10 Ways to Have a Blast in The Galapagos ~ On A Budget

33 Galapagos

Many long-term travelers choose to skip the spectacular Islands of Galapagos for one unfortunate reason: the cost.  I myself debating saving this destination for “later in life” as it’s own separate trip.  Ultimately, I realized I couldn’t spend nearly 2 years exploring the South American continent without visiting the Galapagos.  I am very glad I didn’t skip over these Islands on my adventure.  And I learned that you don’t have to break the bank in order to visit.


For those of you trying to figure out if you can afford to include the Ecuadorian paradise along your Latin travels, I am here to tell you, it’s possible.

  • The main expense you will have to deal with is the flight.  Keep in mind that flights are cheaper if you buy them within the country of Ecuador, when it is not “peak tourist” times, like christmas or spring break.
    • The Galapagos has 2 airports, so be sure to fly to the Island you want to be on!
  • The best islands for tourists to stay on (according to locals and veteran Galapagos travelers) are Santa Cruz and Isabella.  If you can, spend a few days on both.  Boat transport between the 2 can cost $40-50 USD.
  • There are lots of hostels and budget hotels on the islands.  If you don’t need high luxury you can easily find shared rooms for $12 + a night, or private’s for around $25.  Many of these places have their own kitchen’s for you to use, in order to cut down on the expense of eating out. Check out booking.com for a decent list of affordable places to stay.
  • If for some reason you are crazy like me, and realize you want MORE time than you originally reserved, it costs $25 USD to change your flight in the local office with no questions asked.

Once you arrive and have you’re home-base, there are so many activities you can do that will cost little to nothing.  Here are 10 ways I had a blast in the Galapagos without spending a fortune:

1. Primicias

Visit with giant land tortoises in their natural habitat!

Primicias is a protected area inside the Santa Cruz Island for the tortoises to do their thing.  There are lots of them, and in a short walk around the grounds you are guaranteed back stage access to the life and times of the Galapagos’ giant land tortoises.  Here they are free and unharmed.  It is advised to maintain a 10 meter distance from the animals.

COST: $2.50 USD

LOCATION: Santa Cruz Island

(A taxi from Puerto Aroya is around $30-35, but can include Los Gemelos, and the Lava Tunnel and several other sites).

2. Los Gemelos & Lava Tunnel

Admire the natural landscape formed by volcanoes!

Los Gemelos (meaning “the twins”) are two sink holes close to one another.  Nearby to Los Gemelos is the Lava Tunnel, which is what it sounds like.  Both were created a very long time ago by Pacha Mama herself with extreme volcanic activity.  Santa Cruz Island no longer occupies active volcanoes, but these remnants of the past are worth a look.

If you are into geology and how our planet was formed, definitely check out the natural land formations.

COST: $0

LOCATION: Santa Cruz Island

(A taxi from Puerto Aroya is around $30-35, but can include Primicias).

3. Charles Darwin Research Center

Discover scientist’s conservation efforts!

The main reasons for visiting The Darwin Center is to see where the turtles are raised before being released into the wild, learn about scientific conservation efforts, and visit a natural iguana nesting ground.

COST: $0

LOCATION: Santa Cruz Island, Puerto Aroyo

(Donations are nice, and go towards helping conservation efforts in the Galapagos).

4. Las Grietas

Enjoy a beautiful walk and refreshing swim!

A short boat ride takes you from the harbor of Puerto Aroyo to a quieter and more tranquil part of the island, with no cars or motorcycles.  From there you go for a pleasant walk.  Pass by a small beach, stay a while and enjoy, if you want.  Stroll along a small salt lake and lots of big cacti, then arrive at a narrow canyon called Las Grietas (meaning “the cracks”).  Here you can take a refreshing swim or snorkle and enjoy the views.  Las Grietas is a magical little place created by ancient volcanic activity.

COST: $5 for round trip water taxi

LOCATION: Santa Cruz Island

5. The Harbor

Hang out with sea lions, pelicans, baby sharks, and more!

You may be amazed by how much fun you have just hanging out where the boats dock.  I recommend spending time there just before sunset, when it’s less crowded by tourists heading out for day tours.  At this hour you will likely find a clan of sea lion’s resting on benches, and pelican’s hunting for dinner before calling in for the night.  If you are lucky, when the sun goes down you may be able to spot a swarm of baby sharks.  There is an amazing man who is single handedly trying to rid the Galapagos of cigarette butt pollution who set up shop here, and is happy to share his findings and project with you.

COST: $0

LOCATION: Santa Cruz Island, Puerto Aroyo

6. Fish Market

It may be small, but its visitors are worth checking out.

The local fish market attracts all kinds of folk’s, some have 2 legs and cameras, others have wings, while some flop around on their bellies hoping for an easy meal.  It is totally worth watching the sea lions and pelicans harmoniously working together for their fresh fish.

COST: $0

LOCATION: Santa Cruz Island, Puerto Aroyo

(unless of course, you buy fish, crabs or lobster)

7. Tortuga Bay

Beach Time!

For a spectacular day at the beach, take a walk to Tortuga Bay.  The first beach you reach is your classic ocean with chilly waters and intense waves (great for surfers).  The second beach is mostly enclosed by rocks, making the waters completely calm and very warm.  Both are a fantastic way to spend your day, and both are crawling with iguanas.  Both are among the most pristine and beautiful beaches I’ve experienced.

It’s a slightly long walk in the sun, so don’t forget sunblock!

COST: $0

LOCATION: Santa Cruz Island

8. Concha Perla

Swim, snorkle, and “chill” with sea lions!

Concha Perla is a peaceful bay, protected by rocks from the harsh open waters, along the shore of Isabella Island.  It is a great place to cool of with a swim, or snorkle.  Because the waters are calm, this place attracts all kinds of wild sea life.  Swim with sea turtles, rays, and sea lions!  Or just hang out on the platform with the lazy sea lions who are undoubtedly there to soak up some sun.

COST: $0

LOCATION: Isabella Island

(or $5 to rent a snorkling mask, and $10-15 for a wet suit)

9. Rent a Bicycle

Explore Isabella Island on wheels!

A marvelous way to enjoy the island of Isabella is to explore it on a bicycle.  You will have the chance to visit beaches, animal reservations, and snorkle spots while enjoying the warm breeze from your bike.  Sorry, I didn’t take photos while I was on the bicycle!

COST: $4 per hour

LOCATION: Isabella Island

10. Sierra Negra

Visit an active Volcano!

Walk along the rim of an active volcano.  Stare down into the dark crater, and be amazed.  You can save a few dollars and go it solo, or you can go with a guide.  If you go with a guide, you will have the opportunity to explore other volcanoes in the area, and see the vast landscape and how it has been effected by volcanic activity.  Either way, it’s an awesome experience.

COST: $0 + taxi ride (or $35-50 with tour guide)

LOCATION: Isabella Island

Stay tuned for part 2 – I am working on a second post about my underwater excursions in the Galapagos.  In the meantime – here is a video about budget-friendly Galapagos adventures.

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