This board was so valuable in planning my trip that I thought I'd write up some details to hopefully help others. There is always talk about land based vs cruise. I did both. And I can say unequivocally I saw much more on the cruise.
I'm 55, traveled solo as I do on most trips. That said, the world is full of friends I haven't met yet and I met many more friends this trip and was rarely really alone.
I stayed at Hostal Espana for 3 nights prior to my cruise. Basic, barebones hotel. Didn't return to it after my cruise.
To and From The Airport
This is anxiety producing when you read about it. bus/ferry/bus or taxi ....but in reality it was quite easy. Everyone is going where you are going. LOL
I used the bus once since the times were in line with my travel plans. On my initial arrival to Santa Cruz Island I took a taxi $25. He offered to take me to 3 sites on the way and in the highlands for an extra $35. I did it. English is not widely spoken and luckily my high school spanish worked. :)
I saw Los Gemellos, walked through one of the lava tunnels and went to one of the two Nature parks. It was great and well worth the $35.
I visited the Darwin center that afternoon not realizing/remembering I'd be there with Nemo II in a few days. But without a guide I missed alot and didn't get the commentary a guide provides. Did visit the two beaches briefly that are within the Darwin area.
You really need to shop around for day tours. Prices do vary. Unfortunately you really don't know what you're getting until you're on the boat. People who used online booking before they arrived seemed to have paid the most. It pays to wait to get your tours when you arrive. There are so many small boats doing them.
I did a day tour to Floreana. Really enjoyed myself, became friendly with 5 others and we all had dinner that night together. This boat was well organized, good guide. Lunch provided very good. We were supposed to snorkel at a beach but no fins or life vests provided. The surf was pretty rough and no way was I going in there without fins/lifevest. But I did enjoy my day and saw lots of wildlife. The travel time really cuts into the day. For Floreana it was @ 1.5 hours there and back. I never get sea sick but there were those affected by the motion of the small boats so plan accordingly.
The next day I did a day tour to south part of Isabella Island. This boat was not so organized as the day before. Lunch was included again and very good. Saw many great things and enjoyed it very much. Snorkelling here provided the snorkel gear, fins and life vests and it was in an area where it was pretty calm. The only downside is the travel time; 2.5 hours to get to the island.
Eating in Puerto Ayora
Los Kioskos is the only place I ate dinner each night before the cruise. I loved it that much. The street atmosphere, fresh seafood. Loved it!
Nemo II Catamaran Northwest route 8 days
Having experienced the day tours, boarding the catamaran was like a different world. We were SO ACTIVE and did and saw so much. I'm glad I did both to have the comparison but if I were to do it again, I'd book both a Northbound AND Southbound cruise back to back.
The Nemo II was fantastic! I submitted a review to TA. I traveled solo and booked knowing I would be paired with a room mate. When I arrived I had a solo cabin. :) There were 12 people (out of max 14) on our sailing. The catamaran was beautiful! Very clean, well maintained. The crew are what makes a sailing and these guys were excellent. Captain Antonio, Jario our guide, Raul our bartender, Jimmy the chef. The food was excellent and varied and plentiful.
Our daily schedule was something like this:
You go to bed tired. It's VERY active. I loved it. Everyone used the wetsuits. The water was chilly if you did not. Snorkelling with sharks, penguins, sea lions, sea turles was amazing. The colorful fish were beautiful! We saw so many birds, sea lions, owls, blue and red footed boobies, great and magnificent egrets, tortoises, marine iguanas.........and so on. Just incredible wildlife photo opportunites.
Was so sad to leave the catamaran. Most of the boatmates and I were staying on again in Puerto Ayora. So we met up for dinner my final two nights.
I booked Estrella de Mar hotel for my final two nights. Cost more than Espana but so worth it for the view alone. I booked an ocean view room and had a corner room with two sides of windows which had ocean views. The balcony was one long shared balcony and had chairs. I heard the waves every night. Most say you don't spend alot of time in your room and this is true. But I was so tired from my week on Nemo II I actually enjoyed my room and view more.
I visited Lago de las Ninfas one afternoon. Pleasant boardwalk through mangrove forest around a brackish lake. Was nice.
My final full day in the Galapagos I walked to Tortuga Bay...ALL THE WAY to Playa Mansa. It was, for me, a 50 minute walk ONE WAY from the entrance to the park where you sign in. It was hot. Bring LOTS of water. Playa Brava is what you arrive to first after walking through the cactus groves. It was GORGEOUS but red flags and signs marked it as dangerous to swim because of currents and waves. I continued on to where I knew I'd find the glorious, calm bay of Playa Mansa. It was just beautiful. I got there very early, not many people. just sat in the calm water watching marine iguanas swim past. After about an hour and a half, I began my trek back. It was very difficult with the strength of the sun. I just don't tolerate heat that well. Everyone else seemed fine. When I arrived back to the entrance I said in the guard room and just drank lots of water and bought a cold gatorade type drink. I spent the rest of that afternoon resting since it really dehydrated me and I got a bit of a headache. There IS a $10 boat that can take you each way to the beach from the main pier in town but I was determined to walk it if it killed me. LOL
My final night was dinner with 4 other boatmates at La Garrapata. Good food; cost a little more than Los Kioskos.
The next morning I took the bus to the ferry terminal, making my way back tothe airport for my flight back to Guyaquil. My flight back to the states was not until close to midnight so I had many, many hours to kill. I booked ahead of time a private tour with Edoardo Menenses of Guyaquil - A Guided Visit. I spent 5.5 amazing hours with him. My favorite was the cocoa farm which included a delicious lunch. I had real hot cocoa made from fresh roasted, ground cocoa beans! His passsion for his city is so clear.
It was a lovely end to an epic vacation. Any questions I'd be happy to help if I can!