Many people have a hard time choosing which cruise or hotels and itinerary they’ll do while in the Galapagos Islands. Our best advice is to first figure out what wildlife you’d like to see and the things you’d like to do, and then speak with a travel agent on how to make that happen. In the meantime, here are some of our expert ideas on things to do in the Galapagos Islands.
Snorkel with Baby Sea Lions
The wildlife in the Galapagos is surprisingly unafraid of humans due to the remoteness of the islands and the lack of predators. For this reason, one of the cutest adventures you can participate in at the Galapagos Islands is snorkeling with baby sea lions. They’re extremely curious and playful and will do spins and circles around you as you view the underwater world of the islands. The pups are born in August and September so make sure to visit during this time.
Visit Giant Tortoises at the Charles Darwin Research Station
The Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz island is the leader of conservation and biological studies for the Galapagos Islands. But the main attraction is the Giant Tortoises which can be found along the trails of the station. These tortoises live over 100 years and weigh up to 900 lbs.
Write a Postcard on Floreana island
During the 18th century, whalers visiting the Galapagos Islands found that the best way to get letters back to loved ones would be to leave the letter on Floreana Island and another whaler who was returning to that area would pick it up and deliver it. Today, tourists still do this! Your guide will open up the barrel and read off the addresses of all the postcards and if it is near you you can take it with you and hand-deliver it. You can also leave your addressed postcards and someone will deliver it for you!
Eat Chocolate at a Galapagos Chocolate Shop
This artisan chocolate shop “Chocogalapagos” on Santa Cruz island uses cacao grown on and develops it into delicious treats right on the island! There are many varieties and some are filled with nuts or fruit. This is a unique present to bring home to your friends and family that didn’t get to visit the Galapagos with you!
Hike Sierra Negra
One of the most popular hikes on the Galapagos Islands is hiking the Sierra Negra volcano on Isabela Island. This moderately difficult hike is about 9 miles and takes about 5-6 hours. You’ll be rewarded with sites of the second largest volcanic crater, expansive views, and beautiful Galapagos flora and fauna.
Pinnacle Rock on Bartolome Island
Pinnacle Rocks is one of the most photographed areas on the Galapagos Islands. This large rock appears to jut out from the water in the shape of an arrowhead amidst green hills and turquoise waters. Don’t stop at just photos! Pinnacle rock is also great for seeing the Endemic Galapagos penguin and a nesting site for sea turtles.
Blue-footed Booby Mating Dance on North Seymour Island
North Seymour Island has one of the largest populations of Blue Footed Boobies so it makes it quite popular although you can see them on other islands as well. The mating season takes place between June and August and this is when you’ll see these curious-looking birds performing mating rituals.
Birdwatching on Genovesa Island
The Galapagos Islands have some of the best bird watching in the world and bird enthusiasts flock (get it?) every year to see birds that they wouldn’t be able to see anywhere else. Part of the reason bird watchers love to go to the Galapagos to birdwatch is that the birds are unbothered by tourists due to the remoteness of the islands and lack of predators. Genovesa Island provides an opportunity to see a large variety of birds which is why it is one of the best choices for bird enthusiasts.
The Red Beaches of Rabida Islands
Due to a high amount of iron and volcanic rock, Rabida Island is covered in red sand beaches. It makes for a unique backdrop to the green flora and blue waters surrounding the island. Here you’ll also see sea lions, marine life like sharks and tropical fish, and birds like the Darwin Finch and Flamingos.
Marine Iguanas on Espanola Island
Marine Iguanas only exist on the Galapagos Islands and are the only iguana that has adapted to live at sea. This makes them a popular species to see during a visit to the Galapagos Islands. On each of the islands, they are slightly different colors with the iguanas on Espanola island being some of the brightest.
The Newest and Least Touristy Galapagos Island: Fernandina
Fernandina is the youngest Galapagos Island and not often visited due to it being the farthest island from where cruises embark. You can see Fernandina, though, if you do some of the longer cruises. It is considered a visitor favorite, however, because it has no foreign species and is considered one of the world’s most pristine islands. There is only one visitor area on this island, at Espinosa point, where you can see the Galapagos Hawk and Marine Iguanas.
Wildlife Seasons in the Galapagos
- January: The green sea turtle arrives to lay their eggs and land iguanas begin reproducing on Isabela.
- February: Flamingos start nesting on Floreana. Bahamas pintails begin their breeding season and nesting season of the Galapagos dove reaches its peak.
- March: Marine iguanas nest in Fernandina and on the 21st, the summer equinox signals the arrival of the waved albatross to Espanola.
- April: Hatching season begins fo the green sea turtle and lang iguana.
- May: The blue-footed boobies begin their courtship and waved albatrosses start to lay their eggs on Espanola.
- June: June in the Galapagos marks the beginning of the cold garua season (dry winds that hit the slopes of the Andes creating a low-level cloud cover). Giant tortoises begin nesting.
- July: Whales are more likely to be spotted off the western coast of Isabela Island and lava lizards begin their mating ritual which runs through November.
- August: The Galapagos hawks court on Espanola and Santiago, while mask boobies and swallow-tail gulls nest on Genovesa.
- September: September is the peak of the cold season which sees more active penguins, sea lions, and marine birds throughout the beaches of the Galapagos.
- October: The Galapagos fur seals begin their mating period and giant tortoises lay their eggs.
- November: Sea lion pups are born and brown noddies begin breeding.
- December: The rainy season begins, causing the whole area to be bathed in greenery. Green sea turtles begin mating and giant tortoise eggs start hatching.
Are the Galapagos Islands Safe?
Yes, the Galapagos Islands are highly regulated and safe. There are only a few islands in which residents and tourists can roam freely and petty crime is rare. Cruise ships and hotels also have low levels of petty crime.
Best Time to Visit the Galapagos Islands
The best time to visit the Galapagos is dependent on what you want to do and see while you are there. If you’d like to avoid the crowds and enjoy lower pricing, visit in September. If you’d like to see Blue Footed Boobies performing their mating ritual, visit in July. If you’d like to see the hills of the islands at their most colorful, visit in March. As you can see, the best time to visit the Galapagos Islands is really up to you! Click here for more information.
What are the Galapagos Islands Known for?
The Galapagos Islands are best known for wildlife spotting and diving. The islands were the inspiration for Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of the Species” when he noticed that the finches had different sized beaks depending on which island they were living on and what food was available. The wildlife is notoriously unafraid of humans which allows visitors to get up close and personal. Some of the most iconic characters are the Blue Footed Booby and the Giant Galapagos Tortoise. The diving in the Galapagos Islands is some of the best in the world due to the amazing amount of marine life that can be seen.
Thinking About Visiting Galapagos Islands?
Contact a Galapagos Islands Travel Expert
We Love to Talk About Vacation Ideas!
Thinking of traveling to South America? We take your South American travel dream and make it a reality. Every fully custom South America trip is planned by your own expert personal Travel Consultant.
Popular Galapagos Islands Tours
Galapagos Safari Camp
The Classic Safari Package is the Galapagos Safari Camp’s core model trip. This 5-day Ecuador Tour introduces you to...