July 26th, 2015 por Isabel Correia
I usually use Trip Advisor to help me find places to stay and visit. Therefore I followed the same routine, and I am glad I did because everything I read there was absolutely of great help. Nonetheless, a few things are not very clear there, and this is important to decide upon your vacation, in particular, if your time is tight and your budget is short. Yes, the Galapagos are very expensive, from places to stay and eat to any tour taken there. So, be prepared, because one must consider what to do and take enough money to spend. By the way, credit cards are of little use as hardly any place accepts them, not to mention there are very few bank machines.
So, let me start which islands to be visited. Flying in is only possible to Baltra or San Cristobal. I opted to fly into the first as it seemed closer to the where most places I wanted to visit were and, I only had five days. I had decided to visit Puerto Ayora and vicinities in the island of Santa Cruz (two and half days) and Puerto Villamil in the island of Isabela (two and half days). By the way, human life only exists in fours islands: Santa Cruz (the more developed), Isabela (the biggest of the islands), San Cristobal and Floreana (I did not visit the two). There are at least three companies that do this from Guayaquil where I was lecturing, but most flights depart from Quito with a stopover in this city. The companies are: TAME, LAN and AirGalapagos. There are several flights a day and the price (in and out) is around US$ 450.
Looking up for hotels was a bit more complicated as in both islands I was going to stay (this also applies to the others, from what I was told) there are mostly hostals and of poor quality. There are very few I would call mild luxury hotels, such as the Fynch Bay Hotel (and this, only if one is willing to pay over US$350 a day) and very few comfortable ones. After having checked and read about all the places, I decided to stay at the Santa Fé hotel which is a family run business. The owners live in the front house and the hotel rooms are in the back, around a small patio pool. There is air conditioning in the rooms, which are small, but have TV, frigobar and a bathroom with a shower. If you prefer not to use the air conditioning, you may leave the windows open because there are nets protecting you from insects. The hotel is clean (although, I hated the air spray in the toilet and turned it off. This definitely helped me a lot) and comfortable enough for the purpose and towels are available to be taken to the beach. But, cross your fingers none of your neighbor guests gets sick (either from food poisoning or high alcohol intake) because you are going to hear everything, as silence prevails except the few dog barks in the front house. Breakfast is reasonable and served after 6:30. The employees are nice. The price per double room is US $ 90/day, including Wifi (very, very, very slow, though. But this is a problem experienced everywhere, as the internet only arrived at the archipelago less than a year ago. Besides, why does one need the internet in such place??). One more thing, it is well located at a walking distance to real downtown where most restaurants and also the tour business places are. In summary, I recommend the hotel, but again, this is probably a two-star hotel, only. They only accept cash.
In Puerto Villamil, there is only a mild luxury hotel, which is the Iguana Crossing, also with prices over US$350. I stayed at the Drake Inn, also known as Casa Cuvi. This is important to state, because when we arrived at the island and hopped in the taxi, the driver did not know the hotel. He dropped us at the main square where we asked for directions at a tour agency that did not know the hotel either. Only after a while and several inquiries were we told where the hotel was, which was walking distance from where we were, as this is a really small village. The Drake Inn is a big front house, not really used as a hotel (except for special situations) and a back building with four rooms on the first floor and another one down, that had a partial view of the ocean and beach, as well as to the swamp. The bathrooms are small with showers that are difficult to control the temperature of the water if you are like I am and needs a hot shower, even if it’s damn hot outside. Also, the shower does not run much water and by the way, talking of water, this is a bit salty in the whole archipelago, so do not count on having that great shower over there. The very small rooms also have air conditioning, which I did not turn on at all, as there was always a breeze in the evening, and the temperature was ok for me. The windows also have nets. Here, there is no TV and no frigobar in the rooms. Breakfast was served in the front house, and I had to indicate, in the previous evening, at what time I wanted to have it. Dani, the landlord or the person in charge of the hotel is a very nice young man from Quito always willing to please and provide the best information, is also the breakfast cook. The hotel is right in front of the beach, and one can walk hours without seeing no one. It’s near the turtle and the flamingo center and on the way to the tears wall (an old-time prison place) you can either reach on foot or by bike. The price was the same I paid in Puerto Ayora and the payment had to be done when I made the reservation using Paypal.
In terms of places to visit, one can find much information on the internet, mainly on Tripadvisor, but I will summarize my experiences in the next session.