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October 2, 2015
Espanola Island Day Trips and Independent Travelers
Blue Footed Booby

2016 Update: Good news! As of May 2016, day trips are again possible to Espanola Island. Visit our updated blog post. Since things change often here, we’ll keep our original post below available for reference.

A common request we get at Galakiwi is: “Do you offer day tours to Espanola Island?”

One thing that often frustrates independent travelers coming to the Galapagos Islands is realizing that their intended trip around the islands is impossible to do. Unfortunately, the Galapagos Islands are not set up very well for independent travel, so a greater deal of flexibility in travel plans and proper planning is required.

As the Galapagos Islands are largely a National Park and Marine Reserve, the rules and regulations about visiting the islands changes frequently. Visitor sites that once allowed land visits and snorkel visits change to land-only. Other visitor sites close down; while some become more heavily regulated, resulting in much greater visitor costs. The frustration for independent travelers comes from not knowing these changes. The popular travel guidebooks on the Galapagos, as well as travel forums and “wiki” websites often have outdated information that may be many months, if not years, out of date.

As for day trips to Espanola Island – a handful of years ago this was possible. But, Espanola day trips have been impossible, and illegal, to offer for many years now. Nobody can take a day trip to Española Island under the current Galapagos National Park rules.

While this has been the case for years, other more recent changes to sites like Las Tintoreras on Isabela Island and Isla Lobos near San Cristobal can cause headaches for independent travelers who’ve read they can visit these sites on day tours relatively affordably. As the GNP clamps down on some of the more accessible sites and puts stricter visitation controls in place, the cost to visit such sites drastically increases, or they become off-limits. Years ago it was possible to snorkel with sleeping sharks near Las Tintoreras, now they must be viewed from a platform and snorkelling is strictly limited to a different area, which itself is now also being more heavily regulated (and now costs much more to visit.)

As frustrating as it may be for travelers, especially those planning their own trip to the Galapagos, each change is for the better, as the health and safety of the sensitive Galapagos wildlife and environment is always a top priority.

Typical cruise itineraries have changed a lot over the years as well, and the trips we operate on land have evolved to meet the requirements set out by the authorities. Our actual trip itineraries change numerous times every year to keep up with the park rules, something most tour companies don’t have to face in other parts of the world. If you have a friend who had a great time in the Galapagos five years ago, chances are you won’t be able to replicate their exact tour. But not to worry, as there are so many visitor sites and adventure options on the islands, that each trip is still guaranteed to be unlike anything else you’ve ever experienced.

If you are planning your own trip here, be prepared for change. Everything from which day of the week flights and boat ferries operate, to what small islands and visitor sites are open, changes with great frequency here. Simply make sure you do your research before you arrive and have up to date information.

Update – November 2015: Rumors are circulating that the Galapagos National Park will be opening up some access to some visitor sites in February 2016, including allowing day tours to Espanola Island from San Cristobal Island. We’ll keep you updated if anything becomes official!

1 Comment on this post

Vanessa Moon
Commented on November 7, 2018 at 6:32 PM

Looks super cool!


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