If you are looking to do things as cheap as possible, I would suggest cooking for yourselves. Look at the accommodation section above to find out where we stayed on Santa Cruz and Isabella Island, as these places had kitchens.
Cooking is the cheaper option, but it still isn’t very cheap. We were shocked to see the prices of food in the supermarkets and even at the markets. The prices were two, three, four, or five times as much as what we were paying on mainland Ecuador. We remember very well that bottles of beer were $4 or 5 dollars in the Galapagos, whereas we were used to paying just $1 in Ecuador.
During our stay, we made a lot of tomato and pasta dishes. Eggs were reasonably cheap, so we often made omelettes too. Fruit was not cheap at all, not even bananas which were grown on the islands. We would buy bread for the week, so we could take it out with us and make sandwiches for lunch. It was very hot, so we would often buy the cheese or ham for our sandwiches when we were out.
One of the reasons for the high prices on the Galapagos is that the islands survive on tourism and so hike up the prices. Very rich tourists visit the islands and are willing to pay. However, more importantly, is that everything is imported to the Islands. Very little is actually produced locally and so everything is bought on huge ships from Ecuador. You may well see these ships docked in the bay, whilst the smaller boats travel back and forth transporting everything to shore. In fact, when we were visiting, one of the ships had run aground and they couldn’t get the cargo to the islands. The shelves were empty in the supermarkets, and some shops were even shut.
We ate out for dinner a few times. It really is worth paying for a meal out, just to try some of the amazing seafood. On Santa Cruz, there is a street filled with places to eat. You choose the fish and they’ll cook it on the barbecue. We tried the lobster and Brujo fish, which were very tasty! You can pay about $12 for a fish or lobster. We shared it to keep out costs down, but we could’ve easily eaten one each. Particularly the lobsters, there wasn’t much meat on them. We would share a fish or lobster, a salad and a beer for about $20. Not too cheap if you are going out every night.
On Santa Cruz Island, there is also a small fish market. If you walk along the main waterfront, every morning you will see them bringing in the fish from the daily catch. The locals then prepare and cut them up on the street in front of you. Some of the fish are huge and colourful, it’s fascinating to see. The pelicans flock from all around and there is always a sea lion standing behind the fishermen, like a dog waiting to be thrown the scraps of fish. It’s definitely worth going to have a look! If you have a kitchen and know how to cook fish, I’d definitely recommend going down to the market in the morning to buy some fresh, before the heat or flies have got to it!
On Isabella Island, food is more expensive and there is a lot less choice. We found it difficult to find a proper market, and only stumbled on one stall selling a few basic fruits and veg. The lady was very miserable, rude and ripped us off big time for a pepper, onion, tomatoes and some bananas. Apart from that, there are about 3 shops on the islands that sell some basics and where we bought our pasta and tomato sauce. The restaurants all served pretty much the same set menus. The lunch menus are generally cheaper and you can get a better deal. Going off the set menus becomes a lot more expensive. For us, the food wasn’t fantastic on Isabella. We found a place right on the beach that made their own delicious ice creams from condensed milk and a range of fruits, including avocado.
On San Cristobal, there was a bigger variety of places to eat with a greater range of prices. We had some nice seafood at a restaurant called La Playa on the waterfront. It wasn’t the cheapest, but it was a nice outdoor restaurant and the food was good. For a much cheaper option, we found a restaurant which had a $3.50 set menu, with a choice of spaghetti or meat and rice. Very basic, but tasty, filling and cheap. I’m afraid I can’t remember the name, but it was on José de Vilamil street, next to Casa de Luis hostel.
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