Its not an easy trek to get to the Galapagos, but its not the worst trek ever . To travel by air, you have to fly through either Quito or Guayaquil. We were originating in Cusco, Peru so our trek ended up being a flight from Cusco to Lima to Guayaquil, then an overnight stay in Guayaquil and a flight the next morning to Baltra in the Galapagos. Baltra is the island you fly into if staying on Santa Cruz Island.
Walking out of an airplane on an island like this makes flying magical again.
Now before you even get there , the fees start adding up. Before you check-in at the airport on the mainland, you have to pay a $20 fee per person for Global Conservation. Then upon arrival at Baltra, its $100 per adult and $50 per kid entrance fee since all of the Galapagos is considered a National Park. So right of the bat we were down $380 in fees….
Once we arrived at the Airport , the journey was not over. It doesn’t really matter how fast you get off the airplane if you checked bags in because they line them all up and then a dog comes to sniff them all to make sure there is nothing harmful to the island being brought in. Once the K9 is done with all the bags you can go get your bag.
First you have to take a airport bus to the ferry area and load your bags on the roof of the ferry. (TIP: Bring lots of $1 dollar bills or coins. I spent more ones than I have at bachelor parties. Everywhere you go it seems like its a $1 per person. We had about 40 $1 bills with us and we ran out quick. The toll for the 5 minute ferry ride is $1 per person. Then on excursions, even though you may have already paid for it all, there are often little water taxis that take you form a big boat to a smaller boat, or to another place on the island, and they are all $1 per person. Then Taxi’s in Puerto Arroyo are all $1.50 within the city limits.)
After the ferry we then took about a $20 40 minute taxi ride to our hostel in Puerto Arroyo.
If you stay in Puerto Arroyo its a $1.50 taxi ride within the city, or you can also walk just about anywhere within 20 minutes. The port area is pretty much the main area with lots of restaurants, activities, and just people out and about. You could also see lots of sea lions here and some other wildlife. There was a playground for the kids as well. For some reason, our kids were fascinated by the Ecuadorian volleyball games going on. They were played a lil bit differently than in the states. This was a great place to just walk around with out a destination.
In this area there are probably a hundred different travel or tour agencies. Most of these places offer steep discounts for next day tours or even 3-5 day cruises. We booked right before we got there when we were in Peru through Eagleray tours for our first excursion. We were able to get 4 people for the price of 3. Now if you don’t have a set schedule or are spending a few days here, then I would not book anything ahead of time. You could also do that with your hotel as well. Our hostel was great (Ariana’s Hostel Galapagos click for review) and we were the only people there. We probably could have gotten it for half of what we paid if we would have just shown up there. While we only booked one tour a few days in advance and decided to play the rest by ear.
We booked the all day Isabella Tour. This included snorkeling, hiking, lunch, and nature viewing. While we booked through Eagleray, once we got to the port area at 7am on the morning of the tour, it was just a hodgepodge of tour companies all together. It wasn’t the most organized operation, but everyone was going to the same spot. They put us in groups with colored stickers and that was now our tour group for the day, even though we didn’t all book through the same agency. One positive thing with Eagleray was that we were able to pick up our snorkel gear and wet suits the night before. Most other companies did not provide wet suits. You take a water taxi to a larger cruiser that fits about 30 people like sardines for a 2 hour boat ride. This was the worst part of our entire trip. Once one person gets sick, its all downhill from there. They do provide trash bags for ya though or you can go over the edge. Lets just say my wife’s sunglasses are somewhere in the bottom of the ocean. Even if you don’t usually get motion sickness, just take some Dramamine or medicine.
Finally got to Isabella and took a water taxi to the land and then immediately took a water taxi to a lil cove and went on a hike and saw penguins, blue footed boobies, lizards, sharks, turtles, etc.
We then went snorkeling and saw lots of different rays, turtles, sea horses, and all types of fish. First time using wet suits and they were awesome. Some people stayed behind on land and did not go snorkeling. Our guide was great with our kids and let my daughter hold onto the ring he carried with him so she didn’t have to swim the entire time. It was our kids first time and they cant wait to go again.
Then we took a water taxi back to the main part of the island and took a bus to lunch. After lunch we went on some more hiking to see more wildlife, a turtle trail, and eventually to the beach for a little bit. Then the bus picked us up, went back to the port area, water taxi to the larger boat, and 2 hours back to another water taxi to take us back to Puerto Arroyo. We got back around 530pm.
Now we were trying to decide what to do the next day. We knew we didn’t want to get on another 2 hour boat ride. So we decided to explore Santa Cruz and Puerto Arroyo a lil bit.
The next morning we took a $1.50 ride to the Charles Darwin Center. Good walking and lots of good turtle viewing. They have the stiffed Lonesome George on display here as well.
From there you can walk very easily to the main part of Puerto Arroyo for shopping or food. We then took a taxi to Tortuga Bay. Tortuga Bay was awesome. What we didn’t realize though is that its was like a 30-45 minute walk on a boardwalk from the drop off point to the sand. (we should have read the sign below before not after we started the walk) They have some water and snacks right when you start and make sure you bring lots of agua. Once you finally get to the beach, you see the most pristine, mesmerizing, clean, amazing beaches ever. Not a chair or hotel in site. Just clear natural beauty. You can walk down a lil but and there are some coves for some swimming and snorkeling and wildlife viewing. A ton of iguanas that just swim from the Ocean onto land. We spent about 3-4 hours here fore decided to finally take the walk back.
The next day before our flight we just hung around Puerto Arroyo eating and did a lil more shopping before taking a taxi back to the airport.
Overall it was amazing and worth the trek to get there. If doing it by land like we did, I would probably wait to book excursions until the last minute. Need to make sure you are also capable of switching boats quite easily. Now we did see quite a few groups coming from larger cruise ships. While 10x more expensive, it appeared they catered to people who may be unable to transfer or handle boats so easily.