signature butler service. There’s also a salon and fitness center on board, a rarity for ships sailing in this region. Most itineraries on the Silver Origin are seven nights, but longer cruises are typically scheduled around winter holidays. The Silver Origin sails the north, central, and western loops of the Galapagos Islands.

Best Galapagos cruise for stargazing 

This region may be better known for its landscapes and wildlife, but the Galapagos Islands are also an excellent place for stargazing. And there’s no better Galapagos cruise ship for stargazing than the  Celebrity Flora . The 100-passenger vessel feels more like a luxury yacht than an expedition ship. It has a stargazing platform on its top deck and provides binoculars to help guests spot constellations as the ship cruises along the equator. The modern expedition ship also offers a glamping experience that includes a naturalist-guided stargazing session and a luxurious night of glamping under the stars. Prefer to sleep in your bed on board? Have dinner under the stars at the ship’s restaurant before heading back to your suite. The Celebrity Flora ’s Galapagos itineraries range from seven to 16 nights. 

Best Galapagos cruise for adventure seekers 

Lindblad Expeditions has been cruising the Galapagos Islands for more than 50 years. It now sails to the Galapagos year-round in partnership with National Geographic, giving guests the chance to encounter giant tortoises, blue-footed boobies, penguins, sea lions, marine iguanas, and more. A staff of expert guides is on board to help travelers spot wildlife and better understand the volcanic landscapes, mangrove thickets, and seagrasses they encounter. Activities include unforgettable snorkeling adventures, hikes through pristine wilderness, and walks along remote beaches. Lindblad’s newest Galapagos Islands cruise ship, the National Geographic Islander II , feels more like a boutique hotel than an expedition ship and carries just 48 passengers in 26 suites. Some itineraries offer advanced divers the chance to commune with a variety of marine life. And while rugged adventures may await travelers off the ship, each suite offers travelers plenty of comfort: They come equipped with flat-screen TVs, in-room espresso machines, and bathrooms with double sinks.

Best Galapagos cruises for solo travelers 

Galapagos cruises aren’t cheap, especially if you’re sailing solo. Hurtigruten makes cruising the Galapagos Islands more affordable by waiving the single supplement on several of its Galapagos cruises. Hurtigruten Galapagos cruises range from seven to 14 days in length and take place on the MS Santa Cruz II , a ship that comes equipped with panga boats, kayaks, snorkeling gear, paddleboards, and a glass-bottom boat for viewing marine life. The ship carries a maximum of 90 passengers, and its operations are carbon-neutral. There’s a small gym and a hot tub on board. Regular prices start around $8,500 for a one-week cruise. Look for sales to bring your price down even further.

Best small ship Galapagos cruise 

Avalon Waterways may be better known for its European river cruises , but it also sails the Galapagos Islands. Avalon sails this region on two ships, the Treasure of the Galapagos and the Delfin III . The Delfin III , which also sails the Amazon in Peru, is its newest and most luxurious Galapagos cruise ship. The ship has just 22 suites, almost guaranteeing you’ll make new friends along the journey. The Treasure of the Galapagos is even smaller, carrying a maximum of 16 guests. And while there’s no long list of restaurants on board either ship, there are creative, locally inspired menus featuring seasonal ingredients and lots of vegetarian options. On board both ships, you’ll find daily natural history lectures, a team of multilingual naturalists, floor-to-ceiling panoramic windows, and plunge pools.  

For an adventure your kids will never forget, hop on board an Adventures by Disney cruise of the Galapagos Islands. Just be sure to wait until your kids are at least seven years old. This is the minimum age for most Galapagos cruises, though Disney recommends this itinerary for children eight and older. This isn’t your typical Disney cruise. It’s a small ship expedition itinerary with a hint of Disney magic in a setting fit for a fairy tale. Adventures by Disney's Galapagos itineraries span nine days and visit about 15 sites. 


Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel

Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel

Pikaia Lodge

Pikaia Lodge

South America Travel Guide

South America Travel Guide


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