Finch Bay Eco Lodge, Santa Cruz, Galapagos Islands
Just outside the largest township in the Galapagos, Puerto Ayora, Finch Bay Eco Lodge sits on the edge of a small bay next to the island's main harbour. The hotel can only be reached by boat and is a short, five-minute trip by water taxi to town. The beach in front of the hotel offers calm, warm waters and is popular both with visitors and locals.
The lodge has 27 rooms, some with ocean views and others set further back. Wooden decking leads to the garden view rooms. There is a pool with obligatory bar, a large restaurant and a business centre, which is also only the place you can find a TV on the property. The reception, lounge and restaurant are part of a large open space, open to the pool area allowing views of the beach and passing frigate birds. Various other animals are likely to be spotted on or near the property, including Darwin's famous finches for which the bay is named, along with lava lizards and iguanas. You may even spot turtles and sea lions frolicking in the bay.
While the hotel's public areas feel summery with plenty of whites and wicker, the rooms are a little basic. My garden view room features two king single beds, a tiled floor, a desk and a wardrobe. There is a a large artwork on the wall but beyond this there is little to add a sense of style to the room. The bathroom is large enough but has some functionality issues (the water in the shower drains far too slowly to keep pace with the pressure and the attached sink plug does not work). Originally opened in 1976 the hotel was taken over by Metropolitan Touring Group and refurbished twice, most recently in 2015. Even so, the room is in need of a bit of a revamp to warrant its luxury reputation.
The restaurant, on the other hand, offers no such complaints. The menu is extensive with a wide range of meat, fish and vegetarian dishes, soups, ceviches, pasta and more. There's also a more basic snack menu with favourites such as hamburgers, club sandwiches and hot dogs. I opt for a Thai-style chicken and prawn soup followed by a seafood pasta, which contains so much seafood I can barely finish it.
Finch Bay offers a variety of day trips on its own yacht (at extra charge) to other parts of Santa Cruz as well as other nearby islands where you can get up close with some of the Galapagos Islands' incredible wildlife. I rent a kayak ($US28) and take an easy paddle over to Devine Bay, where I spot sea turtles and various birds and encounter some curious sea lions. A 15-minute walk from the hotel is Las Grietes – a volcanic gorge filled with seawater, yet closed off from the open sea, which has formed into a long, narrow swimming hole. It's a popular spot for tourists and locals. The water is extremely deep and clear, but aside from a few small fish you'll feel like you're in a swimming pool. The hotel has a pool of course, but Las Grietes is a must.
With restrictions on Galapagos cruise ships and therefore limited availability, tourists are increasingly opted for "land tours" where they base themselves in a township and head out on day trips. Finch Bay is a comfortable option and it's self-run tours make exploring the region easy. However, the rooms are a little basic for the price.
Rooms start from $US454 a night, double occupancy. See finchbayhotel.com
See and do
The South America Travel Centre can create tailor-made itineraries, including accommodation, transfers, activities and domestic travel across South America and the Galapagos Islands. See southamericatravelcentre.com.au
Some of the wildlife stars of the Galapagos are on your doorstep.
The room is a bit too basic to be considered luxurious.
LATAM flies from Sydney to Santiago, Chile with connections to the Galapagos via Quito, Ecuador. See latam.com/en_au
The writer travelled as a guest of the South America Travel Centre and LATAM.