Permitted Activities of the Galapagos National Park

The following section gives you parameters based on allowed activities for visitors to the Galapagos Islands.


The Galapagos is one of the few sites in the world where tourism is orientated distinctly around the nature, constituting a educational activity.

Tourism in the Galapagos was started in 1969 with the arrival of the first tourist boat the "Lina A", and today it is the principal force of the economy of the region and responsible for the principal changes in structure of the insular space.

The areas of the National Park that are established for public use are found clearly marked and distributed in almost all of the main islands of the archipelago. There are 54 land sites to visit and 62 marine sites. Most of the sites are accessed by sea and for this tourism has principally developed to be carried out in organized groups, with an authorized guide, that arrive at visitor sites on board tourist boats. Furthermore there exists sites in the four populated islands (Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Isabela and Floreana), with land access, where it is permitted to visit without a guide.

Visitors to the PNG (Galapagos National Park) require the presence of one or more guides, the same that help the PNG in the work of control and vigilance of the visitor sites, a job of great importance considering the size and dispersion of the archipelago and the high cost of management.

A system of fixed annual itineraries for the tourist trips have been organized, these itineraries are carried out taking into account the capacity of burden of each site, limiting the anchorage in account of size and number of boats and fragility of the site.

There exist various tour agencies, both nationally and internationally, that offer a great quantity of tourist services at different prices, however for more information you can contact the Galapagos Chamber of Tourism.


The Naturalist Guides of the Galapagos National Park are highly qualified people without being functionaries of the PNG, that have assumed responsibility to hire their services to conduct visits to the Park and to guide people in the knowledge, interpretation and conservation of resources.

  • They offer services of information and interpretation of the resources of the Park to the visitors.
  • They assume control of the visitors and their belongings and are solely responsible for them and the affects they could have on the ecosystem of the Park.
  • They comply with and help enforce the legal rules and other technical-administrative dispositions that the National Park emits relative to preservation and conservation.
  • They cooperate in the patrols of the National Park and Marine Reserve of the Galapagos to ensure conservation and rational use of resources.
  • They cooperate in monitoring systems of areas of the National Park and Marine Reserve of the Galapagos.

Forms of Tourism

Cruises: These constitute the main part and are carried out in large boats with a capacity from 8 to 100 passengers, the passengers stay on board the boats for the trip that have durations of 3 to 8 days although cruises of 21 days are possible.

Day Tours: The visitors can stay in hotels available in the populated Ports and daily travel to different visitor sites of the Park, returning at the end of the day.

Bay Tours: Activities available in the Ports that consist of short trips using small boats with outboard motors.

Daily Diving Tours: A variation on the Bay Tours in which available boats are equipped with diving gear, most of the dive shops are located on Santa Cruz Island

Navigable Dive Tours: A variation on cruises with access to marine sites far from the populated centers.

Non-Guided Sites: These sites are for recreational purposes and are near to populated center

Scientific Research & Investigations:

The GNP authorizes studies and scientific investigations by means of permits and subscriptions of agreements when the activity to be carried has a forecasted plan of which the execution will exceed six months.

If the studies or investigations require the collection of species, specimens, constitutive elements, samples or materials, the GNP determines the quantity, physical and biological conditions, times and places of collection, qualifications of methods, instruments of collection, means of transport and permitted processes.

The collection, internal movement and exportation of specimens or constitutive elements of endemic species is prohibited, except in the case of authorized scientific investigation that are of transdental importance to the survival of a species. The authorization is given by the Director of the Park, after corresponding analysis of each case, without harm and in account of the the remaining required authorizations of the Laws and international agreements.
The persons carrying out the studies or investigations must provide the GNP, without charging, with 10 copies of the publication in Spanish (castellano), without harm to comply with the remaining stipulated regulations in the permitted document or agreement.

The movement and exportation of specimens or constitutive elements of established organisms for CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), are authorized by the Director of the Galapagos National Park.

Filming & Documentaries:

It is permitted to carry out filming and documentaries of a scientific, educational and cultural nature and in this form, commercial nature as well.

Requirements: Formal application form in which the character of the filming must be specified, its objectives etc. We require to know the exact date of arrival and the exact dates of the proposed itinerary. For filming of a commercial nature, the producers pay the rights of filming and provide the guarantee as soon as it is established.

Depending on the time of duration of the filming, the group must pay rights of filming and give a banking guarantee in the name of the Galapagos National Park, emitted by the Banco del Pacifico. This guarantee will be given back once the copies of the finished production have been received in a stipulated period of time by both parties.

Galapagos permitted activity chart by Island


Activities by Island Walk Hike Snorkel Scuba Dive Bird Watch Bike Ride Sea Kayak Sun and Beach Horse
Dining & Discos
Tours Surf
Seymour Yes Yes Yes Yes           Yes  
Santiago Yes Yes   Yes     Yes     Yes  
Santa Fe Yes Yes Yes Yes           Yes  
Santa Cruz Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
San Cristobal Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes   Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Rabida Yes Yes Yes Yes     Yes     Yes  
Plazas Yes Yes   Yes           Yes  
Pinta   Yes Yes                
Tower Yes Yes Yes Yes     Yes     Yes  
Marchena   Yes Yes                
Mosquera Yes Yes Yes Yes     Yes     Yes  
Isabela Yes Yes Yes Yes     Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Floreana Yes Yes Yes Yes     Yes   Yes Yes  
Fernandina Yes Yes Yes Yes     Yes     Yes  
Espanola Yes Yes Yes Yes     Yes      Yes  
Darwin   Yes Yes                
Wolf   Yes Yes                
Daphne Major Yes     Yes           Yes  
Chinese Hat Yes Yes   Yes           Yes  
Bartolome Yes Yes Yes Yes     Yes     Yes  




The Galapagos islands are a bird watcher's dream -- especially if you're set on seeing and identifying all 13 Darwin Finches (endemic to the islands), the waved Albatross, the flightless Cormorant and countless other jewels of the islands. Bring your highest magnifying binoculars and best camera lenses.



What better way to get up close and personal to Blue Footed Boobies, sea lions and more than with an adventure sea kayak? Rent them from The Red Mangrove Inn if staying at Puerto Ayora or ask for a cruise boat that carries them.


Listed as one of the top diving spots in the world, diving in The Galapagos is an adventure come true. Whale Sharks, White Tips, Hammerheads, Garden Eels, Sea Lions, whales, schools of colorful fish, corals, and crystal clear water characterize a typical adventure day diving in the islands. Go with the best -- Scuba Iguana will send you with top Galapagos adventure divers to the best diving spots around the Galapagos islands. For more advanced divers, Scuba Iguana also does adventure live aboard charters to Darwin and Wolf (there you'll dive to great depths to see the most mystifying animals of the oceans!)


For those of you not ready to emerge themselves 30 meters in the sea, snorkeling in the Galapagos islands is an amazing adventure activity. You'll see everything from sharks and turtles to penguins and boobies flopping around the water. You can spend hours in the water enjoying the show!


Few to no places are open to free hiking in the Galapagos, though you can find a few adventure trails on San Cristobol and Santa Cruz. We recommend, though, for all hikes, to go with a Galapagos adventure guide. The Galapagos guides can point out the fascinating details of the islands, turning a beautiful activity hike into an encylopedic experience. Take good walking shoes, lots of water, and don't wander off! It's easier to get lost on these islands than you think.


Surfing in the Galapagos islands is a rather old activity practiced by locals and visitors. It's not common, but it can be done. Ask around, and you'll be sure to find somebody to take you out adventure surfing or body boarding. We include a listing of tour operators that offer this activity in our tour reviews section.


If you want to just relax and go to the beach, try out Turtle Bay on SANTA CRUZ island. There are few places a Galapagos adventure tourist can go on his own, and this is one. The beach is magnificent -- it has fine,white sand. It's terrible for snorkeling because of the wind and waves, but it's great for surfing, body boarding, and catching rays.


A few of the Galapagos islands, SANTA CRUZ in particular, have many clubs to cater to the adventure tourist. There you can get an icey (though pricey) beer and enjoy the Galapagos island atmosphere after an 8 day adventure boat tour. For poetry, live music, and an enchanted evening, we highly recommend Casa del Lago. The owner, Elena, is a Galapagos artist of exceptional taste and invites the most talented musicians, artists, poets, singers, and orators to share their art in her outdoor pub.