What to pack for Galápagos Islands

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  • toonsarah's Profile Photo

    What to bring?

    by toonsarah Updated Dec 10, 2012

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    Luggage and bags: There are weight restrictions on flights from the mainland, so check before you travel. Most Quito hotels will let you store baggage there so you can take only what you will need on the islands, but as we were touring elsewhere in Ecuador immediately before the cruise that was of less use to us, though we did leave in Quito everything we had already dirtied by that point, and a change of clean clothes for our final day there and journey home. The general advice is to take soft bags as you will need to store your bags in your (small) cabin but we used our usual hard ones (we prefer these when flying as they are more robust) and managed to fit them in a corner quite easily. You’ll also want a day bag for landings, and one you can carry on your back is best as you’ll be climbing in and out of dinghies. Make sure it’s waterproof if you think there’s any risk you’ll drop it in the sea on wet landings, or bring a plastic bag for your camera within it perhaps.

    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: It can be cooler than you might expect of a place right on the Equator. If visiting in the cool dry season you'll find a light fleece or similar useful for evenings. Otherwise cotton layers are fine, and either trousers with zips to convert to shorts, or one or two pairs of the latter, for wet landings.

    Some recommend waterproof sandals for wet landings, but we found that wading ashore and putting on trainers was better. The shores where these wet landings are needed are all sandy rather than rocky, so bare feet are fine, and trails can be gritty or have sharp rocks, so enclosed toes are best. I only wore sandals once, and regretted having taken them! We did think though that a small towel for drying our feet once on shore would have been useful. And take separate shoes for on board, as landing shoes have to be stowed in the lockers provided there. Most of us went barefoot during the day, and some in the evening, but I mostly opted to put on a pair of light sand shoes that I’d taken for the purpose.

    Toiletries and Medical Supplies: It should go without saying that you should take everything you need on board. You may get the chance to shop in Puerto Ayora or another small town, but this may not be until well into the trip, and you can’t count on specific items being available. Pack any medication that you need to take regularly, and include seasickness pills and/or wristbands. Be sure to take plenty of sunscreen as the sea reflects the rays and you will burn more easily than on land, even on a hazy day. Even in the so-called wet season there will be plenty of sunny breaks between the showers, and travelling in the cool misty garua season we also saw plenty of sun. We didn’t have any problems with biting insects but there may be more in the wet season, so pack bite cream and repellent. On the cheaper boats you will need to bring shower gel etc – I’m not sure if the top-end boats provide more on these lines however.

    Photo Equipment: You will take a lot of photos! Even if you think you are not a keen photographer, even if normally you only take a few a day ... here it is different. Yes you have a hundred photos of cute sea lion pups, but just maybe, this one is even cuter ;-) And yes, you have lots of photos of Blue-footed Boobies, but this one’s feet are brighter, or there’s a chick or an egg on the nest, or he’s closer, or ..., or ..., or ... So bring plenty of memory cards, and/or a computer to download onto. And be sure to carry spare memory with you when you go on shore – it’s no use to you in the cabin when a great photo opportunity arises. The same goes for batteries – take extra batteries to carry with you even if yours are rechargeable. You can recharge them back on the boat, but you won’t want your camera to run out of power while you're on an island, and you may spend hours on a nature trail before you can get back on board to recharge.

    Miscellaneous: Although you can get pretty close to the wildlife, binoculars may also be useful at times, as some of the birds are a little more elusive.

    Make sure you have a hat that protects you from the sun – one with ties is more practical, especially for dinghy rides and transfers to the landing sites.

    I had been having a few problems with a dodgy knee before the trip so took my trekking pole and found it invaluable, especially for the longer and rockier island trails such as Genovesa and Española. If you have any concerns about walking on rough ground I really recommend you take one and get used to adjusting it and walking with it in advance if possible.

    A water bottle would be useful too, though on the Angelito we were given a bottle of water as a “starter” and then refilled that as needed from the on-board water dispenser.

    Finally, although snorkelling equipment is provided on all but the cheapest boats, if you’re keen and have your own you might want to bring that with you – though I found that on the Angelito more than adequate for my limited forays into the sea. If travelling in the cool dry season you will also almost certainly want to wear a wetsuit – again, these are available on the boats, usually at a small charge ($25 for the week on the Angelito), but it you have your own do bring it as you’ll be sure of a perfect fit.

    Next tip: ”Flying to Baltra”

    (photo by Ryan)
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    • Eco-Tourism
    • National/State Park

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  • richiecdisc's Profile Photo

    go wide, go long

    by richiecdisc Written Apr 1, 2008

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    Luggage and bags: A backpack comes in handy if you want to walk from the dock to town in places like Villamil, Isabella. In general, it frees you up and you don't have to depend on a ride. If you can't carry it on your back, don't bring it. ;)

    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: You'll need layers in the Galapagos. The weather changes without much warning. It can be hot one minute and cold the next. And wet too so bring rain gear. Good walking shoes are a must and good walking sandals maybe even more so for doing the rocky bits that seem to surround many of the nicest watering holes.

    Photo Equipment: A wide angle lets you capture to big expanses that are the Galapagos archipelago hallmark. While the wildlife does come up close and you can get good shots without one, a good zoom is the difference between close and in that baby's head.

    back off, bub
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  • Quero's Profile Photo

    Nothing fancy, Everything comfortable

    by Quero Updated Dec 8, 2004

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    Luggage and bags: As weight restrictions on flights to GPS are strict, you will want the minimum amount of luggage for the maximum effect. If you are traveling to other locations, consider leaving anything you don't need at your hotel in Quito/Guayaquil while you are in the islands. Keep in mind that tour boats generally have extremely limited closet/drawer space and that there may be nowhere to store luggage. Soft-sided pieces that can collapse are ideal.

    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Cargo pants with zip-off legs are practical. Pants with 3/4 legs also work very well. One pair of shorts was enough for me as I was there during the cool season. In summer, take two.

    Don't take many shirts. You will load up on tees in the towns anyway.

    Make sure to have a sweatshirt or a fleece jacket. You will want it between dives and in the evenings.

    The best footwear is a pair of reef sandals/tevas that strap on. These work for both wet and dry landings when you have island visits. You can rinse them off easily (to get rid of stuck on guano) when you're back on the boat. I went barefoot on the boat so I wouldn't slip on the ladders and wet decks, but you might want flip-flops.

    You won't need an umbrella, but a light water-resistant windbreaker with a hood is useful for windy island visits and sudden showers.

    Swimwear is essential, of course, but mine only served as fancy underwear beneath my wetsuit. It was too cool for sunbathing, or for just plain swimming, for that matter.

    Hat and sunglasses.

    Toiletries and Medical Supplies: Seasick remedies
    Upset stomach remedies (for digestive problems)
    Sunscreen, particularly in summer
    Prescription meds
    Toothpaste, etc.

    Photo Equipment: Three times as much film or memory card capacity as you expect to need. I would use a 256 card on a single island visit, sometimes more.

    Extra batteries. Recharge them back on the boat, but you will not want your camera to power down while you're on an island, and you may spend hours on a nature trail.

    Underwater housing for your camera.

    Tripod for land visits if you have a heavy camera. You'll get very tired arms otherwise, since you *will* shoot a lot of pictures.

    Miscellaneous: Binoculars
    Water bottle
    Day pack for island visits
    Small flashlight

    Practical Galapagos evening wear: a warm hoodie

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  • elsadran's Profile Photo

    the sun is hot, the sea is cold...

    by elsadran Written May 29, 2008

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    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Average temperatures are 24C between July and November and 28C October to June. So bring the appropriate clothes. A light waterproof jacket might be necessary in the rainy season.
    The sun is very strong even in cloudy days, so a hat and sunscreen is absolutely necessary.
    Light long trousers and shorts or capri.
    You will need walking shoes such as tennis shoes because you will be walking on rocks, or hard lava rocks. Bathing suit. Wet suit. Snorkeling equipment except if you are in a cruise. Sun glasses. Camera and a lot of films or an extra card. Seasickness medication if you get seasick.

    Related to:
    • Family Travel
    • Backpacking
    • Road Trip

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  • catalysta's Profile Photo

    You can't go shopping when you're on a boat!

    by catalysta Updated Nov 17, 2003

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    Luggage and bags: waterproof daypack, for those wet landings (at least a waterproof camera pack)

    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Some good tough sport sandals - I had Merrill's, everyone else had Teva's, and they were all envying mine! Remember, you'll be hopping around on lava rocks & climbing small mountains, as well as wading in to rocky shores on wet landings

    Toiletries and Medical Supplies: If you have any tendencies towards seasickness....

    Oh, and of course, several levels of suncreen

    Photo Equipment: Bring more film than you think you'll need (or more memory sticks, whatever!), extra batteries, etc.

    One waterproof disposable camera is a good idea as well, unless you have something better.

    Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: It can get cool on board the boat in the evening, so bring a light jacket or something along that line

    a wetsuit, if you have one, the water's surprisingly cool, Antarctic currents go by

    Miscellaneous: extra sunglasses - if you lose yours, you're screwed!

    I brought my own snorkel, mask & fins just becuz I always do...

    Rugged Cliffs of South Plaza

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  • kathymof's Profile Photo

    My thoughts on what to take

    by kathymof Updated Jul 27, 2008

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    Luggage and bags: Soft-sided luggage and as little as possible. There is not a whole lot of storage space in most rooms on the boats and soft-sided is easier to fit into small, odd-shaped places. Check to see if there is a size or weight limit for your particular cruise.

    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: 2 to 3 pairs of shoes/sandals are needed. A good pair of light hikers/walkers for hiking on the rocky paths - give your ankles some needed support. A sport sandal with toe protection & heel strap, such as Keen, could take the place of hiking shoes & is good on wet landings. Another pair of sandals is needed for the boat because you are not allowed to wear your land shoes on the boat. This prevents messing the boat up with sea lion poop but also stops tracking seeds from island to island. A breathable sun hat with a brim that covers the face, ears & back of neck is handy. The sun is intense! A long sleeve shirt is helpful with the sun. A light rain coat is essential. Take all the usual shorts, long pants, t-shirts. I recommend tech fabrics like CoolMax as they dry so quickly and are easy to wash out. Cotton pretty much gets wet and stays wet. Sun glasses are a must and not those skimpy, fashionable ones - bring something that will actually protect your eyes.

    Toiletries and Medical Supplies: All the usual stuff but if you are prone to being sea sick you will get sea sick the first day on the boat. I can almost guarantee this even if you take meds like I did. People with the sea sick patch did seem to do better than those of us taking pills. I found that the powdered Gatorade I took with me was a miracle at getting rid of the shakes after being sea sick. Highly recommend taking some type of electrolyte replacement with you and Gatorade is my favorite. It also works well if you get overheated with shaking/nausea. Take sun screen too. We were all advised to take bug repellent but I hardly saw a bug the whole time.

    Photo Equipment: Take some type of water-proof pouch for your photo equipment. This doesn't have to be high end - just something to protect your equipment if you slip or get drenched on a wet landing or it starts raining. I used a "Sea to Summit" bag and was very happy with it. Take about three to four times more film or memory card capacity than you planned on. You won't be able to resist taking pictures of the sea lions, even though you already took at least a hundred. Field glasses/binoculars are really handy to have as well. Take cables for connecting your camera to a TV set - that way you can share your day's pics with others on the boat.

    Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: The water temperature around the islands varies greatly. We were snorkeling and most people were comfortable enough but a few said they were getting cold after 30 minutes. Most divers bring a wet suit. The gear aboard the boats may not fit or there may not be enough so if you have your heart set on this, bring your own. We were there during the cold Humboldt current but it wasn't that bad where we went - other islands may be much colder.

    Miscellaneous: I highly recommend a walking staff or trekking pole. It can be hard to balance on the trails where you are stepping from one rock to another. I found that my rubber tip worked much better than the sharp tip which had no grip what-so-ever on the rocks. Our boat had a few walking staffs but they were in bad condition after being abused by people. It is best to take your own - no sense in having a pole that collapses on you when you want it to support you. Most boats have great libraries so there is no need to haul your own field guides, unless you want to.

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  • easterntrekker's Profile Photo

    Take it or do without

    by easterntrekker Written Oct 7, 2006

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    Luggage and bags: Pack as light as possible , back packs are the best for storing in your cabin.

    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Make sure you take good footwear . The terrain is often very rough and you need water sandels for those wet landings. We had one person on our boat whose hiking boots came apart . We taped them up withduck tape but it was rough going. Yoo need a sun hat , a light long sleaved shirts are best ( you can always roll them up , long pants , and one pair short pants, bathing suit, water proof jacket and a fleece. Wet suit . The waters are cold. ( our boat provided them ) Leave your formal wear home!!

    Toiletries and Medical Supplies: Anything you need. There are no pharmacies!! Sea sick pills, head ache pills.

    Photo Equipment: lots of digital memory. We could recharge the batteries on board.

    Our motley group
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    • Eco-Tourism
    • Birdwatching
    • Cruise

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  • martij2's Profile Photo

    Complete Packing List

    by martij2 Updated May 27, 2005

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    Luggage and bags: Pictures and full trip report available on our web site

    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: (per person)
    2 pairs of shorts
    1 pair of convertible pants
    5 short sleeved t-shirts
    1 long sleeved shirts
    1 anorak/windbreaker
    2 bathing suits

    (wear on plane)
    Long pants
    Long sleeve shirt
    Hiking shoes

    Toiletries and Medical Supplies: (1) Banana Boat Sport SPF 15 (8 oz.)
    (1) Banana Boat Sport SPF 30 (8 oz.)
    (1) Banana Boat Oil Free SPF 8 (4 oz.)
    (1) Banana Boat Faces SPF 23 (4 oz.)(2)
    General Toiletries (including Dramamine, antibiotic cream and "just in case" Cipro)
    Cutter Outdoorsman Insect Repellent (5 oz. - 21% Deet)
    (1) Caladryl Calamine Lotion (6oz.)
    (1) Bottle of Aloe

    Photo Equipment: (1) Nikon Coolpix 5000 (for video/audio)
    (1) Nikon Coolpix 880 (for macro)
    (1) Nikon D70 w/18-70 lens
    (1) zoom lens (didn't use)
    (2) Battery Chargers
    (4) Rechargeable Batteries for 5000/880
    (1) Rechargeable Battery for D70
    (1) Wide angle lens for 880 (didn't use)
    (1) lens adapter for 880 (didn't use)
    (3) Chamois lens cloths
    (1) 1 Gb microdrive
    (3) 512 Mb compact flash cards
    (2) 256 Mb compact flash cards
    (1) Nikonos V with 28mm lens, and SB-105 Flash
    (4) Rolls of 400 speed film for Nikonos
    (1) Disposable underwater camera
    (1) Small dry bag (used for camera equip. inside backpack)

    Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: (don't both with the luxury dive bags, they just advertise "steal me")
    (2) wetsuits (5mm for me, 3mm for Andy)
    (2) sets of masks/snorkel/fins/booties
    (2) hoods (didn't use)
    (2) bcd's, regulators, gauges
    (1) dive computer
    (2) dive logs/c cards

    Miscellaneous: Tevas
    Tilley Hats
    Deck of Cards
    Quick dry towels
    Bag of Munchies Snack Mix
    Bag of trail mix

    Dive bag (left), 2 small duffles, camera bag
    Related to:
    • National/State Park
    • Photography
    • Diving and Snorkeling

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  • travelmad478's Profile Photo


    by travelmad478 Written Feb 25, 2003

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    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: If you're going to Galapagos, it's almost certain that you will spend time in the water, either snorkeling or diving. Although the islands are right on the equator, don't be fooled--this water can be COLD. The average sea temperature during my trip was around 70 F. Definitely bring a wetsuit even for snorkeling, and if you're someone that gets chilled easily, bring more gear. I had a full 5-mm suit, hood, gloves, and booties, and boy was I happy about that. I felt great throughout all our snorkels, while some people who only had "shortie" wetsuits were turning blue.

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  • travelmad478's Profile Photo

    Climate-appropriate clothing

    by travelmad478 Written Feb 25, 2003

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    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: The climate in the islands is pretty temperate year-round, with more heat and rain at some times, more fog at other times. A waterproof poncho or jacket will come in very handy in the frequent heavy mists that you'll pass through. During the day, it should be warm enough for very light clothing. But bring warm clothes (a fleece sweatshirt, long pants, and shoes with socks are enough) for nights on the boat, when the temperature can drop into the low 60s. The wind can be quite strong (and chilly) in some places, so make sure your hat is going to stay on your head!

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  • nattybabe's Profile Photo

    Film, suncreen and more film!!

    by nattybabe Written Aug 30, 2006

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    Luggage and bags: You won't need a lot of luggage so if you can leave the bulk of it back at your hotel on the mainland.

    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: You don’t need much on your cruise except the essentials – hat, sunscreen, shorts, swimming togs, sunglasses, thongs, good walking shoes, comfortable clothes and lots and lots of film or memory cards.

    Be aware that salt will get into everything you own, so prepare to be dirty by the end of the day!! A good idea is to have clothes that you only wear on the boat so that they will stay clean and you will feel a whole lot nicer!!

    Photo Equipment: Bring lots and lots of film!!!!

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  • roamer61's Profile Photo

    Cruise Attire

    by roamer61 Written Aug 9, 2003

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    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Good shoes for walking on lava fields. As it can get quite warm, appropiate clothing is reccommended. On the vessels, casual is the code.

    Toiletries and Medical Supplies: Sun screen to protect ones self from the strong equatorial sun.

    Photo Equipment: Bring camera and plenty of film

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  • K1W1's Profile Photo

    Bring an underwater camera

    by K1W1 Written Feb 25, 2003

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    Luggage and bags: Backpack

    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Summer clothing. The dress standard is informal. Shorts, tee shirts, sandals...

    Toiletries and Medical Supplies: Sun cream, sunglasses and a sun hat are essential.

    Photo Equipment: Take plenty of film and an underwater camera if you plan to snorkel or dive. Underwater cameras are available but they are much cheaper on the mainland.

    Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: Don't forget something to swim in.

    Formula 1 lava car
    Related to:
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  • nattybabe's Profile Photo

    Wetsuits are a very handy item!!

    by nattybabe Written Sep 4, 2006

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    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Wetsuits are definitely in order if you are going in the “Summer” season (April – Nov). I believe that you can get them in the islands but if you are starting a package tour starting on the mainland you won’t have time to hire one as you usually go straight to your boat to start cruising. Ours were organised from Quito and we paid US$30 for 8 days. They were waiting on the boat when we arrive. Well worth the expense as the water is freezing at that time of year!!

    Related to:
    • Diving and Snorkeling

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  • cybergenic's Profile Photo

    Some boats have electricity some don´t

    by cybergenic Updated Dec 12, 2006

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    Luggage and bags: Medium sized weather proof backpack

    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: board shorts, tshirts, waterproof sandals, walking shoes, sunglasses, wind cheater

    Toiletries and Medical Supplies: Sea sickness pills, lots of sun cream 30+ Toilet Paper, soap, good water proof bandages (not bandaids)

    Photo Equipment: heaps of batteries especially if your digital. Some boats have 12V power and some have 110V The boat with 110V power outlets made recharging easy

    Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: Sun hat, torch, wetsuit

    Miscellaneous: Take your own alcohol from Ecuador as it costs a bit more on the Islands and even more on the boat. The boat i was on was charging US$2 per small lite beer.
    There is a fairly well stocked bottle shop on the wharf where most of the tours depart from.

    anyone seen my body?
    Related to:
    • Sailing and Boating
    • Backpacking
    • Cruise

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Galápagos Islands Hotels

  • Finch Bay Eco Hotel

    Barrio Punta Estrada S/N, Puerto Ayora, 00000, Ecuador

    Satisfaction: Excellent

    Good for: Business

    Hotel Class 4 out of 5 stars

  • Red Mangrove Isabela Lodge

    Puerto Villamil, Isabela Galapagos Islands, , Ecuador

    Satisfaction: Excellent

    Good for: Solo

    Hotel Class 3 out of 5 stars

  • La Casa Marita

    Isla Isabela, , Puerto Villamil, Galapagos

    Satisfaction: Excellent

    Good for: Business

    Hotel Class 3 out of 5 stars

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Comments (1)

  • jmhultin's Profile Photo
    Mar 4, 2013 at 9:20 AM

    A simple pointer - upon checking our bags for every flight in SA, the authorities sealed our checked baggage with a heavy plasitc band. When we arrived at our lodgings, those bands are difficult to remove, and any knives or scissors we carried were inside the suitcase. We finally learned to pack a knive in one of the outside zippered compartments of the suitcase.

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