Bartolome Island Ultimate Guide: Best Tours & Why to Visit (2024)

Bartolome Island Galapagos blog cover image.  Text overlaying an image of white sand beaches and volcanic landscapes, including Pinnacle Rock, surrounded by vibrant turquoise water on a sunny day as seen from the viewpoint on Isla Bartolome.

Bartolome Island is widely renowned as the most beautiful and picturesque of all the Galapagos islands. In particular, the vista from Bartolome Viewpoint is second to none.

Getting to this small island is only possible via a day tour from Santa Cruz or as part of an island-hopping cruise around the Galapagos archipelago.

In this guide, you will learn everything you need to know for planning a visit to Isla Bartolome. This includes recommendations for day tours and cruises, average costs, times, physical requirements, and what you can expect to see beyond the iconic viewpoint.

We visited 6 islands on our trips to Galapagos in April 2023 and Bartolome Island was our favorite of those you can visit via day tour.

🏝️ Bartolome Island Overview

Bartolome Island is a small, barren islet in the Galapagos archipelago, located within Sullivan Bay to the east of Santiago Island.

Fun Fact: Both Bartolome Island and Sullivan Bay were named after Sir Bartholomew James Sulivan, who served as second lieutenant alongside Charles Darwin on the HMS Beagle.

The island is uninhabited and overnight stays are not permitted. In addition, the Galapagos National Park Conservancy limits the number of daily visitors. Despite this, it remains one of the most popular islands for visitors to Galapagos.

The only two ways to visit the island are via a day tour from Santa Cruz or on a multi-island cruise. Either way, your time for exploration will be limited to a few hours at most.

Below are some quick facts and pertinent information to note. The remainder of this guide will go into more detail on each item:

How to Get ThereDay tour from Santa Cruz or Galapagos Cruise only
Day Tour Cost$250 locally, $340+ online
Time for Day Tour10-12 hours
Included with Day TourTransport, guided hike to viewpoint, snorkeling, meals, towels
Notable WildlifePenguins, boobies, lava lizards, lave herons, Galapagos hawks, sea lions, tropical fish
HighlightsDaphne Island, Pinnacle Rock, Sullivan Bay, Playa Dorada, Bartolome Viewpoint
Physical Requirements0.9-mile roundtrip hike to the viewpoint, 1-hour snorkeling
Other NamesIsla BartolomΓ©, Bartholomew Island

πŸ—ΊοΈ Map of the Galapagos Islands

A color coded map of the Galapagos Islands showing inhabited islands and those accessible by day trip or cruise, plus ferry routes custom made by We Dream of Travel.

The map of the Galapagos Islands above shows the archipelago in its entirety.

It has been color-coded to indicate the islands that are inhabited and can be stayed on, those accessible by day tour, and those that are accessible via cruise ship only.

In addition, ferry services and airports are indicated by the appropriate symbols.

You can see Bartolome Island to the north of Santa Cruz, just off the coast of Santiago.

πŸ“Έ Why Visit Bartolome Island

There are a couple of good reasons to visit Bartolome Island, but the primary one is to snap some photos from the iconic viewpoint.

This spectacular vista provides photography enthusiasts with the most picturesque landscape in all of the Galapagos, including unbeatable views of Sullivan Bay and Pinnacle Rock.

The other major reason to visit is for the chance to see the rare and endangered Galapagos penguin. Bartolome is one of the few islands that these adorable birds call home.

Geology and natural history lovers will also enjoy the short, guided walking tour to the viewpoint. Along the way, your guide will explain the genesis of the savage volcanic scenery that surrounds you, as well as what makes the endemic plants and animals here so unique.

Finally, the snorkeling along the coastline at Isla Bartolome is spectacular. The water tends to be very clear with a healthy population of aquatic wildlife. If you’re very lucky, you may even get to swim with the aforementioned penguins!


⛡️ How to Get to Bartolome Island

A young woman sits at the front of a sailboat with a glass of champagne  with a rainbow visible in the distance.

The most common way for tourists to get to Isla Bartolome is by booking a day tour from the nearest inhabited island of Santa Cruz.

Alternatively, tourists can visit Bartolome if it is included as a stop on a multi-island Galapagos cruise. More on that to come.

Technically, it is possible to sail to Bartolome Island but a myriad of restrictions make this incredibly challenging and mostly prohibitive. These restrictions include several permits, a guide, and vessel-specific criteria.


🐧 Guide to Bartolome Island Day Tours

At no cost to you, we receive a small amount for any bookings made using the links below.

Booking a day tour from Santa Cruz island is the only realistic way for people to get to Bartolome Island who are not on a cruise that includes it in the itinerary.

Know that there is no “getting around” these options via alternatives such as private local hire!

Because the entirety of the Galapagos Archipelago is a protected National Park space, even locals and natives cannot visit Bartolome without an official park guide.

This section outlines everything you need to know about booking a trip out to Bartolome.

Price & Availability

Day tours to Bartolome Island start at $250 if booked locally on Santa Cruz, or $340 if pre-booked online.

It is also one of the tours that varies the most greatly in price. Even locally, prices can go above $350 depending on availability and the boat category.

As this is one of the most popular day tours from Santa Cruz, it is often sold out days or even weeks in advance. Additionally, the Galapagos Park Conservancy strictly limits the number of daily visitors to Bartolome, including those on cruise ships.

While pre-booking is a bit more expensive, it does guarantee you a spot that may not be available if you wait to book upon arrival.


What to Expect on a Day Tour

The Journey to Isla Bartolome

A view of Isla Daphne (aka Daphne Island) taken from a boat.

The tour will begin very early and much of your day will be spent traveling to and from Isla Bartolome. From Puerto Ayora, you will drive 45 minutes to reach the Itabaca Canal where you will board your boat.

Once onboard, you will sail for 2 – 2.5 hours to reach the island. Think of the 2.5-hour boat ride (each way) as a pleasure cruise, rather than as a commute, and you’ll be in the right place mentally.

On the way to Isla Bartolome, you will pass by Isla Daphne – one of the minor islands in the Galapagos Archipelago. You may get lucky and spot dolphins from the boat as well.

Expect a nice, full breakfast with coffee and a cooked lunch. If you go with GalaTrails as we did, you can also look forward to a celebratory dessert and a glass of champagne on the return voyage.

Arriving at Isla Bartolome

As you near the island, you will begin to see what makes it so special. The jagged Pinnacle Rock comes into view towering over pristine Playa Dorada, with the nearby scenery painted in an array of vibrant colors.

Once you have reached Isla Bartolome, you will hop onto a dingy that will take you to the trailhead for the viewpoint.

On the way, your captain will pull up beside some of the rocks where aviary wildlife often flocks. We saw a variety of boobies, including the iconic blue-footed booby, hanging out with Galapagos penguins!

Getting to the Viewpoint

The walk to the viewpoint is approximately 360 steps to the top (about 0.45 miles) and is entirely exposed. Bring sunscreen, water, and shoes you are comfortable walking in.

Note that the entirety of the hike is along a wooden pathway, so flip-flops are fine if you don’t mind walking 0.9-mile roundtrip in them!

Your guide will stop frequently to educate the group on the flora, fauna, and landscape you are observing. You can ask to go on ahead if you want more time for photos, but not all guides will grant permission. Expect to have about 15-20 minutes for photos at the viewpoint before walking back.

From Bartolome Viewpoint, you will find sweeping views at the confluence of Sullivan Bay and Playa Dorada.

If you have sunny conditions, the water seems to almost glow a shade of bright turquoise. On a clear day, you can even see as far as Isla Marchena and Isla Pinta to the north.


Once you have returned from the viewpoint, you will gear up for some snorkeling.

There are a couple of different spots your tour operator may take you to based on the permit granted to the boat by the Galapagos National Park that day. Your tour operator will have no control over this.

The two most popular snorkeling locations on a day tour to Isla Bartolome are Sullivan Bay on Santiago Island and Sombrero Chino. The water here tends to be clear and you may see penguins, sea lions, diving boobies, and plenty of tropical fish.

Some tours will also offer the opportunity to go on land and take a short hike at these destinations, but this varies. Be sure to check with your tour operator if this is an option.



Bartolome Island is an incredible wildlife destination for both birds and marine life.

The star attraction is the Galapagos penguins that have established a breeding colony in a cave behind Pinnacle Rock. They are the second smallest penguin species in the world and the only species found north of the equator.

On Bartolome, you can often spot them both perched on the rocks and, if you’re lucky, you may even see them swimming while you snorkel!

Birdwatchers should also be on the lookout for herons, Galapagos hawks, and boobies.

Underwater you can expect to discover a myriad of brightly colored fish, as well as the occasional sea lion, sea turtle, spotted eagle ray, stingray, and black-tipped reef shark.

While non-feathered wildlife on land is more limited, you can expect to see lava lizards and Sally lightfoot crabs scuttering over the rocks.


Return to Puerto Ayora

You will return back the way you came, with a 2-2.5 hour boat ride back to the Itabaca Canal followed by a 45-minute bus journey to Puerto Ayora.

Your trip will conclude between 5pm – 6pm back in Puerto Ayora.

Recommended Bartolome Day Tour Operators

The company we went with and highly recommend was GalaTrails. While they only advertise their multi-day tour packages online, they will happily help you with any day tours.

Their communication was excellent from start to finish, the sailboat we took was beautiful, and the food was much better than expected.

There were also a lot of nice touches not all operators will provide, such as champagne, snacks, and dietary considerations.

You can also check out their 5-star reviews on TripAdvisor if you don’t want to just take our word for it!

Note that the naturalist guide you receive works for Galapagos National Park Conservancy, not for the tour operator. In other words, no tour operator can guarantee the quality of the guide you receive.

You can also browse other Bartolome Island tours available through Viator using the button below.

πŸ›³οΈ Bartolome Island Cruises

A cruise ship docks off of Playa Dorada on a sunny day in Isla Bartolome.
A cruise ship docks off of Playa Dorada.

Multi-island cruises that include Bartolome Island on the itinerary will depart from Baltra, Santa Cruz, or San Cristobal.

Galapagos cruises are generally 4 to 16 days in length and vary in capacity from 16 to 100 guests.

With so many islands and islets in the Galapagos, it can be hard to break it down into regions; beyond that, most cruise companies categorize their itineraries differently.

Typically, you will find itineraries broken down into north, south, east, and west loops, or into inner, outer, and central loops.

Bartolome Island tends to be included on north, inner, and central loop cruise itineraries.

You can browse some of the most popular cruises in the Galapagos, many of which include Bartolome, on Cruise Direct by using the button below.

⭐️ Our Personal Experience at Bartolome Island

We visited Isla Bartolome in April 2023 as a day tour from Santa Cruz.

Bartolome was one of the many day tours we did throughout several weeks in the Galapagos and was one of our favorites as photographers… of course, we got very lucky.

We went with GalaTrails who arranged everything and was incredible at communicating throughout.

Our instructions were to meet near our hotel at 5:50am. A bus picked us up around 6am and drove us 45 minutes north to the Itabaca Canal on the north side of the island where we would board “The Nautilus”.

Almost immediately after boarding, we were invited to sit indoors or out and enjoy a full breakfast featuring coffee, juice, eggs, granola, cheese, yogurt, fruit, and toast.

The journey to Bartolome took our vessel about 2.5 hours. It was a pleasant journey past Daphne Island for some eye candy along the way. Unfortunately, there were no shark or dolphin sightings which are unlikely but possible.

Once anchored, we boarded a small dinghy to take us to the starting point for the hike to the viewpoint. On the way, our captain pulled us close to a rock where we were able to photograph blue-footed boobies and the rare Galapagos penguins resting. It was a fantastic start!

We were delivered to the island where we began the slow ascent to the famous Bartolome Viewpoint. Along the way, our guide provided the group with information about the geological and biological history of this island, especially concerning its volcanic inception.

A young woman sits on the fence at the Bartholomew Island Viewpoint on a day tour in Galapagos.

We were incredibly lucky to receive a few fleeting moments of brilliant sunshine over the cove from the viewpoint which truly makes the island look spectacular. Having already photographed the rare penguins and now getting perfect conditions from the vista, we were feeling incredibly lucky.

The best was yet to come, however, when we strapped on our snorkel gear and explored the underwater life. Much to our delight, we were joined in the water by several Galapagos penguins, as well as a few more mating pairs putting on a show on the surface.

Not everyone will get as lucky as we did with the conditions and wildlife, but we are confident in recommending GalaTrails as the company we traveled to deliver an exceptional experience.

πŸ™‹πŸ½β€β™€οΈ FAQs about Bartolome Island

Perfect sunny day photo of Pinnacle Rock and Playa Dorada on Bartolome Island.

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Below are answers to the most frequently asked questions regarding visits to Bartolome Island.

Simply click the dropdown arrows to reveal answers.

How do you get to Bartolome Island?

You can only visit Bartolome Island on a day tour from Santa Cruz or by booking a Galapagos cruise that includes it as a stop on the itinerary.

Is Bartolome Island worth visiting?

Bartolome Island is worth visiting if you are interested in photographing the most beautiful Galapagos island and/or want a good chance at seeing the rare Galapagos penguin.

How much does it cost for a tour to Bartolome Island Galapagos?

You can book a day tour to Bartolome Island from Santa Cruz starting at $250 locally, or online from $340. While the online price is steep it is important for guaranteeing a spot as Bartolome has a strict limit on daily visitors and tours are often booked out weeks in advance.

What is Bartolome Island known for?

Bartolome Island is known as the most photogenic and naturally beautiful island in the Galapagos archipelago. It is also one of the few places where sightings of the endangered Galapagos penguin are common.

Other notable wildlife on Isla Bartolome includes the Galapagos hawk, sea lions, lava herons, and blue-footed boobies.

How long is the hike to Bartolome Viewpoint?

The hike to the iconic Bartolome Viewpoint is 0.45 miles each way with ~360 steps that lead to the summit. The steps and walkway are all wooden making it a reasonably easy walk.

πŸ“š More Galapagos Islands Travel Guides

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Hopefully, this guide has answered all of your questions, now it’s time for the rest of your planning!

These guides will help you through the process step-by-step, providing insight on everything from finding flights to top activities and so much more.

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πŸ’¬ Final Thoughts

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We truly hope you have found this guide to visiting Bartolome Island useful as you plan and/or consider your trip to Galapagos’ most beautiful island.

Now, we’d like to hear from YOU!

Was there any information you found confusing, inaccurate, missing, or outdated? Or perhaps it was perfect in every way?

Help us to help future readers by sharing your feedback in the comments below!

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Written by
Adam Marland is a professional travel blogger and landscape photographer from Oregon. After over a decade of experience as a freelance travel photographer, Adam found national acclaim when he became the National Park Foundation's β€œChief Exploration Officer” in 2021.

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