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Spending two weeks scuba diving at the northernmost Galapagos Islands, Wolf and Darwin, where hammerhead sharks and whale sharks gorge themselves in the nutrient rich waters is an unparalleled opportunity.
With our originally scheduled Banda Sea, Indonesia, dive trip cancelled, we were lucky to snag a last minute Galapagos diving trip opportunity. Joining friends and a research team from the Charles Darwin Research Station aboard the Wild Aid Passion, our experience was nothing short of spectacular. Galapagos now ranks as our most riveting and awe-inspiring dive trip in the world, topping Raja Ampat, Palau and Socorro.
Read on for tips to plan an unforgettable Galapagos scuba diving trip. Learn about the best dive sites, the exceptional marine life encounters, the best time to dive in Galapagos, Galapagos diving difficulty, the liveaboards that operate and the diving and safety equipment you should bring.
What Makes Galapagos Diving So Unique?
The convergence of currents (the Humboldt current from the south and the Cromwell current from the west), trade winds, and the Galapagos Islands’ location along the equator lead to marine life concentrations and sightings not seen anywhere else in the world.
Scuba diving in the Galapagos enamors you with encounters with hundreds of schooling hammerhead sharks, massive pregnant whale sharks and wonderous mola molas (oceanic sunfish).
FUN FACT: Established in 1998, the Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR) is 133,000 square kilometers (83,000 square miles). In November 2021, Ecuador announced it will expand the GMR by an additional 60,000 square kilometers (37,000 square miles).
Galapagos Dive Sites
While Galapagos dive sites can be challenging due to strong and unpredictable currents and cold waters, they are also incredibly rewarding. During our two-week Galapagos scuba diving trip, we completed 33 thrilling dives at the best dive sites in the Galapagos Islands:
- Shark Bay – Wolf Island
- El Derrumbe (Landslide) – Wolf Island
- The Corals – Wolf Island
- Arco De Darwin (Darwin’s Arch Dive Site) – Darwin Island
- Cape Douglas – Fernandina Island
- Punta Vicente Roca – Isabela Island
Despite the absence of the colorful soft coral reefs you see in other parts of the world, you will be mesmerized by the incredible underwater wonders awaiting you amongst the rocky landscapes while scuba diving in Galapagos.
TOP TIP: When booking your trip, be sure to ask the operator how much time you will spend diving at Wolf & Darwin Islands.
Galapagos Islands Diving Highlights: Darwin & Wolf Islands
Most Galapagos dive trips are one week long. You spend one to two days in Wolf and Darwin, with four to eight dives at each. Since we were with scientists from the Charles Darwin Research Station who were studying invasive species, we spent 11 days and 30 dives at Wolf and Darwin, an unprecedented amount of underwater time!
FUN FACT: Darwin and Wolf Islands are a shark sanctuary, boasting the planet’s largest concentration of sharks! Hammerhead sharks migrate between these islands, Cocos in Costa Rica and Mapelo in Colombia.
Darwin’s Arch Dive Site
Darwin Island, where the famous arch collapsed into the Pacific Ocean on May 17, 2021, is undoubtedly one of the preeminent dive sites in the world. Our 19 dives at Darwin’s Arch dive site treated us to 20 whale shark sightings!
Our dive guides’ rattlers, tank banging, pointing and hooting directed my attention towards the bus-sized, camouflaged whale sharks emerging from inky blue waters and barreling towards me.
Floating 50 feet below the surface, it’s unforgettable to observe the light rays dancing across their mesmerizing patterns. Gaze into tiny eyes as you furiously kick to keep pace with gentle giants measuring 25-35 feet (8-11 meters) long!
While swimming above or beneath them capturing cool silhouette shots and videos, you don’t fully grasp their massive scale until you realize sharks and people floating next to them appear to be bath toys bobbing in the water.
FUN FACT: Whale shark markings are as distinguishable as human fingerprints. Left side images are the most useful for scientists studying their migration patterns. If you capture photos, you can submit to Galapagos Whale Shark Project as they use these images to track whale sharks and understand migration pathways.
Marine Life: What Will You See Scuba Diving in Galapagos?
Massive Pregnant Whale Sharks
Darwin lived up to the hype, gifting us with NINE whale shark sightings in ONE day! Quite the treat for my 400th dive! One 30-foot spotty friend even bid us farewell at our safety stop. WHAT a way to end our dive!
On another dive, two whale sharks almost collided with one another! Later that same day, a female cruised by 20 feet beneath us as we back rolled into the water. After registering our good fortune, we rapidly kicked to keep pace, with permagrins imprinted on our faces.
Interestingly, Darwin attracts behemoth pregnant females. Some speculate that whale shark birthing grounds may be nearby since open-mouthed feeding behaviors aren’t observed like they are in other whale shark hot spots (Mexico, Philippines, Maldives, and Indonesia).
FUN FACT: Scientists have recorded belly ultrasounds while swimming beneath whale sharks at Darwin, discovering embryos at different stages of development, proving whale sharks have delayed implantation. To this day, no one has EVER seen a whale shark give birth.
The largest whale shark recorded is 65 feet (20 meters). On average, they are 25-35 feet (8-11 meters) in Galapagos. You and all the other divers will fist pump and hoot and holler with excitement as these “submarines” drift past.
TOP TIP: The best time to see whale sharks is from July-November, with October-November typically being the peak time.
While whale sharks appear to be leisurely swimming, keeping up with them is exhausting.
Fortunately, improving my cardiovascular fitness with running five to ten miles a week the past two years allowed me to keep pace, resulting in fantastic one to two minute encounters and videos!
Galapagos Diving: Hammerhead Sharks
The nutrients, choppiness and ripping currents surging through Wolf & Darwin churn up the water, providing the ideal conditions for schooling scalloped hammerhead sharks.
FUN FACT: Females comprise these large schools. To establish dominance and hierarchy, larger females bite the smaller ones. Hammerheads also sustain bites/scratches from the males during mating season, which look painful!
Within 10 minutes of our first dive at Wolf, 100+ scalloped hammerhead sharks cruised by, surfing the deep blue waters. Preferring colder waters, these rare beauties had eluded me for 25 years! While many think hammerhead sharks look fearsome, they are the most skittish sharks we’ve ever encountered. They spook and dart away at the slightest sign of bubbles.
Sadly, due to shark finning decimating populations worldwide, it’s not uncommon to see only 10 sharks during a two-week dive trip. So, seeing thousands during a Galapagos diving adventure is both spectacular and rare.
While bobbing and letting the nitrogen release from our bloodstreams during our three-minute safety stop at 15 feet, we marveled at elegantly shaped hammerheads swishing and beautifully contrasting against the sandy bottom.
Spotted Eagle Rays
Wolf treated us to the best eagle ray encounters we have ever had. A resident family of eagle rays, habituated to divers, has roamed Wolf for 25 years.
One of the eagle rays became mesmerized with our dive guide, Fernando, hovering over him, looking into his eyes and returning to him three times. She spent 15 minutes swimming out, circling around and giving us all the chance to photograph and video her. Our prior encounters with eagle rays have been fleeting, lasting less than a minute as they flit past.
While she effortlessly hung in the current, two golden rays drifted past, followed by a turtle and schooling hammerheads in the distance. Be prepared for sensory overload, constantly pivoting your head and anticipating what might surprise and delight you next! To cap off this unforgettable Galapagos dive, we had two dolphins pirouetting around us our safety stop.
When we dropped in for the next dive, the eagle ray summoned her family, resulting in a squadron of SEVEN eagle rays flapping towards us, relishing the currents and pausing to give us optimal photographic opportunities. As they circled around us for 10 minutes, changing up their formation, we noted that one had no spots. An anomaly we’d never witnessed before. Galapagos scuba diving presents wonderful surprises during every dive!
Galapagos Dive Buddies: Green Sea Turtles
If you love sea turtles, rest assured you will see them on every dive when scuba diving in the Galapagos.
FUN FACT: Galapagos boasts one of the largest concentrations of green sea turtles in the world.
Our dive guide, Fernando, commented that inquiring if you will see turtles is like asking if you will get wet. It’s guaranteed.
His assertion proved spot on as five green sea turtles ambled around chomping on coral. On another dive, we had 10 green sea turtles in the first 15 minutes of the dive! Later that same day, so many turtles swam through the water from every direction that I kept swiveling around, taking advantage of the countless video opportunities.
One hilarious and curious turtle admired its reflection in Jason’s huge glass dome, coming so close that Jason could no longer focus. Watching their interaction made me laugh and flood my mask.
Similar to the land-based Galapagos wildlife, the marine life in Galapagos seems oblivious to divers and more curious than most. In one instance, a turtle was snacking on coral above me. When I ascended slightly, both the turtle and I got a fright. After bumping into it from below, the turtle startled, hastily flapping its flippers in front of my mask. This resulted in me screaming into my regulator, making Jason chuckle.
Dreams come true in Galapagos. After only seeing mola molas in wildlife documentaries and at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, I’d fancied seeing one in the wild for 25 years!
Awkward and shy, these elusive, deep-water creatures are sometimes spotted sunning themselves on the surface. Your best chances of seeing mola molas are at cleaning stations like that at Punta Vicente Roca off Isabela Island. We spotted five mola molas getting cleaned on the wall, with one buzzing me as it headed back into the blue.
Be forewarned, this dive site is nicknamed “The Icebox” for good reason. The chilling 58F (14C) waters will take your breath away. It’s the only time that my husband, Jason, has ever considered aborting a dive as he had a hard time catching his breath after plunging into the frigid waters.
Your face and lips will still feel frozen, but the mola molas will distract you!
FUN FACT: Mola molas are the world’s heaviest bony fish. Since they don’t have tails, they use their dorsal and anal fins to propel themselves through the water.
Marine iguanas are one of the coolest creatures to see on both land and while scuba diving in Galapagos.
FUN FACT: They bask in the sun all day and head into the ocean between 12-2PM to feed on submerged algae-covered rocks. Since the smaller marine iguanas warm their bodies faster than the larger ones, they typically head into the water first.
After satiating their hunger, marine iguanas use their tails to thrust back to the surface and wiggle along until they climb atop the volcanic rocks to resume warming themselves.
Once they emerge from the ocean, marine iguanas pile on one another to warm up.
TOP TIP: Test your patience by trying to photograph them “spitting” salt out of their nostrils. Despite trying to capture this coveted animal shot with hundreds of photographs during my Galapagos land-based tour, I always missed it by a millisecond. Shoot high speed continuous (or time-lapse) for the best chance of photographing this behavior.
FUN FACT: Did you know that Godzilla is based on marine iguanas?!
When scuba diving in Galapagos, listen and look for bottlenose dolphins.
We heard their adorable squeaks and clicks on most every dive and saw them on four different dives! During one of our safety stops, they pirouetted amongst us. During another dive, the pod surrounded a tiny calf in their midst.
Frequently, they rejoiced in riding our panga bow waves as we returned from the dive site to the main boat, which is the perfect way to end a dive.
TOP TIP: If you encounter dolphins, make noises and spin around. They love to be entertained and will make eye contact as they zip around the divers.
Galapagos sea lions are incredibly playful. They seem to thoroughly enjoy sneaking up on people, pulling on divers’ flippers and blowing bubbles or yawning as they bank towards you.
They relish zipping amongst the group, diving down, spinning and keeping divers laughing. Sea lions disappear only to reappear seconds later from a completely different direction.
TOP TIP: Twirl around, turn upside down and make noise to keep them interested. Brightly colored yellow or orange fins seem to entice them. And, if you have a dive light, it’s fun to turn it on and play with them.
We encountered sea lions as soon as we rolled in on one dive, played with many for 5-10 minutes during another dive, and had some that stayed with us for our entire safety stop.
I promise you sea lions will be one of the most enjoyable and memorable parts of your Galapagos diving experience.
Red-lipped batfish have a bulbous pout, appearing to have over indulged in Botox and applied a vibrant red lipstick to their mouths.
FUN FACT: Red-lipped batfish can ONLY be seen in the Galapagos.
These cute bottom dwellers are seen on sandy bottoms between 30-60 feet (9-18 meters) deep during both day and night dives in Galapagos.
Similar to frogfish, they use their stick-like pectoral and pelvic fins to walk along the bottom rather than to swim. They also use a lure on their heads to entice and predate on small fish and shrimp.
TOP TIP: Let your dive guide know you’d like to see one as they are familiar with where red-lipped batfish hang out. Our eagle-eyed guides found them on two different Galapagos dives!
Another fish that can be seen while scuba diving in the Galapagos is the Galapagos Sea Robin. This shy bottom dweller is typically found at 60-100 feet (20-30 meters) and camouflages brilliantly atop the sand.
Personally, I find their six spindly front legs creepy looking as they remind me of a spider. Alternatively, if you are lucky enough to see their pectoral fins fanned out, you’ll be enthralled by the captivating blue color outlining their delicately designed fins.
TOP TIP: Ask your dive guides to look for them when searching for the red-lipped batfish as they are typically found in similar areas on the same dive. Our dive guides found these two critters 20 feet apart during our Galapagos diving adventure.
Galapagos Bull Headed Shark
Besides scalloped hammerhead sharks, the bull headed shark is my favorite of the Galapagos sharks. This small shark, measuring only 3 feet (1 meter long), has beautiful markings and reminds me of Epaulette sharks we saw in Raja Ampat, Indonesia. Like the endemic red-lipped batfish and Galapagos sea robin, the Galapagos Bull Headed shark can only be found in Galapagos.
We saw one on the same dive where we saw the red-lipped batfish and sea robin. We were treated to another hiding beneath some sea fans on the mola mola dive.
If you love sharks like my husband does, Galapagos scuba diving offers an abundance including Galapagos sharks, white tip reef sharks, tiger sharks (though less frequently), and black tip reef sharks.
GALAPAGOS SCUBA DIVING: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Galapagos Diving Difficulty
Like me, you might be wondering how hard is scuba diving in the Galapagos?
Galapagos is an advanced diving destination due to the strong currents, cold water, rocky surface conditions and sometimes limited visibility.
The Darwin Arch dive site requires negative entries (deflating your BCD, backrolling in and kicking to the wall as quickly as possible). Be prepared for mask and regulator rattling in howling currents, surge, and periodic down currents.
TOP TIP: If you encounter a down current, swim perpendicular to it and get to the wall so that you can pull yourself up or you can inflate your BCD and kick up.
During really strong currents, you may have to hold onto the pinnacle and pull yourself horizontally along the wall using rocks and barnacles. Make sure no eels or scorpion fish are lurking near your next handhold.
TOP TIP: Bring 3mm gloves with you to protect your hands from the barnacles. Unlike most places where gloves are forbidden and you are discouraged from touching anything, you will need to hold on in the Galapagos Islands’ heavy currents.
How Much Experience Do You Need to Dive the Galapagos Islands?
I’d highly recommend the following before undertaking a Galapagos diving trip that includes Wolf & Darwin:
- Get your Advanced Open Water diver & Nitrox certifications through PADI or SSI. Nitrox provides an additional layer of safety and lets you stay down longer.
- Log at least 100 dives
- Gain experience and comfort with heavy currents elsewhere as Galapagos is not the place you want to be indoctrinated
Scuba Diving in Galapagos’ Strong Currents
Despite having ~400 dives and experience with swift current dives in Palau, Maldives, Komodo, Raja Ampat and Mozambique, I delayed traveling to this bucket list scuba diving destination for decades. My fear of being swept away by the infamous Galapagos currents terrified me.
My paralyzing worry resulted from reading about two female divers on different boats dying in the raging Galapagos currents in 2009. Shortly after learning about those dive accidents, I met an experienced diver who had been carried by the Galapagos currents. He floated on the surface for two hours, drifting many miles before his dive boat found him.
Reassurances from diving friends, the head Galapagos researcher on our trip and our local dive shop ultimately convinced me to overcome my hesitations and dive in the Galapagos. I’m so glad I did!
Best Time to Dive in Galapagos?
The Galapagos diving season operates year-round. The best time to dive Galapagos depends on what you want to see and which water temperatures and surface conditions you prefer.
December to May offers warmer water temperatures, ranging from 70-86 F (21-30C), and clearer waters. This is the best time to see manta rays.
If you want to see massive pregnant whale sharks at Darwin Island, the best time of year to visit Galapagos is from July-November. While the water is colder (58-77 F/14-23 C) and choppier, it’s absolutely worth it! Target your trip for October & November for the largest whale shark concentrations.
These are the most numerous and longest lasting whale shark encounters we have had anywhere in the world. And, the whale sharks are HUGE, double the size of ones we’ve seen in Raja Ampat, Philippines, Mozambique and Maldives.
Scalloped hammerhead sharks can be seen year-round when diving in the Galapagos, with the larger schools typically seen December to May. We saw hundreds of hammerhead sharks most days while diving in October.
Since seas can be rougher in October and November, be prepared with seasickness remedies, especially for the 16-18 hour crossing from Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island to Wolf. The Relief Band has been game-changing for me.
If you’d like to learn more about this innovative solution and others, my favorite sea sickness remedies blog post will help you decide which product(s) might be best for you.
Galapagos Diving Water Temperature
Galapagos water temperatures range from 58-77 F (14-23C).
While the waters at Wolf & Darwin are warmer than other parts of the Galapagos archipelago, ranging from 74-77F (22-23 C) in October, you will get chilly, especially after three to four dives per day.
When diving with the mola molas (sunfish) at Punta Vicente Roca, located off of Isabela Island in the west, be prepared for frigid 58F (14C) water temperatures.
Galapagos Scuba Diving Wetsuit Recommendations
Given the chilly waters and repetitive diving, I HIGHLY recommend a 7mm wetsuit. My 5mm would not have kept me warm enough.
Since I get cold easily, I wear a 5mm wetsuit in 84F (29 C) water. So, finding a flexible and comfortable 7mm that would keep me toasty (but not induce claustrophobia) in the nippy Galapagos waters became my first priority.
Years ago, I’d been mentally scarred while trying on a semi-dry 7mm wetsuit. That horrid experience resulted in me screeching for Jason to extract me from the sausage casing masquerading as a wetsuit.
TOP TIP: I highly recommend investing in a Henderson dive skin to simplify shimmying into a thicker wetsuit. I’m delighted to report that I could fully don all my dive gear within five minutes. Bring two so that you can put on a dry skin for each dive.
For the super chilly mola mola (oceanic sunfish) dive at Punta Vicente Roca and the marine iguana feeding dive at Cape Douglas on Fernandina, you’ll also want to add a 5/3mm hooded vest (the hood is 5mm and vest is 3mm) and swap out your 3mm gloves for 5mm gloves to keep warm in the frigid 58F (14C) waters.
TOP TIP: Since I wear the 5/3mm hooded vest over my wetsuit, I went up a size on my hooded vest so it wouldn’t be too constricting.
The water was so shockingly cold that it took my breath away and froze my face. My husband didn’t have 5mm gloves or a 5/3mm hooded vest and got so cold he considered aborting the dive five minutes in; we’ve only ever aborted one other dive due to water temperature.
For all other Galapagos dives, I didn’t need the hooded vest and was perfectly comfortable in my 3mm beanie.
Galapagos Islands Diving Weighting
Shockingly, I needed 24 lbs (11kg) to keep me from bobbing on the surface in my brand new, buoyant 7mm wetsuit, which I decreased to 20 lbs (9kg) after my suit compressed. In my 5mm wetsuit, I only need 6lbs (3kg). I could have dropped to 16 lbs (7kg), but kept the extra weight so I wouldn’t be too buoyant at safety stops and would be weighted enough when I donned my 5/3mm hooded vest for colder waters.
Other Galapagos Islands Scuba Diving Gear
As a result of the Galapagos’ strong currents, a possibility exists that you might surface separately from your dive group. Therefore, I recommend you carry the following signaling devices when diving in the Galapagos:
- Surface marker buoy – a 6-8 foot orange buoy allows panga drivers to spot you as you are floating during your safety stop and once you are on the surface
- DiveAlert Plus Airhorn – if the surface is rough, the airhorn emits a loud noise to alert panga drivers to your location. It can be heard one mile away.
- Nautilus Lifeline – in the event currents sweep you further away, you can depress a red button to alert boats up to 34 miles away to your GPS location with this Personal Locator Beacon.
Galapagos panga drivers are eagle-eyed, carefully tracking divers’ bubbles. Our group always managed to surface together and the panga drivers were right there to pick us up.
Galapagos Liveaboard Diving Boats
Eight Galapagos diving liveaboards offer trips in this scuba diving mecca:
- Galapagos Aggressor
- Galapagos Sky
- Humboldt Explorer
- Tiburon Explorer
- Wild Aid’s Passion
- Pinguino Explorer
- Galapagos Master
Typically, Galapagos dive trips offer a seven-day itinerary, with four dives a day. Most Galapagos dive boats hold 14-16 divers, operate two pangas/zodiacs, and have one dive guide for every eight divers.
TOP TIP: Inquire how many days and dives they do at Wolf & Darwin where you see the whale sharks & schooling hammerheads. Most Galapagos liveaboards offer 2-3 days at those islands. Spend as much time at these sites as you possibly can!
Galapagos Scuba Diving Prices
On average, Galapagos scuba diving trips on a liveaboard cost approximately $1000 per night. This aligns with the pricing on liveaboard trips in Palau, Raja Ampat and Socorro. The price includes your lodging, all food, and four dives a day. Most diving trips offer 7 nights aboard.
TOP TIP: If you can find a Galapagos liveaboard that offers 10 nights and spends more days diving at Wolf and Darwin, jump on it as those dives will be the absolute highlight of your trip!
Reef Safe Sunscreens
We always use reef safe sunscreens to minimize toxins impacting coral reefs and marine life. Look for products like Banana Boat’s Baby Mineral 50+ sunscreen that include both titanium and zinc oxide and exclude oxybenzone and octinoxate. My reef safe sunscreen blog post includes my other favorite reef safe sunscreen products.
How to Get to the Galapagos
If you are coming from the US, I recommend the following routing to travel to the Galapagos:
- Fly to Miami
TOP TIP: Since we’ve experienced flight delays for our prior Galapagos land-based trip and both our Antarctica trips, we now opt to arrive a day early in Miami to decrease our stress. If you will be boarding a boat that will leave without you, it’s always best to add a safety cushion to your travel itinerary.
- Fly from Miami to Quito, Ecuador, on American Airlines. Overnight in Quito as you can’t typically connect to Galapagos on the same day since most flights depart in the morning.
- Fly from Quito, Ecuador, to Baltra on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos with Avianca (part of Star Alliance) or LATAM. In October 2021, tickets were $550-$650 USD. Overnight in Puerto Ayora or board your boat the same day.
TOP TIP: If you are traveling with heavy checked luggage due to dive gear (7mm wetsuits take up A LOT of room and weigh more) or have a lot of carry-on luggage due to underwater photography gear, I recommend paying the $120 premium to upgrade to Business Class on Avianca. This will allow you to board early and also get extra baggage allowance.
Miami International Airport Hotel (USA)
If you have an early morning flight, I recommend the Miami International Airport hotel. Although a bit dated and pricey, staying at this in-terminal hotel is worth it because of the five-minute walk to the check-in counters, E gates and its location just across from the Miami testing center.
TOP TIP: Get the tasty four-cheese pizza and key lime pie, at the Vienna restaurant, located on the top floor of the hotel. Margaritaville, across from the check in desk, has a substantial and varied menu.
TOP TIP: Opt for TSA pre-check at the E gates as the lines are much shorter than at the other gates. If you have a lot of electronics, opt for the X-ray on the far left or they will ask you to take them all out of your bags despite having TSA pre-check.
Miami Airport Marriott (USA)
Alternatively, you can stay offsite at the Miami Airport Marriott for half the price. This modern hotel is located only 1.2 miles away and has a free shuttle that operates every 30 minutes. Unfortunately, when we arrived at 9PM, the shuttle was full, so we opted to pay for an Uber instead.
Wyndam Quito Airport (Ecuador)
The Wyndam Quito is located only five minutes from the Quito domestic and international terminals. Their free shuttle operates every 30 minutes.
TOP TIP: Get the Locro de Papa soup (a cheesy potato soup garnished with avocado and corn nuts) at the onsite restaurant. You’ll thank me later.
Holiday Inn Quito Airport (Ecuador)
This modern Holiday Inn is located 5-10 minutes from the airport and has a shuttle that runs every 30 minutes.
TOP TIP: Enjoy the free breakfast buffet (offered 6AM to 12PM) before you board your flight. Indulge in fresh squeezed soursop juice, an omelet bar and delicious Ecuadorian dishes.
Galapagos Habitat Hotel (Ecuador)
If you are overnighting on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos prior to boarding your boat, I recommend staying at the Galapagos Habitat Hotel in Puerto Ayora. Breakfast is included. You’ll be surrounded by sea lions, marine iguanas and sally light footed crabs as you nosh on your meals.
TOP TIP: For lunch or dinner, eat at the onsite restaurant Al Mar. You can’t go wrong with the lentil burger, the hearts of palm and avocado ceviche, a lemon ginger tea, hot chocolate or the brownie with nutella and ice cream.
Also, be sure to stop at Chocolapagos across the street and indulge in divine turtle-shaped chocolates.
TOP TIP: Salted caramel, maracuya (passionfruit) and chili are my favorites. Bring some home for friends and family in their beautiful gold foil embossed gift boxes.
Galapagos Transportation from Baltra Airport to Puerto Ayora
If you are staying in Puerto Ayora and your boat hasn’t arranged your transportation, you’ll do the following:
- Pay $5 for a bus ticket at a booth just outside the terminal that says “Venta de Tickets.” This 10-minute ride will take you from Baltra Airport to the ferry at the Ithabaca Canal.
- Pay $1 for the ferry. They prefer $1 coins, but also accept new $1 USD bills. This short jaunt across the Ithabaca Canal takes less than 5 minutes.
- Pay $25 for a pickup truck taxi from the Ithabaca Canal to your hotel in Puerto Ayora. Taxis hold up to 4 people and will fit all your luggage in the truck bed.
Galapagos Entry Requirements (as of October 2021)
To enter Ecuador, you need to show proof of vaccination OR a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours.
To enter Galapagos, you need to show proof of vaccination AND a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours.
TOP TIP: Since these requirements are constantly changing, be sure to check for any update before visiting.
Before departing Quito for the Galapagos you need to:
- Go to the Consejo De Gobierno Del Regimen Especial De Galapagos window and pay the $20 USD cash to receive your transit control card + your proof of vaccination + negative PCR test.
TOP TIP: Keep this in a safe place as you will need to present this card at the Galapagos airport at the end of your trip.
2. Go through the Agencia De Regulacion Y Control de la Bioseguridad y Cuarentena Para Galapagos to have all your luggage scanned to ensure you aren’t bringing any food or biohazards to the Galapagos.
3. Check in with Avianca or LATAM
Upon arrival at Baltra airport in Galapagos, you will pay $100 USD for the Galapagos National Park Fee. Only cash is accepted.
TOP TIP: Bring a new $100 bill without any marks or tears.
If you are traveling with a large group, the operator might take care of some or all of these steps for you.
The Miami testing center offers walk-ins and appointments with the following prices and timing:
- A PCR test for $114 with results in 24 hours OR
- An expedited PCR test for $179 with results in 1 hour
Location: Terminal E – ground floor, outside Door 1
If you need to get a test in Ecuador, there is an onsite testing center (Medical VIP) across the street from the terminal. Both cash and credit card are accepted at this 24-hour facility. If lots of tour groups arrive at the same time, you might have to wait 1-3 hours for your test.
- A PCR test is $45. Results are available the same day if you take the test by 10AM. If you take it after 6PM, results are available the next day.
- If you need a rapid antigen test to return to the United States, the cost is $35 and results are available in 45 minutes.
Ecuador & Galapagos Islands Currency
US Dollars are accepted throughout Galapagos and Ecuador.
TOP TIP: Bring a variety of denominations, $100, $50, $20, $10, $5 and $1 and ensure the bills don’t have rips or marks on them.
Having a variety of denominations is helpful for tips, shopping and taxi fares.
Galapagos Islands Electrical Outlets
Throughout Galapagos and Ecuador, you will find 120V outlets with Type A or B North American pins (two flat prongs).
Galapagos diving is next-level with adrenaline-inducing excitement from start to finish. I hope you found this Galapagos diving travel planning guide helpful. I’d love to hear any feedback and comments below.