3-island Galapagos Adventure
October 12–24, 2017
Trip at a Glance
- October 12–24, 2017
- Accompanied by BJ & Lauren, owners of RetreaTours
- Stay on three inhabited islands of the Galapagos
- Enjoy sightseeing boat trips and snorkeling day trips
- Small group tour: limited to 10 guests
- Early bird price of $3999 USD per person (based on double occupancy) until May 15, 2017 (thereafter, $4399 USD)
The Galápagos Islands are considered one of the world’s foremost destinations for wildlife-viewing–and wildlife photography! These UNESCO World Heritage islands, isolated 1,000 km off the coast of Ecuador, are home to diverse and unique flora & fauna–many are found nowhere else on the planet. We’ll be staying on three different islands on this land-based tour, and we’ll take plenty of boat excursions to reach the treasured, remote vistas of this otherworldly volcanic archipelago.
You’ll be accompanied by the owners of RetreaTours, a boutique tour outfit specializing in intimate, authentic experiences around the world. As a small group, we will explore, engage, and enjoy the best that the Galapagos has to offer!
How to Register
> Review this entire webpage for details
> Submit deposit by check, wire, or credit card (via PayPal)
Itinerary at a Glance
October 12: Arrive in Quito, Ecuador
October 13: Fly from Quito to Santa Cruz
October 14-15: Explore the beaches and highlands of Santa Cruz & Seymour Norte
October 16: Ferry to Isabela
October 17-19: Discover Isabela’s wildlife, including the Galápagos penguin
October 20: Fly from Isabela to San Cristobal
October 21-23: Experience San Cristobal’s rich underwater vista at Kicker Rock & Isla Lobos
October 24: Fly to Quito and on to home or your next adventure (perhaps the Amazon!)
Detailed Daily Itinerary
SANTA CRUZ& Seymour Norte
We’ll arrive at Santa Cruz’s airport on little Baltra island, and you get your first tiny boat ride right away, across the Itabaca Channel (about 400 meters). Our destination on Santa Cruz is Puerto Ayora, on the southern coast, but we’re taking the scenic route! We’ll break up the one-hour drive by stopping in the highlands to visit the Giant Galapagos Tortoises at Rancho Primicias. Here you can marvel at these gentle giants as they roam about their natural habitat.
Puerto Ayora is Santa Cruz’s main town, with a population of 12,000. This will be our home base for three nights and is an interesting town to wander in your free time. You’ll encounter tons of wildlife just trying to walk down the sidewalk, side-stepping sea lions and marine iguanas!
Tomorrow morning we’ll take a boat to Seymour Norte, an island which is a natural haven for the Blue-Footed Boobie and Frigate birds. We’ll also explore Bachas beach and perhaps see some flamingos in the nearby lagoon! On this outing, we’ll also have the opportunity to break out our underwater cameras for our first snorkeling experience in the Galapagos.
On our last full day on Santa Cruz, we’ll take advantage of the wildlife right here in the “big city.” We’ll head toward Tortuga Bay at low tide, where the Pacific recedes and uncovers a beautiful white sand beach dotted with…wait for it…not tortugas, but marine iguanas! Whether they’re sunbathing or diving for snacks, these marine iguanas (native ONLY to the Galapagos) have definitely claimed this beach as their own. We can also visit Las Grietas (The Cracks), deep cuts in the landscape that form high canyons filled with crystal clear water for snorkeling or swimming. Or perhaps you’d like to head to the east side of town and visit the Charles Darwin Research Station. There’s a tortoise enclosure and a baby tortoise incubator, in addition to information about their wildlife restoration efforts.
ISABELALos Tuneles, Las Tintoreras & Sierra Negra
This morning we’ll take a 2-3 hour speedboat ferry to our neighbor to the west, Isabela island. Isabela is the youngest and largest of the Galapagos islands, formed by the merger of 6 volcanos (5 of which are still active!) When you see it on a map, Isabela appears to be shaped like a seahorse–quite appropriate for reasons you’ll soon see!
We’ll spend three full days on Isabela, our favorite island in the Galapagos. Its main town, Puerto Villamil, is a quiet, charming town full of friendly faces and fresh seafood. We’ll organize two boat outings and leave you plenty of free time for optional activities and self-exploration.
We can’t miss Los Tuneles, or The Tunnels. These namesake tunnels and arches were created by lava flows, creating a landscape unlike any other. We’ll have an opportunity to snorkel on the outskirts of the tunnels in the cool water, rich with sea life including–can you guess? The Giant Seahorse!
After exploring underwater, we’ll take our boat further into the maze of arches and natural bridges and we’ll explore a bit on foot, as well. These calm, crystal-clear waters are a favorite for green sea turtles.
The next day we’ll travel a short distance but feel a world away at Las Tintoreras. A lava formation just off the coast of Puerto Villamil has created a sheltered bay which is rich in life, from penguins to rays, sea lions to turtles. We’ll take a guided walk on top of these lava formations and get face-to-face with a large colony of marine iguanas. We’ll also have the opportunity to snorkel in the bay, which gives you the chance to witness how graceful these iguanas are underwater, as well.
The final day is a free day filled with lot of choices. You can opt to take a day trip to Sierra Negra, one of Isabela’s five active volcanos. Sierra Negra boasts the second largest volcanic caldera in the world! On this guided tour you’ll explore the surreal lava landscape dotted with vents and fumaroles.
If you opt to stay closer to ‘home,’ you can explore the coastline, from the white sandy beach to the wetlands. Isabela is also home to a Tortoise Breeding Center–can you spot the difference between the Santa Cruz tortoises and the ones here on Isabela? Nearby there is a lagoon that is home to many flamingos and ducks. You can also choose to view the relics of the island’s dark human history by visiting the Wall of Tears, evidence of Isabela’s former penal colony and its brutal punishments. Or, if you can’t get enough snorkeling, there is a protected area a short walk from the harbor where you may see some penguins glide by you! You can also opt to revisit Los Tuneles or Las Tintoreras, if you choose.
SAN CRISTOBALLeón Dormido, Isla Lobos & La Lobería
On October 20th, we’ll take a chartered flight to San Cristobal island, just east of Santa Cruz. We’ll be staying in the main city of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, which also serves as the capital of the Galapagos Province of Ecuador. This town offers some wonderful educational activities, including the National Park Visitor Center, where you learn that the history of the Galapagos is even stranger–and even more scandalous–than fiction.
This island is where Charles Darwin first disembarked on his renowned 1835 voyage, which greatly impacted and informed his theory of evolution. You can see the statue of Darwin from high stop Frigate Bird Hill (Cerro Tijeretas) or hike out to see it close-up on your way to snorkel in the aquamarine bay.
We have two full days on San Cristobal and two amazing snorkeling* and beach adventures to fill them! One day we will visit Kicker Rock, or León Dormido; obviously the British thought this monolith looked like a shoe, while the Ecuadorians thought it looked more like a sleeping lion–what do you see? Kicker Rock, the eroded cone of an extinct volcano, is a local favorite for snorkeling and diving. This is a great space to see spotted eagle rays and sharks–even hammerheads, if you’re lucky! But don’t forget to look up, too, as the towering rock formations are home to blue-footed boobies, frigate birds, and more. (*Divers can opt to upgrade this activity and turn it into a diving trip.)
The next day we will head to Isla Lobos–that’s right, the Island of Sea Lions. We’ll share the waters with these playful sea lions (or, more accurately, they’ll share the water with us!) and get a glimpse of them gliding around in their element. Don’t let their slow, clumsy behavior on land fool you–they are amongst the most elegant and agile creatures on the planet. We’ll also take a walk on the island itself, which is a favorite nesting spot for frigate birds and blue-footed boobies.
Both of these trips will be combined with lunch and time on a beautiful nearby beach, with a bit of time for walking, resting, or swimming. In the afternoon we’ll heard back for some late afternoon yoga. On one or both of our San Cristobal evenings, we’d love to take you to La Loberia beach, just a 10 minute drive from town, for a beautiful sunset and also one of the larger sea lion colonies in the Galapagos.
On the morning of the 24th, we’ll bid farewell to the Galapagos and fly from San Cristobal back to Quito. Are you ready to head home yet or are you keen for more adventure? Read on for more options!
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Price & Inclusions
This 13 day/12 night journey is $3999 USD per person (double occupancy) before May 15, 2017. After that date the price is $4399 USD.
If you prefer to have your own room, the single supplement is $699 and will be added to your last payment. (Click here to understand why this single supplement is necessary). Please note that we cannot guarantee you a roommate for this trip, and if you room alone, you will be responsible for the single supplement.
An $1000 deposit holds your space. The second installment of $2500 USD is due by June 14, 2017 (120 days before start of trip) and the balance is due by August 13, 2017 (60 days before start of trip). Single supplement ($699 USD) is due along with the last installment.
- Roundtrip flight from Quito to the Galapagos
- Ferry from Santa Cruz to Isabela
- Flight from Isabela to San Cristobal
- $100 USD Galapagos Park Entry Fee
- $20 USD Ecuadorian Immigration Transit Control Card
- Seymour Norte day tour
- Kicker Rock day tour
- Isla Lobos day tour
- Las Tintoreras tour
- Los Tuneles tour
- All breakfasts
- 1 dinner in Santa Cruz, 1 dinner in San Cristobal
- 3 lunches (during included day tours)
Price does not include:
- International airfare from your home to Ecuador (although we can and will be more than happy to help you decide on arrangements)
- 10 dinners and 7 lunches
- Travel insurance (required)
- Wet suit rental
- Optional excursions (that is, any not listed explicitly above, such as Sierra Negra volcano, Darwin Center, etc).
- There is a minimum of 4 guests that must sign up in order for this trip to take place. We will hold your deposit & payments until the minimum number of guests have signed up. Please do not purchase any airfare until you get the go-ahead from us that we’ve reached our minimum number of participants.
- If the minimum number of guests have not signed up 3 months prior to the departure date, we’ll give you the option to transfer your reservation to another tour or fully refund your money.
Please refer to the Price tab for specific information about price & what is included on your journey.
We accept payments via check and credit card (via PayPal). For our international guests, we can accept wires, which we find is the most economical solution for everyone; please contact us for wire details.
- Paying by Check: Checks can be made out to Insight Travels, LLC and sent to 8821 NW 14 Street, Pembroke Pines, FL 33024.
- Paying by Credit Card or PayPal balance: You can pay with credit card or PayPal balance through the following the red buttons below. Please click the appropriate amount to be taken to PayPal’s homepage to complete your transaction. All PayPal transactions must be in USD. Note that you do not have to pay with your PayPal balance.
Final installment due on August 13, 2017. We’ll provide you the amount and invoice well before the due date.
Registration Questions & Contract
Please scroll down within this tan box to reach the end of the questionnaire and contract. At the end of the contract, you will see a “submit” box—please hit that button. If you are having difficulty completing it on this website, you can go directly to the form here.
Your spot is not considered reserved until you have completed these questions and contract on the website.
Suggested Packing List & Temperature Averages
You will need a day bag/knapsack for overnight purposes: We have one chartered flight between Isabela island and San Cristobal island. On this flight, we are only allowed 10 kg of baggage per person TOTAL (including carry-on). This is a strict weight limit and not something that we can get around (not would we want to, safety-wise). We will ship the rest of our luggage on a ferry boat going from Isabela to Santa Cruz, then from Santa Cruz to San Cristobal. Depending on the day’s schedule, your luggage will arrive in San Cristobal later that night or possibly the NEXT day, so we will ask you to pack an overnight bag to bring on the plane with you for your first night/morning on San Cristobal.
Your flight from mainland Ecuador to the islands includes 23 kg (50 lbs) of luggage.
Average temperatures during this time of year:
Galapagos: 73-85° F
Quito : 45-70°F
Water temperature in the Galapagos: around 70 – 73°F
Snorkel gear will be provided on all of our excursions, but if you choose to bring our own for a perfect, comfortable fit, you are more than welcome. BJ is a HUGE fan of the full-face snorkel mask, such as those found here. Lauren is more of am old school purest with the traditional masks and likes the option of taking off and readjusting the mask if need be. However, even she has to admit the unimpeded view with the full-face mask is pretty impressive.
Wetsuits (full or half) are available for rent pretty cheaply, should you choose to go that route. We do NOT think it is necessary to bring your own unless you feel moved to do so. When we visited in November 2015, Lauren did not use a wetsuit at all and BJ only used one once or twice (and his mortal enemy is cold water).
Note: Depending on how long you are staying in Quito before or after the trip, please do bring enough warm-weather attire for your stay there, particularly chilly mornings and nights.
- 8+ pairs undergarments (you can have clothes washed or wash in your room, or you can bring a pair for every day, your choice!)
- 1-2 swimsuits (if you don’t want to run the risk of having to put on a damp bathing suit, best to bring two to rotate)
- Swim shirt. Waterproof sunscreens have a ton of chemicals dangerous to you and to the wildlife, so we try to minimize the need. We love swim shirts, especially long sleeve ones! This minimizes the risk of sunburn when we are on our swimming and boating excursions. Here are some examples on Amazon. We also like using Zappos.com, so you can try on and return your choices without any return postage fees.
- Light windbreaker jacket/rain shell for our boat rides (and possible splashes) or the occasional shower. You will definitely want this!
- 4-5 shirts or blouses. A lightweight long sleeve shirt is very nice for sun protection for our land excursions.
- 3-5 pairs of shorts, lightweight pants, or skirts
- Cover-up or sarong for boat excursions
- Sleeping attire
- Comfortable walking shoes for our land excursions or for the land-based part of our boat excursions. Sports sandals such as Tevas, Chacos, or Keens (Lauren’s current obsession) work great.
- Sandals or flip flops for beach time
- A brimmed hat for sun protection. (You may want a hat that fits very well and/or has a chinstrap for windy boat excursions.)
- You may wish to bring a small dry bag for our boat excursions, to keep your camera, towel, cover-up, etc completely dry.
- Ear plugs and eye shades to help you sleep better (and for those of you coming from afar, it can help you recover from jet lag more quickly. BJ swears by this—click here to read an article he wrote on the topic.)
- Good sunscreen is critical. For our non-water excursions, Lauren prefers mineral-based sunscreens: good for you, good for the environment. How do you know if it’s mineral based? If the active ingredient is either titanium dioxide or zinc oxide—that’s it. MyChelle and Devita make good ones. For our swimming/snorkeling days, please choose a water-based sunscreen that you like, or simply re-apply the mineral-based ones more often.
- Daypack or camera bag
- If you need a recommendation on a camera, BJ would be happy to help, depending on what type of photography you like, how much you want to spend, and how much you want to carry around. BJ and Lauren are a big fan of the Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 for zoom wildlife photos, but you know that BJ can give recommendations for ANY camera needs!
- A waterproof camera may be a fun investment for this trip. Although we will be using a GoPro underwater and sharing the pictures, you may wish to capture your own memories!
- If you DO bring a waterproof camera or GoPro, it’s a good idea to have a floating wrist strap to avoid any accidental offerings to the ocean floor.
- If you do bring your camera, don’t forget extra batteries or your charging cord. You may want to think about an extra memory card, too.
- You may wish to bring binoculars for wildlife sighting
- Toiletries (including preferred shampoo and conditioner, if required–with so much exposure to sun and saltwater, your hair might need extra conditioning).
- Any necessary feminine hygiene products.
- Plug adaptor for electronics for those of you coming from outside the U.S. Here’s a nice example of a great universal adapter and here’s one with USB ports, as well. This is the type of electrical outlet used in Ecuador.
- Photocopy of your passport.
- A small travel umbrella. It can work for rain OR as a parasol.
- Enough of any prescription drugs you need, as well as over-the-counter medication. We recommend bringing:
- Imodium or similar anti-diarrheal (just in case!)
- Anti-nausea remedies for boat rides (could be simple Sea Bands, ginger candies or pills, or the equivalent of Dramamine, although remember that most anti-motion sickness pills, including Dramamine, can make you drowsy).
- Electricity is consistent throughout the Galapagos, and wifi is often present although very slow. Nevertheless, we encourage you to bring your smartphone or tablet, and please don’t forget your chargers! We recommend setting up Skype, FaceTime, WhatsApp, or another wifi-based calling service before leaving home, and familiarizing your loved ones with it before you leave.
We require that our guests carry travel insurance because it just makes sense. It’s a relatively small expense but affords huge peace of mind for very little cost. When choosing a travel insurance policy we require that you are covered for emergency medical evacuation/repatriation. We also recommend you take out trip cancellation insurance, as this may cover cancellation penalties in certain circumstances if you have to cancel your trip unexpectedly due to illness, injury or unforeseen circumstances.
We like World Nomads, but ultimately you have to choose the one that is right for you. If you’re 70 years old or older, you’ll have to use a different company (we can advise you if you like). We’ll be asking for confirmation of your travel insurance before your departure.
FAQ (visa, vaccines, food, money & more!)
- Passport and Visa information
- Health & Vaccines, Travel Insurance
- Money & How to Get Local Currency
What do I need to know about the visa?
First and foremost, your passport MUST be valid at least 6 months beyond the end date of the trip (that is, April 6, 2018), and you’ll need two empty pages in the Visas section of your passport (make sure they are in the Visa section, not the Amendment or Endorsement section).
Ecuador offers 90 day visa-free visits to citizens of most countries, including the U.S, Singapore, Australia, and Canada.
I have special dietary needs—can I be accommodated?
Seafood is obviously a big deal in the Galapagos! Omnivores and pescatarians will thrive. Vegetarians will find vegetable-based options, although the selection is somewhat limited. Vegans might find it more difficult, as the vegetarian options will often include cheese as a base ingredient. Email us and let’s talk about your veg preferences of you are concerned.
Gluten-free guests should not have trouble, although we request you print this card out to carry with you for clarification. Please contact us directly for other dietary concerns.
Usually all meals are included on your trips–why is this different?
Included are your breakfasts and two dinners in the Galapagos. (In addition, light lunches will be provided on the days we have boat tours.) We’ve decided to give you more freedom in your lunches and dinners in the Galapagos due to the wide range of options there. On all three islands there are more value-oriented meal options (between $6-15) and more high-end options ($20+). We know that some of you might just want to have fresh lobsters at every chance, and some of you may be more content with simple Ecuadorian dishes.
Can I drink the water?
In a word, No. Although many cities around the world are getting more advanced public water systems, we don’t recommend it. Not only from a pathogen standpoint, but it’s a different set of bacteria than your body is used to. Why risk an upset stomach if you don’t have to? We recommend drinking only bottled water, and you will want to rinse your toothbrush off in bottled water.
What vaccines do I need?
None are required to enter Ecuador, but we suggest you work with your physician or your area’s travel health expert to decide what options are best for you. You can read the American CDC’s Ecuador recommendations and the Scottish NHS recommendations by clicking here and here.
What about malaria? What about Zika?
Malaria is not a risk on our itinerary (Quito & Galapagos). As always, we request that you work with your physician or travel doctor when making these choices. Please see our blog about this topic for more information about malaria.
This is what the U.S. Center for Disease Control is currently advising about Zika in Ecuador.
*All of the information here is for reference purposes only and is not intended to substitute for advice from your licensed health care professional. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any health condition or disease. If you are experiencing medical issues, you should contact your medical health care provider.
Do I need travel insurance?
We require that our guests carry travel insurance because it just makes sense. It’s a relatively small expense but affords huge peace of mind! When choosing a travel insurance policy we require that you are covered for emergency medical expenses, medical evacuation, and repatriation. We also highly recommend you take out trip cancellation insurance, as this may cover cancellation penalties in certain circumstances if you have to cancel your trip unexpectedly due to illness, injury or other unforeseen circumstances.
We like World Nomads, but ultimately you have to choose the company and policy that is right for you. If you’re 70 years old or older, you’ll have to use a different company. We’ll be asking for confirmation of your travel insurance 60 days before your departure. Please click here to get a quote. We love the services of these companies so much that we became affiliates, so we would ask that if you do choose to purchase these policies, you do it through our links.
How much money should I bring?
How do I get the local currency?
The local currency in Ecuador in the U.S. dollar. Make sure you call your bank and credit card company to let them know you’ll be traveling in Ecuador, so they don’t put a hold on your card when they see it being used halfway across the world. Although there are ATMs on the Galapagos, we’d recommend getting money or changing money in Quito, just to be safe.
What kind of hotels will we be staying in?
All of our hotels are extremely comfortable and well-located for self-exploration. The hotels have wifi and hot water, but as you can imagine, the wifi can be rather limited and slow. Before the trip, we will make sure you have the hotel names and contact information to pass along to your loved ones.
How can my family get ahold of me in an emergency?
Before the trip begins we will give you the contact information for our hotels to pass along to your loved ones. If you choose to bring your cellphone or tablet, you can use VoIP services such as Skype, WhatsApp, and FaceTime to connect with your loved ones at home, as well.
Regarding Swimming in the Galapagos
We will enjoy several snorkeling excursions in the Galapagos. We do recommend that you have tried snorkeling at least once before this trip (even if it’s just in a pool). While you should feel comfortable in your swimming ability, you can always wear a life vest during these excursions in the water. In fact, even strong swimmers sometimes like to wear a life vest just so they can have more fun floating and taking in the gorgeous underwater vistas around them.
About the Altitude in Quito
Altitude Sickness Prevention
Although we won’t be in Quito long, it’s still an impressive 2,850 meters (9,350 feet). Some pre-existing medical conditions are known to worsen at high altitude, so it is imperative that you discuss your pre-existing medical condition/s with your physician. Certain medications are utilized to aid acclimatizing to high altitude; please discuss these options with your doctor or a local travel physician.
PLEASE NOTE: If you know you are sensitive to altitude, we can arrange for you to arrive and depart from the sea-level city of Guayaquil, Ecuador, instead. We don’t have any itinerary items in Quito, and for many places, Guayaquil can be just as convenient a hub. Please let us know if this sounds like it may be a healthier option for you!
Click here to read BJ’s take on how to prevent altitude sickness, as someone who has traveled extensively at high altitudes and never had ill effect and is an avid reader on the subject.
Click here to read Lauren’s suggestions to natural therapies to begin before your trip. Lauren is a Board-certified Acupuncture Physician and Doctor of Oriental Medicine with a specialty in the world of dietary supplements.
*All of the information here is for reference purposes only and is not intended to substitute for advice from a licensed health care professional. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any health condition or disease. If you are experiencing medical issues, you should contact your medical health care provider.
Please use the form below or write [email protected] for more info!
About BJ and Lauren of RetreaTours
BJ & Lauren created RetreaTours in 2010 with one goal in mind: to make world travel accessible, authentic, and astounding. In order to focus fully on this passion, they moved out of the U.S. in January 2013 to reside full-time overseas. Each day is spent exploring new destinations, strengthening local ties & relationships, and creating memorable and transformative retreats and tours (aka, RetreaTours!)
BJ & Lauren take great pride in the itineraries they plan, as they can personally vouch for every hotel, every restaurant, and every activity that you will experience. They craft each element of the trip with intention, and they understand that it is this careful attention to detail that sets them apart. Fueled by their passion, armed with know-how, and supported by knowledgeable local professionals in all of their destinations, BJ & Lauren set the scene for the vacation of a lifetime.
The dynamic duo are available to answer any and all questions before the trip begins. From giving advice on the best flights and travel insurance to providing a packing list, FAQ, and even a tiny “phrasebook,” BJ & Lauren pride themselves on these ‘nuts & bolts’ of personalized service.
In addition, as a guest, you receive free travel consulting services (normally a $300 value) should you choose to extend your travels. As one of their most ‘frequent fliers’ put it recently, BJ & Lauren make everything easy for you. Once you arrive in your destination city, your trip is all-inclusive—your meals, transportation, lodging, site fees, donations, and tips are all taken care of. The research has been done, the itinerary carefully laid out, the reservations made, the t’s crossed and the i’s dotted. All you have to do is show up and take in all your destination has to show you! So….let’s get going!