05 Jun Adventure in the Galapagos Islands with Galakiwi
We shared a ton of photos from our time in the Galapagos Islands in our latest photo essay, so now it’s time to share a bit more (ok a lot more) about the tour itself. The Galapagos has always been high on our “wish list” of destinations, and we are so happy that we finally had the chance to visit. The islands are, of course, known for their abundance of wildlife, but they offer so much more than that when you have the chance to dig just a little bit deeper.
Our trip started off with a couple of days on our own in Quito, Ecuador, and then it was time for our tour with Galakiwi to begin. Galakiwi is one of the few companies offering land based tours through the Galapagos Islands, and they hosted us on the tour as part of a media/press trip. Galakiwi focuses on sustainable travel throughout the islands, and since the owners and staff live and work on the islands themselves, they really know the Galapagos well.
We had such an incredible time throughout the entire trip, and I have to say the experience came in at one of our all-time favorite trips we’ve taken to date. Not only did we see some amazing wildlife, we also had the chance to participate in some of our favorite adventure activities, such as kayaking, snorkeling, SUP (stand up paddle boarding), hiking, and biking. And, because we weren’t exploring via a cruise ship, we had a unique look into the culture and life of Galapagueños who live on the islands. It was the perfect combination and filled with everything we love about travel: adventure, culture, wildlife and plenty of wonderful people.
In addition to everything above, our tour departure was actually a special filmed media tour. Basically, this meant that we participated in the tour as a normal guest, but there was someone filming us along the way for a TV Show and a short film! We were traveling with a group of travel bloggers/writers/etc. Our group consisted of Stephanie, Oksana & Max, Kris and Tom, Diana, and Anthony, in addition to the Galakiwi crew, owners Tim & Crystal, Red, Pablo, Pepo, Cristhian, and several other great team members that made the trip possible.
So, what was it like to travel through the Galapagos Islands with Galakiwi? Settle in and get ready for a long one as we spill all the details of our trip—the good, the challenges and everything in between!
Overview of Tour
We went on the 11 Day Galapagos SUP & Adventure Special Edition Tour (a one run tour), which was very similar to their 10 Day Galapagos Adventure Tour that runs on a regular basis. Galakiwi also offers several other specialty tours that focus on activities such as yoga, SUP, biking, or photography. Our adventure tour sent us to all four of the inhabited islands in the Galapagos and we enjoyed one amazing activity after another. The breakdown below is based on the 10 day adventure tour because it was very similar to our tour and it runs every other week throughout the year.
All of the tours run at different prices, but the 10 Day Galapagos Adventure tour is currently priced at $4,599.00. It isn’t exactly a budget trip, but you do certainly get a lot of bang for your buck with the quality of the guides and all the incredible experiences, accommodations, and food that is included.
The adventure tour includes 9 nights in standard accommodations, all fees and gear for the activities, all meals except for two, and drinking water (so be sure to bring a water bottle!). Transportation from Quito to the islands, as well as transportation between and on the islands, is also included. Tips for the local support crew are included in the price of the tour, too.
What’s Not Included:
You are on your own for snacks, drinks other than water, and two meals. While it’s nice to have most everything included in the tour price, we did enjoy being able to branch out on our own to explore more of the local island foods, as well. In addition to the above, you need to cover the $20 ingala fee and the $100 park entry fee (required by all visitors to the Galapagos). Both of these are payable at the airport in cash only so be prepared for that. Tips for the tour leader are at your own discretion, but we highly recommend showing your appreciation to your guide. They are phenomenal and work hard to make your experience through the islands extra special.
The average group size is 10 and the maximum is 16. We loved the small group size and really appreciated having many of the sites we visited to ourselves.
We will be sharing more details about the islands and activities in future posts, but we just wanted to give a brief overview of our itinerary here. Our tour led us to the four islands in the Galapagos with a human population. The adventure tour is an active tour, and while we had downtime here and there, we were on the go most of the trip.
On our last night in Quito, we met up with our fellow tour group participants and Mauro from Galakiwi, and we were filled in on what our land based adventure tour was going to look like. The next morning we flew to the islands, where our first stop was San Cristobal. We went biking through the highlands, had several SUP sessions, went snorkeling and explored the streets of San Cristobal.
After two nights on the first island, we hopped in a boat and were off to Floreana Island for one night. We spent our time snorkeling, SUPing, and on hikes to the Pirate Caves in the highlands and along the beach in front of our hotel.
Next up, we made our way by boat to Isabela Island for four nights. During our time on the island we were able to snorkel, kayak, hike up a volcano, bike to the Wall of Tears, relax on the beach, and observe tortoises at the Tortoise Breeding Center.
The last island we visited was Santa Cruz, and once again we made our way there by boat. We had two nights on Santa Cruz, and we visited a fish market, stopped by a local market, went to a farm in the highlands where we hiked through a cave and saw more giant tortoises, and suited up for another SUP session.
Heading back to Quito on our last day sent us on a taxi, boat, bus and airplane—it was quite the adventure, but we made it with the help of Pablo!
Be sure to note that the Itinerary can change based on weather, tides, service availability, etc. The days might not play out exactly as scheduled; however, when changes are made, it’s for the betterment of the tour, so embrace it and know they are aiming to make your trip the best it can be!
All of the hotels we stayed in are owned by local islanders, and while they were standard accommodations, they were all adorable. We stayed at the following hotels:
Casa Blanca hotel on San Cristobal:
Wittmer Lodge on Floreana Island:
Hotel Albemarle on Isabela Island:
Posada del Mar on Santa Cruz:
Typical Meal Experience
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when it came to our meals, but both Micah and I were pleasantly surprised with the quality and variety of our food throughout the trip. We tried so many delicious dishes, and Galakiwi was even able to accommodate the vegetarians in our group! Most of our breakfasts included a variety of breads, pastries/muffins, fruits, eggs, coffee, tea, and juice.
When we ate lunch on the go, we were provided with a packed lunch in reusable containers. We usually had chicken, rice and veggies, a granola bar, a chocolate bar, and juice.
Some lunches and most dinners were three course meals at sit down restaurants and the rest of the meals were served buffet style. Most of our meals started with soup (even in the heat!) which was accompanied by popcorn. I’m not sure if we were supposed to, but throwing some popcorn in the soup made it delicious!
The main course usually consisted of chicken or seafood (fish, lobster, shrimp), rice or potatoes and salad or vegetables.
Then, for dessert, we had a small sweet treat such as ice cream, flan, fruit and more.
Challenges and Things to Know
Traveling with Galakiwi made the tour run super smooth. They are the tour operator and not a go-between, which means that they are able to craft every part of the itinerary with care and they don’t hand you over to another company during the trip. Plus, the owners and crew all live on the islands, which means they have the inside scoop on all the best things to do.
That said, there are always bound to be challenges any time you travel. Although all of these points are minor and trivial in the grand scheme of things (and at no fault of Galakiwi), here are the few difficulties we noticed when traveling through the islands and a few details we feel are helpful to know:
- While there is internet on the islands and all of our hotels had WIFI, it was painfully slow at times. Some spots were better than others, but if you have to access something online, be prepared for a slow connection and don’t count on it always being available.
- Cash is the norm, and the US Dollar is the currency. Credit cards require an internet connection (see above), so plan on using cash because when cards are accepted, they don’t always work.
- ATM’s are available on the two larger islands, San Cristobal and Santa Cruz, but don’t count on them working all the time. They can run out of money, so basically, it’s best to bring cash with you to the islands.
- Don’t forget your sunscreen, and try to make sure it’s environmentally friendly! It’s hot and the sun is intense. If you must purchase sunscreen on the islands, you will have to pay a pretty penny for it.
- Water isn’t abundant on the islands, so try not to take long showers to help preserve water. While you will always have a shower in your hotel room (with Galakiwi at least), the water might not always be hot. And there were a couple of times where my water pressure was reduced to a trickle.
- I’m going to say it again…remember that the itinerary can change at any time based on a number of factors. Weather, tides, and a variety of other outside factors can influence your trip, so embrace the change and know that Galakiwi always has your best interest at heart.
What we Loved about the Tour and Galakiwi
There are so many things we loved about our tour with Galakiwi, so I’m just going to summarize a few of our favorite aspects and moments here:
- Galakiwi’s focus and commitment to sustainability was really great to see in action. They provide unlimited water for your refillable water bottles in order to reduce the waste created by plastic water bottles. Our breakfasts and lunches that were on the go were served in reusable containers. And we loved the fact that they support the local economy by bringing their tours to small, locally run hotels and restaurants.
- Traveling to all four inhabited islands gave us a new perspective of the Galapagos Islands. By staying on the islands rather than a cruise ship, we were rewarded with a deeper look into the culture and history of such a magical place.
- Our tour leaders were absolutely fantastic. The guides are local islanders, and they stay with you throughout the entire trip. It was so great getting to know Pablo and Pepo throughout our 10 days on the islands. Also, our main guide, Pablo, was a phenomenal story teller and so passionate about the islands that he calls home!
- The ease of traveling with Galakiwi made the trip stress free. We knew we were in good hands, so we were able to relinquish control and let them show us all the best spots on the islands.
- And last, but certainly not least, we loved the adventure component to the tour. It was amazing to see all the wildlife, but seeing the wildlife while we were immersed in adventure took it to another level. We had the chance to SUP with sea lions, hike and bike next to giant tortoises, and snorkel with sharks, sea lions, and sea turtles, just to name a few.
Behind the Scenes & Filming
As I mentioned above, this trip was a special filmed media tour, which means that we were filmed throughout the tour. One of the reasons for the filming was the TV Show, Facing Waves, which is a show that showcases some of the world’s best paddling destinations. The second filming component was an Adventure in Motion video for ATTA (Adventure Travel Trade Assocation), where the goal is to inspire views to experience adventure travel.
Our tour was basically the same as the normal 10 day adventure tour run by Galakiwi on a regular basis. But, because of the filming, there were a couple of extra activities added in as they were being used to illustrate a point in one of the videos. The filming was all captured by Anthony, and the Galakiwi crew helped with hauling around all the heavy gear. We always get intrigued and fascinated when we have the opportunity to watch people film and do their thing, so it was a fun addition to the trip. Anthony is amazing at what he does, and he will do almost anything for the shot, including hanging over the edge of the boat with his camera while our boat powered through gigantic waves. We can’t wait to see what he captured. I’m not sure when either of the videos will be released, but we will be sure to share the links once we have them!
Our Overall Thoughts on the Tour
Even though we normally travel on our own and often avoid group tours, this tour definitely changed our mind about what an organized tour can look like. With ample opportunities for adventure, knowledgeable guides sharing one entertaining story after another, a great group of people, and the ease of handing the itinerary over to capable hands, we couldn’t have asked for a better experience.
Now, excuse us as we go back to dreaming of sea lions and sea turtles…they are just so dang cute!
Special thanks to Galakiwi for hosting us on an amazing adventure! As always, all opinions are our own.