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Galapagos travel advisor - getting around the Islands transportation

Getting around the Islands

Getting around the Galapagos Islands is not dificult at all it actually is the best part of your trip it is fun! -- horses, bicycles, sea kayaks, cruise yachts & small ships, ferries, cargo boats, airplanes, buses, taxis, and other public transportation is available. If you are staying in one island, before you go anywhere, make sure you don't need a Naturalist Guide with you.

Most places in all the islands are prohibited for tourists and travelers who are not accompanied by a Certified Naturalist Guide. There are some transportation systems in place. Santa Cruz has a bus that takes travelers to the airport and up to the sink holes in the center of the island. There are regular ships that transport travelers to islands (check at the docks for arrival/departure times as they vary). The most important thing to keep in mind while you're getting around on during your Galapagos travels is that they are all protected. Keep on set paths and respect the islands.

There are several ways of getting around the Islands and reaching the visitor sites. We have prepared this section to help you choose the one that is best for you. We include a small briefing on each and some interesting tips to help you plan a better trip.

By boat

Seeing the sites and wildlife of the Galapagos, by far is best done by cruise boat, cruising on a liveaboard yacht or small cruise ship. Most people book their place well in advance (as the boats are usually full during the high season). Booking a boat tour with a company in your home country will usually be the most convenient, but is often considerably more expensive.

Boat tours can also be arranged from Guayaquil, Quito, and even from Puerto Ayora. While it is possible to get a last-minute deal, Ecuador tour & cruise operators are not discount houses, and be aware that many budget tours may spend extra time in Puerto Ayora, might not always be on the best boats, and may only visit the inner islands.

In either case, when looking for a tour consider the following:

    * Number of passengers. Many of the sites in the islands are limited in how many people may visit at any given time, so it is generally best to travel on a boat with fewer passengers (between ten and twenty passengers is ideal).
    * Itinerary. Fernandina, Isabela, and Genovesa islands are three of the most interesting islands in the archipelago, but many tours skip these islands and visit only the inner islands.
    * Level of Activity. Landings are only permitted during the twelve hours of daylight, so try to find a trip that takes advantage of daylight hours. In addition, the aquatic life is the highlight of the trip for many visitors, so be sure to find a tour that includes at least one daily snorkel.
    * Additional costs. Many tours do not include the $100 park entry fee or the cost of a flight from the mainland to the islands (apx. $400 from Quito).

Our Cruise review section has a description of all boats that navigate the Islands, plus there are ratings by real travellers with unbiased reviews

Other Boat options are called day trips / cruises, these are usually combined with a hotel stay program where all meals are included. You cruise by day and sleep on an Island by night (usually Santa Cruz or San Cristobal). If you feel uncomfortable sleeping on a yacht this is your best choice. You can also stay at a Galapagos hotel see options in our hotel review section and book day trips as you go.

There is a third option which is great for adventure travellers. You can decide to hop around the inhabited Islands and visit all the land sites on each. To get around the Islands you can take the local ferry or use local speed boat transfers, details below:

Cargo Ships:

There are some cargo ships running from Santa Cruz Island to San Cristobal or Isabela Island that charge a minimal fee ($7.00/passenger) to transport people from island to island. They are erratic however and set schedules are not followed, and we don’t guarantee that you’ll get one in the first week on the islands. The trip will generally take 7-8 hours, and so bring a little bit of food and a sleeping pad for the night ahead.

Ask at the Capitania de Puerto (port authority), the office right off of the boat docks, past the park on the Avenida Charles Darwin. They can tell you when boats are leaving for Isabela or San Cristobal. The captains of the boats don’t have to register until 24 hours beforehand, and so you might not know until the very day. Just be ready!

Private Boats:

To move from Santa Cruz to Floreana, Isabela or San Cristobal, you can also pay a private speed boat to take you to the other islands. They usually charge around $30.00 - $40.00. Try to negotiate, especially if there are several of you. Ask at the boat docks and the restaurant Salvavidas in front of the docks. That’s usually where the captains hang out, and they would know who is leaving for another island.

There is a boat service at the Capitanía del Puerto that travels between different islands. Other boat services are offered by Estrella del Mar from Puerto Villamil (Isabela) to Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz). Check days and times as well as prices. The trip takes about 61/2 hours. The other is Galamar from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (San Cristóbal) to Puerto Ayora on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, returning on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays (5 1/2 hours), US$40 one way; this boat can also be booked for visits to Floreana and Isabela.

Water taxi:

will transport you from your own yacht to the wharf when required.

Just remember that cargo boats and speedboats cannot take you to any of the visitor sites.

By air

EMETEBE, a local airline, flies a small cesna aircraft between the islands. It flies 3 times/week between Baltra and Isabela (Puerto Villamil) as well as between Baltra and San Cristobal. The price is a little steep, a little over $100.00 one way. If you have the money, and not the time, this is a great way to get from island to island.

You will be restricted to luggage of 30 lbs or less (non-negotiable). Emetebe Avionetas. You can also charter hourly planes between US$450 and US$ 600.

EMETEBE has offices in Puerto Ayora (+593 5 2526177), San Cristobol ((+593 5  2520036) and Puerto Vilamil ((+593 5 2529155). Contact them for details.

By Land

In Santa Cruz (Puerto Ayora), San Cristobal (Puerto Baquerizo Moreno), Floreana (Puerto Velasco Ibarra) and Isabela (Puerto Villamil) you can find anything from taxis and buses to pickup trucks to bicycles and horses for rent. Because these islands have small communities, the traveler has a little more freedom. In Santa Cruz and Isabela, Kayaks can be rented. In all of the aforementioned islands, there are some hiking trails open to visitors without guides.

Main Offices Address: Av. Rumiñahui 221 y 1ra Transversal, San Rafael                                                                                          Quito - Ecuador