Three things I’d recommend to a friend:
Stay at the Galapagos Habitat by Eco Luxury Group in Puerto Ayora
The hotel is literally, as well as figuratively, green. Surrounded by mangroves and home to brown pelicans, sea lions, marine iguanas, and much more, it even has a special deck set aside for the wildlife to use. And believe me they do!
The Galapagos Habitat is quite ecology-minded which means there’s no single-use plastic products, they encourage reduced consumption of air conditioning and electricity, and no toilet paper gets flushed. There’s fresh, filtered water for your reusable bottles in the lobby, a box for sandy shoes outside each room, and free treats in your refrigerator-an interesting medley of the popular Tango Clasico cookies, Doritos, coke, and Pilsner beer. Conveniently located within walking distance of the shops and restaurants, free bikes are provided for guests who want to venture even further to use. Judie and I found the staff eager to welcome us and full of helpful ideas and anecdotes. The hotel was extremely Covid-conscious and the staff were masked at all times, things were always being thoroughly cleaned, and indoor and outdoor tables were safely distanced. Rather than making us feel awkward or uncomfortable, this made us feel like we could finally really relax.
Ask for the Cristobel Room! With an unobstructed view of the ocean and wildlife from a small porch it was the perfect place to have my (delicious) morning coffee and write in my journal, allowing me to start each day off right. Breakfast was included with our rooms so I ordered something different each day. I tried fresh mango and passion fruit juice for the first time and liked them both.
Two awesome outings
Everything we did was new and exciting, but these are activities that really resonated with me in Santa Cruz.
One morning, after our daily assurance of yet another beautiful day, the three of us hopped on a water taxi and headed across the bay to a dock at the Angermeyer Waterfront Inn. According to Sebastian, the Angermeyer family, has a long history in Puerto Ayora. Intrigued by the tales of Charles Darwin and other seafaring folk, Gus Angermeyer and his two brothers left Nazi Germany for Santa Cruz in the 1930’s. Building their homes from lava rocks and wood, the only materials available on the desolate islands, they found life in the Galapagos to be exactly what they needed. The family lived harmoniously with nature, eventually sharing the beauty and peace of the area with hotel guests. You can see one of the old lava rock homes from the front patio of Angermeyer Point, the restaurant we had a delicious lunch at later in the day.
But first we had a hike to take! Here I’d like to quickly interject that the three smartest things I packed for this trip were my large stainless steel Yetti water bottle, my Thule backpack, and my Merrell hiking sneakers. I appreciated them more than ever once we left the sandy beach, wandered through some mangroves and assorted fauna and flora, passed salt lagoons, and began our somewhat treacherous ascent over sharp, uneven black rocks toward Las Grietas, the volcanic cliffs. Sebastian assured us that the view at the top, followed by a swim, would be totally worth it. As usual, he was right!
Loosely translated, Las Grietas means “the cliffs of the crevices”. It’s best described as a Wizard of Oz emerald green stretch of water fed underground by a river at one end and ocean water at the other and framed by volcanic crevices formed during the cooling of molten lava. The mixture of fresh and saltwater makes for a nice temperature (no wetsuit needed!) and a refreshing swim. Luckily, the swimming area is regulated by park rangers who have you sign up for slots so it didn’t feel like we were all on top of each other. Like a magician, Sebastian pulled masks and snorkels out of his pack so we could explore underwater. Being surrounded by the colorful fish was incredibly relaxing and we even got to float around with a group of giant sardines. I never knew these briny little fish came in more than one size!
My other favorite activity required much less effort to get to. About a five-minute walk from the Galapagos Habitat is the Charles Darwin Research Center, the Galapagos National Park’s headquarters, and a Tortoise Breeding Center. I can’t imagine visiting the Archipelago without trying to learn more about Darwin’s journey than that he studied finches.
Entering the park, you follow interpretive signs that explain the geology, history, climate, and threats and conservation efforts in the Galapagos Islands. The information is presented in a way that makes it less like book learning and more like a conversation with an interesting person. Additionally, many of the panels had pithy, inspirational quotes on them, like this one.
Fun Fact: Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln were “birthday twins”, born on the exact same day in the same month in the same year.