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Our Thirteen Best Free Experiences in The Galapagos Islands - World Trip Family
World Trip Family

Our Thirteen Best Free Experiences in The Galapagos Islands

Traveling to The Galapagos Islands doesn’t have to be expensive. Hostal and hotel rooms are no more expensive than anywhere else. You can get a bed from $10 a night per person and a three-course meal from $4 per person. The islands are friendly, safe and laid-back and teaming with wildlife. You can visit the islands entirely on your own. Full disclosure: we combined these free experiences with a 60%-off last-minute, short cruise as a visit to the Galapagos remains a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experience and we wanted to get the most of it.

Also read our blog:

Fourteen Things I Wish I Knew About Budget Travel To The Galapagos

Our favorite, free activities, include some of all-time-trip-favorites:

Isabela

1. On Isabela, there is a beautiful walk to the turtle breeding center. On the way you can see many flamingos and marine iguanas. The breeding center itself is worthwhile too. Just make sure you don’t come during the siesta because you will miss the hatchlings.

Free Galapagos activity: Flamingo with marine iguana swimming in the background

Free Galapagos activity: Flamingo with marine iguana swimming in the background

Free Galapagos activity: marine iguana swimming on Isabela

Free Galapagos activity: marine iguana swimming on Isabela

2. On Isabela, take a swim near the harbor. Next to the pier, there is a small beach. Just let yourself float towards the boat. There are almost always penguins around. I got lucky and four of them came to float with me. They played with my camera and my fins. It was my top wildlife encounter of the entire trip, and 100% free. Video coming soon.

Best free Galapagos experiences: playing with penguins

Best free Galapagos experiences: playing with penguins

Best free Galapagos experiences: floating with penguins

Best free Galapagos experiences: floating with penguins

3. There are turtle breeding centers on Santa Cruz and Isabela. When we were there in June 2016 the Santa Cruz breeding center was under renovation and you could not see hatchlings, so Isabela was a better experience.

4. For some evening fun, head over to the pink house at the end of the beach; Casa Rosita has a lively happy hour from 5 pm to 7 pm. Old and young will enjoy balancing on the slackline here and watching locals perform their stunts. We treated ourselves to delicious brownies across the street at the Boobie Trap cafe afterward.

Best free experiences Galapagos: walking the tightrope at Casa Rosita

Best free experiences Galapagos: walking the tightrope at Casa Rosita

5. On your way to the ‘Wall of Tears’ (built by convicts during the early days of Galapagos as a penal colony) there are many potential stops. Our favorite was Playa Amor, a swallow tide pool with clear water and small wishes for an idyllic swim.

San Cristobal

6. On San Cristobal, there are several opportunities to swim with sea lions for free. They are very touchy-feely and like to come close to you. They will swim around you, at you, and are generally having a great time. It’s a thrilling experience. There are always sea lions ready for action at Playa Mann near downtown though currents there can be strong. If you go to the two beaches past the interpretation center (blanking on the names), there will be more waiting. We also swam with sea lions on our day trip to Punta Pitt. Video coming soon.

Free Galapagos activity: you can swim with sea lions

Free Galapagos activity: you can swim with sea lions

Santa Cruz

7. Make sure to stop by the fish market in Santa Cruz on the main drag, Darwin road. Pelicans and sea lions are always waiting there for scraps of fish, which is a funny sight. It is a fifteen-minute attraction but worthwhile.

Free Galapagos activity: sea lion waiting for his share in Santa Cruz harbor

Free Galapagos activity: sea lion waiting for his share in Santa Cruz harbor

8. A water taxi and $0.80 take you to the other side of the harbor. Walk past the ‘German Beach’ and a pink salt lake to find a lava gorge in between two high rocks with very clear water. It is fun to snorkel up and down and see the colorful that got trapped there.

Free Galapagos activity: Las Grietas snorkeling

Free Galapagos activity: Las Grietas snorkeling

9. Don’t bother taking a day trip to the highlands. You can rent a taxi to see giant land turtles in the wild there. Once upon a time the farmers loathed the turtles eating their crops. Now they charge $3 a person for tourists to see the critters roam free. It was one of our highlights.

Almost Free Galapagos activity: turtles in Santa Cruz highlands

Almost Free Galapagos activity: turtles in Santa Cruz highlands

Best free experiences Galapagos: lava tunnel

Best free experiences Galapagos: lava tunnel

10. In the highlands of Santa Cruz, you can also enter a lava tunnel. I wouldn’t make the trip just for the tunnel, but go in if you there anyway for the land turtles then tag this on.

11. Go to the pier at night. Every night we saw tens of adolescent black-tipped sharks near the dock, presumably attracted to the lights.

Free Galapagos activity: black-tipped sharks from pier in Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz)

Free Galapagos activity: black-tipped sharks from pier in Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz)

Best free Galapagos activities: playing soccer

Best free Galapagos activities: playing soccer

12. If you travel with kids, check out the many soccer fields dotted in Puerto Ayora. There is always a pickup game on and the locals are very friendly and happy to include your kids for a game. If you bring your own ball, as we did, you can even initiate a game and make new friends.

Anywhere

13. No matter which island you go to, you will see a lot of marine iguanas and sea lions, in town, on the beaches, on your walks. You don’t need to pay for any day tour or cruise to see these. We only saw marine iguanas swimming on Isabela, and we only swam with sea lions on San Cristobal, but that may be coincidence.

Also read our blog:

Fourteen Things I Wish I Knew About Budget Travel To The Galapagos

Free Galapagos activity: sea lions are everywhere

Free Galapagos activity: sea lions are everywhere

Free Galapagos activity: marine iguanas everywhere

Free Galapagos activity: marine iguanas everywhere

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