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.
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.
- It’s possible to visit the Galapagos for far less when traveling independently.
- 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.
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
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)
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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:
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.
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.
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!
Do know that you can easily spend a lot more or less than this sample Galapagos budget outlines. This Galapagos island hopping budget is shared simply to offer some actual prices and guidance on what is possible. It’s achievable to maintain an even lower Galapagos budget than this for those who don’t splurge on as many day tours and scuba diving. Read on for more detail about that.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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!
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.
Expect to pay about $2.50 for each of these:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(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 requires 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:
Booking.com seems to have the biggest inventory of places to stay in the Galapagos and often the lowest prices. (In only a few instances Expedia/Hotels.com 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.
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 Hotels.com, 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. Booking.com 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.)
🏨 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.
So here’s a packing checklist of things to ensure you bring to the Galapagos so you don’t overspend once you’re here.
*Biodegradable* Sunscreen – The equatorial sun is intense and you’ll need to lather up very often. We never saw a bottle of sunscreen under $20 while in the Galapagos and we even saw it priced at $30-$35 in many places! But it’s been found that sunscreen is killing the reefs in the Galapagos! Environmentalists aboard some boats are now asking snorkelers to wash off their sunscreen before entering the water. Instead, bring reef-safe biodegradable sunscreen like this Alba Botanica SPF 45 that receives great reviews and is only $9 on Amazon. ⚠️ Whatever you buy, ensure that it does NOT contain oxybenzone and octinoxate, which studies have shown do harm to reefs. Alba Botanica is free of those ingredients.
Mask & Snorkel – There are a lot of great snorkeling sites you go to directly from the shore. Many dive shops in the Galapagos charge $5-$10 per day to rent out masks and snorkels that have been in hundreds of tourists’ mouths. Instead, buy a mask & snorkel set before you go. This US Diver’s Mask & Snorkel is a great quality mask for a low price, usually around $20. You’ll get your money’s worth after just a few uses, when compared to daily rentals. And if you wait to buy a mask & snorkel in the Galapagos, you’ll pay about $100. Or consider one of these cool new panoramic full-face snorkel masks!
Motion Sickness Medicine: You can find sea sickness medicine throughout the Galapagos and it’s actually quite inexpensive. But it’s the kind that makes you drowsy. Instead, we find that Bonine has far less of that unwanted sleepy side-effect, so stock up before you go if you get seasick.
Natural Mosquito Repellent – There are mosquitos in the Galapagos, but don’t come here with strong DEET repellent. Although it’s very functional, when you wear it in the water DEET becomes harmful and even kills marine life. Instead, consider a natural repellent to do your small part in keeping this pristine environment alive. We like this REPEL natural spray. You won’t find that on the islands.
An Inexpensive Underwater Camera: If you travel all the way to the Galapagos, you may want to capture those amazing memories in the water. GoPros are fantastic, but the $400+ price tag is not. Did you know that you can find knockoff GoPros on Amazon for only $50? We shot all the videos in this post using a $40 action cam and found it to be even better than our old (way more expensive) GoPro. Search action cams on Amazon and check the latest reviews. And whether you bring a GoPro or a less expensive alternative, be sure you have a float attachment because it will otherwise sink if dropped. We use this GoPole which attaches to both real GoPros and similar action cams.
Waterproof Your Phone & Camera: For photos above the surface, be sure you have a waterproof phone case like this. If your phone gets splashed or dropped overboard, this will save you from a major headache. For bulkier items like a professional camera, consider buying a dry bag like this. It’ll keep your towels, electronics, and anything else dry.
Microfiber Travel Towel: Most hotels in the Galapagos don’t permit you to take towels on day excursions and some hostels don’t provide towels at all. Pack a lightweight quick-drying towel like this to throw in your bag during day excursions in the Galapagos.
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.
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
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.
What Airports to Fly Into and Out Of
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.
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
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.
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
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!
UPDATE APRIL 2021
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!🐢
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.
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$.
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!
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.
Rachel Edwards says
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!
Telmo Cascalheira says
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?
John Widmer says
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!
Thanks a lot for this great post! It has been our guidebook during 2.5 weeks Galapagos!
Victora T. says
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!
Michael Reidelbach says
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.
Chris Brennan says
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?
Thank you, best blog i’ve ever read!
OMG!!!! Absolutely AMAZING information. I’m home sick and planning my retirement trip in 2022 when I turn 70. Thank you ever so much!!!!!!
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
John Widmer says
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!
Denise Lee says
Where can I find discount cruises for the islands in Galapagos. Im looking for early Dec 19. Thanks Denise
John Widmer says
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.
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.
John Widmer says
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.
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!
John Widmer says
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!
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!
John Widmer says
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!
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.
John Widmer says
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!
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.
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
John Widmer says
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!!
JEnnifer charvet says
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 booking.com
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.
John Widmer says
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!
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.
John Widmer says
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.
David Ravino says
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
John Widmer says
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! 🙂
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!
John Widmer says
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!
Dang guys – awesome post! Thank you so much for taking the time to write all this up. Super helpful.
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?
John Widmer says
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.
Anton Teplyy says
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.
Ingmar Rondeel says
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?
John Widmer says
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: https://youtu.be/r5iQf4dZh5I
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
John Widmer says
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!
Bonnie Redish says
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.
John Widmer says
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! 🙂
Isabella Biava says
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
Kylee Elliott says
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!
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!
Heather Widmer says
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.
Shazy Moliver says
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.
John Widmer says
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.
Brenda Easton says
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.
John Widmer says
Awesome! Thanks for the feedback! Hope you have an amazing trip in April – such an incredible place in the world!
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.
John Widmer says
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.
kathy mcmichael says
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.
John Widmer says
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.
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!
John Widmer says
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.
Erick Silva says
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
John Widmer says
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.
Erick Silva says
Thank you John for the info, I will try with Macarron!! keep having a nice trip around the world!
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.
John Widmer says
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.
Anton Teplyy says
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).
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!!
John Widmer says
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.
Gerri Mansdorfer says
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?
John Widmer says
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: http://amzn.to/2jhcyRE
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!
Gerri Mansdorfer says
Hey John, thanks so much for the info. Wow, your travels sounds amazing! Enjoy Japan 🙂
Gerri Mansdorfer says
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!
John Widmer says
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!
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.
John Widmer says
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. 🙂
this is so sweet!! great blog!! and cool thread too!!
John Widmer says
Glad you enjoy! 🙂
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.
John Widmer says
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: http://amzn.to/2weAGyj I still have it, use it, and find it to be a fantastic bargain for $50! Hope you have a wonderful Galapagos adventure!
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.
John Widmer says
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.
Charles Norwood says
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.
John Widmer says
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!
I flew into GPS yesterday and I wasn’t asked for any of those things. I had them prepared, just in case…
John Widmer says
Thank you so much for the update on that – very helpful to know!
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!
John Widmer says
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!
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!
Heather Widmer says
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!
Amazing information! Thank you so much 😃
Heather Widmer says
Hey Sari, thanks for the comment. We’re happy that you found our information helpful!
Agness of aTukTuk says
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!
Heather Widmer says
Fantastic! You’ll love it, and it’s absolutely possible to enjoy the Galapagos without breaking the bank 🙂
Being in the great places in the world is like having a thousand memories put together.
Heather Widmer says
Thanks for the comment and we couldn’t agree with you more!
Marc Patry says
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!
Heather Widmer says
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.
Michelle Pinheiro says
Ecuador still on my list and this detailed blog confirms i will be there in 2017 🙂
Heather Widmer says
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!
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
Heather Widmer says
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!
leonora uribe says
Very informative and full of details on how to get the real deals
Heather Widmer says
Hey Leonora, thanks for the comment! So happy you found our tips to be helpful 🙂
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.
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.
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
Heather Widmer says
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 🙂
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.
Heather Widmer says
Hey Janna, thanks for the comment. We’re thrilled to hear that this post helped to provide some additional Galapagos inspiration 😀
Megan Jerrard says
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!
Heather Widmer says
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.
Anton Teplyy says
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.
Viajar pela história - Catarina Leonardo says
I´m so glad to know that is possible to gon on a budget to Galapagos. It seem like a wonderful place to go 🙂
Heather Widmer says
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.
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.
Mindi Hirsch says
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!
Heather Widmer says
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!
Carol from Wayfaring Views says
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.
Heather Widmer says
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.
Lauren Craving Sunshine says
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.
Heather Widmer says
Thanks for the comment Lauren. We’re so happy to hear that we’ve give you some Galapagos inspiration 😀
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!
Heather Widmer says
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!
Paul RYKEN says
A long but very informative blog post. Well done. That would have taken a bit of effort to research and write up.
John Widmer says
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!
Great post, thanks for all of the tips!!
John Widmer says
Thanks Jessica! The Galapagos was such an awesome trip, so we’re now happy to show how’s it is possible 🙂
Brilliant blog, got me excited, heading there soon, thanks this is uber helpful Lilia