Galapagos: Sailing & Multi-Sport
Explore the wonder and beauty of the Galapagos Islands with sailing excursions by catamaran. Snorkel, dive, hike, and more with these small group trips!
Discover unique wildlife and tropical treasures with catamaran sailing trips in the Galapagos Islands!
If you’re looking for diverse wildlife and the most amazing natural wonders, the Galapagos has it all. Spend 11 glorious days hiking volcanoes, snorkeling in crystal blue waters, viewing tortoises and other wildlife, kayaking and cultural land visits. Our small, intimate group travel, allows us to visit both popular and more remote locations, and offer flexibility in activities with a go-at-your-own pace mentality to truly enjoy and immerse yourself in the beauty and wonder of the area.
This trip is one of the most adventurous and active trips available in the archipelago. On these tours, we use one of the largest of the sail catamarans in the Galapagos fleet at 82 and 84 feet, two deluxe power cats and the archipelago’s most luxurious yacht at 147 feet. These vessels can accommodate 12, 16, or 18 guests depending on the program and boat.
The wildlife viewing opportunities are boundless. From the world’s only seagoing lizards to flightless cormorants and penguins, flamingos, inflatable frigate birds, waved albatrosses, clownish boobies, patriarchal giant tortoises, and 13 species of Darwin finches, you can enjoy thrilling encounters with animals-up close and in large numbers-who are completely at ease among human visitors. There are extraordinary opportunities to swim with marine mammals such as sea lions, fur seals, dolphins, and manta, eagle, and golden rays, as well as thousands of the 300 species of colorful fish. The more adventurous may relish the chance to snorkel with the friendly Galapagos sharks or even hammerheads and white-tipped reef sharks. Marine turtles and whales are commonplace and simply add to the magic.
Itinerary at a Glance
Every boat and departure has a slightly different schedule, the following is a sample of what your trip may be like:
- Trip Day 1 – Arrive Quito and check into your hacienda lodging
- Day 2 – Tour the old city or take an optional day trip to Papallacta Hot Springs or Otavalo Market before returning to your hacienda
- Sailing Day 1 (Sunday) – Flight to Galapagos (Baltra Island) and hike/snorkel Bachas beach
- Day 2 – Hike to see giant tortoises, snorkel, surf, explore the island of Santa Cruz
- Day 3 – Hike and snorkel on San Cristobal, snorkel at Kicker Rock, swim at Isla los Lobos
- Day 4 – See tortoises, albatross, boobies & Tropic birds on Espanola Island
- Day 4 – Visit the white sand beaches of Gardner Bay
- Day 5 – Visit Floreana Island and Post Office Bay
- Day 6 – Meet the denizens of Santa Fe and South Plaza Islands
- Day 7 – Snorkel at Sombrero Chino then visit the iconic Bartolomne Island
- Day 8 – Return to Santa Cruz and Black Turtle Cove before return flights to Quito
- Trip Day 11 – After a restful night sleep in your hacienda in Quito, we’ll shuttle you to the airport in the morning for flights home.
Although every boat and departure has a slightly different schedule, following is a sample of what your trip may be like:
- Sailing Day 1 (Sunday) – Flight to Galapagos (Baltra Island) and hike/snorkel North Seymour
- Day 2 – Hike to see giant tortoises, snorkel, explore Santa Cruz
- Day 3 – Hike and snorkel on Isabela Island and Punta Moreno
- Day 4 – Snorkeling at Tagus Cove and Fernandina Punta Espinoza
- Day 5 – Hiking and snorkeling – Santiago Puerto Egas and Espumilla Beach
- Day 6 – Rabida and Sullivan Bay
- Day 7 – Hiking volcanoes – Genovesa – Barranco – Darwin Bay
- Day 8 (Sunday) – Arrive Baltra and flight back to Quito
- Trip Day 11 – After a restful night sleep in your hacienda in Quito, we’ll shuttle you to the airport in the morning for flights home
- Experienced professional guides
- All non-alcoholic beverages* and meals from dinner on Day 1 to breakfast on Day 11
- All activities described in the itinerary
- Location fees and necessary permits
*Soft drinks and alcoholic beverages are an additional charge
What to Expect on the Galapagos Catamaran Cruise
Because of the Galapagos’ famed natural history and remarkable creatures, these remote islands are revered the world over. In an effort to protect and preserve these “enchanted isles”, that literally changed the world, access is restricted and regulated. On these adventures, our special permits allow us to visit these protected sites.
Northern routes take advantage of Isabela and Fernandina, the largest and youngest islands in the archipelago, respectfully, and are the most remote of the two itineraries. Southern routes are busier but visit more of the iconic locations. Both routes have hikes, daily snorkeling, kayaking and land visits to the highlands. With advance notice, scuba divers can arrange dives and of course, we offer world class hospitality both pre- and post-sailing in Quito.
Most flights arrive into Quito in the evenings so we’ve included two nights before your flight out to the islands to allow you time to decompress. It also affords time for flight delays or lost baggage.
Here’s a look at the detailed itinerary:
Trip Day 1 for Southern and Northern Routes (Friday) – Arrive Quito, Ecuador
Upon arrival in Quito, you will be met at the airport and whisked to your nearby hacienda.
Trip Day 2 Quito (Saturday) – Optional activities
Today you can sleep in a little and enjoy the great breakfast at this family-owned and operated hacienda. Later in the morning, you can depart to Papallacta Hot Springs to soak and unwind after the flight to Ecuador. It’s about a one-hour scenic drive but a wonderful way to see the countryside. In addition to the private hot pools, we will have lunch and some may choose to do some hiking while others may opt to get a massage or other spa services. If hot springs are not your thing, we can organize a guided visit to Otavalao, Ecuador’s largest open air market. Dinner and overnight at the hacienda
Day 1 (Sunday) – Flight to Baltra and board the Catamaran
After breakfast, take a taxi back to the airport for your flight to Galápagos. The domestic terminal is small but you will want to arrive at least 1.5 hours prior to your flight from Quito to Baltra (which is adjacent to Santa Cruz). Once in Galápagos, your guide will meet you at the terminal and take you to our sailing catamaran moored in the harbor. You’ll check in to your cabins and then regroup to enjoy a delicious lunch. Soon after we will sail to Bachas Beach where you will have an opportunity to unwind, explore the beach and test your snorkeling gear (which is provided for you). The name is Spanglish for “barges” which were wrecked offshore during World War II. A common first landing site, there is a delightful swimming beach and lagoon. This lagoon hosts great blue herons and small waders such as sanderlings and semi-palmated plovers. The beach is a nesting area for green sea turtles, especially November to February. The expansive white sands here are also home to sea lions and flocks of blue-footed boobies demonstrating their acrobatic dives. Pelicans, tropicbirds and herons may also be a part of the mix.
Later in the day we’ll gather for the first in a series of congenial onboard dinners as we get to know our fellow travelers and navigate our way to Santa Cruz.
Day 2 – (Monday) Santa Cruz Highlands and Charles Darwin Research Station
After a glorious ocean-side breakfast, we will explore the island of Santa Cruz. This morning you have the option of hiking to Tortuga Beach for surfing or body surfing in the waves. We have both long and short boards available and your guide can teach you the basics of surfing. Once you ride your first wave you will be addicted! For those not up to a morning at the beach, we will visit Los Gemelos (the twins) and hike through the unique vegetation rich with birdlife. Biking may also be an option to explore the highlands. In the afternoon we will visit the world famous Charles Darwin Research Centre where most of the efforts to protect and preserve the native flora and fauna are developed. The center also has giant tortoise rearing programs and is home to Lonesome George, the last of his species. Tonight we will dine while we navigate to San Cristobal Island.
Day 3 – (Tuesday) Cerro Brujo, Kicker Rock and Sea Lion Island (Isla de los Lobos)
We awake to new scenery again this morning on the north side of San Cristobal Island at Cerro Brujo. We are greeted here by sea lions, blue-footed boobies, pelicans, egrets and marine iguanas.
We cruise to Leon Dormito or Kicker Rock keeping our eyes peeled along the way for sea turtles, manta rays and birds overhead. This volcanic tuff cone rises almost 500 feet out of the ocean and provides a wonderland for marine life. If the currents are in our favour, we will dawn our snorkeling gear and explore this popular dive site. Drift along allowing big schools of fish to pass and try to keep track of all the species you see; there are over 450 of them in Galapagos!
All that snorkeling works up an appetite and we will re-fuel our bodies with a delicious lunch before jumping right off our catamaran and back into the ocean to swim with the playful sea lions for which this Island was named. Isla los Lobos is a haven for these playful creatures and the more you mimic their aquatic acrobatics the better performance they put on for us!
Dinner aboard the boat and evening cruise to our next spot in paradise!
Day 4 (Wednesday) – Espanola and Gardner Bay
This morning we arrive at Espanola, the oldest and most southern of the Galapagos Islands. We take to the land and walk along the islands coast to Punta Suarez admiring the wildlife all the way. The coast is lines with marine iguanas, a species found nowhere else on earth. This provides fantastic photo opportunities as we watch them pile up on the shore to sunbathe and excrete the salt out of the nostrils after feasting on the algae that grows under the sea. Espanola is also the only place in the world that the stunning Waved Albatross, with its 7-8 foot wingspan, touches land. This is their nesting ground and provides the hatchlings a practice area until their first flight, which will take them all the way to Patagonia! Boobies, Tropic birds and Swallow-tailed Gulls also breed here. If the tide is right, watch as a blowhole shoots water high into the air in a spectacular show of power.
We return to the boat and enjoy lunch on our way to Gardner Bay. Here we find two brilliant white beaches separated by a rocky outcrop. We will take our time here and let the wonders of Galapagos surround us. The inquisitive Hood Mockingbird and Galapagos Hawk may approach you and you may see the tank-life tracks of nesting sea turtles in the nesting season (January to April). As we snorkel through the crystal clear water we may see these turtles among the beautiful fish and sea lions. Watch the sun set over this idyllic bay before we return to the boat for the evening.
Day 5 (Thursday) – Floreana Island and Post Office Bay
We take our panga (zodiak) boat over to Punta Cormorant and debark onto a beach like no other in Galapagos. The green sand is due to the olivine and the Palo Santo forest leads us to a brackish lagoon that hosts flamingos and then on to a white sand beach known as ‘flour beach’ due to the fineness of the sand. Watch the rays flutter in the shallow water, or, if you have unshakable nerves, shuffle into the ocean and watch them swim around your feet. This beach is also a popular nesting area for sea turtles and we may see couples mating in the waves rolling into shore.
Next, we move back into our under-water world and go with the flow of the current as it carries us past steep walls and volcanic formations. This deep blue sea is teaming with large schools of colourful fish. Watch for Parrotfish, Sergeant Majors, Damselfish, even gentle white-tipped skarks!
Moving back onto the land, we learn about the stranger-than-fiction history of Floreana complete with pirates, whalers, convicts and colonists. We will visit Post Office Bay established 1792, but no need for stamps here! Sort through the piles of post cards and letters left by past visitors of the island and if you find a letter addressed to someone close to your home, take it with you and deliver it by hand keeping with this long standing tradition.
Day 6 (Friday) – Isla Santa Fe and South Plaza
We visit the north-eastern corner of the island in the sheltered bay and this shallow area often allows for viewing rays and turtles in the clear water. Santa Fe is noted for its large colony of Sea Lions and we will navigate past the cows and pups being careful not to disturb the bull male who is overseeing his harem. We follow a trail winding its way through Prickly Pear, Cotton Bushes and Heller’s Scalesia to the top of a cliff with a dramatic overlook of the bay. Here we watch for endemic Santa Fe Land Iguana feasting on catcus fruit below the trees and Galapagos Hawks soaring above searching for food.
We’ll set sail now over to the South Plaza just off the eastern tip of Santa Cruz. This is one of the most concentrated wildlife sites in the whole archipelago. We will follow a trail up from the small dock past Sea Lions and Prickly Pear cacti to the cliff where we often spot the endemic Yellow-Tailed Mullet. This is an excellent place to photograph the Swallow Tailed Gull and the Red-tailed Tropic Bird (both breed here). We’ll return to the boat and may have a chance to jump in the water and so some snorkeling before beginning our next evening cruise north.
Day 7 (Saturday) – Sombrero Chino and Bartolome
Sombrero Chino, or ‘Chinese Hat’ will be easy to identify and will also mark our first snorkeling spot for the day. There are often a group of curious penguins here and they have been known to gaze at their reflection in our snorkel masks, then rocket away with impressive speed.
Once aboard the boat again we’ll lunch as we sail to Bartolome Island, one of the most picturesque islands on the tour. The hike to the top provides many great examples to help us understand how this unique volcanic landscape was formed and lends a stunning view from the top of our boat below and Santiago Island to the North. Back in our panga, we will drift past the penguins perched on top of the rocks along shore and then into the water to snorkel along Pinnacle Rock amazed by the incredible marine life once again!
Back on the Catamaran for the night and left the gentle rock of the boat lull you to sleep after a satisfying dinner. We start our journey back to Santa Cruz.
Day 8 (Sunday) –Isla Santa Cruz / Return to Quito
Birdlife abounds as the morning sunrise lights up the pink skies. Soon after, reality sinks in that it is time to leave this island paradise and make our way to the airport at Baltra. But first, a tranquil journey through the still waters and beautiful mazes of mangroves called Black turtle Cove. Marvel at this wild aquarium with spotted eagle rays, turtles and baby sharks swimming around our boat in the quite still of our last morning in Galapagos.
Trip Day 11 (Monday) – Quito
Waking up to the bustle of Quito is quite a contrast to days of tranquil sailing and wildlife viewing. After breakfast in the hacienda, we’ll gather up our gear and take a short shuttle to the airport for flights home or on to your next adventure in Ecuador.
Day 1: Early morning flight to Baltra and snorkel at North Seymour
Its an early day as we catch a flight from Quito to Baltra (which is adjacent to Santa Cruz). Once in Galapagos, your naturalist guide will meet you at the park entrance and take you to our yacht moored in the harbor. You’ll check in to your cabins and then regroup to enjoy a delicious lunch.
Soon after we navigate around Daphne Major and learn about Darwin’s Finches before landing at North Seymour for a guided walk. Immediately we will see sea lions, blue-footed boobies and nesting frigate birds. As we walk this beautiful trail we may see land iguanas and even marine iguanas. This island hosts great blue herons and small waders such as sanderlings and semi-palmated plovers. Pelicans, tropicbirds and herons may also be a part of the mix. Later in the day we’ll gather for the first in a series of congenial onboard dinners as we get to know our fellow travelers and navigate our way to Santa Cruz.
Day 2: Hiking – Santa Cruz and Charles Darwin Station
After a glorious oceanside breakfast, we will explore the island of Santa Cruz. In the morning we will travel up into the highlands to see tortoises in the wilds. A stunning view and relaxed private reserve, we will be able to walk around on your own and take pictures of these incredible beasts.
In the afternoon we will visit the world famous Charles Darwin Research Centre where most of the efforts to protect and preserve the native flora and fauna are developed. The center also has giant tortoise rearing programs and is home to Lonesome George, the last of his species. Tonight we will dine while we navigate to Isabela Island.
Day 3: Hiking and snorkeling – Isabela Island and Punta Moreno
Located on the western shore of Isabela, Punta Moreno is a place where the forces of the Galapagos have joined to create a work of art. Our exploration starts with a panga ride along the beautiful rocky shores where Galapagos penguins and shore birds are frequently seen. After a dry landing, the path traverses through jagged black lava rock. As the swirling black lava flow gave way to form craters, crystal tide pools formed-some surrounded by mangroves. This is a magnet for small blue lagoons, pink flamingos, blue herons, and Bahama pintail ducks. Brown pelican can be seen nesting in the green leaves of the mangroves. You can walk to the edge of the lava to look straight down on these pools including the occasional green sea turtle, white-tipped shark and puffer fish. We will have time to snorkel before lunch and then navigate to Urbina Bay.
Lying at the foot of Alcedo Volcano, south of Tagus Cove, is Urvina Bay (Urbina Bay) one of the best and the most recent example of geological uplift in the Galapagos. Uplift occurs when the molten materials beneath the surface shift. In 1954 the shoreline was uplifted nearly 15 feet (4 meters). The coastline was driven 3/4 of a mile further out to sea, exposing giant coral heads and stranding marine organisms on what was now on shore. A Disney film crew visited the site shortly afterwards and discovered skeletons of sharks, sea turtles and lobsters unable to find the ocean from the rapidly rising land. Schools of fish were found stranded in newly formed tide pools. Boulder sized coral heads can be seen near the area that once was the beach. The uplifting of Urbina Bay was followed by an eruption of Alcedo a few weeks later.
Seasonally Urbina Bay provides a nesting area for many of the Galapagos creatures. Female tortoises journey down from Alcedo to lay their eggs in the sand. Galapagos penguins, flightless cormorants and brown pelicans nest in the area as well. The visit begins with a wet landing on the white sand beach. The difficulty of the route varies by season as the trail ranges from stark and easily passable during the dry season to mildly challenging requiring wading to pass during the rainy season. Visitors cross the uplifted region learning about this geological wonder. Then reach the sandy area that was once the beach. Shorter visits return to the landing point on the same path, while longer visits continue past the coral heads and new beach.
Other highlights of this site include marine iguanas and some of the largest land iguanas in the islands, and Galapagos Cotton an endemic plant, historians believe the Incas brought to the islands, while naturalist theorize it floated across from Peru. Tonight we will dine enroute to Tagus Cove
Day 4: Snorkeling at Tagus Cove and Fernandina Punta Espinoza
Tagus Cove is situated directly east of Fernandina Island on the west coast of Isabela Island. It is a beautiful, well-protected cove sheltered by the shoulders of two volcanic craters and has been used as an anchorage for over 300 years. A nature trail here ascends through the typical dry vegetation zone and offers spectacular views of Darwin Lake, a saltwater crater lake and the long narrow inlet that appears to connect with it. At the top of the trail it is possible to observe the different vegetation zones, catch a glimpse of Darwin and Wolf volcanoes, and observe Galapagos penguins, flightless cormorants and pelicans. We will have an opportunity to snorkel before sailing to Fernandina.
Fernandina Island is the youngest and most active volcano in the Galapagos, with eruptions taking place every few years. The flat lava of Punta Espinosa offers a stark and barren landscape, but here flightless cormorants build their nests on the point, sea lions sprawl on the beach or play in the tide pools and large numbers of marine iguanas dot the sand. We also will have the opportunity to compare the aa and pahoehoe lava types here. Dinner at night and navigation to Santiago,
Day 5: Hiking and snorkeling – Santiago Puerto Egas and Espumilla Beach
A visit to Puerto Egas begins with a wet landing on the dark sand beaches of James Bay. Here we walk along the rocky coast giving visitors the opportunity to view some of the Galapagos Island’s best tide pools. Sponges, snails, hermit crabs, barnacles and fish including the endemic four-eyed blenny can be seen. The walk also presents a variety of shore birds, marine iguanas, sally light foot crabs and sea lions.
There are two interesting excursions at Puerto Egas. The first is a short walk from the landing site to the site of one of the Galapagos’ first entrepreneurial endeavors. For decades salt was extracted from a local salt crater. The industry was abandoned in the 1950’s leaving behind a variety of rusted old machines and parts of buildings. The trail follows the path once used by wagon trains to the crater cone. The steep trail is easy, but can often seem one of the hottest hikes in the islands. Feral goats prune the arid vegetation, which lines the trail. The goats feed on any leaves within reach leaving little left for the endemic island creatures. Bird lovers will be delighted with the opportunity to catch a glimpse of one of Darwins finch, the endemic Galapagos hawk, or the colorful vermilion flycatcher.
Reaching the crater rim presents an incredible vista as you are able to see this extinct volcano whose floor has sunken below sea level. Salt water seeps into the crater creating a small salt lake. The sun evaporates the water, leaving the salt that many have tried to mine without success. Looking away from the crater are the older orange lava fields supporting vegetation including the palo santo trees and the younger desolate black lava fields.
The second excursion is to a fur seal grotto. Fur seals and sea lions can be seen swimming in the rocky lava ringed pools. This is the best opportunity guests have to see and swim with fur seals. Fur seals were once hunted to near extinction for their coats. The Galapagos Fur Seal is the smallest of the fur seals found in the southern hemisphere, now compare in numbers with the sea lions. During the day they hide from the hot equatorial sun in shelves or caves of the rocky lava cliffs. At night they feed on squid and fish avoiding the sharks, which are their natural predator. The crystal clear water, volcanic bridges, fur seals and sea lions make this a magnificent place for swimming and snorkeling.
Visitors who now come to Espumilla Beach come in search of birds rather than water. A short walk inland takes visitors through a mangrove forest normally inhabited by the common stilt. Sea turtles also visit these mangroves to nest. Beyond the mangroves is a brackish lagoon where flocks of pink flamingos and white cheeked pintails can be seen. The trail makes a loop heading over a knob into a sparely forested area then back to the beach. Along the way those with a watchful eye may spot a variety of Darwin finches or a vermilion fly catcher. Once back at the beach visitors may have the chance to swim or snorkel time permitting.
Less than an hour north of Puerto Egas, Buccaneers Cove served as a safe haven for pirates, sailors and whalers during the 18th and 19th century. Anchoring in the protected bay they were able to make much needed repairs to their ships while other men went a shore to stock up on salt, tortoises, fresh water and firewood. Several years ago ceramic jars were found at the bottom of the bay, the disregarded cargo of some mariner from years gone by. Inside the jars were supplies of wine and marmalade. Few boats stop at Buccaneers Cove today. Though many cruise by at a slow speed giving visitors the opportunity to view the steep cliffs made of tuff formations and the dark reddish-purple sand beach. This dramatic landscape is made all the more impressive by the hundreds of seabirds perched atop the cliffs. Two of the more recognizable rock formations are known as the “monk” and “elephant rock”. A large population of feral goats now frequents Buccaneers Cove and this portion of Santiago. The National Park Service has fenced off part of the area to protect the native vegetation from the destructive eating habits of this introduced species. A wet landing on the large coffee-colored sand beach is just north of the prized fresh water supply that once attracted pirates and whalers. Dinner at night and navigation to Rabida.
Day 6: Rabida and Sullivan Bay
One of the special features of Rabida Island is its remarkable red color, which is a result of the high percentage of oxidized iron in the composition of lava. Here we will witness the nine varieties of finches also the large-billed flycatchers and brown pelicans. Here a small salt-water lagoon where greater Flamingos can be seen and a beautiful colony of sea lions. The main attraction of Sullivan Bay is the broad, pahoehoe or rope lava flow. It is one of the most incredible places to compare the lava flows and their characteristics. Dinner at night and navigation to Genovesa.
Day 7: Hiking volcanoes – Genovesa – Barranco – Darwin Bay
Also known as bird Island, El Barranco, is a place where tropicbirds, red-footed boobies and other nesting seabirds can be found. We follow the trail through a palo santo forest to a storm petrel colony passing boobies and great frigate birds along the way. Darwin Bay is the caldera of a collapsed volcano and has a small coral beach where we can land for an easier walk, snorkel and kayaking. This will allow for stunning views from the cliffs and an opportunity to photograph the amazing bird life such as swallow-tailed gulls, red-footed booby, nazca booby, large ground finch, large cactus finch, sharp-billed ground finch, small marine iguanas, and great frigate bird. Dinner at night and navigation to Baltra.
Day 8: Baltra – Quito
Birdlife abounds as the morning sunrise lights up the pink skies. Soon after, reality sinks in that it is time to leave this island paradise and make our way to the airport at Baltra. Tonight you may decide to re-group in Quito for a farewell dinner to share memories and laughs before retiring to your overnight accommodations. Please note: guests flying home on Delta may depart this evening from Quito
Trip Day 11 (Monday) – Quito
Waking up to the bustle of Quito is quite a contrast to days of tranquil sailing and wildlife viewing. After breakfast in the hacienda, we’ll gather up our gear and take a short shuttle to the airport for flights home or on to your next adventure in Ecuador.
Most of the trip will be spent on the largest of the sail catamarans in the Galapagos fleet at 82 and 84 feet, two deluxe power cats and the archipelago’s most luxurious yacht at 147 feet. These vessels can accommodate 12, 16, or 18 guests depending on the program and boat.
New park regulations make it illegal to visit an area more than once in a fifteen day cycle. Subsequently all of the boat operators for the most part have 2 alternating routes. In our case, we have a northern sailing and naturalist trip where guests navigate their way up and around Isabela Island and wrap the trip with a rare visit to Genovesa Tower. This itinerary gives the widest range of animals and mammals and offers daily snorkel and walking excursions.
Our Southern Route visits a number of hot spots and is best-suited for the most active and adventurous itinerary available in the islands. Guests will sail, hike and snorkel like on the northern route but also experience more kayaking, hiking, stand up paddle boarding and surfing on our adventure sailing itinerary. This itinerary has a North American adventure guide in addition to your Level III naturalist.