The Galapagos Islands are on every nature traveler’s bucket list. But most travelers have no idea how to get there. One of the first questions we receive is “How do you get to the Galapagos Islands?” This guide outlines everything you need to know about how to get to the Galapagos Islands.
IN THIS POST – How to Get to Galapagos
Where Are the Galapagos?
How to Get to Galapagos
Can I Fly Direct?
Flights to Ecuador
Flights to Galapagos
Galapagos Flight Timing
Flight Costs & Arrival Fees
Biosecurity for Getting to Galapagos
How Will You Get to Galapagos?
Where Are the Galapagos Islands?
The Galapagos Islands are located 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, right on the equator in the Pacific Ocean. This location makes them very isolated. This is part of their appeal and one of the reasons why some Galapagos wildlife is endemic. Many animals are found only here and nowhere else in the world. But this also makes it tricky for travelers to get to the Galapagos.
How to Get to Galapagos
The only way for travelers to get to the Galapagos Islands is by air. Travelers must fly from mainland Ecuador to the Galapagos Island. It is not possible to cruise from mainland on a tourist-class ship, and there is no road or ferry service.
When planning how to travel to Galapagos, you must decide first how you plan to explore when you get there: by land or sea. Galapagos cruises and Galapagos land tours are the primary means of exploration. Both typically require specific arrival dates and often group flights, so knowing your itinerary will help guide you in your discovery of how to get to the Galapagos Islands. And secondly, you must choose whether to depart from Guayaquil or Quito to Galapagos. Read on for extensive details on all these options and much more about Galapagos Islands flights.
Can I Fly Direct to the Galapagos?
Direct international flights do not exist, so you cannot fly directly to the Galapagos. Travelers must first arrive at mainland Ecuador prior to their flight to the Galapagos Islands.
The Galapagos National Park has strict requirements that airlines must fulfill. Therefore, is it unlikely there will ever be an international flight to the Galapagos.
Flights to Ecuador
While planning how to get to Galapagos you must first decide which mainland Ecuador city you want to land in. International flights arriving in Ecuador will land at either Quito or Guayaquil. There are some nuances to understand with this choice, so read on:
Quito | Mariscal Sucre International Airport | Airport Code: UIO
Quito’s airport is located outside of town. Airport hotels are available. Travelers wanting to experience historic colonial Quito should note that a private transfer takes about 1 hour, depending on traffic. Quito is highly recommended for a Galapagos pre- or post-trip extension.
Guayaquil | José Joaquin de Olmedo International Airport | Airport Code: GYE
The Guayaquil airport is located close to town with a quick 20-minute transfer to most hotels. Guayaquil is popular with travelers proceeding straight to and from the Galapagos in the least amount of time.
Timing Your Ecuador Arrival Flights
Since flights from Quito and Guayaquil to the Galapagos Islands depart in the morning, a hotel overnight is almost always required.
We highly recommend travelers arrive in Ecuador at least 2 nights prior to their flight to the Galapagos Islands.
Most flights from North America arrive late in the evening, between 8:00pm and 11:00pm. Without an extra day you may miss your flight to the Galapagos if your Ecuador flight is delayed or cancelled.
Arriving early also provides time to enjoy Quito or Guayaquil. In deciding how to get to the Galapagos Islands, this should be a key consideration so you aren’t rushed or missing out on seeing something you could have easily explored. See our Quito & Guayaquil Galapagos Travel Package for an easy, cost effective pre and post travel package.
Flights to the Galapagos Islands
When planning Galapagos Islands flights, travelers need to consider the route and timing. Flights to the Galapagos are available from the same two airports in Quito or Guayaquil described above. Your trip itinerary will dictate which Galapagos airports you will need to fly in and out of. Some cruises and tours will arrive at one Galapagos airport and depart from another, so review your itinerary carefully.
Flights to Galapagos are usually arranged in conjunction with your small ship Galapagos cruise or tour package. Typically flights are not included in the price. Cruise and tour operators block flights in advance to ensure there is space for all travelers on the trip. This also ensures the best price. Airlines that service the Galapagos Islands from Ecuador are LATAM and Avianca.
Other common questions are “Is there an airport in the Galapagos Islands?” Or “Where do you fly into to visit the Galapagos Islands?” Many folks imagine the Galapagos is a pristine wilderness. For the most part it is, with 97% of the islands protected and uninhabited. But there are communities and there are Galapagos Island airports.
Flights to Galapagos Islands land at one of two airports. Seymour Airport is on Baltra Island, adjacent to Santa Cruz Island. San Cristobal Airport is in the town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal Island. All travelers flying to the Galapagos Islands will arrive at these airports.
Seymour Airport, Baltra | Airport Code: GPS
Seymour Airport (airport code: GPS) is on Baltra Island. Travelers with cruises and tours embarking in Baltra or Puerto Ayora, on Santa Cruz Island, should choose the Seymour airport. The small island of Baltra doesn’t house much more than the airport, but it’s a noteworthy airport for its history and eco-friendly accolades. During World War II it was known as the Seymour Island Airfield and was used by the Unites States Air Force to defend South America and the Panama Canal from Japanese submarines. After a rebuild in 2012, the open-air Seymour Airport became the world’s first green airport running solely on solar and wind power. It holds a LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, with roughly 80% of the materials recycled from the old airport.
After arriving at the Seymour Airport, travelers will embark their cruise or begin their trip in one of two places:
- Travelers embarking their cruise in Baltra will transfer by free shuttle bus from the airport to the Seymour Passenger Dock. The transfer takes about 10 minutes.
- Travelers embarking their cruise or beginning their trip in Puerto Ayora need to get to Santa Cruz Island. A bus transfer from Seymour Airport to the Baltra Ferry Terminal takes about 10 minutes. A short 5-minute water taxi takes guests to the Santa Cruz Ferry Terminal on Santa Cruz Island. From here, buses and taxis transfer travelers across the island of Santa Cruz to Puerto Ayora. The entire transfer from Seymour Airport to Puerto Ayora takes about 90 minutes.
San Cristobal Airport | Airport Code: SCY
San Cristobal Airport (airport code: SCY) is on the island of San Cristobal. It services cruises and tours embarking in the town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. The San Cristobal Airport is only a few minutes from town. Travelers can transfer from the airport bus, taxi or even by walking.
Galapagos Flight Routes & Timing
With two airports in Ecuador and two in Galapagos, travelers must consider the timing and route of their Galapagos Islands flights when determining how to visit the Galapagos Islands. But it is not as complicated as it sounds.
Read the primer below on general arrival and departure Galapagos flight times and routes. Be sure to reference our Ecuador & Galapagos Travel Restrictions information for any updates amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Schedules may change without notice.
Flights to Galapagos
Most flights from Quito to Galapagos stop in Guayaquil to pick up passengers before proceeding to the islands. So, in effect, these are the same flight.
The short flight from Quito to Guayaquil takes 30-40 minutes. The flight from Guayaquil to Galapagos takes about 2.5 hours.
Flights from Quito to Galapagos depart earlier in the morning. Departure times tend to be between 6:45am and 10:00am. Flights from Guayaquil to the Galapagos depart a bit later, between about 8:20am and 12:00pm.
Keep in mind that the time in Galapagos is 1 hour behind mainland Ecuador. Galapagos Time Zone (GALT) is 6 hours behind Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).
Flights from Galapagos
Similarly, return flights from the Galapagos to Quito will make a stop in Guayaquil to drop passengers before proceeding to Quito.
Flights from the Galapagos depart mid-day between 10:00am and 2:00pm. These flights arrive in Guayaquil between 1:00pm and 4:30pm. They then arrive in Quito between 3:00pm and 7:00pm.
Flights from Ecuador
Some travelers will try to return home the same day they fly from the Galapagos Islands. It is possible to catch a late international flight from Quito or Guayaquil. Red-eye flights to North America or Europe depart late evening, typically between 11:00pm and 1:00am. This makes it possible to return home on the day you return from the Galapagos. But be warned: it makes for a long two days of travel.
A day room at a nearby airport hotel can make this option more enjoyable. But most travelers instead choose to overnight once more in Quito or Guayaquil and depart in the morning.
Galapagos Flight Costs & Arrival Fees
Another common question when planning how to get to Galapagos is “How much does a Galapagos flight cost?”
Average round-trip price for a flight from Guayaquil to Galapagos is about $400. A flight from Quito to Galapagos is about $500. Depending on timing and availability, prices can vary by about $100 with higher prices during holidays, busy seasons and last minute.
Remember: flights are typically not included in published cruise and tour prices. Sometimes complimentary flights will be included in a cruise package. Be sure to check our Galapagos cruise deals for the latest special offers.
In addition to the cost of Galapagos flights, to get to the Galapagos Islands, travelers are required to pay for a $20 INGALA transit control card. This fee is paid at the airport in Quito or Guayaquil. Then, a $100-per-person Galapagos National Park Entrance Fee is paid at the airport in Galapagos. Many tours and cruises can arrange to pay these fees in advance, so you do not have to carry extra cash.
Biosecurity Involved in Getting to Galapagos
How to travel to Galapagos safely to protect this iconic place? The biggest threat to the fragile ecosystem of the Galapagos is the introduction of invasive species. Humans can inadvertently bring seeds or bugs with them, so Ecuador has instituted biosecurity protocols for all travelers arriving by air.
After you check in at the airport in Quito or Guayaquil, luggage must go through a screening process. Authorities checks for live animals, plants and seeds. This ensures introduced species are not transported to the islands.
Once your flight to Galapagos is in the air, flight attendants will spray overhead bins with an insecticide. This further reduces the possibility of introducing insects. Then, upon arrival at the airport in Galapagos you will be asked to step through a solution that sterilizes the soles of your shoes.
How Will You Get to the Galapagos Islands?
Ultimately, how to get to Galapagos comes down to your travel style, timing needs and other factors our team can help you with. The Galapagos Islands are a once-in-a-lifetime destination. With a little logistics planning, it is not difficult to get to Galapagos. And the journey can be part of the fun if you’re ready for the adventure.
Our experts travel to the Galapagos frequently. We plan custom tours and cruises for hundreds of travelers every year. Contact us for a free quote and to begin planning your Galapagos Islands journey. Browse our additional resources below for more “how to get to Galapagos Islands” planning advice.
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Have a question or need specific advice on how to get to the Galapagos Islands? Leave a comment below and our experts will answer. Ready to get to the Galapagos with AdventureSmith Explorations? Contact us and you’ll be on your way.