Our writer sails through the Pacific Ocean on a solar powered yacht and finds her dream adventure trip in the Galapagos islands.

Imagine it: aboard the solar-powered yacht, you sail through the Pacific Ocean, your only company being the waved albatrosses that circle overhead and the spinner dolphins that surround your boat.

The waves’ rhythm gently rocks you back and forth, and your worries from back home steadily cease, erase. The wind whips through your hair, and you stand at the bow, mesmerized. Amid a cloudless sky, an island pops into view, and you realize you’re at the edge of the planet, the place where time stands still. You’ve made it. You can hardly believe it, but you’re here – you’re in the Galapagos Islands.

This wondrous archipelago is known by many, yet visited by few.

galapagos islands tortoise

Photo: Liz Vinson

Many are familiar with the Galápagos as the place where Charles Darwin made important scientific discoveries. Some know it as being home to the ever-elusive whale shark that meanders the islands’ azure-colored waters. Others think of blue-footed boobies, penguins, giant tortoises and iguanas that can’t be found anywhere else in the world.

The Galapagos is all of that. The archipelago is anything you want it to be.

galapagos

Photo: Liz Vinson

A trip to the islands is often thought of as the ultimate trip to paradise. And it is, yet it’s also so much more.

The Galápagos is a place that welcomes tourists to sunbathe amid a colony of sea lions – a place where visitors can scuba dive or snorkel with sea turtles, angelfish or even hammerheads. It’s a destination where you can hike through the desert one day, and then trek to the top of a mountain to birdwatch for Darwin finches the next. Here, the mornings are spent strolling through verdant hillsides dotted with cacti, while the afternoon beckons for relaxation on a Caribbean-like beach.

Nothing is impossible in the Galapagos.

galapagos islands sea lion

Photo: Liz Vinson

However, planning your trip requires preparation. Should you decide to finally take the trip you deserve – the trip you’ve been dreaming of – be sure to understand that in the Galapagos, you are to take memories, but leave only footprints. Because the Galapagos islands are home to animals that, without the perennial sunshine and warm temperatures couldn’t exist elsewhere, one must very careful not to disrupt their habitat.

But this eco-friendly destination invites you to see, watch, explore and discover virtually anything you can imagine. It’s a destination that will take your breath away. Simply put, the Galápagos is pure bliss.

To get to there, you must first fly in from Guayaquil, Ecuador. From there, tourists take a small flight to either Baltra or San Cristóbal Island, the latter often being the more popular choice.

To navigate the archipelago, enjoying a live-aboard cruise is not only a posh choice, but one that makes the journey effortless. Many who travel to the Galápagos assume they are free to travel the islands as they please. However, this is not the case. A certified naturalist guide is required by Ecuadorian law to visit most islands, and the majority of live-aboard cruises, such as this voyage put together by Wild Women Expeditions, offer naturalists who not only guide their guests, but also cater to their every whim. (Champagne? Caviar? You got it. Yes, this is luxury.)

Once in San Cristóbal, the options are limitless. Snorkeling or scuba diving with spotted eagle rays, manta rays or other endemic marine life is a major “to-do.” It wouldn’t be right to start a vacation in the Galápagos without a swim. And much to your delight, sea lions gracefully play next to swimmers, doing acrobatic flips underwater as they get up-close to welcome you.

galapagos islands birds

Photo: Liz Vinson

But don’t forget to also explore the ocean’s surface.

Off the coast of San Cristóbal lies Kicker Rock – a treasured island known for its unparalleled kayaking and paddle boarding. In the water, you’ll feel as if you’ve found a secret hiding place – a place where no one else can be found for miles, and the only sounds are whispers from the sea.

Kayaking through the cave of the rock, the waves carry you to the other side of the island. As you ride with the current, don’t forget to spot the bright red Sally Lightfoot crabs. These mystical, curious looking sea creatures can only be found in the Galápagos.

Back on the yacht, it’s time to witness a sunset that can’t be beat. The sky is alive with all the colors of the rainbow, and as the sun dips in the harbor, take a look around; the lights from the boats waiting to cruise to the next island make for a stunning – and serene – panoramic view.

From San Cristóbal, day trips can be easily planned. But aboard your yacht, it’s likely your captain will take you to Española in the extreme southeast of the archipelago. This island is relatively flat, and vegetation includes various thorny plants and native animals like marine iguanas and lava lizards. It’s also the place where you’ll find Suarez Point – an effervescent blowhole that makes for an unforgettable photo opp.

galapagos islands iguana

Photo: Liz Vinson

Should you forego a trip to Española, be sure to visit the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz. Here, you’ll meet Diego – the island’s most famous giant tortoise – along with a few of his buddies who live up the hill to mate.

Santa Cruz is also the place to be if you need some time to recharge your batteries on dry land. The island’s cozy center offers an array of restaurants with fresh fish caught just hours before it’s served.

But what if you want something more extreme? What if you want to up the ante?

The answer here lies with a visit to Bartolomé Island.

Bartlomé is a tiny, unpopulated island located smack dab in the middle of the archipelago. On a clear day, almost a dozen islands can be spotted from the top. This is the view. But to get to the lookout, you need to walk up 372 steps. As you do so, look around you: it’s as if you’re walking on Mars. The terrain is almost extraterrestrial – solely dune vegetation that juxtaposes the wondrous navy ocean encircling you below.

Should you opt out of the hike, take a dingy ride to the island where you’ll find Pinnacle Rock, home to a colony of penguins native to the Galápagos that cohabitate with sea lions and hawks. This area also offers snorkeling off its golden beach where white tip reef sharks are abundant.

galapagos islands pinnacle rock

Pinnacle Rock. Photo: Liz Vinson

Of course, this is not a comprehensive list of all there is to do, see, touch, feel and taste in the Galapagos Islands. This is a bucket list destination that goes beyond the call of duty. When you find yourself sailing these mysterious waters, hopping from one island to the next, you’ll consider yourself lucky. You’ve made it. You’re home.

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