Don't have an Account? Sign up now.
Forgotten Password?
Log In
Save $1,000 per couple | $500 solo

The Galapagos by Land + Highlands of Ecuador

7 days

A uniquely flexible private journey

Overall Rating
based on 6 Reviews

Email   Email
Share   Email
Print

Andean Traditions + Condors + The Galapagos

+ Spend two nights at a 17th-century highland hacienda, now lovingly restored to welcome guests with landscaped gardens and stylish, generously appointed guestrooms and salons.
+ Get an up-close view of Andean condors and other endangered raptors at a wildlife refuge dedicated to their rescue, rehabilitation and protection.
+ Experience the traditional ways that endure in Highland villages like San Pablo, set on the shores of a pristine lake.
+ Stop in Cayambe to sample the biscuits and biscotti that have been baked here from family recipes handed down through generations.
+ Spend three nights at our Galapagos resort, nestled in the highland forests of Santa Cruz, and see the island’s Giant Tortoises in their native habitat.
+ Tailor your Galapagos stay with the included excursion of your choice, traveling by yacht to explore the flora and fauna of South Plaza, North Seymour or Santa Island.
+ Experience a slice of rural life in the Galapagos on a working sugar and coffee plantation on Santa Cruz Island
+ Includes all gratuities except for your Trip Leader

Visit 1 UNESCO World Heritage Site c
 

Show all itinerary details

Day
1

Arrive Quito + Travel to Otavalo

Hacienda Cusin - Otavalo, Ecuador

On arrival at the airport, you’ll be warmly greeted and escorted to your awaiting car and driver. Heading north along the Pan American Highway, you’ll be chauffeured to our enchanting highland resort, set on the grounds of a 17th-century hacienda estate. The balance of this day is yours to enjoy the extraordinary ambience and splendid setting of Hacienda Cusin

Day
2

After breakfast, this morning is at leisure to enjoy the amenities and included activities here at Hacienda Cusin. Horseback riding and mountain biking are two delightful and intimate ways to experience the natural beauty of the Ecuadorean Highlands. Of course, you can also take this time to relax or enjoy a stroll through the estate’s garden grounds. Just before midday, your personal car and driver will take you to a charming restaurant with captivating views across the mountain landscapes of Imbabura Province and San Pablo Lake.

After lunch, you’ll continue to Condor Parque, set on a hillside overlooking the valley with great views of the Imbabura and Cotacachi Volcanoes. Here you’ll learn about the work being done to rescue and rehabilitate a variety of raptors – with the ultimate goal of returning these magnificent birds to their native habitats. It’s a fascinating and inspiring visit that offers a chance to observe and learn about a variety of species including hawks, eagles, owls and the endangered Andean Condor. Back at Hacienda Cusin, the evening is free to enjoy and dine as you wish.  Meals B+L
 

Day
3

Village Life + Culture

Quito Polo Club - Quito, Ecuador

After breakfast, check out from our hacienda resort to begin a day of privately guided sightseeing, setting out first across the calm waters of San Pablo Lake to the charming village of San Pablo del Lago. With insight from your personal guide, you’ll witness scenes of daily life playing out along the lakeshore – where women wash their clothes as they have for generations and fishermen set out in their handmade canoes. In the village of Peguche, you’ll learn about the ancient weaving traditions of its residents and walk with your guide through the surrounding quinoa fields to a lovely waterfall set in a forest of Eucalyptus trees.

Then visit the Nanda Mañachi House to learn how instruments like the pan-pipe and Andean flute are made. After exploring the colorful, world-famous market in the mountain town of Otavalo, you’ll sit down to lunch at Molinos de San Juan, a delightful restaurant set inside a 19th-century mill cum museum. Then visit Cayambe, an Andean town renowned for its generations-old baking traditions. Enjoy a cup of Ecuadorian hot chocolate and try your hand at making Cayambe biscotti with an old family tradition. Continue southward and check in to our elegant hotel on the grounds of the historic Quito Polo Club. Situated just 30 minutes from the capital with easy access to the airport, it’s the perfect place to spend the night before tomorrow’s included early-morning flight to the Galapagos.  Meals B+L
 

Early this morning, you’ll be chauffeured to the airport for your flight to the Galapagos c, where you’ll be met and transferred to the Royal Palm Hotel, our secluded lodge in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island. After a welcome drink, check-in and lunch, you’ll join other hotel guests for an excursion deeper into the interior highlands of Santa Cruz to observe the giant Galapagos Tortoise in its native habitat. The tortoises wander freely between the National Park and surrounding agricultural areas, and your expert naturalist will take you through the forest and fields to get your first glimpse of these amazing prehistoric creatures. This afternoon’s tour also takes you inside the nearby lava tunnels, remarkable geological formations created millennia ago by rivers of fast flowing liquid lava. After sightseeing, return to the Royal Palm Hotel for dinner and an evening at leisure.  Meals B+L+D

Tailor your exploration today with the included yacht expedition of your choice. In the engaging company of an expert naturalist, you’ll join a small group of other hotel guests to experience the landscapes, flora and fauna of one of these nearby islands:

North Seymour Island + Bachas Beach: Departing from the Royal Palm Hotel at 8:00 am, this excursion lasts about 8 hours and takes you to the picturesque, mostly flat island of North Seymour. Amidst mostly bushy vegetation interspersed with giant Candelabra Cactus Trees, you’ll find a variety of marine birds along with land iguanas and lava lizards. Blue-Footed Boobies, Frigate Birds, and a colony of sea lions are among the standout animals to be seen. An afternoon stop on Bachas Beach offers a chance to swim or snorkel. A walk along this lovely beach might reveal Sea Turtle nests and the chance to observe diving Boobies, Flamingos and other tropical species.

South Plaza Island + Punta Carrion: This 7.5 to 8-hour excursion departs from the hotel at 8:00 am. The unique terrain covered with Sesuvium plants and Opuntia Cacti make this one of the loveliest islands in the archipelago. Stepping ashore with an expert naturalist, you’ll explore along an island trail in search of land iguanas and a variety of indigenous birds including Swallow-tailed Gulls and Frigate Birds. At the end of the trail, you’ll discover a raucous bachelor colony of male Sea Lions. Enjoy lunch while anchored close to the rocky shore and look for frolicking Sea Lions and Marine Iguanas diving into the ocean to feed on seaweed. In the afternoon, a short boat ride brings you to Punta Carrion, a protected cove that’s ideal for snorkeling and swimming.

Santa Fe Island: Located just south of Santa Cruz, Santa Fe Island offers a short circular trail that takes you along a cliff with captivating views. With insight from your sharp-eyed naturalist, this guided hike offers a chance to spot the Santa Fe Land Iguana, Lava Lizards, Blue-Footed Boobies and birds of prey like the Storm Petrel and Galapagos Hawk. After lunch onboard, there will be time to swim and snorkel in Barrington Bay where one can often spot Sea Lions, Sea Turtles and Rays – along with a colorful variety of reef fish. This excursion departs at 8:00 am and lasts about 9.5 hours.

All three of these excursions return to the Royal Palm Hotel in time for you to refresh and relax a bit before dining at the hotel.  Meals B+L+D
 

After breakfast, you’ll join other hotel guests for a naturalist-guided tour designed to show you the unique features of Santa Cruz Island – starting with Cerro Mesa. Set at an elevation of more than 1,600 feet above sea level, this viewpoint offers fine clear-day views of several islands in the Galapagos archipelago. It’s also a great place to see several species of Darwin’s finches and the beautiful but elusive vermilion flycatcher.

Then continue to El Trapiche, a local coffee and sugar plantation where you can experience a slice of rural life in the Galapagos. Watch the operation of a rustic, mule-driven sugar cane press and learn how the sugar cane juice is distilled into liquor. You’ll also learn about the plantation’s coffee and chocolate production during this enlightening, experiential visit. Your morning ends at Garrapatero Beach where a variety of birds can be spotted – including Flamingos, Herons, and Pintail Ducks. Be sure to bring your swimwear as there will be time to snorkel or swim.

After lunch, you’ll visit the esteemed Charles Darwin Research Station in Puerto Ayora. This is a working research facility best known for its efforts to protect the wildlife and fragile eco-systems of the Galapagos. Along with the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center, this afternoon promises an enlightening experience and a rare chance to see baby tortoises as you learn about the incubation, hatching and growth stages of these endangered creatures. Back at the Royal Palm Hotel, you’ll enjoy a final dinner of fine South American cuisine.  Meals B+L+D
 

Day
7

Back to the Mainland

After breakfast, we’ll take you to the airport for your included flight back to Quito or Guayaquil where you can connect with your homeward flight.  Meals B

Private Tour Add-Ons

Cuenca

Fly roundtrip from Quito to this handsome Colonial-era town set high in Ecuador’s southern Andes. Enjoy a city tour and then personalize your stay with a second countryside excursion of your choice.

Machu Picchu

Enhance your trip to Peru with one of South America’s most inspiring sites, the fabled Lost City of the Inca! We include roundtrip rail transportation from Cuzco, a choice of fine hotels, an extensive afternoon tour of Machu Picchu and the opportunity for a second sunrise visit – before the day visitors arrive!

Lake Titicaca

With its pristine beauty and unique indigenous communities, Lake Titicaca is a terrific way to enhance your travels through Peru and South America. We include private airport transfers, a choice of fine hotels & resorts and a full-day, expertly guided excursion across the Lake.

MapSearch

Occupancy


previous next
  • Narrow your search by selecting a calendar date to the right

  • Jun

    2020
  • Jul

    2020
  • Aug

    2020
  • Sep

    2020
  • Oct

    2020
  • Nov

    2020
  • Dec

    2020
  • Jan

    2021
  • Feb

    2021
  • Mar

    2021
  • Apr

    2021
  • May

    2021
  • Jun

    2021
  • Jul

    2021
  • Aug

    2021
  • Sep

    2021
  • Oct

    2021
  • Nov

    2021
  • Dec

    2021
  • Jan

    2022
  • Feb

    2022
  • Mar

    2022
  • Apr

    2022
  • May

    2022
  • Jun

    2022
  • Jul

    2022
  • Aug

    2022
  • Sep

    2022
  • Oct

    2022
  • Nov

    2022
  • Dec

    2022
  • Narrow your search by selecting a calendar date to the left

Date RangeFromAvailabilityDeparture Note
01 June 2020 - 19 December 2020$5,799Available
AccommodationPriceAvailability
Charming Accommodations$5,799Available
Call for Details PhoneRequest a Quote Booking
05 January 2021 - 19 December 2021$5,799Available
AccommodationPriceAvailability
Charming Accommodations$5,799Available
Call for Details PhoneRequest a Quote Booking
05 January 2022 - 19 December 2022$5,999Available
AccommodationPriceAvailability
Charming Accommodations$5,999Available
Call for Details PhoneRequest a Quote Booking

Pay-In-Full

Save $1,000 per couple + $500 solo on all of our Small Group, Small Ship and Private Journeys when you pay-in-full at time of booking.

Family + Friends

Travel is one of  life's most rewarding experiences, perhaps even more so when it's shared with those you love! Combine our limited-time pay-in-full discount with our Family & Friends offers and save even more:
  • Save $50 more per person when 3 guests go
  • Save $100 more per person with 4 people
  • Save $150 more per person with 5 people
  • Save $200 more per person with 6 or more people!

About Your Journey: Galapagos by Land + The Highlands of Ecuador

You have chosen one of the most rewarding places in the world to visit. Whether you’re visiting Andean villages in the highlands, marveling at colonial architecture in Quito, exploring flora and fauna in the Amazon jungle – or all of these – your journey will be filled with many unforgettable experiences.

You’ll find that colonial history and architecture come alive in Quito and Cuenca. Guayaquil has all the color and energy you’d expect in a bustling Pacific port. The famous Indian market in Otavalo is brimming with well-crafted textiles, arts and crafts. Amazing encounters with nature wait in the Amazon basin. And the Galapagos Islands promise breathtaking landscapes and extraordinary wildlife viewing.

So no matter where your travels take you in Ecuador – whether it’s mountain, city, jungle, or sea – get set for the trip of a lifetime!

Your Health
We strongly recommend that you contact your medical practitioner before travelling for suggestions to prepare for your journey. We always recommend that your check the Centers for Disease Control’s website www.cdc.gov for any updated recommendations before travel.

Ecuador requires a Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate for travelers coming from or traveling through countries identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or World Health Organization (WHO) as having a risk of yellow fever transmission. Currently these nations are Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Panama, Paraguay, Surname, Trinidad & Tobago, and Venezuela. Please note that this certificate is required for all passengers who have spent 12 or more hours in these countries, even if only in transit at their airports.  

Vaccinations should only be administered by an approved vaccination center that can provide you with a valid International Certificate of Vaccination approved by the World Health Organization. The vaccination should be obtained at least 10 days before departure. Failure to provide a valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate or vaccination-exemption certificate on arrival could lead to refusal of entry or quarantine until the traveler’s certificate becomes valid. More information is available from the CDC at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/diseases/yellow-fever.

A Word about Altitude
Quito sits at an elevation of 9350 feet above sea level. Visitors should be aware of the lightness of head and shortness of breath that many travelers experience at high altitudes. Sometimes called altitude sickness, or soroche in Spanish, most people are usually not overly bothered by the experience. If you are concerned with the prospect of high-altitude sickness, please consult your physician prior to departure since there are medications available to help relieve the symptoms.  Eating lightly the night before you travel to higher elevation, drinking more water than usual, and taking things slowly can also help minimize the effects of altitude sickness.

Entering the Galapagos Archipelago
Ecuador’s Ministry of Tourism has issued new regulations regarding health information to be provided by Galapagos-bound travelers:  passenger blood type is now required in order to be able to assist in the event of a medical emergency.  When checking in for your flight from Quito to the Galapagos, airport staff will confirm whether this information has been provided --its omission may delay your boarding.  Please have this information handy before boarding your flight.

Additionally, the National Park Management has announced that all shoes including shoes that are checked within suitcases are clean of any debris or mud.  This is to prevent contamination issues that can disrupt the delicate nature of the Galapagos.

Activity
Travelers to the Galapagos should be in reasonably good health as journeys to Galapagos tend to be active trips. The excursions and activities that are included often involve a great deal of walking over uneven terrain – both paved and unpaved. There will be hills to climb and descend, and steps usually have no wheelchair access. The Galapagos yacht excursion is done in a small inflatable boat (a Zodiac or panga) that transports you from the yacht to the islands.  Visits include wet landings and require visitors to climb out of the zodiac directly into the surf.  Even indoor sites like museums and historical buildings may have only steps – no elevators or ramps.

For travelers with mobility issues or physical challenges, be prepared for less accessibility than we enjoy in the United States. Hotels may be limited in the provisions made for such travelers and some do not have elevators. Airports are not always fully equipped with modern jetways, and ramps for wheelchairs are often absent.

We regret that we cannot provide individual assistance for guests who need mobility assistance.  Nor can we ensure that local vehicles will be wheelchair-equipped. For these reasons, a qualified companion must accompany guests who need such assistance.
 
If you have any mobility or medical issues of which we should be aware, please advise Alexander+Roberts well in advance of your departure.

Climate
As you would expect from a country that encompasses everything from coastal lowland and rainforest to high-mountain terrain, the weather you’ll encounter depends as much on where you go as when you go.

Quito and the Highlands: Although Quito sits near the equator, its elevation (more than 9,000 feet above sea level) blesses the capital with almost spring-like weather all the year round. The average high temperature in this region is in the upper 60s and the average low is around 50°. The weather is coolest from June to September, but this is usually just a few degrees lower than the rest of the year. These are also the driest months, but then again the annual range is not extreme: June, July, and August average less than 2 inches of precipitation per month. During the rest of the year, the average rainfall ranges from less than 4 inches per month (November to January) up to an average of around 6 inches in March and April. In other words, you can encounter rain any time of year, but it’s unlikely that you’ll find your trip spoiled by the weather.

The Galapagos:  These islands also straddle the equator, but the climate is tempered by Pacific Ocean currents and breezes. January through May is the warm and wet season with daytime highs climbing well into the 80s. Ocean temperatures are usually comfortable as well, hovering around 75°. During these months, heavy tropical showers and drizzly rain are not unusual but skies are often clear and sunny. From July to December, it’s generally cooler and windier, with daytime highs in the mid 60s to 70s. Water temperatures drop, sometimes below 70°, and the skies are often overcast with occasional mist or drizzle.

Money Matters
The local currency throughout Ecuador is the U.S. dollar. It is no longer necessary to exchange money. For small change, Ecuador has minted its own coins, equivalent to half-dollars, quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies.

Visa, MasterCard, and American Express are accepted at most hotels, shops, and restaurants. Debit cards are less widely used. In the rural areas and for shopping in the open-air markets, it’s wise to have a supply of smaller denomination bills ($20 or less). Please note that some restaurants and stores may not accept $100 bills. We recommend that before you travel you inform your credit card company which countries you will be visiting. 

Traveler’s checks are not widely accepted outside of upscale, big-city hotels and restaurants that cater almost exclusively to foreign visitors. Your best bet is to exchange them for cash is at a casa de cambio (money exchange) or bank, which may not always be convenient when you are on tour. 
 
You will find ATMs throughout Ecuador and most will accept cards on the Plus and Cirrus networks. Note, however, that machines go offline more often than most Americans are used to and some ATMs will not accept PIN numbers of more than four digits. It’s always a good idea to carry some cash, especially small bills for tips and small purchases.

A Note about Wildlife Viewing in the Galapagos
There are few places on Earth where animals are easier to see and photograph than in the Galapagos. The animals are unique and seldom found in such numbers elsewhere. They are easy to locate, unafraid, and allow you to approach very close. One of the biggest problems you will have is trying not to step on the wildlife! Always be careful where you place your feet, especially when you are backing up to take a picture. It is important to keep a respectful distance from babies and eggs; the animals still need their zone of privacy.

The best time for animal watching is early morning or late afternoon. On almost every island you visit you will see sea lions, marine iguanas, Sally Light-foot crabs, lava lizards and Darwin’s finches. On most islands you will see: herons, blue-footed boobies, swallow-tailed gulls, and mockingbirds. On selected shore excursions you will see masked boobies, land iguanas, Galapagos penguins (very shy), fur seals, red-footed boobies, flightless cormorants, frigatebirds, pink flamingos, and the nesting grounds of iguanas. Giant tortoises can be observed at the Darwin Research Station or in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island.

The ecological system on the islands is a fragile one and the naturalists and guides will help to maintain it by reminding you that there is no smoking on the islands, no touching the animals or using flash when filming, and no removal of shells or flora from the islands.

Time
Ecuador is on Eastern Standard Time year-round. In other words, when we are not on Daylight Savings Time, the time in Ecuador is the same as the time in New York. During Daylight Savings Time, Ecuador is one hour behind New York. The Galapagos Islands are on Central Standard Time year-round. You will need to reset your watch or alarm clock when you travel between the mainland and the islands.

Conversing with the Locals
Spanish is the official language of Ecuador, but English is widely spoken and you should have little difficulty as a tourist. Menus in restaurants are usually available in English for travelers. Even with language difficulties, people are very friendly and will generally go out of their way to help you.

Is the Water Safe to Drink?
Tap water is considered potable throughout Ecuador but we recommend that you stick with bottled water, especially in the Galapagos.  Stores, hotels, and restaurants all carry bottled water both with and without gas (carbonation).

Meal Time
Ecuador has a rich and varied culinary tradition reflecting indigenous South American and European influences. Ceviche is one dish you’ll find on many restaurant menus. Different seafood  – usually shrimp, fish, mussels, or octopus – are cooked after marinating in lemon, orange, or tomato juice. It’s typically served with a side of fried corn and plantains. Empanadas de verde is a tasty turnover made from green plantain and filled with cheese or meat. Empanadas de morocho is a small meat pie, often stuffed with pork and served with hot sauce. Humitas can be either sweet or savory; this is a cornhusk-wrapped pastry made from corn, crumbled cheese, egg, and butter. In the highland regions especially, delicious and hearty soups are made from potatoes and cheese; look for locro de papas on the menu. Seafood is wonderfully fresh and abundant along the coast including shrimp, white sea bass, and lobster.

Ecuador’s Famous Indian Markets
Shopping for wonderfully made handicrafts and folk art is a highlight for many visitors. The Indian markets, in Otavalo for example, are a great place to look for these indigenous items. Textiles and woven goods are plentiful, colorful, and of generally good quality. You can find alpaca scarves, gloves, sweaters, bags, and wall hangings. Ceramics, woodcarvings, silver jewelry, and leather goods are also good buys. Although bargaining is not as strongly ingrained in the Ecuadorian culture as in other parts of the world, some price negotiation is expected at these indigenous markets. Be attuned for facial expressions which might suggest that you are being too demanding or difficult. Bargaining here in Ecuador is usually not a protracted process. Any price drop you negotiate early on will probably be the final price. Walking away in hopes of a better deal might work, but not always. And be aware that intrinsic worth and value are usually well-reflected in the price offered. And often the seller needs the money they are asking for in the purchase price; sometimes it’s better to make a friend than a deal! That said, it’s still wise do some comparison shopping before making your first move. There can be tremendous price variations for similar items in the same market!

In the malls and boutiques of the larger cities, you will be able to find nicely made local products as well as international brands. Cuenca is the world’s largest producer of Panama hats. Never buy items made from black coral, turtle or tortoise shell as these animals are protected!

Shopping in the Galapagos is limited. There are local vendors in Puerto Ayora. 

Know the Customs and Traditions
Many American visitors conclude that all of South America operates at a slower pace than North America. So remember that you’re on vacation: slow down, be patient, and be prepared for what you might consider a mañana mentality.

A few other suggestions to guide you: never ask someone to not smoke, even in areas not designated for smoking (it’s better to just move to a new location). Also, seek permission before taking a photograph of anyone since many superstitions still go along with photography in South America.

About the Royal Palm
The Royal Palm is the only private estate open to guests on Santa Cruz Island. Its 480 acres are located midway between Baltra Island airport and the main town of Puerto Ayora. Open in 2001, the hotel is 1,670 feet above sea level and adjacent to the Galapagos National Park, and commands amazing views across the Miconia forest and Pacific Ocean.

The hotel has 21 villas and casitas all equipped with a dining area, dressing room, and bathroom. Each room offers complimentary WiFi, LCD flat screen TVs with 15 satellite channels, mini-bar, tea and coffee maker, safe, air-conditioning, mosquito screens, and hairdryers.

All meals are included at the Royal Palm beginning with lunch on arrival through breakfast on the day of your departure. Beverages are not included.

The Royal Palm Restaurant is a blend of elegant colonial style with traditional island design and is a beautiful space for guests to wine and dine. The warm mahogany furniture reflects the glow of the open fire which divides the bar and restaurant, and on warmer nights you can dine alfresco on the terrace under the equatorial stars. Head chef Patricio Sisa’s menus artfully combine traditional Ecuadorian flavors with some of the more established international favorites. The chef sources as many ingredients as possible from the restaurant’s own kitchen garden, and fresh fish is supplied by the local fishermen. Weekly specials are offered, and the wine cellar includes an extensive range of South America’s best wines.  Alexander+Roberts guests enjoy a complimentary glass of wine with dinner.

The hotel facilities include an outdoor pool, spa with a small sauna, steam room, and fitness room.  Two hard-surface tennis courts and indoor table tennis are also available.

Galapagos by Land + Highlands of Ecuador
Travelers on our Small Group Journey The Galapagos by Land + Highlands of Ecuador will also enjoy these flexible excursions by land and water:

Included Land Excursion for all Guests: Santa Cruz Highlands + Lava Caves
Join our expert naturalist on this guided adventure into the highlands of Santa Cruz Island where the giant Galapagos tortoise roams freely between the National Park and surrounding farms. Here in their native habitat, you can observe these remarkable creatures lumbering across the lush landscape, feeding on the local vegetation, and maybe even wallowing in the muddy seasonal pools. The area is also home to several geological wonders including Los Gemelos (Twin Craters), large pit craters that were formed by the collapse of the volcanic roof of an empty magma chamber. A trail around the rim of the largest of these craters offers a chance to see indigenous flora including ferns, mosses and wild orchids.

Formed by rivers of fast-flowing lava, the Lava Caves of Santa Cruz are another wonder you can explore this included excursion. In particular, the underground labyrinth situated on the Royal Palm Estate offers illuminated trails and specially constructed bridges to explore the island’s largest lava tunnel.

•    Cerro Mesa Ecological Reserve + Garrapatero Beach
This guided adventure takes you into the Cerro Mesa Ecological Reserve, beginning with a vista point situated 1,600 feet above sea level. From this vantage, you’ll have sweeping views over the lush plateaus of Santa Cruz Island. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the coastline and across to several neighboring islands. Accompanied by our sharp-eyed naturalist, you might also observe s sub-species of the giant Galapagos tortoise and a variety of birds including tiny finches and vermilion flycatchers.

You’ll also visit El Trapiche, a nearby farm where the owner and his family will show you how coffee and sugar cane are grown, harvested and processed. It’s a fascinating cultural visit that offers insight into local life. This excursion ends at El Garrapatero Beach, a beautiful white sand expanse home to a variety of indigenous birds and marine iguanas. A nearby freshwater lagoon is surrounded by mangroves and provides a habitat for flamingoes, herons, pintail ducks and other shore birds. Before returning to your hotel, you’ll have ample time to just relax or explore the beach and lagoon. The adventurous will also have opportunity to snorkel or rent kayaks.

•    Charles Darwin Station + Giant Tortoise Breeding Center
Established in 1959, the Charles Darwin Foundation and Center is the world’s leading research institute dedicated to the conservation and preservation of the Galapagos Islands. On this guided visit, you’ll gain a deep understanding and abiding appreciation for the Foundation’s pioneering work and broad-reaching programs including environmental education and sustainable development throughout the Archipelago.

You’ll also visit the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center to learn about their ongoing research and captive breeding programs. You’ll see tiny new born tortoises and meet Diego, the “Latin Lover” who has fathered the vast majority of the more than 1,000 tortoises that have been born here and introduced back into their native habitats on Espanola Island.

Choice of a Yacht Excursion: Please Choose One

•    North Seymour Island + Las Bachas Beach
Join our crew and naturalist aboard our comfortable yacht and cruise to North Seymour, a picturesque island situated just north of Baltra Island - a short ride from Santa Cruz. You’ll arrive mid-morning for a guided shore expedition to explore North Seymour’s rich diversity of wildlife. Covered by low, bushy vegetation and large Candelabra cactus trees, the island is a favorite nesting site for Frigate birds and blue-footed boobies. North Seymour is also home to land iguanas and a colony of sea lions. Return to ship and cruise back to Santa Cruz Island. Enjoy lunch onboard and then step ashore on Bachas Beach. Enjoy a guided walk with our naturalist to observe sea turtle nesting sites and a variety of shore birds. Before heading back to our yacht, you’ll have time to relax on the beach, go for a swim, or try some snorkeling.  You’ll return to Puerto Ayora in the mid afternoon and transfer back to your hotel where there will be time to relax and refresh before dinner.

•    South Plaza Island + Punta Carrion
A pleasant journey aboard our yacht takes you to the eastern coast of Santa Cruz to step ashore on South Plaza Island. With its unique landscapes of Sesuvium plants and Opuntia cacti, South Plaza is a terrific place to observe land iguanas lazing in the shade of the indigenous vegetation. High above, swallow-tail gulls and Frigate birds use the rising air currents to glide over the escarpment. At the far end of the island, our experienced naturalist will show you a unique bachelor colony of male sea lions.

Enjoy lunch onboard; our yacht will be anchored close to the rocky shore, giving you a chance to observe sea lions sunning on the rocks or playing in the sea. This is also an opportunity to watch marine iguanas feeding on seaweed. After lunch, you’ll cruise to Punta Carrion where a shallow and protected cove is a great place to swim and snorkel. Return to Puerto Ayora in the mid afternoon and transfer back to your hotel where there will be time to relax and refresh before dinner.

•    Santa Fe Island
Step aboard our comfortable yacht and cruise to Santa Fe Island, situated off the southeastern coast of Santa Cruz. On arrival, you’ll be anchored in a lovely protected bay where clear waters are great for snorkeling. Sea lions often join our guests as they explore this colorful undersea realm. Then step ashore with our expert naturalist for a guided walk. See a lively colony of sea lions on the beach and continue along the trail that brings you to cliff’s edge – where you’ll have dramatic views of the bay. The island is also home to the Santa Fe land iguana, lava lizards and magnificent birds of prey including storm petrels and Galapagos hawks.

After lunch onboard, you’ll have another opportunity to snorkel in the abundant waters of Barrington Bay, home to tropical reef fish, sea turtles and rays. Return to Puerto Ayora in the late afternoon and transfer back to your hotel where there will be time to refresh before dinner.

Notes: There are three species which you will not see on any of the yacht excursions due to their remote locations; the flightless cormorant, which only lives on Española and Fernandina; the waved albatross, which only come in the mating season to Espanola; and the red footed boobies found only on Genovese or Punta Pitt in San Cristobal.

Important Information about our Flexible Excursions
For both your second included land excursion and your yacht adventure, please advise your preferences at least 60 days before your departure. Please note that our yachts carry a crew and naturalist guide – and a maximum of 16 to 20 guests. Availability and schedules for all land and yacht excursions are subject to change based upon local conditions and weather.

About the yachts
The yachts hold 20 guests, 3 crew members, and 2 naturalist guides, and carry a small boat (known as a panga or Zodiac) that will take you from the yacht to the island and back.

There are two types of landings – wet and dry. Wet landings are the easiest and are so named because you swing your legs over the side of the boat step into shallow water, usually just calf- or knee-deep. For this kind of landing, waterproof sandals or Tevas are recommended. Because waterproof sandals are usually not the best for walking, we suggest having good walking or hiking shoes in your daypack. You could of course make the wet landing barefoot, but sharp volcanic rocks make this inadvisable.

For a Dry Landing, a Zodiac will take you from our yacht to the shore – where you’ll step onto a small pier or directly onto the rocky shoreline. Because of ocean swells and wet surfaces, please take extreme care when making a dry landing. If you are unsure or unsteady, you can always ask our crew and guide for assistance. A life vest will be provided and you must wear it when traveling to and from our yacht for your guided excursions. Be sure to have in your daypack whatever else you need for the excursion – lip moisturizer, sunscreen, binoculars, etc.

Sand
Despite its natural beauty, sand can sometimes cause serious problems! It can transport insect eggs and seeds from one island to another. Please check your feet and footwear before stepping aboard the yacht and get rid of all sand before entering. Shake out your towels and brush off your hats, clothing, and daypacks!

Snorkeling
Snorkeling in the Galapagos promises to add entirely different and very enriching experiences to your journey. It requires a certain degree of preparation that will be provided by your guide, but it should not be attempted by people without swimming ability. Snorkeling gear is available at no charge on board the yacht for Alexander+Roberts guests. Due to the cooler waters of the Humboldt Current it's best to wear a wetsuit (available at an additional charge of $18/day) for snorkeling, especially from July to November when water temperatures are lower. As wetsuits are not on-site at the hotel, at least 24-hour advance notice is requested so that they are available for your yacht excursion. Almost every adult size is available, but children sizes are limited so best to reserve ahead.

Similar Trips

Machu Picchu + the Galapagos

Our original combination -- a complete Machu Picchu experience and intimate Galapagos cruise.  Guests love our 5-star hotels, and small ship cruise with expert naturalists and seven unique landing sites in the Galapagos Islands.

Quito + The Galapagos - 7 Day Adventure

Begin with our luxury stay in Quito and our exclusive sightseeing. Then we fly you to the Galapagos for a 4-night cruise in an Upper Deck outside cabin aboard the stylish, newly-renovated La Pinta. You’ll join our expert naturalists to explore the Northern reaches of the archipelago, home to some of the most iconic sights in the Galapagos.

Grandeur of Peru

Discover Lima’s Colonial landmarks and vibrant modern-day spirit with our in-the-know resident guide. Then join our much-loved Andean Trip Leader Carlos and journey from Cuzco into the Sacred Valley and onward to Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca. In his engaging company, you’ll discover Peru’s inspiring beauty, its culture, and its wealth of Colonial and Inca sites.