- This is a custom departure, meaning this trip is offered on dates that you arrange privately with the provider. Additionally, you need to form your own private group for this trip. The itinerary and price here is just a sample. Contact the provider for detailed pricing, minimum group size, and scheduling information. For most providers, the larger the group you are traveling with, the lower the per-person cost will be.
Arrival in Ecuador
Upon arrival of your flight into Quito or Guayaquil, you will be met by a Boundless Journeys representative and transferred to your hotel.
Hotel Hilton Colon, Quito or Guayaquil
Today’s activities are entirely up to you. Perhaps you will decide to join a Boundless Journeys guide for a city tour of Quito or Guayaquil, or a drive into the highlands and the famous market town of Otavalo. Of course, you may also choose to spend the day exploring on your own.
Quito is nestled in a long, narrow valley in the Andes, between the Pichincha Volcano to the west and the Machángara River Canyon to the east. The historical center – or “old town,” as it’s called – is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a maze of colonial splendor.
Guayaquil, located further south on the Pacific coast, offers a multitude of archaeological and colonial sites, monuments, museums, and parks. Main attractions of Guayaquil include a newly restored boardwalk, Malecon 2000, with an incredible view of Guayas River, the famous Iguana Park (Parque Bolívar), and colonial churches such as The Cathedral, La Merced, and Santo Domingo.
If you prefer to explore the volcanic highlands of Ecuador, you may opt to take a 2 ½ hour drive north from Quito to Otavalo, Ecuador’s famed market town. Here you can find all types of indigenous handcrafts, from woven wall-hangings to skillfully embroidered blouses and dresses, and from hand-knitted alpaca sweaters to rustic ceramics and Panama hats. In addition to the crafts market, Otavalo has a farmers’ market where there is colorful and interesting Andean produce such as quinoa, tree tomatoes, and babaco.
Others may wish to relax today and enjoy the hotel pool in preparation for an unforgettable week in the Galapagos Islands.
Hotel Hilton Colon, Quito or Guayaquil
DAY 3 - Morning
Fly to the Galapagos Islands
Following an early breakfast, we transfer to the airport for our flight to the Galapagos Islands. As we approach the islands, the inviting turquoise-blue water surrounding the coast comes into view. We arrive in San Cristobal or Baltra, depending on your expedition vessel. Our naturalist Galapagos guide meets us after passing through park inspection, and soon we are departing from shore aboard a zodiac to reach our yacht. The captain and crew are there to greet us and show us to our cabins as well as give us a tour of the boat.
The next eight days are sure to be memorable as we cruise the Galapagos Islands, visiting many of the same places Charles Darwin did over 150 years ago. The active itinerary from our yacht features walks and hikes during shore excursions, and plenty of opportunities for snorkeling and sea kayaking in tranquil coves and lagoons.
Deluxe Yacht, Galapagos Islands
DAYS 3 – 10
Galapagos Islands Cruise
Standard cruise is 8 days, longer and shorter options are available.
The cruise itinerary varies according to weather and local events, new Galapagos regulations, and to allow serendipity to play a hand in your experience, but most trips will visit a combination of the following islands. For a list of the islands you can expect to visit on each cruise please click on the links at the end of this section.
On Santa Cruz Island, we look for giant tortoises, Woodpecker Finches, and other diverse species in the highlands. We also visit the Charles Darwin Research Center in Puerto Ayora. On the north side of the island, we may enjoy flamingos and other coastal birds on the beautiful white sands of Las Bachas Beach, or perhaps we visit the iguana nesting site at Cerro Dragon. From here a short panga ride takes us to Black Turtle Cove, one of the most beautiful marine sites in the Galapagos. This complex maze of salt-water inlets, surrounded by three different species of mangrove, is a resting site for sea turtles, rays, and sharks.
A visit to Puerto Egas on Santiago Island begins with a walk along the rocky coast where we glimpse into some of the best tide pools on the Galapagos Islands. Along the way we may encounter the endemic Galapagos Hawk, the colorful Vermillion Flycatcher, marine iguanas, Sally Lightfoot crabs, and sea lions. A short distance beyond these tide pools is the fur seal grotto, where fur seals and sea lions can be seen swimming in the rocky lava-ringed pools. The crystal clear water and volcanic bridges make this a magnificent place for swimming and snorkeling.
Less than an hour north from Puerto Egas is Buccaneer's Cove, with steep cliffs made of tuff formations, and a dark reddish-purple sand beach. This dramatic landscape is made all the more impressive by the hundreds of seabirds perched atop the cliffs.
Neighboring Espumilla Beach is an important site for nesting marine turtles. Those with a watchful eye may spot a variety of Darwin finches or a Vermilion Flycatcher. Once back at the beach we may have the chance to swim or snorkel.
On the east coast of Santiago is Sullivan Bay, where lava flowed less than 100 years ago. This is the perfect place to see and feel the volcanic origin of the Galapagos Islands. We conclude our walk on a white coral-sand beach where we may have the chance to snorkel with sea lions, tropical fish, turtles, and reef sharks.
On North Seymour Island the rocky shore displays white sand and large flocks of pelicans. Along our trail we may encounter Blue-footed Boobies and the largest nesting site in the Galapagos of the Magnificent Frigatebird.
Bartolomé Island has two visitor sites. At the first site, we can swim and snorkel around Pinnacle Rock, where penguins are usually seen. From here a short panga ride takes us to a dry landing for a climb to the highest point on the islands. The route is not difficult and presents remnants of the last volcanic eruption: tuff cones and lava tubes in various stages of erosion. From the summit we have a spectacular view of Santiago Island, James Bay, and Pinnacle Rock.
Española (Hood Island) is the southernmost island on the archipelago, and one of the most popular due to the breathtaking variety and sheer number of endemic fauna. At Punta Suarez, sea lions surf the waves, marine iguanas bask in the sun, Nazca and Blue-footed Boobies nest alongside the trail, and Galapagos Doves, Cactus Finch, and mockingbirds forage in the underbrush. Our trail continues to a shelf of black lava where a blowhole shoots a geyser of water into the air. Farther east along the cliffs is the “Albatross Airport” where Waved Albatrosses line up to launch their great bodies.
On the northeastern shore of Española, Gardner Bay offers a magnificent long white-sand beach, where colonies of sea lions laze in the sun, sea turtles swim offshore, and mockingbirds boldly investigate new arrivals. We may have time to snorkel or kayak by Tortuga Rock and Gardner Island where we may encounter sea lions and large schools of tropical fish.
On Floreana Island there are opportunities to swim in the crystal clear waters of Champion Islet. Here an extinct volcano peaks out of the waters just off of Floreana’s coast and offers a magnificent snorkeling experience. From here we head to Cormorant Point for a hike to a salt-water lagoon which is home to flamingos.
Also on Floreana Island is the famous Post Office Bay. Here we land on a beach and head to a spot where 18th-century whalers placed a wooden barrel for use as an unofficial mail box. The custom continues to this day with Galapagos visitors. So don’t forget your postcards, and don’t be surprised if the post card arrives to its destination before you even get home!
Genovesa Island (also called Tower Island) is alive with an active year-round colony of frigatebirds, the males inflating their red pouches to attract the females overhead. We also view Red-footed and Nazca Boobies and thousands of Storm Petrels. We may have the opportunity to snorkel along the cliffs of Tower’s submerged caldera where angelfish, parrotfish, and perhaps manta rays can be seen, and perhaps walk up Prince Philip’s Steps to a narrow stretch of land that opens onto the plateau surrounding Darwin Bay. Here we may encounter Red-footed Boobies, Masked Boobies, and the Short-eared Owl.
Isabela Island, the largest island in the Galapagos, is made up of a series of volcanoes. Tagus Cove makes for an ideal panga ride beneath its sheltered cliffs, where Blue-footed Boobies, Brown Noddies, pelicans, and Noddy Terns make their nests, and Flightless Cormorants and penguins inhabit the lava ledges. We continue along the southwestern coast of Isabela to visit the mangrove lagoons of Elizabeth Bay and Urbina Bay, where land iguanas and giant tortoises roam. On the northern part of this diverse island, we visit Punta Vicente Roca, where the remnants of Volcano Ecuador, along with the upwelling of cold water currents, create an abundance of marine life in sheltered turquoise coves.
A visit to Isabela may also include the Wetlands, a series of trails past lagoons, streams, and mangrove swamps during low tide; or the Wall of Tears, a historic site where prisoners built a wall with huge blocks of lava as punishment. Here a set of stairs provides a bird's eye view of the Wall and the surrounding landscape.
A short distance from Isabela is the small island known as Las Tintoreras. Here a colony of white tip sharks can often be seen resting in a lava canal. We may snorkel or swim in the unique habitat of these animals. Nearby, hundreds of marine iguanas can be observed, as Las Tintoreras is one of their main breeding sites. On the nearby sandy beaches, sea lions play and relax in the sun.
Isabela is also home to a Giant Tortoise Breeding Center where we can observe tortoises of all ages and sizes. We also learn about the reproduction and rearing of giant tortoises and see all the work that is being carried out to help recover the wild populations of these species.
At Punta Espinosa on Fernandina Island, penguins dive from the rocks into the sea, red and turquoise-blue zayapas crabs disperse across the shoreline, and herons and egrets forage through the mangrove roots. A short walk leads to a large colony of marine iguanas resting atop one another in friendly heaps along the shore. Nearby, sea lions frolic in a sheltered lagoon, and farther down the shore we visit with the world’s only species of Flightless Cormorants.
Rábida Island is one of the most volcanically varied islands in the chain. A visit begins with a wet landing on the deep-maroon colored northern beach. Marine iguanas and sea lions are often seen resting in the shade of the caves nearby. Behind the beach is the salt brush home where the Brown Pelicans make their nests. Rábida may be the only opportunity visitors have to see pelicans nesting up close. On the cliffs above the pelicans, Blue-footed and Masked Boobies can be seen. Following the path, visitors arrive at a small saltwater lagoon where Pink Flamingos, Bahama Pintail Ducks, and Common Stilts are frequently seen feeding. Rábida offers the best lagoons in the islands for viewing flamingos.
Isla Lobos, or Sea-Lion Island, is home to many lively sea lions. It is also a nesting place for Blue-footed Boobies and a good place for snorkeling.
Daphne Major is the site of a major scientific research project. Scientists have captured and banded each of the island's finches, monitoring the birds in an attempt to earn a greater understanding of their lives. A circumference cruise around this island introduces us to the many birds and sea lions that live here.
Mosquera Islet is located between North Seymour and Baltra Islands. This flat, sandy island attracts many sea lions. It is also a good place to observe shorebirds such as herons and Lava Gulls.
South Plaza Island has one of the largest populations of land iguanas in the Galapagos. These larger than average yellow-brown land iguanas feed on the fruit and pads of the prickly pear cactus.
South Plaza is also home to marine iguanas living along the coast and a hybrid iguana whose fathers are marine iguanas and mothers are land iguanas. As we walk along the sea cliffs Swallow-tailed Gulls, Frigatebirds, Audubon Shearwaters, Red-billed Tropicbirds, Brown Pelicans, Blue-footed and Masked Boobies are frequently seen. Along the shore a colony of bachelor sea lions can be seen.
Visits to Santa Fe Island begin with a panga ride across a lovely turquoise lagoon. Once ashore we are brought into contact with many sea lion colonies. Our loop trail leads past salt bushes where Galapagos Hawks can easily be approached. Hiking towards the cliffs leads us to a forest of prickly pear cactus.
Santa Fe is home to endemic land iguanas. These iguanas are the largest in the islands and they are beige to chocolate brown in color. Reaching the summit there is a stunning view of the cove beneath. Returning to the beach, there is often time to snorkel in the lagoon. Playful sea lion pups and florescent fish make for fascinating company. Or visit a submerged rock where several manta rays and marine turtles can be found.
Heading northeast along the coast of San Cristobal Island, we land on the inviting powdery beach of Playa Ochoa, home to a small colony of sea lions. A tidal lagoon sitting behind the beach is frequented by flamingos, Darwin Finches, and the endemic San Cristobal Mockingbird. We may also have time to visit the Galapagos National Park Visitor Center, or we may drive to La Galapaguera, one of the Galapagos National Park’s tortoise breeding centers. From San Cristobal Island we pay a visit to Leon Dormido, also known as Kicker Rock. This spectacular formation rises 500 feet out of the Pacific.
For a list of the islands visited on each cruise, click on the links below.
End Cruise and Return to Quito or Guayaquil
Today we motor back to port followed by a flight to Guayaquil or Quito. Arriving mid- to late afternoon, depending on your cruise, you are transferred to your hotel for a relaxing evening and dinner on your own.
Hotel Hilton Colon, Quito or Guayaquil
Today, at your leisure, you are transferred to the airport to connect with flights home, or possibly continue on to Cuenca or Otavalo with our Highlands South or Highlands North trip extensions.
More information from Boundless Journeys: