Let’s face it, The Galapagos islands are not a cheap destination. This bucket list destination is one of those once-in-a-lifetime places that people save up lots of money for over an extended period of time and usually spend quite a bit on this trip.
However, it doesn’t have to be that expensive and is totally doable on a budget (ish). I recently went in February and spent $994 total for 7 nights, including flights…and I did it solo! You can read about my detailed tips on how I did it so cheap here: Solo Travel The Galapagos on the Cheap (ish): How I Did 7 Days/Nights for $994, Including Flights!
There are actually so many free (or cheap) things to do in the Galapagos and I have highlighted them below based on my experience. Couple them with a few last minute tours and your dream trip can easily become a reality.
Free (or Cheap) Things to Do in The Galapagos
Santa Cruz Island
- Charles Darwin Research Station (free)-learn more about the amazing ecosystem of the Galapagos and Darwin’s impact left on it. There is also a turtle center and some colourful iguanas to see.
- Tortuga Bay (free)-a beautiful bay to relax at or swim/snorkel in. It requires a 40 (ish) minute walk to get to. There are boats that can take you there too if you are too lazy to walk. When you get there, walk 15 minutes to the right for a place to swim and snorkel. Along the way, you will see a gorgeous blue/green wading pool that is very picturesque. They should really call this Iguana bay because you literally will see hundreds of iguanas on the beach and in the water.
- Las Grietas(free-ish)-the taxi is $1.60 round trip to get there, hence the “ish”. It’s a great place to snorkel and cool off. It is also the clearest water I saw in the Galapagos. Las Grietas is regulated by an attendant and you must sign in upon arrival. You have a limit of 40 minutes and they allow only up to 48 people max at a time.
- Self-guided bike tour ($15/day)-rent a bike and go along the path to the Wall of Tears. It takes about an hour to get to, and there are many awesome spots on the way to stop off. Try to go early in the morning to beat the heat, because the last 1-2km is going uphill and it’s not fun in the heat (trust me). Make your stops on the way back.
- Wall of Tears (free)-the wall of tears was constructed by prisoners in the penal colony, many of whom died during the construction due to harsh conditions of being in the heat all day. The wall was left there as a testament to these people and to highlight the abuse of power.
- El Estero (free)– a little estaury leading to the ocean covered by trees, mangroves, and a little creek. I was the only one there and really enjoyed walking through the creek in the shade. It’s a beautiful setting.
- Playa del Amor (free)-here you will see a little natural wading pool surrounded by lava rocks and the ocean in the backdrop. If you’re lucky, you will be joined for a bath with a marine iguana.
- Las Salinas (free)-a lagoon that is frequented by pink Flamingos. They weren’t out when I went unfortunately, but it wouldn’t hurt to stop by on your way back to town to check!
- Concha la Perla (free)-a place to snorkel near the port and has many sea lions and sometimes penguins/manta rays. I didn’t see penguins or manta rays, but I did see a bunch of sea lions.
San Cristobal Island (all free activities)
- Cerro Tijeretas Hill-about 15-20 minutes past the Interpretation Center you will come up to Cerro Tijeretas Hill with a great lookout point over the island. This is also a major breeding ground for Frigate birds so keep an eye out! On the bottom of the hill there is a little cove where several sea lions are laying around on the rocks and swimming. The water is super blue/green and gorgeous and it’s worth a snorkel.
- Punta Carola-if you follow the trail back to town you will come to Punta Carola beach, which has a little lighthouse on the lava rocks. This is where I saw a mini baby sea lion laying on the sand alone and I almost died! I want to take it home with me, it was so stinking cute.
- Playa Mann beach-a small local beach that’s nothing special, but its super close to town so it’s a nice place to go to cool off real quick.
- La Loberia-a more secluded beach about a 40 minute walk from town. The little bay is filled with black lava rocks and is a popular place for sea lions and iguanas. I saw many sea lions playing in the shallow waters and rolling around in the sand. Go here if you want an up close encounter with sea lions!
- Interpretation Center (about a 20 minute walk from town)-sorta like the Charles Darwin center but different. I stopped in here on my way up to Cerro Tijeretas Hill and learned a lot about the Galapagos. I didn’t have time to go through the full center, but it’s definitely worth stopping by if you’re walking up to the hill anyway!
Click photo to PIN for later♥
I am marking this page in my favorites bar. Very informative and good to know that I don’t need spend thousands on tour packages.
Oh wow, I never thought that the Galapagos could be that affordable! I had ruled it off on my world trip with my partner because I thought it would blow our budget but maybe just maybe I could sneak it back in.
Yessssss you gotta sneak it back in!It’s totally doable!!! Just don’t take a cruise and book last minute day tours when you get there. That’s what I did and it was completely affordable!
This is a really useful guide! The islands look breathtaking! I will keep this guide in mind when i go.
Such a great article! Thank you for all the tips, we’re heading there later this year so it’ll come in really useful!
Yay, hope you have a great time and hopefully this guide helps!! 🙂
I have tried to plan a trip to the Galapagos 2 years ago but I gave up because of the expensive price. It’s good to know that you can get there and have a lot of different activities for a reasonable cost ! Thank you for sharing your little secrets 😉 And I love the photo with tiny baby sea lion laying on the sand.. He’s so cute !
Noo don’t give up, you gotta go! It was actually super affordable! Hopefully this guide will give you some hope and you end up making it over there!! 🙂
Really good and usefull blog!!! I went to Galapagos last Xmas and did a lot of the activities you mentioned. I tried to do it on a budget too but still spend 1400 euros in 7 days :/ anyway, amazing pictures and looks like you really found the best places to go to on the islands!
Thanks so much!! I used airline miles for the ticket so I saved a lot that way! $1400 for a week in the Galapagos is still great!!! 🙂
I’m pinning this for later. The Galapagos always seems so expensive, so this is a great guide! Loved that little seal! So cute
I fell in love with that little guy 🙂
Saving this for sure!!! Trying to make it to the Galapagos but it is so expensive. I will definitely try some of these!
It wasn’t that expensive in the end! $994 for 7 days/nights including flights, food, tours, was totally doable! Hopefully you get to make it over there 🙂
I’m dying to go to the Galapagos! Nice to see it doesn’t have to be super expensive!
It really doesn’t! It actually wasn’t that pricey at all, if you know all the little secrets 🙂