Going to the Galapagos was always something we wanted to do, but with the way we’re traveling, prices will always be a major factor. We were still in Peru, debating whether it would be feasible, then one day Brock said the magic words, “I found cheap flights!” I guess we were going to The Galapagos!
Flights from Guayaquil, Ecuador to The Galapagos Islands usually range from $300-$500. Brock found them for $200 roundtrip. It was a once in a lifetime experience we couldn’t pass up.
WHAT TO DO BEFOREHAND
Before getting to the airport we needed to fill out a TCT form. This is a standard tourist visa that cost $20. This NEEDS to be done before you check in for your flight. There’s a sign in the airport that states the requirements for entry into the islands. You need proof of a roundtrip ticket, TCT form, travel insurance and proof of accommodations.
When we arrived at San Cristobal airport, we needed to pay $100 each for the entrance fee to the National Park. This is CASH ONLY. The process was very quick. The only thing they cared about was your TCT form and your $100. They did NOT verify any of the other things as listed.
We had 6 days, so we were only able to go to 2 of the Islands. San Cristobal is one of the main islands and has an airport that we flew into. As soon as you walk to the main part of town, you immediately see the wildlife. There are sea lions EVERYWHERE. They lay on benches, near restaurants, and even the SAN CRISTOBAL sign. At night, they all make their way onto the beach, where you can observe them. It’s really fun to watch them in their natural environment interacting with each other. This was our favorite island and despite having an airport, it was less touristy than Santa Cruz.
- HOSTELS – We’d read that WIFI was terrible throughout the islands and that was definitely true. Brock having proper WIFI for work is always a huge factor, so we searched for places that were rated highly for the internet. The hostel cost $40 per night and included a private bathroom and a shared kitchen. You can find a room anywhere from $30-100.
- ACTIVITIES – The activity selections are endless. We opted out of any tours in an attempt to save money, but there are a ton! We rented snorkel gear for $2.50 per person, per day. We did a 30-minute hike to Cerro Tijeretas where we were able to snorkel. Here we saw a ton of fish and sea lions! The sea lions are very territorial and it took a while for us to get past them to get into the water. The next day we decided to do a 45-minute walk from the hostel to La Loberia Beach. La Loberia is a beautiful white sand beach with a ton of less ornery sea lions. We were able to see beautiful fish and sea turtles. One main problem we had was that we wanted to get to La Galapaguera De Cerro Colorado, but it was a 30-minute drive away. We asked around and getting a taxi for $60 roundtrip or doing a tour for $80 were our only options. We opted for a taxi to avoid a tourist group and to save some money. The best part about going by ourselves was that we got there at 8:30 and we were the first ones in the park. The tortoises are completely amazing. It’s the closest thing to a dinosaur we’ll ever see. On our way out it was completely crowded with a bus full of people swarming the animals. They retreated in their shells as a sign of stress because people were getting too close to get the best pictures. So just be courteous to the wildlife. When you’re done, the taxi will take you to Puerto Chino Beach, just a 5-minute drive away. Again, going early is the best option because we had the beach to ourselves. Here is where the white sand beach met the crystal clear blue water.
- FOOD– The food selections at the “grocery stores” were pretty scarce. They have essentials like eggs and some produce. The good news is that it’s not expensive to eat out for every meal. Depending on where you go you can find meals for as cheap as $5 per meal. The average price for a meal was <$7. If you ask locals, they’ll always tell you the best places to eat for the cheapest price.
- Taking an interisland boat is one of the only ways to get to the different islands. To get to Santa Cruz from San Cristobal, we paid $30 per way. You can buy the tickets online, go to a tourism office, or just go to the dock and see if any boats have space. There are only 2 times that the boats leave, 7 am and at 3 pm. You NEED to have change handy. You’ll take a small taxi boat to the main boat. These small boats are 50 cents a piece. There’s no other way around it.
One of the weird things about Ecuador is that their currency is USD. About 95% percent of activities, hostels, restaurants or anything else we did only accepted cash. It was a constant pain having to find an ATM. Luckily, they’re EVERYWHERE! The fee is about $2-3, but having cash is essential.
SANTA CRUZ ISLAND
Santa Cruz was unexpectedly big. For some reason, we were under the impression that it was a less populated island. It was both good and bad. It was good because there were a ton of things to do and see. Bad, because there were so many people visiting the island who were trying to do the exact same thing.
Hostels – The hostels average about $50 per night and we saw some go up to $200. We were able to find an apartment for $32 per night. It was about a 20-minute walk from the main part of town, so our area was pretty quiet. Our hostel provided breakfast for $5 and the best part was that they had bikes you could borrow for free! We were able to see more of the island in a shorter amount of time, plus we didn’t ever spend money on a taxi.
Activities – The activity selection is endless. We started our trip by going to the Charles Darwin Station. This is completely free! This is where they breed and protect the famous giant tortoises. From there you can also walk down to Playa De La Estacion. The water is a turquoise blue and the white sand is filled with marine iguanas sunbathing. We then made our way to Tortuga Bay. There is a paved path and it will take about 45 minutes to get to the beach. The water is pretty rough and the undertow was strong, so be careful. If you keep walking, you’ll get to another beach. Here is where there are mangroves at the end of the beach that you can watch baby sharks swimming in and out of. Our hostel owner told us about his friends who run tours on the island and he could get us a bigger discount if we go straight through him. It was $35 per person to do a 5-hour tour. These tours can be booked right by the marina as well. Usually, hostel owners will know a local guide who can get you a better price for tours. Our captain was really knowledgeable about the wildlife and knew exactly where to go. We saw blue-footed boobies, baby blacktip sharks, giant sea turtles and beautiful fish. At one point, we stopped in the middle of the ocean. He swam out with us and we stopped right on top of a shark den and watched 5 sharks sleeping.
Food – The food options are limitless here. Whether you want to have a fancy dinner or go for some cheap eats, you’ll find it. They have a special strip of restaurants that during lunch time will give you an appetizer, meal, and fresh juice for $5. These are easy to find. The average meal cost was around <$7 as well. In the evenings, there is another strip where people line up their grills and cook chicken and roast corn. Each of these cost about $1.
One of the best parts about the Galapagos was that we could actually see all of these animals roaming free the way it is intended to be. This was really tough at times because although the Galapagos is one of the most protected island chains in the world, it’s not protected from reality. Pollution is still a threat.
When we got to Tortuga Bay, we didn’t see any big pieces of trash that we are used to seeing polluting the beaches. When we looked down, however, the sand was colored with microplastics. If you looked in the water you could see these plastics floating as well.
Each beach that we went to in the Galapagos had some form of pollution. Whether it was thrown there or it was washed up, it’s still a HUGE problem.
While humans are able to evolve to a new lifestyle, these animals aren’t as fortunate to do so. Never will they be able to process these plastic bags or microplastics they mistake for food. Since the dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago, we’ve never seen a rate of plant and animal extinction as we’re experiencing now. We are CURRENTLY undergoing the 6th mass extinction in our planet’s history. This is the first time, however, that this extinction is caused by humans themselves. We have wiped out 60% of mammals, birds, fish, and reptiles since 1970. Without our changes, these animals that were so prevalent in our childhoods will be a thing our kids read about in history books.
I encourage you to recognize the consumption in your household and research alternatives to the items used in your everyday life.
If Charles Darwin taught us anything, he showed us the significance of evolution. We are living in a very critical time right now for our planet. The changes we make TODAY are going to determine our future.