Adventure in the Galapagos!January 10–20, 2021
Only 4 spots left for this trip! Our 2020 Galapagos journey sold out in record time–register today if you’d like to join us in 2021!
Trip at a Glance
- January 10–20, 2021
- Accompanied by BJ & Lauren, owners of RetreaTours
- Stay on two of the loveliest inhabited islands of the Galapagos archipelago, Isabela & San Cristobal.
- Fly between the islands via two private chartered flights
- Enjoy sightseeing and snorkeling excursions
- Small group tour: limited to 15 guests
- Early bird price of $4199 USD per person (based on double occupancy)
- Early bird guests must submit their deposit before July 1 and pay the entire balance by August 31, 2020.
- Slight price variation with choice of room selection in San Cristobal. See “Prices” tab below.
- Please check Prices tab below for what is included in this price
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 two 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!
Puerto Villamil, Isabela
Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, San Cristobal
We make this Bucket List trip effortless for you! Our years of research & connections on the islands have helped us create an engaging yet relaxing land-based tour that is always a huge hit with our guests. To make it even easier, we include your flights between mainland Ecuador & the Galapagos Islands. In addition, we don’t take the stomach-churning, hair-raising boat between islands—instead, we opt for two private chartered flights between San Cristobal and Isabela, and Isabela and Baltra.
How to Register
- Review this entire webpage for details
- Complete Registration Questions and Contract
- Submit deposit by check or credit card (via PayPal). Guests outside the U.S., please contact us for the best method of transfer.
Enjoy some of BJ & Lauren’s clips of Isabela and San Cristobal from their 2017, 2018 & 2020 group adventures!
You’ll arrive in Quito, Ecuador on January 9th and enjoy a good night’s sleep at a comfortable hotel before your early morning flight to the Galapagos tomorrow (Please note that this hotel night is not included in order to give you more options!)
January 10 You’ll fly from Quito, Ecuador to Baltra Island this morning (via Guayaquil). We will meet you at the airport and we’ll begin our adventure with a charter flight to the relaxed island of Isabela.
January 11 Explore the nearby Tintoreras on a walking and snorkeling excursion to see marine iguanas, sea lions, sea turtles & more.
January 12 Walk on volcanic ‘tunnels’ and potentially snorkel with seahorses and penguins at the iconic Los Tunules excursion.
January 13 Today you have a few (included) activities to pick from: a hike to Sierra Negra volcano, kayaking, or even going back to the Tintoreras!
January 14 Free day on Isabela for relaxing on the beach, visiting their tortoise breeding center and flamingo lagoon, snorkeling from Concha de Perla, or revisiting one of our prior excursions.
January 15 Today we’ll say goodbye to Isabela & head out on a private charter flight to the beautiful island of San Cristobal and our oceanfront hotel in the capital of the Galapagos province!
January 16 Do you like sea lions? Do you LOVE sea lions? Let’s explore nearby Isla Lobos to see their breeding ground and for an opportunity to snorkel with the sea lions! This is also a great place to see blue-footed boobies and frigate birds. (PS–we took this background video at Isla Lobos in 2017!)
January 17 Today we’ll head to inland to the lush highlands of San Cristobal to see some giant saddleback tortoises and experience another side of the Galapagos landscape.
January 18 A free day on San Cristobal is the perfect opportunity to relax, shop, snorkel, visit the Interpretation Center, revisit previous excursions, or to try a new one–perhaps a day trip to Española island or the 360° island boat tour. We’ll let you know what your options are months before the trip to make sure you can grab a seat!
January 19 Are you ready for the most iconic snorkeling excursion on San Cristobal? Let’s explore the famous Kicker Rock and a nearby picturesque beach.
January 20 Say goodbye to the Galapagos–for now!–as you head home from San Cristobal to share your fondest memories and photos with your loved ones.
GUEST FEEDBACK FROM OUR 2017 ADVENTURE
My excitement and expectations for exploring the Galapagos with BJ & Lauren were far exceeded by the reality of this once-in-a-lifetime trip. Every day, we were treated to new ways of exploring the natural wonders of the Galapagos. BJ & Lauren’s excitement about the Galapagos is infectious & I knew I wasn’t going to miss out on anything because of their attention to detail & unique way of presenting the very best it had to offer in an authentic & un-prepackaged way.
I am always impressed with Lauren & BJ’s ability to think on their feet. Any fluctuation in plans is always met with an even better plan B!
After the birth of my children, swimming & frolicking with sea lions off Isla Lobos is the next highlight of my life!!! Muchos gracias, Lauren & BJ!! ~Monica T.
Detailed Daily Itinerary
ISABELALos Túneles, Las Tintoreras & more
Welcome to Ecuador! We recommend that you arrive by the evening of the 9th in order to rest before tomorrow’s early morning flight to the Galapagos. Your hotel night on January 9th is not included, in order to give you more options of where to stay in the area (we’ll give recommendations!)
Your trip officially begins as you fly to the Galapagos on a jet (via Guayaquil, Ecuador; 40-minute flight to Guayaquil, 40-minute wait on the same plane, then 90-minute flight to the Galapagos; this flight is included on your journey). We’ll welcome you at Baltra airport and we’ll hop over to the island of Isabela on our 30-minute charter flight!
We’ll spend 5 nights on Isabela, our favorite island in the Galapagos (although it sure is difficult to choose a favorite!) Isabela’s main town, Puerto Villamil, is a quiet, charming town full of friendly faces and fresh seafood. There are plenty of cafes to enjoy meals, snacks, and even sunset cocktails. This island is a guest favorite year after year.
Three excursions are included during your time here, and you are left with plenty of free time for optional activities and self-exploration.
On our first full day on Isabela, we’ll travel a short distance but we’ll feel a world away at Las Tintoreras (the colloquial name for the abundant white-tipped reef sharks here). 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 green sea 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 may give you the chance to witness how graceful these iguanas are underwater, as well. For those of you feeling adventurous, if the tide is right, perhaps we can snorkel in channels filled with said tintoreras!
If you’re on Isabela, you simply can’t miss Los Túneles, 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! You never know what you’re going to see, but this is our opportunity to see the amazing Giant Seahorse, typically with a tail wrapped tightly around a mangrove root.
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. This alien landscape, full of lava arches, cactuses, and aquamarine water, is beyond surreal.
The next two days are an opportunity to Choose Your Own Adventure, all of which we can help you arrange. We have included one more excursion, your choice: you can opt to take a hiking trip to Sierra Negra, one of Isabela’s five active volcanos. Sierra Negra boasts the second largest volcanic caldera in the entire world at 6 miles in diameter! On this guided tour you’ll explore the surreal lava landscape dotted with vents and fumaroles. Or you can opt to stay closer to home and kayak and snorkel around Los Tintoreras, or even revisit the Tintoreras excursion from a couple days ago.
The last full day is free for you to do what you wish! You can explore the coastline, from the white sandy beach to the wetlands. There is plenty of beach space to soak up some rays, if that is priority #1. Isabela is also home to a Tortoise Breeding Center that is a lovely 30-minute stroll from our hotel. Nearby there is a lagoon that is home to many flamingos and ducks. Hidden beaches, mangroves, lava tunnels, and tortoises dot the pathway to the Wall of Tears, remnants from a mid-20th century penal colony on this remote island. You can also rent a bike and cruise around town in style! Want to get back in/on the water? If you can’t get enough snorkeling, there is a protected area a short walk from the harbor, Concha de Perla, where you may see some penguins glide by you.
SAN CRISTÓBALLeón Dormido, Isla Lobos, the Highlands & more
On the 15th we’ll say godbye to Isabela and head eastward toward San Cristobal island. 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 island is where, in 1835, Charles Darwin first disembarked in the Galapagos on the voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle. His time in the Galapagos and the samples he collected here greatly informed his theory of evolution. You can see the statue of Darwin from high stop Frigatebird Hill (Cerro Tijeretas) or hike out to see it close-up on your way to snorkel in the aquamarine bay. We’re lucky to have a west-facing view of the sunset, both from a beach in town (Punta Carola) and a nearby beach, La Loberia, just a short taxi ride away. Both beaches house large sea lion colonies and are a true joy to experience at sunset.
On our first full 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 perhaps get a glimpse of them gliding around in their element. Don’t let their 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 small island itself, which is a favorite nesting spot for frigate birds and blue-footed boobies.
During our time on San Cristobal we will also 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 hammerhead sharks, if you’re very lucky! But don’t forget to look up, too, as the towering rock formations are home to blue-footed boobies, frigate birds, brown pelicans, and more. (*Divers can opt to upgrade this activity and turn it into a diving trip, although the general consensus from past guests is that the snorkeling trips are preferable.)
Both of these boat trips will be combined with lunch and time on a beautiful nearby beach, with a bit of time for walking, resting, or swimming.
Want to see a different side of this island? We’ll also visit the lush highlands of San Cristobal to spend time at Galapaguero de Cerro Colorado, marveling at the giant tortoises at this breeding center.
Our last full day in San Cristobal is a free day with lots of options for you! This town offers some wonderful educational activities, including the Interpretation Center, where you learn that the history of the Galapagos is even stranger–and more scandalous–than fiction. Follow the path past the Interpretation Center up to Frigatebird Hill for a gorgeous view of the bay and Kicker Rock.
There are a couple beaches to choose from should you want to bask like a sea lion, and you can even snorkel in Darwin Bay over by Frigate Bird Hill (bring your buddy, though!) This town has lots of waterfront bars and cafes, and plenty of opportunity to shop for souvenirs. There is also the opportunity for Stand-up Paddleboard (SUP) tours of the bay.
You can even choose to re-visit Kicker Rock or Isla Lobos, or perhaps explore new territory. We can help arrange an excursion to Española island for you, one of the only spotsin the world to see the waved albatross. Perhaps you’d like to take a 360° tour of the island by boat, briefly visiting Kicker Rock again but also seeing Darwin’s Window, Punta Pitt, and Cabo Blanco.
On the evening of the 19th we’ll enjoy a farewell dinner together, reflecting on all of the marvelous experiences we’ve shared!
In the early afternoon on the 20th, you’ll take a jet back to the Quito (via Guayaquil). If your flight home doesn’t leave until the evening, no fear–there’s a great and inexpensive lounge before security at the Quito International airport.
Enjoy this BBC clip about the precocious sea lions that inhabit Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, our home base on the island of San Cristobal.
Raise your hand if you want to go the Galapagos in 2021!
Raise your hand if you want to go to the Galapagos in 2021!
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Price & Inclusions
This early bird cost for this journey is $4199 USD per person (double occupancy) when you submit your $1000 non-refundable deposit before July 1, 2020, and your entire balance is paid by August 31, 2020.
If you submit your deposit after July 1 or wish to extend your payment plan until October 20, 2020, please contact us for rates, as they are contingent on flight prices and availability.
If you prefer to have your own room, the single supplement is $599 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.
Please read below for two room options on San Cristobal which can affect your price should you choose to upgrade or select a more value-minded room.
- All accommodations in the Galapagos (please see note below for upgrade and value options)
- Scheduled flight from Quito to Baltra airport
- Charter flight from Baltra to San Isabela
- Charter flight from Isabela to San Cristobal (charted flight price total included is $480, but well worth it to avoid the boats between islands!)
- Scheduled flight from San Cristobal back to Quito
- Kicker Rock (León Dormido) excursion
- Isla Lobos excursion
- Las Tintoreras excursion
- Los Túneles excursion
- San Cristobal Highlands tour
- One more activity of your choice on Isabela: Sierra Negra hike, kayaking/snorkeling at the Tintoreras, or return to the Tintoreras
- All breakfasts
- 1 welcome dinner in Isabela; 1 farewell dinner in San Cristobal
- 5 lunches (welcome lunch in Isabela and on day tours: the Tunnels, Kicker Rock, the Highlands, and Isla Lobos)
- Isabela tourist permit
- Carbon offsetting (via CarbonFund.org) for your personal flights to and from Quito and our group flights in the Galapagos
- Assistance with choosing international flights and the flight to the Galapagos
- Assistance in helping to arrange any trip extensions (the Amazon, etc)
Price does not include
- Hotel night in Quito on January 9, 2021
- International airfare from your home to Ecuador (although we can and will be more than happy to help you decide on arrangements)
- $100 USD Galapagos Park Entry Fee (payable upon arrival in the Galapagos at Baltra Airport) (*Note: this fee is $100USD as of Fenruary 2020; we will let you know if this changes)
- $20 USD Ecuadorian Immigration Transit Control Card (payable at the airport in Quito before your Galapagos flight. We will complete the form online on your behalf before your departure, but you will pay the fee at the airport).
- 9 dinners and 5 lunches
- Note: we intentionally did not include food on this trip, to allow guests to eat inexpensively or to indulge in local lobster every night! Your average lunch is going to cost between $8 and $15 and your average dinner is going to cost between $12 and $25, depending on your tastes. That would mean $175 on the medium-low end and $300 on the medium-high end; as everywhere in the world, the sky’s the limit if you want to indulge. We will advise you about your restaurant options on the islands.
- Tips to Naturalist Guides on Excursions ($10-12 per person per excursion, and you will be taking 5 to 7 excursions)
- Tips to boat crew for marine excursions ($5-10 per person per excursion, and you will be taking 4 to 5 marine excursions)
- Travel insurance (required)
- Optional excursions (that is, any not listed explicitly as included above, such as Española island, the 360° tour, etc)
Please expect ~$1000 USD for all services, flights, hotels, and food not included.
ROOM OPTIONS ON SAN CRISTOBAL ISLAND
We will be staying in a wonderful waterfront hotel in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno in San Cristobal. We have booked the entire hotel and the standard rooms included will be the rooms with a view of the harbor.
There is ONE room that is located on the top floor (stairs only, on the 4th floor). While the room is the same quality, it is on the top floor with a corner view of the harbor and it has its own large private deck (directly next to the rooftop terrace). Reserving this room will cost $300 USD more. (Please see photos below). Please note that the beds CAN be separated of you wish the room to be made up for two beds.
There are also 2 interior rooms with no view, although the room quality is the exact same. These rooms are $400 less than the other reserved rooms; if you book this room yourself (that is, with no roommate), you will receive a $400 discount (or if you share the room, each roommate will get $200 off the total price). You still have access to the rooftop terrace and we are directly on the water, so the view is never very far away! These rooms also have the benefit of being a bit more quiet since there are no street-facing windows.
- There is a minimum of 6 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 guests not paying from a U.S.-based account, please contact us for options.
- Paying by Check: Checks can be made out to RetreaTours 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 (click here for help).
Early bird balances are due August 31, 2020; otherwise the final installment due on October 20, 2019. We’ll provide you the amount and invoice before the due date.
Registration Questions & Contract
Please visit this link or the blue button below to complete the questionnaire and contract (you’ll need your passport information).
At the end of the contract, you will see a “submit” box—please hit that button.
Your spot is not considered reserved until you have completed these questions and contract on the website.
Suggested Packing List & Temperature Averages
Please note: Our charter flight is restricted to 44 pounds (20 kg) TOTAL per person, including your luggage, carry-on, AND personal item.
This strict limit is due to the fact that this is a very small plane, normally limited to 25 pounds of baggage per person. However, we have paid a premium for the extra 20 pounds per person, bringing us to a strict total of 44 pounds (20 kg).
Average temperatures in Galapagos during this time of year: 70 – 85°F (Please note the “Real Feel” with humidity can get to the mid-90’s in the afternoon!)
Water temperature in the Galapagos in January: around 74 – 76°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 fan of the full-face snorkel mask, such as those found here. Lauren is more of an old school purist with the traditional masks.
Should you want a wetsuit, plenty pf paces rent them for $5/day–we’ll show you where!
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 on the islands 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. One 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 will want a hat that fits very well and/or has a chinstrap for windy boat excursions.)
- 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 your health AND the health of the fragile Galapagos environment. RetreaTours requires reef safe sunscreens for this journey. 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, Lauren likes this one a lot. We will give more reef safe sunscreen recommendations and links before the trip.
- 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.
- 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). Please note our hotels don’t offer washcloths, only full-sized towels and hand towels.
- 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 actually require the download of WhatsApp on the smart phone you bring with you (if you are bringing a phone!) This is an easy, free way to stay in touch “after hours” about schedule changes or making plans with other guests!
If you are traveling with RetreaTours, we require that each guest carries travel insurance that covers emergency medical treatment and emergency evacuation and repatriation. In addition, Ecuador requires medical insurance of every Galapagos guest, although their exact requirements have yet to be released as of January 2019. Should anything change, we’ll let you know ASAP.
We suggest trip cancellation insurance, as well, as you never know what obstacles life can toss at you leading up to a trip. However, we do not require this coverage, we only suggest it highly.
Below you will find some options to look into, if this is a new world to you. However, we ask that you carefully consider your choice in travel insurance. What works for some people may not work for others, particularly if you have any pre-existing conditions. Please do take the time to consider the best policy for your individual needs.
World Nomads provides medical coverage for guests under 70 that includes trip cancellation, as well. You can use the box on this page to get a quote and see coverage.
InsureMyTrip.com is a good place to see and compare many policies at once, and you can refine the options by what coverage you would like.
It may also be a good idea to check with your credit card companies, especially American Express, to see if they offer any medical coverage for travel.
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, 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, 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 one different?
Included are your breakfasts and two dinners in the Galapagos (one our first night together and one on our last night together). (In addition, four light but delicious 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 the islands there are more value-oriented meal options (between $6-15) and more high-end options ($25+). 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. Also, as we will have a lot of free time on this journey, we didn’t want to set group mealtime that may interfere with your optional activities!
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 (you can see our suggestions here). We’ll be asking for confirmation of your travel insurance 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?
This all depends on how much you’re looking to bring back home in souvenirs, how many extra excursions you want to go on, and how many bottles of the local beer you’ll want to kick back with! To break down what you’ll need on hand:
- $20 USD for the Transit Card you’ll receive at the mainland Ecuador airport on your way to the Galapagos
- $100 USD for entrance into the Galapagos (payable upon arrival at the airport on the Galapagos).
- Money for meals. To be on the safe side, you may want to bring around $300 USD for meals, although you can do it for less.
- Money for any souvenirs
- There is a spa on San Cristobal that our guests have loved! However, they also take credit cards.
- Tips to our naturalist guides and boat crew..
- There is a place to have laundry done very close to both of our hotels, should you need it.
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 (except on Isabela, our first island), we’d recommend getting money or changing money on the mainland, 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, air conditioning, and hot water, but as you can imagine, the wifi can be rather limited and slow given our remote location. 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 cell phone or tablet, you can use VoIP services such as Skype, WhatsApp, and FaceTime to connect with your loved ones at home, as well.
One more question: Why aren’t we going to Santa Cruz island?
Although we do fly into Baltra airport, just off of Santa Cruz island, we immediately make our way to Isabela via charter flight. Why are we skipping the most populated island in the Galapagos? From experience, we feel that Isabela and San Cristobal represent the very best that the islands have to offer, for both land and water excursions. Many cruises leave from Santa Cruz, which is one big reason why most tourists go through that island. Because Baltra airport is a 75-minute drive from the main town of Puerto Ayora, we feel that staying even 1-2 days is a waste of precious time (getting to and from the airport). Don’t get us wrong–Santa Cruz is a lovely island and her people are warm and welcoming, but in order to make the most of your experience in the Galapagos, we ultimately decided to omit this island.
Suggested Fitness Requirements
What to Expect Physically in the Galapagos
In the Water
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 also 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. It’s worth noting that the wetsuits also provide a meaure of buoyancy. On our snorkeling excursions, we will jump from the boat into the water, lower ourselves, or get help being lowered down, and we will climb a ladder back into the boat. Our guide will always have a lifering to hold onto if you want extra support in the water.
On the Land
Some excursions will include brief bits of walking over volcanic rocks (not an even path); we’ll always let you know when to wear shoes with more support (that is, not flip flops!) (Please see an examples of the terrain below.)
If you know you need more support on uneven support, you wish to bring a lightweight walking stick or rent one on the island.
In addition, both of our hotels on the islands have multiple stories (3) and no elevators. Breakfast is served on the roof terrace on San Cristobal, 3 floors up. If you prefer a room on a lower floor, please let us know and we’ll do the best we can to accommodate you.
About the Altitude in Quito
Altitude Sickness Prevention
You will fly through Quito, Ecuador in order to get the Galapagos. Although you won’t be in Quito long, it’s still an impressive 2,850 meters (9,350 feet). If you fly through Quito, there is more to see and do there, should you arrive early. Alternatively, if you don’t go into Quito city and stay only near the hotels near the Quito airport, the altitude of that area is only approximately 8000’. That is the same altitude that airplanes are pressurized to and not likely to cause 99% of people any problems at all. Our hotel in Quito on January 18th is by the airport at ~8000 feet.
However, if you know you are sensitive to altitude or you plan on spending a longer time in Quito city after the trip, please read on:
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.
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.
Question? Thoughts? Please write to [email protected] If you don’t hear back within 48 hours, please do check your spam folder!
About BJ and Lauren of RetreaTours
We 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, we 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!)
The Galapagos is near and dear to our hearts and is one of our favorite places to visit! We’ve spent a ton of time and money vetting the “best of” activities and making connections directly on the islands, all to make your precious time in the Galapagos even more valuable. We understand that this is truly a “bucket list” trip and we don’t take your trust lightly!
We take great pride in the itineraries we create, and we can personally vouch for every hotel, every restaurant, and every activity that you will experience. We craft each element of the trip with intention. Fueled by passion, armed with know-how, and supported by knowledgeable local professionals in all of our destinations, we are able to set the scene for the vacation of a lifetime.
We 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,” we pride ourselves 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 our most ‘frequent fliers’ put it recently, RetreaTours make everything easy for you. 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!
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