Kayaking in the Galapagos Islands: An Activity for the Adventurous
The Galapagos has something for every taste, and at Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel you can enjoy it all! From superb cuisine to relaxing by the pool, cocktail in hand. From wildlife observation to the exploration of the islands’ unique landscape. You don’t have to choose just one! You can do it all and get a complete Galapagos experience that encompasses all the details and activities that will make it a truly unforgettable journey. For the most sporty and adventurous, Finch Bay also offers an array of interesting options, which are only enhanced by the mesmerizing location where they take place in, the Enchanted Isles! If this sport is something you’ve done before or you want to do for the first time, this is the place to do it. Read on to learn how to go about kayaking in the Galapagos and get ready to enjoy!
Where Does the Activity Take Place?
Once you’ve booked the activity, we make sure to go through all the safety procedures that will make it even more enjoyable. Our kayaking program takes place in Divine Bay, a beautiful location with protected waters that make for a very pleasant trip. We leave when the tide is high from Playa de Los Alemanes (German Beach), located by Finch Bay – one of the advantages of staying at the only beach-front hotel in Santa Cruz! We start rowing southward for about 15 minutes until we get to the Lover’s Crevasse, as the locals call it, and surround the mangroves that grow by the bay.
More About Divine Bay
Located very close to Academy Bay and buzzy Puerto Ayora, you’ll find the quiet and wildlife-rich Divine Bay. Named after one of the islands first settlers, this beautiful cove is protected from the swells by natural reefs on one side, mangrove trees on the other and cliffs created by the uplift of the lava plateau. Divine Bay provides a wonderful natural shelter for wildlife, and kayaking is one of the best ways to discover it! Watch the herons cross the Bay and the noddy terns nesting in the cliffs alongside the blue-footed boobies. If you watch carefully, you might even spot a sea turtle grazing in the ocean floor or a curious young reef shark.
How Longs Does the Activity Last?
It can last from 1 to 2 hours. It all depends on how fast you row or how you want to go about your trip. Some want the ride to feel more like a stroll in order to observe the coastline with ease. Others like to do it for the sport and they take the opportunity to test their strength and speed. Either way, you will be able to enjoy amazing landscapes and observe the unique wildlife of Galapagos.
How Technical and Demanding is the Activity?
The Kayaking Program is a really friendly activity and can be enjoyed by young and old. On a scale from 1 to 5, our kayaking activity has a medium-level difficulty of 2. Keep in mind that it can feel a little strenuous on the arms if you haven’t been exercising much, but it’s not too hard to handle. This activity that combines sport, adventure and sightseeing is a definite must-do!
What Kind of Kayaks do you Use?
We have open, tandem, sit-on-top kayaks. This means you can do it by yourself or share the experience with a friend, partner or family member. If you do it amongst two, you will have to get in sync with your rowing. Once you find your pace, you will feel like you are flying on top of the water.
What Does the Activity Include?
It includes paddles and life vests. You can rent a wetsuit if you are one to get cold easily, but you really won’t as you will be moving your muscles all the time. We do recommend wearing a hat, sunscreen and a long-sleeved t-shirt in order to protect your skin from the equatorial sun.
Is it a Guided Activity?
A guide will be provided if the group has 6 or more people, as per Galapagos National Park rules. However, anyone can request a guide, no matter the number of people.
What is the Minimum Age Allowed for This Activity?
For this activity, kids of all ages are allowed. All minors younger than 18 years of age must be accompanied by an adult. As safe as this activity is, like any other aquatic activity organized by the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel, we always like to remind the parents that the minor’s safety is their responsibility.
Sustainable Galapagos Food and a Cooking Class with Friends
When you live and work in a natural paradise such as the Galapagos Islands, there are many things to consider. But when you work at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel – one of the world’s leading GREEN hotels – you know things are done differently. We strive to be a leading example of sustainability and environmentally-friendly practices not only for the people of the Galapagos, but for our guests as well. This month, we went deeper into what sustainable Galapagos food ought to be like and even welcomed the visit of a very interesting guest. Read on to learn more about what’s cooking at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel!
Investigation & Sustainable Galapagos Food
Our team at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel dedicates itself to numerous different projects in order to protect the amazing environment of the islands. One of these is our sustainable Galapagos food project, which sees us continuously investigating the diversity of local produce and ways of encouraging farmers to grow more sustainably. At the Finch Bay, we try to buy local as much as possible in order to lower our environmental footprint. We also send our teams out to investigate the fruits and vegetables that are grown on the inhabited islands. We even talk to fishermen and learn about their fishing techniques, along with the species of fish, crustaceans and/or mollusks that they catch. Once we’ve gathered all this knowledge, we bring it back to our kitchen and put it all into our creative efforts that help develop our menu that represents the best of Galapagos food and Ecuadorian cuisine. We know that we can only grow as a restaurant and a company so long as our community grows with us.
As part of our ongoing efforts to leave less of a carbon footprint, we have even created our own organic vegetable garden. The “Chakrita,” as we call it, is home to a varied selection of flowers and herbs that we use in all our recipes, either as garnish or the main ingredients. To have all these amazing and fresh greens at our disposal allows us to develop our creativity, which is a crucial component in allowing our “crazy” chef minds to continuously grow.
During my time here, I have seen a growing interest and curiosity from our guests, cooks and chefs, about all things organic and local, especially when they come directly from the islands. It’s something we look forward to working on constantly!
A Visit From a Gastronomic Icon
Last month we were fortunate enough to receive a visit from famous chef Juan Luis Fernandez and his girlfriend Dolce Nida, owners of the restaurant “LÚ Cocina y Alma” in Jerez, Spain. They stayed at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel, during which time they cooked with us, experimenting with our ingredients and updating our understanding of cooking techniques. Juan Luis, also known as JuanLu, spent several years working at the famous “Aponiente” restaurant (3 Michelin stars), where he himself learned the latest gastronomical techniques for preparing seafood in the best way possible.
After spending a day looking for the best ingredients and sharing our expertise with JuanLu and Dolce, we were delighted to share our kitchen with them. They couldn’t have been more generous! They taught us about the techniques they use at their restaurant, and we even got to learn about new cooking methods that we can apply to our own recipes and products here at Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel!
We Are All Cooks
I love how the world of food and cooking has no frontiers or barriers. In life, we are all cooks! However, when you are a chef, and so long as you cook with passion, it doesn’t matter where you are – you always have to give it your best! At the Finch Bay, we give each meal and plate our best, every single day, so that our friends and guests learn and fall in love with our products, our country, our people and our cuisine.
My team and I, we never get bored: We are always improving and looking forward to coming up with new and magnificent flavors, using all the wonderful natural ingredients that the Galapagos Islands has to offer us.
Join us on our journey! We love to cook, we live to cook and we cook to live!
Biking in the Galapagos Islands! A Journey From the Highlands to the Beach
The Galapagos Islands have something for everyone! Explorers, adventurers, curious travelers and even those who are just looking to relax and unwind (or a combination of both!) will fall in love with this magical place. The archipelago has it all, and the way you decide to discover it is entirely up to you! Whether it be aboard a Galapagos expedition vessel or a land-based option, you can rest assured you’ll have the adventure of a lifetime! For a land-based option, head to the only beachfront hotel on Santa Cruz Island – Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel – and unravel the mysteries of the islands with your friends and family! If you are looking to explore the amazing highlands of Santa Cruz and do some sports while engaging in a fun and safe activity, then biking in the Galapagos Islands is the activity for you! Read up and ride on!
Biking in the Galapagos Islands: How to do it?
Biking is an activity available at the Finch Bay upon request. Depending on how much time you’ll be spending in the archipelago, you can make this activity either a full-day or a half-day activity. Biking in the Galapagos presents a unique opportunity to discover the highlands and enjoy some amazing views of Santa Cruz Island, in our case. Once you book the activity, we take care of everything else!
Bikes and helmets will be waiting for you at the dock. Our Naturalist Guide will be in charge of the activity, and a car and driver will take you all the way up to Bellavista – the highlands’ biggest town and where your adventure begins. Once there, we’ll bike down to the beautiful beach of El Garrapatero, so remember to put on your swimming suit at the hotel before leaving, as there are no changing rooms at the beach! The Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel will provide you with water and a beach towel for you to take with you in your backpack!
When do we go biking in the Galapagos?
We leave in the morning at 9 a.m., giving us time to enjoy the Finch Bay’s delicious breakfast buffet. Load up on pancakes, omelettes, fresh fruit, coffee and other local delicacies and get ready to roll!
Once your car drops you off at Bellavista, you will gear up and, following your guide’s instructions and briefing, you will begin your biking journey in Galapagos! Enjoy the view, feel the refreshing wind in your face, let endorphins flow as you pedal to the beach, and anticipate an invigorating dip in the Pacific Ocean! That’s the proper way to end a biking trip in the Galapagos Islands! You will hang out at El Garrapatero for about an hour or an hour-and-a-half. Afterwards, you’ll hop in the car and head back for lunch. Whether you choose to eat in the town of Puerto Ayora or back at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel is entirely up to you!
How physically demanding is biking in the Galapagos? Is it safe?
Our biking activity is designed to be enjoyed to the fullest by both young and old guests. The whole activity takes around 3 to 4 hours to complete. We drive you up to Bellavista, and from there all you do is bike down towards the coast. We pedal on a flat asphalt road that descends to El Garrapatero beach. We take safety very seriously, which is why, before beginning the activity, your Naturalist Guide will brief you on all safety measures. We will remind you to keep to your right at all times (to let eventual cars pass by), and to wear a helmet. We also have knee pads for anyone who might want a little extra protection.
Your Guide will accompany you during the entire trip. While biking, he or she will sometimes be at the front of the group and sometimes at the rear, making sure that everyone is doing OK. If, for whatever reason, you feel a little tired or unwell, our driver will pick you up as our car will be following the group all the way from a safe distance, ready to assist anyone who should require it. You will be pedaling for about an hour downhill. How fast or slow you go is totally up to you. In the Galapagos – as you will see – there is no need to hurry! You don’t have to be the fittest person in order to partake in this activity, which is why we always recommend biking in the Galapagos to families traveling with children, or couples and groups that want to discover the islands in a different way!
Traveler’s tip: Remember to wear sunscreen at all times, as the sun on the equator is really strong! Also: keep your eyes open while you bike, as Galapagos giant tortoises are frequently seen crossing the road or ambling alongside it!
Other Biking Options
If you are looking to find an amazing view of Santa Cruz Island, we recommend that you visit Cerro Mesa. This viewpoint that’s located atop a crater is the perfect spot for photos. On a very clear day you can see all the way to Itabaca Chanel! Just like with our Bellavista-El Garrapatero biking excursion, a driver and Naturalist Guide will pick you up in town and drive you up to the viewpoint. From there, you will bike down to El Garrapatero beach.
If you opt for a full day option on either of our Bike Tours, lunch will be included at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel. On our Bellavista-El Garrapatero full-day tour, you will also visit El Manzanillo, a Galapagos giant tortoise reserve where you will be able to get close and personal with these gentle giants!
You also have the option to explore Santa Cruz Island on a bike on your own. Let us know and will make all the arrangements!
Are you up for it? Let us know in the comments below!
Day Tour or Bay Tour in the Galapagos: What’s Your Best Choice?
There are different ways in which to explore the magnificent Galapagos Islands. When it comes down to planning, travelers usually base their decisions on budget, time or specific interests. Be it through a Galapagos expedition vessel or a land-based option, there’s no doubt you will be amazed by the wonderful world you will encounter in the archipelago. The unique and tame wildlife, the rare vegetation, the hospitality of its people (yes, for those of you who didn’t know, 3% of the Galapagos are inhabited), they all add up to a one-of-a-kind experience. When choosing a land-based option, make sure you go for the one that will transform a regular vacation into an unforgettable one. It’s all about the details, service, and exploration choices!
Day Tour or Bay Tour in the Galapagos?
A beach-front hotel in a secluded location, like Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel on Santa Cruz Island, is the perfect place from which to discover the Enchanted Islands. Once there, visitors are highly encouraged to try to visit some of the archipelago’s most beautiful beaches and its most iconic neighbouring isles in order to get a more in-depth understanding of this wholly unique place. To do so, you will find two highly popular options that are in Puerto Ayora: a Day Tour or a Bay Tour. Read on to learn the difference between a Day tour or a Bay Tour in the Galapagos and choose the one that will make the most of your time in this unique destination!
Bay Tours are usually operated by small motor boats that do not have permits for disembarking on uninhabited Galapagos islands. This means they only visit the surrounding beaches of Puerto Ayora and passengers are only allowed to snorkel around the boat in open water. Bay Tours also don’t include a Naturalist Guide as part of their trips and it’s usually the boat’s owner and “chauffeur” that are in charge of everything, from explanations to safety. Most of the time, Bay Tours don’t include snorkeling equipment and they may or may not include a box lunch, depending on the package visitors decide to go for. The boats are usually small and have no indoor space or air conditioning to help cool down from the intense Galapagos sun.
A Bay Tour, as its name implies, focuses on observing Santa Cruz’s coastline and bays without disembarking at National Park Visitor Sites (remember that inhabited areas are not considered part of the Galapagos National Park). On a Bay Tour, passengers would have the chance to observe some of the Galapagos BIG15 and other wildlife from a distance, but no close-up observation and understanding of their behaviors is possible or even explained. As mentioned before, Bay Tours in Galapagos do anchor in specific places, but only out in open water to let their guests swim and practice snorkeling directly beside the boat. As safety measures, Bay Tours are required to provide their passengers with life jackets.
A Day Tour is the other option that you can choose for exploring the archipelago if you decide on opting for a land-based excursion. Day tours are provided by yachts that do have permission to disembark at iconic islands – North Seymour, Bartolome, South Plaza and Santa Fe – and are done in the company of a professionally-trained Naturalist Guide. It’s an excellent way to experience the Galapagos National Park and the uninhabited islands. If you want to have the best coverage of Galapagos BIG15 iconic species and see a plethora of wildlife in its natural habitat (without the disturbance of human civilization!) a Galapagos Day Tour is the way to go. Witness blue-footed boobies nesting or doing their silly courtship dance, walk by huge colonies of frigate birds and Galapagos sea lions, or observe marine iguanas basking under the equatorial sun. A true and fulfilling Galapagos experience comes from being able to observe these beautiful creatures up close.
It’s also important to note that Galapagos Day Tours on yachts, as is the case with the Finch Bay’s own Sea Lion Yacht, usually take care of everything for those onboard. Not only are all safety measures considered, but also lunch and snorkeling masks are included. On our Sea Lion Yacht, a delicious buffet-style lunch awaits guests that are coming back from swimming, hiking or snorkeling. This lunch is prepared fresh and onboard by the yacht’s own cook. If you require a special meal or have dietary restrictions, be sure to let us know at the Hotel’s reception – we’ll be more than happy to accommodate our culinary fare to your specific needs. The Sea Lion also has an indoor, air-conditioned space where guests can sit comfortably and an open, covered deck from which to observe the amazing Galapagos landscapes!
Aboard the Sea Lion Yacht, a 5-member crew is at your disposal, making sure you are safe and comfortable at all times. Our Naturalist Guide briefs the group prior to disembarking at a specific island or before partaking in any activity. That way, they talk the group through all safety procedures as well as informing them on what they are about to see: animal and plant species, geology and history. Each island has its own particularities that make it unique and special. Without a doubt, they are all worth a visit, which makes a Galapagos Day Tour a superb choice!
NOTE: According to the National Park’s latest count, there are only 11 yachts authorized for Day Tours on the island of Puerto Ayora, so make sure you don’t have the wool pulled over your eyes!
STARGAZING IN THE GALAPAGOS: MARVEL AT THE FINCH BAY’S NIGHT SKY!
Stargazing in the Galapagos! Think about this for a second. Few things make us marvel at our own existence more than staring into the night sky. The vastness that surrounds us reminds us of just how small we are, helping us appreciate the planet we live in a little more. However, when we live in the city, the night sky tends to go unnoticed. More often than not, our hectic lifestyles keep us from remembering to look up. We jump from one activity to the other, from one meeting to the next, and by the time we get home, we are too tired to even consider admiring the beauty of the stars that linger overhead. Should we ever actually manage to look up and discover a few twinkling lights trying to catch our attention, we’ll soon realize that in the city at least, they are hard to perceive. The artificial lights coming from urban areas are often too strong and too many to truly appreciate the stars.
Stargazing in the Galapagos! Observe the Stars of Two Hemispheres in One Place!
When we finally leave the city, one of the first things that catch our attention is the brightness of an unpolluted night sky! Where we choose to admire the night sky from greatly affects our experience: the clearer the starscape, the more engaged our senses are, the more relaxed we are, the less we think about time, and the better we even feel sometimes. Did you know that, when you observe the sky from the equator, you have the rare opportunity of discovering the stars that are seen in both hemispheres? You might recognize the Big Dipper, but have you ever admired the Southern Cross? Better yet: have you ever seen them both at the same exact time? It’s something that can only happen in Ecuador! And where can we reconnect with the greatness of the universe again, one star at a time? In the Galapagos Islands, of course! Where life, time and space remain virtually untouched! Visit Santa Cruz island’s only beach-front hotel and discover it for yourself!
Fall in love with the night sky at Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel
The Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel is located in front of Playa de Los Alemanes, one of the only beaches in the town of Puerto Ayora, and is accessible via a very short panga ride and a 10-minute walk. Even though the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel is located in the archipelago’s most populated town, it has the advantage of being situated in its least populated neighborhood across the bay – Punta Estrada. Surrounded by mangroves, marshes, frankincense trees and a few houses mostly owned by European families, light pollution in this area is almost non-existent, and the night sky is seen from the Finch Bay practically a stand-alone top feature of the hotel itself. If you are into stargazing, or you simply like to admire the beauty of an immaculate starry night, then the Finch Bay is the place for you.
If you want to make sure you locate the sky’s most important stars, planets, and constellations, then we also recommend that you download some apps to help you with this task. We recommend Star Chart, SkyView Free or Night Sky Lite (they are all free!). At the Finch Bay, there’s all Wi-Fi so you will have absolutely no problem using them! Talk to our Expedition Leader before sundown so that he can set up Finch Bay’s telescope – it’s very easy to use and you will be able to observe some amazing things! If it’s a moonlit night and the stars are less visible, then you should definitely take a peek at the moon’s craters and soak in its beautiful light! Because you are on the equator, on certain nights when the moon is at its zenith, you will find it casts no shadow!
The night sky is seen from Finch Bay So sit back, order one of Finch’s signature cocktails and be blown away by the beauty and greatness of a starry Galapagos night!
Galapagos Coffee: A Niche That’s Waiting to Become a Part of the Galapagos Tourism Experience
Let’s put together two of our favourite words, Galapagos + Coffee. Yes, you heard that correctly. There’s a paradisiacal place on earth called the Galapagos Islands. They also happen to have a micro-climate which, along with its volcanic soils, makes for a rare coffee bean. If you are coffee curious, you will love this post.
Coffee production in the Galapagos is uncommon. This mainly because coffee beans grow only at an altitude of 1200-1400 metres above sea level. The archipelago, however, has an advantage. It is strategically located where the cold Humboldt and Cromwell currents converge with the warm equatorial currents – also known as Panama flows (felt stronger from February to April). These, combined with its rich volcanic soils, allows for coffee plants to grow at only 300-400 metres. The cold currents bring fog and drizzle to the highlands of the archipelago, allowing it to have a cloud-forest type of climate.
– Scalesia forest in the highland of Santa Cruz –
A Galapagos-style Cup of Joe
There has certainly been a rise in the popularity of Ecuadorian coffee, thanks in large part to its high quality, perfect flavours, earthy tones and the efforts being made to make it a sustainable product. Nonetheless, coffee beans from the Galapagos have not yet broken through the local barrier. This is due to the fact that it is produced in a very artisanal way, with very small yearly productions and a quality that, despite tasting good, is still working its way to becoming renown within the coffee-loving community.
Coffee production in the Galapagos is a niche that has all it needs to progress into an international-quality product. Additionally, it serves as a means for local coffee growers and merchants to integrate themselves into the Galapagos’ main source of income: tourism. This beautiful industry can help integrate the population at many levels, not only by providing work, but by opening spaces that complement the touristic experience – like restaurants, coffee shops, stores, local design, art, culture, sports, adventure and such. This is where Galapagos coffee could play a significant role, given that it’s a beverage that is loved all throughout the world. It might even serve as another unique thing that the islands have to offer, possibly attracting explorers that are looking to indulge their highly-refined palates. Even though coffee in the Galapagos is still being produced at an artisanal level, it is indeed integrating itself into the tourism world.
Also, you will be happy to know Galapagos coffee is bird-friendly! Due to the strict regulations on the islands regarding the use of chemical fertilizers or any products that could affect the flora or fauna, these crops are not harmful to birds and other animals that might feed on its seeds. Consequently, Galapagos Coffee is 100% organic.
– Coffee is a popular drink around the world –
Where can it be found?
Galapagos coffee made by local brands is sold in both Bellavista (the highland town of Santa Cruz) and El Progreso (the highland town of San Cristobal). It is also sold at souvenir shops over in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno and Puerto Ayora. If you decide to stay at the only beachfront hotel in Santa Cruz, Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel, you can ask at the reception about highland tours. When stopping at Bellavista, you will also find a couple of shops where you can try the freshly-squeezed sugarcane juice and buy some locally-grown Galapagos coffee.
Visits can also be arranged to the “Trapiche” farm, where you will get to see how an artisanal sugar cane mill works. You will also be able to taste the different products manufactured from sugar cane, from the very sweet but fresh sugarcane juice all the way to the panela (unrefined sugar) and sugarcane liquor. They also have their own coffee plantation and visitors are able to aid both in the mill and the in roasting of the coffee beans.
The Magic of Galapagos Coffee
After having learned about the rare Galapagos coffee, we invite you to enjoy a cup of this dark beverage, get caught in a little bit of light conversation with a galapagueño (inhabitant of the Galapagos Islands) and feel like a local yourself. Coffee does have that way of making us feel like home, wherever we go, doesn’t it?
Do not miss these three Santa Cruz must-visit beaches
Three Santa Cruz Must-Visit Beaches
Santa Cruz is home to some beautiful spots you certainly have to visit during your stay at Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel. Even though you will be staying at the only beach-front hotel of the island, these three other locations should be on your Santa Cruz must-visit beaches.
Garrapatero beach is but a 20 minute bus-ride from town. Going through the highlands of Santa Cruz, you will pass the town of Bellavista. Enjoy a different view made up of above-the-shoreline flora that will grab your attention, like the beautiful scalesia tree –a giant member of the daisy family!
Once you’re at the entrance of the beach, get prepared for a pretty easy 15 minute walk to the sandy shore. Local fauna and flora will be waiting to surprise you along the way. Finches, lava lizards, mangroves and the very common Poison Apple tree make up most of the landscape. Right before reaching the beach you will see a small pond where many species stop to find food. Almost any time of the year, you will be able to see pink flamingos, herons, oyster catchers and ducks.
– Garrapatero Beach. Photo by: Sally Taylor –
You will get a glimpse of the beach right away. So make sure to apply sunscreen, take off your shoes or sandals to feel the sand between your toes, find a nice place to place your towel, and go for a relaxing swim amidst the waves.
This really is a magical location! Picture yourself swimming amongst lava crevasses – where its Spanish name comes from – in crystal clear water. Sound like an image right out of paradise? Lucky for us, this place actually exists and it is just a 20- minute walk away from Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel!
A trail that could perfectly belong on Mars leads the way to this site, but not without first going through a forest of beautiful Opuntia cacti that have grown as tall as trees. When you reach the spot you won’t immediately see the three, rectangular-shaped pools right away. You will have to go down a set of artificial stairs, from which you will get a nice view of what awaits you. Just be careful when you reach the rocky bottom of the crevasse: sandals, backpacks and sun glasses have been known to slip down into the rock’s unreachable crannies. Get ready for a refreshing plunge through emerald waters!
– Las Grietas –
It is no surprise that Tortuga Bay came in at #10 on Trip Advisor’s Top 25 Beaches in the World. Go up the stairs to the entrance of the protected area, which is only a 5-minute taxi ride away from the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel. Make sure you register yourself before going, as this is a requirement by the Galapagos National Park whenever you visit a protected area without a naturalist guide.
A scenic path will lead you to the first beach called Playa Brava (Angry beach). It is a 30 minute walk but it is totally worth it. From this first beach, where guests and visitors are advised not to swim in due to the force of the currents and the waves – hence the name of the beach – it will take another 25 minutes to get to Tortuga Bay. This second, more secluded bay with mangrove-covered shores will welcome you. Its calm waters strongly contrasted with those of its neighbour and are perfect for a nice, long swim. Find a shadowy spot under one of the many Poison Apple trees, and get ready to have native finches steal some of your snacks. Have your snorkel equipment ready, too! You won’t want to miss what’s hidden underwater, amongst the mangrove’s roots. Did someone say white-tip reef shark?
– Marine iguana at Tortuga Bay, one of Santa Cruz must-visit beaches –
A common question when on Santa Cruz Island: What are the best places to eat in Puerto Ayora? Though Ecuador is not yet widely chosen as a gastronomic destination, everyone who visits the country marvels at the immense variety of ingredients, the richness of flavours and the culinary options particular to each region. An homage to this country’s heritage and culture is reflected in every dish, be it a delicious locro de papa (a creamy potato soup with cheese and avocado) from the Andes region, to a perfectly acidic and savoury ceviche from Esmeraldas or Manabí, to a maito or river fish cooked inside a plantain leaf with herbs and spices from the Amazon region. Whatever dish you try, Ecuador’s cuisine will surprise even the most refined palates.
Galapagos, having been inhabited longer after continental Ecuador, did not develop a culinary tradition of its own. Instead, it brought the best from the continent and took advantage of what resources were already readily available – fresh fish and sea food.
While on Puerto Ayora, you have the chance to taste some of Ecuador’s most traditional flavours and get a little more entwined with the local culture. Here we present you a list of some of visitors’ favourite places that are definitely worth trying!
Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel Restaurant
While on your visit to the islands, we recommend that your first culinary stop be at the best restaurant in the Galapagos – the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel Restaurant. While it might be off the main path of Puerto Ayora for some, it is only a 5 minute boat ride away from the docks of town. You will disembark on the pier that takes you to the famous “Las Grietas” and “Playa de Los Alemanes”. It’s a pleasant path that traverses Galapagos flora and will lead you directly to the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel – the only beachfront Hotel in all of Santa Cruz. It’s hard to miss!
Their Le Cordon Bleu certified chef will awaken your senses with his very own twist on local and international dishes. We recommend their famous fresh tuna fillet, sealed with a black sesame seed crust; and finally, for dessert – the rum-macerated fig pie! Don’t miss this luxurious experience!
– One of the best places to eat in Puerto Ayora: Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel –
When walking around town, we recommend stopping at Isla Grill. This family-friendly restaurant is known by both tourists and locals as one of the best grills in town. For anyone looking to diverge from the more commonly-served seafood menus, Isla Grill is a nice change. Even so, their grilled seafood is not to be missed. Some of their most popular dishes are the grilled beef cuts and barbecued pork ribs. For seafood lovers, you will not want to miss the tsunami parrilla (grill) featuring filleted tuna steaks, octopus, shrimp and squid.
– Isla Grill –
If a more international menu is what you are after, Il Giardino is a good option for you. This open-air Italian trattoria sports a rustic décor that gives it a close-to-home sort of feel. They offer everything from steaks to pastas, but are quite known around the island for their decadent desserts and delicious coffee. Find a seat on their lovely dining patio and savour a creamy Italian ice cream as you watch locals and visitors walk by.
– Il Giardino –
This casual and open restaurant is one of Puerto Ayora’s oldies but goodies. Even though it is named after the bug we all know as the tick (or garrapata in Spanish) its name has nothing to do with its culinary offerings, which range from chicken curry, grilled seafood platters, fish in coconut sauce to a delicious local lobster. All of these options can be accompanied with some white wine from Puerto Ayora’s best wine list. There are options for every palate. In addition to these, you can also find very good sandwiches and pasta dishes on the Garrapata’s menu.
In comparison to the remarkable underwater scenes and towering cacti forests that stretch across the Galapagos Islands, the dull little bird that pecks its way around the archipelago is really quite unremarkable in appearance; nevertheless, this bird has played an extremely important role in society’s understanding of evolution and man’s position in the world. Galapagos finches, also known as Darwin Finches, are a key piece of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection and are one of the most iconic animals in the Galapagos Archipelago.
There are very few physical differences between the 13 or 14 species of Darwin Finch, a reminder of the birds’ common origin. In general, the birds have small rounded wings and short tails and are covered in either a dull black, olive or brown plumage. Neither can the color of their beak help differentiate species from each other, as all Galapagos finches in their non-breeding stage have yellow/orange beaks, and those of breeding age have deep black beaks. However, the key to their differences lies principally in their beaks, more specifically their size and shape, which varies according to the specific niche in which the bird lives.
At first Charles Darwin took little notice of the Galapagos finches, which are very similar in appearance to the common garden finch. In fact, it was not until he began to study his collections (with help from specialists) back in England that he realized all 13 species were related. Upon further study, he recognized that these birds are endemic to the islands and that each species displays only slight variations as if the “species had been taken and modified for different ends.”
The modern understanding of evolution, which is heavily influenced by Darwin, is based on the idea that a new species evolves when one population is divided into two or more. The now separated populations undergo distinct natural selection pressures as a result, and consequently different evolutionary processes, resulting in a new species. Galapagos finches are an exceptional example of this process.
There are 13 or 14 species of Darwin finch, and each one evolved from the same ancestor that arrived to the archipelago only a few million years ago. Because the finches have only had a relatively short amount of time to evolve, they are strikingly similar and experts have yet to determine one method of classifying the birds. In general, the finches can be divided into tree-dwelling seed eaters and tree-dwelling insect eaters (Tree Finch), ground-dwelling seed eaters (Ground Finch) and the cactus-dwelling seed eaters (Cactus Finch), but there are a few that cannot be sorted into any of these categories, such as the Warbler Finch and the Woodpecker Finch.
However, similarities between the species are exactly what makes them such an excellent subject to study. As we have noted, the general differences between the species lie in their beaks; the beaks of finches that consume medium-sized seeds differ from those of finches that consume large seeds and those of finches that consume insects, etc. The beaks are a key tool in their diet and a direct reflection of what they eat, i.e. if they eat large seeds they will have large, powerful beaks to break open the husk, while those that eat insects have smaller, pointed beaks to quickly snatch up the insect.
The variations that exist between finch populations (beak, behavior, etc.) are a result of natural selection. In this process, random and ever so slight differences occur between individuals, which produce either unfavorable or favorable results for the individual and may potentially determine the reproductive success of the individual. If the trait is successful, it will be passed on to future generations, and over time proliferate throughout the population. All of the finches in the archipelago evolved from a seed-eating, ground-dwelling finch, but over time as populations were divided and faced different habitats and circumstances, they evolved to favor that circumstance.
Extensive research has been carried out on finch populations in the Galapagos Islands, but two works of literature stand out in particular. Ecology and Evolution of Darwin’s Finches by Dr. Peter R. Grant is an excellent read and helps in understanding the importance and complexity of natural selection. His most recent work, How and Why Species Multiply: The Radiation of Darwin’s Finches is also a masterpiece. The second, The Beak of the Finch by Jonathan Weiner, has won the Pulitzer Prize and provides a clear explanation of natural selection. They may be easily located at Powell Books, Barnes & Noble and Amazon.
The Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel is now a proud member of National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World
It’s official!! National Geographic Travel has announced the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel’s membership in the exclusive National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World collection!!
It’s not every day that we get to announce such exciting news: a long-awaited marriage of a spectacular, beachfront hotel in one of the most exciting international wildlife destinations with one of the world’s largest and most highly respected brands for nature lovers. Only 51 properties across 6 continents have had the mix of rare experiences, intimate encounters and destination stewardship that qualify them for inclusion in this select group. In Ecuador, only two properties have this distinction: Mashpi Lodge and the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel. We are very proud of both of them.
In the words of National Geographic:
“National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World Introduces New Members Global Collection Grows to 51 Members Less Than Two Years after Launch
WASHINGTON (September, 2016)— National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World continues to expand with the recent addition of eight new members, bringing the hand-picked collection to 51 properties on six continents less than two years after its launch. The newest members to join reflect the diverse and singular experiences that the collection encompasses, ranging from a medieval European castle to a beachfront eco-lodge in the Galapagos. To help travelers find the experience they seek, National Geographic has recently published a series of lists highlighting the “Bests” of the collection…
…Guests at the seaside Finch Bay Eco Hotel in the Galapagos Islands find themselves immersed in one of the most pristine wildlife sanctuaries in the world, and can snorkel, bird-watch, and stroll among sea lions within a few steps of the property…”
If you have already come to visit the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel and have enjoyed its stunning hospitality, you know how much love and effort we put into making your stay in the archipelago a dream come true. And if you haven’t yet joined us, please take a look at our new video and catalogue and see why so many people choose us when they want to explore the islands, set off on an adventure or just take some special time to relax.
About National Geographic Travel
National Geographic Travel is the travel arm of the National Geographic Society, one of the world’s largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations, founded in 1888. National Geographic Travel creates authentic, meaningful and engaging travel experiences through National Geographic Traveler magazine; National Geographic Expeditions; National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World; travel books; maps; digital travel content; and travel photography programs. National Geographic Traveler (eight issues per year) is the world’s most widely read travel magazine and has 17 international editions.