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Darwin's Islands & Colonial Quito

Darwin's Islands & Colonial Quito

At a glance

Duration: 9 Days, 8 Nights

Coverage: Roundtrip Quito, Ecuador

From: $8,545

Season: February - October

Activities: Birding, Hiking, Natural history, Photography, Sightseeing

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Un-Cruise Adventures

Darwin’s discoveries in the Galápagos had a profound impact on the way we understand the world. From Ecuador’s northern highlands to a yacht cruise among these notable islands—adventure, culture, wildlife, and discovery awaits you.


  • Set foot on seven islands and islets
  • Nesting birds and wildlife in their natural habitat
  • View marine life by snorkel and glass-bottom boat
  • Charles Darwin Research Center
  • Certified guides escort small groups of 12
  • Roundtrip air between Quito/Galápagos
  • Alcoholic beverages on La Pinta

Day-to-Day Itinerary

Day 1 - Quito / Arrival

Welcome to Ecuador! Begin your journey in this historic city rich in legends and culture. Your first stop is the grand Casa Gangotena*, voted the #1 Hotel in Ecuador by TripAdvisor and where you will stay these first two nights. A gorgeous example of Spanish Colonial style, enjoy this restored boutique hotel just steps away from picturesque Plaza de San Francisco, built atop Incan temples and markets.

Day 2 - Quito

Once called the Northern Capital of the Inca Empire, the capital city of Quito has long been a center of commerce and culture. The city’s growth after Spanish took over in 1534 included the building of many outstanding convents, monasteries and churches, earning Quito the title, “Capital of Art of Spanish America.” Discover why the city’s exquisitely preserved historic center is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site—departing from your hotel, a walking tour explores its past, present, and future. With time on your own in the afternoon, opt for a visit to the fascinating pre-Columbian, Museo Casa del Alabado or explore the cultural center at leisure. Your full day of exploration ends at a local restaurant with sunset views overlooking the city.

Day 3 - Quito / Isla Baltra – Embarkation / Isla Seymour Norte

On this morning, travel to the second UNESCO World Heritage Site on your itinerary: the legendary Galápagos Islands. From Quito, fly to Isla Baltra where your captain and crew welcome you aboard Yacht La Pinta. As Charles Darwin certainly was in 1835, you’ll be awed by the unique beauty of the islands as you take your first exploratory steps on Isla Seymour Norte—home to Blue-footed boobies and Magnificent Frigatebirds. Formed by volcanic uplift, the small island of scruffy vegetation is ideal nesting terrain. Get an up-close view of these birds’ quirky characteristics by hike and panga ride.

Day 4 - Isla Isabela / Isla Fernandina

Explore Punta Vicente Roca, a marine site of impressive geological formations, by panga—your guide helps with decoding the visible clues of the islands’ fiery beginnings. Beyond the geology, spy winged residents including Blue-footed boobies and flightless cormorants. The wildly rocky coast with a partially sunken cave provides phenomenal conditions for a menagerie of fish and green sea turtles. If conditions allow, don your mask, fins, and snorkel and dive in for a close-up view! Later, stretch your legs on a guided walk experiencing one of the most pristine islands in the Galápagos, Isla Fernandina. The island’s active volcano erupted as recently as 2009. Thousands of bright land iguanas reside here, and it’s also a favorite haunt of Galápagos penguins.

Day 5 - Isla Isabela

Large in landmass and young at 1 million years old, Isla Isabela supports abundant wildlife and sea life. An Urbina Bay shore walk reveals large, colorful land iguanas and perhaps giant tortoises. Crossing from Urbina Bay to Tagus Cove, scan the water for whales and dolphins that frequent Bolívar Channel from one of La Pinta’s spacious decks. At Tagus Cove—an otherworldly landscape of eroded tuff cones—there’s a chance to snorkel, kayak, or ride a panga before hiking the backside of Darwin Crater to a saltwater lake. There’ll be excellent opportunities for viewing penguins, Galápagos Hawks, cormorants, petrified rain (bits of lava that cooled quickly after contacting water), and old signatures from pirates and whalers etched into the rock.

Day 6 - Isla Rábida / Isla Santa Cruz

Isla Rábida’s unusual red beach is a favorite sunbathing spot for sea lions and marine iguanas. Go eye-to-eye with Blue-footed and Nazca Boobies, Yellow Warblers, several species of Darwin’s Finches, and pelicans. The warm maroon-colored beach also makes a great jumping in spot for from-the-beach snorkeling. Or keep your eyes above the waterline, inspecting marine life from the glass-bottom boat. You’ll have a birds-eye view from Isla Santa Cruz hiking Cerro Dragón—or, Dragon Hill—and enjoy a well-earned panorama of the western islands, the bay below you, and possibly even lounging land iguanas.

Day 7 - Isla Santa Cruz

Today, it’s all about the magnificent giant tortoise. Touring the Charles Darwin Research Station, you’ll witness the exceptional conservation program where baby tortoises, “galapaguitos,” are reared in protective captivity until they are old enough to safely repatriate back to their native areas. Embrace Galápagos conservation by learning about threats that still endanger this fragile ecosystem. After a lingering poolside lunch at the Finch Bay Eco Hotel (bring your swimsuit just in case), explore the misty, forested highlands and see the lumbering and charming tortoises in their natural habitat. You’ll also have a chance to walk inside the island’s famed lava tubes for a geological exploration of these remarkable volcanic channels.

Day 8 - Isla Floreana

Your day will be chock-full of adventure, with opportunities to snorkel, hike, kayak, skiff, ride the glass-bottom boat, or simply relax on the beach. Send a note home from Post Office Bay, dropping your postcard in Isla Floreana’s famous, historic barrel mailbox. Then take in the island’s geologic history with a panga ride or kayak investigation of its maze of volcanic channels. A stop at Baroness Viewpoint provides the perfect vantage for a photo-op. A tale of two beaches, walk along the green olivine beach of Punta Cormorant to a brackish lagoon known to be a flamingo hideout, then on to a white-sand beach where green sea turtles come ashore to rest at night.

Day 9 - Isla Baltra / Quito – Disembarkation

Your adventure of a lifetime aboard La Pinta concludes on Isla Baltra. From here, transfer to the airport for your flight to Quito and await your connecting flight home. If you’ve opted for the Peru/Machu Picchu Extension, you’ll disembark en route during a short stop in Guayaquil.

*Casa Gangotena: hotel bedding will either be two double beds or one king bed

A passport is required on this itinerary. Due to the nature of our explorations, itineraries are guidelines and will change in order to maximize wildlife and natural encounters. Variations in itinerary and the order of days may occur.

Dates & Rates

Dates Captain Admiral Single
Feb 21, 2018 $8,545 $8,995 $14,954
Apr 4, 2018 $8,545 $8,995 $14,954
Apr 18, 2018 $8,545 $8,995 $14,954
May 2, 2018 $8,545 $8,995 $14,954
Jun 27, 2018 $8,545 $8,995 $14,954


Darwin's Islands & Colonial Quito Itinerary Map


La Pinta

La PintaAn elegant 48-guest yacht, La Pinta is the physical creation of many combined dreams shared by captains and crew, guides, and guests over the years. This beautiful yacht features spacious staterooms with floor-to-ceiling windows and sophisticated yet relaxed decks and lounges with unencumbered views. View ship details...