17 Must-Have Experiences in the Galapagos Islands

Insider Guides
by Vincent Croos Nov 7, 2016

Editor’s note: These spots are all taken directly from travelstoke®, a new app from Matador that connects you with fellow travelers and locals, and helps you build trip itineraries with spots that integrate seamlessly into Google Maps and Uber. Download the app to add any of the spots below directly to your future trips.

Swim with sea lions and sea turtles at Black Beach

 Black BeachPuerto Velazco Ibarra, EcuadorJust a 40-minute walk south of Puerto Velasco Ibarra is a beach inlet. You’ll be able to swim with sea lions, sea turtles, stingrays, and more. #wildlife

Get close to giant tortoises at Reserva El Chato

 Reserva El ChatoPuerto Ayora, EcuadorProbably the easiest and cheapest way to see the giant tortoises in the wild is by visiting the El Chato Reserve outside of Puerto Ayora. It’s best to split a taxi from town.

 Reserva El ChatoPuerto Ayora, EcuadorThis is the best place to see the giant tortoise in the Galápagos Islands. If you arrive before 10 am you will likely beat the countless (LOUD) tourist buses. We arrived just after 8 am and were the only people in the reserve. #galapagos #ecuador

Snorkel with black-tip sharks and rays at Tortuga Bay

 Tortuga BayPuerto Ayora, EcuadorTortuga Bay is a great place to snorkel and see black-tip sharks and rays. On one side there is The Galapagos beach open to the Pacific and surfers but the other side has a large inlet with smaller inlets. You’ll need to swim far out to the inlets to see the sharks and rays. My friend even saw a baby hammerhead shark but that was a rare find. #sharks #rays

Hike and snorkel on Española Island

 EspañolaProvincia de Imbabura, EcuadorI went on a snorkelling and hiking on Española Island, Galapagos, from San Cristobal. This ended up being one of my favourite snorkelling experiences because of the baby sea lions that swam with us for like an hour. Snorkelling in a cave was cool too. It’s also the only breeding place on the planet for the waved albatrosses. You’ll also see lava lizards and marine iguanas with noticeable red markings. The normal price of the tour is $200, but I paid $180 because there was a group of us. Earlier in 2016, you can only go to Epanola via a cruise. Now you can do day tours. It takes 2 hours by speed boat to get to Española from San Cristobal. Expensive day tour but worth every penny for the moments you live. #Galapagos #snorkelling #Espanola #sealions #marineiguanas

Stargaze at the Jatun Sacha Biological Reserve

 Jatun Sacha Biological ReserveIslas Galápagos, EcuadorCheck out the nonprofit biological reserve which is about an hour away by taxi from town. You can volunteer or learn about Galapagos conservation efforts. It’s a great spot for stargazing as there is no light pollution. #volunteer #stars

Take in the sights and sounds of the fish Market in Puerto Ayora

 Fish MarketPuerto Ayora, EcuadorEasily the coolest fish market I’ve seen, The Muelle de Pescador is right on Charles Darwin Ave in Puerto Ayora. There are usually sea lions and pelicans waiting for left over fish. Quite the entertaining show to watch in person and for free. #fishmarket

View the rock structures and art work in The Highlands on Floreana Island

 HighlandsIslas Galápagos, EcuadorThe Highlands on Floreana Island has great rocky structures including some interesting artwork. You’ll be able to see a few giant tortoises while hiking and checking out the flora. #hiking

Watch the night wildlife from the Puerto Ayora pier

 PierPuerto Ayora, EcuadorThe Puerto Ayora pier is a great spot to hang out at night. The pier shines light towards the water which I believe attracts the baby black-tip sharks and golden rays. Several visitors and locals enjoy watching the tranquil water show.

Swim through underwater tunnels at Los Tuneles

 Los TunelesPuerto Villamil, EcuadorThe Tunnels is one of the best spots to snorkel and see plenty of marine life in The Galapagos. It’s south of Puerto Villamil and you can see white-tip sharks, eagle rays, sea horses, and a bunch of other animals. And of course you swim through underwater tunnels. The Tunnels Tour from Isabela is a budget traveler’s favourite.

 Los TunelesPuerto Villamil, EcuadorThis was my first time snorkeling and I was completely spoiled. We saw sea horses, countless beautiful (huge) turtles, penguins, thousands of colorful fish, white tipped sharks, manta rays the size of cars. It was unreal. If you’re visiting the Galápagos Islands make the effort to get out to Isla Isabela and snorkel here!! So good. #galapagos #ecuador

Check out red-footed boobies at Punta Pitt on Nothern San Cristobal Island

 Punta PittGalápagos Islands, EcuadorMany visitors see the blue-footed booby in The Galapagos, but make sure to see its cousin the red-footed booby. These smaller boobies can be found in Punta Pitt in Nothern San Cristobal Island or on Genovesa Island. #wildlife

Meet the world’s most famous tortoise at the Charles Darwin Research Station

 Charles Darwin Research StationPuerto Ayora, EcuadorWhat a cool place. It’s free to enter and you get to see the most famous tortoise living in the world, Diego. He helped repopulate his species on Española Island from the brink of extinction. There are also the golden colour land iguanas at the exhibit which are hard to see in the wild without a tour and permit. #nature #galapagos

Snap epic photos from Playa Loberia

 Playa LoberiaPuerto Baquerizo Moreno, EcuadorMost people come here for snorkelling, but this is a better place to photograph the sunset without man-made obstacles. If you keep walking past the beach and hike on the lava rocks for 25 minutes, you’ll see bird colonies (lava gulls) along the edge of the cliff. Also there are more marine iguanas if you walk past the beach. Make sure to bring water and snacks as there are no restaurants. You can walk, bike, or take a taxi here from town.

 Las LoberiasPuerto Baquerizo Moreno, EcuadorWe arrived at 10am and had the entire beach to ourselves until 3pm. Swimming with turtles, seals. fish and iguanas for hours all for the cost of a mask, snorkel and fins ($5)! Seals swam circles around me, baby seals sunbathed next to us, I followed and was followed by large schools of fish, I even saw turtles mating in the water. Only in the Galapagos. This beach was by FAR the best value on the islands. It’s the definition of a travel stoke. Don’t pass it up. #galapagos #sancristobal #lasloberias

Visit Charles Darwin’s landfall at Mirador Cerro Tijeretas (aka Darwin’s Bay)

 Mirador Cerro TijeretasPuerto Baquerizo Moreno, EcuadorArguably the best snorkelling spot in the Galapagos, Cerró Tijeretas is a convenient place to swim with sea lions and sea turtles. You can even see marine iguanas feeding. The place has a viewpoint and is named after the frigate birds up the hill but it’s all about the bay down below. Unofficially, it’s called Darwin’s Bay because it is the first place Charles Darwin stepped foot on. It’s a 30 minute walk from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno and it’s FREE. #galapagos #sealions #seaturtles #marineiguanas #charlesdarwin

SCUBA dive with sharks at Roca León Dormido

 Roca León DormidoIslas Galápagos, EcuadorKicker Rock/León Dormido is a must-see in The Galápagos. Even the rock itself is cool to look at above and below the water. It’s best to dive at Kicker Rock so you can see more marine life. Snorkel tours are around $100 and diving tours are around $150 from San Cristobal. You can usually negotiate the price down by $10 or $20. If you’re lucky, you’ll see The Hammerhead. #galapagos #hammerheads

Take in the sunset at Playa Mann

 Playa MannPuerto Baquerizo Moreno, EcuadorA Galapagaos and sea lion favourite, Playa Mann is a great place to watch the sunset while drinking a beer. It’s less crowded during the day if you want relax on the beach and want some sun. During sunset, several people come for the sunset and the sea lions come to sleep. #beach #sunset

Watch the sea lions playing on the beach at Playa de Oro

 Playa de OroPuerto Baquerizo Moreno, EcuadorPlaya de Oro is a small beach but it’s run by sea lions so don’t bother bringing your beach towel here. It’s right off the malecón in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno and it’s a good spot to make a time-lapse of the sunset. Playa Mann is 10 minutes away and it’s better for the beach towel and to get a tan, not that I need one. #Galapagos #sealions

Get your PADI certification with Chalo Tours

 Chalo ToursPuerto Baquerizo Moreno, EcuadorI did my SNSI open water diving certification for $250 with Chalo Tours on San Cristobal. Glad I did it here and in The Galapagos. SNSI is much cheaper than the PADI certifications in The Galapagos which cost around $500. You can also pay an extra $100 if you also want to dive in Kicker Rock. If you snorkel, dive or get your certification with Chalo Tours, tell them Vincent sent you, for a fair price.

WATCH: Vincent Croos dive and snorkel in the Galapagos

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