Sign up for a Boat Cruise
There are 19 main Islands scattered amongst 20,000 square miles of ocean, so a cruise is by far the most popular style of excursion. Most of these trips include a skilled naturalist guide, and the boats are equipped with cabins. The long ocean traverses are often completed at night, so the days are left for hiking and exploring the unique geography and fauna of the various islands. Most people book their cruises before they arrive in Equador, but it is also very easy to book trips in Quito or Santa Cruz. Booking a boat in Santa Cruz allows the option of spending a few days on the very interesting main island, but the availability of good boats can be somewhat limited. The many cruise companies offer a wide variety of packages, so do lots of research before you book the trip. A minimum of seven or eight is best if you want to see the main attractions.
Scuba Diving and Snorkeling
Commercial fishing is strictly regulated near the islands, so the ocean is filled with a wide variety of rare species. Large hammerhead sharks, whales, marine iguanas, turtles and many species of rays are common sights. This area has been consistently rated as one of the best diving areas in the world, and there are many options for excursions. The water is a bit chilly, so cold weather gear is advised.
Some adventurous outfitters offer land-based packages that include staying in local hotels and using mountain bikes, horses and sea kayaks to explore the local terrain. These packages usually include speed boat day trips to other islands, and a variety of entertainment. This option is usually cheaper than a cruise and helps the local economy a lot more than staying on a boat that may be foreign-owned. It can also be a great way to meet the locals, and enjoy the culture.