Galápagos Islands were a far-fetched dream destination for me because I didn’t think it was affordable. Luckily, with enough research and planning ahead, that dreamed turned into reality. Few weeks would have been ideal to explore almost all of the Islands, but time and money are a budgeter’s arch-enemy.
There are two ways to explore the Islands: Cruises – which are expensive but it’s the best option for accessing almost all of the islands. The second option is to fly to Santa Cruz and transfer to preferred islands via speed boat. Cruises were out of our budget, and as we only had five days to spare, we decided to fly. Since our trip was around Ecuador & Peru, it was cheaper to buy a multi-way ticket out of JFK.
Our flight itinerary: New York, USA > layover in Guayaquil > Santa Cruz > Quito, Ecuador > Lima, Peru > New York, USA. We did our research to see if it would be cheaper to fly to Quito, then take a separate flight to Santa Cruz, but they are also quite expensive. At any given time, flights to Santa Cruz out of Quito or Guayaquil will be around $350 and above. Our multi-way flight above was $893. SCORE, right?!
Below is a list of top ten activities that we highly recommend. Unfortunately, we couldn’t afford number #10 (probably the most amazing) activity on our list. Although, according to my travel mates, the diving excursion to Los Tuneles was worth every penny.
Top 10 activities for Santa Cruz & Isabela Island
- Las Grietas, Santa Cruz
- Galapagos Beach / Tortuga Bay, Santa Cruz
- Reserva El Chato / Los Gemelos / Lava Tunnel – taxi tour, Santa Cruz
- Charles Darwin Research Station, Santa Cruz
- Danny’s Taco joint for dinner
- Centro de Crianza Arnaldo Tupiza, Isabela
- Sierra Negra, Isabela
- Los Tuneles, Isabela
- Volcan Trillizos, Isabela
- Diving excursions – which we could not do due to budget restriction
Budget breakdown per person
- $20: paperwork for Galápagos at Guayaquil airport
- $100: Island entry fee
- $2: ferry ride from and to the airport Port
- $14: roundtrip taxi from Baltra to Santa Cruz
- $78: three-night stay at Hostal Carliza in Santa Cruz
- $1: roundtrip boat transfer to Las Grietas
- $5: snorkeling rental equipment
- $60: average cost for our breakfast, lunch, and dinner for two days
- $20: boat transfer to Tortuga Bay
- $15: taxi-tour of Santa Cruz – Los Gemelos + magma tunnel
- $3: entrance fee for Las Tortugas farm
- $70: roundtrip transfer from Santa Cruz to Isabela Island
- $3: boat transfer from ferry to the port
- $5: Island tax for Isabela
- $40: two-night stay at Casa Rosada, Isabela
- $3: Bike rental – Isabela
- $40: day tour to Sierra Negra
- $85: snorkeling trip to Los Tuneles
- $40: Cave Repelling
- $50: average cost for our lunch and dinner
- $30: miscellaneous cost – tips, souvenirs, etc.
Total of $589 for five days in Galápagos! It’s expensive, but it was worth every penny!
- Bring Dramamine, and chewing gum for sea sickness
- If you plan on using a taxi from Baltra to Santa Cruz, make sure to bargain!
- For food budgeters, I highly recommend Servisabroson; real Ecuadorian food and its to die for (Danny’s Taco place comes to mind) plus it’s reasonably priced
- Do not pay more than $10 for boat transfer to Tortuga Bay
- Use Banco Pacifico ATMs; it only charges $1 per transaction (max $400) + your bank fee (ours was $2 per transaction)
- Ferry ticket to Isabela Island from Santa Cruz should cost no more than $35
- There are no ATMs in Isabela so make sure to take out cash accordingly.
- Some restaurants, tour agency, accept credit cards, but there is 20% transaction charge
- Shop around for day tours and compare prices
- Explore as much as you can; all the Islands are relatively safe!
I think this about summarizes our Galápagos adventure.