During World War II, Baltra was occupied by the US Army to protect the Panama Canal. The first landing strip for jet aircraft in the Galapagos was built and is today one of two commercial airports in the islands. Connected to the north shore of Santa Cruz via a short ferry ride.
Bartolome (or Bartolomew)
Offers one of the most photographed scenes of the Galapagos is of Summit rock, as it is seen from the summit of the island. A 30 minute climb to the top of the once active volcano offers views of lava fields and lava tubes, as well as panoramic views to Sullivan Bay on Santiago Island. Afterwards, visit the nice sandy beach on the northern shore for snorkeling. Frequently penguins can be seen in this area. Take a short walk through the mangroves to the south beach where you may see mating sea turtles and whit tipped sharks close to shore.
Española (or Hood)
- Gardner Bay-Large white sandy beach is good for swimming and snorkeling. Sea lions & mockingbirds are found here, and this is also a favorite site for nesting sea turtles.
- Punta Suarez-A rocky point of land with an impressive variety of sea birds. Waved albatross colony can be observed April-November. Blue footed & masked boobies, mockingbirds, red-billed tropic birds, the Galapagos hawk, swallow-tailed gulls and oystercatchers are all found in this location. The unique red and green trimmed marine iguanas, lava lizards, sally light foot crabs and sea lion colonies can also be observed. A spectacular blow-hole provides a scenic backdrop to the steep cliffs and crashing waves.
Fernandina (or Narborough)
Considered to be the most pristine island of the archipelago, with no introduced species to date. There is an active volcano and several recent lava flows that can be observed. You'll see the largest colony of marine iguanas in the islands, as well as flightless cormorants and Galapagos Hawks. A large colony of sea lions and Galapagos penguins are also present in the area.
Floreana (or Charles)
- Punta Cormorant-Walk across the island follows a brackish lagoon where flamingos are found. Lush variety of plant life leads to sandy beach where sea turtles lay their eggs and spotted rays swim near shore.
- Post Office Bay-Visit the Post Barrel that has been in use since the late 18th century by English whaling vessels. You can leave a postcard, and pick up any mail for your home area.
- Devil's Crown-A shallow sunken crater is one of the best snorkeling sites in the islands, but can have strong currents. Sea lions and a large variety of colorful fish can be viewed here.
Genovesa (or Tower)
- Darwin Bay--Home to a wide variety of seabirds, you'll see large colonies of nesting Great frigate birds and Red-footed boobies. A coral beach and nearby cliffs offer great snorkeling opportunities
- Prince Phillip's Steps--The landing site is approached by a dinghy ride along imposing cliffs that are nesting sites for the red-billed tropic bird. Climb a steep stone staircase up to an open nesting area of Masked boobies, Great frigate birds, and Red-footed boobies. Storm petrels, doves and finches as well as the Short eared owl are also found at this site.
Isabela (or Abermale)
The largest island of the archipelago, formed by the lava of six volcanoes that flowed together. Tagus Cove--This historic site has graffiti dating back to the 1800's, when it was a favorite stop for pirates, and whaling ships. Hike through arid zone vegetation above the cove. You'll pass a salt water lagoon for great views of the lava fields, volcanic formations and the ocean. A panga ride nearby provides the opportunity to see flightless cormorants and penguins along the rocky cliffs.
- Urbina Bay--Small bay with great chances to see land iguanas, marine iguanas, and possibly giant tortoises. Interesting uplifted coral can also be observed.
- Elizabeth Bay--Visited by a dinghy ride into mangrove lagoons to look for sea turtles & penguins. Good views of Sierra Negra volcano.
- Punta Moreno--Walk across lava fields searching for small lagoons with birdlife. Occasionally flamingos can be found here, as well as flightless cormorants and marine iguanas.
- Puerto Villamil--Small town on the south shore of Isabela, and the stopping off point for a trip to the highlands and a visit to Sierra Negra volcano.
- Wall of Tears--The Wall of Tears is an historic site in Isabela. Between 1946 and 1959 Isabela was a penal colony, where prisoners build a wall with huge blocks of lava as punishment. The wall is 100 meters long and 7 meters high. Due to the ardu¬ous labor and harsh conditions in which the prisoners lived, this site is known as the wall of tears. A set of stairs provides a bird’s eye view of the wall and the surrounding landscape. You can still see the cement foundations of the USA base dating back to the Second World War.
- Sierra Negra Volcano--You'll land in Puerto Villamil, which has the second smallest populated island in Galapagos with approximately 3,000 habitants. You head up to the highlands from Puerto Villamil to Sierra Negra slope, and later do some hiking on uneven terrain until you arrive to the Sierra Negra volcano rim. Sierra Negra is the second widest crater in the world. From this viewpoint, you have fantastic sights to the 6 x 5 mile wide crater, the rest of the volcanoes, and Perry Isthmus, a 12Km wide lava field. From here you can continue hiking to Chico Volcano to watch the striking lava formations, examples of the geological occurrences that have created the Galapagos Islands.
Leon Dormido (or Kicker Rock)
Viewed from your Galapagos vessel. This is a vertical tuff cone, rising 500 feet straight up from the ocean. Blue footed boobies, Masked boobies, frigate birds and sea lions can be observed on shore.
A small, flat, sandy islet almost devoid of vegetation, Mosquera sits in the channel between Baltra and North Seymour. It has one of the largest populations of sea lions and its sandy expanses offer visitors the perfect chance to observe their behavior. It is a beautiful site to observe Lava Gulls, coastal birds, and Sally Lightfoot Crabs.
A small island with great variety. Colonies of Blue-footed boobies, lava gulls, and magnificent frigate birds can be found here, as well as sea lions & marine iguanas. A loop trail takes you through a Palo Santo forest.
A small island near San Cristobal offers a nice sandy beach, with pelicans and other seabirds.
Plaza (or South Plaza)
Small island with steep cliffed shoreline. Sea lion and bachelor sea lion colonies, land iguanas and tropical birds such as Audubon shearwaters, swallow tailed gulls and red-billed tropic birds. Opuntia cactus provides the iguanas with food from their pads and flowers.
A small island with a chance to see a flamingo & pelican colonies near the red sand beach. Sea lions are frequently seen, and snorkeling is also very good here.
San Cristobal (or Chatham)
- Puerto Baquerizo Moreno--The capital of the Galapagos Islands and the oldest settlement. In 1985, the second airstrip in the archipelago was built here (the other is on Baltra). A small naval museum, souvenir shops and houses make up this small bayside village. The new San Cristobal Interpretation center, an educational center donated by the Spanish government, is also located here.
- El Junco Lake--The only sizeable fresh water lake in the Galapagos is found in the Highlands of San Cristobal. You'll pass through several vegetation zones en-route, and have the opportunity to see stilts, white-cheeked pintail ducks and common gallinules.
- Cerro Brujo--The primary attraction of this site is the coral sand beach. It is an excellent place to swim and snorkel. Cerro Brujo is the remains of a tuff cone. It is one of the first sites visited by Charles Darwin. Captain Fitzroy climbed to the top of the hill to scout out reefs. It has an impressive landscape, where it is often possible to see coastal and migratory birds, including pelicans, Blue-footed Boobies, and Swallow-tailed Gulls, as well as sea lions and marine iguanas. At times the lagoon is completely dry and deposits of salt may be found in the bottom. The people of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno used to use the lagoon as a salt mine.
- Punta Pitt--At the far eastern end of San Cristóbal is Punta Pitt. Disembarking onto the small beach, visitors are confronted by the strong stench and cacophony of barking sea lions. This is a bachelor colony, and most are exhausted from fighting and mating. A steep gully leads up the cliff to a breeding ground for Boobies of all three varieties: Red-footed, Blue-footed and Nazca. It’s the only place in the Galapagos where you can see all three species nesting together. Two species of frigatebirds are also present, as are Swallow-tailed Gulls and Storm Petrels. The view of sea lions from the top of the cliff over the beach is magnificent, as are the contours of the barren, wind-eroded peaks of the island. The trail across the Punta Pitt site offers a closer look at the hardy vegetation that manages to thrive in this volcanic wasteland. From Saltbush and spiny shrubs next to the beach the trail leads up to an area of Palo Santo trees, big yellow-green shrubs, tiny cacti and, in the dry season, carpets of red Vesuvius.
- Visitor Center--Opened to the public in 1998, the Galapagos National Park Visitor Center in San Cristóbal presents a complete and documented history of the Galapagos, its ecosystems, flora and fauna. The Center focuses primarily on the history of the archipelago, from its volcanic origins to the present. Two interpretation panels, representing the natural and cultural history of the archipelago, are linked together in chronological order. The center includes a small auditorium, meeting rooms, and audiovisual equipment for the entire community to enjoy, for activities such as theater, exhibitions, and workshops (dance, painting, etc.) The Visitor Center is about a 20-minute walk from town and is open to the public every day from 7 am to 12 pm and 1:30 pm to 5 pm.
Santa Cruz (or Indefatigable)
- Puerto Ayora--Main town on the island & location of the Charles Darwin Research Station and the Galapagos National Park Headquarters. Observe conservation and research efforts of the islands, including tortoise hatchlings and breeding programs working to preserve several rare species of tortoises found in the islands. Opportunity to see several adult giant tortoises and tour the exhibit center. Opportunity to purchase souvenirs at the station & park service, as well as in town.
- Highlands--You'll drive from Pto. Ayora through several vegetation zones to the humid zone. Pit craters (Los Gemelos) , lava tubes, a Tortoise reserve and several working ranches are all located in this region. Vermillion flycatchers & Darwin's finches are easy to spot. Rain-gear recommended.
- Turtle Cove--Located on the far north shore of the island, Turtle Cove or Caleta Tortuga, is visited by a dinghy ride through the mangrove lagoons to view sea turtles, rays, sharks, pelicans and herons.
Santa Fe (or Barrington)
Giant Opuntia cactus and land iguanas are special features. Lava lizards and sea lions are also found here, as well as a good spot on a sandy beach for a swim to look for sea turtles & manta rays.
Santiago (or James)
- Puerto Egas, James Bay--Walk through tide pool area observing marine iguanas, sally lightfoot crabs, herons & other shorebirds. Fur seals are also present on this island, and you'll walk out to the "Fur Seal Grotto" where they can often be seen frolicking in the surf.
- Espumilla Beach, James Bay--Flamingos are almost always present in the nearby lagoons. This is also a turtle nesting beach.
- Bucaneer Cove--Dinghy ride along the cliffs to observe interesting rock formations. Feral goats present on the island are unable to penetrate this isolated area, and so the vegetation on these cliffs is undisturbed.
- Sullivan Bay--Huge pahoehoe (or ropey) lava flow area from the early 1900's.
How to design a fabulous Galapagos Adventure:
- Consult our Galapagos Islands Boat & Tour Index to select the style of travel that suits you best. Click on the boat/hotel name for photos, a complete itinerary, boat specs and travel details.
- Choose a hotel & some of our great sightseeing offerings from the Galapagos Islands-Hotel & Tour Add-ons.
- Add together your selected Galapagos boat/hotel to your choice of tours plus any extra hotel nights. Remember, these activities are just a sampling of some of our shorter tours. For more ideas and longer itineraries, visit our Ecuador Destination Profile & Ecuador Trip Index.
- Contact Latin American Escapes for advice and to make all the arrangements. You can reach us via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 1-800-510-5999.
More information on the islands can be found on our Galapagos Destination Profile page. You can also view details of the Galapagos Visitor Sites, and Galapagos National Park Rules. And don't miss our Galapagos, and Galapagos Underwater slide shows!