Amazing Galapagos Island Hopping Tour: Santa Cruz, Isabela, San Cristobal

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Total Trip:

12 Days
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Countries Visited:

Galapagos / Ecuador
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Places Visited:

Quito, Galapagos Islands, Santa Cruz Island, North Seymour Island, Bartolome Island, Santa Fe Island, Isabela Island, San Cristobal Island
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Departure Dates:

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.
From vibrant seabird breeding grounds to cliffs crossed by penguins, the Galapagos is filled with the endemic and unusual. This Galapagos Island hopping tour explores the archipelago's different regions and ensures none of this eclectic splendor is missed. It's all packaged together: the diversity of the central islands, the marine life and volcanoes of the West, and the seabirds of the East. Unparalleled, unusual, unique... every island offers a fresh slice of natural wonder.

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Day 1

Overnight Before the Galapagos Adventure

The Galapagos stand isolated on the equator, 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador. Flights to the archipelago depart early in the morning, so you'll need an overnight on the mainland before the outdoor adventure begins. Land at Quito's international airport and you're transferred to a nearby spa hotel. Relax in the two pools, enjoy a complimentary massage, and have your first taste of bona fide Ecuadorian food. Even though you're in the city, there's still wildlife. Llamas wander across the large grounds, and a sample of the country's 1,600 birds dot the branches.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Transfer

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Day 2

Incredible Bird Nesting Sites on North Seymour

Sea lions greet you to the Galapagos, grunting and squawking as you land on North Seymour. Walk uphill and the noise becomes sonorous, various seabirds adding their distinct tones to the island orchestra. Magnificent frigates are oblivious to the resonant chaos, standing proud with their brightly inflated throat-sacks. Yet it's blue-footed and Nazca boobies making the biggest racket, competing with each other for the best nesting sites on a huge breeding ground. After flying to Baltra Island, it's a short transfer by luxury yacht to North Seymour, the next island on your hop.

Wander across North Seymour, marveling at seabird mating displays and admiring the intricate frame of land iguanas. Back down near the shore there are more sea lions, a few of them flopping off cliffs and a few more twisting their necks towards your camera. There's the chance to snorkel here and get your first impression of Galapagos marine life. Sea turtles cruise past and rays hide on the sandy bottom, two highlights from a tropical mix of corals and fish schools. Consider reading more about your Galapagos tour companies that strive to make each excursion unique and memorable.

From North Seymour it's a quick transfer to the north of Santa Cruz and then a journey by road to your luxury hotel in Puerto Ayora. Within a short walk, you'll find two sublime beaches, a trail filled with endemic bird song, and the delightful diving of pelicans. Check in, take in the view, and enjoy your first evening in the Galapagos.

What's Included:

included

Transfer

included

Flight

included

Accommodation

included

Tour

included

Dinner, Lunch, Breakfast

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Day 3

Giant Tortoises and the Lush Highlands

A canvas of green tumbles across the highlands of Santa Cruz and a mix of rare flora collides on the lush slopes. Up here you'll see forests of five-meter high daisies and strange deciduous trees that twist above the marching of giant tortoises. Fanning out across the highlands are thousands of the archipelago's most iconic species. You'll spend a few hours at Manzanillo, and it's hard to go a few meters without seeing another giant tortoise. They retreat into their shells when scared, but be soft and patient, as you'll be able to stand within a couple of meters from their slowly-munching mouths.  Darwin's finches and yellow warblers occupy the branches and at a red-tinted lake there's a good opportunity to see Vermilion flycatchers. Enjoy lunch in the Highlands before returning to the hotel for a leisurely afternoon.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Tour

included

Dinner, Lunch, Breakfast

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Day 4

Volcanic Remnants on Bartolome

The evolution of Galapagos can only be understood when you stand on the slopes of history. Bartolome Island is painted red by volcanic activity, a hundred subtle shades giving the impression of being on Mars or some other surreal land. Impressive lava tubes twist down from the narrow summit and tuff cones sporadically jut from the landscape. You'll walk along a wooden staircase to the island's summit for glorious views over the central islands, with two golden beaches and Pinnacle Rock making for the premier Galapagos photo. While the island is steeped in the tales of eruptions, there's still a lot of unusual wildlife to see. Galapagos penguins waddle around Pinnacle Rock, tiny creatures that readily dive into the blue. You'll spot them on a dinghy ride and then go snorkeling around the underwater cliffs. Expect also to see sea lions, rays, and the odd white-tip reef shark in the water. This is a full day excursion, and you'll return to the Santa Cruz lodge by late afternoon to relax.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Tour

included

Dinner, Breakfast, Lunch

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Day 5

Sea Lions and Endemic Iguanas on Santa Fe

Perhaps it's the Santa Fe iguana that epitomizes the diversity of the Galapagos. This endemic species has evolved to be camouflaged into Santa Fe Island's distinctive brown color, as well as survive almost exclusively off prickly-pear cactus fruits. But before you admire this endangered reptile, take an hour to kayak through the Santa Fe bay and paddle past a colony of playful sea lions. You'll see Galapagos hawks soaring overhead, seeking out an unguarded iguana egg. Next come marine iguanas, another remarkably evolved species that graces the island. After the land exploration, there's another chance to snorkel; Galapagos green sea turtles are an obvious highlight as you're cruising along these rocks. This is another full-day excursion returning in Santa Cruz in the late afternoon. By using a mix of road transfers and the yacht the time at sea is limited to less than an hour, even though you're exploring an isolated piece of the archipelago.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Tour

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 6

Kayaking Adventures and Arriving on Isabela

Each Galapagos region is different. With their mix of sites, the central islands provide an iconic introduction to the wildlife. The younger western islands are a haven for some of the Galapagos' rarest wildlife and its most active volcanoes. In a few days, you'll be in the East and its dazzling promise of seabirds. But today it's over to Isabela, first by taking a kayak along the crystal-green Itabaca Channel. Whales and dolphins can be spotted, and it's easy to look down to the swarms of tropical fish.

It's then a two-hour boat journey to Isabela. The ferry you take is the largest boat in the archipelago, minimizing the chance of seasickness but not stopping the sighting of whales and dolphins out in the blue. Often, large pods appear to be chasing the boat across the islands, dancing through the water as you travel to the Galapagos' largest island. Enjoy a welcome cocktail upon arrival in Isabela, and savor the tranquility found in this part of the archipelago. There's virtually nothing around, except the white sand beach, colonies of seabirds, and the distant fins of ocean giants. The evening is at your leisure.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Tour

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 7

Climbing Sierra Negra Volcano

Rise into the humid Isabela Highlands, a truck bumping along the rugged slopes of Sierra Negra. The crater looms larger as you ascend, its iconic shape gesturing you towards its active interior. This is the second largest active volcanic crater in the world, and you're soon standing on its rim. Start walking on a four-mile trail around the rim of the caldera. Gaze down and the bubbling hissing fire of the earth is alive. Gaze across and there are spectacular views of Isabela's other active volcanos. Keep walking and you cross the lava formations of Volcan Chico, an otherworldly landscape of twisted red that softly blends back into the green of Isabela's highlands. Giant tortoises, roaming beneath mango trees, emerge with their distinctive shells. On Isabela, you'll find five volcanoes and five differently shaped giant tortoise shells, the synthesis based on the differing food found on each volcano's slopes. Return to the lodge in the late afternoon where you can swim in the pool or relax on your ocean-view balcony.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Tour

included

Dinner, Lunch, Breakfast

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Day 8

Remarkable Roca Union and Los Tuneles

Redolent lava arches stand alone in the ocean, creating a tunnel that's frequented by sea turtles and a natural bridge that's dotted with cacti. It's a bizarre place, and it has attracted curious creatures. Galapagos penguins and sea lions cover the arch and its surrounding waters, making for one of the islands' best snorkeling spots. The short dinghy ride here first passes by Roca Union, where blue-footed boobies and fur seals are readily spotted from the boat. Then there are two snorkel sites to explore at Los Tuneles. You'll return to the lodge for lunch before an afternoon excursion to the Isabela Breeding Station and the Isabela wetlands. Pink flamingos gracefully feed in small lakes, impressive seabirds soar overhead, while endemic birds are found amongst the mangroves. Completing the mixture of the rare and unusual are 500-pound giant tortoises and marine iguanas that cling to craggy rocks. It's your final night on Isabela, so wallow in the serenity of the lodge and wait for the seabirds to dive-bomb their way past.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Tour

included

Dinner, Lunch, Breakfast

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Day 9

Exploring the Eastern Galapagos

A leisurely morning is followed by a micro-flight across the Galapagos to the easternmost of its islands, San Cristobal. You'll land in the early afternoon and have some time to explore without a guide. A land-based itinerary gives you the freedom to be alone with remarkable creatures and there's a range of wildlife sites within walking distance of the lodge. Within 30 minutes, you could be standing amongst giant tortoises, sunbathing on a beach of sea lions, or discovering forests filled with iconic bird life. Alternatively, you could just sit back and wait for the frigates and boobies to soar past the coast. Like always, your time at the lodge includes all meals and vast private grounds to explore.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Tour

included

Dinner, Lunch, Breakfast

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Day 10

White Sand Beaches and Boisterous Sea Lions

Ecuador's finest beach is never quiet. A bachelor group of sea lions rumbustiously cover the sand, huffing and puffing in the sun. Some bark, others grunt, while most playfully test their strength with rivals. Once an individual dominates this colony, it will go out and challenge for its own harem. Marine iguanas stealthily pass the sea lions while lava lizards wait nearby to feed off pesky flies. This Cerro Brujo beach epitomizes the delights of the Galapagos. It's not just an expanse of white-coralline sand to take photos of. It's a theater of daily drama; pelicans join the party while blue-footed boobies bring their elaborate colors to the sand. You can snorkel from the shore here as well, offering another angle of charm. Return to the lodge by mid-afternoon.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Tour

included

Dinner, Lunch, Breakfast

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Day 11

All Three Booby Species at Punta Pitt

Crossing San Cristobal takes you through the Galapagos ecosystems. You travel from a lush coast into highlands of endemic flora, where each mile brings another strange plant that's evolved on the oldest of the islands. Descend to the stark eastern point and the landscape is covered in tens of thousands of seabirds. Red-footed and blue-footed boobies compete for nesting space, the contrasting colors yet another iconic Galapagos photo. Nazca boobies are also in attendance, duller in color yet far more aggressive in their behavior. Their cries lead the Punta Pitt opera, with bossy couples competing for the best nesting sites. This is one of only two places to see red-footed boobies in the Galapagos and the only place where all three booby species can be seen together.

Joining the battle to reproduce are magnificent frigates, their inflated throat-sacks pointing towards hard-to-impress females. And when your eyes glance from the breeding ground, you gaze upon another beach of boisterous sea lions. Return to the hotel by land and enjoy another night surveying the Pacific. An island hopping itinerary provides freedom and privacy in the evenings, allowing you to find your own place from which to watch the stars.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Tour

included

Dinner, Lunch, Breakfast

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Day 12

Departure

San Cristobal's domestic airport removes any need to backtrack to Santa Cruz. After a leisurely morning, you'll be transferred to the airport for the flight back to Quito. From here you transfer to your international departure.

What's Included:

included

Transfer

included

Breakfast

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Trip Highlights

  • Explore the Galapagos wonder by hopping between different islands, each with its own unique mix of endemic flora and fauna
  • Start in the Central Galapagos and use Santa Cruz as a base for exploring North Seymour's seabird breeding grounds and dramatic volcanic islets
  • On Western Isabela, you're safely immersed in a land of erupting craters, indelible marine sites, and strange giant tortoises
  • Discover the strange wildlife of San Cristobal, including red-footed boobies and white-sand beaches filled with sea lions
  • Kayak and glass-bottom boat ride through pristine bays, intimately observing creatures like Galapagos penguins and playful fur seals
  • Snorkel around eclectic marine sites and admire huge pelagic creatures abnormally found so close to shore, like Galapagos sharks and large rays
  • Enjoy the archipelago's finest luxury hotels and admire wildlife from your own balcony
  • This trip offers the unique opportunity to discover different highland areas, enabling you to spot disparate species of giant tortoise and delightful endemic birds
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Detailed Description

Natural wonder roves around the Galapagos, stretching from the new lava flows of the West to the old islands of the East. Everywhere is still adapting, changing with unpredictable ocean currents and the eruptions of craters. As landscapes are modified, their residents must evolve: turtles change their shells, iguanas their colors, and birds their feet. By undertaking one of our Galapagos Island tours, you can authentically witness these dramatic changes. And to do this without a cruise, you'll need to go island hopping. Three islands offer luxury accommodation in distinct parts of the archipelago. From these bases it's easy to make excursions to an array of sites and other islands that symbolize the diverse wonder of the Galapagos. This Galapagos Island hopping tour offers the freedom to explore at your own pace, plus a privacy and space that can't be found on a cruise.

This itinerary makes the full Galapagos archipelago accessible for those wishing to stay on land. Using three different bases, you explore a world of endemic flora and fauna, visiting the majority of the region's most memorable sites. Start on Central Santa Cruz Island, traveling into the highlands to see giant tortoises, then along the coast to discover everything from sea lion-engulfed beaches to a breeding ground for blue-footed boobies and frigate birds. Underwater sites unravel the layers of the islands' marine beauty, easy spots where you can snorkel from the shore or ride in a kayak. Small islets painted rouge and strange volcanic pinnacles continue an exploration that cuts across the raw splendor of the Galapagos. These central islands are an ideal introduction to both a myriad of species and landscapes.

Travel west by boat and spend the next three nights on Isabela, a young island that's home to five continually erupting volcanoes. Here you feel the active force of evolution, showcased by a trip to the summit of an active caldera. From a luxury lodge in Puerto Villamil, you also take excursions along a sublime coast; Galapagos penguins waddle along cliffs, flightless cormorants dive into the depths, various shark species are spotted under the water, and strange seabirds hang around volcanic cliffs. This is where you find the archipelago's weird and wonderful congregated together, perhaps even diving and feeding together when whales and sharks push fish towards the surface.

From Isabela you head for natural history, flying to the east towards the oldest island in the archipelago, San Cristobal. Endemic life is all around, from the strange San Cristobal lava lizard to the tweeting of Darwin's finches. From a luxury base in capital Puerto Baquerizo you explore this haven for unusual seabirds. You'll see the only site in the world where the three booby species can be spotted together, plus various sites that can be visited without a guide. This easternmost part of the archipelago is also home to the Galapagos' best beaches; bays of coralline white sand that shimmer against the ocean blue. Languid sunbathing hours are the norm here, although the repose is often interrupted by the grunting antics of sea lions. Like everywhere in the Galapagos you're entering their island, an unspoiled canvas where humans are mere visitors. Step along their trails, share their beaches and immerse yourself in the drama of their evolutionary world because this tour offers Galapagos island hopping at its most complete.

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Starting Price

$8995 per person (excluding international flights)

This trip is  customizable for your   private travel.

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What's Included

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip

The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a  custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.

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