At the completion of our 5-day cruise aboard the Legend, my mother and I had planned to spend two nights in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz to continue our Galapgaos experience and have one more day for an excursion. A lot of travelers will extend their time on land in the Galapagos for scuba diving excursions or to do a specific day trip that their cruise didn't cover. It's a great way to see the local culture, go out to eat, stock up on souvenirs, and move at your own pace.
Going out to local restaurants is one of my favorite things about traveling, so I reveled in the opportunity to go big - lobster! Please and thank you!
We were able to fit a lot into our one full free day on Santa Cruz! Along with our guide, we started the day with a kayaking tour of the lava channels near Puerto Ayora. This involved fighting against some pretty strong waves initially, so it's not for the faint of heart. I was struck by the stunning turquoise water and the lack of crowds with just a 15-minute kayak trip from town.
We also enjoyed a short walk / easy hike (1.5 miles) to Tortuga Bay - most cruises do not visit this site, so it makes a great addition to any free day in Santa Cruz. It was the closest thing to a white sand beach I was able to find in the Galapagos. As I've said before, don't go to the Galapagos if your main goal is to just relax on the beach and sip cocktails - you'll spend much less money doing that elsewhere - but for two hours in a free afternoon? Perfect.
The main thing to keep in mind if extending on land pre- or post-cruise is that it will require extra logistical coordination, time, and flexibility on your part. If just doing the cruise, all of your group airport transfers are included, and you're corralled from place to place by the ship operator - very little thought required on your part. Just follow orders! If extending on land, you'll likely have to remind the ship's crew that you're straying from the group logistics, take a taxi (or arrange a private transfer) from the airport into town, and take a bit more ownership of your schedule to make sure you're in the right place at the right time. If that doesn't deter you, extending on land in the Galapagos is a great way to complement your cruise experience!