So after 4 short days here, it’s time for me to leave. Depending on what you do, that could either be an exorbitant amount of time, or just barely enough time to scratch the surface. A few things I learned along the way:
Know from the start what kind of timeline you have. Are you going to have a full week (excluding the day of arrival and departure)? Or more? The timeline is important so that you can then figure out what you want to do.
Do you want to be land based (hotels and island hopping) or do a cruise? If you’re doing a cruise, you’ll want to make sure you have ample time to go to the islands that are tougher to reach. Although 4 day cruises are offered, in my opinion, they’re nothing more than a waste of time and money. For example, a 4 day 3 night cruise will consist of a the first day getting to the ship around noon…meaning the first “day” is really a half day. Sure, they might take you to the one of the local islands to snorkel but is that’ll be about it. The final day will be just ship returning to port in the morning so again it’s a half “day”. You won’t really go out to too many different islands and for me, it doesn’t seem worth it.
However, if you have the time (and the money), the longer cruises seem to be the sweet spot. Sure, you’ll lose some time getting to those remote islands but you’ll see a lot more with fewer people. If the cost isn’t that much a factor, I’d recommend doing an 8+ day cruise to really get the Charles Darwin/explorer feeling.
Also, I would strongly advise AGAINST booking your tour before getting to the islands. The main street in Puerto Ayora is full of cruise booking agents and they’re all vying for your money. I couldn’t count the number of specials they had with last minute cruises. My guess is that there are only a finite number of cruise ships and they’re leaving regardless of the number of passengers. These booking agencies look like they’re just trying to get a commission for the passengers so it looked fairly easy to be able to ask for an upgrade to a first class cabin or a steep discount. Of course the availability will depend on the number in your party.
If you’re looking for top of the line first class accommodations, it looked like the larger vessels were the ones with the best cabins, amenities, etc. The smaller boats looked like their only purpose was to get you from point to point safely. Considering how much time you’ll actually be spending in your cabin and how prone you are to becoming seasick, you’ll get more bang for the buck on the smaller vessels.
A final tip about getting back to the airport:
So through my very broken Spanish, I believe I was told the busses TO Baltra leave only in the morning between 7-8:30am. If you need to get to the airport after, you’ll be forced to take a taxi for $25. To put it in perspective though, it’s about 40KM from the ferry landing to the city…so $25 isn’t that bad.
OK…so that’s it. I know it’s cliché to say but these islands really are beautiful and if you love watching animals, it’s pretty tough to beat.