Things to do in the Galapagos almost always revolve in some way around the islands’ amazing wildlife, but tourists looking for activities of various kinds will not be disappointed. Your only problem may be in finding enough time to see all the Galapagos Islands attractions. Typically, most tourists will explore the islands with a boat cruise or tour, or stay on land while taking day trips out around individual islands.
Boat tours allow you to see the Galapagos firsthand on the many different islands. There are day tours via boat, but many cruises are multi-day trips in which you sleep on the vessel. During your vacation, it’s well worth visiting as many islands as possible because they all have different ecosystems and native flora and fauna. Upon arrival at the airport at Baltra, most tourists will either join a boat tour immediately at the dock, or continue on to Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island and begin the tour from there. The cruise ships come in various sizes, and there are luxury cruises and yacht charters available.
Santa Cruz Island
If you are staying in Puerto Ayora for a day or two before heading on to the other islands, be sure to check out the Charles Darwin Research Station, which has breeding programs for many of the islands' endemic species, as well as interpretation for interested visitors. You'll be able to see some of the rarest species in the world, including Lonesome George, the only giant Galapagos tortoise left of his sub-species. Other do-not-miss Galapagos Islands attractions on Santa Cruz include Tortuga Bay, a beautiful beach where you can both enjoy the sun and waves, as well as see some sea turtles and sea birds. The Tortoise Reserve on Santa Cruz is also a great place to see some giant tortoises roaming free.
Your boat cruise or day tour will take you to some fascinating islands, and getting in the water with the wildlife is one of the best ways to appreciate the unique ecosystem of the islands. Snorkeling and scuba diving are two of the best things to do in the Galapagos, and there are excellent dive sites that are among the top Galapagos Islands attractions. Scuba diving around the northernmost islands, Darwin and Wolf, is reserved for advanced divers, but there are many opportunities for novices to see the underwater life in other areas, such as Gardner Bay, a beautiful beach on Espanola Island, where you can see sea lions, colorful fish, sea turtles, rays, and other marine creatures. Dolphins also abound in the waters around the Galapagos, and make playful companions with whom to swim and snorkel.
Bird-watching is also among the most popular things to do in the Galapagos. The Galapagos Islands have countless bird species that are endemic to the islands, such as several varieties of the Galapagos finch, the waved albatross of Espanola, and the unique Galapagos penguin, the only penguin that lives at the equator. The Galapagos Islands also host some rare birds such as the pink flamingos of Floreana (who get their pink color from the shrimp they eat), the flocks of red-throated frigate birds, and the blue-footed boobies.
You can also see many other species of wildlife that make the Galapagos Islands so special. The many colorful marine and land iguanas, for example, are some of the most famous Galapagos Islands attractions, as are the hammerhead sharks, colorful crabs, and the shy fur seals. In addition to wildlife, the human settlements of the Galapagos Islands have much to offer, with the colorful history of the Galapagos Affair on Floreana, the quiet seaside town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal, and the beautiful inns and hotels of Santa Cruz. These places provide a great chance to relax and recharge before spending another day learning about the animals native to the islands.