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Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Updated: May 31, 6:38 PM ET
Going Galapagos


Located 525 nautical miles off the coast of Ecuador sits the Galapagos Islands. Like Hawaii, it's volcanic in origin. And like Hawaii, there's some pretty good surf there. But unlike Hawaii, there aren't many surfers. Boasting a population of just 25,000 people -- whereas Waikiki's population is about 330,000 -- overcrowding is not an issue. But sensible ecotourism is. Part Ecuadorian province, part national reserve, the Galapagos are considered by the scientific community to be the birthplace of Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution, due to its varied and abundant wildlife population. But to be historically accurate, it was a British buccaneer in 1684 that first put the islands on the map, individually naming them after his pirate buddies.

In terms of modern-day surf piracy, as with any equatorial island in the Pacific, the Galapagos are condition dependent. There are enough nooks, crannies and reef outcroppings to produce all kinds of different waves, but the key is getting the wind to blow in the right direction the same time a well-guided swell arrives. Exposed to the open ocean from the north and south, there's no shortage of long-period opportunity available, but be wary of summertime wind conditions. Access by land is limited, making pretty much all exploration done by boat.

Because nobody wants to be a surf drone, make sure you get off the boat and into the scenery. The diving is spectacular, the flora and fauna on land are like nowhere else on Earth. Ancient looking land and marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies, sea lions, tortoises, the islands are a UNESCO Heritage Site, and it's all there, a day's sail from the South American mainland.

For the scurvy dog without much nautical experience, a quick Internet search will produce a number of tours and guides available out of Ecuador -- just make sure you sync up with somebody who knows the area and has a good understanding of what the conditions are doing. There are 15 main islands spread over 17,000 square miles of ocean, so there's plenty of room to move.

[WaterWays Surf Travel runs guided tours to the islands during the winter months, charging approximately $900 per person for a five-night, all-inclusive cruise (plus or minus depending on the number of people in your party). A typical roundtrip ticket from Los Angeles to Quito, Ecuador, will run about $1,000.]