Galapagos Local Flights, Airports & Ground Transportation
The Galapagos Islands are made up of 19 large islands and countless islets, meaning that getting to the major visitor sites and even the Galapagos archipelago itself requires a mix of air and ground transportation, in addition to any water transportation like your cruise or inter-island speedboat transfers. Knowing your way around this system beforehand can make your trip a bit smoother.
All flights to the Galapagos arrive via either Quito or Guayaquil, Ecuador. There are no direct international flights to the Galapagos.
Baltra Airport is the largest of the two main entry points for travelers to the Galapagos Islands. If you are staying on Santa Cruz Island or if your cruise departs from Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz, you will fly into Baltra Island. From here you will meet your trip leader, and, depending on your itinerary, you may head straight to your boat to begin your cruise or travel to the town of Puerto Ayora via a public shuttle about 10 minutes to the Itabaca Channel – a narrow channel separating Baltra and Santa Cruz Islands. A ferry will take you to the other side of the channel, where taxis and shuttles will be lined up to take you into Puerto Ayora.
If you’re flying into San Cristobal in the eastern Galapagos, then the airport is located just outside of the Galapagos capital city of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, making it an easy & direct commute into town. The main dock for cruises is also in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, and all of the hotels for land-based excursions are right around town as well.
There is a small airport on Isabela Island that only flies to the other islands of Baltra and San Cristobal.
National Park Fee & Transit Control Card
These are measures taken by the Galapagos National Park and the Ecuador Department of Tourism to control and monitor the number of people coming into the Galapagos Islands. As soon as you arrive at the airport in the Galapagos, you will pay a $100 National Park Entry Fee and the $20 Transit Control Card. Make sure to have this in cash for every person in your group.
If you’re willing to pay about $150/flight/person, then there are private charter flights and transfers between Santa Cruz, Isabela, and San Cristobal. In addition to providing a quick and flexible way to get between islands without worrying about public speedboats or time on the water, they offer a great way to see the enchanting Galapagos from the sky.
To book these flights, you must visit Emetebe.
There are really just two options for ground transportation: Taxis & Buses. If you’ve booked a cruise, then the only thing you have to plan for is getting from the airport to the dock where your boat is, and from there all of the transportation will be provided. If you are planning a land-based tour, you’ll have to figure out how to get to each destination on your itinerary independently (unless you are staying at one of the many hotels that helps plan your transportation into the itinerary).
Certain visitor sites, like the Sierra Negra Volcano on Isabela or El Chato Tortoise Reserve in the highlands of Santa Cruz, can be reached by the public open-air buses. These depart on a set schedule various times throughout the day, so make sure to be at the station or rendezvous point in town on time.
If you want to reach a visitor site on a different schedule than the buses or prefer to take a taxi somewhere, look for the pickup trucks. Unlike most places, where taxis are the recognizable yellow cabs, in the Galapagos Islands, taxis are all (just as recognizable) pickup trucks. This is because the roads in some of the more remote areas wash out during the rainy season and can take a few months to repair, which is why trucks are the most practical taxi vehicle. Taxis can be seen cruising around each town and lined up at the most popular visitor destinations as well.
Destinations within each town cost $1-2/ person in a taxi. If you’re traveling to a site outside of town, the rates will be higher but very reasonable. If you are taking a taxi from the Baltra Ferry into Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz, the ride is about 40 minutes across the island and costs around $35, including luggage transfer (another advantage of having a pickup truck!).
There are water taxis available in all of the populated towns for local transport, and for inter-island transport, speed boat taxis can be arranged to speed you from one inhabited island to another.
Contact your Columbus Travel agent for help planning all of your transportation and logistics on the Galapagos Islands.