Here are the basics things you need to known if you are planning to visit the Galápagos Islands.
1- There are 3 main islands; San Cristobal, Santa Cruz and Isabela, of which the first two have an airport with flights to and from Guayaquil and Quito daily. Getting to/from Baltra Airport takes a little over an hour. Taxi can be quicker but is expensive. It’s a 1 hour bus ride, then a ferry to jump you from Santa Cruz to Baltra Island and finally another 10 minute bus ride to the airport. So plan accordingly. The airport at San Cristobal is 5 minutes from the town.
2- Bring cash, lots of cash. Pretty much all hotels, hostels, tours, restaurants and transportation will only accepts cash. There are few ATMs only in San Cristobal and Santa Cruz, and few restaurants that accepts credit cards. Please keep in mind that Isabela does not have ATM!!
3- If you are into diving and snorkeling, then you are in Heaven! There are many tours every day to the different spots around the islands for sightings of sharks, turtles, rays, penguins, seals, etc.
4- If you are only looking for the highlights, I recommend 2 days on each island. One day for the land tours, and the other for a water activity (at Isabela Island I would stay 3 days because there is a lot to see; volcano, snorkeling and diving).
5- There is boat transportation between the islands, however here is the catch: Santa Cruz is the main hub and every boat connects there. You can go from/to San Cristobal and Santa Cruz, and Isabela to/from Santa Cruz, but NOT directly to/from Isabela and San Cristobal. This is good to know because you can waste a day making that trip.
6- There are boat trips daily in the morning (5:30-8am) and afternoons (2:30-4:00), depending the route and the island. It takes 2 hours for the boat ride between islands. You can purchase tickets at the marina the same day or evening before.
7- It is very expensive compared to the rest of Ecuador. Hostels start around $20 per person, a simple food plate can be $15-20. (Especially San Cristobal was particularly more expensive than the rest). There are no shareable rooms (6-10 people per room) like hostels in other towns; they mostly offer a private room with 1 or 2 beds.
8- Access to Galapagos Reserve is $100 for foreigners, CASH, at arrival at the airport and I didn’t see an ATM at the airport.
9- Tours can be pricey, but bargain with the locals for better deals. At Santa Cruz try to get a taxi driver to do the land tour for around $40-50, 4 hours. The more people in the car, the better since you can split the fare. At Isabel, snorkeling tours from $100.
10- My recommendation is to flight to Baltra Airport (Santa Cruz) and then take the boat to Isabela. San Cristobal is gorgeous but nothing you wont see at the other islands as far as animals and landscape. I landed in San Cristobal, spent 1.5 days, traveled to Isabel for 2 and then 2 more at Santa Cruz.
Must see: Isabela Island
Snorkeling tour to Los Túneles
dive with sharks and mantas
Bike around town
San Cristobal Island
Land tour to see Galapaguera.
Go to beach to hang out with sealions
360 snorkeling tour
Santa Cruz Island
Galapaguera (the Gigiant turtles here are bigger than any other island)