While the vast majority of tourists stay either on boats or ships, or at one of the hotels on either Santa Cruz or San Cristóbal, it is possible to stay on the much less developed islands of Isabela or Floreana. Staying at either of these will definitely give you the sense of being off the beaten path, while still allowing you access to all the same types of tour and activity options available to those who choose a more traditional route.
You can get to Isabela from either Santa Cruz or San Cristóbal on a commuter flight with EMETEBE (tel. 800/481-3163 in the U.S., or 05/2520-615; www.emetebe.com), or via a boat ride from Puerto Ayora or Puerto Barquerizo Moreno. Isla Floreana can only be reached by boat, and it's a slightly shorter ride to Floreana from Santa Cruz than from San Cristóbal. Boats leave regularly for both of these islands from Puerto Ayora and Puerto Barquerizo Moreno. The fare is between $30 and $40 (£20-£27) one way. Any hotel or tour agency on the archipelago can help you arrange a ride. Or you can call Ferry Transmartica (tel. 05/2526-360), which has regular daily service between Santa Cruz and Isabela. However, if you plan to stay on either one of these islands, you should probably reserve your room and arrange transportation in advance.
Alternately, you can book a complete island-hopping tour in advance. Most tour agencies in Ecuador can arrange such a trip, or you can try Red Mangrove Galápagos Lodges (tel. 888/254-3190 in the U.S. and Canada, or 05/2526-524 in Ecuador; www.redmangrove.com), which specializes in island-hopping tours and has comfortable hotels on three of the islands.
On Isabela Island -- The Hotel Albemarle (tel. 05/2529-489; www.hotelalbemarle.com) is a new, beachfront luxury hotel in the center of town. For backpackers, the best of the budget bunch is Caleta Iguana (tel. 05/2529-330). Finally, if you're looking for something a little different, the folks at Red Mangrove also run a "deluxe" campground, Campo Duro, set on the slopes of Cerro Negro, amid a tortoise rehabilitation zone.
The two hotels listed here, and the Albemarle mentioned above, have the best restaurants in town; however, they are also the priciest. Aside from these, you might also try El Encanto de la Pepa (tel. 05/2529-284) or El Toque del Sabor (tel. 05/2529-442), two simple, open-air restaurants that face the town's small central park.
For sunset and drinks, you can't beat the Sea Lion Café (tel. 08/2603-022), which is located out at the end of the dock jutting off the center of town. For later-night drinking, head to Bar de Beto (tel. 05/2529-015).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.