Galapagos Islands are one of the most beautiful wonders of nature and a bucket list destination for many. One of the four main regions of Ecuador, the archipelago consists of 18 islands and almost 100 islets west of the South American continent. A visit is one of the very best things to do in Ecuador!
Galapagos is your place if you want to go on a vacation, relax, and experience one of Earth’s most diverse and unique ecosystems first-hand. There are exotic wildlife, beaches, tunnels carved by lava, geologic formations, observatories, labs, and museums with augmented reality.
All of these attractions are present on the islands for everyone to enjoy. And what better way to visit every place of the archipelago other than embarking on a luxurious Galapagos cruise. It is the best way to explore Galapagos, especially if you are visiting for the first time.
Keep reading for this ultimate guide to the best things to do in the Galapagos Islands, a must for any Galapagos itinerary.
Before You Visit
Planning your trip to Galapagos is essential. Check the weather before going so you can pack your clothes accordingly.
Despite its proximity to the equator, Galapagos Islands are not tropical and warm. On the other hand, the climate is moderate and pleasant.
Make sure you research how different seasons affect the wildlife you’ll see, and the wave conditions to expect – this is vital if traveling on a Galapagos cruise!
The best season for cruising is generally December through May, when seas tend to be the calmest and warmest.
It is also crucial to understand that the Ecuadorian government is working hard to maintain these islands, and they have rules which tourists need to follow while visiting the archipelago. Therefore, respect their process, listen to professional guides, and follow the rules.
Things To Do in the Galapagos Islands
These are the ultimate things to do in Galapagos, in no particular order, but musts on your itinerary! If you’re planning to cruise, check your itinerary to see if these are included, or, book a shore excursion before or after your trip!
1. Visit Rabida Island
Isla Rabida is an excellent place for tourists who are interested in the exotic wildlife of the Galapagos.
Flamingos, bachelor sea lions, and frigate birds are among the most popular species on the Island. These birds show their large wings and puffed-up gullets to attract mates in a funny and fascinating show of their beauty.
2. Explore the Santa Cruz Lava Tunnels
The fascinating dark tunnels in Santa Cruz can be accessed after crossing the green waters of the Itabaca Channels. Here the mysterious dark tunnels carved by eruptions show the paths where rivers of lava once flowed.
A small staircase leads to these tunnels, which hold great interest to geologists and historians due to their rock formations and unique structures.
The lava eruptions that formed these tunnels resulted from a collision between the Nazca Plate of the Pacific Ocean to the South American continent. This collision is also the reason why the Andes mountains were formed.
3. Visit The Maprae Museum in Puerto Ayora
This museum provides the perfect combination of information and displays about ancient cultures, nature, and technology.
If you are interested in learning about archeological pieces in 3D, then this place is for you. The Maprae Museum displays more than fifty archeological artifacts along with Pre-Columbian art.
To enjoy the 3D displays, point your iPad (that the museum provides) to the artifacts, and you will see historical information and a 3-dimensional view on your screen. This museum offers a great opportunity for tourists to learn about ancient civilizations and human history.
4. Spot Pinnacle Rock on Bartolomé Island
Bartolomé is one of the smaller islands. A popular feature on this island is a prominently shaped rock protruding from the bay near the beach known as Playa Dorado.
These rocks and the surrounding areas are home to nesting tortoises and penguins. It’s a great place for photography and enjoying the beach in a calm environment.
5. Visit the Tortoise Reserve in Santa Cruz
One of the most important and amazing species residing in the Galapagos is the giant tortoise. Here in the reserve, the tortoise can be observed in their natural habitat. However, according to the rules of national parks, tourists are not supposed to touch them or feed them as it disturbs their ecosystem.
In addition to seeing countless tortoises, you’ll find numerous species of exotic birds, such as the well-known Darwin Finch, as well as lizards, and much more.
6. Hike to the Wall of Tears on Isabela Island
You can take a hike to the Wall of Tears and make your way to the largest Isabela island which is tucked away at the edge of Puerto Villamil. It will take an hour to get there, and you get to enjoy the natural lakes, breathtaking scenery, mangroves and shorelines along the way.
Iguanas and flamingos find their homes on this beautiful island, so take a glimpse at the natural wonder and experience the penal colony from the 40s while climbing the wall of lava rock.
7. Visit Floreana Island
Floreana is one of the most secluded and undisturbed islands of the Galapagos, filled with natural wonders, green landscapes, tortoises, and stunningly beautiful hiking trails. The island is home to well-known hiking trail and views of nature.
8. See Sea Lions at La Loberia
La Loberia is a sea lion sanctuary, isolated near the town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal Island. You can get there by a 30-min walk or a taxi.
In addition to sea lions, La Loberia is famous for its beautiful waters, so you can do activities like snorkeling or diving, in addition to admiring the beauty – and strange humor – of the sea lions.
9. Visit Ranco Primicias Galapagos Tortoise Ranch
On Santa Cruz Island, visitors can see the famous Galapagos tortoises on the Primicias Galapagos Ranch and be in awe while watching these slow, ancient creatures while they make their way through the island.
It’s the most famous tourist attraction in the Galapagos Islands and one of the best ways to get up close and personal with the wildlife in the Galapagos, in a respectful way.
What To Pack for Ecuador
Check out our Ultimate Ecuador Packing List to help you pack for your trip – we’re sharing exactly what to bring to Ecuador and what we never travel without.
10. Take In Suarez Point
A beautiful place and the highlight of a visit to Espanola Island, Suarez Point is a stunning natural destination you’ll always remember.
It is home to rich bird life, and albatrosses are fairly common, a highlight for any birdwatcher. Therefore, it is one of the best places to visit on a Galapagos cruise. Seeing the white albatross soaring down the cliff is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that no tourist should miss.
In addition, this place is home to some exciting land features like blow holes, natural fountains of water that spurt out of the rocks in time with the waves.
Visiting the Galapagos
The Galapagos Islands show a unique scenario in which humans and exotic wildlife coexist sustainably in a geologically active area. Whether you are a scientist, historian, or tourist, taking a Galapagos cruise will be a life-changing experience.
Add these destinations to your bucket list, and start planning your trip to the Galapagos Islands.
Carley Rojas Avila is a bilingual New York-based travel writer, editor, content marketer, and the founder of the digital travel publications Explorers Away and Home to Havana. Carley is an expert on all things Latin America, the Caribbean, and Cuba, having lived and worked in four different countries in the region. Her writing has appeared on the Associated Press wires and in Travel + Leisure, Yahoo, MSN, Euronews, The Weather Channel, and more. When she's not writing about her travels, find her front row at a Bad Bunny concert, befriending street cats, and taste-testing every pizza in Havana.