What Is The Best Galapagos Island To Visit?

The Galapagos Islands have been bestowed with some of the most stunning beaches, iconic wildlife, fabulous landscapes and majestic beauty in the world. They are a unique travel destination offering journeys and adventures unparalleled elsewhere.

However the islands are also an expensive travel destination and although it is possible to visit the majority of the islands (some are closed to the public) in reality most visitors would choose shorter itineraries visiting a selection of islands, which can mean having to choose a specific itinerary and deciding which islands to visit.

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Published: 11th July 2017

One of the questions we regularly get asked is "what is the best Galapagos island to visit?" and this is a difficult question to answer as every individual has their own travel preferences and interests and their own dreams about what to expect in the Galapagos. The answer to this question is different everytime.

what is the best galapagos island to visit blue footed boobyOne thing that many people don't appreciate is that all the islands are all completely different from each other, so although it isn't necessary to visit all the islands it is certainly advisable to visit 3 or 4 islands to give a good overview of the archipelago. Exactly what Galapagos islands are best for you depend on your own personal interests: some of the islands are better for birdlife, some are better for landscape, some offer better overland excursions while others are better for beaches or snorkelling, some are incredibly interesting from a geological perspective, some are home to unique species not found on the other islands... there is a great deal of variation to consider.

The most important thing we can say is that wherever you go in the Galapagos you will have a fantastic time. You don't need to spend a fortune and embark on a 3 week cruise to experience the variety of geography and wildlife on display. All the islands are incredible and there is no "best" island, however it is worth ensuring you are visiting the islands that are better suited to your own interests as one island might be better for birdwatching while another island might be better for landscapes.

This guide is designed to highlight the best wildlife, snorkelling, landscape and history of the Galapagos so you can plan which islands to visit based on your own interests...

Best Galapagos Island for Wildlife?

what is the best galapagos island to visit crabThe Galapagos Islands are world famous for their wildlife and no matter where you go in the Galapagos you will find yourself surrounded by wildlife of one type of another from curious mocking birds hopping around your feet to lazy seal lions sprawling on the beaches. Much of the wildlife, such as the dazzling Sally lightfoot crab and the marine iguana, is ubiquitos and can be seen on many of the islands and there is no one single island that is the best for wildlife in the Galapagos, however there are certain islands that are better for specific types of wildlife such as birds or giant tortoises, so if you have a specific interest in seeing a specific species this is something to consider.

Fernandina Island is popular with bird lovers as it is the best place to spot the rare Flightless cormorant (which only lives in the far west of the archipelago), and if you want to spot a Red-footed booby the best place to do this is Genovesa Island in the far north.

what is the best galapagos island to visit punta suarezPunta Suarez on Espanola Island is one of the best places to spot the birdlife of the Galapagos Islands, and an overland trail at Punta Suarez allows you to pass through a variety of nesting sites and bird colonies with the chance to spot Galapagos albatross, Nazca boobies, blue-footed boobies, frigate birds as well as other wildlife including sea lions and marine iguanas.

If you are wanting to spot flamingoes then probably the best location is the salty lakes at Punta Cormorant on Floreana Island where these majestic and iconic pink creatures can usually be found wading through the lake.

what is the best galapagos island to visit tortoiseIf you are really interested in seeing Galapagos Giant Tortoises in the wild then the best islands to do this are Santa Cruz Island (particularly the luscious green highland region) and Isabela Island. Spotting these iconic creatures in the wild isn't guaranteed and in some instances is actually quite difficult (many of the habitats are protected and can't be visited). If you definitely don't want to leave the Galapagos without seeing a Giant Tortoise then it is also a good idea to check your holiday or cruise includes one of the tortoise protection centres such as the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island or the Cerro Colorado Protection Centre on San Cristobal Island. Check before booking as not all cruises or itineraries will necessarily visit these places or give you the chance to spot a Giant tortoise.

Best Galapagos Island for Beaches?

what is the best galapagos island to visit bartolome beach

What many people don't appreciate before visiting the Galapagos is that the islands are blessed with some of the most beautiful pristine paradise beaches in the world, but inevitably the question is which is the best Galapagos island for beaches?

Here at Go Andes we have a soft-spot for the beach at Bartolome Island underneath the famous "pinnacle rock". Not only is the beach here pristine and beautiful, but the waters are crystal clear (this is a good snorkelling spot), and the scenic views of pinnacle rock and beyond from the beach make this a special location.

what is the best galapagos island to visit .gardner bayGardner Bay on Espanola Island is one of the many highlights of the Galapagos Islands. The beach here is a white-sand paradise beach but what makes this location even more special is the sea lions that sprawl out on the beach creating a stunning wildlife backdrop to a paradise location.

One of the most famous beaches in the Galapagos is Tortuga Bay on Santa Cruz Island. Unlike many of the other beaches we've listed here which can only be visited on a cruise it is possible to walk to Tortuga Bay from the town of Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island, so if you are not doing a cruise and are visiting the islands on an island-hopping or overland holiday staying in Puerto Ayora (i.e. sleeping in hotels rather than in a cruise ship) then this is a good option for you. The beach is a beautiful white sandy beach and, similar to Gardner Bay, is frequently used by sea lions lazily snoozing on the beach.

For something a little bit different the red beach on Rabida Island may not be the best for sun-bathing but its vivid ocre red colours make this a unique sight worth exploring.

Best Galapagos Island for History?

The Galapagos Islands are known primarily as a wildlife destination and certainly this is the main reason to visit, however the Galapagos islands are steeped in history from the visit of Charles Darwin to the pirates and whalers that first called this archipelago home, so if you visit the right locations on the right islands you can still see glimpses of the the history of Galapagos.

One of the best places to get a good overview of the overall history of the Galapagos is the Galapagos Interpretation Centre on San Cristobal Island - within this museum there are interesting and informative displays looking at the history of the islands from the geological formation of the islands right through the time of Charles Darwin to present day.

what is the best galapagos island to visit post officeIf you wish to actually see some of the historical sites then Floreana Island is one of the best places to do this. On this island you can find the famous Post Office Bay. Centuries ago the giant whaling vessels that were operating in the Galapagos designed a system that allowed them to post their mail back home, and the system involved a barrel left on a bay on Floreana Island. Each ship would leave their mail within the barrel, and check the contents of the barrel to see if any previous ships had left items that were to be delivered to their final destination - in which case they would collect those items and deliver them on behalf of the other whaling ships. The most incredible part of this story is that the post office barrel is still working today!, although the whaling ships have long since vanished so today the post office is used for tourist post cards.

what is the best galapagos island to visit sullivan bayTo experience more natural history then Sullivan Bay on Santiago Island is a good place to learn more about how the Galapagos islands were formed. Here it is possible to walk across and explore the giant black solidified lava flow and see the weird and wonderful shapes and formations created by the lava geological process.

One other important historical site in the Galapagos is the Wall of Tears on Isabela Island which gives an insight into the darker history of the Galapagos when the islands were used as a penal colony. The wall was built by prisoners being held captive on the islands between 1945 and 1959 and is a sombre memorial to the prisoners that lost their lives during this time.

Best Galapagos Islands for Snorkelling?

what is the best galapagos island to visit snorkellingAlthough the landscapes and wildlife of the Galapagos islands themselves are second to none, the underwater landscape in the Galapagos can be equally stunning and intriguing so swimming and snorkelling (as well as other water-based excursions such as glass-bottomed boats, sea-kayaking and scuba-diving) are very popular in the Galapagos and most Galapagos cruise holidays would include excursions that involve snorkelling. Wildlife you might spot while snorkelling include large species like reef shark and sea lion, the Galapagos penguin, and a wide range of paradise fish such as the Pacific Boxfish.

There are two main ways to go snorkelling in the Galapagos - either in deep water (e.g. by a panga-boat) or from a beach by wading into the water, and the best Galapagos islands for snorkelling tend to be those with clearer waters where beach access is easier.

what is the best galapagos island to visit snorkelling2Bartolome Island in the centre of the Galapagos is famous for its scenery and Pinnacle Rock but the beach on this island is a fantastic place to go snorkelling. The water is usually clear and as you swim away from the beach the subterranean landscape opens out with rocky pillars and outcrops creating beautiful underwater landscapes, and it is also possible to snorkel around the base of Pinnacle Rock itself. In addition to a wide variety of fish you can also spot sea turtles, reef sharks and Galapagos penguins in this area.

Best Galapagos Island for Landscape?

what is the best galapagos island to visit bartolomeUndoubtedly the most famous and possibly the best Galapagos Island for landscape is Bartolome Island which is a small island off the east coast of Santiago Island. "Pinnacle Rock" here offers a stunning backdrop for snorkelling excursions around the bay at the base of the rock, and the beach here is equally stunning. The highlight of Bartolome Island though is the climb to the summit of the island which provides the iconic landscapes views of the Galapagos islands stretching out before you.

Elsewhere on the islands the highlands of Santa Cruz Island offer a totally different type of landscape with rolling hills and luscious and thick green vegetation completely different to the barren volcanic landscapes found in some of the other islands of the archipelago. There are also some interesting landscape features here to spot including the Twin Craters (Los Gemelos) which are sunken craters in the terrain.

Isabela Island in the western half of the Galapagos Islands is the largest island in the archipelago and for many this is the best island in the Galapagos for landscape, with the island dominanated by large volcanoes that make a stunning back-drop to this island. Tagus Cove in the north west of the island is a popular spot for a visit and from the cove a trail leads up to Darwin Lake for spectacular views of Darwin Volcano in the distance. Similarly in the south of Isabela Island the Sierra Negra Volcano is a very good landscape option with incredible scenery. Excursions here involve an overland trek to the rim of the Sierra Negra crater - the largest volcanic crater in the Galapagos.

Which Is The Best Galapagos Island To Visit?

what is the best galapagos island to visit punta suarez2The Galapagos Islands are a wonderful place to visit, but the truth is there is no "best" island to visit and all the Galapagos archipelago offers something fantastic - be it wildlife, scenery or birdwatching. Hopefully our guide has helped suggest some of the many highlights to see one the islands, and the best places for specific

At Go Andes we provide a wide range of Galapagos Holidays and Galapagos Cruises - everything from shorter cruises such as a 4 day cruise on the Nemo I catamaran to an epic 15 day cruise on the San Jose Yacht. We can cater for a range of holiday styles and have the expertise to guide you in the right direction to help you select the best Galapagos itinerary and cruise vessel for you. Contact us if you have any more questions or want more advice to discover which is the best Galapagos Island to visit based on your own personal interests. Happy travelling.

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