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.
#2: San Cristóbal
Travelers to San Cristóbal get to take advantage of the many easy-to-access beaches and snorkeling sites. The small port town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno makes it easy to find cozy accommodations.
Snorkelers and birdwatchers have plenty to do on a trip to this easternmost Galápagos island. Travel a short distance from the coast to León Dormido, a rocky formation that attracts a stunning variety of wildlife. Visit the Rosa Blanca Bay to see clear waters and a beautiful beach. This is one of the best places on the island to snorkel and see sharks and rays.
San Cristóbal has its share of interesting beaches. Near the town, you can visit a rocky coastline where you can find sea lions. San Cristóbal has a stunning landscape around the Punta Pucuna Beach, which has several memorable volcanic cones. Cerro Brujo Beach is famous for its coral sand beaches and also has great snorkeling.