The Galapagos Islands is an archipelago of 19 islands off the coast of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean. They are home to endemic species famously studied by Charles Darwin, and the ecosystems here have shaped evolutionary theory. 

This is a destination that embodies the true essence of adventure and natural wonder, and once on the islands, Galapagos excursions offer a rare opportunity to step foot in a world untouched by time. Here, you can witness the fascinating interplay between animals and their environment, from the iconic giant tortoises and marine iguanas to the playful sea lions and exotic birdlife.

Snorkeling in the crystal-clear waters, you’ll encounter a vibrant underwater world, with colorful fish, sea turtles, and even the occasional hammerhead shark. But the Galapagos Islands are not just about wildlife.

The landscapes here are equally mesmerizing, with dramatic volcanic craters, pristine beaches, and lush highlands to explore. Whether you’re hiking to the rim of a volcano, kayaking through secluded coves, or simply relaxing on a sun-soaked beach, the Galapagos Islands promise unforgettable adventure.

Unforgettable Galapagos Island Excursions

Santa Cruz Island

Santa Cruz Island is the bustling hub of the Galapagos. It’s the second-largest island and serves as the main tourist gateway, offering a perfect blend of adventure and comfort.

Start your exploration at Puerto Ayora, the island’s largest town, where you can find a variety of accommodations, restaurants, and shops. Don’t miss the Charles Darwin Research Station, where you can learn about the islands’ unique wildlife conservation efforts, including the famous giant tortoise breeding program.

For nature enthusiasts, a visit to the highlands of Santa Cruz is a must. Here, you can hike through lush forests and see the giant tortoises in their natural habitat. Don’t forget to visit the stunning lava tunnels, created by ancient volcanic eruptions.

When it comes to marine life, Santa Cruz offers some of the best snorkeling spots in the Galapagos. Explore the crystal-clear waters around Santa Cruz to encounter a dazzling array of marine species, including sea lions, marine iguanas, and colorful fish.

Isabela Island

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Isabela Island is the largest and possibly most captivating islands in the Galapagos archipelago. This island, formed by six large volcanic domes, offers a unique blend of dramatic landscapes, pristine beaches, and unparalleled wildlife encounters.

Start your journey in Puerto Villamil, a charming coastal town known for its laid-back vibe and stunning beaches. From here, you can explore the surrounding areas, including the striking Sierra Negra volcano, which offers breathtaking views from its rim.

For wildlife enthusiasts, Isabela Island is a paradise. Explore the mangrove forests and lagoons of the island to spot a variety of bird species, including flamingos, penguins, and blue-footed boobies. Snorkeling and diving around Isabela offer an opportunity to encounter marine life such as sea turtles, rays, and colorful fish.

One of the highlights of Isabela Island is the unique opportunity to see Galapagos penguins, the only penguin species found north of the equator. You can also visit the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center to learn about conservation efforts for these iconic creatures.

With its stunning natural beauty and diverse wildlife, Isabela Island offers a truly unforgettable experience for nature lovers and adventurers alike.

Española Island

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Española Island, the southernmost island in the Galapagos archipelago, is a remote island is renowned for its stunning landscapes, pristine beaches, and unique wildlife like the waved albatross, the largest bird in the Galapagos.

Visit between April and December to witness these majestic birds performing their elaborate mating dance. The island is also home to a variety of other bird species, including blue-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, and swallow-tailed gulls.

Explore the island’s dramatic coastline, where rugged cliffs meet the azure waters of the Pacific Ocean. Gardner Bay is a highlight, with its beautiful white sand beach and crystal-clear waters, perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking.

Punta Suárez offers another unique opportunity to encounter wildlife, including sea lions, marine iguanas, and colorful Sally Lightfoot crabs. The dramatic blowhole here shoots water high into the air, creating a spectacular natural display.

Santiago Island

Santiago Island is a hidden gem known for its stark volcanic landscapes, rich history, and diverse wildlife. This island offers a unique blend of adventure and discovery, and one of the highlights is its otherworldly volcanic terrain.

Explore the dark, hardened lava fields of Sullivan Bay, created by an eruption in the early 20th century. The landscape here is a stark reminder of the island’s volcanic origins and offers a glimpse into the geological forces that shaped the Galapagos.

Santiago Island is also home to a variety of wildlife, both on land and in the surrounding waters. Keep an eye out for Galapagos hawks soaring overhead, marine iguanas basking on the rocks, and fur seals playing in the surf.

Snorkeling and diving around Santiago Island offer a chance to encounter a variety of marine life, including colorful fish, sea turtles, and even sharks. And for history buffs, Santiago Island offers a glimpse into the islands’ past.

Visit Puerto Egas, a former salt mine that offers a fascinating insight into the island’s human history, including remnants of old buildings and equipment.

Genovesa Island

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Genovesa Island is a remote and pristine paradise known as “Bird Island”. This horseshoe-shaped island offers a unique and breathtaking landscape, with steep cliffs, rocky shores, and a flooded caldera that form the perfect habitat for a variety of bird species.

Genovesa Island is a birdwatcher’s paradise, home to thousands of nesting seabirds. The island’s most iconic residents include red-footed and Nazca boobies, frigatebirds, and swallow-tailed gulls.

Explore the island’s trails, such as Prince Philip’s Steps, to get up close to these magnificent birds and witness their fascinating behaviors.

In addition to its avian inhabitants, Genovesa Island offers excellent opportunities for snorkeling and diving. The waters surrounding the island are teeming with marine life, including colorful fish, sea turtles, and hammerhead sharks.

Darwin Bay, a natural harbor formed by a submerged caldera, is a popular snorkeling spot, offering a chance to swim alongside sea lions and explore vibrant coral reefs.

For a truly unforgettable experience, visit Genovesa Island between June and December, when the island’s seabirds are most active and the wildlife is at its peak. 

Ideas for Galapagos Excursions

Snorkel and Scuba Dive

One of the best places to snorkel and scuba dive in the Galapagos is Kicker Rock (Leon Dormido) near San Cristobal Island, known for its towering rock formations and abundant marine life, including sharks, rays, and sea turtles.

Another top spot is Devil’s Crown near Floreana Island, a submerged volcanic crater teeming with colorful fish and coral reefs.

Wolf and Darwin Islands, located in the northernmost part of the archipelago, are considered the best diving sites in the Galapagos, offering encounters with schools of hammerhead sharks, whale sharks, and other large pelagic species.

For a more relaxed snorkeling experience, Gardner Bay on Española Island and Las Tintoreras near Isabela Island are excellent choices, with calm waters and a variety of marine life to discover.

Hiking and Biking Tours

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Exploring the Galapagos Islands by foot or bike is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the stunning landscapes and unique wildlife of the archipelago. Several islands offer excellent hiking and biking opportunities, allowing you to discover the natural beauty of the Galapagos at your own pace.

Santa Cruz Island is a great starting point, with a network of trails that lead through lush highlands, volcanic craters, and pristine forests. The hike to the rim of the Sierra Negra volcano offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes.

Isabela Island is another great destination for hiking and biking, with trails that wind through lava fields, mangrove forests, and along stunning beaches. The hike to the Wall of Tears, a historic site built by prisoners in the 1940s, offers a glimpse into the island’s history and incredible views along the way.

For biking enthusiasts, San Cristobal Island offers scenic coastal routes and trails that lead through rugged terrain and picturesque villages. You can also explore the highlands of the island, with opportunities to spot wildlife such as giant tortoises and endemic bird species.


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With over 50 resident bird species and many more migratory visitors, the islands are a haven for birdwatching enthusiasts.

One of the best places for birdwatching in the Galapagos is Genovesa Island, often referred to as “Bird Island” for its incredible avian diversity. Look for red-footed and Nazca boobies, frigatebirds, swallow-tailed gulls, and many other species nesting and feeding along the cliffs and shores.

Another top spot for birdwatching is Española Island, home to the waved albatross, the largest bird in the Galapagos. Visit between April and December to witness these majestic birds performing their elaborate mating dance.

Santa Cruz Island is also a great destination for birdwatching, with opportunities to spot Darwin’s finches, mockingbirds, and Galapagos doves, among others.

The highlands of the island offer a particularly rich birdwatching experience, with lush forests and volcanic craters providing a perfect habitat for a variety of species.

Swimming with sea lions and turtles

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Swimming with sea lions and turtles in the Galapagos is a magical experience, and there are several fantastic spots where you can enjoy these encounters.

One of the best places is Gardner Bay on Española Island, where you can snorkel alongside playful sea lions and glide past graceful sea turtles in the crystal-clear waters.

Another excellent spot is Punta Carrion on Santa Cruz Island, known for its abundance of sea turtles and friendly sea lions that are curious and often approach swimmers.

Additionally, Floreana Island’s Devil’s Crown offers a chance to swim with sea lions and encounter sea turtles among the coral reefs. These incredible experiences offer a unique opportunity to witness the beauty and diversity of the Galapagos marine life up close.

The Best Time to Visit Galapagos Islands

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The best time to visit the Galapagos Islands depends on what you want to experience. The islands have two main seasons: the warm, wet season (December to May) and the cool, dry season (June to November).

The warm season, from December to May, is characterized by higher temperatures and occasional rain showers. This is also the breeding season for many species, so you’ll have the opportunity to see baby animals. The sea is also warmer during this time, making it ideal for snorkeling and swimming.

The cool season, from June to November, brings cooler temperatures and a dry, overcast climate. This is the time when the waters are cooler, but marine life is more active, especially for activities like diving where you can see larger fish and rays.

Overall, the best time to visit the Galapagos Islands depends on your preferences.

If you prefer warmer weather and don’t mind the occasional rain, then the warm season may be ideal. However, if you want to see more active marine life and don’t mind cooler temperatures, then the cool season may be more suitable.

Which island/s are you heading to on your Galapagos Islands excursion?!

Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; an online magazine dedicated to opening your eyes to the wonders of the wild & natural world.

Having visited 100+ countries across all seven continents, Megan’s travels focus on cultural immersion, authentic discovery and incredible journeys. She has a strong passion for ecotourism, and aims to promote responsible travel experiences.


Source: Experience Adventure with Unforgettable Galapagos Island Excursions

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