Say “Galapagos Islands” and people immediately think Darwin—and if Darwin’s your passion, you can get your fill at the Charles Darwin Foundation on Santa Cruz.
But if adventure is your jam, the Galapagos Islands are definitely the place to be. Fabulous diving, amazing animals, and some of the most diverse and exciting geography on the planet—that’s what’s makes this one of the most unique destinations you’ll ever visit.
Check out our list of top adventures awaiting you in the Galapagos Islands.
1. Where else can you snorkel with sea lions?
Galapagos sea lions are a common sight in the Galapagos, flopped on the beach catching some sun or rolling in the sea next to your boat.
In fact, these animals breed almost exclusively in the seas near Santa Cruz, Isabela and Espanola—and with a breeding season that lasts over half the year, you’re virtually guaranteed to see plenty of playful pups.
So why not take a swim with them?
You can at La Loberia in San Cristobal, where the sea lions frolic with abandon and actually seem to enjoy swimming with their human friends.
2. Kayak and swim with the white-tip sharks (and the sea turtles) at Turtle Bay.
Turtle Bay has one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, but if it’s adventure you’re after, you won’t be disappointed. Rent a kayak and paddle in the crystal waters surrounded by white-tip sharks and the famous green sea turtles.
If you’re really feeling adventurous, grab your snorkel gear and swim with them. It’s an unforgettable experience.
3. Get up close and personal with a super-ugly but super-sweet Santa Fe iguana.
The land iguanas are fierce-looking and huge (some reach 30 pounds and 3 feet in length!), but they’re actually gentle herbivores who love to soak up the hot equatorial sun.
Don’t be surprised if they don’t show fear when you see them ambling about on Santa Cruz—in fact, they might just be curious enough to follow you around for a bit!
4. About those iguanas—learn why (and when) the marine iguanas turn different colors.
Marine iguanas are the only seagoing lizards in the world and you can find them on just about every island in the Galapagos. They turn colors as they mature and also during mating season.
Young marine iguanas are black and gradually change to red, gray, and even green, depending on the island. The ones on Espanola are the most colorful, their bright red and green colors earning them the name “Christmas iguanas.”
5. Your love life will never be the same after you see the mating dance of the blue-footed booby.
Although there are actually three kinds of boobies in the Galapagos Islands, the blue-footed variety is by far the most interesting—and not the least for its rather intense and unusual mating dance. It’s nature’s version of “Dancing with the Stars,” with plenty of fancy footwork and whistling catcalls.
Who knows, you or your significant other may even pick up a few romantic tips from the blue-footed boobies 😉
6. Take a swim with a Galapagos penguin at Bartolome or Tintoreras Islet.
Galapagos penguins are the rarest penguins in the world—few people ever get a chance to see these charming little creatures (they’re just 19 inches long and weigh less than 5 pounds). On a visit to Bartolome or Tintoreras Islet, you’ll get a chance to swim with them as they take a refreshing dip to cool off from the heat or search for mullet and crustaceans to eat. –
7. Watch a rare Galapagos Giant Tortoise enjoy an epic 16-hour nap in the sun.
Don’t think that these giant Galapagos natives are boring just because they can sleep 16 hours at a stretch—they’re bodies are so efficient they can go an entire year without eating or drinking!
They’re also highly endangered, with just 15,000 left in the world.
You can see them at the Isabela Breeding Center or the El Chato Reserve on Santa Cruz. Did you know that the Galapagos Islands take their name from the Spanish word galapago, or turtle, because they were so plentiful at the time?
8. You will never see anything more adorable than a Galapagos fur seal pup.
Galapagos fur seals are an amazing species—in addition to being maybe the cutest of all the Galapagos animals, they spend more time on land than any of other seal species (usually over half of their day is spent sunning on the rocks). In fact, they love to lay in the sun so much, they do all their feeding at night and their appetites wax and wane with the phase of the moon. There are only about 40,000 Galapagos fur seals remaining with the largest groupings at St. James Bay on Santiago Island and Darwin Bay on Genovesa Island.
9. Scuba dive with rays and hammerheads at Kicker Rock.
Kicker Rock is one of the most spectacular sights in the Galapagos Islands, made of volcanic rock shooting 140 meters into the air.
The narrow channel separating the rocks goes down about 20 meters and attracts an amazing number and variety of marine life including hammerhead and Galapagos sharks and spotted eagle rays.
It’s one of the most popular diving sites for good reason.
10. Check out Sierra Negra, the second-largest volcanic crater on the planet.
If you visit Isabela, you’ll want to take the hike up Cerro Negro, one of the most active volcanoes on the island. After a moderate, roughly two-mile hike, you’ll be rewarded with an otherworldly view over the rim at the massive six-mile crater.
If you’re in the mood, hike a bit further past the fumaroles and thermal vents to Volcan Chico – and its rust and gold-colored lava fields. You’ll also get breathtaking island views—definitely worth the hike.
11. More volcanoes? Crawl through the lava tubes at Bellavista.
After you’ve climbed to the top of a volcano, why not go underground and crawl through subterranean lava tunnels?
Lava tunnels or tubes are formed with the outer shell of molten lava begins to harden while the liquid magma continues to flow.
At Bellavista on Santa Cruz, you can crawl through these tubes and explore them for yourself—how many people can say they’ve done that?
12. Get your adrenaline fix cliff-jumping at Las Grietas.
Las Grietas, which means “crevice” is an unusual lava rock formation overlooking one of the most spectacular swimming holes on Santa Cruz. A short hike through a lava field full of interesting flora and fauna takes you to Las Grietas, where you can jump off the cliff walls or dive from the wooden platform—or just enjoy a lovely float in the clear, cool water. Bring your snorkel gear; the water is full of colorful parrotfish putting on a show.
13. Watch the pelicans beg for scraps from the fishermen at the fish market in Puerto Ayora.
Puerto Ayora is famous for its fish market—and the hungry seabirds who flock around the fishermen to beg for scraps. Bring your camera and snap shots of pelicans pushing their way to the front for a fish head or tail or other fresh morsel. You may even spot a few seals, too.
14. Ever wanted to swim with a giant seahorse (or a friendly sea turtle while you’re at it)?
Los Tuneles is one of the hidden gems of the Galapagos Islands—the cruise ships can’t reach it, so it’s relatively untouched and quiet. It’s also the perfect place to snorkel with the most interesting sea life, including graceful green sea turtles, giant seahorses and even a few white-tip sharks.
Did you know that giant seahorses can live to 100 years old or more and can swim an amazing 35 miles per hour?
15. Swim, soak up the sun, and search for Greater Flamingos at El Garrapatero Beach.
A quiet beach is always a welcome respite from your Galapagos vacation, but El Garrapatero Beach is a special treat, thanks to the flocks of Greater Flamingos who make their home here. You’ll also see plenty of marine iguanas and perky, bright orange crabs scampering across the sand.
It’s an idyllic way to spend an afternoon on Santa Cruz.
You probably already knew the Galapagos Islands were an amazing place to visit, but now you know some of the truly one-of-a-kind experiences you can only find here. Did something catch your fancy or stir up your wanderlust? Sign up for our free email course if you want to learn more about planning the ultimate travel adventure to the Galapagos Islands.
Contact us today and find out how easy it is to plan your dream Galapagos Island vacation.