The last day of our cruise started early with a 6am hike which meant that after we checked into our AirBnB back in Puerto Ayora, it was nap time again. The next week was us on our own, pretty mellow. During the week we went on two day cruises:
- Isla Floreana, about 2 hours away by fast (rough) boat, and home of the amazing red marine iguanas which we saw really well. We snorkeled in two locations with bad visibility, although swimming with the turtles was fun. There was a pretty good bus trip into the Highlands with a walk through a giant tortoise enclosure. And then a brutal 2 hour ride back. All in all, you might skip this.
- Isla Santa Fe, only 30-40 minutes away on an even faster boat that didn’t stink of diesel fumes. Had a better guide here and two great 1 hour sessions snorkeling. There were only 8 people, all excellent, and it was really fun. A highlight was a visit to Playa Escondido, back on Isla Santa Cruz. This ended up being my favorite beach of the whole trip, nicer than Tortuga Bay due to its lack of people. Amazing place.
I also rented a bike 3 times from the very nice guy at the Morning Glory Hostal and rode most of the roads of the island. All the bikes are run of the mill MTBs, not much different but besides helmet and lock, this shop gave me pump, patches and tools after my first ride where I really needed them.
- July 16: Up to Cerro Mesa (and hiked the “El Colapso” trail to the bottom of a big crater). Then down to Playa El Garrapatero, an absolutely gorgeous pristine white sand beach. Unfortunately a flat with no tools required a rescue by a taxi carrying some Mississippi guys back to town. 34km, 656m climbing. Strava
- July 18: Up to Los Gemelos and a bit beyond, totally drenched in the rain, but pretty fun. 52km, 812m climbing, Strava
- July 20: Up and over the hill and down all the way to the Baltra Ferry terminal (ie as far as you can ride from Puerto Ayora). Wet on the climb due to rain, then brutally hot and sweaty on the return climb. Probably this was good training ride for the Andes Tour other than altitude! 82km, 1300m. Strava
Besides this we went snorkeling again at Las Grietas, hiked out to Tortuga Bay a couple of times (note that it literally closes at 5pm), and had a wonderful time trying out the many excellent restaurants and cafes around town. Of these I would have to recommend:
- Best food in town: hands down, Midori Sushi on Charles Binford. Fantastic Japanese food, although not really Japanese. More like Japanese style interpreted by a local genius. Do not miss. They have it DOWN. Transplanted to Los Gatos, this place would kill. You can get a couple items off their menu at the Isla Grill too.
- Best beer in town: well this is a problem. There are a number of places where you can get not only Ecuadorian beer but Galapagos-made beer. The problem is most of it sucks and we ended up just switching to normal beer or cocktails. But on the second to last day we went back to the Santa Cruz Brewery. Previously we had sampled their 6 beers and they were all underwhelming but not as bad as the other local ones. This time I tried their “guest” beers from the Santa Rosa Brewery on the mainland, and wow, so much better. The IPA was actually GOOD! Go here, listen to the great music, play beer pong (I taught two young French kids how to play, then Grace and I had a fun match), play dominoes, eat good food. Very nice place.
- Most interesting dining experience: has to be “Los Cioscos” – the Kiosks. In the evening, Avenida Charles Binford starting from Avenida Baltra gets tables in the middle of the street and hundreds of people eat from the restaurants that line both sides. It’s mostly seafood, nicely displayed (although it does sit there for a long time with no ice in sight…) Lobster dinner for two is $25, and it’s always Happy Hour so cocktails are cheap (but may not be full strength). It’s really fun and half the price of regular restaurants.
- Bonus: The Helados Artesinales shop on the corner of Baltra and Binford serves delicious house made ice cream delicacies for $1. What they make each day varies but you will love anything you get there. We must’ve had 20 at least. Maracuya y Mora popsicle for the win. For best results, go there after lunch and after dinner.
Here’s a list of the Islas we visited, mainly for us to refer back to:
- Baltra, airport island
- Santa Cruz, most populous, our base for most of our visit
- Daphne Mayor, can’t land – quickly visited for the bird life
- Santiago, visited two places, great snorkeling
- Bartolome, hiked to the summit
- South Plazas, day cruise, amazing birds and iguanas and sea lions
- Isabela, the largest. Climbed Volcán Sierra Negra and landed in several locations
- Fernandina, in the northwest, visited on our cruise
- Rabida, visited on our cruise
- Seymour Norte, amazing place, crawling with Frigate Birds. Must see.
- Floreana, day cruise, amazing red iguanas
- Santa Fé, day cruise, excellent snorkeling, no landings allowed
We cancelled our plans to take the ferry over to Isla de San Cristobal – there was a great sounding tour that goes snorkeling in a place famous for Hammerhead Sharks. But those rides can be pretty rough so we swapped it for Isla Santa Fé, leaving something for a future visit.
It was a little sad leaving, but I’m about to start an amazing adventure in cycling and am super excited about that. This excellent trip to the Galapagos was helped greatly by our son Beau who spent a month here in 2018. His recommendations and encouragement really helped us a lot. Thanks Beau!
Here are some photos and videos of our last week in the Galapagos.
PS At the airport we met up with an old friend from our college days at UC Berkeley – it was amazing to see Steve and his whole family. We had breakfast together in the lounge. They had just had a real adventure the night before with their cruise boat catching fire and having to abandon ship into the ocean in life jackets, losing at least one phone, breathing in bad smoke, etc.