- The island is quite big, but with only one main city.
- Allow around 2 hours of commute between the airport and the city.
- You need at least 131$/person in cash from Ecuador to reach the center.
🚲 Getting there
We stayed 6 nights and 5 days and felt that was good duration.
Airport to mainland 🛥
We first arrived on Santa Cruz by plane from Guayaquil and landed on Baltra Island. After leaving the plane, we walked toward the immigration desk, where we got required to pay 100$/person in cash to get onto the territory. Post-payment, we walked to the next joined desk where we bought the bus tickets to the pier 5$/person. There was no other options to get to Puerto Ayora.
After waiting an very deep luggage inspection featuring labradors drug lords, we boarded the bus for 10 minutes ride. We then disambarked to jump on a little boat with our luggages for other 10 minutes, costing 1$/person. On the other side, we agreed to take a one-hour bus to the city for another 5$/person. But after waiting for 20 minutes seeing the bus was not full-enough to leave, we negociated with a local taxi driver to share one with two other peoples for 6$/person.
A bit tired, we finally reached our hotel around 1:30PM, about more or less 2 hours after we landed. Long story short, we were really happy that we took cash with us. We took a private cab on the way back from the city center to the airport for 25$ in total.
Walking around 🚶
After relaxing at the hotel, we went for a little walk to book the boat tickets for the next day and see a bit the city. We went up to the main pier where tons of agency were selling tickets. After asking prices at few of them, we booked the round-trip for 50$/person for the next day.
We then walked back with calm toward our hotel. On the way, we saw many iguanas, birds and sea lions families sun-bathing. We stopped by the fish market where the birds and locals where fighting for the freshest fish, making it a quite funny scene to look at. The city being well curated, it was a very pleasant walk.
Tour agency 🎟
We booked all our activities (beside scuba diving) with Chamaco Tours, located at the pier. We went there randomly to book island transfer tickets and we highly recommend.
They booked us on really good boats (La Gaviota), as well as on a great bay tour where we spotted sharks and turtles for a good price. We paid 25$/person for each boat and 35$/person for the tour. They also kept our luggages everytime we had to wait between transfers.
Diving with the sharks 🦈
Since for us no island tour would be complete without a dive, on our third day we went talking with scuba centers. After few negociations, we agreed to go the next day with Shark Bay Dive Center for 160$/person, including equipment, transport, computer, lunch and two dives.
After an early meeting at 7AM, we jumped in the car for 30 minutes, up to the Itabaca canal where the boat was waiting for us. It was rather a small boat, not really suited for a group of 12 divers with 3 guides, but made the job with the organised and friendly staff. We arrived at Isla Mosquera, the first dive site, after other 20 minutes.
We jumped in the water with our gear around 10:30AM and started the 45 minutes dive. It was a very relaxed one, with no streams and a sandy bottom. After reaching 20 meters, we saw plenty of big white tip sharks, eagle and mobula rays, sea turtles, fishes, moorays and a lot of cute garden eels. After a delicious pastry and a well deserved break, we dived again in another nearby spot where we saw similar fauna in higher quantities.
We then headed back to the pier and enjoyed a basic lunch on the boat, after what we jumped back in the car and arrived at the city center around 2PM. Overall, it was a really good experience. The staff was professional, super funny and friendly, and the dive was chill and enjoyable for a good price, we recommend!
NOTE: The best spot seemed to be Gordon Rock but it’s for very experienced divers only, so we obviously chickened-out.
Lava tunnels and beach 🏖
It took us 25 minutes to reach the lodge. Upon arrival, we paid 5$/person, took a pair of free boots and made our way into the impressive lava tunnels (three in totals). The third one was the longest and most impressive one. We also stopped to watch some giants turtles eating some grass around.
About one hour after, we drove extra 30 minutes to reach the wild El Garrapatero beach. After being dropped-off at the parking lot, we walked 500 meters to arrive on the wide sandy relaxing site. Nothing much to do there beside doing the bath and enjoying the view. We then reached back the town in half hour, ready for beers. Chill and nice day!
Bay tour 🛥
The surroundings of Puerto Ayora being filled by plenty of point of interests, we decided to take a half day tour for 35$/person, booked via Chamaco Tours. Note that we had to specifically ask for getting fins and wetsuits since they only provide masks and snorkels once in the boat.
We left the pier at 9AM, and took us 20 minutes to reach La Loberia our first stop, to observe sea lions from the boat. From there, we headed to Playa de los Perros, where we did a 30 minutes hike to reach the beach and watch closely nesting iguanas. Once back on board, we enjoyed a 45 minutes snorkelling session, in a water full of big fishes, turtles and baby sharks.
After getting a little snack and a 10 minutes walk, we reached Las Grietas, a wonderful little canal in between volcanic cliffs. The water was colder but very transparent and clean, making it the perfect spot to cool down. Once properly relaxed, we went back to the boat and arrived at the city pier around 12:30PM. Overall, that was a good value for money even if the boat was a bit too crowded.
Tortuga Bay 🐢
For our last day, we went to the huge and beautiful Tortuga Bay. It was accessible by walk, but required a 1h00 walk one way. Barbara not feeling well that day, we decided to get there by boat for 20$/person round trip. We bought the tickets last minute from the pier, left at 2PM, back at 5:30PM.
The boat left us at Playa Mansa, a very calm sea beach perfect for chilling and spotting curious rays and baby sharks. After napping for a little while, we walked up to Playa Brava, the main beach, where we saw protected turtle nests and big waves. We tried to ask around for a surf lesson without success, the best would have been to arrange it beforehand with an agency in the city, around 85$/person for 3 hours. Also, there was not one shop on the beach, so we were happy we brought enough water.
- Cafe Hernan: Friendly staff and good pancakes at breakfast for 7$.
- La Garrapata: Lovely place with decent prices and fantastic fresh tuna steak.
- El Muelle de Darwin: Expensive but comfy, perfect to kill time between boats.
- El Mundo Del Empanadas: In the tiny street close to The Rock, real good empanadas for 2$.