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Trip report Santa Cruz and Isabella!!

Lake Cathie...
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Trip report Santa Cruz and Isabella!!


We are back from our amazing week at Santa Cruz .we landed on 21st may after two weeks in Peru. We flew from Quito to Santa Cruz via Guayaquil.

Firstly I would like to thank Snaek29 from Australia with his detailed report of Galapogas he has written . It won't take you long to find it as there's over 100 comments on his post. We printed out his notes and took them with us and they were extremely helpful. He will save you hours so print his notes off, thanks Jake. We are not cruising people and like to do our own thing so this is a land based tour and we planned it al, ourselves. We saw some seriously burnt tourists so go prepared we took 90+ sunscreen which we brought on the mainland but you can get it there too. It's wasn't cheap but sure beats being miserable with serious burns!!!

We spent 3 nights on Santa Cruz . We had booked 3 nights accomadation at hotel Fiesta before we arrived as we like to ge organised but it's seemed quiet so you could probably organise this on arrival.Its an easy process at the airport on arrival, first a bus, then a water taxi . Once you arrive at Santa Cruz there are buses ready or lots of taxis. We paid 30 Us to get into the main town in a taxi. Taxis are Utes and your bags are tossed in the back so go prepared if there's rain !!!

We enjoyed Santa Cruz , walked everywhere which was easily done but if you don't want to walk there are " taxis " for 1US around town . The Charles Darwin centre was great, I can't believe they only ask for a donation to enter, I hope everyone is generous and donates . One day we hired a taxi and we went to the Reservation El Chato and walked amongst giant tortoises.the hotel ordered the taxi for us so although no English they knew where to take us. We got some great photos there.

The 3rd day we walked to Tortuga Bay,sign in when you get to the entrance at the top, go prepared to walk as its a fairly long walk and it was hot so take water .once you arrive at the beach head to the right and walk along the beach . You'll soon be surrounded by Iguanas and a beautiful bay, gorgeous white sand , the visibility wasn't great so we only saw sharks that day . But the beach is nice and worth the journey.

The Pier in Santa Cruz is always entertaining with the seals and other marine life, lots of action early evening. For a cheap seafood dinner go to Charles Binford St , there are heaps of different seafood kiosks lining the street all selling the daily catches and the food is really nice. We ate at Renardo and can recommend . Lobster was cheap .

We ate at Giardino Restaurant on the Main Street , lunch, dinner and cocktails were all beautiful. We kept going back as the view up stairs is also lovely.

One night we took a water taxi to the Angermere restaurant at finch bay resort. Get there abit earlier and sit over the water . The food was lovely and we caught a water taxi back , they sit there and wait . Take coins for the water taxi.

We did a bay tour which was ok but considering we then went to Isabella and paid the same money for a tour I'de say save your money for Isabella because it's much more spectacular.

One thing we didn't realise is there are many different " ferries" ( boats) going to the islands so we were grateful we asked to see the picture of the ferry as we were transported to Isabella on The Albany . Some of the ferries looked dodgy so the Albany had 3 outboard motors that appeared to be in good condition and all our luggage was stored underneath in a seperate compartment. They even went to the trouble to place people evenly in the boat to help balance it . Trust me you'll appreciate this as it can get rough .

The morning you leave for the islands get there half an hour earlier.each boat has a table to sign in, remember your receipt !!!! We left our main luggage in Santa Cruz , most hotels happy to hold your big suitcases and we took two small bags with us which is a much better idea if your coming back to Santa Cruz. They will inspect your bags at the pier before leaving.

Make sure you cash up . The ATMs in Santa Cruz will allow you only 300US maximum per day so we started to gather cash on the main land but interestingly the fees were a lot less at Santa Cruz. I believe you Can only get maximum 600US in Santa Cruz daily. As there were no ATMs in Isabella we needed to cash up . They dispensed 20US notes which was good.

We took the Albany boat to Isabela and the minute we Arrived we were greeted by crystal clear water and beautiful seals!!! I thought I'de stepped into heaven . Isabella town is like stepping back to the olden days. Don't go there expecting glamour but definitely go there!!!!

We were lucky to spend 3 nights there and they were the best days . As soon as we arrived we stayed at a hotel right on the beach called isamar luxury hotel. This was not Australian luxury conditions but really nice and the location was superb. It was quiet and to step onto the beach and see the seals swimming on the beach was priceless to us.

The hotel recommended Pahoehoe tours so we went straight there to book the ' Tintoreras tours' we paid 45US each . We also booked the Los Tunneles for 120US. Cash .

Both tours included all the gear and wetsuits , life jackets if need. We took our own snorkels from Australia.

The tintorereas tour was unbelievable , please, please do this tour!!! As soon as we jumped in we were swimming with seals and turtles, fish, etc. the visibility was incredible clear. We even saw 5 fairy penguins. It was the highlight of our week in Galapogas!!!

We also loved the Los Tunneles tour the next day , again what we saw was incredible. We were even joined by a mantra Ray on the way there. We saw the biggest turtles this day and so many amazing fish., sharks, sting rays etc. on land the tunnels are spectacular and we were lucky to see the blue footed boobies doing their lil dance!!!!

The company was great, thie guys so friendly and safety was also important to them.

Every afternoon we would go to the iguana bar ( big pink building on the beach, have cocktails, watch sunset and it was great as well. We would then eat dinner at Booby Trap across the rd, the food was good here. One night we had to book a table at Coca Surf on the Main Street. This humble looking cafe/ restaurant pumps out some great food. Both these restaurants cost more than the cheaper restaurants but my husband was really ill in Peru so we chose to only eat in great restaurants . The food was worth it.

After 3 amazing days in Isabella we took a water taxi back to Santa Cruz for our last night . We were sad to leave Isabella .

We shared a taxi back to the airport with another couple and it was only 25US between the two couples.

Would we do anything differently , yes we would have flown from Isabella to San cristobel then ferry back to Santa Cruz or fly home from San Cristobel which we sadly never got to see. Some said it was beautiful and classier than Isabella but they did admit the seaside on Isabella was spectacular.

So all up 7 nights for us would have been best to do 10 nights and see San cristobel too. It seemed quiet everywhere so perhaps you could choose accomadation once there and just go with the flow.

One thing I do know is if your going to go to the isalnds do yourself a favour and go to Isabella and enjoy!!!!

Hope I've helped someone out there, Jake helped us heaps so this is my gift to those wanting to do a land based holiday. Enjoy.

Edited: 09 June 2018, 12:58
3 replies to this topic
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1. Re: Trip report Santa Cruz and Isabella!!

Really great report, thank you. We hope to do exactly this same time next year. We only have 6 days total so can only have days arriving and departing in Santa Cruz and 4 days for Isabela.

We are also planning to go to the Amazon and then Peru after that.

Agree that Jakes's notes are awesome.

Adelaide, Australia
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2. Re: Trip report Santa Cruz and Isabella!!


It was so good to read your report. I was smiling throughout and it brought back many memories reading it.

No matter what I still can't shake the fear that one day someone is going to write "Read your guide, worst trip ever... thanks a lot jerk". Haha :)

Your comment of "burnt tourists" made me laugh. They are everywhere, aren't they! I even remember seeing a group of  tourists with gorgeous dark skin who you wouldn't expect to burn easily peeling extremely badly. The sun there can be intense.

I'm so glad that you got to see penguins and manta rays (I believe in the same places I saw them as well). These can be the most difficult for people to see so it's great that you were fortunate.

The Charles Darwin Centre was undergoing extensive renovation when I was there, so I only saw a small part of it. Good to know that those renovations yielded great results.

Awesome that you added places for good food options in your report. This was lacking in my guide and I'm sure future travellers will find that really useful.

Ahhhh.... yes. I forgot to mention that there are different quality boats for inter-island ferries in my guide. Rats, an oversight on my part. Good catch. Also your comment about leaving the bulk of your overall luggage in Santa Cruz when travelling to the other islands is great advice.

That first moment when you arrive at Isabela and look at the water is just a sight to behold huh! Just spectacular. The Tintorereas tour was one of my favorites also.

Thanks for your report, I am glad that the guide was useful to you and more importantly that you had a great Galapagos trip to remember.


Lake Cathie...
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3. Re: Trip report Santa Cruz and Isabella!!

Thankyou smaek29 , been looking at our go pro footage . The company we did the tours with on Isabella also downloaded photos and videos they took for us on the tour onto our SD cards or phones!!! I miss it already and thanks again for your very detailed report as it was fantastic advise.


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