How to fly to the Galapagos Islands
Although explorers, pirates, whalers, and even Charles Darwin himself arrived to the Galapagos Islands by boat for centuries, now the only way for travelers to get there is flying - first to mainland Ecuador and then on to the Galapagos Islands.
Since there are no international flights directly to the Galapagos Islands, travelers must first fly to either Guayaquil (GYE) or Quito (UIO) on mainland Ecuador. From here, there are several daily flights to and from the Galapagos Islands. These are the only two cities that have flights to the Galapagos Islands. It’s a good idea to check with your cruise provider before booking your flight.
Flying to Ecuador
In order to fly to the Galapagos Islands, you must book a domestic Ecuador flight departing from either:
- Guayaquil’s José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport
- Quito’s Mariscal Sucre International Airport
Both of these airports receive international flights daily from the United States, Europe, and South America.
It’s generally a good idea to book a flight that arrives to Ecuador a day or two before your flight to the Galapagos Islands, just in case your flight to Ecuador gets delayed. This is especially important if you have booked a Galapagos cruise that could leave without you.
Fortunately, both Quito and Guayaquil are buzzing cities with great hotels and plenty of things to do. If you arrive a few days early, that gives you an extra opportunity to explore more of Ecuador.
Arriving to the Galapagos Islands
Your flight to the Galapagos Islands will be a domestic flight aboard Tame, Avianca, or LAN. You will arrive to either Baltra Airport or the San Cristobal Airport. Most flights arrive on Baltra, which is across a narrow channel from central Santa Cruz Island - the most populous of the Galapagos Islands and also the main departure port for most cruises. If you have a cruise that departs from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno or if you are planning a land-based tour of the eastern & southern islands, then you can fly directly to San Cristobal.
Once you arrive to the airport, each non-resident of Ecuador must pay a National Park entrance fee of $100; non-residents under the age of 12 must pay $50. This fee is not usually included in any tour prices and must be paid in cash. There is also a $20 Ingala Transit Control Card that must be paid in cash upon arrival.
After your trip
Whether you are flying straight home after your Galapagos trip or spending some extra time exploring Ecuador or other South American destinations, you must first fly back to mainland Ecuador. From there, you can book your next flight or make other travel arrangements.
There are inter-island flights that can take you from Isabela to Santa Cruz to San Cristobal. These are all operated by Emetebe and can be booked as private charter flights with a more flexible schedule or even as sightseeing aerial tours of the Galapagos Islands. A direct flight between the islands takes about half an hour. There are daily inter-island water taxis that take travelers between islands in a few hours and about USD $30 per trip.
There are no passenger boats to and from the Galapagos Islands
There is a popular myth that you might be able to find a cruise or cargo ship departing from mainland Ecuador that will take you to the Galapagos Islands; while there are cargo ships to the Galapagos from mainland Ecuador, this should not be considered a way to get to the Galapagos Islands. In fact, this is even illegal. The only way to arrive to the Galapagos Islands as a traveler is by flight.