Ecuador’s most beautiful beaches

Ecuador’s most beautiful beaches

BEST BEACHES IN ECUADOR

Pacific
Pacific Coast Itinerary

Ecuador's pristine beaches

Duration: at least one week

Budget: $ 35 per day

Ecuador, the small Andean country, offers its visitors plenty of things to discover. Quito, the highest capital in the world, picturesque villages, Quichua cultureAmazonian rainforest, and not to forget: the Galapagos islands. Many travelers, therefore, decide to skip the Pacific coast (as Dani did). However, Ecuador’s coast offers excellent surfing, deserted beaches, and charming villages. Ecuador’s coast is a truly underrated gem that you should not miss.

Ecuador’s 2237 miles of coastline offer the perfect beach for everyone. If you are seeking relaxation, you will find peace in Canoa. Mompiche offers more adventures and excitement, while Puerto Lopez offers vast empty beaches and excellent whale watching. If you are into surfing, we’d recommend you to visit Montañita, which is also a popular backpacker’s hotspot.

While Dani was off to explore Mindo by horse, Lauri returned to Ecuador’s Pacific coast for the 4th time. 

Things to do in Mompiche

Mompiche is a small fishing village located on Ecuador’s Pacific coast. The town is known for its dramatic black sand beaches, perfect for surfing and exploring. Mompiche is also home to several charming restaurants and cafes, making it the ideal place to relax and soak up the atmosphere.

The waves here are some of the best in the country, and there is a surf school right on the beach if you want to learn how to ride them. Mompiche is also an excellent place for those who want to explore more of Ecuador’s coast, as there are plenty of deserted beaches to discover nearby.

There is also plenty of opportunity for hiking and exploring the nearby jungle. We stayed right by Playa Negra – a beautiful black sand beach that is definitely worth a visit. Even if you’re not into surfing, the beach is still worth a visit for its stunning scenery.

 

Best place to stay in Mompiche:

Best-beaches-Ecuador
Granada, Nicaragua: market

Puerto Lopez - birth grounds from humpback whales

If Puerto Lopez is known for anything, it’s whale watching.

Every year, between June and September, humpback whales come to the waters off Puerto Lopez to mate and give birth making Puerto Lopez one of the best places in Ecuador (and indeed, the world) to see these magnificent creatures up close. In addition to whale watching, Puerto Lopez is also home to several beautiful beaches, making it the perfect place to relax and soak up the sun.

Hundreds of majestic animals gather off the coast of Isla de la Plata to Mate. So if you backpacking Ecuador from June to the end of September, don’t miss this natural spectacle. The tour should cost around $50. Please make sure that you ask beforehand not to get too close to the whales to reduce the stress somewhat.

Best place to stay in Puerto Lopez:

Playa los Frailes - scenery and party

It is only a stone’s throw from Puerto Lopez to Los Frailes, probably the most beautiful beach in Ecuador. The picture-postcard beach is located in Ecuador’s only National Park, Parque Nacional Machalilla. It is surrounded by tropical dry forests, a cloud forest, archaeological sites, and the Pacific Ocean. The beach of Los Frailes is genuinely unique. You can find all of Ecuador’s different landscapes in one place, plus a good party on the weekend!

Best place to stay in Los Frailes:

Leon, Nicaragua: barrio Sutiavia
Granada, Nicaragua: dani in front of church

Canoa - Ecuador's coolest beach town

Canoa is a small beach town about an hour’s drive from Puerto Lopez. Canoa is the perfect place to relax and escape the hustle and bustle of city life. The town has a laid-back vibe and plenty of cafes, bars, and restaurants to enjoy.

Canoa is our favorite beach town in Ecuador. Kilometers of beaches, great surf spots, good cocktails, and the most relaxed inhabitants. The bamboo huts are equipped with hammocks, perfect for chilling during short rainfalls. We loved to explore the towering cliffs at low tide. Canoa is also the place to try paragliding! The 12 miles of beach offer breathtaking views!

On top of that, the region is known for having the best food in Ecuador! Canoa is a foodie haven! Our absolute favorite is Tigrillo: The vegetarian delicacy of plantains, eggs, and cheese is the perfect Ecuadorian breakfast.

 

Best place to stay in Canoa:

Montañita - Backpacker & Surf Scene

Montañita is the southernmost point of the four coastal towns and is only an hour’s bus ride from Puerto Lopez. Known for the best surf waves and cheap accommodation, Montañita has become a backpacker’s paradise. Here you can find the sun, great surf, and lively nightlife. If you are looking for a cool surf scene, then Montañita is probably the place for you!

 

Best places to stay in Montañita:

Granada, Nicaragua: Lauri in Parque Colon

Get ready to travel Ecuador

The best time to travel to Ecuador's beaches

Travel to the Pacific coast from December to May to get as much sunshine as possible. Even though it is the rainy season, it’s sunny and hot. The rainfalls pass quickly.

From June to November, it is often dry but mostly cloudy.

How to travel Ecuador's coast

The coastal villages can be reached from Quito by bus in one day (approx. 7-10 h). Therefore, we can only recommend you take the night bus. It’s very comfortable, and you will find yourself in dreamy fishing villages when you get off the bus in the morning.

The earthquake of 2016

On the coast, you can feel the Afro-Ecuadorian culture. In the sleepy villages, the people are very cordial and wait patiently for every visitor.

After a terrible earthquake in April 2016 shook Ecuador’s Pacific coast, entire villages collapsed. Tourism is vital for people on the beach.

Safety along Ecuador's coast

The aftereffects of the earthquake are still noticeable, with communities that are not directly on the beach most affected. Be careful to stray too far away after sunset. Robberies do occur from time to time.

Tap water

Make sure to bring your Lifestraw Pro to enjoy cool water while avoiding buying plastic bottles. 

Challenges for the conscious traveler

Sunscreen: Protect the unique ecosystem and be extra careful to use reef-friendly sunscreens. 

Plastic: To avoid unnecessary plastic pollution, bring your collapsable food container, cutlery, and a Lifestraw Pro

tanzania travel Zanzibar beaches

Packing List Ecuador

You’re packing your bags for a trip to Ecuador – congratulations! You’re about to embark on an amazing journey into one of the most biodiverse countries in the world.

Wondering what to pack? Check out our packing list to prepare for all Ecuador has to offer. You’ll find anything from clothing to travel gadgets and eco-friendly toiletries!

Traveling Ecuador?

Ecuador Itinerary

Places to visit in Ecuador

Dive into a land of contrasts!

Safety Tips for Solo Female Travelers

Safety Tips for Solo Female Travelers

I’m excited to share with you some invaluable safety tips garnered from my own experiences, aiming to equip fellow wanderlust-driven women with the confidence and know-how to explore the world on their own terms, safely and securely.

read more

Hopkins |  Belize’s Garifuna culture hub

Hopkins | Belize’s Garifuna culture hub

THINGS TO DO IN HOPKINS

Belize
Things to do in Hopkins

Belize's Garifuna culture hub

Duration: at least one week

Budget: $45 per day

Stay:  Palmento Groove Lodge

Hopkins welcomed us with a spectacular blood moon on the night of our arrival. A breathtaking natural phenomenon! I have been back to visit several times since then.

What makes the village is the special vibe and the way the community is engaging with tourism. Hopkins’s main street is lined with mostly locally owned guesthouses and small restaurants and forms the village’s center.

While Hopkins South is dominated by all-inclusive, the North has developed into a little backpacker haven. Tucked away behind the main streets, you’ll find charming locally-owned restaurants, cute bakeries, and even some nightlife. I love Hopkins because tourism seems to blend in seamlessly.

 

 A place for the soul

Yet, Dani wanted to introduce Lauri to Hopkins because it is a place for the soul which has to be felt to describe its charm and vibe adequately. It is a fantastic place to dive into Garifuna culture and everything that comes with it: Punta dances, delicious food, and a distinct lifestyle and values.

Garifuna culture

Punta Gorda, Dangriga, and the friendly town of Hopkins form the centers of Garifuna culture in Belize.

The Garifuna people are descendants of African, Caribbean & Indigenous South American origin. After being exiled from the Caribbean island of St. Vincent in 1797, the majority of Garifuna today live along the Caribbean coastlines of Honduras, Belize, and Nicaragua. Many Garinagu people cherish and live their cultural heritage until today.

The unique Garifuna culture and the chance to participate in and learn from it make Hopkins one of the best places to visit in Belize.

Garifuna 1

Music & Punta

Garifuna drums set the rhythm. While in Hopkins, you’ll surely get to listen to some typical drumming. If you have some rhythm, you might try and take some classes at Lebeha. The distinctive drumming is accompanied by either the Punta or Walavine. Two fierce, traditional dances.

garifuna 3

Garifuna Language

While many Belizeans speak English, Creole and Spanish, the Garifuna people also have their distinct language, Karif. Over time Carib and European languages have influenced the Garifuna language, a member of the Arawakan family.

By the way: Both Garifuna language and Garifuna music were declared “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” in 2008. Pretty impressive, no?

Hopkins Belize

Garifuna Clothing

Even though the heritage is actively lived, you’ll rarely spot Garinagu men wearing the traditional dashiki. A colorful v-neck shirt inspired by African printing.

Garifuna food

Garifuna cuisine

In Hopkins, you’ll for sure be able to taste the excellent typical cuisine. Deliciously spiced seafood, Hudut, or coconut rice will stimulate your taste buds. We find it one of the most delicious cuisines in the region!

Enjoy sea life and go snorkeling or diving

Since we planned to move on to Belize’s Cayes, we passed on the possibility of touring Belize’s Cayes from Hopkins. However, Hopkins offers an excellent starting point for excursions to the nearby Cayes and the Barrier Reef. Belize is supposedly home to the western hemisphere’s largest barrier reef. As a result, you’ll find plenty of diving, snorkeling, and fishing opportunities. 

Of course, you can enjoy the beach in Hopkins, too! A Miles-long, natural Caribbean coast seams the village. But, although it’s nice to hang out and dip into the water, Hopkins is not the typical beach destination.

Hopkins-Belize
Hopkins Belize 29 1000x630 1

Look out for Jaguars at Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary

The world’s first jaguar preservation sanctuary offers the (admittedly small) chance to spot the majestic cats in the wild! Amidst lush vegetation, the park affords you waterfalls and stunning views! Cockscomb park is the best place to let go of some energy tubing and hiking if you have been a bit lazy the last few days. The park offers accommodations and a campsite within its grounds, but you can also visit the park on a day trip—entrance fee: BZ$10. The park is tranquil and does not get too many visitors. It’s perfect for taking in the lush vegetation in Belize’s jungle!

Pure Magic: Bioluminescence River Tour

The Bioluminescence River Tour is one of the coolest things to do in Hopkins! The tour takes you on a journey that is sure to wow your senses and leave you wide-eyed. Even though we have visited bioluminescence waters worldwide, we still find them super magical!

Starting at the Sittee River, conveniently located near the south end of Hopkins, you’ll hop aboard a boat and venture out into the water. Keep your eyes peeled for reflections that could belong to anything from birds to crocodiles! But the real magic happens as you cruise through the cut in the lagoon that leads to Anderson’s Lagoon. Prepare to marvel at the stunning bioluminescent waters as you dip your hands or dive in and swim. You won’t regret experiencing this miraculous natural wonder, so brace yourself for a night to remember!

shimmering waters on tour in Hopkins, Belize
horse hopkins 1

Go horseback riding

Exploring the surrounding by horse is one of the most magical things to do anywhere.  This half-day tour takes you to the beautiful orange groves and lush rainforest. And what’s more, you’ll cool off with a refreshing swim in the river with the horses! The working farm is also home to a variety of animals, including sheep, cows, and goats. Don’t miss out on this unique opportunity to experience the natural beauty of Hopkins while horseback riding.

Pure Magic: Bioluminescence River Tour

If you have relaxed enough and feel like a little adventure, check out Bocawina, the ultimate hotspot for thrill-seekers in Hopkins. Get your pulse racing by experiencing the longest zipline in Belize. With 14 platforms and 9 different runs, you’ll glide through the stunning rainforest canopy like a free-flying bird, taking in the breathtaking natural scenery from a unique perspective. The complete course is an adrenaline-pumping 2.5 miles long, and the longest single run is a whopping 2,300 feet. Try waterfall rappelling and conquer your fears for an even more heart-pounding thrill. Bocawina is truly beautiful and totally worth exploring!

waterfalls in Bocawina park in Hopkins, Belize

Practical travel tips for Hopkins & Belize

Which language is spoken in Belize?

P

The official language of Belize is English, which is inherited from its history as a former British colony. However, many other languages are also spoken in the country. Spanish, a widely spoken language in neighboring countries, is spoken by a large portion of the population and is considered the main language for communication between different ethnic groups.

In addition to English and Spanish, several indigenous languages such as Mayan languages and Garifuna, a mix of West African and Arawak origins, are also spoken in Belize. These languages are an important part of the cultural identity of the indigenous communities and efforts are being made to preserve them.

What is the official currency in Belize?

P

The official currency of Belize is the Belize dollar (BZD). The BZD has remained relatively stable over the years and is pegged to the US dollar at a fixed rate of BZ$2 to US$1. This makes it easy for tourists and investors to use and exchange foreign currency while in Belize.

US Dollars are also widely accepted, but I recommended having some BZD for smaller purchases and transactions. ATMs can be found in most towns and cities, dispensing both BZD and US dollars.

What is the best time to visit Hopkins?

P

Hopkins experiences quite heavy rain from June to September as anywhere in the Caribbean. This time is also considered hurricane season. The high season starts in November till February. The best time to travel is, without a doubt, shoulder season in June so that you can visit Mango fest or November for Garifuna Day!

Is Hopkins safe for travelers?

P

Hopkins is calm and pretty safe during the day. We have never felt unsafe, but we've also almost always been hanging out with our local friends. Be more careful at night and during Mango fest & Garifuna settlement day.

How can I protect myself from sandflies?

P

Once you get to Hopkins, buy some handmade coconut oil to protect yourself from sandfly bites! They are especially active during morning and evening hours.

How to get to Hopkins?

P

Depending on where you are coming from, the bus may stop directly in the center of Hopkins or at "Junction," about 5 km outside. Don't be shy. Locals passing by will surely give you a ride.

Festivals and celebrations

P

Hopkins has two significant events: Mango Fest in June and Garifuna Day Settlement on November 19th. The otherwise sleepy village bursts with life, drumming, food, and celebrations. Both events are major and not to be missed if you are in Belize!

Can I drink tap water in Belize?

P

In the towns, the water is supposedly drinkable. But as you will spend a lot of time on the water and Cayes in Belize, bring a water filter or a self-cleaning bottle to be safe and avoid causing plastic pollution. The bottles will keep your water fresh and cool, too!

What's the biggest challenge for the conscious traveler?

P

Eating fish: To protect marine life in Belize, fishing is regulated by seasons to guarantee the species' time to recover. Therefore, make a point of not eating lobster or conch when not in season! Conch season runs from October to June. Lobster season is from July to February.

Sunscreen: Protect the unique marine life in Belize, and always wear reef-friendly sunscreen. Check out our guide to coral-safe sunscreens here.

Plastic: Bring your self-cleaning bottle to avoid causing trash by consuming bottled water.

tanzania travel Zanzibar beaches

Packing List Belize

Check out our packing list to prepare for all Belize has to offer. You’ll find anything from clothing to travel gadgets and eco-friendly toiletries.

Hopkins, Belize: Colorful house

Best places to stay in Hopkins, Belize

Palmento Grove Lodge

Palmento Grove Lodge, owned and operated by Garifuna locals, offers an authentic experience of the Afro-Caribbean culture indigenous to Belize. This cultural preservation center has been promoting traditional knowledge, history, and way of life for over a decade now, and it operates as a sustainable farming business. By visiting Palmento Grove, you are empowering the local community, supporting their love for their culture, and participating in various cultural activities such as drumming, dancing, storytelling, and cooking. The Lodge’s socially conscious approach adds an extra layer of significance to your experience.

Kismet Inn

I LOVE this place. Tricia’s place is a true paradise located at the Northern tip of Hopkins. The uniquely designed house felt like home from the very first minute. The rooms are beautiful, and the location on the beach is peaceful! Owner Tricia is a wonderful host and makes you feel right at home.

Places to visit in Belize

A Small Country with a big personality!

Zanzibar | Discover the most beautiful beaches

Zanzibar | Discover the most beautiful beaches

Zanzibar’s Beaches

TANZANIA
Zanzibar’s Beach Itinerary

A guide to Zanzibar's beaches

Duration: at least two weeks

Insider Tip: www.colorsofzanzibar.com

 

We loved mainland Tanzania, and the experiences surpassed our imagination. After our eventful time on the mainland, we were yearning for some lazy days in the sun. Zanzibar not only affords its visitors some of the best beaches in the Indian Ocean, but it’s also within comfortable and cheap reach of Tanzania’s mainland.

Discover Zanzibar’s best beaches

The beaches in Zanzibar are stunning. White palm trees seam white sandy beaches with perfectly turquoise water. Even though Zanzibar has been a popular tourist destination for quite some time, you’ll still find authentic, quiet villages and empty beaches.

  • Windsurfing 70% 70%
  • Relaxation 100% 100%
  • Activities 80% 80%
  • Pristine waters 100% 100%

Zanzibar’s tides


The tides on Zanzibar can be strong and affect both swimming and sunbathing. The best time to swim is during high tide when the water is more shallow. The best time to sunbathe is during low tide when the water is further out and there is more space on the beach. Be sure to check the tide times before heading to the beach. Zanzibar’s beaches are beautiful, and with a bit of planning, you can make sure you have the perfect day.

Nungwi Beach, Sansibar Strand

Zanzibar’s best beaches beaches

Nungwi

Nungwi, a small village in the Northwest, is about 1 hour from Stone Town by car. We decided to go to Nungwi first because we felt like dry tomatoes after our time in the African savannah, and Nungwi is “swimmable” almost all day. Nungwi has quickly become a tourist hub and one of the most famous beaches on Zanzibar. Fortunately, we found a quiet, small, deserted bay right by our homestay. The local village center is super charming, unlike some rather touristy souvenir stands by the beach. Check out Highland Bar in Nungwi, a popular place in the village with relaxed vibes (and WIFI).

Community tourism in Nungwi

Our homestay experience in Nungwi, Zanzibar After our super pleasant homestay experiences in mainland Tanzania, we were eager to meet our Zanzibarian hosts. In Nungwi, we stayed with Jimmy, his lovely wife Fatima, their baby, and their nephew Abdula. Not only did we share meals, but the family welcomingly invited us to join their daily life. Jimmy took us to the village center, showed us where to buy the best groceries, and Fatima taught us about cooking. Bent over an open fire, we learned quite a lot about Zanzibar’s history, family life, and the famous spices. Staying with a local family also put us away from the main tourist attractions. Often we would have the beach almost to ourselves. Unfortunately. we learned that they are no longer operating. 

Best places to stay in Nungwi

 

Nungwi Strand - junger Massai macht einen Handstand
tanzania travel Zanzibar beaches

Michamvi Kae

Michamvi Kae won our hearts. This part of the island is very chill, with relatively many Rastafarians. Michamvi Kae is a super picturesque village surrounded by beautiful beach stretches.
Some bars and restaurants at the beach have a relaxed Hakuna Matata vibe. Our favorite beach on Zanzibar We couldn’t swim during low tide because the sea withdraws quite a lot. But we used the low tide to walk for miles. Despite some fishermen, nobody crossed our path. There are some lush green mangroves right by the water. Michamvi is the place to unwind and let go. Our peaceful bungalow and Yousuf’s gentle spirit made our stay in Michamvi special. Of course, we spent our days following our inner desires, but we mainly used the time there to reflect and calm down. 

Best places to stay in Michamvi

Paje Beach, Zanzibar

Paje beach is one of Zanzibar’s best beaches. It’s located on the East coast. It is a beautiful beach that has become much more popular recently. The water is crystal clear, and plenty of palm trees provide shade. The breeze makes it a mecca for kitesurfers and water sports enthusiasts. Paje is also a great place to try out Zanzibar’s famous seafood dishes. So if you’re looking for a good vibe and a stunning beach, Paje beach is the perfect spot. 

Best places to stay in Paje

Leon, Nicaragua: barrio Sutiavia
Granada, Nicaragua: dani in front of church

Jambiani Beach, Zanzibar

Jambiani Beach is located on the Southeast coast of Zanzibar. It’s a beautiful sandy beach with turquoise water and plenty of coral reefs to explore. Jambiani is a great place to snorkel, and there are plenty of restaurants and bars to enjoy. If you’re looking for a beach with a little more activity, Jambiani is the perfect spot. 

The “Jambiani Village Women at work and play” gives you the opportunity to get to know Jambiani from a woman’s perspective. A great way to learn about the culture and make connections especially when travelling by yourself.

Best places to stay in Jambiani

Kendwa Beach, Zanzibar

Kendwa Beach is located on the Northwest coast of Zanzibar. It’s a beautiful sandy beach with turquoise water and plenty of coral reefs to explore. Kendwa is a great place to snorkel, and there are plenty of restaurants and bars to enjoy. We visited Kendwa village and loved it here! Despite the more prominent hotels, you’ll find some charming smaller Boutique Hotels there too. Some of them take part in responsible waste management efforts. Zuri Zanzibar for example worked with Zanrec and Ozeankind to set up a local recycling station. 

Best places to stay in Kendwa 

Granada, Nicaragua: Lauri in Parque Colon

Practical travel tips for Zanzibar’s beaches

When is the best time to visit the beaches on Zanzibar?

P

We visited Zanzibar in October and November, which is the shoulder season. It's the perfect time to visit Zanzibar's beaches as you most likely will have them to yourself. The rainy season on Zanzibar lasts from March to May. Expect some rain in November and December, too

How to get to Zanzibar's beaches?

P

It's effortless to travel the island by daladla. You should give it a try! Daladalas are the cheapest way to cross the island. Since Zanzibar is not too big, it doesn't take too long to get around.

How do the tides affect beaches?

P

Most of Zanzibar is profoundly affected by the tides. Some beaches become unswimmable. Make sure you check the tide calendar. Swimming is only possible at high tide. Kendwa and Nungwi, the most touristic spots, form the exception. Check out the tide calendar beforehand.

Where to get money?

P

Load up on cash before heading to Zanzibar's beaches. Unfortunately, ATMs are hard to find.

Is Zanzibar safe for travelers?

P

We felt safe at all times. Obviosuly you will have some beach boys approaching you, but a friendly and firm no thank you goes a long way.

Can I drink tap water on Zanzibar?

P

You can not drink tap water in Zanzibar without risking becoming sick. Bring your water filter or self-cleaning bottle and enjoy cool drinks while avoiding plastic pollution.

What's the biggest challenge for the conscious traveler?

P

Trash: Often, you'll find food vendors selling typical Nicaraguan dishes on the go. It's not just delicious but cheap. To avoid plastic wrapping, choose to buy your food at the bus stations and have them put it in your collapsible container. Bring your self-cleaning bottle to avoid having to buy bottled
water.
Sunscreen: Protect marine life and use reef-friendly sunscreen.

tanzania travel Zanzibar beaches

Packing List Tanzania

Tanzania is one of the most diverse and beautiful countries in the world. You can explore bustling cities, go on safari to see some of the most incredible wildlife on earth or relax on some of the best beaches in Africa.

Check out our packing list to prepare for all Tanzania has to offer. You’ll find anything from clothing to travel gadgets and eco-friendly toiletries.

 

Going to Tanzania?

Let us inspire you!
More African destinations

Places to visit in Tanzania

With its diverse cultures, beautiful nature and rich history Tanzania is a country not to be forgotten.

Galapagos island – an alternate universe

Galapagos island – an alternate universe

Galapagos Islands

ECUADOR
Galapagos Itinerary

Backpacking the Galapagos Islands

Duration: at least one week

Budget: $125 per day

A visit to the Galapagos Islands with its unique inhabitants has long been on our bucket list. The volcanic archipelago is known for its unique wildlife, including sea lions, lizards, and giant tortoises. The Galapagos Islands are an archipelago of volcanic islands in the Pacific Ocean, about 1000 kilometers from the Ecuadorian mainland. The islands are renowned for their unique and diverse wildlife, which was studied by Charles Darwin during his famous voyage on the Beagle.

Imagine a place where sea lions and lizards are just hanging out in the village like it’s the most normal thing to do. That’s the Galapagos Islands for you! We were blown away after our first minutes.

Shortly after purchasing our flights, we were getting a little worried: the Galapagos islands are supposedly one of the most expensive destinations in South America! There was no way we would be able to afford a Galapagos cruise, so we decided to backpack the islands. Although most of the islands are uninhabited and can only be visited by cruise ship, there are three populated islands (San Cristobal, Santa Cruz, and Isabela) where you can backpack and explore on your own. This article will share tips on traveling the Galapagos Islands without a cruise.

San Cristobal- the island of the sea lions

San Christobal mesmerized us within the first minutes of discovering the town. The closer you get to the Malecon, the more sea lions you’ll see! It’s incredible how they seamlessly integrate into the city. You won’t see stray dogs; instead, you’ll spot sea lions casually hanging out on benches, in front of houses, or even in bathrooms. We couldn’t believe our eyes!

San Cristobal offers plenty of things to do, and we could have spent much more time there! Despite the cheaper things to discover on your own, plenty of tour operators offer 360-degree tours, dive excursions, and day trips to nearby islands.

Best places to stay in San Cristobal

Cavalerio church in Leon, Nicaragua
Granada, Nicaragua: market

San Cristobal | La Galapaguera Tortoise Habitat

It was our first time to see giant turtles and one of the main reasons to visit the Galapagos islands! The hundreds of year-old tortoises are free to roam around the area as they please, so you must keep your eyes open. We were lucky to arrive late (as always) around lunchtime, and it seemed like the tortoises were having lunch, too! We were lucky and saw about 20 giant tortoises as they all came together to one feeding spot! It’s incredible to imagine how old they are, how many things they’ve seen, and how they go on with their lives. We would have loved to interview one of those giants about their life perspectives! The center is also a breeding center, so we also got to see babies and mid-agers (younger than 100 years).

San Cristobal | Playa Puerto Chino

This picturesque beach, located about 30 km from the main settlement, is the perfect spot to relax after visiting the turtle conversation center. However, it’s not easy to get there. You can either go there by bike (it’s challenging), on tour or rent a taxi. Sadly, we couldn’t find any buses. So we took the most accessible and cheapest option. Our taxi driver dropped us off at the turtle conversation center, and we agreed he’d pick us up at Playa Puerto Chino in the late afternoon.

You’ll reach the secluded beach after a walk of about 10 minutes. The bay is home to sea lions, and we had the beach entirely to ourselves when we went. It was terrific to observe sea lions in their natural environment.

Helpful tip: There are no restaurants or any other facilities. So bring your food and drinks if you are without a tour. We ended up quite hungry. Also, bring bug spray because there are some horseflies around. They’ll only bother you on the way to or from the beach.

Leon, Nicaragua: barrio Sutiavia
Granada, Nicaragua: dani in front of church

San Cristobal |Playa Mann

Our favorite beach on Cristobal! Why? We loved hanging out amongst the many sea lions who made this stretch of beach their home. Also, it’s the only beach we could find offering tasty, affordable, authentic food! It was the first beach we had discovered, and we loved watching the sunset from there. It’s a spot also visited by locals, especially during sunset hours. It was lovely to hang out and make new friends.

Santa Cruz | Turtles and touristic hub

Since we only figured out that it was easy to hop between the islands, our trip to Santa Cruz was spontaneous and unplanned. We were going to skip Santa Cruz for Isabella when a tour operator offered us a 360-degree tour for as little as 30$ each. He told us he had only two Bolivians on that tour and wanted to fill it up. So even though we got to spend very little time on the island, we got a good overview of what it had to offer.

Santa Cruz is, without a doubt, the touristic center of the Islands. The island is conveniently located right between Isla Isabella and San Cristobal. On the one hand, the tour gave us a good overview, but to be honest, we didn’t like running from one site to the other.

Best places to stay in Santa Cruz

Granada, Nicaragua: Lauri in Parque Colon
Granada, Nicaragua: Lauri in Parque Colon

Santa Cruz |El Chato tortoise center

Our favorite thing to do in Santa Cruz was by far the visit to the El Chato, the giant tortoise center! We didn’t spot as many as in San Cristobal, but we could see them from an even shorter distance, and they are even bigger!

Santa Cruz |Las Grietas

On our tour, we also visited Las Grietas, a water tunnel that offers excellent snorkeling. You must hire a water taxi or walk about 20 minutes from the main pier to get there. It gets pretty crowded, though, with many people jumping and taking pictures. The walk there through unique fauna was more our thing.

Granada, Nicaragua: Lauri in Parque Colon
Granada, Nicaragua: Lauri in Parque Colon

Santa Cruz |Tortuga Bay

Tortuga Bay is one of our favorite places in the Galapagos. It’s a beautiful, secluded beach perfect for a relaxing day. It is split into two parts: the angry (brava) beach and the calm (mansa) beach.

How to get to Tortuga Bay

The Tortuga Bay trailhead is located at the end of Charles Binford Avenue, a few blocks behind the main tourist dock area close to Las Ninfas and hotel Fiesta. Just follow the path for about a mile and a half (30-45 minutes from the trailhead) to arrive. The trail is paved, flat, and easy, leading through an old lava field colonized by Palo Santo trees and Opuntia cacti. It is a pleasant walk, accompanied by Darwin’s Finches and Galapagos Mockingbirds flitting between the trees and the melodic tunes of Yellow Warblers. Don’t forget to look to the ground, where red-throated lava lizards scurry around the dry brush habitat. When you arrive at Tortuga Bay, you’ll be greeted by white sand beaches and turquoise waters. It’s truly a paradise!

 You can also reach Tortuga Bay by boat. The journey takes about 20 minutes and costs around US$10 per person. Boat departure times vary, so checking at the dock for information before setting off is advisable.

Galapagos 65

Santa Cruz|Playa Brava

Strong currents & great surf

As you reach the end of the trail arriving at Tortuga Bay, your first sight of white sand will be Playa Brava. The water currents here are powerful and most suitable for surfing. However, this is a strictly no-swimming zone as it can be dangerous.

Galapagos 72

Santa Cruz |Playa Mansa

Calm waters & wildlife

Save your swimming for Mansa Beach, where the water is crystal clear and much calmer. Tortuga Bay is teeming with marine life, such as iguanas, crabs, turtles, and many different types of birds. It truly is a nature lover’s paradise!

Isla Isabella - lizards and surfing

Isla Isabella is the least populated and least developed of the three islands we visited. As soon as we got off the boat, lizards greeted us. Casually hanging out, they weren’t bothered by passengers getting off the ship and walking past them. They look like miniature dinosaurs.

The island consists of one main settlement comprising charming one-story houses. You can find several restaurants and bars along the beach. Isla Isabella felt authentic. It’s one of those places where tourists and locals easily meet and get to know each other. The island is unpretentious and offers plenty of things to do.

Best places to stay on Isla Isabela

Granada, Nicaragua: Lauri in Parque Colon

Surfing on Isla Isabella

A local friend told us that there is excellent surfing on the island. It’s one of the things tourists and locals love to do on the island. So we rented a surfboard for a day and had a fantastic time. The waves were great, and the water was crystal clear. We even saw some turtles while we were surfing!

Isla Isabela|Hike Sierra Negra and Volcán Chico

Hiking Sierra Negra is one of the best ways to experience the diverse landscapes of the Galapagos Islands. Although you could be forgiven for assuming that Volcán Chico is a volcano in its own right, it is just part of Sierra Negra and is considered to be a parasitic cone. In simple terms, this means it is another way for lava to exit the central volcano. Hiking Volcán Chico and Sierra Negra allow you to see two very different sides of the same coin. While Sierra Negra is primarily bald with very little vegetation, Volcán Chico is covered in lush greenery. The only way to access Volcán Chico and Sierra Negra is via guided tour. Tourists are not allowed to visit the area without a guide, and the Galapagos authorities are very strict about this.

The hike is open all year round, assuming the volcano is not in a period of high activity. During these times, Sierra Negra tours will be postponed until the danger passes. This can take weeks or even months. Hiking Sierra Negra is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see one of the most unique ecosystems on Earth.

Hiking the volcano takes around 5-6 hours from start to finish. Even though the trail’s incline is gradual, the hike can be strenuous for some due to the distance and heat of the equatorial sun. But trust us, the views are worth it! Once you reach the crater’s edge, you’ll be rewarded with an incredible panorama of Isabela Island and a sense of the scale of the eruption that created Sierra Negra. On a clear day, you can even see nearby Fernandina Island.

During periods of high activity, tours will be postponed until it’s safe to visit again.

Isla Isabela|Snorkeling Las Tuneles

Snorkeling Las Tuneles was by far one of our most unforgettable snorkeling trips ever! The boat ride itself already promised adventure. However, since the sea was rough this day, our captain had to undergo some quite thrilling maneuvers till we entered the area of las Tuneles. The collapsed lava tunnels are home to white-tipped sharks, turtles, giant pirate fish, and many other sea creatures. We even saw some seahorses in the wild! It was utterly unique! However, keep in mind that the Pacific is sometimes cold and rough. Also though we were wearing neoprene suits, we were still freezing. On our way back, we saw penguins, manta rays, and dolphins as they accompanied our boat. It was incredible! To top it all off, we even saw giant turtles in a romantic mood.

Popular tours in the Galapagos islands

Get ready to travel ECUADOR

How to backpack Galapagos islands

Backpacking the Galapagos Islands is possible! However, it’s not as easy as other South American destinations or Ecuador’s mainland. This is even truer if you are trying to travel spontaneously without much planning. You can only visit the three inhabited islands without a cruise.

San Cristobal

San Cristobal is also the administrative capital of the archipelago.

Animals on San Cristobal: sea lions, giant turtles

Santa Cruz

The island is not only the touristic hub but also the most lively city in the whole Galapagos archipelago.

Animals on Santa Cruz: sea lions, giant turtles

Isla Isabela

This island almost felt magical to us. Spend some days and sit down and watch the wild biological diversity.

Animals on Isla Isabella: sea lions, Lizards, penguins, manta rays, sharks

Wildlife on the Galapagos Islands

Maybe most importantly: Many species are endemic to one island, which means you’ll only find them in one place or island. Hence you won’t find all the animals you want to see in one place. This makes traveling between the islands necessary.

How to get there and away

Fly into San Cristobal and fly out from Santa Cruz! This will save you time, money, and a full day on a boat. The touristic infrastructure is well developed on the islands, and you’ll find everything but the internet there.

 

How to visit the Galapagos Islands without a cruise?

Traveling between the three inhabited islands is easy. However, a few things to remember: Buy your tickets a day in advance to be sure. Secondly, the boat rides can be pretty rough! Bring sea sickness medicine and a plastic bag, and don’t eat or drink too much before you get on! The price is fixed at $30 per ride and takes about two hours from San Cristobal to Santa Cruz and another two hours from Santa Cruz to Isla Isabella. Lastly, remember that it’s not always possible to travel from San Cristobal to Isabella in one day.

How high are the fees for the Galapagos Islands?

Before arriving at the Galapagos Islands, be prepared to pay $20 for a transit control card and $100 or even $140 if you stay longer than two weeks for National Park Fees. Both fees have to be paid in advance! However, it’s easy to do once you arrive at Quito or Guayaquil airport.

Best time to travel the Galapagos Islands?

The archipelago is located along the equator, yet the climate is not typically tropical. However, in December, the water was too cold to swim.

From January to May: It’s hot with higher rainfalls

June to November: The weather is cooler. Marine life is very active.

Safety on Galapagos islands

You are gravely mistaken if you think of the Galapagos islands as only a natural paradise. On the contrary, the islands are on the cocaine smuggling route. Lately, even US forces have been deployed. Nonetheless, the islands are entirely safe for visitors.

Tap water

You can not drink tap water on the Galapagos islands. So make sure to bring your Lifestraw Go to enjoy cool water while avoiding having to buy plastic bottles.

Challenges for the conscious traveler

Animal Encounters: Even though it is incredibly tempting to touch and come up close with the wildlife, keep your distance and do not ever touch or feed them!

Sunscreen: Protect the unique ecosystem and be extra careful to use reef-friendly sunscreens.

tanzania travel Zanzibar beaches

Packing List Ecuador

You’re packing your bags for a trip to Ecuador – congratulations! You’re about to embark on an amazing journey into one of the most biodiverse countries in the world.

Wondering what to pack? Check out our packing list to prepare for all Ecuador has to offer. You’ll find anything from clothing to travel gadgets and eco-friendly toiletries!

Traveling Ecuador?

Ecuador Itinerary

Places to visit in Ecuador

Dive into a land of contrasts!

Safety Tips for Solo Female Travelers

Safety Tips for Solo Female Travelers

I’m excited to share with you some invaluable safety tips garnered from my own experiences, aiming to equip fellow wanderlust-driven women with the confidence and know-how to explore the world on their own terms, safely and securely.

read more

Tobacco Caye | Caribbean paradise ?

Tobacco Caye | Caribbean paradise ?

TOBACCO CAYE

Belize
Tobacco Itinerary

The smallest island we have ever visited

Duration: at least one week

Budget: $ 75 per day

Stay: Gill’s Cove or Windward Lodge

Tobacco Caye – Our paradise in Belize! Dip into the most turquoise waters, snorkel, dive, and chill out. Get your authentic Caribbean experience! The tiny Caribbean island lays just 12 miles off the shores of Dangriga- a 40-minute boat ride. Without a doubt, the setting of Tobacco Caye is paradisical. The tiny island, which seems to sit on pink Conch shells, is surrounded by some of the most pristine water you’ll ever see. Tobacco Caye might have been the most unique place we visited while backpacking Belize. Dani visited Tobacco Caye the year before and felt a special connection to the island and its 15 permanent inhabitants.

Belize’s Central Cayes are much less visited than the Cayes up North. However, Tobacco’s prime location within the Great Barrier Reef offers incredible diving and snorkeling opportunities. The crystal clear water surrounding the island shimmers in blue and turquoise. The island is so tiny; it will take about 5 minutes to circle the whole island on foot.

Tobacco Caye is small but holds so much for those open to it! It’s a place not made for everyone, but to us, it’s extraordinary. We have learned a lot about ourselves, also. Tobacco will always be calling for us!

 

Tobacco Caye is an island destination like no other. Why? Compared to other island destinations dominated by resorts and luxury, Tobacco Caye has maintained its authentic charm. If you are up to it, you’ll be able to participate in the island’s life. Its inhabitants will welcome you with open arms, and over some community meals and activities, you’ll be able to understand how the island life shapes its people.P.S The Caye may be tiny, but check out our “good to know” to make your experience extra amazing!

Dive into the biggest Barrier Reef of the Northern hemisphere

Tobacco Caye sits within the South Water Caye Marine Reserve and offers countless diving opportunities. Dives and excursions can be arranged on the island. The guys are knowledgeable and proud of their home. Belize’s Barrier Reef is a UNESCO world heritage site with a striving turtle population. On top of that, the reserve is home to more than 500 species of fish!

Cavalerio church in Leon, Nicaragua
Granada, Nicaragua: market

Home of the stingrays

Since none of us had a diving permit and fishing was not our thing, our water activities were limited to snorkeling. You can either borrow gear and venture out from Reef’s end by yourself or go on a tour. The marine life close by is super beautiful and diverse.

Tobacco Caye is also home to 7-8 giant stingrays. They follow the fisher boats when they come back and are marvelous to look at! Over at the western side of the island, fishers tend to clean their catches. Thereby they attract the local stingrays. It’s so cool to see them feast on fish leftovers. You can even carefully touch them. They feel like wet silk.

After exploring the nearby marine life (you should also go out at night!), you can explore nearby snorkeling sites with one of the island guys.

Day-trip to other nearby Cayes

One of our most fantastic day trips was to Southwater Caye. With Gustan, who has been living on a 100-year-old sailboat, we got to sail across the most beautiful water to visit the nearby Caye. It’s probably one of the most fantastic boat experiences ever!

If you ever feel like visiting nearby Cayes, you can always inquire about the local guys; they’ll do anything to show you around! Glover’s Reef, an even remoter island, is only a 45 min boat ride away.

My dear friend Captain Nolan is offering day tours to all nearby Cayes. He’s a soul of a person who knows the Cayes inside and out. Give him a call when around! His number is +501 615 6512.

Leon, Nicaragua: barrio Sutiavia
Tobacco Caye, Belize

Get an understanding of island life

Often, when traveling to an island destination. You only get to see the paradisical side of it. While Tobacco is paradisical, it also offers you a unique chance to engage in island life. With Jerome being our provider, we shared countless community meals and got to hear the stories and the gossip. We felt at home, included.

Life on Tobacco Caye is pretty slow. It’s all about the sun, the sea, and the ganja. Most locals rise with the sun, take a smoke, and go out fishing. By the time the sun is fully up, everyone has taken another smoking break and busses them with either providing for their guests or cleaning the island. In the afternoon and evening, its time to enjoy life or take visitors out for a dive. Spending time together and letting time pass is essential.

Tobacco Caye – a seafood haven

Locals dine on the menu of the sea. Jerome and the sea provided for most delicious food during our journey. As you walk across the island, you might feel like Tobacco Caye is settled on pink conch shells. But, if you take a closer look, you can tell by the whole that they’d been on the menu once, too. Tobacco Caye is genuinely tiny. It’s a tight community where everyone watches out for one another. During the week, island kids attend school on the mainland and stay with their mothers or relative. On the weekends, though, they’ll come and visit. You’ll hear laughter and giggling.

Lately, the local guys have set up a small fruit and barbeque stall on the island. Not only will you get the super fesh seafood but it is also prepared with lots of love. Make sure to support them and stop by!

Tobacco Caye, Belize: stingray

Practical travel tips for Tobacco Caye

What is the best time to visit Tobacco Caye?

P

Hopkins experiences quite heavy rain from June to September as anywhere in the Caribbean. This time is also considered hurricane season. The high season starts in November till February. The best time to travel is, without a doubt, shoulder season in June so that you can visit Mango fest or November for Garifuna Day!

What shall I bring to Tobacco Caye?

P

There is only one small kiosk on the island. So bring everything you need. However, the booth only sells chips, sweets, cigarettes, and drinks.

How can I protect myself from sandflies?

P

Once you get to Hopkins, buy some handmade coconut oil to protect yourself from sandfly bites! They are especially active during morning and evening hours.

How to get to Tobacco Caye?

P

The cheapest way to get to Tobacco Cay is from Dangriga. Usually, there is one small boat per day, but make sure you check with the locals or arrange for transport with your hotel. Captain Doggy is our favorite person to take us to and from the island. He'll charge you around $40 one way. Unfortunately, there is no boat leaving or arriving after dark.

Where to eat on Tobacco Caye?

P

Usually, you'll have to book accommodation with meals included since there is no such thing as an independent restaurant. However, you might inquire about Lily from Reefs End or Jerome to join them for meals.

Can I drink tap water in Belize?

P

In the towns, the water is supposedly drinkable. But as you will spend a lot of time on the water and Cayes in Belize, bring a water filter or a self-cleaning bottle to be safe and avoid causing plastic pollution. The bottles will keep your water fresh and cool, too!

What's the biggest challenge for the conscious traveler?

P

Eating fish: To protect marine life in Belize, fishing is regulated by seasons to guarantee the species' time to recover. Therefore, make a point of not eating lobster or conch when not in season! Conch season runs from October to June. Lobster season is from July to February.

Sunscreen: Protect the unique marine life in Belize, and always wear reef-friendly sunscreen. Check out our guide to coral-safe sunscreens here.

Plastic: Bring your self-cleaning bottle to avoid causing trash by consuming bottled water.

tanzania travel Zanzibar beaches

Packing List Belize

Check out our packing list to prepare for all Belize has to offer. You’ll find anything from clothing to travel gadgets and eco-friendly toiletries.

Tobacco Caye, Belize us at sunset

Places to stay on Tobacco Caye

Gill’s Cove

By far our favorite stay on Tobacco Caye! Why? Jerome is truly a wonderful host who will go beyond to make you feel happy. He’s well-beloved in the local community; everyone feels welcomed at Gill’s Cove! The food is absolutely amazing, too. By the way: Jerome is currenlty constructing a very cool over-the-water buganlow which should be ready in November 2023! Make sure to check it out!

Winward Lodge

A newcomer to the Caye! Winward Lodge is much more upscale than Gill’s Cove. The beachfront cabins offer a private hammock, hot rainwater showers, and 24/7 electricity, as well as a restaurant and a bar. 

Places to visit in Belize

A Small Country with a big personality!