Are you planning to go to the Galapagos? It’s a bit of a unique destination, and sometimes hard to filter through all of the lists and lists of things people recommend between bloggers, tour operators, etc. So here are the 10 things that I think are “must-haves” for the Galapagos, for any boat-based trip. I’ve already mentioned a lot of these, but thought it would be helpful to consolidate them on one list, with some more details on the what and the why.
We are two travelers that pack light, and had plenty of clothes for every day of a 10 day trip–even with some important extras tucked in. DH and I both took our Patagonia Black Hole duffel bags (raved about here), which were perfect for storing on the boat. Depending on the type of boat, storage can be tight and a soft-sided duffel is easily smushed and stuffed wherever it needs to go.
Here we go Part 1 of 2: the first 5 items you have to bring to the Galapagos.
1. Two times as much sunscreen as you think you need.
We had just enough sunscreen to get us both through about 7 days on the boat. Remember–you are on the equator and going to be in the water usually multiple times per day, which increases the number of times you need to apply sunscreen significantly, even if you are wearing protective clothing. I would estimate I fully coated in sunscreen at least 4 times a day, and rarely made it through an on-island hike without doing some reapplication. Use at least SPF 40+. SPF 20 is a joke in the Galapagos.
Now, sunscreen is known to have ingredients that aren’t so good for sea life, particularly coral reefs. In addition to our usual batch of sunscreen, we also carried “reef-friendly” sunscreen: we used Badger, available on Amazon. This stuff was really thick and a mess to get on…I pretty much despised applying it, it never absorbed and was hard to reapply if you were even the least bit damp. And it was only SPF 35, so it didn’t last nearly long enough. But I did use it when I knew we were snorkeling in a place with lots of coral. Next time I’d try Tropical Sands.
2. More than one bathing suit.
I know that it’s common to think “I’ll just get by on one suit” but let’s be real for a second–swimsuits take up zero space in your luggage and what is worse than putting on a wet suit in the morning? This goes for guys, too! Do not just have one pair of swim trunks. Not only is it nice to have more than one suit, it’s kind of gross not to, considering how much you live in your swimsuit on the boat. You can try to wash things, but washing is 1) not always recommended, considering your boat has limited fresh water, and most people would much prefer to shower than do laundry, 2) not so much fun in a tiny boat bathroom, and 3) not the best option because things rarely dry in the tropics (and when they do dry, they usually smell). Also, for women, don’t take those skimpy little bikinis if you are thinking about jumping off the boat or swimming. They don’t stay on and holding up your suit while playing in the water, well, sucks. The Galapagos is really about more function than fashion, so choose something that won’t fall off.
3. Wetsuit/rashguard/swim tights.
I freeze in a nanosecond in the ocean, so bringing a wetsuit was a no-brainer for me. Most boats have wetsuits for use on board, but I’m a total germaphobe and even if cleaned thoroughly, I’d just rather be in my own wetsuit. I used a Patagonia R1 Spring Jane, recommended for 60-65 degrees. If you have a wetsuit from scuba diving, that would work too.
Side note: who makes up these degree ranges? They are insane. It was definitely between 70-74 degrees in the Galapagos, and I barely stayed warm in the Spring Jane. Granted, I’m a good swimmer and snorkeling requires pretty much zero effort, so floating around is not how you stay warm. If you a person that runs warm, well, you’ll be just fine. DH never put on a wetsuit, never got cold, and was always the last out of the water.
Now, even if you don’t have a wetsuit, do yourself a favor and bring a rashguard–short or longsleeve, even better if it has a collar to cover the back of your neck in the water. A UPF tech shirt can definitely work in place of an actual rashguard. When you spend 60-90 minutes in the water, with the sun just glaring on your back, you don’t want to figure out you missed a spot in your sunscreen application, and it’s pretty iffy to rely purely on sunscreen for 90 minutes in salt water. And what is worse than being in pain and uncomfortable on vacation?
No Shame: Wetsuit, Rashguard, Swim Tights
I also took swim tights, so I didn’t have to worry about sunburning my legs on long snorkels. They added a touch of warmth, too. Plus, there are the occasional jellyfish in the Galapagos–rashguards and swim tights definitely help protect against those too. I got my swim tights from Athleta, but there are a lot of athletic tights with UPF protection that will work just fine.
4. Lightweight, sun-protective shirts and neck protection.
More sun protection. Bring those UPF shirts. If they don’t have a collar, it’s worth wearing a bandanna or a “cool towel” (like this) around your neck to avoid being burnt. I guess the Galapagos Islands are really awesome at teaching us all how crappy we are with sunscreen application. These are great for on the boat, hiking on the islands, as well as kayaking.
Bring fabric that is lightweight, breathes easily, and dries quickly. Patagonia, Ex Officio, Mountain Hardwear all have great UPF collared shirts that are perfect for travel (need a great deal? here are my go to sites). For more athletic-wear type UPF shirts, I’m a huge fan of both Athleta and Lululemon. Athleta usually has more UPF selections year-round, but Lululemon’s sun shirts are really lightweight and pretty. Athleta also has the best return policy in the business. (Yes, I should be paid to advertise for them, but no I’m not!). Below is the Wick-It Wader Coverup from Athleta, complete with a hood and pockets.
Do not plan on washing these shirts, for the reasons noted above–better to have one per day or one for every two days, depending on how smelly you are. Kidding. Not really. I kept one for wearing on the boat were I wouldn’t be sweating quite so much, so it definitely could go a few wears before it got pitched in the dirty-clothes bag. For your fellow travelers, don’t underestimate how mildewy and sweaty things smell after a day or two. No one likes the smelly person. No one.
5. Sunglasses (+ extra or repair kit)/croakies.
I never take two pairs of sunglasses anywhere–in fact, I often forget a pair, but one of my pairs actually broke in the Galapagos and I was so lucky to have a backup set. We were 3 days from the island with a store, and I would have had to try to bum an extra pair off another friendly guest, if anyone had one. Do yourself a favor and take an extra pair or grab one of those quick glass repair kits with extra screws and tiny screwdrivers.
Additionally, I love my croakies, and put a pair on both pairs of glasses. You are on a boat, and it only takes a split second to be staring at the shark under the boat when your glasses…fall…off…in…to…the….deep. Plus, for kayaking they are an absolute must in the event your roll your kayak. You don’t want to be in the Galapagos without a pair of sunglasses.
There you go, Part 1. Part 2 coming soon!
Any comments on these items or what you had to have in the Galapagos? Leave a message!