With so much to see and do on Santa Cruz Island, it’s no wonder the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotels offers a grand variety of Galapagos programs and guided tours. However, our guests often find themselves wondering what they can do on their own around the hotel. In this blog, we list the top activities we recommend doing on your own from the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel, ordered by their proximity (closest – furthest) to the hotel itself!
Step outside the beachfront gate of the Finch Bay and head down the path that leads to the right, and you’ll soon stumble upon Las Grietas (“The Crevasses”) after a short 15-20 minute hike. To call Las Grietas a simple swimming hole would be a disservice to its natural beauty, as it consists of three rectangular pools glimmering with emerald waters that are flanked by towering lava cliffs. A plunge in its cool waters on a hot day is a fun and refreshing activity to partake in, and it’s practically right around the corner from the Finch Bay, too! So don’t miss out on checking it out!
A trip to the Galapagos Islands is a step into one of the world’s richest aquatic realms. From impressive schools of colorful fish to docile white-tip reef sharks, the waters of this paradise – which happen to form a part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site – are the perfect place to interact with a wide gamut of species without having to witness them through cages or glass walls. This is why snorkeling is, quite simply, an absolute mustin the Galapagos Islands! And one of the best things about a land-based option is you don’t need to go far to enjoy this natural, underwater spectacle. In fact, there are beautiful beaches right on Santa Cruz Island that allow you to partake in this activity! Don’t forget to request your snorkeling gear at the front desk of Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel before heading out! This gear is provided completely free of charge! Wetsuits are available for rent.
Just a few steps away from the Finch bay Galapagos Hotel (in fact, the only hotel with direct access to a beach in all of Puerto Ayora), you’ll find the crystalline waters that sit alongside Playa de los Alemanes (German Beach). This gorgeous bit of beach, protected from the strong currents and waves thanks to mangroves and reefs, is ideal for enjoying the richness of the ocean while relaxing in a peaceful and calm environment. If you’re lucky, you’ll get the chance to swim with white-tip reef sharks, sea turtles, and a ton of colorful fish.
Tortuga Bay has consistently ranked among the world’s top beaches over the course of recent years, and it’s no wonder why: this wide stretch of open, immaculate beach (that conveniently sits right on the edge of Puerto Ayora) is, simply put, spectacular. Guests that choose to head here will get to enjoy a pleasant stroll through a giant cacti forest before being rewarded with a magnificent view of this jaw-dropping slice of coast. If you opt to head down the entire stretch of Tortuga Bay, you’ll be treated to a second and smaller secluded beach at the end that’s surrounded by mangroves and, occasionally, curious marine iguanas. Snorkeling here is highly recommended!
The warm sand and turquoise waters at Garrapatero Beach welcome you to one of the best places to relax on Santa Cruz Island. Once you arrive at the entrance to the beach (which is located some 30 minutes away by car) you’ll enjoy a short, 15-minute walk that will reveal all of the mesmerizing, natural beauty of Garrapatero. If you get there early in the morning, you’ll get to enjoy the first rays of sunshine and admire marine iguanas soaking in the warmth on top of volcanic rock before they slide in for a refreshing dip in the crystalline waters of this fantastic place. Feel free to follow suit! Just always remember to wear sunscreen before doing so!
Playa La Estacion (The Station Beach)
If you pass the Charles Darwin Research Station (more on that below), it won’t be long before you come upon Playa La Estacion – a quaint yet relaxing piece of coastline that has nice and soft sand. Be aware, however, that it also has its fair share of rocky patches, especially along the shoreline and in the water, so be sure to wear proper footwear! A nice little feature of this the shore here is that it’s sheltered from the waves thanks to a line of lava rocks that stretch out into the ocean. This natural geological formation provides calm waters for snorkeling and swimming alongside the occasional marine iguana, sea turtle, and/or baby sea lion, if you’re extra lucky!
One of the biggest attractions of escaping from the big cities is, without a doubt, getting the chance to enjoy clear skies and a starry night. The Galapagos Islands, of which only 3% is inhabited, barely presents any light pollution at all for those people looking to enjoy the night sky and its family of stars. When you stay at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel, you’ll have first-row tickets to enjoy this magical festival of lights that shines overhead. All you have to do is walk right out front to Playa de los Alemanes (German Beach), put a towel down of the sand, and look up and let your eyes marvel at everything they see.
Stroll down the Malecon (boardwalk)
Feeling the urge to get a taste of the island life? Puerto Ayora’s boardwalk (referred to as the malecon in Spanish) offers our guests a pleasant way to stroll through town and admire: a.) the laidback restaurants, bars, and stores on one side, and b.) the serene Galapagos waters on the other side. To get to the boardwalk from the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel, all you need to do is take the hotel’s own water taxi back to the municipal dock and start walking down Charles Darwin Avenue. As you head down the boardwalk, you’ll often encounter several of the native residents (read: sea lions) taking a snooze or ambling around along the docks, shores, or over at the…
If you want to observe a little bit of the local culture more closely, there’s no better place to do it than at the Santa Cruz Fish Market. Following a stroll down the boardwalk, and right before hitting the Charles Darwin Research Station, you’ll come upon this eclectic spectacle. The Santa Cruz Fish Market is a great window into the way human inhabitants of Galapagos coexist with their animal neighbors and allows you to watch as sea lions and pelicans prop themselves up against the stalls of the fish vendors, eagerly awaiting a delicious meal between the naps they take.
Visit the Charles Darwin Research Station
In addition to the inhabitants of the archipelago and the Galapagos National Park Service, the Charles Darwin Research Station is one of the biggest stakeholders when it comes to the protection and conservation of the islands. The Station is also involved in ongoing research project throughout the archipelago, these of which usually consists of monitoring species populations and visitor impact at several visitor sites. Their headquarters sit right at the far edge of town, which you’ll arrive at after walking along the entire length of the boardwalk. Once at the Station, you are free to walk around the different paths and trails that will let you admire much of the endemic fauna in Galapagos, as well as the numerous baby and adult Galapagos Giant Tortoises that are currently being raised in captivity.
Visit Laguna Las Ninfas (Nymphs Lagoon)
Another marvelous aspect of the Galapagos Islands is the sheer amount of distinct natural environments you can find throughout the archipelago! Within a matter of minutes, the scenery before your eyes can turn from arid and desert-like into an impressive and lush green. On the way to Tortuga Bay, and incredibly close to Puerto Ayora, you’ll get to find this peaceful patch of water that’s home to one of the richest ecosystems in all Galapagos: mangroves. The Nymphs Lagoon allows you to enjoy a relaxing, approximately 60-minute walk along the mesmerizing clusters of mangroves that surround this perfect mirror lagoon of turquoise water. It’s important to keep in mind that this lagoon is not for swimming in; however, you’ll easily get to enjoy the refreshing breeze.
Visit the local museums and galleries
While Puerto Ayora isn’t particularly renowned for being a museum and artistic hotspot, it does manage to offer some pleasant surprises in the form of the MAPRAE Museum and a handful of art galleries. The former offers visitors the chance to get to know a little bit more about the indigenous cultures and history over on the Ecuadorian mainland. The latter may catch your eye with their artisanal wares and amusing art pieces — none of which are made from Galapagos elements, as per the Galapagos National Park Rules!
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.
When it comes to a place as enchanted as the Galapagos, it almost seems commonsensical to regard any form of accommodation on these barren and otherworldly freckles of earth – in the near middle of the Pacific Ocean, to say the least! – as nothing short of “unique.” But when it comes to a brand as prestigious as National Geographic, you immediately know that their standard/criteria for their definition of “unique” is a whole different level. For many of our guests, the question often remains: how do you even become a member of National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World (ULW)?
How are hotels given their Unique Lodge Status by NatGeo?
To ensure that NatGeo standards are met, Unique Lodges of the World are carefully handpicked after an extensive and thorough vetting process/site audit that goes from examining the macro to the micro. A NatGeo Sustainable Tourism Expert is in charge of spending time at each lodge, evaluating the operations and meeting with everyone on staff (from hotel manager to kitchen staff) to become fully acquainted and do a in-depth evaluation of the lodge.
What exactly is a Unique Lodge of the World, by National Geographic Standards?
The whole concept of ULW was created to invite guests and traveler’s to experience some of the planet’s most extraordinary places. ULW come with the NatGeo seal of approval that guarantees guests will get to have an intimate and exceptional experience, fostering a connection between guests and their destination in a highly meaningful way. Properties are handpicked based the following criteria:
We serve as a forum for collaboration and conservation between islanders and organizations. We host meetings between the Galapagos National Park Service and Charles Darwin Research Station, to name a few. Additionally, we’ve also run numerous, successful education-oriented initiatives with local schools and students.
We are immersed in one of the most pristine wildlife sanctuaries in the world, and we’re one of the only beachfront hotels on Santa Cruz Island.
Professionally-trained guides, world-class service and staff alongside a Le Cordon Bleu-trained gastronomic director. Did we miss anything?
The Galapagos are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and with good reason. In honor of this and the sacred ground we exist on, we’ve created a complete set of inspiring activities to help our guests get acquainted with the islands.
The NatGeo Unique Lodge of the World Difference
Staying at a NatGeo Unique Lodge of the World is a guarantee that your trip will help protect our delicate and only planet. Staying at a Unique Lodge of the World means you’re both supporting local communitiesandthe environment while experiencing a place in the world that is truly unlike anything else and where magic awaits right at your doorstep. The Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel invites you to become a part of it all!
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 permitsfor disembarking on the uninhabited islands that make up the Galapagos National Park. 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 frigatebirds 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 on board 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!
Snorkelling in Galapagos: top animals you’ll get to swim with
Snorkelling in Galapagos is sure to be one of the most magical experiences you’ll have during your time in the archipelago. The biggest reason why? Because of the vast amount of fauna you’ll have surrounding you, almost as if you’d summoned them for yourself! Being a source of curiosity for other creatures is almost like a superpower unto itself, such that with just a little bit of patience and fearlessness, snorkelling in Galapagos will have creatures swimming within arms-length of your snorkelling mask, ogling your presence to try and “figure you out.” It’s an incredibly fun experience, which is why we recommend making it a core part of your Galapagos experience while staying at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel! Read-on and get stoked by finding out what animals you’ll get to swim with while snorkelling in Galapagos!
Both majestic and lethargic in their demeanour, sea turtles are a treat to swim beside while snorkelling in Galapagos. Their slow and ridiculously laid-back style of movement underwater makes them an easy target for us human to get up close to (but remember, not too close!) and snap a beautiful picture of their worn and wise-looking shells and long flippers.
Perhaps one of the most playful creatures of the sea when it comes to snorkelling in Galapagos, sea lions truly are a spectacle to revel in and even become a part of (when they’re curious enough)! These adept swimmers won’t hesitate to get incredibly close to you to check you out! They’re quick and skillful with their movement, and will swim at you full speed before doing an underwater “somersault” of sorts and swimming away reluctantly. They’re even curious enough to nibble at your flippers, if you let them! Extra cute points for swimming next to a Galapagos sea lion pup (just watch out, as the mothers of these pups are highly protective)!
Bold, rugged and beautiful in their own right, snorkelling in Galapagos with these “imps of darkness” (as Darwin himself saw it fit to call them) is a pretty cool experience. Bonus points if you get to see them feasting on their main diet – nutritious algae that clings to the rocky shores in Galapagos waters. Their giant claws and tenacious grip are a sight to behold. If you’re hanging out in shallow waters, you can even walk beside one as they slither like snakes just below the surface of the water, with their heads poking out like miniature dogs.Getting next to them while snorkelling in the Galapagos means you officially have the bragging rights to say you swam with the only species of iguana that can swim in the world!
Slick and daunting with their grey scales and pointed fins, sharks seen while snorkelling in Galapagos are incredibly deceptive in the sense that they erroneously portray a dangerous image. Fun fact: they’re super docile! Sharks, in fact, are highly misunderstood creatures and are actually much less threatening than many people believe. The importance of sharks in Galapagos, too, is highly overseen. While snorkelling in Galapagos, you’ll get to swim over a school of white-tip sharks and silky sharks.
Snorkelling in Galapagos with Penguins
Flapping, zipping and propelling themselves around underwater like superfast mini-submarines, Galapagos penguins are one of the rarest species of penguins given they’re the only ones to live north of the equator! In Galapagos, the relatively colder waters are what allow them to thrive in this unique environment. Note: These can only be seen on the western side of Galapagos, available via Western Islands Galapagos itineraries.