Galapagos Islands Ecuador

| March 30, 2015 | 47 Replies


Galapagos Islands Ecuador

IMG_4058Before we get started with what I am calling a photo blog of our budget trip to Galapagos Islands Ecuador, I need to cover a couple of things.

First of all, this is post number 100 for Ecuador George.

An author friend of mine told me a while back that when I hit this threshold that I must write a book… I am toying with the idea.

And we have also passed another benchmark this month…. half a million page loads since I started the blog. That is pretty cool.

So, thanks for reading and now on to the Galapagos Islands Ecuador.


Galapagos on a Budget

Retirement can get a little stale if you aren’t careful… I could tell we needed to get out and do something fun.

So I started looking for a little 5 to 7 day trip. Our budget was about $2000 total for the two of us. Figured that would be easy but after looking a little I realized that this might be a challenge.

I found a shopping trip to Miami, and there was a tour of a few beaches in Panama combined with a day in Panama City. There was also 5 days in Granada, Nicaragua which looked really interesting. These were about the only choices we had. Then we saw an ad from CATSA Travel here in Cuenca for an all inclusive trip to the Galapagos Islands for $799. This trip cost even less if you are 65 and older.

We decided to jump on it. And then a couple of friends decided to jump on it too.

We hired a private van to take us to Guayaquil a day early and stayed at the Marriott. The van was $120 for the 6 of us and the Marriott was about $130 a night. The breakfast buffet was a little pricey, so if you stay here try to book your room with either a free breakfast coupon or join their Marriott Club and then the breakfast should be free.

This first picture is me sitting in the hotel lobby people watching. Those legs have not seen light on them for almost a year. It was great to finally be wearing shorts.



There is a free shuttle every hour from the Marriott to the Guayaquil airport. After an early breakfast we jumped on the 9 am bus which gave us more than enough time to check in at the airport for our 10:30 flight.


The first thing we did when we got to the airport was look for more coffee.

We were very surprised when someone from the tour company showed up to meet us and help us get checked in. They even gave all of us tote bags.

By the way, there are extra fees that are required when you are going to the Galapagos. The fee for an Ecuador resident is $20 (must have your Cedula) and if you are a non-resident it is an additional $100. These fees are not included in the tour price.



IMG_20150311_121432As soon as we boarded the plane and buckled up, the flight attendants opened all the overhead compartments and sprayed insecticide to kill all the nasty flies and insects that might be in the baggage. This was a little strange but they don’t want anything new making its way to the Galapagos.

The flight over is about an hour and a half long. It might surprise you that the islands are also in a different time zone. The Galapagos are about 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador.



So lets stop right here for a minute. I want to talk about this tour.

It is called an all inclusive tour and we used Bryan over at CATSA Travel in Cuenca. It was for 5 days and 4 nights.

The cost was $799 per person and that is a cash price. If you “charge it” the price goes up almost 8%. Of course this pricing is subject to change…

The tour includes the airfare from Guayaquil to the Galapagos Islands. We flew TAME.

Once you get to the island there is a guide and a bus to pick you up and take you to your hotel which is about an hour away.

All the buses and water taxis and boat rides are also included in the tour price.

The hotel that was included in the tour package was pretty good. When I say pretty good I mean considering the price we paid for the tour. The going rate at our hotel, if you were not on a tour, was $100 per night.

If you do the math you will see how good this deal is. Another big perk was that all the meals you ate at the hotel were free. Food is super expensive in the Galapagos, sometimes three times the normal cost.

But this great deal is because it was off season. It was really really hot and sticky. Thank goodness the rooms had great air conditioners.

Let’s look at some pictures.

The picture below is us arriving on the Galapagos. It shows how rural the airport is and the size of the jet that brought us there.

How do you like my hat?



Here is what you get for $100 a night in the Galapagos. I will give it 2 stars. It was old and very dated but it was clean. The beds were comfortable and the A/C worked great. We had a very fun bathroom. If you needed to sit on the toilet you would have to open the shower door in front of you so your knees and legs would have room. I am not complaining, just pointing out the personality of our accommodations.



And here is a picture of the room. Again, no complaints considering what some of the other hotels on the island cost. We stopped in to a nicer place on the water that looked maybe 4 star and it was $350 per night. So, if you can afford to travel first class, figure a major investment for your lodging.

Galapagos Islands Ecuador


Here is one last shot of the hotel. This was a covered outdoor gathering space. The place also had a nice swimming pool that was big enough to swim laps in. Again, everything was clean here, both the inside of the rooms and the outside areas. And the meals they served were nothing fancy but very healthy homestyle grub.

By the way, this was the Hotel Las Palmeras. This is one of three hotels you might get when booking this tour. Not sure how this one compares to the others. I did not hear any complaints from anyone on our daily tours about the hotels they were staying in.



If you were to ask anyone in our party what the biggest complaint was, they would probably tell you the heat. But we knew this was off season when we booked our trip. All I can say is I am glad I brought talcum powder with me. That rash was bad!

Out on the boardwalk, a block from our hotel, there was a small fish market right on the ocean. This guy was flirting with me while he was waiting for scraps to hit the floor. These animals have almost no fear of human beings. It was wonderful to see this.

By the way, we stayed all 4 nights in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island. Most of the tour was of this island with a day trip via fast boat to Isabela Island.



Below is a picture of the beach we visited on Isabela Island. It took us about 2 hours to get here from Santa Cruz. We stayed and played all day and then boated back in time for dinner on the main island.

That is a sea lion on the sand. And those two youngsters were making out before I came and sat down. Oh well…

I was about a foot and a half from that sea lion and we just sat together for about half an hour taking in the sun and the scenery. It was very cool.



Here I am sitting with my new friend, the same sea lion as in the above picture. This was such a great experience. You can’t see them in this shot, but about three of four feet in front of me there were 2 giant iguanas just hanging around playing with each other.

This was also the day we could have gone snorkeling but it was just too crowded. You need to know that you have to give up a few things when you are on the economy trip. If snorkeling or diving or really getting way out to see more animals is important to you, pick a more expensive option.



This was our tour guide. I will remember his name in a minute. He got mad because the six of us didn’t show up for one of his tours. We decided to go out on our own and just explore the city and the shops… But we made up and all is good.



This was my favorite day of the trip. Hanging out with the giant turtles and messing around in the lava caves. You are not allowed to touch any of the animals while visiting the Galapagos Islands but you can get really really close to them.



Here is Chad hiking through the lava caves. This reminded me so much of when I was a young kid and in the boy scouts. That wet moist smell inside this cave brought back some good memories. I know that sounds weird…



On the boat trip out to Isabela Island I snapped this photo. I was riding topside with the captain and this ship was enchanting. Do you like it?



Here is a great picture of Stu and Donna, two of my traveling companions. They always have those smiles going. Never a bad picture of these two.



Bo and Linda also came along for the trip. More smiles… We really did have a great time.



I think this girl was mooning a sea lion. Not sure. Love the aqua blue water. We saw manta rays and penguins and pelicans on this beach. The wildlife was fantastic. The one thing we did not see was the ever elusive blue-footed booby.  We were disappointed but our guide said you can’t predict when they will be around. No worries, we still had a fantastic time.




And finally, here is one of the guys that was playing right in front of me. I have zoomed in a bit so you can see a little of the detail. These iguanas were everywhere and it was amazing just being able to share this beautiful white sand with them.

If you have a chance but don’t have the normal $3000 per person to see the Galapagos by boat, you might consider this economy trip.  We certainly got our monies worth.





Well, that is it for this post.

I’ve been a little out of sorts lately. I think I need a family fix so we will be going back to the states in April. Lots of changes next month. I’ve taken a job in my old hometown in California and will be building a new home for a client who is also a friend. This will be interesting. I will have to fly back and forth every other month.

And I have a couple of stories about two different cities in Colombia that I want to share with you. I asked a couple of friends who know Colombia to write me a review of those cities and they both sent me some great information. I will have that for you next time.

I do have one of my little stories I could end with. The new print magazine here in Cuenca, “Zero Magazine”,  asked me to write a column for their paper. I wrote three stories and they picked the one they liked most.

Now I have these other 2 stories just sitting around so why not use one right here…

Here it is.


Getting Out Of That Rut You’re In

I have been trying to write this column for ZERO Magazine for the last week.

This is my third try. I am hoping this will be a home run, because I need a home run today. I’ve been missing my family lately, having a few personal problems, and just not feeling my normal jolly self. I even joined a gym to see if I could get some of those endorphins flowing through my veins…

No endorphins yet, but my biceps are looking awesome.

I never realized how deeply these emotional challenges can affect your personality. Fear, anger, and uncertainty, are all real downer feelings.

Even my writing style has been weird. The ZERO staff is probably thinking I am some kind of serial killer, considering what my first couple of drafts look like.

So what do you do when you get into a rut.

I try to remember that this has happened before, and it has always been just temporary.

And I know where to get help now. It’s as close as the internet.

So I Googled “I’m In a Rut”, and I found all kinds of advice. And it is the same advice I have been giving friends for years. The same kind of advice I write about on my blog. I know this stuff already.

Wow, anxiety must cause memory loss…

So, for anyone who might be feeling challenged today, these suggestion might help you too.

  • Stop comparing how you feel today with what it was like when everything was perfect. Nothing stays the same. Today is the down day that makes those good days feel so good. Feel it, remember the pain and sadness, it will make the good times that much sweeter. Remember the person that you are capable of being, the person you truly are.
  • Stop worrying about everything. Worry doesn’t fix anything, it just makes you crazier. Put your mind to work on something joyful, a good memory, be grateful for everything you have, and stop thinking about the one or two things that are not working out for you right now.
  • No regrets. So you lost something, or something didn’t work out the way you had hoped. Get going on the next chapter, the next piece of the puzzle, close this door and open the next… I’ve got a million of these.
  • Get that sense of humor back. It will counter act all that fear and anger. A good sense of humor is something I have relied on all my life. It works every time.
  • Don’t let what other people think bring you down. Judgement is bullchit. It’s how you feel about yourself that counts. So start feeling better. Sitting in that chair is not going to cure what ails you. Tomorrow is just waiting for the best of you to grab it by the tail.

Go do it.

Your best future is right there waiting for you..


Wow, I’m feeling so much better now.

And I knew all of these things already.

I just needed to have someone remind me.



Who likes Billy Ocean. Here is a song to help you kick some butt.



See you in a couple weeks. I will do my best to post those Colombia reports before I head off to California.

Have a great week everyone and thank you for subscribing to the blog.

Follow along this year as I build a new home in California while I’m living in Ecuador.

And I know you want to leave a comment. Just do it.

See ya


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Category: Living in Ecuador, Retiring in Ecuador

Comments (47)

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  1. Rob Hertzenberg says:

    Great blog, George! Loved hearing about your trip and seeing the photos! The pep talk was also helpful!


    • Thanks Rob. How are you doing? Are you settled in yet? I know you are in your first month here in
      Ecuador…hope you are adjusting well. That first month can be a challenge. Good luck and welcome to Cuenca.


    • John says:

      I’m with you Rob…Not only were the pics motivating , the lil’ pep talk bordered on empowering..Onya’ George..( nearly tempted to toss socks, toothbrush & cigars into the old duffel bag & leave Auckland’s miserable wintry weather way behind me ). Keep @ that keyboard !

  2. Lorrie Beno says:

    Thanks George, I needed that right now. Have a safe trip.

  3. Tom Coker says:

    Great story as always, George! Great pics too! And I too enjoyed the little pep talk! Now ready to go conquer another day!

    • Tom,
      Today is bill paying day. Rent is due. That usually takes a couple hours. Hoping the rain stays away for just the morning. Thanks for the comment. Have a great day my friend. George

  4. Thanks for the pick-me-up in the second half of your post. My partner and I moved to Florida 2.5 years ago. While it’s not Ecuador, we experience the isolation that comes with not knowing many people in the area, which is usually what gets me down. Something I find therapeutic is taking an early morning bike ride. After a half hour to 45 minutes, followed by too much coffee, I’m usually in good mental shape for much of the remainder of the day.

    Would love to go to the Galapagos. We thought about it when we visited Ecuador last September, but it was expensive. Nice to know we can do it for much less if I search for a deal.

    • Ecuador George says:

      The trip was great for the money spent. It was just enough time to remove it from my bucket list and call it done. Glad the last story was something you understood. moving to a new place will always cause a little bit of this blue mood. Take care. George

  5. Gary Sisk says:

    Great blog on your trip to Galapagos and also the best deal I have found! Glad you all enjoyed it!

  6. Ricky says:

    Thank you very much George, not sure when but hope to see you soon

    Keeps the updates coming

    • Ecuador George says:

      Ricky, Come on down. Ecuador is beautiful and still has room for a few more. Next month I will have a couple of guests posting about Colombia. That should be fun.


  7. Lollie says:

    You are the BEST! I love the way you think and talk about your trip to the I totally want to go…and the Billy Ocean clip..OMG! I got up and danced my ass off with them..Kathleen Turner and Michael D and Danny DeVito..loved that movie, loved the music. Thank you thank you!!!
    Lollie in Vilcabamba

    • Ecuador George says:

      Your comment made me smile real big. We had a great time on the trip. Glad you are one of my readers.


  8. Martin Cole says:

    I don’t read all your posts but this caught my eye as an Ozzie expat diver from the Cayman Islands and was interesting, I visited Cuenca a few years back with a view to retirement, think I will stick to renting each winter in different places after seeing the things you went through. Loved the city and the hills, didn’t see enough of it all.
    Just back from 5 weeks in Colombia, what a great country but bigger than I thought!!
    Thanks for your blog

    • Ecuador George says:

      In April I will have 2 reviews of Colombia in the blog. One about Cali and one about Medellin. Should be interesting because one of them is very critical of Cuenca. That should still a hornets nest.

      Thanks for the comment. Glad you stopped by.


  9. Kelly says:

    George, Thank you so much for all the details and photos of this trip.Great to know there is a low price option as we have always wanted to go. So sorry to hear that you aee having some down days-and it is funny really as you say, we know all the right things that we should do and don’t. You are such an inspiration to so many people including me and feel lucky to have met you, even though so briefly. We are back in Canada now and can’t wait to return to Cuenca. Be well!

    • Kelly,
      Great to hear from you. Hopefully Canada is starting to warm up. Things will be better soon. I am heading back to the states for a month so I will get all filled up with family love and hugs. It funny how hard retirement is to get used to. I can’t beleive I miss working. Thanks for the nice words. See you when you are back in Cuenca.


      • Kelly says:

        What I found was that my self esteem had been very intertwined with my business success and really went through a low time when I left. We all need to feel we are accomplishing something- it has been drilled into us for years. The more you have been achieving the bigger the let down I eventually got serious about my passion which is art and now never have enough time to paint ss much as I would like and have found other ways to feel good about myself. Take care of your wonderful self George. xoxo

        • Kelly, I think you hit on one of the big things that I am adjusting to. Having a purpose is critical for me. Thank god I don’t drink anymore. It would be so easy to just move to the beach and at noon each day start sipping on vodka tonics. Not a bad way to go I guess, just not my way.

          Looks like I will build a house this year and write a book. That should keep me busy.

          Stay well my friend,


  10. Sheilla says:

    Hey George! Love the pics of the Galapagos trip! That one is on my bucket list and my three kids want to visit there too. Hope we can find one of those good deals for all of us. We’ll be arriving in Cuenca on May 1 and hope you’ll be back from California shortly after our arrival. I’m sure our first month will be as you described in your story but we’re still very excited, espcially since we have rented an apartment! See you soon!

    • Sheilla, how exciting that you are only a month away from arriving here in Cuenca. Don’t worry about the first month. You will be way to busy playing house. That took us 3 months. I am thinking anxiety sets in as adjustments are made and once you find that comfort zone they go away. Once you are settled and ready to see the Galapagos, just ask me and I will find you a great deal.


  11. Toni Tucker says:

    Thank you for writing my favorite blog Your Galapagos photos are beautiful! My husband , Mac, and I would like to visit Cuenca soon with an eye toward retiring there. Of course, we would love to meet you and stay at your tour guide friend’s bed and breakfast. We were hoping some time in June would be good. I wish you much health and happiness. Hugs to you, Chad and Missy.

    • Toni,
      You are very sweet and please let me know if you need any help. Email me or just put your questions here on the blog so everyone can learn new stuff. Casa Ordonez is the bed and breakfast you are talking about and the owners name is Alberto. He is the best.

      Thanks for reading the blog. I really appreciate it.


  12. sandy says:

    hi george, i am a newby to your blog and loving it! can relate to the blues. financial crap can get you down. needed your message today! have emailed it to my hubby. and the music you come up with is fun..

    • Thank you Sandy.
      The blues don’t get me too often. I have had an exceptional lucky life and there is never a day that goes by that I am not grateful. But once in a while, things out of my control sometimes disappoint me. Nothing I can really do about it other than embrace it, even if I don’t like it.

      With everything that is good in this world, how could any of us be anything but happy.


  13. Dena Jo says:

    Great photos. I love seeing those animals peacefully coexisting with us humans. It warmed my heart.

    • Dena, it was pretty amazing. There were so many sea lions on the beach, some were sitting on the park benches. Penguins were playing and giant pelicans diving into the water for food while people were swimming and playing.

      I was hypnotized by all the goings on and just sat there for hours watching.

      Lot of fun.


  14. Nicole says:

    Hi George ,
    I very much enjoy reading your blog. It is very clear,interesting and easy to read. I especially love your total honesty. It makes me feel connected to you.

    • Nicole,
      We are connected, at least that is what Albert Einstein thought.

      “A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness.

      This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security.”

      I believe we are all connected. We just need to open our minds a little bit more and embrace that idea.

      Thanks for the nice comment and thanks for reading.

  15. monica says:

    Way to kick some rut butt George! Thanks for the great post and tips for the Galapagos trip. I’m planning a trip for mi esposo and a few friends. We might take a slightly longer trip of 6 nights 7 days. Besides seeing the amazing wildlife on the islands we will want to snorkel and be in the water for some of the time. Is that possible on this econo trip? Does 6 nights sound too long for this particular trip? Thanks for any advice you will share.

    • Monica,
      Sounds like a great plan. I would plan a for a week. Maybe 3 islands. I heard there is good diving on all the islands, just need to get away from the tourist areas. Your price will probably double per person. Good luck and thanks for the nice comments.


  16. Craig says:

    Great Post George!

    • Welcome back Craig,
      Hope dad is doing well. Look forward to seeing you guys in the next week or two. Big changes for us this year with all the traveling and a few other things. Gotta love it.

      Hasta pronto


  17. Jimbolai says:

    Hi George and thanks for that Galapagos report. Just what I was looking for. I will be in EC in a few weeks and have a question for you. A friend has a sailing boat and he is coming, maybe we come together, on his boat. Can one find a slip in the Galapagos and visit the place under or own sail or is it tours only.

    thanks again for that excellent story.

    • George says:


      Unless you make (very expensive) prior arrangements for a special permit, and carry a licensed guide aboard, private yachts may only anchor at these five inhabited ports.
      Isla San Cristobal: Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (Wreck Bay)
      Isla Santa Cruz: Puerto Ayora (Academy Bay)
      Isla Isabela: Puerto Villamil
      Isla Baltra: Puerto Seymour
      Isla Santa Maria (Floreana): Puerto Ibarra
      Trips to other islands must be done by charter, with a licensed guide.

      I hope this helps.


  18. Martin Cohen says:

    Hi George,

    I was disappointed that Sam and I did not get a chance to meet you in early March when we were in Cuenca and staying at the Casa Ordonez. But, glad we had a chance to talk on the phone. It was the morning of the day you were leaving for the Galapagos. Sounds like your group had a wonderful trip. I would have chosen the sea lion over me any day!
    Our trip to Ecuador and Cuenca sealed the deal for us. It’s true, Cuenca is amazing – Tutto Freddo and all! And, thanks for your earlier blog mentioning the Casa Ordonez. It is charming and as you know, Alberto is the best host. Now, we are busy getting all of our documents in order to apply for permanent residency ahead of an August move. Then, a trip to the Galapagos. Want to go again?… Marty

    • Marty,
      So sorry the timing was bad. Alberto calls me all the time to come over and meet some of the guests. He is the best inn keeper. We did have a great time in the Galápagos. Once you are living here I will help you get a great deal on your own adventure.

      Good luck with all that paperwork. It will all be worth it when you get here.

      Travel safe…George

  19. Larry says:

    Enjoyed reading about your trip and seeing the great pictures that went with it. Thanks for the pick me up quotes at the end, we all need that from time to time. Take care George, until next time, hasta luego amigo.

  20. Mary A says:

    Wow… I’m impressed. With the Galapagos, TWO homes…. don’t get stretched out like Plastic Man (old comic book!)
    Take care and say Hi from Krashdragon to Froggie Donna next time you see her and Stu.

    • Hello Mary,
      I love to travel. If I could, I would probably travel more. And lucky for me the home in California is paid off so only taxes and insurance need to be paid.

      I am a very lucky and grateful man.

      I’ll tell Froggy you said hi.


  21. Pattie says:

    Appreciate all your traveling tips George and look forward to visiting some of the same places. Are you planning on dividing your time between Equador and California ?

    • Pattie,
      For the next year I will be going back and forth…2 months in Ecuador then 2 weeks in California, then back to Ecuador for another 2 months. I am only allowed to be out of the country for 90 days so this will be a challenge.


  22. Dolores says:

    Greetings, George!

    I am blessed to have stumbled upon your site and have been touched by the outpouring of friendship you give so freely to us all. I hope your month in CA is giving you just the infusion of family and purposeful work that you have been craving. Look forward to your updates!

    I am a San Francisco Bay Area native with a pointed question that I hope you may be able to help with. As a 60 year old single woman, I have hoped to retire to Cuenca, getting by on Social Security. Having just been diagnosed with MS, my question is: have you ever heard that a serious health condition or even disability may prevent a person from gaining residency in Ecuador?

    I will share with you that the diagnosis itself has been hard, but the possibility that it may have dashed my dream of retirement in Cuenca is quite wrenching.

    Thank you for any information you may have on this. And thank you for the kindness of spirit that comes through your posts. I’m certainly among those who look forward to further friendship with you, hopefully on the “tierra de Cuenca”.

    All the best,

    • Dear Dolores,

      Please join Ecuador Expats group on Facebook. This is the largest group on Facebook about
      Ecuador and they could help you a lot.

      I do know of a woman, about your age, who came here last year with walking difficulties. The sidewalks here are not great and most of the town is not wheelchair user friendly.

      Get as much info as you can before you make the move. Wish I could help more

      By the way, that woman I am talking about, she went back to the states after about a month.

      Best regards to you,


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