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Getting Around Galapagos Islands

The best way to get around the Galápagos Islands is by boat. The Galápagos archipelago is composed of more than 120 islands and islets, only 20 of which are large enough to warrant a place on a map. You'll want to arrange an organized multiday cruise or boat tour several months in advance; that said, sea journeys aboard luxury liners are often attached to a lofty price tag, especially during the high season (December to May). If you wish to steer clear of the water altogether, you can fly from Baltra (a small island north of Santa Cruz Island) to San Cristóbal Island or Isabela Island.

You can fly to the Galápagos from Guayaquil's José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport (GYE), located in mainland Ecuador. If you would prefer to fly to the Galápagos from Quito's Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO), plan to stopover in Guayaquil and tack an additional hour onto your flight time. Airlines TAME, LAN and Avianca offer flights to Seymour Airport (GPS) and San Cristóbal Airport (SCY). Most cruise operators will arrange to meet you at either airport and transport you to your ship. If you're planning on visiting the islands without a tour guide, it's easy to navigate your way from Baltra to Santa Cruz Island. To reach Puerto Ayora, take the public bus labeled Muelle for a 10-minute ride to a ferry that shuttles passengers to Santa Cruz Island. Upon arriving on Santa Cruz, hop on one of the island's public buses or hail a taxi for the 25-mile ride south to Puerto Ayora. Puerto Baquerizo Moreno and Puerto Villamil are both within a short drive of San Cristóbal Airport or General Villamil Airport (IBB).

Boat

Boat tours are the most extensive mode of transportation in the Galápagos, but you'll need to make reservations at least several months before your trip. A variety of vessels featuring multiday expeditions can be arranged from agencies operating out of Quito and Guayaquil on the mainland, as well as from Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island. Ecoventura in Quito and Moonrise Travel in Puerto Ayora are great options for last-minute expeditions from their respective ports of call. Prices vary by tour length and package type.

Top-tier ships, such as National Geographic Endeavour II and National Geographic Islander, have 10-day excursions that travel between Guayaquil and Santa Cruz Island, Isabela Island and Española Island, among others. Prices start at $6,960 per person.

There are also plenty of luxury outfitters that provide an intimate cruising experience with fewer passengers. Abercrombie & Kent offers eight- and 10-day packages that depart from Guayaquil and have no more than 24 cruisers. Fees range from $6,695 to $9,595 per person, depending on cabin class and voyage dates.

Additionally, travelers can sign up for half-day or day-long trips that come with local boat transfers. These services, which are offered by companies like Nature Galapagos & Ecuador and Andando Tours, commonly cost less than $100 per person and include snorkeling or sightseeing excursions.

Ferry

Numerous inter-island ferries (known locally as lanchas or fibras) travel between Santa Cruz Island and San Cristóbal Island, and Santa Cruz Island and Isabela Island. Public ferries, which are operated by multiple private boat owners, sail from Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristóbal Island and Puerto Villamil on Isabela Island once or twice daily. Tickets can be purchased from shops and ticket booths throughout downtown Puerto Ayora, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno and Puerto Villamil. Fees vary by ferry operator but generally cost $25 to $35 per person, per ride.

Plane

Compared to boating, flying is a faster (albeit more expensive) way to explore the Galápagos' main islands. EMETEBE, a reputable inter-island carrier, offers service Monday through Saturday between Baltra, San Cristóbal and Isabela islands. The cost to fly in one of these small propeller planes is approximately $170 to $190 each way. Keep in mind the carrier's luggage restrictions: Each bag must weigh less than 9 kilograms (roughly 20 pounds).

Taxi & Water Taxi

Taxi and water taxi services are available in Puerto Ayora, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno and Puerto Villamil. Taxi rides in any of these towns generally cost approximately $1 to $2 per person, but expect to pay more for trips outside town limits. To get to more remote coastal areas, you can also hail a water taxi, which typically costs $1 per person.

Bus Buses are not readily available on most of the islands, but to get from Seymour Airport to Puerto Ayora, you can take one to a ferry before reaching Santa Cruz Island and climbing aboard another bus. The latter bus, which costs $3.50 per person to ride, will drop you at a bus terminal just outside the city. But buses only operate when incoming flights from the mainland are scheduled, so you'll need to hail a taxi to get to Seymour Airport for departing flights.

On Foot & By Bike

Biking and walking are easy and affordable means of getting around tourist areas. Renting a bike from local companies like Ecuador Freedom Bike Rental will likely set you back about $15 a day, though some bike shops also offer hourly rates. Hotel concierges and tour operators can also help you reserve a mountain bike on Isabela Island, Santa Cruz Island or San Cristóbal Island. Meanwhile, walking is the best mode of transportation for getting around downtown areas in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, Puerto Villamil and Puerto Ayora.

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