The crown jewel of my recent Ecuador trip was definitely the visit to the Galapagos.  When Lisa and I were picking a spot to travel we wanted to go somewhere that was one of our A+ destinations (Galapagos, Machu Picchu, African Safari, Borneo, etc).  The problem with all of these destinations is that they cost significantly more than what it would typically cost to backpack.  When we picked the Galapagos it felt like we were signing a blank cheque.  The information about the costs of everything on the islands that we could find online was very limited.  Fortunately in the end it came in well under what we expected to pay.

Marine iguanas out in the sun

Marine iguanas out in the sun

Excluding our flights, it cost Lisa and I $1895USD for 8 days in Galapagos (for reference we paid about $550CAD each to fly round trip to Quito, Ecuador, and another $525CAD to fly round trip to the Galapagos from Quito).   We decided to do a land based tour instead of a cruise.  This ended up being a very good decision, which I will get to in another post.  Every day we visited somewhere, we got to see all the sights we wanted to see, and we saw all the animals on our ‘must see’ list.

Sea lions sure do sleep a lot

Sea lions sure do sleep a lot

Here is a breakdown of our costs:

  • $40 baggage check fee – to ensure we weren’t bringing organic material ($20 each)
  • $200 Galapagos Island Fee – to enter the Galapagos ($100 each)
  • $245 hotels – 7 nights @ $35/night
  • $35 day trip to Santa Cruz Highlands (we rented a taxi to drive us instead of an organized tour)
  • $230 day trip to Pinzon ($115 each)
  • $290 day trip to Bartolome ($145 each)
  • $600 ferry to Isabela, Lava Tubes day trip, ferry back to Santa Fe, ferry to San Cristobal, Kicker Rock day trip ($300 each, we saved about $20 booking all of this at once from a tour operator)
  • $10 Isabela Island entrance fee ($5 each)
  • $200 food and water
  • $20 souvenirs
  • $25 taxis

TOTAL: $1895USD (Ecuador uses US Dollars, all of these figures are in USD)

The view from Bartolome

The view from Bartolome

Our Itinerary:

  • Day 1 – Arrive on Santa Cruz, visit Darwin Centre, walk around Puerto Ayora
  • Day 2 – Tortuga Bay, Highlands tour (Los Gemelos, El Chato, Lava Tunnels)
  • Day 3 – Pinzon day trip (snorkelling near Daphne Major, bird watching at Daphne Major, snorkelling at Pinzon)
  • Day 4 – Bartolome day trip (hike up Bartolome, snorkel near Pinnacle Rock)
  • Day 5 – Ferry to Isabela, Lava Tubes day trip (snorkel through the lava tubes, walk around lava tubes to learn about Blue Footed Boobies)
  • Day 6 – Los Humedales wetlands, Arnaldo Tupiza Breeding Centre, ferry back to Santa Cruz
  • Day 7 – Ferry to San Cristobal, Kicker Rock day trip (snorkelling in bay off San Cristobal, beach hike, snorkel at Kicker Rock)
  • Day 8 – Visit Interpretation Centre, hike to viewpoint, fly out of San Cristobal

We spent 5 of our 7 nights on Santa Cruz (the most popular island for tourists).  When we landed we only had our first nights accommodations booked.  We were about a kilometer from the main area of town.  For our remaining nights we stayed at Hotel Espana, which I would highly recommend.  It wasn’t fancy but it was clean and close to everything.

We didn’t eat at any fancy restaurants.  We ate a lot of empanadas (not just because they were cheap, but also super tasty), and would eat dinner at one of the restaurants that puts tables out on the street.  If we went on a day trip lunch was always included, and breakfasts were always simple, usually toast and eggs.

I convinced Lisa we should get a whole fish for dinner

I convinced Lisa we should get a whole fish for dinner

We were very busy during our trip.  Every day we had a day tour booked, or we visited sites that we could see without a guide.  Kicker Rock was the best day trip we did.  The snorkelling was incredible.  We first snorkelled in a small bay where the water was calm and we were able to see sea turtles, rays, sea lions, and all sorts of fish.  After a short walk around the beach area learning more about the sea lions and plant life we went to Kicker Rock.  Kicker Rock is in the middle of the water, so it may not be enjoyable for a weak swimmer.  There we saw over 30 hammerhead sharks, dozens of white tip, black tip, and Galapagos sharks, sea turtles, eagle rays, schools of fish, and so much more.  We were lucky to see that many hammerheads, but they see at least 1 almost every trip.

Yup, those are hammerheads

Yup, those are hammerheads

The Galapagos is not cheap, but it’s certainly not as expensive as I anticipated.  Most people don’t do as many activities as we did, but we wanted to make the most of our experience.  The wildlife was incredible, and I’d highly recommend this trip to anyone thinking about it.

Isabela Island

Isabela Island