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In the 1830s, Charles Darwin sailed on the HMS Beagle into an archipelago that held species never before recorded. The variances he observed among those animals kindled his idea of natural selection and laid the foundation for his The Origin of Species treatise. From that point on, these 19 islands known as the Galapagos were marked as places worth preserving. The islands have been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1978, although in 2007 they were added to the List of World Heritage sites in Danger. Thrill to the same joy of discovery as you tread in Darwin's footsteps on shore excursions guided by expert naturalists on this once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
You’ll be mesmerized by up-close views of rare and exotic wildlife as you explore these islands aboard the stylish La Pinta. La Pinta is a deluxe and intimate yacht-style cruiser, the only Galapagos vessel with floor-to-ceiling windows in every stateroom. Enjoy wonderful meals with your fellow guests in the congenial single-seating dining room plus an inviting lounge with panoramic windows and a fitness room. The ship also offers complimentary Wi-Fi and snorkeling gear, and comes with its own sea kayaks and a glass-bottom boat. Her teams of naturalists include some of the most experienced on the islands and will be on hand to explain the islands’ unique biology and guide you in wildlife viewing as you hike, boat and snorkel amid the flora and fauna of this special corner of the planet.
Highlights include visiting the Cerro Colorado Tortoise Center on San Cristobal Island to learn about these fascinating indigenous creatures. Try to spot all three species of boobies at Punta Pitt on the eastern tip of the island then visit Cerro Brujo, a beautiful white sand beach inhabited by shore birds and sea lions. On Espanola Island, encounter boobies, swallow-tail gulls and marine iguanas on a guided walk at Punta Suarez then observe sea lions and finches at Gardner Bay. Here you’ll also have a chance to use your complimentary wet suits, snorkeling gear or glass-bottom boat to explore the underwater marine life. Learn about the efforts to preserve and protect the islands’ natural heritage at the Charles Darwin Research Center on Santa Cruz Island. And throughout the cruise, your wildlife-viewing shore expeditions are enhanced by informative nightly lectures.
Prior to your cruise, also enjoy three nights in Quito at the elegant Casa Gangotena, the best luxury hotel in the capital. Enjoy a free day to explore the city on your own then take a guided sightseeing tour of the Colonial district followed by lunch in historic La Ronda.
• 4 nights in deluxe and first-class hotels: 3 nights in Quito and 1 night in Guayaquil
• 3 nights all-inclusive cruise aboard La Pinta in an outside stateroom – includes 6 shore excursions with naturalists in small landing parties
• 14 meals - Daily breakfast, 4 lunches and 3 dinners
• On-tour transportation and 2 internal flights
• Services of a professional trip leader
• Comprehensive escorted sightseeing with all entry fees, National Park fee and required Galapagos Transit Control Card
• Hotel to hotel baggage handling
Day 1 - Welcome to Quito
AAA Complimentary Inclusion: Enjoy a complimentary extra night in Quito before your tour at the Hotel Casa Gangotena, including breakfast the following day.
Accommodation: Hotel Casa Gangotena - 3 nights
Day 2 - Quito
Enjoy a free day in Quito to relax or explore the city on your own.
Day 3 - Discover Quito’s Colonial Monuments
Engaging Experience: Begin your day in the historic San Juan neighborhood at a wonderful pastry shop that’s been popular with city residents for more than 40 years. Savor a cup of traditional Ecuadoran hot chocolate and a quesadilla, a light, cake-like sweet freshly made from flour, eggs and cheese.
Later, your sightseeing showcases the city’s most significant Colonial-era churches and monuments, including the Church of the Compania of Jesus and the Church of San Francisco. Then a pleasant guided stroll brings you into charming La Ronda, an historic district now filled with numerous artisan workshops specializing in traditional Ecuadorean crafts like textiles, hats and candles. After lunch in a favorite restaurant here, you will be escorted back to your hotel in mid-afternoon.
Day 4 – Onward to the Galapagos
Fly to the Galapagos' San Cristobal Island to embark on La Pinta, your cruise ship. After lunch, visit the Cerro Colorado Tortoise Center to learn more about these fascinating indigenous creatures. Engaging Experience: This evening’s informative and entertaining lecture with our experienced shipboard naturalists, the first of your daily briefings, has been specifically designed to enhance your exploration over the coming days.
Day 5 - Morning & Afternoon Landings on San Cristobal
Step ashore this morning at Punta Pitt on the eastern tip of the island. A pleasant trail from the beach provides spectacular views of the shoreline and is the only site in the islands where all three species of boobies can be found together. In the afternoon, explore Cerro Brujo, a beautiful white sand beach inhabited by numerous shore birds and colonies of sea lions.
Day 6 - Two Landings on Espanola Island
A guided morning walk across the unusual lava terrain at Punta Suarez is rewarded with more bird and wildlife encounters including boobies, swallow-tail gulls and marine iguanas. After lunch onboard, explore the picturesque beaches of Gardner Bay to observe sea lions, mockingbirds and finches. Engaging Experience: There is great snorkeling in this area or you can take the time to kayak or ride the glass-bottom boat with complimentary use of wet suits, snorkeling gear and kayaks.
Day 7 - Charles Darwin Research Center and Fly to Guayaquil
Engaging Experience: Disembark this morning on Santa Cruz Island and visit the esteemed Charles Darwin Research Center to learn about the important work being done to preserve the Galapagos’ natural heritage. In the Llerena Breeding Center, you’ll see tortoise hatchlings and the enormous adults that are part of the ongoing research to ensure the survival of the species.
Then transfer to the airport on Baltra Island for your included flight back to the mainland. Arrive in Guayaquil where you’ll be escorted the hotel.
Accommodation: Hilton Colon Hotel - 1 night
Day 8 - Farewell to Ecuador
Your adventure ends today after breakfast.
Limitations & Restrictions
*Prices are per person based on double occupancy, are subject to availability at time of booking, and may change without notice. Price given based on 2014 departure dates; rates for 2015 departure dates may be higher. Single supplement may apply. The $100 per person Family & Friends savings is based on 4 people traveling together. Note that if a single traveler brings a couple for a total of 3 people traveling together, then all guests receive an extra $50 per person discount (not $100). Except for packages including air transportation, unless stated otherwise, airfare, taxes and government fees are not included. Offers valid for new bookings only. Member Benefits are per person and apply to first and second traveler only. Member Benefits are available only with advertised fare and are subject to change without notice. Your travel arrangements may be modified or canceled subject to the travel providers’ policies. Blackout dates and other restrictions may apply. We make every effort for accuracy at time of printing but reserve the right to correct errors. AAA Travel strongly recommends the purchase of trip protection insurance. Except for packages including air transportation, fares may not reflect additional fuel supplement or port charges and vary by provider.
**Restrictions apply to the AAA Vacations® Best Price Guarantee and 24/7 Member Care. Should you find a valid better rate for the exact same itinerary within 24 hours of booking, AAA will match the lower rate. Ask your AAA Travel Counselor for details.
CST #1003968-80. Registration as seller of travel does not constitute approval by the State of California.