West, Central & East Galápagos
8 Days Galápagos cruise on board the Estrella del Mar
From USD 2,100
West, Central & East Galápagos
8 days, 1-16 passengers
A 8-Day Galápagos Cruise
The Trip Highlights
Thousands of Marine Iguanas at Espinosa Point
Scientific insights at C. Darwin Research Station
Green Turtles nesting at Espumilla Beach
Mars-like landscapes at Rábida
Galapatours 'Plus' Experience
Super comfortable cabins
Great value option
English-speaking guide for all activities
Lectures in the evening
Get to know the highlights of Galápagos with this Naturalist cruise on board the beautiful Estrella del Mar! On this Expedition Cruise, you will discover the incredible wildlife of the Galápagos Islands: Fernandina, the youngest island, will blow your mind with its rugged lava landscapes. The youngest island in the archipelago, it is still being formed by volcanic eruptions and makes for a wonderful, otherworldly contrast to the other islands. Isabela, the biggest of all islands in the Galápagos, offers you fantastic hikes, views and arguably some of the best snorkeling spots in the Archipelago. During your time spent on Rábida, you will have the opportunity to watch wild Flamingos and walk on a blood-red sandy beach. On San Cristóbal, you will be able to snorkel in crystal clear waters, relax with sea lions on pristine white sand beaches and learn more about the evolution of giant tortoises. During your time on Santa Cruz, you will have the chance to observe the famous Galápagos Giant Tortoises in the wild and learn more about the preservation and scientific study of these amazing animals. On Santiago, an island formerly inhabited by pirates, you will be able to enjoy hikes and dinghy rides.
Your ship: Estrella del Mar
- Great value option;
- Comfortable accommodation;
- Great reviews for the chef;
- Wide range of itineraries.
Estrella Del Mar offers an excellent option for those who want to cruise the Galápagos in comfort, but are prepared to sacrifice some top end luxury for excellent value. Built in 1990, Estrella uses her space cleverly, so that she never feels crowded. Limited to a maximum of 16 guests, you’ll have a great experience as you cruise between stunning sites of interest around the Galápagos.
Comfortable Cabins Estrella Del Mar has eight cabins, four on the lower deck, and four on t … Read more about Estrella del Mar
Transfers to and from ship
Snorkel gear (free of charge)
All meals throughout the cruise
100% CO2 carbon footprint offset
Air conditioning & private bathroom
Single travellers can share cabin
Water, Coffee, Tea & fresh juices
Flights to and from Galapagos
Food & Drinks
The food on our Galapágos Cruises is among the very best you will find in South America. Most of the on-board chefs are internationally trained and have prior experience working in the best hotels and restaurants in Ecuador and indeed around the world.
You can expect a first-class selection of food, including a good variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, locally sourced poultry and fish/seafood, rice and pasta dishes. Most boats will always include some typical Ecuadorian dishes on the menu during your cruise. If you have specific dietary requirements then these can usually be accommodated by the chef providing you have given advance notice. Please make sure you tell us about any allergies or dietary requirements you have at the time you book with us. If you leave it until you arrive at the dockside, then it may well be impossible to accommodate your needs.
Most boats serve a range of options at meal times in a relaxed buffet-style. At the first class and luxury end of the market, some boats have more formal dining where you will be served at your seat. However the atmosphere is always relaxed on board our cruises, and never stuffy or formal.
Optional Module Before First Day
Day 1 •
Baltra • Arrival at Baltra airport+transfer to ship
Welcome to Galápagos! Once your flight has landed and you went through the immigration process, you'll be met in the Arrivals lounge by our English-speaking guide who will take you to your transfer vehicle for the short journey to your waiting ship.
Baltra Island, where your arrival airport is, was used as an important Air Force base in the Second World War. This is the primary airport for the Galápagos Islands and you'll be rubbing shoulders with fellow tourists, international naturalists and conservationists, researchers and academics, and Galápagos residents alike. The airport has been built as a "green" airport, and as well as using recycled materials in its construction, it's special design keeps the buildings relatively cool without the need for any air conditioning.
Once on board your ship, you will be introduced to the crew and given a welcome briefing as well as an important safety drill. After this you'll be shown to your cabin. While you're served a well-deserved and delicious lunch, the captain will cast off and your adventure truly starts.
Santa Cruz • Santa Cruz Highlands
Santa Cruz is the only island on the Galápagos that allows you to travel through every habitat type that exists in the archipelago. This makes the journey north from the coast up into the highlands a fantastic opportunity to experience the breadth of life that exists on these islands.
Your bus journey starts from Puerto Ayora on the coast and you slowly start to climb through the agricultural zone where open fields begin to give way to lush, green, mist-covered forests. This is a marked contrast to many of the islands which are at much lower elevation and much more arid. This rich verdant landscape is predominantly made up of dense Scalesia forest.
Your expert Galapatours guide will stop several times along the route to allow you to explore various different sites. Among the stops will be a Giant Tortoise reserve, and also a visit to the famous lava tubes. Over half a mile long, a walk through these natural volcanic features is eerie and unforgettable.
Also along the way you will stop for refreshments, and you'll be able to try locally-grown Galápagos coffee - we think it's among the best we've ever tasted!
Day 2 •
Santiago • Chinese Hat
Chinese Hat ("Sombrero Chino" to locals) is an islet set just a short distance off the southeastern coast of Santiago. The small channel between Chinese Hat and mainland Santiago is fairly deep yet sheltered, and the water here is a glistening turquoise.
The islet gets its name because if you approach from the north, you will see that this small volcanic cone does indeed look like the traditional bamboo or rice hat. Viewed from above on a satellite image, however, you will see that this islet is actually more of an oval shape.
There is a short hiking trail on Chinese Hat that runs along the western coast of the islet. This is a harsh landscape of volcanic rubble and lava formations, a very atmospheric reminder of the fiery origins of the Galápagos.
Along the cost of both Chinese Hat and the opposite Santiago shore you are likely to see Galápagos Sea Lions and Galápagos Penguins, either basking in the sun or seeking shade to avoid the hottest parts of the day. Overhead, you might catch a glimpse of the magnificent Galápagos Hawk.
The stand-out reason for a visit to Chinese Hat however is to snorkel in that turquoise channel. Here you can see various species of sharks, rays, and a variety of tropical fish. Not all Galápagos boats can visit, and permits are only given to a select few boats and guides. Here at Galapatours we offer itineraries on all of these specially selected boats, so if a visit to Chinese Hat is important to you, speak to one of our Galápagos experts today to help choose the perfect itinerary.
Rábida • A walk on Rabida Island
Rabida is a small, steeply-sloped island with red-sand shores, and was originally called Jervis. Despite its small size, Rabida has one of the highest concentrations of volcanic features in the Galápagos, and it's thanks to the iron-rich lava deposits that its sands and soils are so red.
After a wet landing on the northern coast you will often see Galápagos Sea Lions and marine iguanas around the beach, especially near the sheltered caves in hot weather. Just behind the beach is a nesting site for brown pelicans, who use the saltbush as cover. Rabida is one of the best spots in the archipelago to observe pelicans. Sometimes flamingos can also be seen in the lagoon here.
After your trip inland you can then have a relaxing swim and enjoy some snorkeling, which is very good in the clear waters off the beach. While you swim, you'll be able to see Blue-Footed Boobies taking off over your head from their cliff-top roosts.
Day 3 •
Santiago • Espumilla Beach
The beach itself is home to marine iguanas who feed among the rocks at either end of the beach, and it is a good place to snorkel, with visitors often reporting sightings of sharks, rays and octopus. This is also a nesting site for Galápagos green turtles.
There is an inland hiking trail here that takes visitors past a seasonal lagoon that's often bright green thanks to the algae in the water. Here you can find Galápagos flamingos and pin-tail ducks. The trail then loops through the arid zone, where you can see further bird species including Galápagos Hawks that often circle overhead.
Santiago • Egas Port
The first trail runs along the coast to visit the so-called "Fur Seal Grottos". The Galápagos Fur Seals like to seek shade from the equatorial sun, and they prefer rocky shores with caves or other nooks and crannies in which they can keep cool. The grottos here are perfect for them, and the tidal pools are also popular with Galápagos Marine Iguanas who can be seen feeding in and around them.
The second trail from Egas Port heads inland to the "Salt Mine Volcano". This hike is just under 2 miles long and takes you to the rim of a salt mine crater. This "mine" is actually a small volcanic cone that is filled with a salt water lagoon that dries up in the dry season. At several points in the 20th century individuals or companies attempted to mine salt from it, but without commercial success. The name of your landing site is after the owner of the last company to try salt mining here, Hector Egas.
Day 4 •
Fernandina • Espinosa Point
Fernandina Island has never been colonised by any non-native species, and this makes it ones of the world's most pristine island ecosystems. Coupled with its young age (Fernandina was only formed a few hundred thousand years ago) this makes a visit to this Galápagos island very special indeed.
At Espinosa Point on the northeastern shore of Fernandina the vista is dominated by "La Cumbre", the volcano whose lava fields formed the island. A visit to Espinosa Point is high on many people's list thanks to the number of iconic unique Galápagos species you will see here. As well as the noisy and fun-loving Galápagos Sea Lions, Espinosa Point is a great place to see Marine Iguanas, the wonderful Galápagos Penguins and the unique and endangered Galápagos Flightless Cormorant. If you are very lucky and keep your eyes skyward you may also catch sight of a Galápagos Hawk circling overhead looking for its next meal.
Isabela • Urbina Bay
Urbina Bay is one of the youngest features in the Galápagos. It was mainly formed in 1954, when a sudden uplift of the land raised the seabed by over 5 metres, and pushed the coastline over 1 km further away. This has resulted in the astonishing site of heads of coral stranded far from the water. Exposed to the air and elements, the coral heads are rapidly deteriorating and are one of the sights of the Galápagos that won't be around for much longer.
Once ashore, a long hiking trail will take you away from the beach and into the island's arid zone. In this habitat, you are likely to see wild Galápagos Giant Tortoises and Galápagos Land Iguanas. As the trail circles back towards the shore line you'll come across colonies of the unique Galápagos Flightless Cormorant.
This is a pleasant area for snorkeling, and as you enter and leave the water you might do so watched by some Galápagos Penguins, who have a colony nearby. This is also one of the best sites to see Galápagos Marine Iguanas feeding underwater.
Day 5 •
Isabela • Elizabeth Bay
On the eastern coast of Isabela, the wide and sheltered Elizabeth Bay is a haven for wildlife. With areas of mangrove on the shore that contrast with the surrounding lava fields, and a myriad of small islets and rocky reefs, this is a particularly rich area for wildlife.
Accessible only by panga (small motorised dinghy), exploring Elizabeth Bay will provide you with an opportunity to get up close and personal with many of Isabela's species. During your 2 hour boat ride around Elizabeth Bay you can see rays, sharks, green sea turtles, Galápagos penguins, pelicans, and plenty of Galápagos Sea Lions. Nearer to the shores and mangroves you'll see Galápagos Flightless Cormorants and marine iguanas.
Galapatours guests regularly tell us that Elizabeth Bay is one of their favourite Galápagos excursions and visitor sites.
Isabela • Moreno Point
Moreno Point (known locally as Punta Moreno) is a short journey from Elizabeth Bay on the west coast of Isabela Island. You will take a panga ride which will give you great views of the striking rocky shoreline before you make your landing.
Here you will see the eerie site of a huge lava field leading up to the distant Cero Azul volcano. Hiking through this alien landscape you will come across several tidal lagoons, pools and mangroves - all of which provide an oasis for a range of wildlife, particularly bird species. In the larger tidal pools you may see green turtles or sharks, the clear waters giving you a unique opportunity to view them from on land!
On your journey back to the boats from your 1.2 mile hike you're likely to see Galápagos Penguins on the rocky shores as well a range of birds including herons and Galápagos Flamingos. This is a favorite excursion as it combines the opportunity to see coastal species with a hike through stunning landscapes.
Day 6 •
Isabela • Las Tintoreras
Las Tintoreras are a group of small islets just a few hundred metres from the shores at Villamil, only accessible by kayak or panga. The network of Tintoreras forms a patchwork over the stunning turquoise waters of the bay, and this natural shelter is a haven for wildlife.
At low tides, one shallow lagoon is famous for offering amazing views of sharks swimming near the surface - the water clarity is such that they often look like they are floating in air! Other species that call Las Tintoreras home include Galápagos marine iguanas and friendly (and noisy) Galápagos Sea Lions.
Depending on tide conditions and time of year, it may be possible to snorkel here. If this is important to you, speak to one of our Galápagos experts who can advise you on the best itineraries to choose to meet your requirements.
Isabela • Sierra Negra Volcano
Sierra Negra is renowned as the most impressive volcano in the Galápagos. The crater is over 6 miles across and is the second largest in the world.
However, to visit the volcano is quite a logistical effort. The only way to get there is to start with a 45 minute drive from Villamil to a trailhead from where you can follow another 2 hours of trails up to and along part of the rim.
There's also the option to walk on quite recent lava flows, as the so-called parasitic cone of Volcan Chico last erupted in 1979 leaving large flows to cool to rock.
Your expert Galapatours guide will explain in detail about the geological processes that shaped not only this part of Isabela, but of the whole Galápagos.
Isabela • Arnaldo Tupiza Tortoise Breeding Center
A short walk from Puerto Villamil on Isabela Island will bring you to the Arnaldo Tupiza Tortoise Breeding Center. The short trail from town is lovely in itself - you follow a boardwalk that takes you across the wetlands and Opuntia cactus fields.
At the breeding centre you can see 5 different subspecies of Galápagos Giant Tortoise that are all native to Isabela, but currently threatened by habitat damage caused by introduced animals and volcanic eruptions. Here, the Giant Tortoise eggs are carefully incubated in a special hatchery, whilst the adults are cared for in large supervised corrals. This careful breeding program is aiming to increase the populations of these remarkable animals to ensure their survival as a wild species that's unique to the Galápagos.
Day 7 •
Santa Cruz • Charles Darwin Research Station
The world famous Charles Darwin Research Center is just a 10 minute walk from downtown Puerto Ayora, and is the home of the non-profit Charles Darwin Foundation.
Inside, you'll find exhibits about the geography, geology and climate of the Galápagos, and the evolution of her unique species. There is also lots of information on the Foundation's current conservation and education programs.
As well as conducting it's own key research, the Charles Darwin Center also hosts international scientists, and supports the work of government agencies like the Galápagos National Park.
Next door is the site of the Galápagos' first giant tortoise breeding center, where pioneering work has been done since 1965 for the preservation of these species. Here you can see newly hatched babies, up to juveniles and full-grown adults ready to be released back into the wild.
Santa Cruz • Tortuga Bay Beach
Tortuga Bay Beach is a delightful 1 mile walk from Puerto Ayora and is one of the prettiest beaches on the Galápagos.
As you walk the trail to the beach you cross through an area of arid vegetation which is filled with bird life, and your Galapatours expert naturalist guide will help you to identify many species here, which include the famous Darwin's Finches.
Once you reach the beach you will see a glorious tropical scene - white coral sands and breaking turquoise waves. You can often see surfers here, and they are a clue that those waves hide strong currents and tides, and you need to be careful if you choose to swim. A better option might be to continue along to the second part of Tortuga Bay Beach which is the other side of the headland. This beach opens onto a small bay that's almost completely sheltered from the swell and makes a wonderfully calm place for swimming or snorkeling.
Tortuga Beach and Tortuga Bay make a wonderful place that's not only great for relaxing and soaking up the sun, but also for exploring more of the Galápagos' unique wildlife and habitats.