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Where should you go on a cruise in the Galapagos Islands

Underwater shot of snorkeling with Pacific Green Sea Turtle off the island of Isabela in the Galapagos Islands

One of the questions we get asked most is "Where should I go on an adventure cruise in the Galapagos Islands?" And it is a great question! If you want to get the most out of your adventure cruise to the Galapagos Islands, it pays to do some planning. Ask yourself what you would like to see - birds, mammals, reptiles, marine animals, flora or landscapes. Or perhaps a little of each? Here, listed island by island, are the highlights of what you can see on each island during your adventure cruise in the Galapagos Islands.

All this, along with how to pick the best ship, the best time of year, how long to go for and what to pack is contained in our Ultimate Galapagos Guide. You can can download our Ultimate Galapagos Guide for free here.

Baltra Island is where most visitors arrive. It is a dry island, with vegetation to match. Boobies and frigate birds can be seen here.

Bartolomé is the most photographed island on any cruise in the Galapagos Islands. There is an incredible viewpoint and a beach with good snorkeling and swimming. Birds common here are Galapagos Penguins, herons, and Galapagos Hawks.

Española is one of the most isolated islands in Galapagos. Wildlife is varied and there are a large number of endemic species, including the Española Mockingbird, the Española Lava Lizard, and the Waved Albatross. It is one of the most popular islands in the Galapagos.

Fernandina, with its large land iguana population, is the most pristine of the Galapagos volcanoes and another highlight of any Galapagos cruise. The waters surrounding Fernandina and western Isabela are the richest waters in the archipelago, providing great habitat for Flightless Cormorants and Galapagos Penguins.

Floreana is the site of the first “post office”, established in 1793. The island offers a flamingo lagoon, where you can also see Pintail ducks, stilts, Large-billed Flycatchers, and several species of finch shorebirds. Green Sea Turtles nest here and rays glide through the shallow waters.

The highlands are of interest for plantlovers and for historical reasons.

Inside Devil's crown, an eroded crater, snorkelers find an underwater oasis of coral reefs along with playful sea lions, King Angel Fish, Balloon Fish, Tiger Snake Eels, rays, sharks and sea turtles. There are also plenty of boobies, pelicans, and frigatebirds.

Isabela has lots of new lava fields and the island’s rich fauna is beyond compare. Wild tortoises abound and the waters along the west coast are a rich feeding ground for fish, whales, dolphins, and birds. Whale watching, with up to 16 species, is excellent here.

Genovesa has an abundance of birdlife, including frigatebirds, Nazca and Red-footed Boobies (the latter in large numbers), Swallow-tailed Gulls, storm petrels, Red-billed Tropicbirds, finches, and mockingbirds.

North Seymour has plenty of land iguanas as well as large numbers of blue-footed boobies, swallow-tailed gulls and frigatebirds.

Pinta is home to unique bird, reptile, and plant species. Swallow-tailed Gulls, marine iguanas, Galapagos Hawks and fur seals are but some of the species found here.

South Plaza is famous for its extraordinary flora and marine and land iguanas are abundant. Plenty of birds nest in the cliffs around the island.

Rábida consists of several volcanic craters with a distinctive red color. Brown Pelicans can be seen up close nesting behind the beach, while Blue-footed and Nazca Boobies visit the cliffs. Flamingos can sometimes be seen in the lagoon, alongside Pintail Ducks and Common Stilts. There is short trail, along which you can observe birds such as finches, Galapagos Doves, Yellow Warblers, and mockingbirds. Swimming and snorkeling are very good on Rábida.

San Cristóbal has an interpretation centre, a sea lion rookery and a colony with both Magnificent Frigate Birds and Great Frigate Birds. Snorkelling is particularly good at many of the sites on and around the island, as are sightings of coastal and migratory birds.

Punta Pitt is the only place in Galapagos where you can see all three boobie species nest together, along with two species of frigatebirds. Views of the sea lions from the top of the cliff as well as the eroded peaks of the island are magnificent.

Kicker Rock is the most dramatic snorkelling and dive site here, with vertical cliffs rising almost 150 metres straight out of the sea. Small vessels can pass through a narrow channel in the rock and while in the water you may see Manta Rays, sea turtles, and sharks.

On Santa Cruz you can experience the interior and higher grounds of the islands, including magma chambers and lava tunnels. The town of Puerto Ayora is the main tourism hub and has plenty of good restaurants. The Charles Darwin Research Station has exhibits on climate, geography, the evolution of flora and fauna as well as conservation programs.

Santa Cruz has wonderful beaches as well as all the various life zones present in the archipelago - almost every land bird present in the islands can be found here. The island also offers excellent opportunities for viewing wild tortoises.

Santa Fe is home to large numbers of sea lions. There are two trails, one short loop and one up a steep cliff, providing possible sightings of the endemic Santa Fe Land Iguana.

Finally, James Bay on Santiago offers one of the best opportunities for visitors to see the Galapagos fur seal and there are several walking trails here. On the opposite side of the island, Sullivan Bay sees you walk across a recent lava flow. Chinese Hat off the coast of Santiago is a beautiful snorkeling site where you can see sharks, sea lions, penguins and rays.


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