Quito and 8 Day Finch Bay Eco Hotel

11 Days/10 Nights

From $5,009 pp

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Overview

This tour combines colonial Quito with eight days at the Finch Bay Eco Hotel. This charming hotel on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos is named after the famous Darwin’s Finches, which are abundant in the area around the hotel. It has 27 air-conditioned rooms with twin or king sized beds, and private bathrooms, including 6 brand new ocean view rooms. The hotel’s amenities include a restaurant, bar and lounge, private outdoor pool, Jacuzzi, telephone service, internet access, and a private seaside location at Punta Estrada, steps from the beach. With the hotel as your base, you will have daily excursions by yacht to nearby islands, where you can observe plants and animals that evolved in isolation and are found nowhere else in the world.

Lodging and Meals: This tour includes accommodations for 10 nights (3 nights in Quito, and 7 nights at Finch Bay Eco Hotel), and 24 meals (10 breakfasts, 7 lunches, and 7 dinners).

Best Time to Go: Year-Round.

Destinations: South America, Ecuador, & Galapagos.

Interests: Adventure, All-Inclusive Properties, Culture & History, Expedition Cruising, Family Tours, Sea Kayaking, Snorkeling, Sun & Beach, and Wildlife Viewing.

Day-by-Day Itinerary

Note: The order of yacht excursions and land activities, and the order of land activities themselves, can change according to various factors, including weather, tides, group sizes and physical abilities, languages, etc. The hotel expedition staff will confirm the order of the land activity schedules.

Depart to Quito. After passing through immigration and customs, proceed to the reception area, where our representative will be holding a sign with your name on it. You will be greeted and then transferred to your hotel.

This morning, you will visit to downtown Quito to relish in this urban jewel and its treasures of art and architecture. Quito’s colonial quarter, the largest and best preserved of South America, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The stroll starts at the Independence Plaza, flanked by the Cathedral, the Presidential Palace, the Municipal Building and the Archbishop’s Palace. Visit the temple of La Compañía de Jesús and its awesome gilded interior. Continue on to the Monastery of San Francisco, one the of great religious buildings of the New World; its impressive façade and atrium that lead to its Baroque interior influenced by Moorish style, with the winged Virgin of Quito at its main altar.

Then continue to the Equatorial Monument, 16 miles north of Quito, which marks the exact Middle of the World, latitude 0º, where you can stand with a foot on each hemisphere. Visit the Ethnographic Museum inside the monument, which shows the different Native American groups living in Ecuador. Beside the monument there is a colonial-style town, complete with main square, church, post office, bullring, cafeterias, restaurants and many gift shops with postcards and souvenirs. You will get a certificate for having crossed the Equator. (B)

Early morning transfer to the airport for the flight to Galapagos. Upon arrival in Baltra, guests are met by the hotel naturalist guides and transferred directly to the Sea Lion yacht. Welcomed by captain and staff, guests are briefed about safety issues as well as the National Park regulations. Lunch is served on board, while the yacht sails to North Seymour Island.

North Seymour was lifted from the ocean floor by a seismic event, and its origins as a seabed give the island its low, flat profile. Cliffs only a few meters high form the shoreline, where swallow-tailed gulls sit among the ledges and rocks. A tiny forest of silver-grey Palo Santo trees stand just above the landing, usually without leaves, waiting for the rains to burst into bloom.

This island is teaming with life! You might have to give way to a passing sea lion or marine iguana; blue-footed booby nests sit beside the trail where mating pairs perform their courtship dance. Further along, the rocky shore is interspersed with white sand, while large flocks of pelicans mass for a dive-bomb feeding-frenzy, painting a tableau from ages long past for us. The trail turns inland to reveal the largest nesting site in the Galapagos of the “magnificent frigate bird.” These huge, dark acrobats have two-meter (6-foot) wingspans, and males, with puffed up scarlet throat sacks, sit precariously perched in low bushes to watch over their equally large chicks. This is a walking excursion and involves uneven rocky terrain. Dry landing.

After the visit, the yacht sails to Itabaca channel, from where we cross by bus faster over Santa Cruz Island to reach the south shore (42 km by bus is shorter and faster, than 50 km by boat), where the Finch Bay Eco Hotel is located. Check-in and enjoy the glorious beach-front location and facilities. Overnight at Finch Bay Eco Hotel. (B,L,D)

After a relaxed breakfast, guests will leave Academy Bay by bus 15 km up to the lush highlands of Santa Cruz Island. From there a short drive across the farming area will lead us to El Manzanillo, a site recently opened to visitors at the northern edge of the Giant Tortoise Reserve.

El Manzanillo is on the natural path tortoises take every year as they either migrate to higher moist locations during the garúa season (June-September), or when they descend to the warmer lowlands during the wet season. Year round, tortoises can be seen grazing on the surrounding vegetation, or wallowing in muddy banks or in a small red-colored pond (impressively colored by surface red pond-weeds). The area is teeming with life: chirping vegetarian-, small-tree, large-tree and woodpecker finches, mockingbirds and flycatchers, as well as ducks, herons and gallinules make this an exciting morning visit.

Lunch is served in the cooler highlands, with the stunning views of Santa Cruz Island. After lunch, we visit a small farm, where coffee, sugar cane and cocoa beans are grown, harvested and prepared – all organic and sustainable. We have the chance to taste the products while learning about the artisanal way to burn island spirits! We then return to the hotel to enjoy its pool, beach, or ask for suggestions for activities. Overnight at Finch Bay Eco Hotel. (B,L,D)

Santa Fe offers one of the more beautiful and sheltered coves in the archipelago. Its turquoise lagoon is protected by a peninsula of tiny islets forming an ideal anchorage. The island lies to the southeast of Santa Cruz within sight of Puerto Ayora. Like North Seymour, Santa Fe has been uplifted, and you can see where underwater lava once cooled off (pillow lava).

A wet landing on a sandy white beach brings us into contact with one of the many sea lion harems. Bulls vie for the right to be Beach Master, while smaller males masquerade as females and make stealthy mating moves. Galápagos hawks are often easily approached, perched atop salt bushes. The giant prickly pear cactus found here live up to their name, with tree-sized trunks! Our goal is to spot one of the large species of land iguana, native to Santa Fe. Beige to chocolate brown in color with dragon-like spines, these huge iguanas truly resemble dinosaurs. An indigenous species of rice rat also inhabits the thickets, and lucky hikers can spot harmless Galápagos snakes. After the hike, there is nothing more inviting than a swim in the calm waters of the bay, a great snorkeling opportunity with diverse marine life. Overnight at Finch Bay Eco Hotel. (B,L,D)

This is the magic of Galápagos: a short distance away from Academy Bay and the bustle of Puerto Ayora, lies the quiet and wildlife-rich Divine Bay. Named after one of the islands first settlers, this cove is protected from the swells by natural volcanic reefs on one side, by a gallery of mangrove trees on the other and cliffs created eons ago by the uplift of the lava plateau. The whole provides a wonderful natural shelter for wildlife.

Every morning, hundreds of herons cross Divine Bay on their daily foraging trips, to return before sunset to perch amid the trees. Noddy terns use the natural burrows in the cliffs for nesting, while Galápagos brown pelicans prefer the evergreen mangroves, under the watchful eye of non-breeding blue footed boobies perched along the cliffs. Beneath the sea, sea turtles graze on sea weed, hundreds of reef fish species swim about the lava crevices, and young reef sharks and rays employ the brackish streams as havens from large predators while they mature. We can explore this lovely cove by boat while more adventurous guests could take the tandem, sit-on-top kayaks straight from the hotel’s beachfront. The morning’s visit includes snorkeling on a calm, but active, sector of the cove. This is next to a wooden dock we use to explore Punta Estrada. A dry landing and a short walk (0.5 km) will lead us to the south shore of the island, to a small beach called “Playa de los Perros” (Dog Beach). This is a great place to see intertidal organisms and learn about marine iguanas in their nesting sites. Also, there’s a nearby natural terrace from where young white tipped reef sharks can be observed from above as they swim about the lava crevices.

After this morning’s visit we return to the Finch Bay Eco Hotel for lunch. In the afternoon, we visit the Charles Darwin Research Station and the giant tortoise breeding program, with time to enjoy the town, or the hotel’s facilities. Overnight at Finch Bay Eco Hotel. (B,L,D)

Today, we include two visitor sites: South Plaza and Punta Carrión. Together they are a perfect combination of stunning wildlife colonies (Plaza), and a site with excellent snorkeling (Carrión).

South Plaza is a small island full of fascinating wildlife, both along its shore and along its dramatic, wind-swept cliffs: sea lions, land iguanas, swallow-tailed gulls, Opuntia cacti and vegetation that changes colors according to the season. The island is one of a pair of crescent-shaped islands. While the northern twin remains accessible only for scientists, South Plaza is one of the Galápagos’ most impressive visiting sites.

Only 130 meters wide (426 feet), the island was formed from uplifted seabed, giving it a tilted table top aspect. Our landing is in the channel between North and South Plaza, where the island slopes down toward the water. The approach makes for a lavishly colorful sight! The turquoise waters of the channel contrast brilliantly with the white sand and black lava of the shoreline. The rocks have grown thick with green seaweed in places, speckled with bright orange “Sally light foot” crabs. Further up the shore, a carpet of scarlet Sesuvium succulents serves as groundcover for a grove of luminescent green prickly-pear cactus. Yellow-grey land iguanas sit beneath these, waiting patiently for pears to drop.

The trail gradually follows the tilt of the island to the cliffs that overlook the ocean to the south, where swallow-tailed gulls nest. Red-billed tropic birds, masked and blue-footed boobies ride the gusty currents. The overlook is a great place for spotting large marine life, including manta rays. Surf pounds an inlet at the western corner of the island, where a colony of bachelor sea lions make their home, accounting for the surprising surface of the rocks, polished by the oils of their fur.

Punta Carrión, at the north-eastern tip of Santa Cruz Island, boasts shallow reefs, mangroves, and exposure to rich upwellings to the east. As a result, it’s an ideal snorkeling site with plenty of reef fish as well as occasional sea lions and sharks. Overnight at Finch Bay Eco Hotel. (B,L,D)

After an invigorating breakfast we leave the hotel, cross Academy Bay by boat, and board our bus in Puerto Ayora. In order to shorten travel distance and save considerable time (Bartolomé is the furthest island the hotel’s yacht visits), we will cross 42 km to the Itabaca Channel on the north shore, where the Sea Lion Yacht awaits us. This way, all that is left to sail is 21 nautical miles (39km/24miles) to Bartolomé Island.

Bartolomé is famous for Pinnacle Rock, a towering spearheaded obelisk that rises from the ocean’s edge and is the best known landmark in the islands. Galápagos penguins —the only species of penguin found north of the equator — waddle precariously along narrow volcanic ledges at its base. Sea lions snooze on rocky platforms, ready to slide into the water to play with passing snorkelers. Just below the surface, shoals of tropical fish dodge in and out of the rocks past urchins, sea stars and anemones. A perfectly- crescent-shaped, pink-and-white sandy beach lies just to the east of the pinnacle. Sea turtles use the beach as a nesting site and can sometimes be found wading in the shallow water near the shore, or resting in the sand to recover from the arduous task of digging nests, laying eggs and covering them over. We snorkel from this beach following a wet landing.

Penguins dot the nearby rocks of the other landing site, less than a kilometer along the eastern shore. Here the submerged walls of a tiny volcanic crater give the impression of a fountain pool. A dry landing here leads to a 600-metre (2,000-foot) pathway complete with stairs and boardwalks leading to Bartolomé’s summit. The route is not difficult and presents a museum of volcanology: a site left untouched after its last eruption, where cones stand in various stages of erosion and lava tubes form bobsled-like runs from the summit. At the top you will be rewarded with spectacular views of Santiago Island and James Bay to the west, and far below, Pinnacle Rock and our beach, where the crystal blue waters of the bay cradle our yacht. We return to the Itabaca Channel, board our bus, and travel over the island back to the hotel. Overnight at Finch Bay Eco Hotel. (B,L,D)

Tortuga Bay is a combination of ecosystems, landscapes, wildlife, sports and a lot of fun! We start after a (surely) much appreciated relaxed morning’s breakfast at the hotel, and a stroll along the neighboring brackish lagoons. Our “panga” launch will take us to Puerto Ayora and a short distance further we reach the starting point of the trail to Tortuga Bay. The walking distance is 2 km (1.3 miles) along a fairly flat and straight path, where we explore and understand the arid, deciduous forest and its inhabitants. This is a great birding trail, if you take a little time to wander about and listen to the chirps and songs. You don’t have to worry too much about your day-pack, as you only need to carry the very immediate essentials: hat, sunscreen (to add more if rubbed-off), binoculars, camera and your water bottle. Anything else you could need for the rest of the day, will be sent to the end of the trail by boat.

When you reach Tortuga Bay, you will understand why this is often referred to as Ecuador’s most beautiful beach. Over one kilometer of snow-white sand and turquoise waters with the never-ending sound of swells caressing the island. Some guests can opt for an unusual treat: surf instructors of the Santa Cruz Surf Club (CSSC) give surfing lessons here. If this something you have always wanted to try, this is your chance!

Other activities include exploring the shore birds of “Playa Brava”, Tortuga Bay’s first beach, the nesting grounds of the green Sea Turtles, foraging marine iguanas, and the impressive change in sand, water, coastal vegetation and landscape, when you reach “Playa Mansa”.

Protected by a natural lava barrier, this large, calm bay is surrounded by a gallery of mangroves. This habitat is the home of different species of marine and terrestrial birds, as well as young sharks and rays, who spend their youth in the protective, mildly brackish conditions. Kayaking in tandem sit-on top craft is a great way to experience nature up-close.

In “Playa Mansa” we meet our day-boat. Logistically, our day boat meets up with the rest of the group on Playa Mansa, with anyone who prefers not to walk the 3 Km, carries all day-bags not needed for the walk, as well as cold beverages, towels, has restroom facilities, and brings us our freshly packed box-lunch from the hotel (during breakfast, all guests can choose from a wide menu of options).

Generally we end our Tortuga Bay experience with a soothing dip in the calm and clear waters of Playa Mansa, before the day-boat leaves the bay to bring all guests back to the hotel’s dock in Academy Bay. The ride takes less than half hour.

For the rest of the afternoon, guests can enjoy the hotel’s facilities (swimming pool, beach, sea kayaks, etc.) or continue exploring the island’s vast list of sites including the Charles Darwin Research Station. Overnight at Finch Bay Eco Hotel. (B,L,D)

After breakfast we leave the Finch Bay Hotel and on the way to Baltra, stop at the Twin Pit Craters, great geological depressions of volcanic material, formed by a long process of slow sinking of the ground, where exceptional Scalesia trees, ferns, mosses and orchids can be seen in the surroundings. Then, overland transfer to the airport in Baltra to take the flight back to the continent. Overnight in Quito. (B)

Transfer to the airport for your return flight to your final destination. (B)

B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner

Prices & Dates

Price per Person

Category Single Double Triple
Garden View Rooms $7,109 $5,009 $4,499
Ocean View Rooms $8,429 $5,529 $4,979
** The prices shown above are in U.S. Dollars. See the cost of this tour in your currency here.

Notes:

  1. The above prices are valid until December 31, 2016.

Departure Dates

Friday and Monday departures throughout the year.

What's Included

Price Includes

  • South American Vacations’ expert pre-departure planning services and documentation.
  • Airport/hotel transfers including baggage handling.
  • Three night hotel accommodations at Swissotel Quito (or similar) including taxes and service fees.
  • Seven night hotel accommodations at Finch Bay Eco Hotel including taxes and service fees.
  • Meals as indicated on the itinerary.
  • Yacht excursions as indicated on the itinerary.
  • Evening briefings and lectures.
  • Use of snorkeling equipment.
  • Local, English-speaking tour guides.

Price Does Not Include

  • International airfare.
  • Domestic airfare ($498).
  • Meals not indicated on the itinerary.
  • Galapagos National Park Entrance Fee ($100).
  • Transit control card ($20).
  • Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
  • Gratuities, gifts, and personal items.
  • Travel insurance.

We will be happy to quote the cost of airfare and travel insurance, and to make these arrangements for you.

Accommodations

Quito

Swissotel Quito, Quito, Ecuador

5 Star – Swissotel Quito

Additional Details

Group Private: All services in Quito are private, and all services in the Galapagos are operated on a group basis.

Elevations: Quito is 9,350 feet above sea level.

IGTOA’S Galapagos Traveler Conservation Fund: South American Vacations is an active member of IGTOA (International Galapagos Tour Operators Association).  In support of IGTOA’s Galapagos Traveler Conservation Fund, we contribute $20 for each passenger that we send to the Galapagos Islands.  You’ll travel knowing that you support the lasting protection of Galapagos Islands.

Sixty percent of the funding of this program goes directly to the Charles Darwin Foundation for science, conservation, and education.  Their work, carried out through the Charles Darwin Research Station and Galapagos National Park, is vital to the preservation of the islands.  You can visit their web site to learn more www.darwinfoundation.org.  The remainder goes toward IGTOA’s mission of creating a model of responsible and sustainable tourism.

Passport/Visa: For Ecuador, U.S., Australian, Canadian, and EU citizens require a passport valid for at least six months from date of entry and return ticket for stays of up to 90 days. Citizens of other countries are advised to contact the Ecuadorian embassy in their country before traveling.

Travel Insurance: In order to protect your travel investment from unforeseen circumstances that may arise before or during your trip, we strongly recommend that you purchase travel insurance. We offer Allianz Global Assistance’s Classic Comprehensive and other plans. The Benefits and Coverage Limits are summarized on our Travel Insurance page. Call your travel counselor if you have any questions or to purchase a plan.

To Book This Trip: We require a non-refundable deposit of $700 per person plus the cost of the international airfare (if we make the arrangements for you). The balance of the trip cost is due 60 days prior to departure.