🐢 29 Best Galapagos Day Tours for an Epic Vacation (2024)

Best Galapagos Day Tours blog post cover image. Text overlaying an image of a cactus against bright turquoise water and red-tinted volcanic landscape.

While each of the inhabited Galapagos islands has a town and a few beaches and attractions you can explore on your own, the best way to truly see the Galapagos is by arranging day tours.

With 97% of the Galapagos archipelago protected as a national park, a day tour led by an official park guide is required to visit many of the region’s best destinations.

We spent two weeks in the Galapagos in April 2023 with the goal of creating up-to-date travel guides for future visitors. In that time, we visited six different islands and booked all of the most popular day tours to gain first-hand experience with each.

In this guide, we will explain everything you need to know about the best Galapagos day tours available, organized by the island of departure. This includes information on pricing, tour duration, personal recommendations, and what to expect from each tour.

Disclosure: In order to keep providing you with free content, this post likely contains affiliate links. If you make a booking or purchase through one of these links we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. So a HUGE thank you to you if you click one of these links 🙂

⛵️ About the Galapagos Islands
Know Before You Go!

Before skipping ahead, it is important to understand a little bit about this unique destination and why we have chosen to organize the best Galapagos day tours by island of departure.

Understand that there are three* inhabited islands within the Galapagos archipelago that you can stay on. In order of population and popularity, they are Santa CruzSan Cristobal, and Isabela.

*Technically, Floreana is also inhabited and allows overnight stays, but this is not a viable option for anyone except long-term backpackers.

Different Galapagos day tours are available from each of these three islands. Some tours will go to popular sites located in a remote part of the island, while others will be to one of the uninhabited islands nearby.

Most destinations that day tours will take you to require a boat, an official Galapagos National Park guide, or both. This means that you cannot visit them on your own or by making personal arrangements.

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. Hopefully, it will help to give you a better idea of the layout of the islands as you start to plan your day trips.

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.


🎟️ Booking Your Galapagos Day Tours

A 360 tour group gets off a speed boat onto the beach at Bahia Rosa Blanca on San Cristobal.

Many of the most popular Galapagos day tours sell out days, sometimes even weeks in advance!

We would typically recommend booking your preferred tours online in advance, particularly if you’re visiting during peak season. However, this isn’t quite so simple in the Galapagos islands. 

Booking a tour online will often cost you significantly more than booking at a local tour office once you are on the island.

For example, the 360° Day Tour from San Cristobal will cost you around $220-$260 online, compared to just $170-$180 at a local tour office on the island.

Additionally, most tour companies don’t even have websites! Even the ones that do rarely offer online bookings, but instead direct you to a local WhatsApp number to arrange your tour or redirect you to book through Viator.

You will, therefore, need to decide on the best option for you:

  1. Arrange the tour once on the island for a cheaper rate, but risk the tour being sold out.
  2. Book online through Viator or TourRadar for an easy and guaranteed tour, but at a higher price.
  3. Reach out to tour operators directly via WhatsApp, but navigate language barriers and pay a slightly higher price.

🏝 Best Galapagos Day Tours from Santa Cruz

Out of the three inhabited islands, Santa Cruz offers the most day tours. Some of them explore the island itself, such as the Santa Cruz Highlands tours, but most will be to one of the unique uninhabited islands nearby.

Below are the best Galapagos day tours that you can take from Santa Cruz Island.

On a personal note, our day trip to Bartolome Island was the highlight of our visit to the Galapagos in 2023 and is something we highly recommend to everyone!


1. Santa Cruz Highlands Tour

Highlights• Giant Galapagos tortoises
• Lava tunnels
• Los Gemelos (Twin Craters)
Cost$45+ locally, $100+ online
DurationHalf Day
Two people standing behind a giant tortoise in the Santa Cruz highlands on one of the best Galapagos day tours.

A Santa Cruz Highlands tour will typically include a visit to one of the highland farms, such as El Chato Ranch, to see wild Galapagos giant tortoises and lava tunnels.

It will also typically include a stop at Los Gemelos (Twin Craters), which are large sinkholes formed following volcanic activity.

The Highlands Tour is a good way to see the rest of Santa Cruz island outside of the one major town of Puerto Ayora.


2. Bartolome Island & Sullivan Bay Tour

Highlights• Bartolome Viewpoint
• Galapagos Penguins
• Pinnacle Rock
Cost$250+ local, $340+ online
DurationFull Day
View of Pinnacle Rock and surrounding bays from the Bartolome Viewpoint on a Galapagos day tour to Isla Bartolome.

Isla Bartolome is the most beautiful and photogenic of all the Galapagos islands.

The colorful landscape is fantastic and the photo opportunity from the viewpoint is the main reason people visit.

Beyond the natural beauty, Bartolome is also perhaps the best place to see Galapagos Penguins.

This was our favorite day trip, largely because we got to swim with penguins and saw blue-footed boobies for the first time.


3. Scuba Diving Gordon Rocks

Highlights• Hammerhead sharks
• Sea turtles
Cost$190+ locally, $225+ online
DurationFull Day
Two Galapagos sea turtles swim above a scuba diver on a day tour to Gordon Rocks from Santa Cruz island.

For those who are SCUBA certified, Gordon Rocks is one of the best dive sites in all of the Galapagos.

Most notably, it is one of the best locations to swim with hammerhead sharks!

You will also likely encounter sea turtles, reef sharks, and a plethora of vibrant fish.

We went with Academy Bay Diving and had a great experience.

4. Santa Fe Island Tour

Highlights• Santa Fe land iguanas
• Snorkeling with sea lions
Cost$130+ locally, $160+ online
DurationFull Day
A view of Isla Sante Fe taken from a boat on a Galapagos day tour from Santa Cruz.

Isla Santa Fe is home to the largest variety of endemic wildlife in the Galapagos, including a unique species of land iguana.

The bay is also home to a large group of sea lions, meaning you are all but guaranteed to snorkel with them here!

The island’s landscape is also impressive, with giant prickly pear cactus staged against a backdrop of picturesque turquoise water.

5. Pinzon Island Tour

Highlights• Crystal clear water snorkeling
• Large shark population
Cost$130+ locally, $170+ online
DurationFull Day
A Galapagos shark seen on a snorkeling day tour.

Those interested in island hopping around Galapagos should put a day tour to Isla Pinzon near the top of the list.

While the island itself is not much to look at (landings are not permitted, in fact), the water here is the clearest we snorkeled anywhere in Galapagos.

This unbeatable visibility made for some truly special photos and videos, and Pinzon was one of the few places we got to see Galapagos sharks.


6. North Seymour & Bachas Day Tour

Highlights• Large resident blue-footed booby colony
• Nesting great and magnificent frigate birds
Cost$220+ locally, $320+ online
DurationFull Day
Magnificent frigate bird with red inflated throat pouch on North Seymour Island Galapagos.

North Seymour Island is perhaps the best island for bird-watching in the Galapagos.

It is home to the largest colony of magnificent and great frigate birds, famed for the males’ bright red throat pouches.

Blue-footed boobies also nest on North Seymour, making it a great place to witness their hilarious mating dance.

Beyond the avian life, North Seymour also boasts one of the largest sea lion colonies, excellent snorkeling, and a plethora of other wildlife including the endemic Galapagos snake and land iguanas.


7. South Plaza Island Tour

Highlights• One of the largest land iguana populations
• Vibrant red & purple vegetation
• Nesting sea birds
• Snorkeling at Punta Carrion
Cost$220+ locally, $300+ online
DurationFull Day
A land iguana seen on a Galapagos day tour to South Plaza Island.

South Plaza is home to the largest colony of land iguanas, as well as a new, unique hybrid species of iguana and a host of sea birds.

In addition to impressive wildlife and great snorkeling, you’ll also find a dazzling array of vegetation. This creates a unique landscape unlike any other in the Galapagos.

Vibrant red and purple Sesuvian creates a dense, colorful carpet, contrasting against the prickly pear cacti.

A day tour here will also typically stop for snorkeling at Punta Carrion, just off Santa Cruz island.

8. Floreana Island Tour

Highlights• Black sand beach
• Green sand beach
• Historical pirate’s cave
• First Galapagos “Post Office”
Cost$150+ locally, $220+ online
DurationFull Day
Flamingoes feeding in a lagoon on Floreana Island Galapagos

Of all the Galapagos islands, Floreana has the richest and most fascinating human history.

As well as being the site of the first “post office”, it was home to the first Galapagos resident from 1807-1809 and was subsequently the first island to be colonized by Ecuador in 1832.

Although its limited freshwater access makes it tough to inhabit these days, Floreana still sustains a population of around 150 people and visitors can stay overnight.

In addition to its human history, Floreana is also home to both a black sand and green sand beach, as well as a colony of flamingos.

9. Academy Bay Snorkeling Tour

Highlights• Las Grietas
• Canal del Amor (Channel of Love)
• Playa de los Perros
• Canal Tiburón (Shark Canal)
Cost$40+ locally, $55+ online
DurationHalf Day
View of Academy Bay from La Grietas viewpoint.

Academy Bay is the natural bay that Puerto Ayora inhabits.

A half-day tour will take you on a boat ride to a number of different locations throughout the bay and give you time for both snorkeling and on-land excursions.

It is one of the shorter trips available for people who want to see more of the island but are limited on time.

10. Day Tour to Isabela Island

Highlights• Tintoreras
• Isabela wetlands (humedales)
• Playa Puerto Villamil
• Giant Tortoise Breeding Center
Cost$180+ locally, $200+ online
DurationFull Day
Palm trees sway over Playa Isabela with the welcome to Isabela sign displayed in Puerto Villamil.

If your Galapagos itinerary doesn’t include time to actually stay overnight on Isabela, then a day tour is a great option.

On a day tour to Isabela from Santa Cruz, you will travel to the island by speedboat and then undertake activities from there.

While the exact activities included will depend on your tour, most include:

  • Boat ride and snorkeling at Tintoreras where you can see Galapagos penguins and reef sharks.
  • A visit to the wetlands to see flamingos.
  • The tortoise breeding center to see Galapagos tortoises.
  • Time to explore Playa Puerto Villamil.

11. Las Grietas

Highlights• Crystal clear water for snorkeling
• Impressive geological formations
Cost$10 entry + $2 water taxi
DurationHalf Day
Snorkeling Las Grietas is one of the best things to do in Galapagos on Santa Cruz.

Las Grietas is a large fissure located near Puerto Ayora and is among the most heralded places to snorkel in Galapagos.

The fissure is comprised of towering dark volcanic rock that runs along both sides, with calm crystal clear water at its base.

Upon arrival at Las Grietas, if you do not have a tour booked, you will pay to join a group tour with a naturalist guide.

While you don’t have to book a guided tour in advance, it is no longer possible to enter without this guide.

Las Grietas is also a common stop in the half-day Academy Bay tour.


🦭 Best Galapagos Day Tours from San Cristobal

While there are a number of great beaches and things to do in San Cristobal that don’t require tours, many of the best destinations in and around San Cristobal require a boat or national park guide (or both!) to visit.

Below is a collection of the best Galapagos day tours from San Cristobal.

On a personal note, the San Cristobal 360º Tour was the highlight of our entire trip to the Galapagos and is our one must-do recommendation!


1. 360° Tour

Highlights• Kicker Rock
• Bahia Sardina
• Punta Pitt
• Bahia Rosa Blanca
Cost$170+ locally, $220+ online
DurationFull Day
Bahia Sardina seen on a 360 day tour with bright turquoise water in the foreground and white sand beach with green rugged mountains in the background.

The 360° Tour began as a way for fishermen to make some money off tourists, but has become perhaps the best day tour available in all of Galapagos.

On this day trip, visitors will be taken by boat around the entirety of San Cristobal island, making stops at some of the most beautiful beaches in Galapagos as well as the famous Kicker Rock.

If you are staying on San Cristobal, this is a genuine must-do.

We consider it THE best day tour in the Galapagos!

2. Kicker Rock Day Tour

Highlights• Rock formation
• Hammerhead sharks
• Crystal clear water snorkeling
Cost$150+ locally, $220+ online
DurationFull Day
An over/under photo showing the crack at Kicker Rock both above and below water, captured during a 360º day tour of San Cristobal island.

Kicker Rock is widely considered the best location for diving and snorkeling in Galapagos and is one of the best places to see Galapagos Hammerhead sharks.

The crystal-clear water makes visibility spectacular and the area is teeming with marine life.

Expect plenty of tropical fish, bait balls, sea turtles, sea lions, and probably hammerheads!

Kicker Rock can be visited as its own day tour or as a stop on the 360° Tour. It is also one of the best diving sites for those who are SCUBA-certified.

3. San Cristobal Highlands Tour

Highlights• Galapaguera de Cerro Colorado.
• Laguna El Junco.
• Playa Puerto Chino.
Cost$60+ locally, $100+ online
DurationHalf Day
Several large adult Galapagos tortoises wallowing in water in a pool at Galapaguera de Cerro Colorado San Cristobal Island.

A San Cristobal Highlands Tour will take you to three popular sites on the island:

The highlands tour is a great way to see a different part of San Cristobal and provides an opportunity to see giant Galapagos tortoises up close.

While it is possible to book a tour to the San Cristobal Highlands with an English-speaking guide, it is not necessary!

The most popular and easiest way to visit is by booking a taxi “tour”. This can be done through any tour operator or via your accommodation host/hotel staff.

If your Spanish is good enough, you can also just speak to any taxi driver directly.


4. Isla Lobos Tour

Highlights• Sea lions
• Nesting frigate birds
• Nesting blue-footed boobies
Cost$120+ locally, $160+ online
DurationHalf day
An underwater image of a sea lion surfacing for breath in crystal clear water off of Isla Lobos Galapagos.

Just off the coast of San Cristobal, Isla Lobos is named for its thriving sea lion (lobos de marinos in Spanish) population.

In addition to sea lions, the small islet is home to a number of Galapagos birds including blue-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, and frigate birds.

Its crystal clear waters also make it a great place for snorkeling in the Galapagos, with sea lions being the star attraction.


5. Española Island Tour

Highlights• Waved albatross
• Gardner Bay
• Colorful marine iguanas
Cost$220+ locally, $275+ online
DurationFull Day
A pair of courting waved albatross on Española Island Galapagos

Although most visitors head to Española Island to see the waved albatross that nests here, there is plenty more to see on the island!

With its pristine white sand, Gardner Bay is one of the most beautiful beaches in Galapagos and an excellent place for snorkeling.

It is also home to a unique colorful subspecies of marine iguanas, nicknamed Christmas iguanas due to their green and red colors.

Their colors are particularly pronounced during mating season.

6. Punta Pitt

Highlights• Nesting sea birds
• Olivine sand beach
Cost$150+ locally, $180+ online
DurationFull Day
A red footed booby perched in a tree at Punta Pitt.

Punta Pitt is most well known for being the only location in the Galapagos where you can see all three species of boobies (Nazca Blue-footed, and Red-footed) nesting in one place.

Additionally, it provides a nesting site for both species of frigate birds, making it a true birdwatcher’s paradise.

As if this wasn’t enough, it is also one of the few places you can walk on an olivine sand beach, often called “green sand beach”!

A day tour to Punta Pitt typically includes a snorkel stop.

It is also often a stop on the 360° Tour but, in this instance, you only sail by it without making a landing.

🌋 Best Galapagos Day Tours from Isabela

Isabela is the largest and least developed of the three major inhabited islands.

Aside from the incredible Playa Puerto Villamil beach that runs along town and a few local gems, most of the island can only be explored via day tour.

Below are the best Galapagos day tours from Isabela island.


1. Los Tuneles (Cabo Rosa)

Highlights• Blue-footed boobies
• Sea horses
• Sea turtles
• Sharks
• Lava tunnels
Cost$110+ locally, $150+ online
DurationHalf Day
A young man crouched behind a blue footed booby at Los Tuneles Isabela Island Galapagos

Assuming you have an interest in snorkeling, Los Tuneles is one of the best day tours in the Galapagos and our absolute favorite on Isabela.

On this tour, you will explore an underwater world surrounding ancient lava tunnels.

On the land, this is the best place in Galapagos for seeing the iconic blue-footed boobies up close and personal.

A host of interesting submarine landscapes and tons of marine life await you underwater.

In particular, the sea turtles here are incredibly plentiful and it is one of the few places to reliably encounter sea horses.


2. Sierra Negra Volcano Hike

Highlights• Views of Sierra Negra crater
Cost$35+ locally, $65+ online
DurationHalf Day or Full Day
A young woman taking a photo at the edge of the Sierra Negra caldera after hiking the volcano.

The Sierra Negra volcano hike takes you to the rim of the great caldera of a still-active volcano.

From the rim, visitors will gaze across a black, baron landscape that abuts a lush green mountainside.

The length of the hike varies from 4-10+ miles (6-16+ km). This depends on the tour you select as some stop at the first viewpoint, whereas others continue on to Volcan Chico.

For those that prefer, there is also the option to ride horseback to Sierra Negra.

3. Las Tintoreras Tour

Highlights• Kayaking and/or snorkeling
• Galapagos penguins (during cold season)
• Sea turtles
• White tip reef sharks
Cost$50+ locally, $60+ online
DurationHalf Day
A sea lion pops out of the water to greet a tour group enjoying a guided kayaking excursion on Isabela island.

There are a number of different tours that you can take to Tintoreras, so be sure to select the one that sounds best to you.

These can include kayaking only, snorkeling and kayaking, or a boat ride and snorkeling. Some even include landing on Tintoreras islet.

We highly recommend booking a tour that includes snorkeling and kayaking.

Reaching Tintoreras by kayak is a much more fun way of getting there, but you will also want to get in the water as it’s harder to make out the marine life from your kayak.

During the cold season, Tintoreras is a common spot to see Galapagos penguins. Year-round you have a good chance of seeing sea lions, turtles, white-tip reef sharks, and rays, as well as various birds.

4. Galapagos Sulfur Mine Tour (Minas de Azufre)

Highlights• Dramatic volcanic landscapes
Cost$80+ locally, $100+ online
DurationHalf Day
Fumaroles and vibrant volcanic landscapes seen on a Galapagos day tour to the sulfur mines on Isabela Island.

For many years, sulfur was mined here for use as sulfuric acid in many chemical and pharmaceutical processes.

The mines are no longer in use, but they still provide a unique otherworldly landscape of green and yellow rock.

A tour to the sulfur mines starts with a 45-minute drive to the Galapagos National Park checkpoint.

From here, you will hike for around 2 miles (3km) to the mines where you can spot sulfur emissions rising up out of fumaroles.

There is also the option to reach the mines by bicycle or horseback for those who prefer not to hike.

5. Isla Tortuga

Highlights• Excellent snorkeling
Cost$120+ locally, $150+ online
DurationHalf Day
A group of spotted eagle rays seen on a snorkeling day tour in the Galapagos.

Just a short boat ride from Isabela Island is the small islet known as Isla Tortuga or Turtle Island, supposedly named for its shape rather than inhabitants.

The snorkeling is excellent for spotting hammerhead sharks, Galapagos sharks, blacktip reef sharks, manta rays, eagle rays, and starfish!

It is also a great place to spot a lot of seabirds, including blue-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, frigate birds, and lava gulls.

6. Los 4 Hermanos & Cartago Bay

Highlights• Excellent snorkeling & diving
CostPrivate charter only ~$2000 for up to 10 people
DurationHalf Day
A green sea turtle seen snorkeling in the Galapagos islands

One hour by speed boat from Isabela are four island rock formations known as Los 4 Hermanos (The 4 Brothers).

This is one of the best snorkeling spots in all of Galapagos. The deep sea site offers a high chance of seeing pelagic fish as well as hammerhead sharks, Galapagos sharks, and manta rays. It is also a popular SCUBA diving sit.

A day tour will also include a stop at Cartago Bay, which offers a sheltered area for shallow-water snorkeling. Here you are likely to swim with sea turtles, rays, sharks, and various fish.

This tour is typically only offered by private charter and the price per person will depend on the number in your group.

🙋🏽‍♀️ FAQs About Galapagos Day Tours

What are the best day tours in Galapagos?

The top 5 Galapagos day tours are:

  1. Kicker Rock / 360° Tour (from San Cristobal)
  2. Bartolome Island (from Santa Cruz)
  3. Los Tuneles (from Isabela)
  4. Sierra Negra Volcano (from Isabela)
  5. Highlands Tours (Santa Cruz / San Cristobal)
What are the best day tours from Santa Cruz in the Galapagos?

Santa Cruz has the most day tours available of any Galapagos island. The best Galapagos day tours from Santa Cruz are:

  1. Santa Cruz Highlands Tour
  2. Bartolome Island & Sullivan Bay Tour
  3. Scuba Diving Gordon Rocks
  4. Santa Fe Island Tour
  5. Pinzon Island Tour
  6. North Seymour & Bachas Day Tour
  7. South Plaza Island Tour
  8. Floreana Island Tour
  9. Academy Bay Snorkeling Tour
  10. Day Tour to Isabela Island
What are the best day tours from San Cristobal in the Galapagos?

The best day tours from San Cristobal are:

  1. 360° Tour
  2. Kicker Rock Day Tour
  3. San Cristobal Highlands Tour
  4. Isla Lobos Tour
  5. Española Island Tour
  6. Punta Pitt
What are the best day tours from Isabela in the Galapagos?

The best day tours from Isabela island are:

  1. Los Tuneles (Cabo Rosa)
  2. Sierra Negra Volcano Hike
  3. Las Tintoreras Tour
  4. Galapagos Sulfur Mine Tour (Minas de Azufre)
  5. Isla Tortuga
  6. Los 4 Hermanos & Cartago Bay
Which Galapagos islands can you visit on a day tour?

There are four inhabited Galapagos islands that you can stay on, they are Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Isabela, and Floreana.

In addition, the following islands can all be visited on a day tour from one of the inhabited islands listed above:

  1. Bartolome Island
  2. Santa Fe Island
  3. Pinzon Island
  4. North Seymour Island
  5. South Plaza Island
  6. Española Island
  7. Isla Tortuga
  8. Isla Lobos

Any Galapagos islands not listed above can only be visited by cruise.

Can you take a day tour to Baltra Island in the Galapagos?

There are no day tours to Baltra island. However, you will have a chance to see it from out the plane and bus window on your journey to/from Galapagos Ecological Airport (GPS).

📚 More Galapagos Islands Travel Guides

The two of us work very hard to create these free travel guides to help you plan your dream vacation. If you think we’ve done a good job and would like to say thanks, please consider clicking the donate button below 🙂

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.

Planning Guides

Local Guides

Things to Do Guides

💬 Final Thoughts

Underwater photo of a young sea lion coming up for breath captured on a Galapagos snorkeling tour.

The two of us work very hard to create these free travel guides to help you plan your dream vacation. If you think we’ve done a good job and would like to say thanks, please consider clicking the donate button below 🙂

We truly hope you have found this guide to the best Galapagos day tours useful as you plan the Ecuadorian vacation of a lifetime!

Now we’d like to hear from YOU!

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Or perhaps this is the best guide you’ve found on the topic and had all of your questions answered?

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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 “Chief Exploration Officer” in 2021.

2 thoughts on “🐢 29 Best Galapagos Day Tours for an Epic Vacation (2024)”

  1. I’ve always wanted to visit the Galapagos Islands. I really appreciate this guide for first-time visitors. I’ll be saving this for a future trip!


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