Ahh, the Galapagos Islands. Made famous by Charles Darwin and the birthplace of his theories on evolution, they hold a special appeal for nature & animal lovers, and those who want to venture somewhere a bit more remote. They’re known for their incredible marine life, bird species, and overall biodiversity. But the one major disadvantage? They’re also known to be very, very expensive.

Flying over San Cristobal Island on our way to Santa Cruz

In this post, I’m talking all things budgeting for the Galapagos. You can use the table of contents to skip around to what interests you the most!

Why are the Galapagos Islands expensive?
Typical prices in the Galapagos
How much we spent for one week in the Galapagos
Tips for saving money in the Galapagos
Are the Galapagos worth the cost?

Why are the Galapagos Islands expensive?

Islands in general tend to be expensive places, and the Galapagos are no exception. The vast majority of the products have to be shipped in via boat or plane, which explains a big part of it. Certain things you find in mainland Ecuador are hard to come by in the Galapagos. For example, most of the juice on Isabela Island was lemonade, because mot fruits are difficult to transport and store. Another example: one taxi driver was saying someone had offered to buy his used pickup truck for $80,000.

Touching down on Isla Baltra (airport right by Santa Cruz Island)

Beyond the fact that islands in general tend to be pricy, the Ecuadorian government takes protecting the unique ecosystem very seriously. The majority of the Islands are part of the national park of the Galapagos, and visitors can only enter the park with a guide. Tour group sizes are limited (each boat excursion we went on was 10 tourists + a max of 3 crew members) and the number of groups that can visit each site per day is also limited. Finite supply of spots for tours and the cost of running the tour boats = expensive tours.

Finally, locals told us that post-covid prices are higher than they were previously. The islands were entirely closed to tourism for a while, and as tourism is the primary revenue stream for the locals, the economy suffered hugely. What was once free is often no longer free, and prices have gone up across the board.

This all leads to the Galapagos being quite pricey when compared to mainland Ecuador, which is overall a great budget travel destination.

Typical prices in the Galapagos

So, what are typical prices in the Galapagos, anyhow? Here are some basics.

Depending on how much or how little you want to spend, the lodging options run the gamut. I like to look on Booking.com and AirBnB to find places to stay. All prices below are for 1 room with 2 adults.

  • Budget lodging: The cheapest you can expect to find a room is around $35-$50. While that’s still definitely more than cheapest double rooms in most parts of Ecuador, it sure isn’t bad! Don’t expect extras for this price, though. You almost certainly won’t get breakfast, and you may not get amenities like air conditioning.
  • Mid-range lodging: If you’re wanting a place with a kitchen, or somewhere more like an apartment/condo, or just a nicer hotel room, you can expect prices around $70-$100 per night. There are plenty of mid-range options to choose from.
  • High-end lodging: You can also find luxury accommodations in some areas of the Galapagos. At the highest end of the scale are hotels like Finch Bay which charges around $520 per night. There are also plenty of hotels in the $200+ range, like Hotel Acacia in Puerto Ayora.


  • Meals: You can find set breakfast, lunches, and dinners for $5-$8. At minimum you’ll need $15 per day to spend on food if you want hot meals for each. It’s common for a la carte lunch or dinner plates to be between $10-$30 with plates like lobster or sea food grill platters reaching $40-$50.
  • Snacks: Most processed snacks are about twice the price as they would be on mainland Ecuador. For example, and ice cream sandwich that costs $.80 in Quito costs $2 on Isabela Island (I would know, for I ate one each day. Get the simple soft serve cones in Puerto Ayora, they are amazing and a better deal at $1 a piece). Same goes for things like yogurt (~$1.25-$1.50 per serving) or chips ($2/bag). Bread is also about twice the cost – generally we found the price for basic types of bread like pan de agua to be 3 for $1.
  • Alcohol: At happy hour, you can easily find 2x$10 cocktails on Isabela and 3x$10 on the Calle de los Kioscos in Puerto Ayora. Otherwise, expect to pay $7-8 for basic cocktails like mojitos and $10+ for more special cocktails like a piña colada. Beer is generally $2-$3+.
  • Water: We did not buy a single bottle of water. Many lodgings offer water as part of the cost, so be sure to check if this is included for you & be sure to bring a reusable bottle. Menu prices generally listed water at $2/bottle for a smaller bottle at restaurants.
Whatever you do, don’t miss out on these $1 ice cream conos. We ate one (or sometimes 2) each day. Guava coconut soft serve, unreal!
A typical set lunch (almuerzo) for $6.


  • Flights: If you’re visiting from abroad, you’ll either fly into Quito or Guayaquil. From either city you can grab a flight to one of the two main airports in the Galapagos, in Baltra or San Cristobal. Costs of flying from Quito to the islands can range from $200-$600.
  • Taxis: In Puerto Ayora, taxis in town have a fixed cost of $1.25. But you’ll be likely using taxis to visit spots outside of town in the realm of $20-$30 each way. For example, to get to Garrepatero Beach on Santa Cruz you can expect to pay $20 each way. The taxi to the airport on Santa Cruz is $25. On Isabela, you can expect to pay $2-3 around town and $5+ for anywhere outside of town.
  • The bus: This only really applies for Santa Cruz from the airport, because there are no buses on Isabela that I saw, anyhow. The bus from the airport into town is $5 per person, as is the bus ride from the airport to the canal you have to cross. There isn’t much public transportation on the islands.
  • Water taxis: For very short distances (like getting to your tour boat from the dock) you can expect to pay $1 per person for a ride of as little as 30 seconds. You can expect $10 each way to get to Turtle Bay in Santa Cruz, a 20 minute ride.
  • Inter-island ferries: Flat rate of $30 per person, per trip.
One of many water taxis we took, this one from the ferry disembarkation to the port at Puerto Villamil


There is no way around it—tours in the Galapagos are expensive. Generally speaking, for anything other than a very local “bay tour” in the port areas, you should expect $120+ for a half to full day excursion. Ouch. This is where the cost really soars, because you definitely will want to take at least one or two tours to experience the wildlife and the scenery.

We saw some amazing sea life on this guided, full day tour – including sharks! Pinzón Island tour, first stop


There are a few unavoidable fees when traveling to the Galapagos. There is a $20 per peron “tourist card” fee that you will pay at the airport in mainland Ecuador. There is a $100 per person entry fee upon arrival in the Galapagos. There are also entry fees to some areas; in Isabela, it was $10 per foreigner upon arrival. You will also find, when businesses allow you to pay with a credit card (and many don’t), the credit card fee is a whopping 12%.


If you forgot things like bug spray or sunscreen, know that these products are extremely expensive. One 6 oz bottle of infant sunscreen cost over $20. Do yourself a favor and don’t forget your toiletries and protective items!

How much we spent for one week in the Galapagos

The moment of truth! How much did we spend for one full week (Saturday-Saturday) in the Galapagos? I’ll break it down for you by estimates. I know for sure the prices of the main transit, tours, and lodgings, but I don’t actually know precise costs for food and small taxi transit, because I was not actively tracking and most things we paid for on-island was in cash.

Lodging: We stayed in 2 bedroom apartment/hotels, each of which had a kitchen and a living room. Drinking water was included for all of them, and air conditioning in two of them.

Lodging total: $662


Flights: I was able to get a special price using the LatAm Airlines Ecuador website for my husband and mother in law as they are Ecuadorian nationals. Our flights were from Quito to Baltra, with a layover in Guayaquil. It was $330/person for them and their ticket included a carry on of up to 10kg and a personal item. It was $430 for me and Nico as lap infant (but I actually used credit card points for mine and Nico’s ticket). Subtotal: $1,090

“Ground” transit: $27 uber to Quito airport, $33 from Quito airport, $25 bus round trip to/from the canal near the Baltra airport, $50 in taxis roundtrip to and from Baltra airport, $60 roundtrip water taxi to Tortuga Bay, approximately $20 in taxis on Isabela Island, approximately $25 on tiny water taxis, and $180 total for 3 adults between Isabela and Santa Cruz on ferries. Subtotal: $420

Transit total for 3 adults, 1 infant (who was only charged a small portion of the airline ticket): $1,510. Keep in mind, if you are traveling from outside of Ecuador, you’ll need to factor in the cost of your flights to get to either Quito or Guayaquil, too.


Breakfast: $5/person/day

Lunch: $7/person/day

Dinner: $12/person/day

Drinks & snacks for everyone: $25/day

Total food and drinks (estimated) for 3 adults: $700


$115/person Los Tuneles tour Isabela = $345*

$120/person Pinzón tour Santa Cruz = $360

$10/person turtle center Isabela = $30

Total activities for 3 adults (some activities were free and just required a quick taxi or water taxi to get there, the cost of which is reflected in the transit section): $735

*This is a don’t-miss tour. I’ve never seen anything like this place in my life. If you go to Isabela please do yourself a favor and get on this tour if it’s the only one you do!


$60 in tourist transit cards, $20 in entrance fees upon arrival in Baltra, $10 entrance fees in Isabela (cheaper because we have Ecuadorian identity cards. You would expect to pay a $100 entrance fee at the airport and then $10 per person to enter Isabela as a foreigner)

Total fees: $90


Atm fees: $30

Sunscreen, bug spray, diapers, wipes, phone credit: $100

Total miscellaneous (estimated): $130

Approximate overall total for 3 adults for one week: $3,827*

*As a 4-month old infant, Nico was essentially free to bring along on transit and for tours, except on the flight which included his “fare” as being like 10% of the cost of my ticket. So very minimal added cost!

Phew, that was a lot! Hopefully seeing some concrete numbers helps you budget as you plan your trip. Are you surprised by the cost? For me, it was a lot—even trying to be frugal. Our last big trip (other than Hawaii, where we paid almost ALL the cost of the flights and week-long hotel stay with credit card points) was to Colombia in 2019, where we spent around $1600 for just over 2 weeks. I do think we could have saved some money, but not a ton without sacrificing comfort & convenience. Which brings me to…

Tips for saving money in the Galapagos

So, you want to visit the Galapagos on a budget. Here are some of the best ways you can save money while traveling to the Galapagos!

  1. Choose the most basic lodging that meets your requirements. You aren’t planning to spend much time in your room anyway with all the nature to explore! For me, this has changed over time—19-year-old me was happy to stay in 20-person co-ed dorm rooms. 30-year-old me has other requirements:
  • Private room with private bathroom
  • Air conditioning if it’s hot (it was a mistake that I booked one of our apartments without air. A bad one. I woke up so sweaty during the night and every morning. Don’t make that mistake if you’re traveling to the Galapagos in hot season!)
  • Centrally located, so we can get around walking for meals and in-town errands
  • Decently good ratings on whatever site I’m booking
  • In this case, I also was looking for specifically 2 bedroom places because we were traveling with my mother in law. I wanted kitchens and living rooms so we could eat/lounge at home without needing to use a common space in a hotel. We probably could have gotten our stay a bit cheaper if I hadn’t wanted 2 bedroom apartment style lodging.

From there, I booked the cheapest property that met all requirements. Done! Did I get amazing views, or beautiful breakfasts, or scenic patios with hammocks? No, but I wasn’t looking for those things on this trip. I’d highly recommend two of the three spots we stayed: La Casa del Pinzon in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz, and even more so,Casa Soleil in Puerto Villamil, Isabela.

2. Choose your tours wisely. I won’t say don’t go on tours; in fact, the tours are an absolute highlight. We did two tours over the course of our 6 full days on the islands and I was satisfied (If I’d been planning exclusively for myself I might have done one more, even). But some of the tours are repetitive or similar, so make sure you’re picking tours that are complementary. For example, tours to Pinzón and Santa Fe, uninhabited islands you can visit from Santa Cruz, seemed pretty similar. Both had a lot of snorkeling and similar animal viewing opportunities. I wouldn’t have chosen to do both of those. Additionally, the tour to Bartolomé is WAY more expensive than any other tour at a minimum price of $200 per person. Hot take: consider skipping it (we did). The staff at the tour agency we worked with said that the cost for Bartolomé is so high because for some reason all the foreigners want to go there — which increases the price. It’s mainly a tour to see scenery and landscape as opposed to the sea animals. I was originally disappointed not to go because when you Google “best day trips from Santa Cruz” you almost exclusively read about Bartolomé. However, I realized after going to Pinzón that the best, most enjoyable parts of the day were in the water with the sea animals, so I was thrilled that we did that tour instead.

Pinzón Island tour. We didn’t have underwater photo capatibilties so we were not able to capture the incredible snorkeling experience, but here are some blue footed boobies we saw from the boat!

Also, you can try asking the lowest price the agency can offer you for a given tour. This resulted in a $10-$15 discount per person, per tour for us. Don’t be afraid to ask another agency if they won’t budge, but also don’t expect a significant decrease in price.

3. Embrace the free or low cost activities. Free and low cost activities we did included Tortuga Bay (transit cost only. You can actually walk there for free in about 45 minutes but we didn’t because it was very hot and we had a baby and a grandma) and Playa de los Alemanes on Santa Cruz (water taxi cost only). On Isabela, we spent some time on the main beach right outside of town, visited Concha de la Perla to snorkel, and checked out Playa del Amor and El Estero. All free! The tortoise sanctuary was a low cost activity at $10/person. If we’d had more time on Santa Cruz I was interested in visiting Laguna de las Ninfas and Playa El Garrepatero, both of which are free or low cost activities as well.

Living our best life at Tortuga Bay beach

4. Bring the supplies you’ll need. Don’t forget your reusable water bottle! We didn’t have to rent snorkel gear because we brought our own. We would have spent less if we’d not forgotten baby sunscreen and bug repellent (which we actually didn’t end up using). Make sure you have these and any other beach things you might want like towels, rash guards, sandals, etc and you’ll save. If you forget anything, getting these items in mainland Ecuador will still be cheaper.

5. Panaderías for breakfast and set meals for lunch & dinner. If you’re okay with a piece of bread and a yogurt, you can get away with a $2 breakfast at the bakery. If you’re okay eating the menu of the day, which generally includes soup, juice, and a main plate with rice, meat/fish, and salad, you can definitely eat lunch and dinner for $5-$7 each.

6. Wear your good walking shoes. If it hadn’t been so hot, and we hadn’t had a baby in hand, we could have saved a bit by walking instead of taking taxis on a few occasions.

7. Stick with a land-based Galapagos tour and skip the Galapagos cruise. Cruises are way more expensive no matter which way you look at it. Checking prices quickly while writing this I’m seeing week-long “budget” cruises at $2,700 per person, $3,300, and non-budget easily upwards of $5,000 or $6,000 per person.

Are the Galapagos worth the cost?

You may be wondering — with all the bother to get there and the high cost, is it worth it to make the trip to the Galapagos?

Most people who’ve been will likely tell you YES. I’m going to say yes—but only for SOME people. This is not a destination I would recommend to every type of traveler.

Galapagos is worth it if

  • Your priority is to get up close with and observe wildlife that is unique to the Galapagos and/or difficult to see up close elsewhere. For example, the marine iguanas and blue footed boobies come to mind. Other animals we saw (and in some cases swam with) included many varieties of fish, spotted eagle rays, white tipped sharks, tintorera sharks, sea turtles, Galapagos tortoises, flamingos, & tiny penguins. This is the main reason to go to the Galapagos and to me, what made the trip totally worth it.
  • You are excited to spend time in and on the water. The sea life is a huge part of the reason to go, and the water is amazing. There are many beautiful spots to get in the water and the colors of the water alone are spectacular.
  • You enjoy the idea of being on boats regularly, and wouldn’t mind spending the part of or all day on or around a boat.
  • You’re already in Ecuador and eager for a big adventure! It’s a lot easier to make this trip if you’re already in-country.

Galapagos is maybe not for you if...

  • You want a chill, relax-on-the-beach vacation with a cocktail in hand. There are better places to do this, that are also easier to reach. The Galapagos is much more of a travel/trip destination as opposed to a vacation one.
  • You’re seeking tropical paradise with jungle vibes. The Galapagos is near the equator, but is very much more of a volcanic desert location.
  • You are scared of swimming in the ocean and getting into the water from a boat (as opposed to from a beach). Most day trips involve jumping into the water directly from your tour boat.
  • Amazing food is a high priority for you. As I mentioned earlier in this post, food options are more limited on the islands and also more expensive.
  • You have a toddler who can’t swim. I have a whole post planned on traveling to the Galapagos with a baby which I will link here when it’s completed. Nico turned 4 months old and we had a great time with him. But I don’t know about having a mobile toddler who doesn’t know how to swim; I think it would be hard to enjoy excursions that involve snorkeling/water time and all day on a boat.

I think that about sums it up! Was this helpful? Any questions remaining for you? Let me know in the comments!

The whole crew!
Posted by:Elizabeth

Wandering Californian living in Seattle. Nature-loving, thrill-seeking weekend adventurer. Storyteller.

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