Explore the GalapagosJanuary 7-17, 2024
Our most popular trip!
Our land-based journey allows you to settle into the island culture, while the daily excursions highlight the best wildlife at sea and on land. Tortoises, sea lions, and boobies, oh my! What’s stopping you from finally visiting this bucket list destination?
Trip at a Glance
- January 7-17, 2024
- 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, avoiding long & uncomfortable ferries
- Enjoy sightseeing and snorkeling excursions
- Optional excursion to Española Island
- Triple door-to-door carbon offsets
- Limited to 15 guests.
- $4799 per person, based on double occupancy
- Please see more about single supplement and room discounts & upgrades in the “price” box below
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
Española Island (optional day trip)
How to Register
- Please familiarize yourself with the journey on this website
- Click the button below to be taken to the registration form
- After we receive your registration form, Lauren will email you a link to pay the deposit to hold your space
Enjoy some of BJ & Lauren’s clips of Isabela and San Cristobal from their 2017, 2018, 2020 & 2021 group adventures!
You’ll arrive in Quito, Ecuador on January 6th 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 7 You’ll fly from Quito, Ecuador to Baltra Island this morning (via Guayaquil). We will meet you at the Baltra airport in the Galapagos and we’ll begin our adventure with a charter flight to the relaxed island of Isabela.
January 8 Explore the nearby Tintoreras on a walking and snorkeling excursion to see marine iguanas, sea lions, sea turtles & more.
January 9 Today we’ll walk on volcanic ‘tunnels’ and snorkel with seahorses and penguins (hopefully!) on the iconic Los Tunules excursion.
January 10-11 Today and tomorrow you have one included activity: a hike to Sierra Negra volcano or a guided kayaking & snorkeling trip in the bay. The rest of your time is free for relaxing on the beach, visiting the tortoise breeding center and flamingo lagoon, walking or biking through the wetlands, snorkeling from Concha de Perla (or you can choose to do the volcano or kayaking journey if you chose the other one!)
January 12 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 13 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 14 Today we’ll head inland to the lush highlands of San Cristobal to see some giant saddleback tortoises and experience another side of the Galapagos landscape.
January 15 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.
January 16 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 17 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.
One of our favorite testimonials of all time!
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.
Click here to read our 2021 Galapagos Guest testimonials!
“I’m used to being the person who organizes travel for everyone. I never fully appreciated how nice it would be to have someone do it for me! Lauren and BJ are OBSESSED with the comfort of their tour groups. Going above and beyond doesn’t even cover it. We felt safe, cared for, and pleasantly surprised every day by what they had in store for us. Can’t wait for our next trip with RetreaTours.” Kate W.
“They thoroughly research the areas they visit, so you see only the best of the area you visit. I have traveled extensively with other your companies, but nothing compares to RetreaTours!” Dotty R.
“AMAZING! BEAUTIFUL! ENLIGHTENING! It’s hard to describe what it is like to travel to the Galapagos, but with BJ and Lauren, the experience was off the charts as they consistently provided Concierge-level service to our entire group! Every question was answered, every need was met! I can’t wait to book my next ADVENTURE with them!” Lois T.
“This bucket list Galapagos trip surpassed my wildest imagination. The trip was expertly created by Retreatours and everything and anything that I would have questioned or had concerns about were answered. The Galapagos trip really is a once-in-a-lifetime trip with unbelievable experiences. Lauren and BJ are our guides, family and friends all rolled into one. I would not hesitate to do this trip or any others with RetreaTours.” Jam C.
“The RetreaTours trip to the Galapagos was an excellent balance of preplanned excursions to iconic Galapagos destinations and time set aside for self-guided exploration and/or relaxation.” Jon P.
“Loved this trip! It was well organized, communication was great, and the leaders, Lauren and BJ, were the best! Having a small group let us get to know everyone, which I really enjoyed. I felt like I was traveling with family.” Sue C.
“I am so happy that I took their land tour rather than a boat tour! Being on the islands we experienced the Galapagos much more intimately. We had greater access to selecting free time options (both land and sea) including cultural, food, relaxation and mingling with the friendly locals. The small group allowed us to get to know one another and enjoy a more personable adventure.” Judy A.
“I’m so glad I had the chance to go to the Galapagos with BJ and Lauren. I had heard so much about RetreaTours from friends who had gone on past trips. Both are gracious, knowledgeable, fun to be with and take seriously their commitment to providing a memorable and stress-free small group adventure with like-minded travelers.” Dawn F.
“Traveling with RetreaTours feels like traveling with good friends, except they know what they’re doing (lol)! BJ and Lauren are very attentive and do their best to accommodate your needs. They also find the best local guides, folks who are a wealth of information, but who are also the nicest people! This is testament to the kind of people they are and the folks they attract: the other guests were also lovely to spend time with.” Trish R.
“BJ and Lauren are the best. They are literally with you every step of the way, and their level of care and knowledge is unsurpassed. So is their joy in making your trip the best it can be for you, whatever it takes.” Stu K.
“I highly recommend this Galapagos tour to anyone wanting to get up close and personal with the wildlife and local culture. Spending five days in one location allows for connection to the local environment and the people of the Galapagos, something I think would be missing from an exclusively boat-oriented trip. Lauren and BJ are the absolute BEST to travel with. They are more like personal friends to their guests than tour leaders. Special attention is paid to those with mobility challenges and dietary needs, as both Lauren and BJ go over and beyond to ensure the comfort and safety of all guests no matter what they need.” Cindi G.
“In my mind, there would be no other way to travel to the Galapagos than with RetreaTours. BJ and Lauren of RetreaTours are attentive to your every need. They are the best way to travel.” Ruth B.
Detailed Daily Itinerary
ISABELALos Túneles, Las Tintoreras & more
Welcome to Ecuador!
We recommend that you arrive by the evening of January 6th in order to rest before tomorrow’s early morning flight to the Galapagos. Your hotel night in Quito is not included, in order to give you more options of where to stay in the area (we’ll give some recommendations).
On January 7th you’ll fly to the Galapagos on a jet (this flight is not included on your journey but we will help you with this ticket). 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, a peaceful island that is a guest 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.
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.
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 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.
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 Pacific Seahorse! You never know what you’re going to see, but this is our opportunity to see seahorses, typically with a tail wrapped tightly around a mangrove root.
The next two days are an opportunity to Choose Your Own Adventure, all of which we can help you arrange. One of these excursions is included, and if you want to do both, we can help arrange that!
On January 10th 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.
On January 11th you can opt to kayak and snorkel around Los Tintoreras, with the hopes of spotting (and swimming with!) penguins, sea turtles, sea lions, and even sharks.
Your free time on Isabela is full of options! You can explore the coastline, from the white sandy beach to the wetlands. 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 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
Welcome to San Cristobal!
On January 12th, we’ll say goodbye 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 atop Frigatebird Hill (Cerro Tijeretas) or hike out to see it close-up on your way to snorkel in the aquamarine bay.
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.
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 opportunities to shop for souvenirs. There is also the opportunity for Stand-up Paddleboard (SUP) tours of the bay.
We can help arrange an excursion to Española Island for you, one of the only spots in the world to see the waved albatross (although their numbers are low in January). Española is home to many endemic species found on no other islands, including their own marine iguanas & mockingbirds, as well as a sizable population of Nazca boobies. Please check out the “Española Excursion” box below for more information.
On the evening of January 16th, we’ll enjoy a farewell dinner together, remembering all of the marvelous experiences we’ve shared! On the morning of January 17th, you’ll take a jet back to Quito.
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 where you rest and reflect on your journey!
Enjoy this BBC clip about the precocious sea lions that inhabit Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, our home base on the island of San Cristobal.
Please click the title of the desired tab to open it.
Price & Inclusions
This journey is $4799 USD per person, based on a shared room.
If you prefer to have your own room, a private room supplement of $799 USD will be added to your last payment. (Click here to understand why this 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 keep reading below for options on a discounted or an upgraded room on San Cristobal.
- All accommodations in the Galapagos (please see note below for upgrade and value options)
- Charter flight from Baltra to San Isabela
- Charter flight from Isabela to San Cristobal (Both charter flights come to a total of $600 per person, but well worth it to avoid the boats between islands!)
- Kicker Rock (León Dormido) excursion
- Isla Lobos excursion
- Las Tintoreras excursion
- Los Túneles excursion
- San Cristobal Highlands tour
- One more activity of your choice on Isabela: Volcano Sierra Negra hike or kayaking & snorkeling at the Tintoreras
- All tips to hotels & restaurants (shared meals)
- All tips to Galapagos Naturalist Guides and boat excursion captains and crew members
- All breakfasts starting on January 8th
- 3 dinners: 1 welcome dinner on Isabela; 1 welcome dinner on San Cristobal; and 1 farewell dinner on San Cristobal
- 3 lunches (welcome lunch in Isabela and on 2 excursions)
- Isabela tourist permit
- Wet suit rentals, if desired
- Triple carbon offsetting for this entire journey
- Assistance with choosing international flights and the flight to the Galapagos
- Assistance in helping to arrange any trip extensions (the Amazon, etc)
Price does not include
- International airfare from your home to Ecuador (although we can and will be more than happy to help you decide on arrangements)
- Flight from Quito to the Galapagos & return ($~380 to $440)
- Hotel night in Quito on January 6th
- $100 USD Galapagos Park Entry Fee (payable upon arrival in the Galapagos at Baltra Airport)
- $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).
- 8 dinners and 8 lunches
- Note: we intentionally did not include food on this trip, to allow guests to eat inexpensively or to indulge in a seafood extravaganza every night!
- Your average lunch is going to cost between $5 and $12 and your average dinner is going to cost between $8 and $15, depending on your tastes. That would mean a total of $130 on the medium-low end and $250 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.
- Travel insurance (required)
- Optional Española excursion ($270 USD)
Please expect to pay ~$850 USD for all National Park fees, domestic flights, hotels, and food not included plus your international flight.
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 $350 USD more. (Please see photos below). Please note that the beds CAN be separated if you wish the room to be made up for two separate beds.
There are also 2 interior rooms with no view, although the room quality is the exact same. These rooms are $300 less than the other reserved rooms; if you book this room yourself (that is, with no roommate), you will receive a $300 discount (or if you share the room, each roommate will get $150 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 quieter 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 in your journey.
Your space is reserved with a $1000 deposit. The 2nd installment of $2000 is due on July 1, 2023 and the balance is due on September 1, 2023. We’ll send out email invoices (via PayPal) at least 2 weeks before each due date.
We accept payments via check and credit card (via PayPal), Zelle, and Venmo.
For guests not paying from a U.S.-based account, please contact us for options.
- Paying by Zelle: Please use the email address “L.S.Rathvon@gmail.com” which will show as Insight Travels, LLC
- Paying by Venmo: You can use @retreatours
- 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 invoices or email we send before the due dates. You do not have to pay with your PayPal balance (click here for help).
We do everything in our power to do right by our guests. We are proud to say that in the wake of our COVID-related trip cancellations through 2020 and 2021, we were able to offer each of our guests the choice of a 100% credit, if not a full refund.
We’ve re-examined each trip and done our best to reduce the deposit amounts as much as possible. Upon your registration, your deposit immediately goes toward reserving your space for flights, hotels, and excursions that must be booked months in advance and are often non-refundable.
Cancellation by our guests
The cancellation charges are as follows unless otherwise indicated on the detailed itinerary for each trip. All cancellations must be received via e-mail or US mail.
- Cancellations prior to 120 days to departure, money will be refunded minus the non-refundable deposit.
- Cancellations received 61 to 119 days prior to departure are subject to a penalty of 50% of the total cost of the trip.
- Cancellations received 60 days or less prior to trip departure will forfeit the entire cost of the trip.
If a trip is cancelled by RetreaTours
When a tour is cancelled in the case of force majeure, the Tour Participant will receive a refund minus any funds that we are unable to recover from any supplier.
Our Carbon Negative Commitment
RetreaTours is Climate Positive!
We purchase triple carbon offsets for your travels with us—that’s from your home, through the entire tour, and back to your home again, times three!
You may have heard the term “carbon neutral,” which means that a company offsets as much carbon as it produces. With this 300% offset, RetreaTours is actually offsetting more carbon than we produce each year, making us “carbon negative” (or “climate positive,” which has a nicer ring to it!)
Since 2012 we’ve focused on making travel safe and easy for our guests; with our triple carbon offset tours, we’re pleased to make our trips as sustainable as they are memorable.
Please see more at RetreaTours.com/CarbonNegative
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 mealtimes 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?
We require proof of a COVID-19 vaccination on our tours.
No other vaccines 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 healthcare 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’ll be asking for confirmation of your travel insurance before your departure. Click here for some suggestions as to where to start looking for a policy that suits you.
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 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, although these are completely optional. 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 wetsuits also provide a measure of buoyancy.
On our snorkeling excursions, we will jump from the boat into the water (from a seated position) or get help being lowered down, and we will climb a ladder back into the boat. Our guide will always have a life preserver ring 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 examples of the terrain below; you can click the photos to see a larger version.)
If you know you need more support on uneven support, you may wish to bring a lightweight walking stick or rent one on the islands.
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.
Suggested Packing List & Temperature Averages
- Average temperatures in Galapagos during this time of year: 70 – 85°F
- Water temperature in the Galapagos in January: around 74°F
We will send you a packing list after you register for this journey.
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)
Full-service laundry facilities are readily available, quick, and very inexpensive, which makes it a bit easier to pack lightly for this journey.
Details about Optional Española Island Excursion
Española day trip from San Cristobal
One of the oldest islands in the archipelago, Española provides an opportunity to see the waved albatross, as well as a particularly colorful population of marine iguanas. Blue-footed boobies and Nazca boobies are plentiful, as well as sea lions and all sorts of marine life!
This excursion is an additional $270 USD and we’ll need to book it in advance for you. Space is limited to 12 guests. Details are below:
- Duration: ~8 hours.
- ~100-minute boat ride to Española and 5-minute transfer on Zodiac to dry landing onshore/steps. Depending on the weather, some of this journey may a bit bumpy. January’s waters are some of the calmest of the year, however.
- ~2-hour walk on the island to see nesting birds. Please wear sport sandals or sneakers; parts of this path are over rocks.
- Lunch on boat (included in price)
- 25-minute boat ride to snorkeling area
- 1 hour of snorkeling in bay area
- Return to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (~100 minutes)
Wildlife you may see:
- Waved albatross (almost the entire world population of this species breeds on the island from March to January)
- Colorful marine iguana subspecies
- Española mockingbird
- Española lava lizard
- Very close encounters with Nazca boobies
- Galapagos hawks
- Sea lions
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.
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.
How to Stay Healthy While Traveling... Naturally!
We invite you to check out Lauren’s article about how best to stay healthy on the road and prevent common travel ailments such as traveler’s diarrhea, motion sickness, altitude sickness & more. Lauren is a Board-certified Acupuncture Physician with an extensive background in Western herbs and natural supplements, along with a passion for teaching!
Question? Thoughts? Please write to Lauren@RetreaTours.com. If you don’t hear back within 48 hours, please do check your spam folder!
RetreaTours requires that each guest carries travel insurance that covers emergency medical treatment and emergency evacuation and repatriation. Please send Lauren your policy information as soon as you have it.
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.
Please familiarize yourself with RetreaTours’ guest cancellation policy in your journey’s contract. Please read this article to understand a bit more about trip cancellation insurance and what it may or may not cover. “Cancel For Any Reason” policies do exist, as well, although do check to see what percentage of the trip cost they actually reimburse.
When to purchase your policy
Please purchase this insurance as soon as we tell you the trip has reached its minimum. Please do not wait until the last minute, should you need to use your (optional) cancellation coverage before then.
Where to search for policies
Below you will find some options to start your search for trip insurance. 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 policies for guests under 70 that include trip cancellation options, as well. You can use the box on this page to get a quote and see coverage.
Squaremouth.com and InsureMyTrip.com are two sites where you can see and compare many policies at once, and you can refine the options by what coverage you would like. Squaremouth’s interface is very easy and intuitive to use, and you can easily opt out of trip cancellation coverage.
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.
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 one of our absolute favorite places to visit! We’ve spent a ton of time and resources 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.
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