How to Get to Galapagos Islands | How to Get Around Galapagos Islands

One of the first questions people ask when planning a trip to the Galapagos Islands is how do you get to the Galapagos Islands.  Traveling to the Galapagos is surprisingly easy, albeit not cheap.  In this post, I share how to get to Galapagos Islands as well as how to get around the islands once you’re there.

How to get to and around the Galapagos Islands

Planning a trip to the Galapagos?  Be sure to read other Galapagos Islands posts:


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How to get to the Galapagos Islands

Where are the Galapagos Islands?

The Galapagos Islands lie about 500 miles off the coast of mainland Ecuador.  They are part of Ecuador.  There are four inhabited islands in the Galapagos.  Santa Cruz is in the middle, San Cristóbal is southwest of Santa Cruz, Floreana is south of Santa Cruz, and Isabela is northwest of Santa Cruz.

How to go to Galapagos Islands

Because the islands are so far off the coast, the most common way of getting to Galapagos is by plane.  Flights to the Galapagos Islands can often book out early, so do this straight away.

What airlines fly to Galapagos Islands?

There are three airlines that fly to the Galapagos: TAME, LAN-Ecuador, and Avianca.  Airfares are usually pretty similar.

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Galapagos Airports

There are two main airports on the Galapagos Islands with flights to/ from the mainland.  They are Baltra (for Santa Cruz) and San Cristobal

Flying to the Galapagos will involve at least two legs on your journey if you are starting outside Ecuador.  Flights to the Galapagos leave from two cities in mainland Ecuador, so your flights to Ecuador will need to have a connection there.  The closest city to Galapagos is Guayaquil (Jose Joaquin de Olmedo International Airport).   The other city is the capital, Quito (Mariscal Sucre International Airport.  Although flights from Quito to Galapagos Islands are longer (indeed, they usually go via Guayaquil), there are plenty of connections from around the world direct to Quito. 

It’s worth spending a few days in Ecuador if you have time (read my Ecuador posts).

At the mainland airport, your bags will be inspected by the Galapagos Biosecurity Agency quarantine staff and you will need to pay $20 for a tourist transit card before you can fly to Galapagos Islands.

Baltra Airport, Galapagos

There is an airport on Baltra, near Santa Cruz. Its name is officially Seymour Airport.  This is the main Galapagos Islands airport and it has flights to and from the mainland of Ecuador (Guayaquil and Quito). 

Airport Galapagos Islands

Airport San Cristobal, Galapagos

The other Galapagos airport with flights to Galapagos from the mainland (Quito and Guayaquil) is San Cristobal Airport.  The airport is on the edge of the tiny town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.

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How to Get Around the Galapagos Islands

You can fly between Santa Cruz, Isabel and San Cristobal and take a boat from Santa Cruz to Isabela, Floreana and San Cristobal.

Isabela Airport, Galapagos

The other main inhabited island is Isabela.  There are inter-island flights only here.  The airport is officially called General Villamil Airport.  This airport does NOT have flights from the mainland – it is only used for interisland flights.  The inter-island airline Emetebe Airlines is the only airline that flies here.  In addition to interisland transfers, Emetebe Airlines also offer scenic flights.

Inter-island flights

The plane is a nine-seater and it’s worth paying a little extra for the copilot seat. Avoid the back seat if possible, as there is no window (you can still see through the window in front of you, but the view isn’t as good). 

Be aware that the luggage allowance is very small (20 pounds/ 11.34kg for checked luggage and 5 pounds/ 2.3kg of carry-on).  There is a fairly steep additional charge of $2:00/ pound for any extra weight, so if you are planning to fly, pack light!

Taking a plane will save you a long, rough boat trip between Isabela and San Cristobal via Santa Cruz.  

Something that I discovered is that the airlines change flights. You need to book ahead to get a seat, but this means that there is a good chance that one or more airlines will change a flight. There’s not much you can do – just be aware that this might happen.

Note that there is no airport on Floreana Island.  To reach Floreana, you must take a flight to Baltra and then a boat from Santa Cruz.

Getting to/from airports

The boats leave from docks in the center of town on each island, but for your flights, you will need to know how to get to/from the airports.

Getting from Baltra Airport to Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz Island)

You can book transfers through an agency or your hotel or book an arrival transfer from the airport to your hotel here and a departure transfer from your hotel to the airport here.

This is the easiest thing, for sure.  However, if you want to save money, you can get from the airport to town by yourself pretty easily. There’s a bus that picks you up from the airport ($5) and takes you to the Itabaca Canal (not the bus that goes to the Baltra dock), about ten minutes away.  There is a ferry ($1 for the public ferry or $2 for the private ferry) across the channel from Baltra island to Santa Cruz (about five minutes). From the other side you can get a local bus or taxi that takes you into town.

Getting from San Cristobal Airport to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (San Cristobal Island)

You can book a transfer through Emetebe Airlines, take a (cheap) taxi on arrival or even walk (it is only about 15 minutes’ walk into town).

Getting from General Villamil Airport to Puerto Villamil (Isabela Island)

You can book transfers through the airline or take a taxi on arrival or from your hotel.

Inter-Island Boats

There are also boats that go between Santa Cruz and Isabela, Santa Cruz and San Cristobal, Santa Cruz and Floreana.  Note that there are no direct boats between Isabela and San Cristobal – you need to go through Santa Cruz.

There are two ferries a day between Santa Cruz / Isabela and Santa Cruz / San Cristobal. They leave on the following schedules.

Santa Cruz to Isabela: Departs 7:00 am and 2:00pm

Isabela to Santa Cruz: Departs 6:00am and 2:00pm

Santa Cruz to San Cristobal: Departs 7:00am and 2:00pm

San Cristobal to Santa Cruz: Departs 7:00am and 3:00pm

San Cristobal to Isabela: There is no direct boat, but you can take San Cristobal – Santa Cruz at 7:00am then Santa Cruz – Isabela 2:00pm

Isabela to San Cristobal: There is no direct boat, but you can take Isabela – Santa Cruz 6:00am then Santa Cruz – San Cristobal 2:00pm

You can usually book a day or two beforehand (just look for the signs with a picture of a boat that say “Tickets” or “Venta”.  However, for peace of mind, I like to book in advance.  You can also book online here between Santa Cruz and Isabela and between Santa Cruz and San Cristobal.

Be there 30 minutes before the boat leaves. Know your boat’s name (it is on your ticket) as they will call it.

The crossing between Santa Cruz and Isabela and between Santa Cruz and San Cristobal both take about 2.5-3 hours.  Between Santa Cruz and Isabela can rough, but it’s usually not too bad. Between Santa Cruz and San Cristóbal, however, is often quite rough, so if you’re prone to seasickness, it’s worth paying for the flight.

Note that you need to take a water taxi from the pier to the ferry at Santa Cruz (50c each), San Cristobal (50c each) and Isabela ($1 per person).

gETTING TO AND AROUND Galapagos Islands

TIPS for Galapagos ferries:

  • Seats at the back are best if you get seasick, as there is fresh air
  • Seats at the back will get you wet, though, from the spray, especially when it is rough, windy or raining
  • Avoid using the toilets if you can (the boat is usually moving a lot!)

How to get to Floreana Island

There is a boat that leaves Santa Cruz at 8:00am and arrives at 10:00am.  It leaves Floreana at 2:30pm, arriving at Santa Cruz around 4:30pm.  You can take both boats the same day for a short day trip, or on different days and stay on Floreana.  The crossing can be rough.

You book a day trip to Floreana from Santa Cruz here. It includes a hike to Scalecias Forest, visiting Asilo de la Paz, and snorkeling at Black Beach.

Travel Insurance

One final thing – don’t forget to get travel insurance.  Going to Galapagos Islands isn’t cheap and if something happens and you need to cancel your plans for an unexpected reason, you will want to be able to get your money back.  If you have questions about this or other things to do with travel insurance, I recommend reading my Guide to Travel Insurance.

A good choice is World Nomads.  You can get a quote right here:

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How To Get To and Around the Galapagos Islands

Have a fantastic trip!

Do you have any other tips for visiting the Galapagos Islands? I’d love to hear them. Comment below. 

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How to get to and around the Galapagos Islands

Be sure to read other Galapagos Islands posts:


About the author

James-Ian-at-Travel-Collecting

James Ian has traveled to 82 countries and all 7 continents.  He is passionate about experiential travel, i.e. meaningful travel that actively engages with the environment and culture.  He helps people have similar experiences that involve active participation in activities and festivals; engaging with the local food and handicrafts through lessons and food tours; and interacting positively with environment by hiking, riding, rowing, diving and low/no impact animal encounters. 

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