The Western Galapagos cruise aboard the Santa Cruz is a 6-day, 5-night active adventure to the famed Galapagos Islands. On this itinerary you'll visit the Western Galapagos, including the islands of North Seymour, Isabela, Fernandina, Santa Cruz and Floreana, as well as key sites like the Charles Darwin Research Station, Post Office Bay and Champion Islet. Western Galapagos is known for its volcanic landscape and penguin spotting in the cooler waters surrounding these islands. Heading south to Floreana, this itinerary also shows travelers the older landscapes of the archipelago and the rich marine life and human history there. One of the most comprehensive Galapagos cruises for its length, the Western Itinerary is a great introduction to the archipelago.
The Santa Cruz offers numerous activity options. For instance, for one morning excursion you may have the choice between a light hike along the coast combined with a panga tour, or a fast-paced hike to a view point, also with a panga tour. Snorkeling is available for all levels, but for the Western Itinerary, the deep-water snorkeling options are available first, so it’s best to feel comfortable in the water with snorkel gear if you wish to take advantage of these great snorkeling opportunities (flotation devices are available for those who need it). There is ample time to relax on board after meals or opt out of activities, but note that this is an expedition-cruise style itinerary, so you will be kept busy if you choose!
Most Galapagos cruise travelers will require pre- and post-cruise accommodations in Ecuador, round-trip flights, National Park entrance fees & transit cards etc. Choose our Galapagos Cruise Package or work with our experts on a custom Galapagos tour. See trip notes for more details.
The Santa Cruz Western Islands Cruise can be combined with the Eastern or Northern Islands Cruises to create an 11-day/10-night itinerary. View the Western Islands Cruise details below or click on the links to view details of other Santa Cruz Galapagos Cruises.
Northern Galapagos Islands 5 days/4 nights
Eastern Galapagos Islands 5 days/4 nights
Santa Cruz Galapagos Cruise Main Page
Day 1 - WED - Embark Baltra to North Seymour
Morning arrival to Baltra Island by plane and immediate transfer to the dock to board the M/V Santa Cruz. Welcome introductory briefing and lunch. Afternoon disembarkation (dry landing) on North Seymour for a walk along the coast and the interior of the island, observing bird colonies of blue-footed boobies, two species of frigatebirds, swallow-tailed gulls and also sea lions and land iguanas. The abundance of wildlife on this island is impressive. In fact, many guides recommend this island to visitors who have but one day in the Galapagos as you’re sure to see so much. Expedition plan for Thursday, welcome cocktail and dinner.Accommodations: Santa CruzIncluded Meals:
lunch and dinner
Day 2 - THR - Punta Roca (Isabela) & Punta Espinoza (Fernandina)
Since there is no landing site at this location, the coastal exploration is by panga, while the naturalist guide explains the dramatic geology of the area with remains of lava flows and tuff stone layers. This is the nesting place for flightless cormorants, the only existing marine birds in the world other than penguins that have changed their condition of flying birds to diving birds. Wildlife here also includes sea lions, Galápagos fur seals, Galápagos penguins, blue-footed and Nazca boobies and noddy terns. Depending on the conditions of the ocean, it will be possible to schedule a deep-water snorkeling outing along the cliffs of partly sunken Ecuador Volcano, near the northern tip of Isabela Island. This area has a very rich marine life of sea lions and flightless cormorants, and is seasonally visited by green sea turtles and oceanic sun fish (Mola mola). Lunch on board.
Afternoon visit to the youngest island of the archipelago, Fernandina. Disembark (dry landing) for a one-mile walk over dark lava. Punta Espinoza has an amazing combination of barrenness and a lot of wildlife. Having no introduced mammals, Fernandina boasts a very unique environment with the highest density of marine iguanas, sharing their space with sea lions, turtles, sally light-foot crabs, hawks, penguins and the flightless cormorant. Expedition plan for Friday and dinner.Accommodations: Santa CruzIncluded Meals:
breakfast, lunch and dinner
Day 3 - FRI - Tagus Cove & Urbina Bay (Isabela)
After breakfast, make a dry landing on the northwest of Isabela. Secluded Tagus Cove provided a favorite anchorage for pirates and whalers over the centuries. Old graffiti is still found carved on its walls; the first one dates to 1836, the year Darwin arrived to this spot. The vegetation in the area includes the fragrant palo santo trees. These white-barked trees are leafless and look dead most of the year. They leaf and spring back to life in the wet season. An uphill hike takes guests to the back of Darwin Crater, filled with salt water. The view at the end of the trail is worth the climb as it shows a dramatic lava valley and more of sprawling Isabela Island. Darwin is one of Isabela’s six volcanoes, a remarkable contrast to the lower islands to the east of the archipelago. After the hike, enjoy a panga ride along the cove's volcanic shore to see boobies, penguins, flightless cormorants, terns and sea lions. Possibilities to swim or deep-water snorkel here as well. There is no beach in the area, so these activities are done from the pangas. Lunch on board.
After lunch (wet landing) disembark at Urbina Bay, located at the foot of volcanoes Alcedo and Darwin, western Isabela Island, the result of an uplifting of the ocean in 1954. This area is home to large and very colorful Galápagos land iguanas, giant tortoises and Darwin’s finches. Isabela Island’s tortoise population was almost wiped out by goats introduced by whalers, but restoration efforts are paying off, and a mellow hike here often has you sharing the trail with numerous giant tortoises. Swim or snorkel along the shoreline to encounter flightless cormorants and other marine life while exploring this beautiful cove. Expedition plan for Saturday and dinner.Accommodations: Santa CruzIncluded Meals:
breakfast, lunch and dinner
Day 4 - SAT - Puerto Ayora, Darwin Research Station & Optional Activities (Santa Cruz)
Morning disembarkation (dry landing) at Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island to visit the Charles Darwin Research Station and the giant tortoise pens, home of the late tortoise celebrity “Lonesome George,” within an impressive giant prickly-pear cactus forest home to many land birds. See baby tortoises in a protected environment, as well as tortoises that exemplify the adaptations of various islands. These are the headquarters of scientific investigation, conservation and the National Park administration. Walk back through town at your leisure to shop or sightsee. Following this visit, board transport to enjoy lunch on a ranch in the cooler highlands of Santa Cruz Island, a completely different ecosystem. On the ranch, there is a pool, hammocks and a small soccer field for some friendly competition with your guides.
After lunch, several options are available, which can be discussed in advance with your expedition leader. Explore trails in the impressive Scalesia forest through the Santa Cruz Highlands, home to giant tortoises and elusive birds like the dark-rumped petrel; take some mountain bikes for a mellow spin; walk to gorgeous silky-sanded Tortuga Bay to kayak or enjoy some down time; or experience sustainable agriculture with a visit to an organic coffee plantation. After your afternoon activities, return to Puerto Ayora and embark on the M/V Santa Cruz. Expedition plan for Sunday and dinner.Accommodations: Santa CruzIncluded Meals:
breakfast, lunch and dinner
Day 5 - SUN - Post Office Bay & Cormorant Point (Floreana)
Morning visit to Post Office Bay. Be part of a unique Galápagos tradition! For over two centuries, a rum barrel has been used by sailors to send mail: sailors would leave their envelopes in the barrel for ships returning to their home ports to hand-deliver on arrival. This tradition continues to this day, so bring your postcards to deposit! Near Post Office Bay, explore the north shore of Floreana Island by panga along narrow channels teeming with life, then enjoy snorkeling or swimming off the sandy beach. Lunch on board.
After lunch, choose to deep-water snorkel at volcanic Champion Islet, regarded as one of the best snorkeling spots in the archipelago, or explore Champion Islet aboard the glass-bottom boat. Later, visit popular Cormorant Point (wet landing), where you'll land on the olivine-crystal beach for an easy walk that includes a brackish water lagoon where bird species like greater flamingos, pintail ducks, common stilts, herons, sandpipers, and others gather. Cross over to a pristine white-sand beach where sea turtles emerge at night to nest (from December to May). Farewell cocktail, departure briefing and dinner.Accommodations: Santa CruzIncluded Meals:
breakfast, lunch and dinner
Day 6 - MON - Disembark Baltra
After breakfast and a farewell from the crew, disembark at Baltra Island. Transfer to the airport and take the flight back to the mainland.Accommodations:
breakfastGALAPAGOS CRUISE INCLUSIVE PACKAGE:
For your convenience we offer an Inclusive Package with three nights hotel accommodations in Quito or Guayaquil, all airport/hotel transfers, Galapagos flights, Galapagos National Park entrance fees and taxes, Galapagos migration card and your Galapagos cruise. View details of our Galapagos Cruise Inclusive Package
Travelers not interested in our inclusive package must purchase Galapagos flights in conjunction with their Galapagos cruise.
GALAPAGOS CRUISE CUSTOM PACKAGE:
If you are booking a cruise-only program our experts can assist with hotels, transfers, flights and tours. Contact AdventureSmith Explorations about customizing your tour or the possibilities of combining this trip with our Mainland Ecuador
and Peru: Machu Picchu
extensions. We are Galapagos cruise and Ecuador travel experts and our staff can help you customize the perfect Galapagos cruise or Ecuador tour package.
Use the itinerary as a guide only. Itineraries may be altered due to weather, wildlife, National Park regulation or at the captain's discretion. The ability to be flexible makes this type of small ship cruising unique.
Accommodations, all meals, island sightseeing, naturalist guides and lecture services in English/Spanish (guiding in other languages upon request for groups larger than 10 guests: German, French, Italian), snorkel gear, taxes and transfers in the islands. Transfer from main hotels in Quito (Casa Gangotena, Hilton Colon, Swissôtel, Marriott, Dann Carlton) and in Guayaquil (Hilton Colon, Oro Verde, Hampton Inn, Sheraton) to airport for flights to/from Galápagos are included in these rates. To coordinate these transfers we must have guest's hotel contact.
International airfare; airfare from mainland Ecuador; Galapagos National Park Entrance Fee (US $100 per adult, $50 for children under 12 years old. This can be paid directly by passengers [cash only] or it is included in our INCLUSIVE PACKAGE TOURS); Galapagos National Institute Migration Control Card (US $10 per person); departure tax ($40.80); gratuities for guides, crew, drivers or local staff; alcoholic and non alcoholic beverages; other personal expenses; internet/WiFi; medical services or insurance of any kind. Fuel surcharge may apply. Wet suits are available for rent for $15 + VAT per guest for 5- or 6-day expeditions.
The Santa Cruz offers one single cabin; advance reservations are required. On the Boat Deck there are two double matrimonial cabins and four twin standard cabins available. There are no share accommodations or roommate match available. Double cabins are available for single occupancy with a surcharge of 50% for normal dates, and 100% for high season. There are no triple cabins for three adults aboard the Santa Cruz. For travelers seeking triple cabins we suggest the Galapagos Legend.
Families & Children:
Children under 12 years old at the time of sailing receive 25% off when sharing the cabin with 2 adults (applies only to one child per adult, paying full fare). No discounts apply on Christmas and New Year's. Minimum child age is 6 years old. Galapagos family cruises are available, call for details.
Arrival & Departure:
Most flights to the Galapagos will depart Quito or Guayaquil between 7:00am-9:00am on day 1 and return between 2:00pm-5:00pm on the final day. We highly recommend travelers arrive Ecuador 2 days prior to their Galapagos cruise.
Payment & Cancellation:
A cruise deposit of $700 per person is required at the time of booking. For land packages a deposit of $300 per person is required at the time of booking. A Reservation Form
, which includes a release of liability, must be completed and signed by all travelers. The balance of the trip price is due 90 days before the departure date. Guests who must cancel their trip for any reason must do so in writing. When a trip cancellation is received between 60 and 0 days from departure, the full trip price will be charged.
Terms & Conditions:
This trip is subject to AdventureSmith Explorations Terms and Conditions
. Please read this information carefully and call us if you have any questions. A packing list and extensive pre-departure and travel insurance information is sent upon confirmation.
We highly recommend our travelers protect their investment with travel insurance. Please note that you must purchase your travel insurance policy within 14 days of booking your trip for it to cover pre-existing medical conditions. Click the link below for a selection of policies from our partners at Travelex.
There are numerous opportunities to swim and snorkel. The underwater experience is an integral part of any Galapagos cruise. We encourage all travelers to try snorkeling. Snorkeling gear is included for the duration of the cruise. Shortie wet suits are also available for rent and are recommended from June to December.
The Santa Cruz Western Islands Cruise will be enjoyed by anyone who is in good health and leads an active life. Daily excursions from the boat to the islands will be made in pangas (dinghies). Trip members will hike from the landing point to specific areas for wildlife observation. Hiking time for most landings will be a couple of hours round trip with lots of time to stop to study, photograph and enjoy the flora and fauna. Some landings are dry but many are "wet," requiring cautious footing on slippery rocks. The boat staff will be on hand to assist.
Multiple Cruise Discount:
Combine two consecutive Santa Cruz itineraries and receive a 10% discount on the lowest priced itinerary. Receive a 50% discount on the lowest priced itinerary when combining all Santa Cruz routes for a 15-day itinerary. Applies only to full-rate bookings; not applicable for promotional rates. Contact AdventureSmith for more information about extending your cruise.
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