Arguably, the only thing greener than the forested hills of Santa Cruz on the Galápagos Islands is Pikaia Lodge: a sustainably-built, eco-friendly, solar-powered, carbon-neutral hotel balanced on the cone of an extinct volcano. All 14 light-filled rooms have unobstructed views of forests, farmland and the giant tortoises that call this lush island home. There’s plenty to see on land – white-sand beaches, volcanic craters and lava tunnels – but a short sail will bring you to the emblematic turquoise waters, too: a stay as prismatic as the islands themselves.
Get this when you book through us:
A toxin-releasing massage in the Sumaq spa (adults only)
14 rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows, including two suites.
Flight times dictate check-in and check-out times at the lodge, and staff will make sure your room is available on your arrival.
Double rooms from £2751.11 ($3,435). Please note the hotel charges an additional government tax of $100.00 per booking on check-out.
Rates include all meals, snacks, local wines and beer. Transfers between Seymour airport and the hotel (and access to the VIP lounge in the airport) are included in rates, as are all excursions on land and the lodge’s private yacht.
The currents that pass through the islands bring ample food for marine life to the shores – so you’re pretty likely to come across dolphins, orca whales and hammerhead sharks, as well as the usual residents of the Galápagos waters: manta rays, sea turtles, black and white-tipped sharks and schools of fish. It’s also the only place on the equator to hear the pitter-patter of penguin feet.
The lodge closes from 1 September to 16 October every year
At the hotel
Restaurant, bar, infinity pool, mountain bikes to borrow, spa with Jacuzzi and sauna, treatment room, lounge with books, films and a 3D TV. In rooms: WiFi, TV, tea- and coffee-making facilities, minibar, robes and slippers, hairdryer, Pikaia backpack and water bottle, biodegradable Sumaq toiletries.
Our favourite rooms
Every room has floor-to-ceiling windows and panoramic views, but we love how the balconies in the second-floor rooms jutt out, rather dramatically, over the crater.
They sure know how to make the most of natural resources at Pikaia – the impressive crater-side infinity pool is strategically placed to bask in maximum sunlight all day. The pool is set in Peruvian travertine marble and walled by comfortable day beds, with views over the forested hills of the island.
The eastern-facing Sumaq spa has 270-degree views out to a tapestry of greens and blues where Santa Cruz meets the Pacific. Take in the vistas from the comfort of the mosaic-tiled Jacuzzi or loungers. There’s a treatment room where you can indulge in facials, massages and body wraps enhanced by local ingredients – such as Galápagos volcanic ash. Embrace indigenous wisdom with the Shamanic massage: a 90-minute treatment using palo santo oil (chosen for its healing properties) and a rainmaker stick. The small but serviceable workout room has Life Fitness equipment and free weights.
Pikaia lodge are members of Pack for a Purpose – an initiative that asks you to replace those just-in-case outfits and underwear with much-needed donations for local communities. In Pikaia’s case, school supplies are most helpful, such as book bags, pencils, pens, calculators and Spanish dictionaries. These are donated to the local school in Cascajo village, which the lodge already supports.
This is a guilt-free Galápagos getaway: the lodge goes above-and-beyond with its environmentally-friendly measures. Its gloriously green surroundings weren’t always that way, having once been home to a cattle ranch: the hotel planted more than 11,000 endemic trees to reforest the former pasture land. You’ll be invited to help with restoration efforts by planting your own tree, too. Solar panels and a wind turbine generate much of the energy needed to run the lodge, without polluting or emitting any greenhouse gases. Pikaia is carbon neutral (and so is the dining – dishes are made with produce from local farmers and fishermen), favours biodegradable toiletries and limits the use of plastic. It was built using eco-friendly methods and materials: including local Galápagos lava stone and tiles, Peruvian travertine and sustainable bamboo. Water is a particularly precious resource in Ecuador, and the lodge’s roofs are designed to collect rainwater, which is then treated, purified and used throughout the hotel, avoiding the need for plastic bottles. Sunshine, on the other hand, is a resource put to good use: optimal placement of solar water-heating panels and UV reflecting glass support energy conservation throughout the hotel.
Pick your panoramic background: one side of the restaurant overlooks the crater, the other has a view of the infinity-edge pool.
Casual and comfy, but no beachwear (save the kaftans and sandals for island-hopping day trips).
Take a seat at one of Evolution’s fossil-inlaid tables, a restaurant fusing Ecuadorian flavours with international flair under the expertise of chef Christian Puente. The menu changes daily and is almost entirely farm-to-table, favouring local farmers and fishermen – and only buying from those who work in approved areas. At breakfast, give the tigrillo a go: a typical Ecuadorian dish of green plantain cooked with onions and achiote oil, topped with soft-boiled eggs and sal prieta. There’s a range of natural juices to kick-start your day with, too – we love the ‘golden’ medley of ginger, honey, lemon, turmeric and paprika. You’ll want to make plenty of room for dinner. Start with rock octopus marinated with chimichurri, or sango, a traditional rice dish with refrito and poached king prawns. There are plenty of fish-focused mains: lava ceviche, beach tuna breaded in crunchy oats and grated coconut, and honey-mustard marinated white fish. Finish the evening with a 65% cocoa vulcan cake, zambo confit or maqueño cake served with peanut ice cream.
The DNA bar is sandwiched between the restaurant and infinity pool, with shaded terraces and sink-into sofas. Debate your favourite wildlife sighting of the day over cervezas and classic cocktails – including margaritas, mojitos and martinis – and the crackling of the cast-iron fire pit.
Breakfast sets you up for the day between 7–10am, lunch is served 1–4pm, and dinner is 7–10pm.
Room service is available from 7am–10pm, and the menu is the same as you’ll find in the restaurant.
Pikaia Lodge is perched on the edge of an extinct volcano, on the eastern side of the lush Santa Cruz island.
Seymour airport (GPS) is an hour from the hotel. Understandably scenic transfers are included in your booking – you’ll take a private boat across the Itabaca Channel before a 40-minute journey, by car, from dock to lodge.
Worth getting out of bed for
A grounded stay in the Galápagos islands makes for a richer, more authentic experience of this unique destination. Before you even leave the grounds of the lodge you have an infinity pool, Swiss-style spa, and 3.5km of private paths for walking, jogging and mountain biking – all in the company of giant tortoises, finches and two resident owls. Santa Cruz has two exceptional beaches: Tortuga bay is a vast stretch of fine white sand, with views to Santa Fe island and plenty of space for swimming, surfing, and bodyboarding; El Garrapatero is smaller, surrounded by mangroves and with pristine turquoise waters. The island has a lot else to offer, too: you’ll find yourself amongst volcanic craters, lava tunnels, endemic forests and tiny villages with organic coffee farms. And that’s just above ground: snorkel, swim and scuba dive with turtles, fishes and (friendly) sharks, and be back in the safety of the lodge before you need to worry about finding your sea legs.
All meals are included in your stay, but if you do decide to venture out for food, Avenue Charles Darwin in Puerto Ayora is your best bet (although it’s worth noting that it’s a 30-minute drive from the hotel). Navigate wooden walkways to the second floor of Il Giardino’s tree-house exterior and dine on pizzas, pastas and local Ecuadorian dishes. There are plenty of vegan and vegetarian options here – try the coconut pesto linguine.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this eco-adventure hotel in Santa Cruz and unpacked their organic Ecuadorian coffee from their Pikaia backpacks, a full account of their back-to-nature break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Pikaia Lodge in the Galápagos islands…
In Ecuador, nature takes centre stage: whether you’re in the Amazon, the Andean highlands, on the coastline of the Pacific or the arid Galápagos islands. We’re hard pressed to say who surged interest in the Galápagos more – Darwin or Sir David Attenborough – but we do know that the 19 islands and over 40 islets are a top-of-the-list destination for many, and for good reason. Santa Cruz is the second-largest island, and home to otherworldly Las Bachas, lush highlands and plenty of giant tortoises (some weigh in at a staggering 200kgs). And on one of its extinct (promise) volcanoes is Pikaia Lodge – jutting, rather dramatically, out from the edge of the crater and over 31 hectares of private giant tortoise reserve. The staff here are incredibly knowledgeable and friendly – not excluding the two resident owls, who you can expect to see twit twoo-ing by the infinity pool, the Peruvian marble lobby or the balcony of your sun-lit room.