“Bargain” Galapagos by Land

So… we’ve been traveling some more lately, and that’s why there’s been a break between the first several Galapagos posts and this last one. But now we have to finish, because there are more posts to write about new destinations! Also, a cruise of the Galapagos is not exactly the cheapest option out there. It’s mega-expensive, especially when there are more than two of you. Plenty of friends ask us if it’s worth it to go and stay on land, so I thought a post on our land experience would be very helpful. After our cruise, we spent two nights in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, on the island of San Cristobal. That’s not a very long amount of time, but it was enough to come up with an answer for y’all.

First the basics – we stayed at Casa Mabell, which is just two blocks from the main street in town. It’s also quite a bargain at $40-$45 per night, depending on weather you book directly or through AirBNB. We did the latter, and so we paid $45 per night. Our “room” was enormous. It consisted of two rooms and a bathroom. The first room was a kitchen with table, chairs and a double bed. The back room was our room and had another double bed plus a cabinet to put our stuff in and the ever-important AC unit. We even had a door leading to shared patio with a clothesline from which to hang our wet stuff. I’d say you can’t beat this rate, but you probably can. Some friends of ours from the cruise ship needed a room, and our inn was full, but they found another just a few blocks away for the same price. I think it’s pretty standard.

So, what can you do on this island? And how can you get to it? First we walked to the Interpretation Center, which is full of interesting information on the islands, especially if you have no guide on your trip. It has really extensive displays on the history of the islands; geographically and culturally. You could easily spend an hour or even a couple hours here, depending on how much you read.

Behind the center is a large loop path that takes you past a bunch of interesting things including lava, cacti, birds and maybe a lizard or two. There are viewpoints, beaches, statues and even a weapon (you’ll have to hike it to find out). If you’re feeling strong, you can hike up about a million steps to Cerro de las Tijeretas, which is named after the scissor-like tail of the frigate birds. Yes, you will see them. This is a great, easy, paved hike as long as you can tolerate the heat. Take water.

After our hike, we were ready for some beaches. The beach on the hiking trail was too sunny for us (imagine: sun on a beach, I know) so we walked back towards town and spent some time at Playamon Beach. This is just a little, crowded-on-weekends local beach, but it’s like no beach you’ve been to in the States. Those wonderful Sally Crabs are here, as well as a few sea lions! Yes! And they don’t seem to care about us humans. They’ll lie where they want to on the beach, in the middle of everyone. It was nice to see people were very respectful and kept as much distance as the sea lions allowed. I figured if we sat on rocks at the edge of the water though, some of those adorable creatures might just come to us. And they did! We sat for about an hour talking, had long forgotten the initial reason for sitting there, when a few baby sea lions *washed up into my legs*. Yes, that is correct, I was touched by baby sea lions, and transformed into a goddess:)

At night we went out for some food, and I will say there is plenty of expensive food around, so be careful if you are on a budget. That being said, we ate at a nice waterfront property and ordering the specials wasn’t too rob-you-blind-expensive. There are plenty of local cheap places a couple blocks back from the beach if you want to save money. Ask for the menu (or prices) before you sit down!

After dinner a friend alerted us to the “hundreds of sea lions” a few blocks down along the water. Sometimes people exaggerate, so I’m a skeptic. This guy did not. This is a spectacle that can only be appreciated in person. Well, we’d try to help you out with a video except we were too dumb to take one. Let’s just say there are about a billion sea lions (okay now I’m the exaggerator), and the moms are all coming home after a hard day’s work fishing, and the babies are all freakin’ out, looking for Mom. Unfortunately, the moms are tired, impatient, and even snappy at the babies who mistakenly come up to them. It is amazing and heartbreaking at the same time, when you learn that the babies who can’t find Mom, eventually starve. We’re pretty sure all the babies found their moms that night.

The next day we took a taxi ride up to Laguna El Junco, which is a lake inside an old volcano crater. It’s pretty cool. You have a decently long walk/climb to get up to the top, where you just sit and watch the birds skim their wings over the top of the lake to clean themselves. You can hike around the lake, which is pretty cool too, and takes less than a half hour. We found a cool tunnel to play in, formed by overgrown trees.

That afternoon we walked to El Loberia Beach. You probably want to take a taxi, we’re just crazy walkers. We walked by the airport which had some cool-looking animal           sculptures outside. When we got to the water, we thought we were at the beach but it seemed odd that there were lava rocks everywhere, no sand, and the water was only a foot deep. I was too hot not to play in it, but decided there must be more if we kept walking.

A few minutes later we came to a bona fide beach with people, sea turtles, and sea lions. Yes! All three. (Supposedly there are marine iguanas there too but we didn’t see any. You’ll have better luck on your trip.) We didn’t notice the sea turtles until we went in the water, but we didn’t even have to go deep to see them – up to our waists maybe. We didn’t have the waterproof camera so photos were futile. We did swim a bit though and enjoyed the fact that there were SEA TURTLES swimming around us.

We ran into some friends we had met the night before at the sea lion frenzy, so we sat with them on the beach. And, after a while, wouldn’t you know it… some baby sea lions came close to us?!! I swear a baby was posing with Elliott for this photo. And then it sniffed his toes. Now how can you beat an experience like that?

As we left the beach, another baby talked to us and waved goodbye – I swear – here’s proof!

This was just our experience on one island. You can take ferries from this island to several others, including Santa Cruz, and Isabela and Fernandina, where we didn’t even get to go. So is it worth it to do land-only Galapagos? You bet. YES! It is definitely worth it to go to the Galapagos, even if you can only stay on land. Go! GO GO GO! What are you still sitting on the couch for?

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