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By No owner — last modified Aug 16, 2018 07:23 AM

 Galapagos - Profile


  • The Galapagos are known the world over for their tame and unique wildlife, sea lions, birds and iguanas, living amidst a barren volcanic scenery. Made famous by Charles Darwin who visited the archipelago with the ship “Beagle” in 1835, the Islands are today a national park, listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
  • The islands are volcanic and some of the volcanoes are still active. The highest peak is the volcano Wolf, some 1707 metres above sea level. The vegetation is sparse.
  • The archipelago consists of 13 main islands and 6 smaller isles.
  • The islands are one of the 20 provinces of Ecuador and the Ecuadorian authorities take their custody of this wildlife sanctuary seriously. This is the reason for the difficulty for yachts to get permission to cruise these islands. In the past some yachtsmen have abused the privilege, by stealing eggs, shooting birds and causing destruction of the environment.
  • Formalities requirements here change on a daily basis, and the bureaucracy and inconsistent application of rules has got worse, not better, making the situation confronting visiting yachts very confusing. Much depends on the day and the person one encounters.
  • Noonsite endevours to post details of the latest known situation. See Formalities for further details.
  • To visit more than one island, an autographo is required. Due to the complications of obtaining an autographo, many cruisers choose instead to take the simpler solution and visit other islands as a passenger on a local excursion boat on a chosen itinerary.
  • The authorities are very pedantic about the hull being totally clear of any marine growth. You will be inspected on arrival.
  • The islands have a very strict waste management and disposal system, put in place by the WWF. To be sure you are properly preparing en-route any recyclable waste for disposal in the Galapagos, read this article before departing on passage.
  • Getting work done: Basic repair work available to a do-it-yourself standard. The chandlery on Puerto Ayora is probably better than you would expect. No marine specialist, but very resourceful electricians, fibreglassers, welders and a metal machinist. A shoemaker also does sail repair.
  • Provisioning: Supermarkets on Puerto Ayora have everything you would want and given its remoteness, prices are not bad (certainly better than French Polynesia so stock up). Fresh produce grown on the islands is plentiful and excellent quality. Getting stores back to the yacht can be troublesome here.


There have been several serious accidents in the Galapagos Islands involving boats operated by tour companies. You should ask about safety features before making a booking, and check that life boats and the life vests are provided before boarding. (advise from UK FCO).

The Galapagos Islands are generally safe and crime rates are low. Take general precautions, lock your yacht, and be aware of your surroundings.


The climate is equatorial, cooled by the Humboldt current. December to May is the better season when the weather is pleasantly warm and the winds are light. From June to November the weather is overcast and cool. The water around the islands is surprisingly cold and the meeting of the Humboldt current and the warm air sometimes causes mist over the islands. Occasionally the Humboldt current is replaced by the warm El Niño current, a phenomenon which can affect weather conditions throughout the South Pacific.

Galapagos Weather Forecast

Sailing Advisory Panama to Galapagos

A useful guide to South Pacific weather resources complied by a Noonsite contributor, Rory Garland.

Report on Eastern Pacific Offshore Waters Forecast.

For links to free global weather information, forecast services and extreme weather information see the Noonsite Weather Page

Main Ports


Isabela: Puerto Villamil

San Cristobal: Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (Wreck Bay) *

Santa Cruz: Puerto Ayora (Academy Bay) *

* indicates port of entry

Charles Ferault
Charles Ferault says:
Feb 25, 2019 05:41 PM

We spent a month and a half in Galapagos from jan 12th to feb 23rd.

We hired Javier Piua Rizzo from YachtGala as an agent and everything was perfect.
We paid about $2200 for the autografo, the extension above the 30 days limit and all the agency fees, government fees etc. Javier has an American, Equatorian and PayPal account which makes it really simple. All was payable upon arrival, no money to pay in advance.

We had to do the initial entry in Puerto Baquerizo on San Cristobal, were we met Carmela Romero, his agent on the island. She handled everything for us, and took care of the trash for free for the duration of our stay. Our fumigation certificate was outdated, but the guy in charge was nice enough to give us a new one without doing it for real, we still had to pay the extra $120, but the inside of the boat wasn't ruined.
The sanitary inspection is very weird, we had chia seeds in two bottles, one labeled "chia" and the other labeled "rice", and the first one was taken (obviously), but. they did not take the second one ! The bottom of the hull must be really really clean as well, a diver will check almost every squared centimetre of the boat. If you don't comply with this, you'll have to sail 40nm away (they check it on the AIS), and do it in open water (which is not really fun).

When we sailed from island to island, we always had the zarpes in less than 5 hours, which was really nice, and no problem at all when we arrived. All the security checks were handled by the local agent: Danny Bunenao on Santa Cruz and Steven on Isabela. The tarps were $15,75 for the clearance out and another 15,75 for the clearance in.
Yachtgala seems a bit overpriced compared to other agencies, but the service is worth it. Javier speaks perfect English if needed, and has very well done documents about everything important there: how to get fuel, were to anchor exactly, what to do and not to do etc. The rules there can be pretty strange, so those documents are more useful than what they look like !

They also organised some repairs on the boat with a carpenter and an electrician at no additional cost, and were always available whenever we had a problem or a question.

I would strongly recommend this agency if the extra money can be afforded.

Filip Makowski
Filip Makowski says:
Aug 16, 2018 06:39 AM

Based on recommendations here, we engaged Bolivar Pesantes as our agent in May 2018. Unfortunately we did not have a good experience.

As svblueeye noted, Bolivar told us that we needed an autographo as the one-port stop without autographo was no longer possible. He emailed us an itemised list of fees and we went ahead. An hour before arriving in San Cristobal at 11am we notified Bolivar of our impending arrival but had to wait til 3pm for his response which meant check-in with the officials the next day. Not a huge deal, but we know others had to wait a long time too. The biggest problems:
1. Bolivar overcharged us. When he asked us to pay the full amount (cash of course!) before the officials arrived, we didn’t have internet access to check against his emailed list of fees. When we did, we found he had overcharged us $170. Total $2095 instead of $1925, so already more expensive than any other agent we contacted. He also didn’t mention that we would need to pay an extra $200 when checking out of Isabela.
2. Bolivar did quote the fees that needed to be paid between the three islands of San Cristobal, Santa Cruz and Isabela but didn’t tell us we needed to get zarpes (clearances) when travelling between each island. Once we discovered the above overcharged amount, we emailed Bolivar to check whether this was was to cover the inter-island fees, but didn’t hear back. When his agent Ronny Sanchez came to our boat in Santa Cruz, we said as far as we knew we had sorted everything with Bolivar and didn't need to pay any more money. Again, Ronny did not mention the need for zarpes.

When we arrived in Isabela, the Port Captain said this had happened before - Bolivar overcharging yachties and failing to mention and complete the zarpe process. The Port Captain asked us to file a formal complaint, which we did.

We're still unsure as to whether or not the middle option at the top of this page is still possible, one-port stop without autographo. We will post an update if we hear back from the Port Captain, but while we have limited internet access we wanted to post our experiences of dealing with Bolivar. After discussing with other yachties over the past two months, we found that they had similar experiences but did not want to post here on noonsite. I know it doesn't feel nice to complain especially to contradict positive comments, but I'd encourage you to, so that our big community of sailors can find out about these things. We're "all in the same boat"!

Mike Milota
Mike Milota says:
Jul 27, 2018 10:09 PM

We visited the Galapagos in February/March 2018 and used Ricardo Arenas as the agent. Arrival at San Cristóbal was smooth. His representative (Carmela Romano) met our boat 20 minutes after we anchored and all the officials came on board at 8 am the next day. When we wanted to fuel, she had it delivered to the boat in 45 minutes at $3.75/gal. She was helpful in directing us to various services and got the zarpe in a timely manner. We could not have been happier.

At Santa Cruz, Stefanie was less accommodating. She came out for our zarpe shortly after we arrived, but didn’t return until the next day, leaving us not knowing when she would return. She was late getting our zarpe to Isabela and told us to go to the port captain’s office upon arrival. We did and were scolded for leaving the boat and told that we had to have an agent and should not have gotten off the boat. Fortunately, we were helped through this by another agent not representing Arenas, James Hinkle. Evidently Arenas pulls this stunt frequently and has no one representing him on Isla Isabela.

James can be found at the Booby Trap bar and restaurant and is a great resource. He bailed us out of a bad situation. The Booby Trap has good food, too. Isabela is no longer a port of entry and there is no immigration on the island. We paid and agent to come from Santa Cruz. Although it started well, I would not use Arenas again as an agent.

Sue Richards
Sue Richards says:
Mar 06, 2018 09:09 PM

Local Galapagos Authorities are now charging a new TAX for sailboats entering the Galapagos. Known as a "VESSELS CONTROL PASS" it costs US$140.00 - to be paid in cash on arrival. This is in addition to the current fees.

svblueeye says:
May 17, 2017 04:35 PM

It goes without saying that things change in the archipelago often, but this is what we learnt from our visit to the Galapagos in May 2017.
- We contacted Bolivar about using his agency services for our desired 20-day stopover. He told us - unless there was a significant amount lost in translation - boats could only visit the Galapagos with an autographo.
- We contacted Johnny Romero and he said the one port stop was fine, and even said we could go to Isabella, as we initially desired, and there would be no issues with clearance and with obtaining diesel. We changed our minds about Isabella, which is lucky because he emailed our satphone as we were en route to say that we must in fact come to Santa Cruz. Once we were there, it seemed we had no choice but to stay, which was alright by us as we had engine troubles. Unfortunately for some friends of ours on another boat, they arrived in Isabella under the admission of Johnny, only to swiftly asked to leave for Santa Cruz where they must clear in. They then also had to stay there.
- We never actually met Johnny Romero, but dealt with his agent Javier who was friendly and competent.
- The inspection for us - and for other boats we talked to - was very relaxed. One official snorkelled around the boat with a GoPro, which had us very worried as a lot of our antifoul had been sacrificed in our scrubbing, but he deemed everything satisfactory.
- Of the four other officials on board, they checked nothing in any detail and only asked us to fill in paperwork and tell them how long we'd like to stay. However, they did note that the boat was clean and that the garbage disposal system was in place, so these aspects are clearly important. Everybody, as we had read to expect, was very friendly.
- It was not at all a problem that we had not been fumigated (we didn't want to waste the money in Panama after reports that a fumigation certificate there is invalid in the Galapagos - we cannot confirm whether or not this would have been the case in Santa Cruz). We paid $80 to be fumigated the next day, which took no time at all and was very easy to arrange through our agent.
- Diesel is $3.50 per gallon if delivered to the boat, and you have to pay for a $50 fuel permit. All in cash. Alternatively, you can obtain this permit from your agent and take jerry cans in a taxi to the gas station, where it was $1 per gallon at our time of being there. For some reason we still had to pay $2 per gallon as per the fuel permit, but it was worth it for the money we saved and only an hour of work.
- Also, we were able to use our dinghy and the dinghy dock in Santa Cruz. There is a risk of a sea lion making a bed of it, though this only happened to us once over three weeks. Otherwise it is $0.80 per person for the taxis who you can call on Channel 14.

Overall, we would still recommend boats prepared for a vigorous inspection - particularly if going to San Cristobal where perhaps it is more strict - despite our experience. The state of the hull and the cleanliness of the cabin, along with the garbage disposal system, appear to be top of the priorities for the inspectors. Speak to your agent before you arrive and ensure you stay in constant contact with them during your passage over, and your time there.

Most of all, enjoy. It is a sensational place, which you can read about in our blog at:

Alasdair says:
May 23, 2016 06:01 PM

Today we leave one of the most amazing places we have ever visited...
We used Johnny Romero as our agent he was excellent and is also the agent for Fed Ex and TNT which proved very useful when we needed parts delivered, however be aware that he is not good at replying to email...don't panic he will have organised things, he just will not tell you...
We had to stay here for an extra few weeks, six weeks in total and my advice would be to plan to stay here for as long as you can...It is worth it.
A couple of people who also helped us and might prove useful...
Luis Veno. Mechanic +593 984174370. Fixed the waterpump on our Volvo Penta and was excellent value. Santa Cruz
Martin Schreyerg +593 998795455,can solve most problems, speaks great English. Santa Cruz
James Hunkle, Booby Trap Cafe, Isabela. Channel 67 VHF. Again can solve most problems
My final point. Do not be put off by the cost or the hoops you have to jump through. It is worth it when you get here and all the officials have been charming and helpful to us.

Sue Richards
Sue Richards says:
Mar 08, 2016 09:34 AM

Arriving in the Galapagos without an Autographo:
Some yachts have reported from the Galapagos that they have encountered problems arriving with a clearance from Panama to the Galapagos. Read noonsite's formalities information carefully before arrival. Yachts arriving at the Galapagos without an Autographo and no agent pre-arranged, are considered "in transit" and should have a clearance from Panama to the next foreign port after the Galapagos (e.g. Marquesas).

SVJoana says:
Apr 03, 2015 07:23 PM

We are about to leave Galapagos and I would be remiss if I did not offer my comments. We used the agent Johnny Romero to obtain an Autographo, for 1 month (all we needed) and 3 ports. Admittedly, it was a bit pricey, but it is mostly government fees, and proportional to boat length, tonnage and the number of crew. In our case, we arrived with 5 people, 3 people flew out, and 1 crew flew in to join us for our sail to the Marquesas. We cleared in at Cristobal, sailed to Santa Cruz and then at Isabella. Johnny's sister and brother took care of our clearances and tour on Cristobal. We met Johnny himself at Santa Cruz, where he took are of formalities and diesel (pumped into our tanks). He also took care of our Zarpe to Isabella and finally, our International clearance to leave Isabella. Johnny is a very well connected and efficient clearance agent. I can positively recommend him and dealing with him has been a very positive experience. He is a busy man, but his command of the English language also made this an advantage. Kudos to Johnny Romero.

bonobo says:
Mar 04, 2015 12:40 AM

We are still in Panama and I contacted the well known agent by mail ...
Now, what he states is not at all what this website says about some points of the entry requirements and the "prices"
Some examples ....

First, his fee is 200$ non negotiable ... So NOT a max of 150$ as state above ...

I was interested in the 12h "free" stay to take food, water and diesel, etc ...

A one day stay will cost you over 600$

To have diesel one need a four day period to obtain the "paperwork" ????

""the 12 hr. does not exist and if you need fuel it takes 4 days to get the dispatch order""

He also states one need a Medical certification ... a new thing ...

""Here in Galapagos the situation is different, we have changes at least once a month if not daily. Does Noonsite mention anything about a pre medical inspection now in all Galapagos Ports?""

Good luck guys ....

Sue Richards
Sue Richards says:
Jan 13, 2015 02:30 PM

Posted as seen on the Pacific Puddle Jump - Thursday January 8th, 2015
We just arrived in the Galapagos on the 1st. Bananas and pineapples....we were told to put into the refrigerator. They saw tomatoes, potatoes, and onions. Never looked in the refrigerator....never looked in the freezer.
WAY more interested in making sure that there are ABSOLUTELY no barnacles on the bottom of your boat!

Sue Richards
Sue Richards says:
Mar 24, 2014 10:46 AM

A new Port Captain was appointed in Puerto Villamil mid-March 2014, and to begin with was interpreting the rules differently and not permitting boats without an Autographo to clear-in there. However, this has now been resolved and boats without an Autographo can once more clear-in at Isabela and be granted a one-island 20 day stay. See the formalities page for further information.

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