🤿 Isla Pinzon Ultimate Guide: Why & How to Visit (2024)

Isla Pinzon Galapagos blog cover image.  Text overlaying an underwater photo of a Galapagos shark surrounded by blue water seen while snorkeling at Pinzon Island.

Isla Pinzon is a small, uninhabited island in the Galapagos that is popular for day trips from Santa Cruz island to the west. It is famous for crystal-clear water snorkeling and a thriving shark population.

It is very rare for any Galapagos cruise to include Pinzon Island in its itinerary. Instead, visitors will need to book a day tour from Santa Cruz to experience this remote location.

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

We visited Galapagos twice in 2023, once on a self-guided trip and once on a tour. Of the dozens of locations we snorkeled, nowhere else did we find such clear water nor such a healthy population of sharks as we did at Isla Pinzon!

🦈 Isla Pinzon Overview

Before you begin, first understand that a day tour to Isla Pinzon from Santa Cruz does not mean you will actually get to explore the island. There are no visitor sites on Pinzon Island, and a special permit is required to even step foot onto the island.

With its 100-meter cliffs, the raised coastline of Pinzon does not provide a suitable deboarding point for visitors to make a landing. Also, the Galapagos National Park only provides permits for scientists and researchers.

Instead, day tours to Isla Pinzon will take guests to Penguin Bay (Bahía Pingüino) where the water is impressively clear and the wildlife is plentiful.

Additionally, most tours will land at La Fe Beach or Las Palmitas Bay on Santa Cruz where you can snorkel and often see marine iguanas.

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

How to Get ThereDay tour from Santa Cruz or (rarely) Galapagos Cruise.
Day Tour Cost$130+ in person, $170+ online
Time for Day Tour~ 7 hours
Included with Day Tour2 snorkel spots, boat ride, fishing exhibition, lunch
Notable WildlifeSharks, turtles, sea lions, occasionally penguins, rays, dolphins, boobies
Physical RequirementsSufficient mobility for snorkeling
Other NamesPinzón Island, Duncan Island

🗺️ 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 find Pinzon between Santa Cruz and Isabela islands.

🐧 Why Visit Isla Pinzon

Pinzon Island is home to perhaps the clearest water you will snorkel in the Galapagos archipelago and is absolutely teeming with marine life.

The promise of underwater wildlife encounters are the primary reason to visit Pinzon Island, which includes a healthy population of sharks, rays, sea turtles, and sea lions. Most visitors will also see the iconic blue-footed booby perched on Nameless Rock nearby.

Most notably for many, Isla Pinzon is also one of the best places to see the endangered Galapagos penguins, but only during the “cold season” (June – December).

As the clarity is so extraordinary, Pinzon is also the best place for underwater photography – even if that is just with a GoPro!


⛵️ How to Get to Isla Pinzon

A view of Nameless Rock taken on a speedboat headed for Isla Pinzon.

Despite its central location and relative proximity to the most inhabited Galapagos island of Santa Cruz, Isla Pinzon is one of the least visited islands in the archipelago. What’s more, it is rarely included as a stop even on island-hopping cruises.

Therefore, the best way to get there is by booking a day tour from Santa Cruz!

There are a myriad of tour operators with signs outside their storefronts in the tourist hub of Puerto Ayora. These operators will arrange your trip and prices tend to be around $130-$150 locally.

If you book your tour online, you will find that prices fluctuate more ranging from $170-$250. Online bookings cost a bit more, but they are the best way to ensure you get your spot on the tour which often fills up days or weeks in advance.

To reach Pinzon Island, you will begin at the Santa Cruz main pier (Gus Angermeyer Pier) in Puerto Ayora. From here, a water taxi ($1) will ferry you to a speed boat which will deliver you the rest of the way to Pinzon.

Pinzon is also a popular dive site for divers of all levels. Its tranquil waters are great for beginner divers, while a steep drop-off provides an incredible dive site for intermediate and advanced divers.

Technically, it is possible to sail to Pinzon Island on a self-guided voyage, but the multitude of restrictions makes this nearly impossible for all but the most experienced and well-prepared sailors.


🤿 All About Isla Pinzon Day Tours

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

For the vast majority of tourists, booking a day tour to Isla Pinzon from the town of Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz island will be the only to see this remarkable place.

Because the entirety of the Galapagos Archipelago is a protected National Park space, an official park guide is required for a visit to Pinzon.

This means you cannot avoid booking a day tour by hiring someone privately or otherwise avoid going through a tour operator.

Technically, those adept at sailing can visit Pinzon without a tour, but the list of permits, qualifications, and restrictions that must be adhered to makes this option all but prohibitive.

Price / Availability

Day tours to Isla Pinzon start at $130-$150 USD if booked in person in Puerto Ayora, or range from $170-$250 if you want to book online in advance.

While pre-booking online gets a bit pricey, it guarantees your place on a tour that often fills up days or weeks in advance.

If you are set on visiting Pinzon and your itinerary is rigid, online booking will be your best option.

Time / Itinerary

A sea lion takes a hearty yawn while resting on the rocky coastline of Isla Pinzon.

Tours to Isla Pinzon are about 7 hours long including commute, beginning at 8am and returning to port by 3pm or so.

While each operator may vary times slightly or complete the tour in reverse, the standard itinerary for an Isla Pinzon day tour is as follows:

  • 8:00am: Transport from hotel to Main Pier
  • 8:15am: Water taxi to speedboat, then speedboat to first stop
  • 9:00am: Snorkeling at La Fe Beach or Palmitas Bay (Santa Cruz)
  • 11:30am: Arrival and snorkeling at Penguin Bay in Isla Pinzon
  • 12:30pm: Lunch on the boat
  • 1:00pm: Drag fishing at Nameless Rock
  • 3:00pm: Arrive back to Puerto Ayora

Highlights & What to Expect

A day tour to Isla Pinzon is primarily a snorkeling excursion, but it does offer some of the best snorkeling in all of the Galapagos.

On a tour, you will snorkel at two spots. The first will be at La Fe or Palmitas Bay on the far side of Santa Cruz Island, and the other in a small inlet just off the shore of Pinzon Island, known as Penguin Bay.

On the way, you may see dolphins and the occasional ray splashing out of the water. Otherwise, the 3 hours or so you spend boating to and from your destination should largely be looked at as a leisurely cruise.

Most, if not all, Pinzon tours include “fishing” at Nameless Rock in the itinerary as well. The technique used is known in the angler world as “trolling”, which is when you simply drag a lure off the back of the boat.

While snorkeling in the waters of Isla Pinzon, you can expect to see plenty of small reef sharks and Galapagos sharks – neither of which are the least bit dangerous to humans!

You will also likely see sea lions, sea turtles, and plenty of tropical fish. You may see rays as well.

If you visit Isla Pinzon in the cold season (June-December) and are lucky, you may also get to see the endangered Galapagos penguin, for which Penguin Bay is named.

Do not expect to actually explore the island of Pinzon. Due to a tall coastal shelf, landings are not possible and access to the island requires a special permit.


Recommended Tour Operators

The company we went to Isla Pinzon with and highly recommend was Rebecca Adventure Travel. While they only advertise their multi-day tour packages online, they will happily help you with any day tours if you contact them directly.

Where most things are equal regarding pricing and itinerary with every tour operator, Rebecca Adventure Travel excels when it comes to communication, efficiency, and meals.

Note that the naturalist guide you receive works for and is appointed by the Galapagos National Park Conservancy, not for the tour operator.

In other words, no tour operator can guarantee the quality of the guide you receive, but most are good.

While we recommend Rebecca Adventure Travel, there are lots of other options you can consider for Pinzon Island tours available through Viator. Browse using the button below.

🛳️ Isla Pinzon Cruises

While Isla Pinzon is centrally located within the archipelago and is only 10km west of Santa Cruz, it is very rarely included as a stop on Galapagos island-hopping cruise itineraries.

You will find some cruises that will pass by the island, but it is not common for any cruises to make stops here.

Still, cruises are a great way to see a wide variety of islands without having to do any planning of your own. Whether Isla Pinzon is a priority or not, you can browse some of the most popular cruises in the Galapagos on Cruise Direct by using the button below.

⭐️ Our Personal Experience Visiting Isla Pinzon

We visited Isla Pinzon on a day tour from Santa Cruz in 2023 as part of a self-guided trip to the Galapagos islands.

There were plenty of companies to choose from with prices being mostly the same wherever we looked. In the end, we went with Rebecca Adventure Travel due to their 5-star reviews and exceptional communication in getting our trip arranged.

As you will come to find, communication is not typically a strength of local Galapagueños which can be quite frustrating.

A driver from Rebecca Adventure Travel picked us up from our hotel promptly at 8am and delivered us to the main pier. After the rest of our small group arrived, we took a water taxi ($1 per person) to our vessel for the day.

The first stop was snorkeling off the beautiful La Fe Beach on the far side of Santa Cruz. This is a spot with famously clear water but, unfortunately, there wasn’t much swimming around except for the usual tropical fish.

A view of the cactus field looming over crystal clear water off of La Fe Beach on Santa Cruz island.

From La Fe, it was another 45 minutes to Isla Pinzon during which the fortunate travelers will see dolphins and rays splashing about. We were not among the fortunate on this trip (though we would eventually see them on a different day).

Our speedboat anchored in the most pristine water I think I have yet to snorkel in, just off the coast of Pinzon Island at Penguin Bay. We eagerly jumped in the water and immediately were greeted by several Galapagos sharks cruising by.

After spending time trying to get some photos of the sharks, we explored more of the underwater world and were absolutely delighted by the water clarity.

We spent the entirety of our time snapping some incredible shots of playful sea lions, patient sea turtles, and plenty more sharks.

When we’d finished in the water, it was back to the boat where a surprisingly delicious and well-prepared meal awaited us.

The last item on the itinerary was touted as a fishing demonstration at Nameless Rock, but this was also the most disappointing portion of the trip.

“Fishing” simply means dragging a line behind the boat as it cruises back and forth. There were some blue-footed boobies perched on Nameless Rock which were neat to see, but it was otherwise a poor use of time in our view.

From what I understand, the fishing portion of the tour is included on EVERY Pinzon Island day tour itinerary, so we can’t hold it against our particular operator. Still, this felt like precious time that could have been better spent.

A fairly typical afternoon rain chased us back toward Santa Cruz as our tour came to an end.

Our Personal Pinzon Island Recommendation

Is Pinzon Island worth visiting?

The snorkeling at Pinzon Island was easily some of the best we experienced during several weeks of traveling in Galapagos, second only to the famous Kicker Rock off of San Cristobal.

We highly recommend visiting Pinzon as a day tour from Santa Cruz specifically if you are interested in snorkeling, underwater photography, and seeing the endangered Galapagos penguins.

You will simply not find clearer water or a healthier population of sharks, nor are there many places that provide a better chance of seeing the penguins (during the cold season).

If you do not do well on boats, are unable to snorkel, are on a backpacker budget, or only have 1-2 days on Santa Cruz, we would not recommend a day tour to Pinzon.

For those who have seen the photos, read this far, and have decided they would like to visit, we absolutely recommend Rebecca Adventure Travel as a tour operator. Where most things are equal regarding pricing and itinerary with every operator, Rebecca Adventure Travel excels with communication, efficiency, and meals.

🙋🏽‍♀️ FAQs about Pinzon Island

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

Simply click the dropdown arrows to reveal answers.

How do you get to Isla Pinzon?

The only way for tourists to get to Isla Pinzon is by booking a day tour from Santa Cruz. Very few cruises include Pinzon as a stop on the itinerary.

To reach Isla Pinzon, you will begin at the Santa Cruz main pier (Gus Angermeyer Pier) in Puerto Ayora. From here, a water taxi ($1) will ferry you to a speed boat which will deliver you the rest of the way to Pinzon.

Is Pinzon Island worth visiting?

Pinzon Island is worth visiting if you are interested in snorkeling with sharks, sea turtles, sea lions, rays, and the rare Galapagos penguin (cold season only).

It is not worth visiting if you cannot snorkel or are short on time in Galapagos.

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

You can book a day tour to Pinzon Island from Santa Cruz for $130-$150 locally, or pre-book online for $170-$250.

While the online price is expensive, it is the only way to guarantee a spot in advance as tours to Pinzon Island often sell out days or weeks in advance.

What is Pinzon Island known for?

Pinzon Island is known for its incredible snorkeling and crystal-clear water, which supports a healthy population of sharks and Galapagos penguins. It is a popular day tour from Santa Cruz.

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We truly hope you have found this guide useful as you plan or consider a day trip out to Isla Pinzon. It was one of the best things we did during our time in Galapagos!

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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.

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