Is 5 days enough to visit The Galapagos Islands? Well, the simple answer is yes -and no-
Stay with me here 😉
If you read my first article about Galapagos you already know that there are 3 main islands with diverse wildlife to see and tons of activities to do. So, although I don’t think 5 days will let you live everything there is to live at The Galapagos, it will most definitely be enough to experience one of my favorite islands, San Cristobal.
This is the 5 day Galapagos Islands itinerary we followed during our adventure in San Cristobal island which included snorkeling, swimming with sea turtles and tons of wildlife encounters.
Expect to land between 10am and 2pm depending on the flight that you’re catching. * If you have the chance, and if your budget allows I would encourage you to catch the earliest flight. Going through customs can take about 30min-60min *.
Once you’re on island side, take a taxi to your accommodation which will most likely be in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (The island’s main town), and will cost approximately $1-$2.
After you’ve dropped your luggage, I suggest going straight to the waterfront. This first impression of San Cristobal will blow your mind! As you get closer you’ll hear them.
Expect to see more sea lions than you could ever imagine, hundreds of red crabs and black iguanas covering the sand and shore rocks. If the sun is out, you’ll also notice the different blue hues of the water and many sea lions swimming around.
San Cristobal is the island with the biggest concentration of sea lions, and on your first day you’ll witness it first hand.
After recovering from this magnificent first impression of San Cristobal, walk North along the waterfront towards Playa de Oro, the closest beach to town. Although this beach is quite small, is a great spot to stop by in the afternoon. Most sea lions are coming out of the water to rest at this time, and if you’re lucky, you may spot some pups moving around.
Check out this beautiful sea lion mama breastfeeding her pups.
To wrap up for first day in San Cristobal, walk about 10-15min towards Playa Mann. Hands down the most popular beach in the island and where you’ll get to relax in front of your first Galapagos sunset with dozens of playful sea lions by your side, and perhaps a beer or two in your hand.
In Playa Mann, just like in any other beach in The Galapagos Islands, you’ll be able to swim and get quite close to the wildlife (2 meters max). If you’ve seen beach photos of people next to tons of sea lions, most likely, it was taken right here in Playa Mann.
Start the day early and have breakfast at your Airbnb (this is where we stayed at), or at any local restaurant. The further you are from the beach, the less you can expect to pay 😉
Once you’re ready for Day # 2 of your Galapagos Islands itinerary, take a taxi for a small daily tour to La Galapaguera and Puerto Chino beach. Although both spots are very visited, it’s not very easy to find separate taxis to move between places, so the best way to do it is to book your transportation for the whole tour (4 hrs).
The good thing is that you can set the price with the taxi driver in advance. *Fees will be slightly higher if you’re not Ecuadorian.
We paid $50 for the drive to La Galapaguera + wait time, the drive to Puerto Chino + wait time, and the drive back to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.
La Galapaguera is a Tortoise Breeding Center built to improve the population of the Galapagos giant tortoises. Inside you’ll find the iconic tortoises in many sizes! From the tiniest babies to the biggest and majestic ones.
The Galapagos Tortoise is endemic to these islands, which means they don’t exist anywhere else in the world. Talk about a truly unique experience!
There is no entrance fee to access the Center and there is an easy to follow loop trail that will take you around in about 1hr. Plan to wear comfortable shoes and sun protection. And yes, plan to take tons and tons of photos!
A couple of minutes drive distance from La Galapaguera you’ll find Puerto Chino, a white sand -and almost isolated- beach. I say almost because you’ll find s few people and yes, definitely some sea lions swimming around.
Keep in mind that there is a short hike from where the taxi leaves you until you reach the beach (around 10 minutes).
Bring plenty of shade, water and snacks for the hike and your time on the beach because you won’t find any shops there. Let me tell you, island sun in the middle of the world can be quite intense so pack your hats.
While you’re in Puerto Chino, plan to relax, watch birds, enjoy the sea lions and swim in turquoise waters. *Watch out for the tábanos, or as I call them, the most annoying insects in San Cristobal 😆 They like to sting sea lions and they will sting you, specially once you’re covered in salty water. Mosquito repellent will help and don’t worry, you won’t find many of them anywhere else in the island.
Before completing your visit to Puerto Chino, make sure to pick up everything after you and leave no trace.
Your taxi will bring you back to Puerto Baquerizo where you’ll be able to rest, eat some good food, walk around town at night and wrap up your day.
Day # 3 of your Galapagos Islands Itinerary will require you to pack your swimwear, sunscreen, snacks and walking shoes once again! (Who am I kidding, you’ll need these every day while in Galápagos ha!)
Your destination today? Cerro Tijeretas and Punta Carola Beach.
Tijeretas is one of the many places where you can snorkel in San Cristobal so pack your snorkel gear with you. If you don’t have any don’t worry! You can rent them for $3-$5 a person for the whole day, at any of the rental shops in town.
Start your day by taking a taxi that’ll bring you closer to the Tijeretas Trail. Walking from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno to Tijeretas will take you about 1hr. If you take a taxi you’ll cut that to around 40 min. If you choose to walk, this will be a great opportunity to stop at the “Centro de Interpretación”, which acts like a Visitor Center and where you’ll learn a lot about the islands story, the species and ways to help preserve them.
The hike to Tijeretas is mostly over stroller friendly ground, so if you’re traveling wirh kids you may choose to bring a stroller. Make sure to carry enough water and plenty of shade too. The hike will include some elevation which I’m sure your legs may not like but ohh the views you’ll have later. Check this out!
The first thing you’ll notice at Tijeretas, aside form the spectacular view, is that it ain’t a beach. It’s really more like a bay with a small sea dock that lets you access the water. There are no shallow areas to swim in Tijeretas, and there is a bit of a wave tide so use extra caution when snorkeling (if you’re not the best swimmer). Make sure you have floating gear for children too.
Once you’re in the ocean, you’ll have the chance to see many playful sea lions and sea turtles swimming around. After the swim and after having refueled with some snacks, go up to the highest part of the hill to have a broader view of the bay and to take some photos with multicolored water in the background. Hey! You may even spot a frigate or two while up there.
The same trail that took you up to Tijeretas will take you on a loop back and into your next stop, Punta Carola, a beach about 15min away. Although Punta Carola is somewhat similar to Playa Mann, it is said to have one of the best sunset views of the islands, and that’s exactly what you’ll be there to confirm 😉
As the sunset approaches you’ll notice more people arriving so if you get there early, make sure to take one fo the shade areas formed by plants in the area. Leave your stuff there and get one final dip in the water before the sun goes down.
Expect the walk back to be around 35 minutes and just like the day before, stop by any of the restaurants or shops in town right before finishing your day.
One of the highlights of your Galapagos adventure! We’re saving Day # 4 on your San Cristobal trip to do one of the most fun things on the island!! Snorkeling at Kicker Rock (El León Dormido). This rock formation in the middle of the ocean is a refuge for many bird species, hammerhead sharks, sea turtles and sea lions and an incredible location to do snorkeling and diving.
Most trips to Kicker Rock are part of a tour that includes a couple of stops. The one we did included a beach stop in Manglecito but others may stop at Cerro Brujo or may be onger tours like the 360 Tour, a daily boat tour that sails around the entire island. The price of the tour will depend on the season, the length of the tour, the type of tour and the tour operator.
What I found great about these type of tours is that you can 100% book them while on the island, with 1-2 days in advance, and that they include all the gear you’ll need + your meals. You can expect to pay about $100-$150 per adult for the tour.
Every tour generally starts early in the morning (7am-9am) and lasts around 6-8hrs.
Your adventure will begin at the tour shop where you’ll pick up your gear and meet your guide. Together you’ll walk to the waterfront where you and your group will board a small boat that’ll take you to the main boat. Depending on the tour you’re doing, you may go to Kicker Rock at the beginning or towards the end.
Once you get there your guide will explain a lot about the rock formation and the wildlife of the area, then you’ll get specific instructions about the snorkeling part so you can get ready to hop in the water.
You can expect to see many corals and fishes, as well as some sea turtles. We didn’t see any hammerhead sharks but we heard that the day after we went, one group had spotted tons of them!
Different water temperatures bring different species to the island so visiting Kicker Rock will always be an exciting and unexpected experience, and one that you cannot miss inside your Galapagos Islands itinerary.
Be prepared to fill up on some yummy seafood after the snorkeling, so you can refuel and navigate back to the island.I suggest keeping the rest of your afternoon pretty light so you can prepare for your final day in San Cristobal.
Take the most advantage of your last day in The Galapagos Islands by going very early, to another snorkeling spot not very far from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. My personal favorite, La Lobería.
Although La Lobería is quite close, you’ll need to hop on a taxi to get there. The taxi will drop you off at the trail entrance where you’ll need to walk for about 10 minuted until you reach La Lobería beach. *Make sure to arrange your taxi pick up for later.
For this day you’ll also need your snorkeling gear because there’s a high chance that you’ll spot some underwater marine life. Expect to see tons of sea lions just like in the rest of the island, and to have many of them swimming around while you snorkel.
What I liked the most about La Lobería is that there were no waves and the water was pretty shallow. The deepest we went was around mid waist and it was far enough to be surrounded by playful sea lions. We also spotted sea turtles once again, even in the most shallow parts! This beach is ideal to visit with kids and having water shoes will come in handy to allow them to freely explore.
Plan to stay around 2 hours, so you have plenty of time to return to your Airbnb or hotel to take a bath, pack your bags and prepare for your departure.
If you’d like to know more details that’ll help you build a longer Galapagos Islands itinerary, make sure to stop by this article here, where you’ll find details about traveling to other islands and tips for planning a full trip on your own.
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