On this Island we will find the main airport of the Galapagos Archipelago as well as a small Ecuadorian military base, the airport is used by arriving and departure visitors. Baltra is also called South Seymour and its dock, Canal Itabaca, is only 5 minutes away from the air terminal.
The island offers interesting lava formations and ash cones, a beautiful view of the nearest bays which you can appreciate at the high part of the island which will take 30 to 40 minutes climbing a wood staircase.
It is one of the most beautiful visit sites for photographs in the Galapagos Archipelago, because of its unique Pinnacle Rock home for many sea lions and penguins.
Santiago Island is also known as James Island, which consists of two overlapping volcanos. It has a narrow steep-sided point of land that provides an extraordinarily beautiful landscape complete with cliffs and pinnacles where hundreds of marine birds rest.
Below you will find some interesting sites that are a must in your trip list:
- Sullivan Bay.- This bay´s location is on the southeast end of Santiago Island, its beautiful white sand beach is perfect for relaxation, and you will be thrilled to see lava formations, as well as swimming or snorkeling with sea lions, and penguins.
- Egas Port.- This gorgeous site situated on the northeast of Santiago Island, it offers magnificent scenery with black rocky lava, where visitors can swim and snorkel in two beautiful natural holes that house some sea lions, and marine iguanas. Also, you can observe Darwin’s finches, Galapagos hawks, and fur seals.
- Espumilla Beach.- It is a popular place located on the northern part of Santiago Island, which is ideal for watching the iconic marine iguanas, and the Sally Lightfoot crabs. Besides, an abundance of marine life including octopi, moray eels, and sharks.
Rabida Island offers you a diversity of fur seals colonies resting on the dark red sandy beach. As well as a flamingo lake, where it is also possible to see brown penguins, boobies and nine different species of Darwin finches. Being an excellent spot for diving.
The formation of this island was by an uplift of its lava rocky base under the ocean. It is mostly flat and arid, with some vegetations such as cactus, Palo Santo and salt bushes. It is also famous for its large number of blue-footed boobies, the magnificent frigate birds colonies, fork-tailed seagulls, sea lions, and marine iguanas.
North Plazas Island is only for scientific and conservation purposes.
South Plazas Island, is the smallest island but more diverse in the archipelago. This Island houses a wide variety of fauna including sea lions and land iguanas colonies. You can also observe many birds resting on the cliffs.
Here, it is interesting to observe colonies of sea lions, land iguanas, fork-tailed seagulls, terns, and petrels. A trail leading into the heart of the island takes you to a forest of giant cactus and palo santo trees. After this visit on land, you can swim and snorkel.
It is the sixth-largest island by extension of the Galapagos Archipelago and Rolf Wittmer and his family were the first colonists to live on this island.
Here you have some interesting sites to visit:
- Cormorant Point: Its highlights are: the unique beach with olivine crystals sand, a beautiful lake where flamingos enjoy its calm waters. On the other side of the island, we will find a very fine white sand beach where marine turtles nest from December to May.
- Devil’s Crown: One of the best spots for snorkeling because the beautiful formations of coral make the underwater scenery impressive. It also has a wide variety of multi-colored fish schools, sharks, and sea turtles.
- Post Office Bay: was use by whaling ships to deposit and send letters in a barrel and then they would be picked up by other sailers and delivered to its destination. Nowadays, visitors can still see the famous barrel that the sailors used in the 18th century.
- Cerro Asilo de la Paz: This 450-meter-high hill is located behind Pajas Hill and in the farming land on the Island. The hill has two main historical attractions, one is a cave that the pirates used, and the other is a freshwater spring both located on the bottom of the hill. The Galapagos National Park built a corral for Galapagos tortoises from several islands and keep them in captivity, nearby the Asilo de la Paz.
- La Loberia: Offering a 900-meter-long rocky and sandy path that leads to a beautiful beach with its main attraction is the presence of Galapagos seals resting on the beach and in the bay. We can also find marine iguanas and many sea turtles on the rocky reefs in the bay.
- The Baronesa Viewpoint: It is a formation of basaltic tufa between Cormoran Point and Post Office Bay, its location is on the northern part of Floreana Island. To reach the Barones outlook, there is an inclined trail that is fairly easy, except for the last part which becomes steep there are stairs for better access, you can also enjoy a panga ride and see some golden eagle rays, sea turtles, sea lions, mullets and sometimes even Galapagos penguins.
This is the most populated island in the Galapagos Archipelago, where many ships make a mandatory stop in its port Puerto Ayora. Also, there are hotels, restaurants, craft shops, discotheques, bars, cafés, and other businesses for tourists’ enjoyment.
Below, you will find some sites you must visit while you are in Santa Cruz Island:
- Charles Darwin Research Station.- This visit site is an excellent introduction to the Islands, where it explains their origin, evolution, and formation. You can see and learn the breeding process for Galapagos turtles. The Research Station also has a beach, which is very crowded on weekends.
- Tortuga Bay.- Located on Santa Cruz a 45-minute walk from Puerto Ayora or 25 minutes water taxi ride. Its white sand beach offers perfect panoramic views of nature along with marine iguanas and other species from the Galapagos Islands. On this beach, swimming is forbidden however, in a nearby cove you can swim or snorkel together with a small group of white tip reef sharks and on occasion tiger sharks.
- Highlands of Santa Cruz.- It has many interesting and attracting places to see, such as Santa Rosa, the lava tunnels, the turtle reserve, el Chato farm, The Twins, and Cerro Mesa. And other important places to visit by sea are Caleta Tortuga Negra, Las Bachas Beach, Cerro Dragon, Conway Bay, and Walker Bay.
- Black Turtle Cove.- This cove is in the northern part of Santa Cruz. Getting there you have to go by a panga ride where you can see the mangroves where sea turtles are nesting depending the time of year. On the water, we can observe sharks and stingrays swimming around the cove.
- Las Bachas Beach.- This beach is located in the northern part of Santa Cruz, is a perfect place to introduce us to the Galapagos´ natural richness and human history. The beach houses a wide variety of species like flamingos, Sally Lightfoot crabs, as well as migratory and aquatic birds and It is also one of the main nesting sites for sea turtles on Santa Cruz Island.
- Dog Beach.- This white sand 75-meter-long beach is located in Academy Bay. When the tide is low, it is possible to walk along the shore to the lagoon at Las Tintoreras which can be seen from the viewpoint. The plants growing along the path are chala (Croton scoulen), muyuyo (Cordia lutea), espino (Scutia pauciflora), prickly pear cactus and mangroves. Fauna includes blue-footed boobies, pelicans, frigate birds, terns, finches and Sally Lightfoot crabs, and there will be marine iguanas on the beach.
- Las Grietas.- This site is west of Academy Bay. The saltwater lakes along the road are an ideal place for migratory and coastal birds such as royal herons, curlews, patillos, lava seagulls and ruddy turnstones.
- El Garrapatero.- This site is located 19 km northeast of Puerto Ayora. A 1,500-meter-long white sand beach and a flamingo and patillo lagoon 100 meters from the beach are two of its principal attractions. The plants along the path are candelabra cacti, chala, carob, muyuyo, palo santo, espino and barragancillo. The fauna includes many birds such as cucubos, finches, patillos, flamingos and oyster birds, and there are Sally Lightfoot crabs and a few marine iguanas.
- Cerro Dragon.- This hill is located in the northeastern part of Santa Cruz Island and has a 1,600-meter-long path. Shrimps in the lakes here provide food for the flamingos, but there are more abundant during certain times of the year and consequently attract more birds at those times. During rainy seasons, the water in the lakes are very fresh, resulting in a decrease in the crustacean population and a consequent decrease in the number of coastal birds.
- The Twins.- These craterlike holes were not formed by the direct action of volcanoes, but rather as the result of surface material collapsing or sinking into crevices or underground chambers. The most outstanding land bird in this part of the islands is the witch bird.
- Whale Bay.- This is a green-sand cove located at the bottom of Cerro Ballena on the western coast of Santa Cruz Island. There are many olivine crystals on the beach produced from volcanic material. This crystal was formed when the magma was still underground and it contains iron-magnesium and silica.
- Conway Bay.- This gorgeous bay location is on the west side of Santa Cruz between Venecia Islet and Dragon Hill. It has a great 2 km long white coral beach. At the end of this bay will find a narrow canal of turquoise water, which you will pass in order to land on the island, where will be able to see a large beach of black rocks which make an impressive backdrop in the landscape, also will see land iguanas, green sea turtles, marine vegetation and giant tortoises.
- Station Beach.- This beach is near the Galapagos National Park and the Charles Darwin Foundation facilities. It has approximately 320 m2 surrounded by a rock perimeter. It is a good place to snorkel because there are many fish to be seen there, for instance, damsels, colorful fish, butterflyfish, parrotfish, small rays, and also turtles, marine iguanas, and seals.
- Caamaño Islet.- This small islet´s location is at the west side of Academy Bay in Puerto Ayora, it is an ideal spot for swimming and snorkeling alongside a small sea lion colony, some school fish, reef fish, turtles and sharks that visit this place occasionally.
- Puntudo, Media Luna and Crocker Hills.- These are the highest hills on the Island with unique vegetation and a fantastic view. Visitors can only see Galapagos petrel when it is looking for food in the ocean. They usually nest closeby the path so, during this tour, you must be careful while walking on the trail.
- Cerro Mesa.- This hill is in the highland of Santa Cruz. It is ideal for walking or biking, and also for appreciating the gorgeous flora and fauna of the place.
Española Island is also known as Hood Island, it is the oldest and smallest island of the archipelago, depending on the season, it is also the most colorful of the Galapagos Islands. You can observe some sea lion colonies, land, and hybrid iguanas and many birds singing on the cliffs.
Below are some interesting sites to visit:
- Suarez Point.- The natural life on this island is marvelous. Here we can see blue-footed boobies, masked boobies, colonies of marine iguanas, fascinating albatross from April to June, sea lions, Galapagos doves, and Darwin finches. There is another natural attraction here – the lava blowhole.
- Gardner Bay.- From Suarez Point, it takes 45 minutes by boat to reach this site. The white sand beach is home to a group of sea lions. Swimming and snorkeling are excellent possibilities here.
- Puerto Baquerizo Moreno: This is the capital of the Archipelago, and the airport has the same name. There is an interesting Research Center located. A number of tourist routes have been created, that offer good alternatives for passengers spending time on the island. The craft shops are also interesting. Dry landing.
- Lobos Island: The most important colony of sea lions and blue-footed boobies has its home on this Island. The scenery is beautiful, and it is the perfect spot to snorkel. Wet landing.
- Leon Dormido: This giant rock was formed by a volcanic eruption. A narrow canal cuts through it and allows the passage of small boats. This rock is home to many sea birds and is considered as a great diving site.
- Pitt Point: On the north side of San Cristobal Island, this point shelters a great variety of endemic species such as lava lizards and red-footed boobies. The view from the high part of the island is impressive.
- El Junco Lake: The lake’s surface measures 60,000 m2 and its volume is 360,000 m3 –the equivalent of nine million gallons of water. The water it receives is entirely rainwater. During the dry season, the water level drops as much as one meter, but when rains are heavy, the level raises so high it overflows and a stream flows off. The lake is 10 km from the port and is situated inside a small crater which in turn is located inside the chamber of a large volcano.
- Puerto Chino: This site is 24.5 km from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno and a few kilometers away from the Breeding Center next to Cerro Colorado. Entry is by land as far as gravel mine and then there is a footpath about 1,475 meters long, that leads to the beach.
- La Loberia: The coral sand beach is 10 minutes away from the San Cristobal airport. It got its name because of the large number of sea lions that rest on the rock and sand. Some of the species here are button mangrove, white mangrove, chala, palo santo, cotton, Tiquilia and morning glories. There are sea lions, canaries, frigate birds, different types of finches, and enormous unique Galapagos marine iguanas rest on the rocks.
- Semi-natural Turtle Incubator: This is a good place to see Galapagos turtles. Although the population is small, visitors can appreciate a number of them can be seen near the shore in their natural habitat. These turtles have to compete with goats and donkeys for their food. In this region, there are found Galapagos cotton, palo santo trees, dogwood and many kinds of herbs and annual grasses.
- Cerro Tijeretas: Tijeretas is the popular name for the frigate bird. This hill is close to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. It is one of the few places where the two species of frigate birds can be seen nesting in the same colony.
- Puerto Grande: This site is next to Leon Dormido on the northern shore of San Cristobal. Its main attractions are the beach, the scenery and sports. Coastal area plants and a system of dunes are interesting, and there also live seabirds, shoreline birds and migratory birds.
- Cerro Brujo: Cerro Brujo is located on the north Shore of San Cristobal Island. Its main attraction is the coral sand beach and different flora and fauna species. Cerro Brujo has wonderful scenery. Leon Dormido can be seen from this spot as well as the south side of the high part of San Cristobal and the Cerro Brujo shoreline.
- Interpretation Center: The tour given at the Interpretation Center’s facility explains the history of the islands and their natural, human and conservation contexts. The Natural History Room offers an explanation of a number of natural circumstances such as the volcanic origin of the islands, their distance from the mainland, the ocean currents, the special climate, and the arrival of different species and their adaptation to the environment. The Human History Room narrates in chronological order the most significant events related to the discovery and colonization of Galapagos, and then there is an explanation of the present situation in Galapagos at present – the existing problem and the struggle several institutions and persons have initiated to conserve Galapagos.
- Ochoa Beach: This beach is on the north side of San Cristobal, an approximate 30-minute boat trip from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. The only area to be seen is the beach, which is about 160 m2 There is a considerable colony of Galapagos sea lions, ghost crabs and hermit crabs. A seasonal lagoon has a constant influx of migratory and coastal birds. This is one of the sites where the endemic cucube (sinsonte) of San Cristobal can be seen.
Espinosa Point: The scenery of black rock and lava is very attractive. There is a colony of marine iguanas, a large number of penguins, pelicans, and colonies of cormorants – birds that cannot fly. The vegetation is unique and some areas are very dry. Dry landing.
This is the largest island in the Archipelago. There are located 6 active volcanoes: Alcedo, Cerro Azul, Darwin, Ecuador, Sierra Negra and Wolf. The enormous amount of lava that spilled down from these volcanoes created this island. Each volcano has its own type of giant turtle. The very interesting sites on this island that are authorized by the National Park listed below.
- Vicente Roca Point: A panga boat takes you to this site to watch hundreds of seabirds. The steep cliffs and caves are spectacular.
- Caleta Tagus: This was a natural port, where whaling ships arrived and left the names of their ships painted on the hills in 1800. You can walk to the high part to see the crater and Darwin Lake (a salt-water lake). The view from this spot is spectacular. A tour through the cliffs turns up penguins, flightless cormorants, boobies, pelicans and Sally Lightfoot crabs.
- Urbina Bay: This bay is on the west shoreline. From here, it is easy to reach the Alcedo Volcano and Darwin. There can be found large colored land iguanas and it is possible to see giant turtles, flightless cormorants, blue-footed boobies, penguins and marine iguanas.
- Moreno Point: This is in the southeastern part of Isabela. There is a spectacular view of the Alcedo, Sierra Negro and Cerro Azul volcanoes. This area is characterized by its lakes which are home for hundreds of frigate birds, flamingos and pelicans.
- Elizabeth Bay: Situated on the west side of Isabela Island, this site is extremely interesting for observing marine life. Some of the species here are sea turtles, rays, seals and Galapagos falcons.
- Garcia Point: This site is on Isabela’s east shore. Previously, the only way to see it was from a panga boat, but now land visits are permitted.
- Sierra Negra Volcano: This volcano is located in the western part of the Galapagos Archipelago, in the southern part of Isabela Island between the Alcedo and Cerro Azul volcanoes. The Sierra Negra chamber measures 6×5 miles and is the largest of the Galapagos Islands and the second largest in the world, only after Ngoro in Africa. The climb to Sierra Negra Volcano’s crater starts in Puerto Villamil and takes forth to five hours.
- Chico Volcano: This volcano is northeast of Sierra Negra Volcano, and the altitude is approximately 850 meters. It is a fissure of several parasite cones composed of volcanic ash and lava. The area surrounding Volcano Chico is northeast of the chamber so it is not affected by the constant mist present in the southeast sector of the high islands. This is one of the reasons why Volcano Chico is in perfect condition and can also be seen when there is sun and the visibility is good.
- Puerto Villamil: This port is on the southeast coastline of Isabela Island. Inhabited by quiet people, this village, as well as its neighboring village Santo Tomas, was founded by Antonio Gil in 1897. Villamil started out as a center for the production of lime which was used to burn the coral found on Isabela. Puerto Villamil is considered as one of the most beautiful sites in Galapagos, because of its extensive white sand beaches and long lines of palm trees. Lakes full of pink flamingos that nest in these large lakes from November to April are also an attraction. The beaches and lakes near Villamil are home to many birds that have migrated to the Galapagos Islands.
- Albermarle Point: This site on the north side of the island is composed of two areas. One is an area of mangroves in the midst of lava flows solidified in waves that form coves and channels. The other area is the former radar base near the beach that the North Americans left behind during World War II. The Punta Albermarle marine iguanas and those from the western side of Isabela seen here are the largest in the Archipelago.
- Wetlands Complex: The Wetlands is a complex of 7 paths that form the following sites.
- La Playita: This is a fine white sand beach that has a lava crag where seabirds rest after feeding. The site is ideal for enjoying the sun and nature, surrounded by mangroves and a panoramic view of Puerto Villamil and nearby islets.
- Pozas Verdes: The path crosses along the border between the dry carob tree grove and the humid mangrove forest. From a footbridge, you can contemplate one of the most unique sights in Galapagos, candelabra cacti next to white mangroves –so very different, but living alongside each other next to a tranquil green lagoon.
- Los Tunos Lookout: From the edge of the collapsed lava, there is a panoramic view of Poza Verde surrounded by mangroves and a thousand-year-old forest of enormous candelabra cacti.
- Tunel del Estero: This tunnel was formed by volcanic eruptions and its mouth is underwater. You can walk a few meters inside the tunnel at low tide.
- Poza Redonda: Collapsed lava formed a small lake here. From the edge, you can see how plants in Galapagos grow inside lava blocks. You can also go down to the edge of the lake to see the different petrified currents of magma.
- Poza Escondida: A path leads through a typical dry Galapagos forest of cactus and carob trees. After walking a few meters, you will find yourself in the middle of a mangrove swamp surrounding a small lake that opens directly into the ocean.
- El Estero: Along this path, you can see the mangrove ecosystem up close and admire the black mangrove tree thought to be the largest in the Galapagos Islands. This is really one of the most interesting sites because of its uniqueness since there is nothing like this in any other place in Galapagos. A freshwater stream surges from the ground and forms a river when the tide is low. It then flows down to a sandy bay next to a crag where seabirds rest.
- Orchilla Lookout: From the top of Cerro Orchilla, you can see the entire wetland system of Los Diablos and Puerto Villamil and the beaches, volcanos and islets southeast of Isabela. When the day is clear, it is ideal for taking photos.
- Concha de Perla: This site is in Puerto Villamil, only a few meters from the El Embarcadero Port. A natural rock wall forms a circular concave bay-like structure that fills with ocean water according to the tides. The site is ideal for swimming and snorkeling.
- Las Tintoreras: This site is south of Puerto Villamil. The small bay of tranquil turquoise water befriends sea lions, sea turtles and rays. This site is also famous for the canals where you can easily distinguish resting sharks. Most of the path is lava, except for two white sand beaches and one black rock beach.
- Cape Rosa: The site is at the south end of Puerto Villamil. You can walk on the interlaced lava tunnels running through the blue ocean water. It is easy to spot dozens of sharks, sea turtles, penguins and rays. This site is ideal for snorkeling. On the trip to Puerto Villamil, you will see rays.
- Union Rock: This site 7 miles from Puerto Villamil will be seen from the launch. Here there are lobsters, sea lions, manta rays, and schools of fish and barracudas as well as seabirds. The launch will circle so you can see all the flora and fauna.
- Tortuga Island: This island west of Isabela Island is reached by sea and is good for snorkeling. Seabirds and a variety of colored fish can be seen here.
- El Mango Lookout: This lookout on Isabela Island is 9 km from Puerto Villamil. From here you can see the southern part of Isabela Island and part of the agricultural area. The attraction here is the scenery, the typical vegetation and different kinds of birds.
- Las Cuevas de Sucre: These caves are in the agricultural area of Isabela Island about 14 km from Puerto Villamil. A path approximately 480 meters long passes through a strip of vegetation typical in humid areas. It crosses a lava tunnel and finally ends up at a tree nursery which serves to reproduce native and endemic plants.
- Sulfur Mines: These mines are on the west side of the Sierra Negra Volcano about 11 km from the El Cura control booth. The main attraction here is the scenery, several fumaroles and the sulfur mines.
- Wall of Tears: This historic site near Puerto Villamil is an optional visit for tourists staying in Puerto Villamil. It is historic because between 1946 and 1959 a penal colony lived here. The prisoners were forced to build a lava-block wall approximately 100 meters long as part of their punishment. There is a stairway you can climb to get a good view of this site.
- Arnaldo Tupiza Breeding Center: The Center is 1.5 km from Puerto Villamil. Galapagos turtles from other places in the southern part of Isabela are reproduced in captivity in this breeding facility. The young and adult turtles living here total 330. There are beautiful gardens full of native plants such as manzanilla olive trees, carob trees, prickly pears, palo santo, cat’s claw, espino (Scutia pauciflora), chala (Croton scoleri), rodilla de caballo (Clerodendrum molle /Glory Bower), cotton, lechoso (Scalesia affinis), muyuyo (Cordia lutea), espuela de gallo (Chiococca alba), myrtle, chililica (Caesalpinia bonduc), and the Galapagos daisy.
This is one of the most important islands because of the number of colonies of birds found here, the reason it is called Bird Island. The boat excursion is a little long but very worthwhile, because we will see many different natural attractions.
- Prince Philip’s Steps: From here a walk among lava rocks is astonishing. There is a palo santo forest and many nesting red-footed boobies. This island is full of life and you can see frigate birds, red-footed boobies, lava seagulls, doves, tropical birds, petrels and many other kinds of birds. You can snorkel near the cliffs.
- Darwin Bay: This enormous bay dominates the island and like the Prince Philip’s Steps, this site is the home of large colonies of frigate birds and a wide variety of seabirds.
• Mejia Point: The visit is by sea to the northern part of the Archipelago in the Marchena Island. This is the home of a number of endemic species such as the cucube (sinsonte), the Galapagos falcon and the lava lizard, native to the Marchena Island.
• Black Beach: The visit is by sea to the eastern part of the island. Here where you have one of the best views of the Islands you can snorkel or dive and see sharks, rays, turtles and penguins.
The beach is red sand with a lake next to the beach and a path all the way around. The color of the rocks and the sand comes from their composition of volcanic material. The main attraction is the red sand beach, the scenery and also the vegetation in this dry area and the presence of native and endemic species.
This islet is near the southeast shore of Santiago. Seen from a distance, it looks like a Chinese hat. On the west side, there are pillow-like lava formations that invite you to analyze such geological aspects as lava tubes and lava flow.
Mosquera Islet is located between Baltra Island and North Seymour Island. It is a reef of rock and coral produced from an upheaval, and the large beach is white sand. This islet has one of the largest groups of sea lions. There are also different species of costal birds here. Killer whales feeding on sea lions have been seen at this site on several occasions.