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The ultimate list: 100 things to do in the Galapagos Islands

Galapagos is not only known for its huge contribution to Darwin´s Theory of Evolution, back in the 16th century, but also for its fragile ecosystem and harsh conditions of the archipelago. Therefore, the National Park Directorate has set a series of rules that every visitor and local must follow. Not in vain, the first rule listed is the need to be accompanied by a professional certified naturalist guide for being able to visit the protected areas within the national park. However First of all, guides in the Galapagos Islands have been trained to preserve the ecosystem as well as maximize your experience within the archipelago by trying to fulfilling, and sometimes exceeding your expectations. The Galapagos Islands are a territory to immerse yourself in the most unusual of planetary biodiversity. Be sure to do these 100 things in the wonderful Ecuadorian archipelago. 1. Spot the king of evolution, the flightless cormorant, a bird that lost its ability to fly due to the lack of ground predators and the need to swim faster in order to get the catch of the day. 2. Find Penguins at the equator, almost like spotting a polar bear on a tree. Not only can you spot them but you can swim with them too. 3. Learn about Darwin’s evolution theory and how species can adapt to harsh environments. 4. Glamp on the sundeck of your yacht and enjoy the perfect evening under the stars. 5. Charter a yacht for your entire family or group of friends and live the dream of cruising the islands with your favourite people at your own pace. 6. Dive with hundreds of hammerhead sharks at Champions rock. Just a day trip from Santa Cruz or San Cristobal island. 7. Enjoy the unique ceviche de “Canchalagua” a type of shellfish only found in the archipelago and is responsibility harvested by fishermen from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. 8. Walk the steps to the top of Bartolome island and get a view of the moonlike landscape. 9. Sit at the docks at Puerto Ayora with a nice cold beer at night and watch hundreds of baby white tip reef sharks swimming in and out of the bay. 10. Grab a surfboard and ride the waves at Tortuga bay on Santa Cruz island. 11. Visit Española island and walk along the trail at Punta Suarez until you reach the Waved Albatross nesting grounds, their famous mating dance starts around late Augusts and last through September. An amazing display of courtship. 12. Swim with sharks at several sites throughout the islands, one of our favorite places is just of Santa Cruz island at Bachas beach. 13. Take a liveaboard cruise and onboard one of 55 small ships that navigate the islands and put in 2 visitor sites per day in the company of a naturalist guide. Cruises last anywhere from 3, 4, 5 or 7 nights. 15. Visit the Charles Darwin station and learn about evolution and how tourism plays a key role in the conservation of the islands ecosystem. 16. Explore Tagus Cove off the west coast of Isabela Island and admire the pirate graffiti on the cliffs. They say Sir Francis Drake was a frequent visitor of the enchanted isles. 17. Cruise across the equator line and toast with your crew as very few have the possibility to cross the iconic division of the planet by water. 18. Visit la Loberia beach on San Cristobal island and snorkel all day with playful sea lions. 19. Enjoy an ice-cold Ecuadorian beer as you watch the sunset in the outdoor lounge of your yacht. One of the most beautiful sunsets can be enjoyed when your boat is anchored off Floreana island within the baroness bay. 20. Send a postcard the old fashion way. Visit Post office bay on Floreana island and put your card in the old barrel. Usually takes a few months get back to you. Also, be a good citizen and deliver your neighbor’s postcard as well. 21. Grab your hiking boots and drag yourself up to the rim of Sierra Negra volcanic crater on Isabela island. It is the second-largest crater on the planet after Ngorongoro. 22. Extra credit, after reaching the rim of Sierra Negra, push yourself further to visit the Volcan Chico lava field and see the fumaroles, tuff cones and learn about the whole volcanic system of the island. 23. Visit the highlands of Santa Cruz island and walk alongside the giant tortoises that roam freely around the pastures and soak in the mud pools. 24. Enjoy a series of evening lectures and learn about the formation, evolution, and conservation of the Galapagos archipelago from your naturalist guide on your expedition yacht. 25. Snorkel with marine iguanas as they dive under the surf to feed on algae. 26. Watch the unique blue-footed booby courtship dance and see if you can follow, don’t forget to bring a pair of bright blue sneakers. 27. Get your self an ice cream cone and go sit at the docks on San Cristobal island at sunset, you will be surrounded by barking sea lions. It is heartwarming to see how they live in harmony with the local population. 28. After some amazing snorkeling takes a stroll on one of the planet’s most beautiful beaches at Gardner Bay on Española island. 29. Put in practice all those photography lessons and play the role of the pro as you easily capture some of the most amazing wildlife moments through your lens. 30. Take one of your yachts kayaks and paddle around buccaneers coves off Santiago island, one of the nicest bays to explore at your own pace. 31. Take a zodiac ride through black turtle cove off Santa Cruz island and enjoy the view of mating sea turtles and white-tipped reef sharks swimming right below you. 32. Enjoy a private dinner with a view with your significant other at the private dining area onboard the Sea Star Journey yacht. 33. Explore the volcanic lava tubes at the Royal Palm resort in the highlands of Santa Cruz island, the most impressive geological formations can be found as you admire the power of nature. 34. Walk on the pahoehoe lava field found at James bay, the most impressive and easy access in the Galapagos. For extra credit climb into one of the crevaces and admire the different colors of dry lava minerals. 35. If you are blessed to coincide as you cruise alongside Fernandina Island, you could witness a volcanic eruption. 36. Visit Punta Pitt off San Cristobal Island and walk along the only nesting ground where you can find the 3 types of boobies in the same place: blue-footed, red-footed and masked boobies. 37. Snorkel through the channel divide at Kicker rock (sleeping lion) and enjoy spotting dozens of hammerhead sharks below. 38. Be one with yourself and explore your inner peace as you escape from the world and stay on the remote Floreana island. You just may unveil the baronesses murder mysteries. 39. Spend a night at an African style safari camp in the highlands of Santa Cruz island, you have the possibility to enjoy the view fo the giant tortoises that roam freely among the tent platforms. 40. Take a bicycle and ride all the way to Garrapatero beach for refreshing swim and wildlife spotting, just 30 minutes from Puerto Ayora. 41. Foodies can delight themselves with the street food alley in Puerto Ayora, unique Ecuadorian recipes include encocado de pescado (coconut fish), ceviche and the possibility of having fresh lobster for under $40 USD. 42. Enjoy the red sand beach on Rabida Island, a unique setting to observe how pelicans dive along the surf and fill their beeks with fish. 43. Keep and eye on the piratey frigate birds as they steel the catch from other birds like the blue-footed boobies. As soon as they emerge with prey the Frigate bird rams into them and steels the food from their mouths. 44. Join your chef at the grill on the outside dining area of your liveaboard yacht. A barbecue with a view in one of the remote island bays. 45. Explore the highlands of San Cristobal at night and keep your ears ready to hear the screetch of the night petrels as thousands flutter around in their mating rituals. 46. Make a list of the different subspecies of finches you spot along a weeklong cruise and see if you can make out the adaptations of each bird from island to another. 47. Be an early riser and visit the Itabaca channel on Santa Cruz to spot hundreds of blue-footed boobies diving in the bay to catch the school of fish that swim by. 48. Climb up Prince Phillips steps on Genovesa island and walk the trail to “El Barranco” the cliff and be amazed by the thousands of sea birds that are fluttering around, keep an eye out for the hunting Galapagos hawks who are waiting to feast. 49. Visit the wall of tears on Isabela island and learn about the human history of the islands. On your way to the site, there is a redish lagoon with flamingos called the devil’s lagoon. 50. Get married or renew your vows onboard your Galapagos yacht. The Captain has the authority to perform a marriage ceremony and have it notarized in the Ecuadorian registry. 51. Explore the underwater tunnels on Isabela island at Puerto Villamil. This is a unique volcanic scenery found nowhere else on the planet. 52. Snorkel with sea turtles and manta rays at one of several nesting sites. 53. Go from a lava field in the lowlands by the water, pass through dry forest and finally reach tropical cloud forest on one of the larger islands (Isabela, Santa Cruz or San Cristobal). In 20 minutes time, you can experience different scenery, climate and temperature. 54. Visit the Twin craters on Santa Cruz island. These are two pitholes that depict the volcanic formation of the island. It is also a great area for birdwatching and spotting finches. 55. Soak in the hot tub of your yacht after an afternoon of snorkeling as you watch the sunset. 56. Visit the interpretation center on San Cristobal island and learn about the human history of Galapagos, its urban myths and the volcanic formation of the islands. 57. Meet the locals on Isabela island learn what it’s like to live on the tip of a giant underwater volcano, that is still active. 58. Visit Pelican bay in Puerto Ayora and watch how birds and sea lions gather to scavenge on the leftovers after the fish market is up for the day. 59. Keep an eye out for vampires. The vampire finch on the northernmost island of Darwin, Wolf and Genovesa is known for drinking the blood from booby birds after cleaning them from parasites. 60. Grab an early morning coffee and sit to watch the birds on the private balcony of your liveaboard the yacht, with different scenery every day. 61. Take a liveaboard diving cruise and encounter the gentle giant whale sharks. 62. Have dinner at your boat captains home with his family and enjoy the fresh catch on your 360 tour of San Cristobal island. There will be amazing stories of island life to be shared. 63. Visit a local farm in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island where the endemic Otoy plants are harvested and help transport the leaves to the breeding center to help feed baby giant tortoises. 64. Embark on a small biplane and fly from either San Cristobal or Santa Cruz to Isabela Island. The birdseye views of the lava fields and unique formations below are second to none. 65. Hug a cactus. The giant cacti on Santa Fe island do not have spines on the lower part of their trunks making it possible to hug one of these unique plants. 66. Hike to the blowhole on Española island and watch the ocean water shoot up a few hundred feet into the air. 67. Visit the jewelry shops in Puerto Ayora and shop for hand made gems inspired in the wildlife of the archipelago. Silver and gold are finely crafted into one of a kind jewels. 69. Lie down on the underwater platforms at Darwin and Wolf islands and watch schools of 300+ hundred hammerhead sharks at a time swim by. 70. Keep an eye out for orcas hunting sea lions when you navigate through the Bolivar channel off the the coast of Fernandina and Isabela islands. 71. Visit a coffee farm in the highlands of San Cristobal or Santa Cruz island and participate in the planting, harvesting and brewing the endemic coffee of the archipelago. 72. Enjoy a cup of the world’s best hot chocolate, arriba variety unique from Ecuador, just after snorkeling in the cool waters of the archipelago. 73. Check out the stars in the middle of the world. Galapagos is crossed by the Equator line, in the highlands of each of the inhabited islands, there is no light pollution whatsoever and you can spot both Southern as Northern hemisphere constellations. 74. Explore the highlands of Floreana and find the cave that served as the first home for the Wittmer family upon their arrival. You can also enjoy the rock formations and carved artwork as you learn about the urban lore and mystery of the baroness. 75. Visit one of the tortoise breeding centers on the inhabited islands (Santa Cruz, Floreana, Isabela or San Cristobal), here you can see the efforts of scientists and conservationists to reestablish populations of tortoises on certain islands. 76. Visit Punta Espinoza on Fernandina island to spot the highest concentrations of marine iguanas, flightless cormorants, penguins and other endemics. 77. Keep an eye out for all types of whales in the fall season, dolphins are also common to spot as they swim at the bow of your boat. 78. Plantlife in Galapagos is as unique as the animals that feed on it, from red vesuvium flowes, giant prickly pear cacti, dry forests of palo santo (a type of frankincense) and the endemic Scalesia trees. These unique species give amazing color to the archipelagos scenery. 79. Try and spot the famous racer snakes as they chase baby marine iguanas on Fernandina Island. 80. Get PADI certified for diving. Take the full course in Puerto Ayora, you can enjoy your first immersions at Academy bay and work your way up to more complex dive sites. 90. Underwater explorers can go in search of unique species like the giant sea horse at the tunnels on Isabela Island. 91. Enjoy the marine life from the comfort of a glass-bottom boat, the ideal viewing platform to have grandparents and grandkids enjoying the same ocean view. True bonding experience to spot sea lions, sharks and sea turtles together. 92. Go Sportfishing. The Galapagos park authority have given fishermen the opportunity to turn in fishing license in exchange for cath and release tourism licenses. 93. Toast to a sundowner sparkling wine cocktail on a private zodiac ride with your yacht captain into the baroness bay. 94. Visit Lonesome George. Although he passed a few years back, taxidermists helped preserve the body of this iconic species and is on display at the Darwin station. 95. Spot the bright orange Santa Fe land iguanas. 96. Explore the crevaces near the Barranco area on Genovesa island in search of short-eared Galapagos owls. 97. Enjoy a ceviche lesson given by your chef on board the Seaman Journey catamaran. 98. Snorkel inside a sunken volcanic carter at Bartolome Island. 99. Tie the knot. Bring your family and friends for your one of a kind destination wedding at one of the island’s beautiful oceanfront hotels. 100. Go diving after dark at Punta Estrada (Just a few minutes boat ride from Puerto Ayora) and explore a totally different world. A night dive unveils the marine world in a totally different optic. Marcel Perkins is CEO at Latin Trails. Latin Trails is an incoming destination management company specialized in bespoke tours, with a focus on offering unique experiences throughout Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, and Peru. If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

Marcel Perkins

Marcel Perkins is CEO at Latin Trails. Latin Trails is an incoming destination management company specialized in bespoke tours, with a focus on offering unique experiences throughout Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, and Peru. If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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  1. Wow, there’s certainly no shortage of things to do here. The question is, where to start? Swim with penguins? That’s such a sweet idea, I’d add that to my list. I’d want to spot as much wildlife as possible, get in a yacht cruise, get in a lot of walking, plenty of ice cream cones, maybe a bit of snorkelling. I’m not sure what no 92 sport fishing is, do you mean catch and release rather than fishing? I hate fishing so if anything caught is released that at least makes it a little kinder. You’d want a good itinerary and schedule to try to pack in as much of these things as possible. Even if you only did a fraction of it though it would be such a diverse trip. Beats the last beach holiday where I sat on my bum all day for a week!

    1. Dear Gillian,

      Galapagos is diverse in wildlife and scenery allowing for many activities.

      Sport fishing should not be frowned upon in Galapagos. The Galapagos park authority a few years back issued sport fishing permits in exchange for commercial fishing permits (yes, boats can pull out 2-3 tons in a week venture… ) so the alternative of catch and release is truly more sensitive, it keeps active jobs for fishermen and it has helped them love and protect their surroundings. The best part of the catch and release program is for those who go all the way and decide to enjoy what they caught at the Captains home (it is an optional experience), taking into account you only catch what you will eat.

    1. If you take a 5 night cruise and extend your stay another 5 nights on island hotels… you might go all out on them. It would take another week to go to Darwin and Wolf (dive liveaboard cruises are weeklong)

  2. I loved this. Why not 101? What’s would the 101st be?

    But seriously, this is a great format. Informative but a little quirky too. And no, I won’t be hugging a tree, how do you know where the spikes start?

    Maybe other bloggers could have a go at the 101 approach. Throwing out loads of ideas you are bound to come up with something that appeals to everyone. Also, we all love the pictures and it means you can include lots.

    1. Dear Sally,

      101 is seeing you and your signficant others getting your postcard back at home after visiting the post office bay :-). Some day you might share a picture.

  3. Let’s be honest whenever you travel you are almost always, unless you travel to the extreme north or extreme south, going to have to spend some hours in darkness. It’s always worth thinking about what sort of night sky you are going to get. As there’s no light pollution you should be able to plan your journey to the Galapagos to take in the night skies of both northern and Southern Hemispheres. For me that would be a double bonus from a Galápagos trip.

    1. True!!!!

      The sky is beautiful. A telescope allows to spot the southern cross and the big dipper.

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