Ecuador’s crown jewel is by far the island chain of the Galápagos — a UNESCO World Heritage Site which is home to a population of plants and animals unlike anything else on the entire planet. Even more miraculous is the fact that the animals here are used to human visitors, and don't mind sharing their beaches. This means that you'll have ample opportunity to observe the amazing wildlife up-close (from a respectful distance, of course).
Ecuador's Galápagos Archipelago has 13 main islands, each with distinct attractions. On the islands of Santa Cruz and San Cristóbal, you will find charming accommodations that will help you make the most of the surrounding scenery. Some of the islands closer to Ecuador's mainland are less heavily inhabited, and therefore more rustic. They are home to parks and preserves where exotic waterfowl can flourish.
Not only is exploring Ecuador's Galápogos Islands a treat, the journey from island to island tends to be enjoyable in its own right. You sail from one majestic spot to the next along tranquil and vibrant waters. For extra indulgence, consider taking a luxury cruise aboard a yacht — an experience which is sure to make a unique destination even more memorable.
#1: Santa Cruz
Out of all the islands in the Galápagos, Santa Cruz has the most options for visitors. Visitors usually arrive here after a short boat trip from the airport on Baltra Island. It’s centrally placed in the Galápagos, located right between Cristóbal Island and Isabela Island, making it the perfect home base for tours.
Of course, Santa Cruz has plenty to offer all on its own. There’s a beautiful beach on Tortuga Bay. Follow a trail through the lava tunnels and pay a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station.
You can find beautiful waterfront hotels that allow you to take in the tropical atmosphere or stay in one of the more remote hotels in the lush highlands.
Isabela is the Galápagos' largest island. The landscape is a mixture of lava fields, white-sand beaches, saltwater marshes, and volcanoes. This is the most volcanically active island in the Galápagos, and it has a total of six volcanoes. Hike to the rim of Chico Volcano where you can behold the unusual landscape.
Follow paths that meander around saltwater lagoons, where flamingos wade in the shallows. There’s a lot to explore on Isabela Island, but it’s also a short distance from other must-see islands — Santa Cruz Island is just two hours away via ferry.