The Galapagos is one of the most inspiring wilderness and wildlife locations for active exploration. This journey selects diverse and exciting modes of transport for intimate and exhilarating encounters with habitats and wildlife: from the barren sides of active volcanoes, to the intense vegetation of the Santa Cruz Highlands.
The sea kayaking in the Galapagos is filled with opportunities for close yet unobtrusive encounters with coastal wildlife. Turtles, sea lions, marine iguanas, frigate birds, blue footed boobies are just some of the possible sightings you could expect to have. Young sea lions have been known to ride the bow wave of swifter paddlers.
When it comes to exploring the volcanic landscapes of the Galapagos, hiking is most often the only option. We trek well beyond where most yacht based landings would allow you - from lava trails to Frigate Hill on San Cristobal, to the puffing fumeroles of Chico Volcano on Isabela.
On the Galapagos’s largest island, Isabela, we trek to the perimeter of the world’s second largest volcanic caldera. Volcan Sierra Negra is a spectacular feature of the islands, often active and a regular sighting place for wild tortoises. The views from here are some of the best in the islands - both of the 6 x 5 mile wide volcanic rim and of the rest of the islands spread out across the Pacific Ocean beneath you.
The highlands of Santa Cruz are some of the most densely vegetated parts of the islands, with moss laden forests and volcanic vents. There are also a number of dirt roads here for which a downhill ride provides a refreshing windswept way to move without the need of an engine. Speeds will need checking especially with the chance of there being a giant tortoise in your path.
Snorkeling is an often unsung highlight of a visit to the Galapagos and on this trip you will have many opportunities. Los Lobos, a satellite to San Cristobal, is an excellent snorkeling location and one of the best in this volcanic archipelago for snorkeling with sea lions and hammerhead sharks.
10 Day Sample Itinerary
Please note that this itinerary is subject to change without notice due to seasonal changes, last minute weather conditions and the decision of the Galapagos National Park authority and your guides.
B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=Dinner)
You will be met at the airport and transferred to your boutique hotel in Ecuador Old Town.
Day to acclimatize in Quito and take the opportunity if you wish to visit some of Latin America's best preserved Spanish colonial architecture, right outside your doorstp. Old Quito is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Day 3: Fly to Galapagos & Hike on San Cristóbal (L)
You will be collected early from your hotel and taken to the airport in Quito.
Fly Quito to San Cristobal.
You will be met upon arrival and be taken for lunch and an initial briefing about the trip.
After lunch you will hike out of town to the San Cristobal Interpretation Centre to learn about the island's formation, evolution and natural history. You will then continue hiking to explore the island's unique dry forest and see cacti, acacia, palo santo and Galapagos cotton. You will hike towards Frigate Hill along trails of lava rock with splendid views of the coastline and Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. Here we may enjoy our first encounters with the local wildlife. The hill is often visited by Galapagos wildlife such as frigate birds, blue footed boobies, brown pelicans, gulls, herons and land birds including Darwin finches, warblers and mockingbirds. On your way back we can stop for a refreshing swim at Carola Beach. In the evening you can explore the town and dine at a waterfront restaurant.
Day 4: Sea Kayak at Playa Ochoa & Snorkel at Leon Dormido (B,L)
In the morning we take to our ocean kayaks and spend the morning paddling along the coast, heading north to explore bays and coves and abundant wildlife. Darwin Bay is where Darwin's HMS Beagle landed for the first time. This route is filled with sea lions, marine turtles, blue footed boobies and frigate birds. From Playa Ochoa we continue on to nearby Isla Lobos on the look-out for marine iguanas. We can also to enjoy the company of sealions in what is one of the best locations in the archipelago to swim with them.
Our final challenge for the day is to reach Leon Dormido, the jagged remains of an old tuff cone whose flanks are home to thousands of sea birds. Leon Dormido offers excellent snorkelling. There is a chance of seeing hammerhead and Galapagos sharks here, as well as eagle and golden rays and dozens of species of tropical fish, clams, starfish and marine invertebrates. In the afternoon we return to our hotel for our last evening in San Cristobal.
Day 5: Mountain Biking the Coastline of Isabela & Explore Las Tintoreras Islets (B, L, D)
In the morning we board a small plane for an inter-island flight from San Cristobal to Isabela Island. Isabela is the largest Island in the archipelago, formed by 6 shield volcanoes - Alcedo, Cerro Azul, Darwin, Ecuador, Sierra Negra and Wolf. All of these volcanoes except one remain active, making this island one of the most volcanically active places on Earth.
When we arrive we set up our mountain bikes to explore Isabela's beautiful coastline, starting with a visit to El Muro de las Lágrimas which means Wall of Tears. This historic site dates back to between 1946 and 1959 when Isabela Island was used as a penal colony. The wall was built with lava blocks and had no other purpose that of keeping prisoners busy from the madness of isolation. We continue riding along the coast as we explore expansive white sand beaches, mangroves and brackish lagoons. This area is filled with birdlife such as American oyster catchers, herons, flamingos, finches and many shore birds, as well as sea lions and marine iguanas.
In the afternoon we visit Las Tintoreras: a set of small Islets within Isabela bay. The islets are filled with wildlife and are home to the Galapagos Penguin, the only penguin that lives in equatorial region. We can also hope to see white-tip sharks swimming close to the surface, marine turtles, sea lions and much more wildlife as we explore its many small coves and beaches. The evening is spent in the tranquil port town of Puerto Villamil.
Day 6: Hiking to Volcan Sierra Negra
In the morning we will head up to the highlands to hike about 6 miles (9 km) on irregular terrain taking us to the rim of the Sierra Negra volcano. Sierra Negra is the second largest crater in the world and last erupted in 2005 - something which was recorded in a BBC TV documentary about the islands. On a clear day you can enjoy fantastic view from here, of the 6 x 5 mile-wide crater, the other the volcanoes and the Perry Isthmus beyond.
From the crater we will hike to Chico Volcano, with its puffing fumaroles and striking lava formations which are examples of the dramatic geological events that have forged the Galapagos Islands over millennia. In the late afternoon, we will return to Puerto Villamil for a last chance to enjoy its exotic white sand beaches.
Day 7: Hiking in the Santa Cruz Highlands
After breakfast, we take a fast boat from Isabela to Santa Cruz Island. Upon arrival, you will be taken to the El Chato Reserve in the Santa Cruz Highlands. This is an important habitat for the Galapagos tortoise. As we explore this area, we'll also come across pintail ducks, egrets, flycatchers, finches and frigate birds, bathing in fresh water lakes. We will also visit lava caves and tunnels created by hot flowing lava.
You will then continue to Los Gemelos: two volcanic craters near the top of the Island. Here you can walk amongst tropical scalesia forest which is covered with epiphytes and ferns. If you are lucky you will be able to see the short-eared owl - one of the two types of owls that live in the Islands. We return to Puerto Ayora in the afternoon. The evening is free to dine at any of the good selection of Island restaurants, or the excellent open air food market four blocks back from the quayside.
Day 8: Sea Kayaking at Santa Cruz Island & Hike to Tortuga Bay
In the morning we will pick up sea kayaks and head around Divine Bay and Punta Estrada, paddling through several lava channels with their calm, turquoise waters. Within the channels, white tipped sharks and rays patrol beneath the waves, while colonies of blue footed-boobies, tropic birds, herons and marine iguanas perch along the jagged cliffs.
In the afternoon we will hike to Tortuga Bay - a beautiful white sand beach area and nesting site to thousands of marine turtles. This trail is 3½ miles (6 kilometers) long and crosses through a dry forest lava habitat home to hundreds of iguanas. We return to Puerto Ayora to spend the evening at leisure in the Galapagos' most populous town.
Day 9: Santa Cruz & Baltra - Quito
After breakfast, you will be taken to visit the Charles Darwin Research Station to learn about conservation and management efforts in the archipelago. We also get to meet Lonesome George, the last giant Pinta tortoise.
From the Charles Darwin Research Station you will be taken across Santa Cruz Island by bus and ferry to Baltra Island for our flight back to the continent. Here you will be met and taken for your final night in Ecuador.
You will be collected from your hotel and taken to the airport for your flight home.
Suggested items to pack: Water sandals, rain jacket, flashlight, water bottle, non-cotton trekking gear, sun block, hat and mosquito repellent.
£590 / US$720 - comfort
Add a further £325 / US$399 - premium
Add £375 / $445 for shared premium accommodation
We can operate these trips privately at any time, subject to our guide availability.
Important Facts This experience is classified as Moderate to Energetic with around 2 to 4 hours paddling some days and small boat journeys between Galapagos islands of up to 2 to 3 hours per day.
Accommodation Comfortable hotel accommodation. Premium version upgrade available.
The Kayaks and Canoes
We use a combination of Prijon solid canoes and inflatable Sevylor's. The former holds a better course at sea whilst the latter is easier for coming ashore. All canoeing and kayaking activites are overseen by an American Canoe Association instructor. Spraydecks are not used.
Our prices include
Return flights Quito-Galapagos
3 nights boutique hotel in Quito
Accommodation in the Galapagos in standard & tourist superior hotels
Meals as specified in the itinerary (all meals in the Galapagos for Premium version)
All transfers by land and sea
Activities as indicated
All guidance including American Canoe Association certified instructor for kayaking activities
A year's free membership of the Galapagos Conservation Trust donated towards their Shark Campaign and the Charles Darwin Research Station Marine Programme.
Our prices exclude
International flights to Quito
Galapagos National Park entrance fee - $100** per person to be paid in cash at the airport in Galápagos).
$20** immigration tax payable before you arrive in Galapagos.
$10 fee to enter Isabela Island
(**correct at time of writing)
You can arrange your own international flights or Aqua-Firma can do this for you. Please contact us for assistance.