Applications for Summer 2017 Can Be Submitted Starting Nov 1st Notify Me

How do we place a value on nature?
Days: 14 • Group Size: 12 - 14 • Ages: 15 - 18
July 16 - July 29 Application Opens Nov 1
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Galapagos: Crossroads of Conservation

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Galapagos Summer Program

Ecuador’s most famous destination, and perhaps the most iconic archipelago on the planet. Forever associated with Darwin’s theory of evolution, the Galapagos has managed to retain it’s enchanting appeal through several decades of explosive growth in tourism. It’s sensitive eco-system is closely managed by the National Park System with strong support from international groups of researchers and conservationists.

In this Sustainable Summer Galapagos program…

  • You’ll take in some of the ultra classic Galapagos experiences, like Bartoleme and Pinnacle Rock, while also seeing some more under the radar spots
  • You’ll consider challenges to sustainable management of the Galapagos, like the competing interests of the tourist trade and conservation initiatives
  • You’ll learn about the remarkable flora and fauna from naturalists, and the efforts of conservationists to protect native species and eradicate invasive ones

The Galapagos is legendary for its exotic wildlife and critical role in the history of biology. Visit four different islands on a guided exploration of this remarkable archipelago, enjoying many of the classic Galapagos experiences along the way. Our travels will also illustrate the steps Ecuador has taken to conserve this fragile and vital ecosystem, and will allow students to consider the sustainability of ecotourism.

Not sure if this is the right option for you? Use our Compare Programs page to help you assess which Sustainable Summer is the best fit for your interests and comfort zone.



with white-tip sharks and Galapagos penguins at Bartoleme Island

Sea kayak

in the mangroves of Divine Bay and surf the azure waves of Tortuga Bay


the marine iguanas, tortoises, and other iconic wildlife that makes the Galapagos famous around the world.

2016 Facilitators *

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Skyeler Congdon

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Allie Mack

Allie Mack

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Galapagos Testimonials

I grew so close to so many people and I know our friendships will last a very long time. Not only were the other students amazing people but so were the leaders. I had so much fun with them and will never forget my Sustainable Summer experience. Sustainable Summer has impacted my whole life. I […]

  Erin,  student from Elmhurst, IL

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Student Stories

Core Curriculum & Program Components

Much More Than A Tour

Amazing destination? Check. Fun and authentic experiences? Absolutely. A smart, down-to-earth group of like-minded teens? Yup. An awesome itinerary and first-in-class lodging are just the start. Our programs prepare teens to become environmental leaders through dynamic place-based learning.
Field Studies
How do we place a value on nature? This essential question guides our experience studying sustainability in . Participants – through discussions, workshops, site visits, and fieldwork – will investigate sustainability with the understanding that truly sustainable solutions take into account not only the environment, but also the people, culture and economy of a given place.
Leadership Activities
Our approach to leadership development is adapted from the Stanford Graduate School of Education’s youth leadership curriculum.
Design Thinking Challenge
Participate in a half-day design thinking workshop, including a real innovation challenge applied to a local community problem. Design thinking is a formal process innovators use to create solutions to problems. We'll learn about human-centered design, and then engage members of the local community to conceive a project that is usable, sustainable, and lead to better outcomes within the community.
Independent Project
Learning happens best through a constructivist approach of inquiry, action, and reflection. Students should be prepared to engage in an independent project for the duration of the program that follows this approach. It can take the form of journalism, photography, film, research, advocacy, or other. Some students (for instance, those in an IB degree program) may find that they have a school-related project that can connect to Sustainable Summer. Others will be asked to develop a project concept through a guided process pre-program. The final "deliverable" is completed after the program.
Case Study
It's easy to be green when you have the time, resources, and autonomy to do so. But the real-world is far more complicated. We'll work through a multi-stakeholder case study related to a local issue so students can better understand the process of negotiation and comprise that is needed to implement sustainable solutions.
Sustainability Action Plan
All students develop a Sustainability Action Plan, which outlines a proposed sustainability initiative to complete back home. The SAP is considered a work in progress that gets “workshopped” in small group settings throughout the program. The final version is shared with the group at the end of the program and “accountability partners” are established to encourage implementation of the outlined action steps.

Program Tuition

Each program has a tiered tuition rate: standard (full tuition), tuition assistance (83% of tuition), or scholarship (as low as 15% of tuition).

How It Works

$ 3795
  • Participants at this tuition rate cover only their direct participation costs, including lodging, meals, activities, in-country staff and transportation, and support for local projects. Participation at this level is based on the honor system. It is available to all families - no documentation required. We simply ask families to honestly consider their financial resources and ability to pay the full tuition rate.
$ 690 - 3215
  • Additional scholarship funding is available for students that are unable to participate at either of the other rates. Scholarship participants receive up to an 85% reduction of the standard course fee. Due to the limited availability of scholarship funds, a separate application is required, including a parent financial statement and recent tax return.

Important Note About Additional Costs for the Galapagos

Sustainable Summer tuition is comprehensive, but our Galapagos program has some additional costs that we want to bring to the attention of families. There is an "internal" flight from mainland Ecuador to the Galapagos ($450) and a Galapagos National Park Fee ($100) that are NOT included in tuition. Please see below for additional information.

What's Included


in eco-lodges and other locally-owned (and often sustainably-minded) establishments


3 meals daily while in-country. Local cuisine, served family-style, is on order most days. Dietary restrictions can typically be accommodated.

Immersive Activities

Guided activities, from the adventurous to the cultural, are a regular part of the itinerary.

Dynamic Learning Opportunities

Place-based. Interactive. Fun. Our programs prepare teens to become environmental leaders.

Ground Transportation

Once in country, all travel will be by private coach when we are traveling any significant distance, although we may occasionally use other transport when traveling locally. This can range from a cattle truck to the local bus. Traveling like a local is part of the experience!

2 Full-Time Professional Facilitators

Our facilitators are the best in the business. Our international field team includes returned Peace Corps volunteers, college professors, seasoned wilderness guides, sustainability graduate students, and similar.

Pre-Program Materials and Support

Students and parents receive comprehensive and prompt pre-program support.

Not Included

Tuition does not include airfare, $95 InternationalSOS membership (required), or personal expenses such as laundry, snacks, souvenirs, and internet or international phone calls, and other incidentals. A $100 Galapagos National Park entrance fee, upon arrival in Galapagos, and a round trip internal flight between mainland Ecuador and Galapagos (typically around $450) is also not included.


We designate a recommended group flight for students. Students, whether arriving on our group flight or independently, will be met at the international arrivals area by our staff. Very detailed travel and booking instructions will be provided to all participants upon enrollment.

Our designated round trip group flight:

Outbound Flight

July 16
6:34 pm
10:00 pm
Miami (MIA)
Guayaquil (GYE)

Return Flight

July 29
6:20 am
11:49 am
Guayaquil (GYE)
Miami (MIA)


  • Do not make any flight reservations until explicitly directed by Sustainable Summer. Enrolled families - please check your MySummer account for more information.
  • Not all of our group flights have a staff escort. Please see above for specifics and our Flights page for additional details.
  • Students NOT traveling on our designated group flight will be assessed a $35 fee if they arrive on a flight other than our specified group flight and/or a $35 fee for departing on a non-group flight ($70 total). Students must verify BEFORE BOOKING all non-group flight travel itineraries


  • Welcome to Ecuador

    Participants will arrive in Guayaquil, Ecuador. We designate a recommended 'group flight' which most students take.

    Upon arrival, we’ll take private transportation to our accommodations, a short drive from the modern International Airport, for an evening orientation and a good night's sleep.

    Rising at a leisurely hour the next day, we'll shake off travel fatigue with a delicious breakfast followed by more orientation activities that will familiarize us with each other, local customs, health and safety protocols, and our individual and mutual goals for the program.

    After lunch we'll go on a walking excursion up the Malecon (boardwalk) to a museum of cultural anthropology where we will gain a better understanding of social and cultural history in Ecuador and the Galapagos. Before returning to the hotel for dinner, we'll stop at an artisan market for an initial opportunity to practice our bartering skills.

    Days 1 & 2
  • Arrival In Galapagos

    Arrival in Galapagos is at Baltra Island, a 2.5 hour flight from Guayaquil. We'll transfer by water taxi to adjacent Santa Cruz island and to a waiting bus and then onward to our eco-lodge in the Santa Cruz highlands.

    Our accommodations on this program are a "safari" camp where Galapagos tortoises and other wildlife roam freely. It's a truly incredible, and somewhat unique way to experience Galapagos. Check out some of the photos at the top of this page or in this photo album for some context.

    Students will also have an opportunity throughout the program to learn traditional practices, such as pottery, music, and food cultivation and preparation, that are taught on site.

    Day 3
  • Santa Cruz Highlands
    Get ready for an active day, starting with a morning hike through the mist clad Santa Cruz highlands. We'll walk through extensive lava tunnels and explore Los Gemelos, the most intact endemic highland vegetation in Galapagos. The geological formations, finches and other features of this natural cloud forest will be explained by our naturalist guide. After lunch in the small community of Bellavista, we'll hop on bikes for an easy ride down into the main port town of Puerto Ayora for an evening kayak paddle in the calm waters of the bay. Day 4
  • Giant Tortoises and Las Grietas
    The day starts early with a visit to the Giant Tortoise Reserve where we'll observe some of the biggest Galapagos tortoises in the wild. In the afternoon we'll visit Las Grietas, a deep crack in the volcanic landscape filled with crystal clear water, a perfect place for swimming and snorkeling. Day 5
  • Charles Darwin Research Station and Service Projcet
    Morning visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station, the Galapagos' headquarters for all manner of scientific research in the archipelago as well as a breeding center for threatened species. We'll also begin our service project today, assisting with reforestation, introduced species control, or sustainable agricultural production. Day 6
  • Bartoleme
    Cruise to Bartolome Island and Pinnacle Rock. Bartolome is the crown jewel of the Galapagos. Its majestic volcanic scenery is unrivaled and its famous Pinnacle Rock is one of the most classic images of the Galapagos. Galapagos penguins can be observed on the coastline and are often seen while snorkeling, too. Day 7
  • Sustainable Food Production Plus Afternoon Kayaking
    We'll be up early to visit a greenhouse and nursery, where we'll learn about sustainable food production and some of the related challenges in Galapagos. The afternoon will have us in kayaks again paddling through the mangroves of Divine Bay. We will kayak through lava channels where white tipped sharks and rays swim beneath us, while perched overhead are colonies of blue footed boobies and marine iguanas clinging to the rugged cliffs. Day 8
  • Tortuga Bay and More Service
    Surfing at Tortuga Bay, a striking white sand beach, and then snorkeling in the calm, clear waters of its backbay. In the afternoon, we'll continue our service project in the highlands. Day 9
  • More Kayaking and El Centro de Reciclaje
    We'll start the morning with another paddling trip through the Itabaca Channel, a perfect spot for observing blue-footed boobies and other bird and marine life. In the afternoon, we'll visit Santa Cruz's recycling facility, which handles all of the island's solid waste materials. In addition to commonly recycled materials (plastics, aluminum, etc) Santa Cruz also composts food waste. Day 10
  • Islote Caamaño
    After a full day engaged in our service work in the highlands, we'll enjoy a sunset tour to Islote Caamaño, a small islet reached by boat from the harbor in Puerto Ayora and one of the best places in the archipelago for snorkeling with the ever playful lobos marinos (sea lions). Day 11
  • Cerro Mesa and Trapiche

    Our final full day in Galapagos includes a visit to Cerro Mesa, a restoration project started by a local family. The land is habitat to Galapagos Tortoises and also the largest crater on Santa Cruz. The cerro, one of the highest points on Santa Cruz, has an extraordinary viewpoint where you can see almost the entire island down to the shimming ocean below. The project also operates a trapiche, a traditional mule-pulled sugar cane press, and grows and roasts coffee.

    We'll finish our day with a trip into Puerto Ayora for some souvenir shopping and a final Galapagos dinner.

    Day 12
  • Final Morning in Galapagos
    We'll wrap up any loose ends with our service project in the highlands, enjoy a final lunch at camp, and then take an afternoon flight from Baltra to Guayaquil (2.5 hours). Overnight at a hotel near the airport. Day 8
  • Arrive Home
    Return flight to US. Day 9
  • An important note about itinerary changes

    Sustainable Summer reserves the right to change, alter, or amend the program itinerary. Changes can be made for various reasons including changes in weather or road conditions; to take advantage of a new activity or unscheduled opportunity (such as a local festival or event); to accommodate the health needs of an individual participant; or due to changes in activities or schedules of our local partners and providers.

    The itinerary shown here is based on previous programs and the anticipated day-to-day activities for this program. However, as with any travel experience, some changes may occur.