13 best activities on Galapagos adventure holidays

Jan 19, 2023 BY Luke Rees

The Galapagos Islands are a protected reserve known for their diversity of species. Now it would be easy to assume they are off limits to anyone other than bird watchers and naturists. Fortunately, that is not the case, as the best activities on Galapagos adventure holidays rival those almost anywhere.

13 best activities on Galapagos adventure holidays Unsplash royalty free image of giant tortoises by deb dowd

You can enjoy a variety of adventure sports in the Galapagos Islands. You just need to know where to go and of course what you can do…

13 best activities on Galapagos Islands

Best Galapagos adventure holidays

Located in the Pacific Ocean just south of the Equator the Galapagos archipelago is part of Ecuador. The Galapagos Islands are located 906 km (563 mi) west of the South American continent. And they can only be reached by flying from Ecuador into either Baltra or San Cristobal.

13 best activities on Galapagos adventure holidays Unsplash royalty free image of marine iguanas by alan alquist

This means it is time consuming and quite expensive to reach the archipelago. However, it is well worth it! The best activities on Galapagos are pretty special. So, we’ve pulled together some of the top Galapagos Islands adventure holiday ideas below.

Wildlife watching (safari)

Clearly the most prevalent reason to visit the Galapagos Islands is to follow in the footsteps of Charles Darwin and observe the incredible wildlife. From Marine Iguanas to Giant Tortoises, penguins to seals, booby’s to shags and finches to Frigate Birds there is plenty to see on the land.

It’s also one of the best marine safari destinations worldwide. There are 24 species of dolphins and whales including Orca, Blue, Humpback and Sperm whales. You can see turtles, sharks (including Hammerhead and Whale), various fish and crustaceans. Making it a must visit for wildlife enthusiasts.

13 best activities on Galapagos adventure holidays Unsplash royalty free image of red crabs by rod long

Adventure cruising and sailing

If you want to get the most from your visit to the Galapagos Islands then you’ll need to do some island hopping. There are 13 main islands in the archipelago and getting around them is easiest on Galapagos Islands excursions and cruises.

You’ll get some of the best views from a boat or yacht and get to tour around the islands visiting the highlights. Many tours have guides on board, offer land excursions, snorkelling and so much more. Equally you can book a more laidback sailing trip if you prefer.

Kayaking, canoeing and SUP

Get on a kayak, canoe or paddle board and you can explore the coast in a more intimate way. You are likely to have plenty of interaction with local species such as bottle-nosed dolphins and seals. You can also spot sea turtles and other marine life.

kayaking one of the best adventures on the Galapagos Flickr CC image of seals and kayaks by Michael R Perry

Launching from Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz island, you’ll find yourselves paddling in what previously were lava channels. If you’re not a shark lover it’s not the time to fall in, as white tips and hammerheads patrol the channels.


There is so much to see under the water that is would be a shame just to stay on the surface! On Bartolome you can get in and snorkel under the Pinnacle rock and may even have a sea lion to swim with.

There’s also lots of snorkelling to be had on Santa Fe. Just a few metres from the shore there are marine iguanas, octopus and sea turtles. Plus you can snorkel with penguins – and they’re not shy, so expect some company!

Galápagos baracuda Guide to Galapagos Islands scuba diving holidays Flickr CC image by Derek Keats

Scuba diving

The sub-tidal zones of Floreana, Bart Island, Champion Island, and Wolf and Darwin are all favoured spots for reef diving. Diving with Whale Sharks is possible in the summer months and three types of ray congregate to mate.

With 300 species of fish, 17% endemic to the islands, you are in for a treat each time you dive. Other aquatic residents to spot include barracuda, creole fish, rainbow wrasse and black-striped salema. The best way to enjoy scuba diving in the Galapagos Islands is on a liveaboard tour.

Hiking and walking

For anyone interested in the natural world, hiking is one of the best activities on Galapagos adventure holidays. There are many volcanoes to hike with six peaks higher than a thousand metres.

hiking one of the best adventures on the Galapagos Flickr CC image of Sierra Negra Volcano by Michael R Perry

The highest, Wolf Volcano (1,707 m/5,600 ft) on Isabela and is one of the world’s largest active volcanoes. From its enormous gaping caldera you’ll be served up some of the best vistas in the region. While at lower altitudes there’s lava tunnels and forests to discover.

Over on Bartolome Island there are a couple of golden beaches to walk along. The views across to Santiago will stop you in your tracks. Across the chain of islands there are plenty of easy and more challenging walks. On many you can expect to see wildlife.

Windsurfing and kiteboarding

Blessed with Pacific swell and reliable trade winds the Galapagos Islands have excellent windsurf and kiteboarding conditions. However, there is barely anyone out there enjoying it. This is partly due to the small local population, cost of getting there and visitors getting involved in other activities.

Image by www.GalapagosWindsurfing.com

Tongo Reef (San Cristobal) has good wind and great wave riding. Santa Cruz is best known for Tortuga Bay, although this astonishing beach is only accessible by sea or by walking for 25-minutes along a coastal path. It can also be tricky to get out from the bay to take advantage of the wind.

Isabela Island offers some of the best conditions for kite and windsurfing in the Galapagos Islands. The three-kilometre long white sandy beach at Puerto Villamil is excellent. There are rocky reefs creating waves all along it, plus a spot called El Faro with gentle waves and a sandy bottom.


Just like windsurfing and kiteboarding there is great surf but not many surfers due to the cost and accessibility. This means you can find great waves which you get to yourself, although you might share them with seals and other wildlife. Plus San Cristobal has a good surf scene with five amazing waves accessible all year around.

surfing one of the top Galapagos activities Wikimedia CC image by Walter Mera and Graciela Marina

But the biggest swells are away from the islands. Unfortunately, restrictions mean many of the best waves are inaccessible. However, since 2011 a few operators have been given permits to ferry surfers to some out of the way big breaks.

We hope you found this guide to the best activities on Galapagos adventure holidays inspirational. If you would like to book a trip check out our Galapagos Islands adventure travel page.


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