Each day in the Galapagos brings new horizons to discover. Cruises travel overnight to far off islands, land-based trips offer day excursions to the coast and highlands of San Cristobal, Santa Cruz, and Isabela; and both give you options for activities in the tropics that go beyond the beaten path. Keep reading for a few fun activities to try while in the archipelago.
Stand Up Paddle Boarding
Stand up paddle boarding is a fun way to spend the day when visiting Santa Cruz, Isabela, or San Cristobal. The sport has taken hold in the islands, and many hotels and tour operators rent boards on walk-in bases.
Devine Bay on Santa Cruz Island is a sheltered beach that lends itself to novices. The calm waters are a great setting to learn the basics of SUP, alongside sea lions and turtles swimming beneath the waves.
The bay of Puerto Villamil on Isabela is another popular spot for stand up paddleboarding. The waters are home to sea turtles and Galapagos penguins, making a day on the water an adventure that combines skill with discovering the wildlife of the islands.
Ochoa Beach on San Cristobal is a white sand beach just up the coast from the main town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. The clear waters and nearby Kicker Rock make it a go-to spot for watersports, including kayaking and snorkeling.
For those looking for an adventure on land while in the islands, exploring by horseback immerses you in the stunning scenery of the islands. Horses were originally brought to the islands hundreds of years ago by an American colonist, and the animals that are used today are their descendants. Treks are available on Santa Cruz, Isabela, and San Cristobal.
Santa Cruz Island
Exploring the highlands of Santa Cruz puts you in the lush landscape of the higher elevations of the island. Popular stops include El Chato Tortoise Reserve, where Giant tortoises roam free in the wild, and neighboring coffee and sugarcane farms.
A favorite trek by horseback on Isabela Island is up to the top of the Sierra Negra volcano. Trips start early in the morning to avoid the heat and make it to the six-mile-wide crater just in time for the sun to burn through the morning clouds. The trip starts at sea level and continues through the cloud forest; the last leg is above the tree line through barren volcanic fields to the summit.
San Cristobal is another great spot to jump in the saddle and head into the hillside of the highlands of the islands. Tours normally stop at El Junco Lagoon before continuing on into the higher elevations.
The Galapagos Islands are considered to be one of the best diving sites in the world because of the incredible variety of marine life that the fertile waters attract. During the dry season between July and December, the cool waters of the Humboldt Current mix with the warmer waters of the islands, creating a sprawling eco-system that is teaming with schools of fish, whales, whale sharks, sea turtles, and sea lions, dolphins, and rays.
Exploring alongside hammerhead sharks is a favorite moment for divers of all levels. Sites like Gordon Rocks off of San Cristobal and the point at the mouth of the Seymour channel are good spots to find hammerheads, as well as sea turtles and lions, rays, and massive schools of reef fish that feed and clean themselves around tropical coral reefs.
Isla Guy Fawkes and Punta Carrion dive sites are perfect for beginning and intermediate divers. Isla Guy Fawkes is a set of submerged volcanic tuff cones; sloping walls descend deep into the depths where eels, rays, and white-tipped reef sharks clean themselves on the coral amidst thousands of reef fish. Puerto Carrion is another feeding ground for hammerhead sharks and is one of the best places to photograph white and black-tipped reef sharks.