The Cheap, ‘Local’ Way to See Galapagos

It never ceases to amaze me…

…when I meet foreigners in Ecuador who come for a week or two, and don’t even visit the highlight of Ecuador… the Galapagos Islands.


Where else can you walk along the edge of the ocean and see enormous manta rays and sharks swim right next to you in the transparent water below.

Or turtles the size of cars, and lava tunnels on Santa Cruz Island.

Or scuba with whale sharks and hammerheads off Floreana.

Or see thousands of types of endemic birds, including the world’s smallest penguin, on Baltra.

But many say it’s too expensive, or too far (actually it’s part of Ecuador and only an hour flight from Guayaquil).

The key is you have to know how to see it, the way local Ecuadorians do it.

Most foreigners buy 5 or 7 day cruises over the net, often costing around $2-10,000 depending on the class of the yacht.

But there’s a much cheaper way to see the Galapagos.

Don’t make ANY reservations on the net.

Fly to Santa Cruz, the main island, from Guayaquil for around $350 round trip (seniors get a discounted rate).

Then upon arrival go to the port of the town of Puerto Ayora and walk around and look for one of the several simple, budget hotels, like the one I stayed at, the New Elizabeth Hotel which charges $25 per person per night. For longer stays you can negotiate a bit cheaper or even find a local willing to rent you a room in their home for $10-15 a night (look for “alquiler” signs and ask around).

Once accommodated, go to the port once again to one of the MANY mom and pops travel agencies where you can buy day tours starting from around $60-$80 per day per person right from the source with lunch included.

In other words, use Santa Cruz as your base staying in one of the cheap hotels in the port, and take day trips to the other islands.

Isabela is a must for the wildlife and Bartolome for landscapes like you’ve never seen before.

There are also cool things to do on Santa Cruz, like rent a bike and all day it from Puerto Ayora to the secluded, gorgeous beach of El Garrapatero, be sure to try the fresh breads and sweets in the bakeries in the small towns along the way! Tortuga Bay is the most impressive beach on Santa Cruz.

You could also make Isabela your base if you’d like to get even further off the beaten path on truly picturesque, white sand, turquiose water beaches (the only ones like that in Ecuador).

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