The Galapagos Islands, located off the coast of Ecuador in South America, are a bucket list destination. From the clear turquoise water and white sand beaches to the incredible variety of unique animals and happy, ecologically protected wildlife, the Galapagos Islands are a magical place to visit. We spent 9 incredible days exploring the Galapagos Islands on a budget (our massive guide to a land-based Galapagos trip is right here) and it was by FAR the highlight of our trip to South America. But there were definitely some surprises along the way.
Like for starters, the Galapagos Islands aren’t tropical. At all. In fact, from island to island, the geography completely changes: Isla Isabela has palm trees and sandy beaches, but Santa Cruz is actually covered in desert and cactus and volcanic rock. The geological variation is part of what make the islands SO interesting – and surprising!
But hey, that’s why you’re here before your trip, right? So you can learn from our mistakes! Now that we’ve had some time to reflect, we’ve created an essential Galapagos Packing List to help you plan your trip. Let’s get started!
For even more information about how to visit the Galapagos Islands without a cruise, you can read about our trip to the Galapagos in more detail:
- How to Visit The Galapagos Islands Without a Cruise: A Complete Guide
- Santa Cruz Galapagos Island Guide: What to Do, Where to Eat, & Where to Stay
- For the complete story of our trip, head to part one and part two
We’ve also created a detailed 20-page downloadable guide to visiting the Galapagos Islands. Sign up below to get the guide send straight to your inbox!
Frequently Asked Questions about the Galapagos Islands
I know this is technically a packing guide, but if you’re wondering what to pack for the Galapagos, chances are you might be wondering some of these other questions, too! Here are the most frequently asked questions we get about the Galapagos Islands.
Are the Galapagos Islands safe?
In our experience, the Galapagos Islands felt very safe. There are no large, bustling cities to worry about. The islands aren’t terribly crowded, since most of the tourists are taking cruises and traveling in groups. The Galapagos Islands are legally protected as well as reliant on tourism, so there is a low incentive for anyone to commit crimes. So, generally speaking: yes, the Galapagos Islands are safe.
That said, we always recommend a travel insurance policy for ANY international trip. You never know when your flight will be delayed or canceled due to weather, you’ll lose something expensive, or if you’re Lia, get a raging ear infection after swimming (EVERY TIME). During our year-long honeymoon we filed two claims with World Nomads Travel Insurance and were very well taken care of!
What time of year is best to visit the Galapagos Islands?
The Galapagos Islands have two seasons: cool and dry, and warm and wet. We visited during the cool and dry season, which lasts from June to November. During this time the weather is actually closer to what we’re used to at home in California than what we’d expect from a ring of islands: sunny and warm – not really hot – during the day, and foggy and cool at night. Perfect weather for a light jacket – or a warm jacket, if you’re up at 6am to catch a tour, which we often were.
Between December and May, the islands are warmer, but also rainier. Er, and sunnier. Wait, what? Yeah, we were confused too. Basically, it’s sunnier and warmer overall, but it rains every day. You can expect sun in the morning and rain in the afternoon – the perfect time to take a siesta!
The temperature of the water follows the seasons, as well – blame those crazy Pacific currents. We kind of assumed the Pacific ocean would be warm just because we were on the equator? But it wasn’t … at least not during the cool and dry season! We ended up renting wetsuits every day of our trip – along with snorkel gear and other things that we would’ve saved money by bringing, rather than renting.
Visit between December and May, however, and you may not need a wetsuit at all: both the air and the water are warmer.
Do I need to book a cruise to visit the Galapagos Islands?
You sure don’t! This was our biggest question when we scheduled our trip, because frankly, a cruise wasn’t exactly in our budget. We decided to play it by ear, and we’re so glad we did! There are plenty of places to stay, eat, and book tours on the islands themselves, and you do not need a cruise to explore the Galapagos Islands.
That said, you won’t be able to access ALL of the Islands during a land-based trip: some spots are only accessible on a cruise, and most of the Galapagos is protected, meaning you’ll need a certified tour guide to take you there anyway.
Still, during our 9-day land-based trip, we were able to see everything we wanted and didn’t feel like we were missing out on by not taking a cruise! We’ve got a massive guide to visiting the Galapagos by land which has a ton more details on how to experience the Galapagos Islands without a cruise.
You can even find some great multi-day land-based tours with set itineraries, which takes a huge amount of planning off your shoulders! Here are a few fantastic options:
- 7-day Galapagos on a Budget Experience: This itinerary closely mirrors our trip. You’ll visit both Santa Cruz and Isabela Island and take what we’d consider to be the best tours on each. At just around $1,500 per person, it’s not much more than what we paid and a fantastic value for a week long Galapagos trip.
- 5 Day Galapagos Tour: If you’re short on time or money, this 5-day option for just under $1,000 is great. You’ll stay on Santa Cruz but still get a chance to visit Isabela Island on a day trip and experience Las Tintoreras, the best Isabela tour.
- 8-Day Galapagos Island Tour: If San Cristobal and snorkelling at Kicker Rock are on your bucket list, this 8-day tour is your best bet! You’ll visit all 3 inhabited islands and do the best tours in each
Where should I stay in the Galapagos if I’m doing a land-based trip?
We’ve got tons of details and suggestions in our Galapagos Land-Based Trip Guide, but here’s a quick list of our favorite mid-range hotel options in the Galapagos Islands.
- Puerto Ayora: Sueno Silvestres or this sunny little apartment
- Isla Isabela: Drake Inn or La Casa de Marita
- San Cristobal: Casa Playa Mann or Casa Opuntia
Do you have any other resources to help me plan my Galapagos Islands trip?
Why yes, we do! We have 3 other blog posts AND a massive downloadable guide. Plus, when you download the guide we’ll also send you some tips for booking your trip! Sign up below in that big box with the button thingy.
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Galapagos Packing List: Swimming & Snorkeling Essentials
No matter whether you’re doing a cruise or a land-based Galapagos trip like we did, or visiting during the cool and dry season or the warm and wet season, you’ll be spending a LOT of time in the water! Much of the magic of the Galapagos Islands is found underwater. Here’s what you need to enjoy your time while swimming or snorkeling.
- High SPF Mineral Sunscreen: The Galapagos are ON the equator, and the sun is STRONG. Seriously, it’s WAY stronger than you’d expect, especially considering how not hot it feels! But skimping on sunscreen here could mean the worst sunburn of your life. Mineral Sunscreen is the least harmful type of sunscreen, according to science. It’s better both for your body and for the environment. I use this sunscreen for my body and this one for my face!
- Reef Safe Sunscreen is imperative when you’re snorkeling or swimming to protect the coral reef and underwater critters! You’ll be swimming right through their home, and wearing regular sunscreen harms the very wildlife that you’re there to see – and the rest of human life, too: regular sunscreen bleaches coral and ensures humanity’s swift death from climate change. So please, for the love of society’s inevitable collapse, wear reef-safe sunscreen if you’re going into the ocean! Although reef-safe sunscreen is always mineral, not all mineral sunscreens are reef-safe! Sunscreen must use “non-nano zinc oxide” particles to be reef safe (more details here). This is my favorite reef-safe sunscreen, and I use this lightweight sunscreen from Sephora on my face.
- Rash Guard or Swim Shirt: I’m gonna be honest with you: applying reef-safe sunscreen can be a little unpleasant. It’s thick and doesn’t soak in easily. But like, I love animals and the environment. So my solution is actually to cover up my skin as much as possible so I don’t HAVE to wear sunscreen. Win/win! When swimming or snorkeling, especially in cold water (like in the Galapagos) I always wear a long-sleeved rash guard (here’s a men’s version). They help to protect my skin from the sun and provide a little bit of added warmth (though not as much as a wetsuit). Another alternative I’ve done is wearing lightweight merino wool shirts (his & hers). The thin layer of wool protects my skin from the sun and insulates me, keeping me warm even when it’s freezing! Another good option is a white button-down quick-dry shirt.
- Swim Leggings: My butt is always the first thing to burn when I’m snorkeling, and I’m getting up close and personal with marine life which means I need to be extra cautious about sunscreen. Swim leggings let you move underwater without restriction while providing sun protection, and like a bathing suit, they dry quickly and stay comfortable once you’re out of the water. I love my swim leggings made by Waterlust, an ethical and sustainable conservation-focused apparel company. Their marine-life themed leggings are 100% chlorine, sun, saltwater and sunscreen resistant and made from recycled materials, and they have POCKETS! Sizes go up to 3XL. For more details about why I recommend these, head over to our Waterlust swim leggings review post!
- Snorkel Gear: I so wish we’d brought our own snorkel gear. Not only would we have saved money on rentals during our week in the Galapagos Islands, but we would’ve looked so legit rolling up to the ferry like “oh, we don’t need rental gear, we have our own.” Every time I met someone with their own gear on a tour I was like oh, you must be an expert – here, you go first. They probably got better pictures just because we were intimidated. Snorkels equal power. Besides, this snorkel mask is ridiculously amazing (even if it looks a little ridiculous) and you won’t get that style of mask on any tour! If I had to pick one item to bring rather than rent, that mask would be it.
- Anti-Fog Spray: Even if you don’t bring your own snorkel gear, at least bring your own anti-fog solution. Every time we rented snorkel gear, they claimed the masks had been treated with anti-fog, but we ended up surfacing to furiously spit in our masks ever 10 minutes. So annoying! A little bottle of this will save you a LOT of irritation.
- Water Shoes: For every minute that you’re not wearing flippers, you’ll want to be wearing water shoes. Whether you’re trying to walk over one of the insanely spiky black volcanic rocks – they’re pretty, but they hurt so bad – or just wading into some water (surprise! more volcanic rocks) your un-cut feet will thank me later. I swear by my trusty leather Tevas, and Jeremy likes classic close-toed water shoes.
- Dry Bag: Don’t set foot on a boat without putting your stuff in a dry bag, just in case. You never know when a wave/rogue sea lion is going to splash your sh*t. This one is excellent, with a mesh section in the front that we use for wet bathing suits or towels. Plus, it comes with a phone protector too, so you can wear & use your phone safely while white-water rafting, kayaking, or snorkeling!
- Travel Towel: Towels are not typically provided on the day tours you’ll be taking on your land-based Galapagos Islands trip so you’ll want to bring your own lightweight, quick-dry towel.
- Dramamine: For the long boat rides to get to and from the best swimming and snorkeling spots. Trust me, you will need it.
Galapagos Packing List: Clothing
Clothing is one of the hardest things to pack for travel. On the one hand, you don’t want to look like a hot mess (or an obvious tourist). On the other hand, you don’t want to be totally unprepared. Here’s the best clothing to pack for the Galapagos (for men and women, and everyone in between)!
Note: What we’ve included here is just the essentials and specific items that we recommend – make sure you pack plenty of basics, too!
- Wool Clothing: Yes, seriously. Merino wool is a miracle fabric. It keeps you cool when it’s hot out, like at 12pm on the beach. It keeps you warm when it’s cold out, like at 6pm when the temperature drops. When it gets wet, you’ll stay warm until your clothing dries. It naturally resists the growth of fungus and bacteria, so it never stinks – PERFECT for travel. It’s even flame retardant. What more could you ask for? Performance wool isn’t like the itchy wool of the past – it’s thin, stretchy, and super soft to the touch, like cotton. Honestly, most of the clothing we brought to Ecuador was wool, and we highly recommend wool clothing for travel. Here’s what we brought:
- Wool Travel Clothing for Her: T-shirt | Sports Bra | Travel Bra | Tank Top | Half Zip | Underwear
- Wool Travel Clothing for Him: Crew-neck shirt | V-neck Shirt | Henley | Underwear | Socks
- Packable Down Jackets (His & Hers): We did mention that the Galapagos aren’t tropical, right? Don’t worry: they’re not freezing cold, either, even during the cool and dry season. But you WILL want to have a warm layer to wear late at night, early in the morning, and during ferry rides, particularly if you’re visiting between June and November. We brought these super lightweight packable down jackets that are warm and insulating but also pack into teeny tiny little balls of nothing to stuff into our backpacks when they aren’t needed!
- Ultra-Light Rain Jackets (His & Hers): The rainy season in the Galapagos lasts from December through May, so if you’re visiting in that time frame, you’ll definitely want to bring rain protection – especially if you’re planning to venture inland to the Highlands area in Santa Cruz! These fantastic rain jackets are some of the best jackets for travel. They’re ultralight and pack down into nothing, just like our down jackets – so even if you never need to use them, you won’t be sorry that you brought them! We wore these frequently as light jackets or windbreakers, especially on ferry boat rides when we wanted to protect ourselves from sea spray.
- Travel Hiking Pants (His & Hers): These awesome prAna hiking pants were designed with both travel and hiking in mind and have been up to every challenge we’ve thrown at them – including the sand and rough rocks of the Galapagos Islands! They dry incredibly quickly, making them the perfect pants to bring along on snorkeling and day trips.
- Travel Shorts (His): These are Jeremy’s favorite travel shorts! They’re basically the shorts version of his hiking pants, so they’re super quick dry (you can even swim in them) and made to handle anything.
- Travel Jeans: Don’t forget to pack a pair of jeans for the Galapagos! Sometimes you just want to go out to dinner or explore the island on a cool night, and these jeans are perfect. I wore my travel jeans in Ecuador pretty much whenever I wasn’t wearing hiking clothes. Unlike regular jeans, travel jeans are designed specifically to solve travel-related issues – such as having pockets (these have 6, including a hidden, zippered back pocket). Plus, they’re cozy enough to wear on a plane, stretchy enough to accommodate that 5 extra pounds of vacation weight I always seem to bring back home with me, and they’re super cute! Jeremy and I are both obsessed. You can get a pair of men’s or women’s black jeans (my personal favorites) or a pair of indigo jeans (which are slightly less stretchy, in my experience – size up) on the Aviator USA website.
- Want some more pants for the Galapagos? Check out these travel pants for women.
- Travel Shoes: We have a lot of opinions on what shoes to wear to the Galapagos Islands, and after a lot of field testing, we’ve managed to whittle our favorites down. We each wore three pairs of shoes during our trip.
- Travel Sandals: We both brought leather Teva Sandals (his & hers). They’re super durable, lightweight, cute, and double as water shoes – crucial for the Galapagos or when you’re canyoning or white water rafting in Banos. We both wore our Tevas just about every single day during our Galapagos trip.
- Sneakers/Hiking Shoes (His & Hers): We each brought a pair of trail runners. They’re lightweight, breathe nicely, and have insane grip. They were made for running on mud, dirt, and gravel, so their quality is incredible – and they’re the perfect hiking shoes. No, you don’t need to lug around your heavy boots, especially if you’ll only be doing one or two hikes in the Galapagos! As a bonus, these dry quickly so that even if you’re hiking in the wet season, you’ll be good to go – just be sure to bring a pair of waterproof socks if you’ll be visiting between December and May.
- We each brought a pair of “cute” travel shoes that were both totally comfortable and actually looked good. Our go-to shoes are the Allbirds Tree Skippers(his, hers), which are lightweight and breathable, and perfect for hot days with lots of walking. Plus, they’re eco-friendly and super cute!
- Looking for more tips on what travel shoes to pack for the Galapagos? Check out these guides to travel shoes for men and travel shoes for women.
- Sun Hat: Who says sun protection isn’t cute? This comfortable hat protects your face, neck, and chest from the sun and goes with every outfit. The adjustable band around the rim guarantees that this hat will fit your head perfectly, and the neck cord means you can wear it even when it’s windy! This is my go-to everyday hat. Jeremy opted for a Panama-style sun hat, and he fit in everywhere!
Galapagos Packing List: Health & Toiletries
We want you to have an amazing time in this once-in-a-lifetime destination, so here are the essentials to pack to keep you feeling clean, healthy, and happy!
- Steri-Pen Water Purifier: The water in the Galapagos Islands, much like the rest of Ecuador, is not safe to drink. And although most hotels will provide a limited amount of drinkable water, having the Steri-Pen with you means you won’t need to worry about water during your trip! This handy little water purifier saved us a LOT of money (not to mention waterborne illness!) in Ecuador, where the tap water is not safe the drink. The Steri-Penpurifies water in 90 seconds using an UV light to kill whatever is lurking in untrustworthy tap water. Rather than have to buy multiple bottles of purified water per day – wasting money and damaging the environment – we were able to easily purify our own water for cooking or drinking in a re-usable water bottle every single day. (Note: you can also use a Lifestraw water bottle or water purification tablets to purify undrinkable tap water, both of which we brought just in case, but we found that we preferred the Steri-Pen for ease of use and taste.)
- Dramamine: This deserves another mention. Seriously, pop one of these before every boat ride!
- Apple Cider Vinegar: I know, this isn’t a typical travel item. But hear me out. ACV is an incredible multi-tasking travel problem solver that we used several times during our trip to the Galapagos. We filled up a little travel spray bottle (we prefer glass for environmental and ick reasons) with ACV from our pantry to bring with us, and here’s why. First of all: ACV helps soothe and heal sunburns. If you get a sunburn from the intense equatorial sun, mist a little ACV on a towel or directly on your skin to draw out the heat and jump-start healing. You’ll go from “I can’t put on clothes, it hurts too bad” to “itchy but doing OK” overnight – it’s insane. Secondly: ACV heals rashes. You know those awful bumps you get when you sit in your wet swimsuit for 2 hours on a boat ride back from a long day of snorkeling? Look, you know the kind of rash I’m talking about here. Well, ACV cures it! Sure, it hurts like hell when you spray it on, but the next day your rash is all gone and you’re ready to … sit for another hour in a wet swimsuit on a boat. Whee!
- Leave-In Conditioner: Generally speaking, you’ll want to bring your own shampoo and conditioner to the Galapagos – the selection in South America is not good and I wouldn’t count on any free bottles in your hotel room. But above and beyond that, what you’ll really want to bring is a good leave-in conditioner to help nurture your hair after all the salt water it will be absorbing during your Galapagos Islands trip! My hair was a tangly, frizzy mess during our trip; there IS such a thing is TOO much sea salt, it turns out. I wish I’d brought this stuff! It’s is a surfer cult favorite – just put it in your damp hair after you shower and comb it through. If you prefer something a little more granola, a small amount of Coconut Oil on your ends will also help. But please, remember: anything you put on your skin, body, or hair BEFORE you get in the ocean will be ingested by the marine critters you’re here to see, so PLEASE be careful not to bring chemical-laden products in the ocean with you!
- Anti-Diarrhea Pill & Vaccinations: Here’s the good news: you won’t need anti-Malaria pills or altitude pills in the Galapagos. Here’s the less-good news: even if you’re super careful about sterilizing your water, traveler’s diarrhea is still very common. Imodium and DiaResQ are fantastic to have on hand, and if you can, get a prescription antibiotic from your doctor to take with you just in case. You’ll also need some vaccinations before you leave, like Yellow Fever and Tetanus. Here’s the full list of recommended vaccinations for Ecuador from the CDC. We got all of them and stayed in good health – other than wobbly stomachs – during our trip.
- Coffee: While you might think that great coffee comes from Ecuador it can be tricky to find great coffee on the Galapagos Islands itself. So if you are a serious coffee snob we recommend packing your own stash! Slip a pack of Alpine Start instant coffee into your luggage to avoid any coffee anxiety.
Psst: Wondering if we forgot to include bug repellant? We didn’t – it’s just not really necessary in the Galapagos Islands. You won’t find netting on the beds, you can sleep with the windows open, and generally speaking, live a blissfully mosquito-free life. If it makes you feel better though, here’s our favorite bug repellant lotion.
Galapagos Packing List: Travel Essentials
Let’s talk basics! Here’s the travel gear you’ll need for your trip, plus other travel essentials that we recommend for ALL international trips.
- Travel Credit Card: We book all of our international trips on our favorite travel credit card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. Not only do we earn cash back that we can spend on more travel, but the card also offers fantastic travel perks, like no foreign transaction fees, trip delay and cancellation coverage, lost baggage reimbursement, and rental car coverage, all of which helps protect us on our travels. We’ve filed several claims and the card has saved our butt many times! Take a look at our full review of the card. (Psst: shopping for your upcoming trip? You can put your purchases on the card to help you meet the sign-up bonus minimum spend!)
- Travel Insurance: At this point in our lives, we never travel anywhere without travel insurance. We’re way too accident-prone to risk it! We’ve filed several claims with World Nomads, so at this point, our insurance policies have all paid for themselves. Not sure if that’s like, a good thing, or just a sign that we should probably lock ourselves indoors and barricade the room with pillows… We also really like SafetyWing, which offers quarantine coverage, low rates, and long-term travel coverage for digital nomads. Not sure if you need travel insurance? Take a look at our guide to travel insurance to help you decide!
- Carry-On Luggage: You’ll be hopping on and off of a lot of boats, so you’re gonna want to keep your luggage as lightweight as possible! If you’re partial to backpacks, this PacSafe bag is comfortable, roomy, and as deterrent as it gets – it’s our go-to backpack for carry-on travel. i=If you prefer a rolling bag, the Away suitcase is as beautiful as it is high-tech, with a built-in portable charger, an incredibly durable exterior, tons of space, and a built-in dirty laundry compressor (game-changing).
- Day Bag: You’ll need to pack a good day bag to take with you each day as you head to explore. It should be big enough to include your water, some snacks (and all trash associated with those snacks – pack out what you bring in), your binoculars, your camera, and any swimming gear you need, like your travel towel, a dry bag, etc. For more athletic activities, we brought along our Camelbak Hydration Pack, which holds 85oz of water and has room for gear.
- Binoculars: The Galapagos Islands are one of the best places in the world for nerding out about wildlife, so embrace your inner Lia’s Mom and get you a pair of binoculars! They don’t have to be fancy, they just have to help you spot frigate birds or penguins in the distance (yep, there are penguins in the Galapagos). Most tour operators will have a pair of binoculars, but by the time they make it to you after all 8 other people have ooh’ed and ahh’ed, the wildlife in question may have already vanished. Bring your own binoculars and you’ll be covered in the event that absolutely any critter is doing anything adorable within a mile radius!
- Travel Clothesline: We had this hanging up in every hotel room we stayed at in the Galapagos. Every day we hung up our wet towels and bathing suit to dry. It keeps your stuff from getting moldy and avoids the dreaded wet bathing suit rash *shudder*.
- Waterproof Watches: You don’t want to be pulling out your phone to check the time when you’re on a boat, and you definitely won’t have your phone on hand when you’re in the water! Besides, service in the Galapagos is pretty universally terrible, which means that your smartphone is just about only useful as a watch and an alarm clock. Leave it in the hotel room and wear an old-fashioned waterproof watch instead.
- Kindle Fire: The WiFi in the Galapagos is not good. What did you expect? They’re islands! So, load up some books onto your Kindle and plan to catch up on your reading. Having a Kindle saves you the effort of lugging around books – much as the charm of the hostel book exchange appeals to me – and they’re also great travel tools. You can load them up like a tablet to watch downloaded movies, audiobooks, and music. Like what you can do with an iPad, except for people that can’t afford an iPad.
- Solar Powered Flashlights: Depending on where you’re staying and which island you’re on, chances are that there won’t be a lot of streetlights – the Galapagos aren’t exactly the most on-the-grid of islands. It’s not pitch black at night, but we found ourselves using our travel flashlights quite a bit to navigate back to our hotel after dinner. We love that these flashlights are solar powered: no batteries needed and totally eco-friendly!
- Eco-Friendly Cups and Water Bottle: The Galapagos Islands authorities have recently banned single-use plastics as part of their conservation efforts. But we still think you should carry your own eco-friendly travel supplies with you to your trip to help minimize your plastic waste and environmental footprint. Think of all the adorable turtles and sea lions and other marine critters you’re here to visit, who often mistake plastic for food, leading to their death. Bring this collapsible cup along on your flight and you’ll save several of those tiny plastic cups they serve drinks in. Not just on your trip to the Galapagos Islands, but on EVERY trip – and that means every trip to the coffee shop or deli by your house, too! Bring the lesson of conservation home with you from the Galapagos Islands everywhere that you go.
Galapagos Packing List: Tech Gear & Cameras
Look, I’m gonna be real with you: you will kick yourself if you come home without 916872867826 photos of adorable sea lions, colorful fish, sneezing marine iguanas, ridiculous blue-footed boobies, and so on and so forth. But your phone won’t exactly cut it, since … ya know, you’ll be underwater most of the time. So we’ve got some camera essentials to recommend for your trip!
Before we do, though, there is a line we need to draw, and that line is flash. NEVER use flash on ANY animals in the wild, PERIOD, especially underwater in the Galapagos. It harms the animals, and it’s freakin’ illegal. Don’t do it!
If you’re a casual photographer (IE for the ‘gram, the ‘book, and the grandparents), here are our recommendations for camera gear to capture your trip to the Galapagos Islands.
- External Battery: I use my phone constantly while traveling: as a translator (using Google Translate) or currency converter, for maps, as a camera, to take notes, to pull up my itinerary and trip planning doc, and to check in back home whenever I’m on WiFi. Without my phone, I feel fairly helpless while traveling! So I always bring along this external battery stuffed in my day pack. It holds about 2-3 full charges and charges my phone FAST!
- GoPro: You didn’t come all the way to the Galapagos Islands to NOT get underwater footage of baby sea lions swimming with giant sea turtles and reef sharks. You gotta have a GoPro! They’re hands down the best camera for capturing footage underwater. Just make sure you also pick up the Standard Housing, the waterproof case that you’ll definitely need before you go underwater!
- GoPro Waterproof Floating Handle: GoPro’s are tiny little things, and they don’t float on their own. If you’re clumsy AF and accident-prone like we are, that’s a disaster waiting to happen. Prevent it by attaching your GoPro to a floating handle like this one. It secures with a wrist strap, but even if you somehow let go of the camera, it floats safely to the surface where it can easily be retrieved. We didn’t lose our GoPro a single time in the Galapagos (er, we lost it later on dry land. RIP).
- Canon Powershot Point & Shoot Camera: The perfect camera for casual photo-taking! This tiny, travel-friendly camera takes surprisingly good pictures for a point & shoot. It’s pocket-sized, which means it’s incredibly convenient and theft deterrent because it looks like nothing special (not that you’ll need to worry much about theft on the Galapagos Islands, but you will when you’re in Quito). We used our Canon Powershot the entire time we were in the Galapagos Islands – and the rest of South America! So if you don’t think the photos in this post are terrible, guess what? They were all taken with this baby.
Looking for more information? We’ve got a couple more posts that might help you prepare for your trip to the Galapagos, including our complete Galapagos guide and trip details for Isla Isabela and Santa Cruz. If you’re looking for more packing tips, check out our guide to what to pack for South America!
- How to Visit The Galapagos Islands Without a Cruise: A Complete Guide
- Santa Cruz Galapagos Island Guide: What to Do, Where to Eat, & Where to Stay
- Backpacking Ecuador: Itinerary for 1 Incredible Month
We’ve also created a detailed 20-page downloadable guide to visiting the Galapagos Islands. Sign up below to get the guide sent straight to your inbox!
Please leave us a comment below if you have any questions about what to pack for the Galapagos Islands!
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Our Top Travel Tips & Resources
- Booking Flights: To score flight deals, search on Google Flights or Kayak. Money-saving tips: fly mid-week or on the weekend; fly carry-on only on a budget airline; and take red-eyes or early morning flights.
- Accommodations: We usually stay in budget-friendly vacation rentals, boutique hotels or private rooms in hostels. We use Booking.com to book hotels (we love their flexible cancellation policy) and Hostelworld to book hostels (low deposit, easy change/cancellation, and excellent reviews). For vacation rentals, we prefer to book using VRBO because they've got lower fees and better support than Airbnb, and we're not fans of Airbnb's unethical track record. You can also book vacation rentals on Expedia and Hotels.com. We also use TrustedHousesitters as both hosts (for our home and our fur-child) and travelers!
- Travel Insurance: We always, ALWAYS buy travel insurance for international trips, and we STRONGLY recommend it - visit our Travel Insurance Guide to find out why. We recommend either World Nomads or SafetyWing for international travel insurance. SafetyWing is one of the few policies that covers Covid-19, and they have excellent monthly policies that are perfect for Digital Nomads and long term travelers!
- Travel Credit Card: We book all of our trips on our favorite travel credit card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Not only do we earn cash back that we can spend on more travel, but the card offers fantastic travel perks like no foreign transaction fees, trip delay and cancellation coverage, lost baggage reimbursement, and rental car coverage, which helps protect us on our travels. Read our complete review.
- Vaccines & Meds: We use the travel guides on the CDC website to research recommended medications and vaccines for international trips. We always recommend getting every vaccine recommended by the CDC! You can get them at your primary care doctor's office or a walk-in pharmacy.
- Tours: We love booking guided tours, especially food tours and walking tours, to get a local's perspective and a history lesson while sight-seeing! We book our tours using Viator and GetYourGuide.
- Transportation: We use Rome2Rio to figure out how to get from place to place using public transit, and book local transportation online using Bookaway wherever we can. For rental cars, we use DiscoverCars to compare rental companies and find the best deal. To save money, we also book with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, which includes primary rental car insurance coverage.
- Luggage Storage: Whenever we're checking out early or taking advantage of a long layover, we use LuggageHero to safely store our luggage while we're running around. Use the code PRACTICALW for 2 hours of free luggage storage on us.
- What to Pack: Here are the travel essentials that we bring on every trip. We also have packing lists for hot weather, cold weather, and many more. Take a look at all of our packing guides!
Thank you for all of your sustainable and environmentally conscious recommendations! It is great to see a travel blog with these issues in mind and all the suggestions and brands are right up my alley. Trying to get my gear list together for a trip in November. I would suggest a small bottle of Dr. Bronner’s Castile soap for travel as well. It has many many uses from body care, to washing your clothes and water bottle etc. I bring a small bottle in my day bag (zoo, park days etc.) as well as for longer travel and it always comes in handy. Full disclosure I am a Dr. Bronner’s employee but this isn’t a shameless plug, it really is a great product and extremely environmentally friendly as well. All stated from my consumer prospective.
Lisa Machado says
Hi, I married my Galapagos tour guide. So I moved to the islands to live. Our tapwater is desalinated sea water. DO NOT DRINK IT. Not even after “purifying” it. Consider doing a parasite regimen after your visit. Those if us who live there do one as a matter of routine once or twice a year.
Tim Scottious says
I’ve been looking for information about Galapagos and I stumbled in your blog. Great information indeed. Thanks for sharing and I can’t just wait to travel back again.
Lisa Machado says
Just please don’t drink the water from the tap. I live there ( married to my Galapagos tour guide) our tap water is desalinated sea water.
Lia Garcia says
Very important tip! Thanks!
This is such a dream place to be <3 wow! We were meant to go this year 🙁