Backpacking the Galapagos: Is it Possible?

A marine iguana found only in the Galapagos photo cred

A marine iguana found only in the Galapagos photo cred 

I’m an international teacher. I feel like it is my very welcome duty to see as much of the world as possible. To do this on a teacher’s salary while still paying off student loans means that I have to get a little creative.

Most people go to the Galapagos Islands with a cruise…which costs at least $2000. Sure, if you have extra time you can wait around in the harbor hoping to find a last minute spot on a cruise for a quarter of the cost (or so I’ve been told online- I’ve never met anyone who has actually done it). I don’t have that extra time and since I am traveling during high season (Christmas Break), I don’t think it is very likely that I will get an amazing deal.

So how can see one of the most famous groups of islands in the world? By doing it as cheaply as possible! This means I need to be flexible and open to planning a last minute trip because contrary to most of my trips, the earlier your Galapagos trip is booked, the more expensive the price tag.

I am normally an over planner (hence this post nearly a year in advance) so this do-it-yourself option seems a little daunting! However, I have a plan: I will simply take an early flight to the Baltra Airport on Santa Cruz, head immediately down to the Puerto Ayora, harbor and see how lucky I am!

If I am pretty lucky: 4-Day cruise option

If I got a great deal on a 4 day cruise I would take it and stay and then just in Santa Cruz or maybe do an extra day trip.

When I arrive in Puerto Ayora, you better believe that I will at least ask for a discounted cruise and check out what’s available! I have read about people paying $650 for a 4-day cruise because they bought it a few hours before the boat left. While it is a little more than I would WANT to pay, a part of me still dreams of being on a cruise in the Galapagos so I will ask about the possibility once I get to the port.

From what I have read online, these shorter tours go to the northern islands where you can see the endangered birds like the Red Footed Boobie, or you can go to the southern islands (the option I would choose) for amazing snorkeling (just make sure it includes San Cristobal, Floreana, and Espanola).

If I am meant to have a land based trip: Day Tripping the Galapagos Islands

According to Flora the Explorer she was able to do it in June 2013 for about $900!

4 Nights in Santa Cruz

Tortuga Bay (free)-  beautiful white sand beach

Charles Darwin Research Station (free)- to see giant turtles

Highlands to see the freely roaming giant turtles

Las Greitas, a calm, clear swimming areas between two steep lava cliffs

I can't wait to see the Giant Tortoises! photo cred

I can’t wait to see the Giant Tortoises! photo cred 

2 Nights on Isabella

Snorkeling at Las Tintoreras

National park tortoise reserve (free)

Laguna Salinas (free)– This is one of the best spots to see flamingos in the Galapagos

Laguna Concha Perla (free)

Horse trek to the crater of Sierra Negra volcano

Los Tuneles snorkeling

“Wall of Tears” monument (free)

2 Nights in San Cristobal

See the sea lions in Puerto Moreno (free)

Playa Mann (free)– A great beach to swim at and around a 10-minute walk from the center of town.

Centro de Interpretacion: (free) about five minutes past Playa Mann

Las Tijeretas (free)- Located behind the Interpretation Centre, this area is 2.4km of trails that take you to a lookout point over the ocean and a cove that’s perfect for snorkeling at.

Snorkel at Lobreria beach- About a 30 minute walk from town, or a US$2 taxi ride, will take you to another cove that’s perfect for spotting sea turtles

Snorkeling tour to Kickers Rock and Lobo Island to see hammerhead sharks

I'm not really a bird lover, but I can't wait to see the Blue Footed Booby either. Photo cred

I’m not really a bird lover, but I can’t wait to see the Blue Footed Booby either. Photo cred 

Day Trips

If I get tired of one of the three main islands I can day trip to the surrounding islands like Floreana, Bartolome or Seymour- $60-$150 each

Floreana is famous for snorkeling and wildlife

Bartolome is popular for snorkeling with PENGUINS

Seymour is known for having a mix of everything

Estimated Cost for 8 Nights of Backpacking the Galapagos

400- flight to Galapagos from Guyaquil

300- Day trips

200- Hostels for 10 nights

160- Food for 10 days

100- Inter-island ferries

100- Park fee

50- Misc (there is always something)

10- tax

$1320 for 8 days of independent travel in the Galapagos (perhaps $200 cheaper with the right choice of lodging and food choices)

What do you think? Would you backpack the Galapagos? Have you ALREADY backpacked the Galapagos? Do you have any recommendations for ways to save money in the Galapagos? Does my budget seem realistic?


13 responses to “Backpacking the Galapagos: Is it Possible?

  1. Add $100 for the entrance fee, and cross your fingers for the hostel price you have listed.
    If you have free time or are stuck waiting, spend some time in Guayaquil! Easily my favorite city in Ecuador.


    • I will be going to the Galapagos in December 2015! Since writing this I have met several people who have told me that they were able to find affordable cruises that were nearly comparable to the cost of backpacking and taking excursions to the other islands so I am giving it some serious thought too.

      Thanks for sharing that awesome website and be sure to let me know how your trip went!


      • Hi Amanda. I would like to visit Galapagos by my own. Travel period 11-19.12. I have already booked accomodation for 4 nights. Did you find some useful info how to travel between island, what to see and what to do. Thx for any info. Miro

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Miro! Sorry to say that after researching and writing this post I couldn’t find much else online with specifics. This is partly why I caved and ended up spending more than I wanted on a Galapagos cruise instead. I will be in the Galapagos around Christmas so after that I might be able to post about other options.


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