The Galapagos Islands are home to some of the most beautiful and rare animals in the world, not to mention some of the most stunning surroundings. The home of Darwin’s theories and the site of hundreds of unique indigenous flora and fauna, it’s a nature-lover’s paradise. The easiest way to get around is by boat, but there are certified guides in Puerto Ayora who can arrange day trips for land-based visitors. So, from high-up mountain hikes to deep-sea scuba diving and snorkeling, we’ve narrowed it down to a few spots that you simply cannot miss.
Located on Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, Kicker Rock is the remains of a volcanic cone been eroded by the sea. Above water, the rock is home to a smattering of Tropicbirds, Blue-footed Boobies, and Frigatebirds, but it is really its below-water inhabitants that has visitors in awe. The natural erosion of the cone has created a channel between the rocks that serves as the ideal place to view myriad sharks and rays. If visitors arrive at the right time, they can see hundreds of Galapagos sharks (and come into touching distance of them if you choose to snorkel through the canyon), schools of Spotted Eagle Rays, turtles, jellyfish, and even the occasional sea lion. The plethora of aquatic fauna here is an absolute must see for any Galapagos visitor, whether you jump into the water for a snorkel or just stay on the boat.
Watch Out For: If you choose to snorkel or scuba dive, be prepared for moderately difficult conditions.
Just a short drive from Puerto Ayora, a visit to Reserva El Chato is an absolutely crucial experience and should be at the top of the list for an Galapagos traveler. Here, visitors can see Galapagos Giant Tortoises roaming around in their pristine natural habitat, with no cages, fences, or walls to obstruct the view – and all for just $3. There is also a small café with good coffee and food on the site.
Watch Out For: Getting to El Chato can be difficult but not impossible.You can bike there from Puerto Ayora, but it’s a bit of a trek. Otherwise, you will need to take a taxi or bus.
Whether you choose to snorkel in the sapphire-blue sea while playing with baby sea lions, or hike around the beautiful scenery above water, Las Loberias, located on San Cristobal, is sure to wow any visitor. Often praised as the best free thing to do in the Galapagos, this beach has sea lions, iguanas, Hermit crabs, and turtles, all of who will happily put on a show for their visitors. The trail above the beach offers an incredible view, but make sure to wear some sturdy shoes if you choose to hike because there are quite a lot of rocks.
Watch Out For: Remember, look but do not touch. A mother sea lion will abandon her baby at the first scent of a human, and it doesn’t take much for her to notice.
Another hotspot for aquatic life, Las Tintoreras, located on Puerto Villamil, is home to hundreds if not thousands of marine iguanas. Also living here are thousands of sharks, often sleeping, and on occasion, stingrays, seals, seahorses, and even penguins. This beautifully pristine environment gives the illusion that man never existed. It’s a quick and easy stop, only about a ten minute boat ride from the Island of Isabella, and an absolute must-do.
Watch Out For: To visit Las Tintoreras, you must have a certified guide.
Although this place is zoo-like, it is nothing like your ordinary zoo. The research facility seems a bit primitive at first glance, but visitors quickly appreciate the fact that it serves another purpose than to merely show off rare species. Instead, the Charles Darwin Research Center is a breeding centre and rehabilitation facility for animals from local islands. Any Galapagos visa, usually purchased at the airport, covers entrance to this place, so it’s basically free and a fun visit for anyone.
Watch Out For: This is a sure win with small children, who often love interacting with the various animals.