The Five Best Hikes in the Galápagos

Clouds cast dramatic shadows over a narrow peninsula with a tall triangular rock formation.

View from Pinnacle Rock on Bartolomé Island. Photo by Claudia H. licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Bring your walking shoes, because rocky trails in the Galápagos are not best tackled in sandals. There are trails along pristine beaches, through forests of cacti, and along unworldly blackened lava trails, offering close encounters with wildlife and sweeping views over the archipelago.

Santa Fé

This small island midway between Santa Cruz and San Cristóbal offers trails through a forest of opuntia cacti, which grow up to 10 meters high, with Galápagos hawks circling overhead. Negotiate the rocky trail, and cross a steep ravine to view colonies of the yellowish Santa Fé iguana, endemic to the island.

Frigate Bird Hill, San Cristóbal

This is just one of many good hikes close to the main ports. Past the Interpretation Center are trails into the hills where frigate birds nest. The bay below has good snorkeling, or go to Playa Cabo de Horno, a quiet beach frequented by sea lions and backed by mangroves.

Sullivan Bay, Santiago

On the east side of the island, the trail along this blackened lava flow is a glimpse of what the earth must have looked like at the dawn of time. An eruption in 1897 left the area covered in mesmerizing patterns of pahoehoe lava. It’s difficult to negotiate but a fascinating experience.

Bartolomé Island

This tiny island is the most photographed sight in the archipelago. A wooden staircase leads 114 meters up to a summit. In the foreground the mangroves are flanked on either side by twin half-moon beaches. Rising up behind is the famous Pinnacle Rock, a jagged lava formation. Descend to the short trail through mangroves between the two beaches, and cool off with some snorkeling with sea lions.

Sierra Negra, Isabela

By far the best trek is around this active volcano, the second-largest crater in the world. Take the short route to the fissure of lava cones at Volcano Chico, or hike longer into the yellow hills of the pungent Sulfur Mines.

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