We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The Tripadvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Tips and Highlights

Estero, Florida
Level Contributor
426 posts
298 reviews
351 helpful votes
Tips and Highlights
Save

We’re back to Florida from a great trip Dec. 16-Jan. 4: including 3N on Isabela, 4N on Santa Cruz, 4N on the La Pinta cruise.

I'm posting the Galapagos highlights and suggestions in this forum (see Ecuador for full report).

COVID IN GALAPAGOS: Vaccination is very high and nearly everyone wore masks. While we were there, omicron started breaking out. Our ship started taking our temperatures each morning; did not allow us to dawdle or shop while in ports; maintained masks throughout outdoor activities. The best source I could find for cases in Galapagos is the Governing Council’s Facebook site (look for weekly infographic in photos). Consejo de Gobierno de Galápagos | Facebook

COVID TRAVEL LOGISTICS:

We fretted a lot about this and all went well, mostly. I felt we had to stay on top of the changing requirements ourselves via the State department website, Ecuador travel site, and helpful local contacts.

1. PCR to Ecuador before you leave: 72 hours from your flight that will land in Ecuador. This is not explicit but wiser than 72 hours from your first leg. I learned there now is a rapid PCR test offered in some locations and it is accepted.

2. Travel form to Ecuador: we did this online the day before. But then American Airlines gave a hard copy on the flight: one per family vs. one per person. They collected that version upon arrival in Quito.

3. PCR to Galapagos: 72 hours prior to flight that will land in Galapagos (this is explicit). We were returning to Quito from Quilotoa late Tuesday and flying to Galapagos early Thursday. Incredibly helpful Francisco at Casa Joaquim set up tests for us at the hotel at 6 p.m. Results were promised by noon the next day. We had to chase them but got results by 3 p.m. (Originally I had only one day for PCR turn-around and was promised results by 10 p.m. same day if tested by 3 p.m. But I didn’t want to take the chance.)

4. “Viral” test 24 hours before returning to USA: Really easy at Quito airport. Get bags, go across the street to MedVIP. Get form from receptionist: pick “antigen,” not “rapid,” which is actually a longer blood test. After you pay, you’re sent to another waiting area. We took the tests at 4:21 and got results at 4:53 via email.

5. DON’T FORGET: you also need to do the health form of attestation for the US. We were so intent on the test we forgot this. You should do this online, one per person, and also print it before your flight. We took Copa airlines, and they would not accept or provide paper forms! They required a digital form for each person (not one per family).

TRAVEL LOGISTICS:

1. Money: As others have said, bring lots of cash in small bills. But ATMs were plentiful, including one on Isabela. They use dollar coins, which will be disconcerting at first! We limited $100 bills as advised but saw others use them without problems including on Cotopaxi. Bring dimes for buying toilet paper in public restrooms.

2. Airports:

a. Quito is actually compact and easy to navigate. There is a line to screen your baggage before you check in; a kiosk to buy your Galapagos entry form ($100 each); counters for the main airlines.

b. Galapagos Baltra: Tiny of course. You can’t get there or from there without a bus, a ferry and a taxi/transfer. It’s not complicated and everyone else is in the same situation. They will load your bags onto each portion so don’t fret. (Many cruise ships will leave from the port near the airport so you have to go to the airport to board.)

c. Galapagos Isabela: Really tiny. We flew with Emetebe after arriving at Baltra from Quito. They limit your baggage weight but you can buy extra (a little cheaper online in advance). They piled both of our bags together to weigh them. We did not arrange for an airport pickup and had to wait about 15 minutes for a taxi (white pickup truck) to circle back to the airport. (Tip: better to pay extra to be picked up!)

3. Ferries/boats:

a. December was supposed to be calmer seas but it was very rough. Gird yourself.

b. Ferries between Isabela and Santa Cruz are various-sized yacht/boats. We took the Regata, which looked like a cool James Bond yacht, but wasn’t so cool for 2 and a half hours jammed with 24 others. It’s worth going early to line up so you can grab a preferred seat: pack your personal items in waterproof gear if you sit in the back (for air, facing forward) or one of the few seats above.

c. You will likely take a variety of water taxis: they collect 50 cents or $1 per person.

d. If on a cruise, you will take “pangas,” basically rubber rafts with a motor, to and from your boat. Often you will have “wet” landings meaning you have to step into water from the panga to get to the shore. Usually it’s up to your calves at most.

4. Water: It was very cold—60s. You definitely want wetsuits, which are included in most tours. You want it to feel very tight, like you can’t breathe, for best protection. Most top snorkeling sites were fairly shallow. (FYI: our full face masks we used happily in the Bahamas fogged miserably in the cold water. And we realized we wouldn't have been able to dive much with them.)

5. Weather: It had been pouring for weeks before we arrived. It was mostly cloudy with sun breaks during our stay until our last five days when it was beautifully sunny.

6. Language: While Ecuadorians are accustomed to tourists, many contacts will have limited English. It’s worthwhile to pick up some key phrases and have a translation app.

a. I had not used whatsapp before but it was efficient and vital for this trip.

RAVE HIGHLIGHTS:

1. Snorkeling at Cabo Rosa in Isabela, which is part of the Tuneles tour. We went twice: Darwin (!) with Padhoehoe was amazing. Within a small area, you will see gigantic sea turtles (dwarfing giant tortoises), sea lions, sharks, a sea horse (perhaps there’s only one as we saw him twice?), giant lobsters, and eagle rays.

a. FYI we were given mixed info on whether you can snorkel at Tuneles (yes and no). We were intrigued at how the water and marine life changed so much on our two visits.

2. Concha de Perla in Isabela: This is a magical pier: sea lions galore, iguanas all about, turtles close to shore; even penguins swimming by.

3. Tintoreras kayak and snorkel with Carlos of Kayaking Isabela (the hut on the beach of Concha de Perla): He was incredibly nice, fun and engaged. While waiting for three young men to join us, he took many Christmas portraits of us with sea lions and in our kayak. When one of the three, going bare-chested, froze and got tired, Carlos towed him to see sights including three huge lobsters he spotted under a cave; and a number of sharks (Tintoreras=species of shark!). We saw five penguins together on this trip.

4. Meine Steffi yacht day trips from Santa Cruz with Guiding Galapagos: We went to Floreana and Pinzon on this beautiful boat, guided by enthusiastic, knowledgeable co-owner Yazmany on the second trip. Floreana included amazing sea lions frolicking all about and a beach where many turtles had recently laid eggs and were getting ready to go back to sea. At Pinzon, we had perfect weather and clear water for phenomenal photos. (We were tickled by Yazmany’s rapture as we tracked a marine iguana dining underwater.)

5. Stops on our La Pinta cruise: Gorgeous Cerro Brujo beach at San Cristobal with lots of turtles and sea lions (but snorkeling not allowed); and Punta Suárez at Espanola with sea lions, cliffs, oodles of waved albatrosses; boobies with eggs and infants; hawks and, of course, iguanas.

6. Astonishing last night with La Pinta around Gardner Bay at Espanola: After a mediocre kayak, five of us were in a panga back to the boat when someone spotted splashing way in distance: a ton of bottle-nosed dolphins. We spent nearly an hour surrounded by leaping playful dolphins as the sun set!!!

7. Stephanie and Yazmany with Guiding Galapagos in Santa Cruz: terrific communication and information from Stephanie via Facebook. We started discussing a full tour package and ended up with just two day tours on their lovely yacht, which were great.

8. Best meals: Dinner at Almar in Santa Cruz (at the end by the Darwin Center): delicious seafood risotto, lobster and drinks on the water with a view of town and sea (and our upcoming cruise ship La Pinta!). $74.70.

IN HINDSIGHT:

While La Pinta was a nice cruise ship (great service; comfy rooms; best shower of our trip), we could have done Galapagos all on land, saving money. We felt the group hikes and snorkels were not as fulfilling as our day tours, and not of the pace we prefer. It would have been easy to add 3 nights at San Cristobal for day trips.

And, we should have timed our Isabela visit with Wolf volcano eruption on Jan. 7!

Hope you found it useful/entertaining. We will return!

9 replies to this topic
Washington, Michigan
Level Contributor
177 posts
78 reviews
73 helpful votes
1. Re: Tips and Highlights
Save

Sounds like an amazing trip! I'm taking notes as we leave in about 10 days. We are staying on all 3 islands for 5 days each. One question, did you make arrangements for your tour with Pahoehoe in advance or did you make reservations once you arrived?

Estero, Florida
Level Contributor
426 posts
298 reviews
351 helpful votes
2. Re: Tips and Highlights
Save

@Deertwo: that sounds fabulous.

Because we were there around Christmas, we pre-booked, which was wise.

However, a lot changes, including COVID cancellations. In our case, we lucked into our trip with them. Darwin was the best guide!

Feel free to ping me if you want more details. meemskirk@gmail.com

PS: We were excited to see toucans in Mindo!

Washington, Michigan
Level Contributor
177 posts
78 reviews
73 helpful votes
3. Re: Tips and Highlights
Save

Thanks so much. We also have a day trip planned into Mindo before returning to the U.S. I'm almost as excited about that as I am seeing the Galapagos!

canada
Level Contributor
483 posts
5 reviews
3 helpful votes
4. Re: Tips and Highlights
Save

Thanks a lot for this post, it’s really incredibly helpful!

I know this isn’t your situation but if I can ask someone reading this thread - if my flight home connects in the US (in my case home to Canada), does anyone know if I need to have a less than 24hr test or can I follow the rules of the final destination (72 hrs)?

Thanks!

NYC
Level Contributor
1,035 posts
25 reviews
47 helpful votes
5. Re: Tips and Highlights
Save

The rule was that you needed a test even to transit but I am not sure if that's still the case. I'm sure the CDC site would have any updates

Crozet, Virginia
Level Contributor
278 posts
276 reviews
261 helpful votes
6. Re: Tips and Highlights
Save

Great tips Mei-Mei! Your posts captures many of the things we learned and we just got back. We did not book anything in advance (only the day before once we had arrived on the specific island) and our trip was all land based on the 3 islands. This strategy saves alot of money. And we noticed that the tour agencies varied in quoting prices (for example, the Tuneles tour, we got quotes from $90-$120; for the same tour purchased in advance ahead of time online). Also if there is a tour in the afternoon, you may even get a better deal in the morning of when negotiating. We used different tour companies throughout our trip. We saved alot of money compared to what I read others paid for to do a boat trip in Galapagos, but we did stay in very basic accommodations (rarely were we in the rooms).

Fort Lauderdale...
6 posts
1 review
7. Re: Tips and Highlights
Save

Do we need Salvo conducto for entry into galapagos?

Estero, Florida
Level Contributor
426 posts
298 reviews
351 helpful votes
8. Re: Tips and Highlights
Save

Bobbob: On the CDC website: Yes. Any flight entering the U.S. from a foreign country, even for a connection, will require testing before departure. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/testing-international-air-travelers.html#anchor_1635127083

The one-day viral test can be done quickly at the airport, but you need a PCR for Canada. So you'll need to get the PCR results ideally to hit both your travel windows.

Kkama: no one asked for itineraries of any kind.

Portland, Oregon
Level Contributor
108 posts
28 reviews
20 helpful votes
9. Re: Tips and Highlights
Save

“ Kkama: no one asked for itineraries of any kind” that is so true 😀

I had to postpone my trip for this reason. Since I bought my tickets, I have been worrying about Covid and what if I am stuck in Quito… I did not even spend time on freshening up my Spanish or researching what local food to eat.

I enjoyed reading your report though!

Reply to: Tips and Highlights
Get notified by e-mail when a reply is posted
© 2022 TripAdvisor LLC All rights reserved.

This is the version of our website addressed to speakers of English in India. If you are a resident of another country or region, please select the appropriate version of Tripadvisor for your country or region in the drop-down menu.