Photographing seals in Ecuador, Galapagos - Hero image

Things to do during your Galapagos Islands Travel Vacation

With its unique ecology, rugged landscape and wealth of wildlife, there are endless things to do while on vacation in the Galápagos Islands. And with Hurtigruten Expeditions, it’s more than just a sightseeing tour, it’s a journey of discovery.

Travel to the Galápagos Islands with Hurtigruten Expeditions

Our itineraries to the Galápagos Islands are hand-picked to ensure you experience all this amazing archipelago has to offer, from unforgettable wildlife watching and adventurous activities to science and conservation. Aboard our compact expedition boat, MS Santa Cruz II, we’ll take you to some of the most remote locations where you can see many of the iconic ‘Big 15’ species of the Galápagos. Our 90-capacity ship is comfortable and sails fully equipped for adventure. You can enjoy well-appointed cabins, hots tubs, a fitness suite, and locally sourced, culinary delights in our onboard restaurant. We also have a Science Corner and library for you to delve deeper into the wonders of the Galápagos. Accompanying you on your tour is our team of experts who’ll guide you on nature walks, shore landings and snorkelling trips. With an emphasis on sustainability, the Expedition Team will teach you about the fragile ecosystems of the Galápagos and how you can help with conservation efforts. And with an average of just 12 guests per guide, you can enjoy a more tailored experience. Here are some of the things you can do in the Galápagos Islands with Hurtigruten Expeditions.

Close encounters with whales, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

Close encounters with whales, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

Landings with expedition boats

On your Galápagos Islands vacation, you can enjoy exclusive shore landings aboard our expedition boats. Our small, agile boats can land at more rugged, isolated beaches meaning we can take our guests off the beaten track. From volcanic rocky shores to white sandy beaches, we’ll stop at a range of locations ready for the day’s adventure. With just one vessel permitted to dock at each location, you can enjoy a more intimate wildlife spotting experience. You’ll have the opportunity to see iconic species like giant tortoises and marine iguanas up close.

Our expedition boats are ideal for seeking out marine life, from dolphins and sharks to sea turtles and whales. And if you’d like to try something a little different, you can also hop aboard our glass-bottom boat to get underwater views of coral reefs and tropical fish without even getting wet.

Nature walks with our qualified wildlife guides

Our Expedition Team are specialists in Galápagos wildlife. With their experience and knowledge, they’ll lead you on fascinating nature walks and submerge you in the unique ecosystems of the islands. We always travel in small groups so we can accommodate multiple interests, needs and languages. With the help of your qualified guides, one day you could be meandering through the Palo Santo forests of North Seymour, smelling the sweet incense, and the next, you might be observing the Blue-footed Boobies of San Cristobal, or watching the sea lions of Mosquera Islet bask in the sun.

One of our favourite nature walks is through the lush highlands of Santa Cruz, where giant tortoises lumber around undisturbed. On a Galápagos Islands trip with Hurtigruten Expeditions, you’ll not only see these remarkable animals, you’ll learn about how you can help preserve their habitat and protect their species. You can even help collect important data and contribute to global research projects.

Kayaking and SUP boarding

No tour of the Galápagos Islands would be complete without some aquatic adventures. With Hurtigruten Expeditions, you can explore the protected Galápagos Marine Reserve and its array of volcanic islands by kayak or SUP board. The white sandy shores of Santa Fe are perfect for a relaxed kayaking trip. Also, while visiting Española, you can kayak around the stunning coral beach of Gardner Bay and across to Osborn Islet, while watching for sea lions, mockingbirds and finches.

SUP boarding is great fun too. If you’ve never tried it before, SUP boards are easy to master and manoeuvre, allowing you to explore every bay and inlet. And the calm, warm sea of the Galápagos is the perfect place to practice this new skill. Whenever you need a break, simply sit down and relax. All equipment is provided onboard, you just need to bring your sense of adventure.

Snorkelling in Galápagos.
Photo: Anton Petrus - Getty Images / Hurtigruten

Snorkelling in Galápagos. Photo: Anton Petrus - Getty Images / Hurtigruten

While travelling around the Galápagos Islands, there’s no better way to see marine life than to get in the water. The tranquillity of the archipelago is perfect for snorkelling, whether you’re a beginner or experienced. We have all the gear you need, and our Expedition Team are ready to take you around some of the best snorkelling spots of the islands. Immersed in the warm, crystal-clear Galápagos seas, you can get a fish-eye view of the colourful coral reefs and abundant sea creatures. Whether it’s shape-shifting clouds of vibrant fish or gently drifting sea turtles, there’s a whole underwater world for you to discover. You may even meet the odd curious sea lion or reef shark.

Our top snorkelling spots while touring the Galápagos Islands include Eden Islet off the coast of Santa Cruz. As a simple sliver of volcanic rock amongst the turquoise waters, the shallows around Eden are teeming with life – be on the lookout for rays and turtles. Playa Mansa is also a great place to go snorkelling. The secluded mangrove cove creates a calm, sheltered bay perfect for subaquatic exploration. You can enjoy snorkelling all year round, but one of the best times for it in the Galápagos Islands is from January to May when the weather is at its warmest and the sea is calmer.

Tourist photographer taking wildlife photos on Galapagos Islands of famous marine iguanas.

Tourist photographer taking wildlife photos on Galapagos Islands of famous marine iguanas.

Photographing the wildlife of the Galápagos

A vacation in the Galápagos Islands is a photographer’s dream. You’ll encounter wildlife at every turn on your trip, from land to sea. We even have an onboard professional photographer to give you some helpful tips and tricks. From your expedition boat, you might capture playful dolphins, drifting rays and soaring albatrosses. And from our glass-bottom boat, you can immortalise the vibrant underwater scenes.

On land, you can get even closer to the action. Because of the isolated nature of the Galápagos Islands, species have evolved without many predators, making them mostly indifferent to the presence of humans. This allows you to admire the animals at a close but respectable distance. From snow-white beaches to rocky shores and green forests, you can photograph iconic wildlife like giant tortoises, lizards and iguanas in their natural habitat. Our itineraries are carefully designed to ensure we visit the best wildlife viewing locations across the islands, giving you the most photo opportunities. Our complete tours include visits to the giant tortoises of Santa Cruz, the boobies of San Cristobal, the Waved Albatrosses of Española and the sea lions of North Seymour.

Blue footed boobies - Galápagos, Ecuador

Blue footed boobies - Galápagos, Ecuador

Birdwatching in the Galápagos

The Galápagos Islands are a birder’s paradise with many endemic species living in the remote archipelago. During our cruise of the islands, we’ll stop at breeding grounds and thriving colonies, allowing you to see first-hand some of the iconic birdlife of the Galápagos. You’ll see the finches that helped cement Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. The various species of finch and their distinctive beaks can be seen across the Galápagos Islands, and you can see them up close at the Charles Darwin Research Station.

We’ll also visit Española Island, which is the main breeding ground for Waved Albatrosses. Although they live here in large numbers, this is their almost exclusive breeding ground and so, they’re classed as critically endangered. At Punto Pitt on San Cristobal Island, you can also see up to three different species of booby: the colourful Blue-footed Booby, the determined Red-footed Booby, and the large Nazca Booby. Other interesting birds to keep watch for while cruising the islands are Galápagos Penguins – the only species to live north of the Equator –, the formidable Galápagos Hawk, and the Greater Frigatebird with its characteristic red throat.

People crossing a river on a bridge, Galapagos, Ecuador.
Photo: Davor Lovincic - Getty Images / Hurtigruten

People crossing a river on a bridge, Galapagos, Ecuador. Photo: Davor Lovincic - Getty Images / Hurtigruten

Science, conservation and research

With a focus on science and conservation, you can give back on a Galápagos Islands vacation with Hurtigruten Expeditions. Given the extraordinary ecology of the islands, it's a hub for global conservation and research. During your tour, you'll have the opportunity to visit some of the archipelago’s largest projects and contribute to global studies. We’ll stop at the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island, where over 200 scientists and volunteers are working to preserve the ecosystems and wildlife of the Galápagos. The station is a breeding centre for giant tortoises and here you can see babies in incubators. You can also witness Darwin’s famous finches and see their evolved differences that helped inspire his theories.

On San Cristobal Island, we also visit the Cerro Colorado Tortoise Reserve where giant tortoises roam freely around the six-hectare open forest. At the reserve, you can also see other endemic species like San Cristobal Mockingbirds and San Cristobal lava lizards. Throughout your trip, you’ll learn about the ecosystems of the Galápagos Islands. You can even participate in global research as part of Citizen Science projects and analyse samples in our onboard Science Corner.