The Galapagos Islands is an archipelago of about 19 islands and many smaller islets scattered 620 miles off Ecuador’s coast in the Pacific Ocean. Galapagos island served as the inspiration for Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and is a double World Heritage site for land and sea as both are protected. Ranging from barren black, volcanic rocks to fodder of white sand beaches melting into bijou-blue waters each island boasts its own unique landscape.

Going without a licensed guide to the Galapagos National Park Visits are not allowed. To get there, day trips to some of the islands from the main tourist hub of Puerto Ayora in Santa Cruz can be arranged, but the best way to see the more remote islands and wildlife in the Galapagos are by taking a cruise on a small yacht. The national park limits the size of boats to accommodate only 100 passengers, but when disembarked all at once, even 100 can overload a beach. Ideally, only small groups of about 16 to 32 passengers are catered by tour boats. There are viable travel companies that cater small cruises, including hiking trips, hotels, assorted sports tours, and several add-ons.

Boats often fully book during peak season so it’s best to reserve a spot at least a few months in advance. You’ll be lucky to find under the wire deals at extensive discounts at travel agencies in the Mariscal district of Quito, but this is quite risky with even finding an opening, or it will cost some time on a lower-quality ship.

Exploring Wildlife. Many species are unique to the Galapagos from its concealment and remoteness like seeing penguins, blue-footed boobies and albatross. You can even ask your boat tour operator to do shore landings as early as 5:50 a.m. so you can have quality time on the island minus the crowd.

Water Sports Adventure. Tons of water sports activities can be done while in Galapagos island. Take your pick if you want diving, snorkeling, kayaking or surfing. You can do diving at spots on Wolf and Darwin Islands, where you might encounter hammerhead sharks, whale sharks, and eagle rays. If you prefer snorkeling, no matter which island you pick to do so, you’ll likely be swimming together with sea lions and Pacific sea turtles. Excellent spots for snorkeling are Isla Lobos and Kicker Rock off of San Cristobal. Tortuga Bay in Santa Cruz is best for kayaking. No need for a guide as you can rent kayaks here. For surfing enthusiasts, you can rent boards in port towns like in Santa Cruz and San Cristobal.

Scout for Hiking. You can follow the trek along the perimeter of one of the archipelago’s active volcanoes over dried lava beds or move into the highlands to witness a variety of vegetation. It’s best to scout around the world’s second largest crater Sierra Negra on Isabela, the biggest island which has 6 volcanoes.