Galapagos Islands are an archipelago of 19 islands about 600 miles off Ecuador's Pacific coast. It doubles up as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since both land and sea are protected.
How to Get to Galapagos Islands
The only way to get into the islands is by flight from either Guayaquil or Quito. There are no direct international flights to Galapagos. There are also no boat/ cruise tours to Galapagos islands from any of the coastal towns on Ecuador's mainland.
Flying from Guayaquil is way cheaper and easier especially if you're coming from a lowland area. Most travelers have a challenge adapting to altitude in Quito which is high up in the Andean mountains.
Both Quito's Mariscal Sucre International airport and Guayaquil's Jose Joaquin de Olmode international airport receive several flights from New York, Miami, Amsterdam, Miami, and several Latin American cities.
It takes 2 hours to fly from mainland Ecuador to the Galapagos Islands. Flying from Quito takes longer since planes have to stopover in Guayaquil to pick up passengers.
Round trip flights to Galapagos cost about $500 with kids under 12 years enjoying up to 50% discount on flights.
There 3 airlines that operate flights from Quito- Guayaquil- Galapagos Islands.
All these airlines have two daily morning flights to Galapagos Islands. Flights from Quito and Guayaquil usually land at Baltra Island's Seymour airport.
Only 5 out of the 19 islands on the Galapagos islands are inhabited and permit overnight stay. These are :
Santa Cruz Island
San Cristobal Island
There are 3 airports on the Galapagos islands: the busiest and main airport being on Baltra island. There's another airport on San Cristobal island and a small landing strip on Isabela Island.
Santa Cruz is the most visited island in the archipelago. There's no airport on Santa Cruz island, you have to go through Baltra Island. Baltra airport is commonly referred to as the Santa Cruz island airport. There's nothing to do at Baltra island and people usually visit the island as they transit to Santa Cruz island. The main town on Santa Cruz island, Puerto Ayora, has most of the hotels and your agencies on the islands.
There's a bus that takes all travelers from the airport to either of the 2 docks to catch boats or cruise ships to Santa Cruz. If you had already a tour before arriving on Baltra island, most tours organize island transfer from Baltra Island to Santa Cruz. Passenger boats charge $10 for island transfer from Baltra to Santa Cruz island via the Itabaca channel. It takes one hour to get to Santa Cruz from Baltra Island.
Where to Find Accommodation in Galapagos Islands.
The hardest decision to make when visiting the Galapagos islands is the choice of accommodation. There are two accommodation options land-based accommodation ( staying at hotels/hostels on any of the inhabited islands) or sea-based accommodation ( joining a cruise tour).
Though you can visit the islands alone, joining a cruise tour will make it easy for you to visit most of the protected areas. You won't have to catch daily boats to other islands and back to the island you're staying in. Galapagos cruises offer island transfers, onboard accommodation, and most packages are inclusive of meals. Island transfer is also easy when you join a cruise tour. Transfers happen overnight and you wake up to a new destination the next morning. Cruise tours are expensive though and aren't the best option for travelers on a budget.
Galapagos Island National Park.
All islands in the archipelago make up the Galapagos national park.
The Park entry fee is $100, you'll pay it at the airport in Batra and you have to sign some documents to show you're aware of the park rules. The park management is usually strict about the adherence to these regulations, be familiar with them before engaging in any Island activities.