Baltra is a small island located north of Santa Cruz. One of the two airports in the archipelago is located here, and so this is the starting and ending point for many cruises, though it’s not a tourist destination in itself. An US Air Force base was located on this island during the Second World War. Here, some shore birds such as frigate birds and boobies can be observed.
Bartolome is a small island located close to Santiago. This island is actually an extinct volcano, and it’s possible to hike to its summit, from where you’ll get wonderful views. The most famous and distinctive site is called Pinnacle Rock, a tuff cone with panoramic views of Sullivan Bay. The landscape offers colorful geological formations of volcanic origin.
Snorkeling is a very popular activity here too, and it’s possible to observe sea turtles, rays, white-tipped sharks and other colorful fish. Other animals found on this island are lava lizards, Galapagos penguins, herons and pelicans. Plant species include mangroves and lava cacti.
Activities: hiking, snorkeling and swimming
Tourist sites: Pinnacle Rock
Fauna: White-tipped sharks, Galapagos penguins, lava lizards, sea turtles (mating and nesting site)
Flora: mangroves, lava cacti
Type of Landing: wet and dry
Española is the southernmost island and one of the oldest in the Galapagos Archipelago. Being so far away, it holds quite a few endemic species of animals, such as the Española mocking bird, Española lava lizard, and three Darwin finch species. The marine iguanas here are quite colorful, especially during the breeding season, when they get vivid red marks on their backs. Nesting boobies and waved albatrosses are one of the island's biggest attractions, and they are found virtually everywhere when in season!
The landscape on the island is dry and arid, with almost no vegetation, and the coastal scenery is dominated by high cliffs and a few nice beaches.
There are two main tourist sites: Gardner Bay, where there is a beautiful and long beach; and Punta Suarez, where the famous blowhole is located. The blowhole is formed when the water, driven by the waves, is sprayed up into the air through a hole in the rocks. Along Punta Suarez's cliffs it's possible to see nesting birds by the thousands. From March to December is the time to see the waved albatross.
Activities: bird watching, swimming, snorkeling, walking, blowhole, nesting birds
Tourist sites: Punta Suarez, Gardner Bay
Fauna: marine iguanas, Española lava lizard, Hood mockingbird, Darwin finches, blue footed boobies, albatrosses, herons, sea lions.
Type of Landing: dry (Punta Suarez) and wet (Gardner Bay)
Fernandina is the westernmost island, and one of the youngest ones. Its volcano, called La Cumbre, is the most active of the Galapagos. Local fauna such as marine iguanas thrive in its coasts, as no foreign species have invaded this island.
The volcanic influence is evidenced by the black lava shores and dark sand beaches. Punta Espinoza (meaning spiny) is the only visitor site on the island.
Activities: wildlife viewing, hiking, snorkeling, lava formations
Tourist sites: Punta Espinosa
Fauna: Flightless cormorants, Galapagos penguins, oystercatchers, Mangrove Finch, Galapagos Hwak, Sally Lightfoot crabs, marine and land iguanas, turtles, sea lions
Flora: lava cacti, mangroves,
Type of Landing: dry
Floriana (Charles or Santa María)
This southern island was one of the first to be inhabited by humans, which is why giant tortoises and other species got extinct here. However, the island is quite rich in history. Post Office Bay is the most famous site, as in the 1700's, a wooden barrel was placed to serve as a post office for sailors that passed by. The tradition is kept alive today by tourists, that can leave letters or cards in order for other travelers to collect them an carry them to their destination.
In Punta Cormorant, there is a green colored olivine beach, and inland, a salt water lagoon, inhabited by flamingos and other birds.
Activities: hiking, snorkeling, diving, bird watching, brackish lagoon, history, green sand beach
Tourist sites: Post Office Bay, Punta Cormorant, "Devil's Crown"
Fauna: pink flamingos, stilts, pintail ducks, rays, sea turtles, ghost and sally lightfoot crabs, sea lions
Flora: mangroves, Palo Santo trees
Type of Landing: wet
Genovesa is a small horse-shoe shaped island located in the northeastern part of the archipelago. The island is an excellent bird watching spot, as many species nest there. Darwin Bay, the main tourist site was formed when a volcano cone collapsed, leaving only the summit above the water. Marine wildlife viewing is possible in this bay. The other important tourist location is called Prince Phillip's Steps, where visitors can observe the nesting birds from the top of a cliff.
Activities: bird watching, scuba diving, snorkeling, hiking
Tourist sites: Darwin Bay, Prince Phillip's Steps
Fauna: marine iguanas, lava and swallow-tailed gulls, red-footed boobies, tropic birds, frigate birds, Darwin finches, doves
Flora: cacti, saltbushes and Palo Santo trees
Type of Landing: wet (Darwin Bay) and dry (Prince Phillip's Steps)
Isabela is the largest island in the Galapagos Archipelago, and it is one of the four islands that are inhabited by humans. Its main settlement is called Villamil, a small and laidback town. The island is highly volcanic, as five of its six volcanoes are still active. The Wolf Volcano is the highest peak in the Galapagos, with an altitude of 1707 meters (5600 feet).
Tagus Cove is one of the most important tourist sites; it was used in the old times by sailors as an anchoring site. There is a historical wall with old graffiti carved in it. From here, visitors can take a trail that leads to a saltwater lake called Darwin Lake, and get views of the Darwin and Wolf Volcanoes.
Urbina and Elizabeth Bays are excellent sites for observing marine life such as rays, turtles and penguins. It's not possible to land in Elizabeth Bay, so it can only be approached by boat.
Punta Vicente Roca offers interesting cliffs, caves and marine life.
Activities: hiking, trekking, snorkeling, scuba diving, wildlife viewing, volcanoes, salt water lagoons
Tourist sites: Tagus Cove, Urbina Bay, Elizabeth Bay, Puerto Villamil, Punta Vicente Roca, Darwin Lake, Alcedo, Santo Tomas and Sierra Negra's Volcanoes, Punta Moreno
Fauna: flightless cormorants, flamingos, Galapagos penguins, blue-footed boobies, Darwin finches, Galapagos hawk, lava gulls, giant tortoises, sea turtles, marine and land iguanas, sea lions, Sally Lightfoot crabs
Flora: Incense trees, Palo Santo trees, mangroves
Type of Landing: dry (Tagus Cove, Puerto Villamil) and wet (Urbina Bay)
This small island is located north of Santiago, is home to one of the largest colonies of blue-footed boobies, frigate birds and swallow-tailed gulls, which is why it's a great spot for bird watching. Unlike most of the other islands, it was formed by seismic movements rather than volcanic activity.
Activities: hiking, bird watching
Fauna: sea lions, marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies, frigate birds, pelicans, tropicbirds, lava and swallow-tailed gulls
Flora: saltbushes, cacti, Palo Santo trees, small spiny bushes
Type of Landing: dry
Rabida is a very small island located south of Santiago. Its most distinctive feature is the dark red sand beaches, given by the high iron content in its lava. A colony of bachelor sea lions lives here. Close to shore, there is a saltwater lagoon where many bird species come to feed, such as flamingos and stilts.
Activities: walking, bird watching, brackish lagoon, red sand beach
Fauna: pelicans, stilts, flamingos, pintail ducks, finches, boobies, sea lions
Flora: mangroves, saltbushes, Palo Santo trees, cacti
Type of Landing: wet
San Cristobal (Chatham)
San Cristobal is the administrative capital of the Galapagos Province, and holds the second largest human population on the islands. The main town is Puerto Baquerizo, which offers visitors all sorts of services: hotels, restaurants and an Interpretation Center.
Additionally, there are several interesting tourist spots, such as León Dormido (also known as Kicker Rock), a tuff cone formation that can only by approached by boat (no landing site). Lobos Island and La Lobería are great spots for watching sea lions, as their names suggest. La Galapaguera is a tortoise breeding center where you can learn about their natural history and see them in their environment. El Junco is located inland, and it's the only freshwater lake in the archipelago; it was formed when an old volcanic cone collapsed. In Cerro Brujo, visitors will enjoy a stunning white sand beach and an impressive tuff cone.
Activities: snorkeling, diving, swimming, wildlife viewing, bird watching, hiking, boat rides
Tourist sites: Cerro Brujo, Isla Lobos, León Dormido (Kicker Rock), El Junco Lake, La Galapaguera
Fauna: sea lions, boobies, frigate birds, swallow-tailed gulls, Chatham mockingbirds, lava lizards, marine iguanas, giant tortoises
Flora: Palo Santo trees, thorn shrubs, salt bushes, mangroves
Type of Landing: dry (La Lobería, Puerto Baquerizo, La Galapaguera, El Junco) and wet (Cerro Brujo, Isla Lobos)
Santa Cruz (Indefatigable)
Santa Cruz is the most populated and most visited island in the Galapagos. This island is particular for having six distinct vegetation zones, even though the highest peak lies only 864 meters (2850 feet) above sea level.
Puerto Ayora is its main town, and it offers all kinds of facilities including hotels, shops, restaurants, etc. The Charles Darwin Research Station and tortoise breeding center is one of the island's highlights. Here you will learn about the conservation efforts conducted by scientists and the archipelago's natural history. Also, it's possible to see the giant tortoises in their natural environment.
Other important sites include Las Bachas, a nice beach perfect for swimming; Black Turtle Cove is a mangrove lagoon that can only be visited by boat (no landing). In this pristine spot visitors will have the opportunity to see marine life such as turtles, sharks and rays.
In Dragon Hill, a short hike takes visitors to a salt water lagoon, and then to a hill from where there are spectacular views as well a nesting site of land iguanas. Los Gemelos (The Twins) are two collapsed craters located inland.
Very interesting are the lava tunnels, formed from hardened magma. Some are big enough to be entered!
Activities: hiking, swimming, snorkeling, bird watching, scientist station and tortoise breeding center, lava tunnels, handicraft shopping
Tourist sites: Puerto Ayora, Charles Darwin Research Station, Las Bachas Beach, Dragon Hill, Black Turtle Cove, Los Gemelos, highlands
Fauna: Darwin finches, vermillion flycatchers, woodpeckers, flamingos, many aquatic birds, marine and land iguanas, turtles, lava lizards, sea lions
Flora: mangroves, Palo Santo trees, Opuntia cacti, Scalesia trees, Miconia trees, ferns, grasses,
Type of Landing: dry (most locations) and wet (Las Bachas Beach)
Santiago Island is made of two volcanoes that appear to be joined together. Some time ago, pigs and goats were brought into the island, and caused harm to some of the local animal populations, such as giant tortoises.
In Santiago there are several important tourist sites. Puerto Egas, also known as James Bay is famous for its fur seal grotto and tide pools. The coastline is made up of black hardened lava and ash. Here it's also possible to visit the remnants of an old salt mining business. Espumilla Beach is characterized for its saltwater lagoons where sometimes flamingos come to feed. This is also a nesting site for sea turtles. In Sullivan Bay, there is a conical volcano, and relatively recent lava flows, which are quite interesting to see.
Nearby Sombrero Chino (Chinese Hat Islet) is a small volcano that's shaped like a Chinese hat. The abundant lava formations are quite impressive!
Activities: hiking, wildlife viewing, abandoned salt mine, lava flows, tide pools
Tourist sites: Puerto Egas, Sullivan Bay, Espumilla Beach, Chinese Hat Islet
Fauna: fur seals, sea lions, marine iguanas, land and sea turtles, sally light-foot crabs, Galapagos hawks, oyster catchers, Galapagos penguins
Flora: Palo Santo trees, mangroves, Escalesia bushes
Type of Landing: wet