The Galápagos – What I’ve learn from going to the Galapagos on a budget (And what I’ve learnt from sea lions) [The Americas – #chronicles 2022]

Below there’s a description of my time at the Galapagos but also some tips about doing it on a budget.

I mainly based my research on this incredible blog: (thank you Ines and Chris! Your information was precious) and then figured out my own way when I got to the islands)


  • you really don’t have to do all those ridiculously expensive tours to see (and swim!) with animals. Manage your money wisely
  • The best islands to see sharks are Wolf and Darwin, so if that’s the purpose of your trip, go on a cruise (and prepare to pay)
  • If it’s sea lions, San Cristobal is the perfect choice
  • You can see Iguanas and turtles in Santa Cruz, Isabela and San Cristobal
  • There are “semi affordable” places to sleep, (£15-£20 a night)
  • There are “meal deals”, where you pay $5 for a soup + a main meal. And it’s good!!
  • Groceries are expensive because they import everything. I ate a lot of fruit only during the day and meal deals for dinner.
  • For the love of whatever you find precious, buy sunscreen in another country and bring a couple of bottles with you.
  • From sea lions I’ve learnt:
    • you can be stupid stinky, as long as you’re cute, playful and goofy, people will still love you.
    • Also, naps, cuddles, scrubby scrubs and nose bumps. I’ve learnt that naps are great, cuddles a requirement and little scrubs and nose bumps are cute!

Santa Cruz Island

As soon as I got to Santa Cruz, I went for a walk and then to shop around for a couple of tours that I might be able to afford

I ended up going to the Darwin centre and saw marine iguanas for the first time at the research centre. You can do this for free but can also pay $10 to access a limited area of the centre and see tortoises.

I decided to book the Santa Fe tour, where I swam with sea lions for the first time and saw my first turtle as well. The journey to the island and back was really rough, and a lot of people on the boat got very ill. Never before have I been so thankful for sea sickness medication.

On my last day in Santa Cruz I felt quite ill, as if I had a cold, and had to stay the morning in bed. However, I did manage to get our of the room in the afternoon and went to tortuga bay which ended up being a really good relaxing day, and just what I needed.

That evening I met Stephan at the hostel and we ended up travelling together for the rest of those 2 weeks at the Galapagos, as we were doing the same route.


On the day I left for Isabela Island, I felt a bit under the weather but thought it was just seasickness. After I got to Isabela, and around 6 hours later, I start getting all the symptoms of food poisoning. After over 24th of throwing up etc. and not being able to keep food (or water!) down, I dragged myself to the (only) very small clinic on the island where I had to stay for around 4 hours on IV fluids and antibiotics.

I ended up missing out of my Los Tunneles Tour and had to stay in bed for the rest of the day.

Next day i tried to do Vulcano tour I had previously booked but unfortunately was only able to do half of it as I was still because I was still very weak from the entire food poisoning kerfuffle.

The next day I finally felt a lot better and decided to rent a bike to go to the Wall of Tears, which is a good trail where you can see a lot of tortoises in the wild. Seeing tortoises in the wild has always been a dream of mine, so this day was absolutely incredible to me. A dream come true.

San Cristobal

After 4 days at Isabela, Stephan and I took the boat to San Cristobal (with a stop at sta Cruz). Adding to the food poisoning lingering tiredness and the antibiotics, I decided to add a few doses of seasickness medication, so I was pretty much out of it for the majority of the day.

San Cristobal greeted us with radiant sun and sea lions. The weather was amazing throughout my 5 days there and I’m super thankful this was the island I decided to spend the longest time.

During the first day did we went to the Interpretation Centre and did the trail to Cerro Tigereras. We learnt a bit more about the history of the Galapagos and swam with turtles, sea lions. ❤ We ended the day at the beach and honestly… this was simply a perfect day.

During the second day we went to La Liberia beach. The walk there was torturous (in the baking sun), so I’d recommend you take a cab. It’s like, $3. The beach was ok, we swam with loads of turtles, but it was too touristy for me, specially in the morning when all the tours go there. If you’re still considering going, I’d recommend you go at lunch time, it was quite empty from 12:30pm – 3pm.

On the 3rd day we did the Kicker Rock tour and I saw sharks for the first time (from afar, but still). This tour made me realise that I really want to do my diving certification so that I can dive more often and see a lot more animals at a closer distance.

Everything about San Cristobal was incredible. The weather, the tours, the beaches, the animals.

After being ill and getting pretty bad weather on the other islands, I’m very thankful for the beautiful time I had in San Cristobal.

The Galapagos was not originally in my travelling plans, but during my first 2 months a lot of people recommended I try to find the money in my budget to do it, because it was worth it.

So I did. And it was worth it. Every minute of it (Expect for those 48 hours of severe food poisoning lol)

To the people I met at the Galapagos:

– Thank you to Paul for the endless hours of chit chats and for being an inspiration when it comes to travelling at a later time in life. It’s refreshing to see someone enjoying every single minute they have, in the best way they can, despite their age.

– To Kath: You are an absolute legend. Your life story is so inspiring and I feel really privileged that you have shared a little bit of it with me. Thank you for trusting me. I know that whatever you decide is next for you, it will be the right thing. And until then…. Keep on going for unplanned underwear dips in the sea =p

To Stephan: A big big thank you for being the best Galapagos travel companion someone could ask for. Your endless patience and filming skills absolutely made my days when Thank you for accompanying me to all the ice cream shops.

Published by Mariana Vieira da Rocha

"I think it's perfectly acceptable and rather admirable to be moderately delusional"

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