A trip to the Galapagos Islands is a once in a lifetime experience, which makes planning a little more stressful than it would be for an ordinary vacation. To help reduce some of that stress, today’s blog post covers everything you need to know to plan your perfect Galapagos adventure.
If you’d rather leave the planning to the experts, Aracari’s knowledgeable travel planners can help craft your dream itinerary. To find out how we can save you the time, energy and pressure of planning your next trip, get in touch today.
Set a Budget
Budgeting is really important when you’re planning big bucket list vacations. First, decide your overall budget; this is what you’re happy to spend in total. Then, break this total down into sections, assigning individual budgets for things like activities, food, souvenirs, accommodation and so on.
For the Galapagos it is important to remember that, to the cost of your accommodation you need to add flights to and from the islands to the mainland to Guayaquil or Quito. And, because flights from the mainland to the Galapagos depart quite early in the morning, and on the return may not allow you to connect with your international flight, you need to add an overnight either end of your Galapagos experience, which will add to the overall cost. In addition, you will need to pay $100 per person park fee when you arrive.
Having a clear budget will make planning easier, because it will help you decide the following…
Cruise, Hotel or Both?
The first decision you need to make after setting your budget is how you’ll explore the region. Will you spend 6-8 days minimum on a cruise, travelling by night and exploring beautiful islands by day? Or will you stay in a hotel and take day trips to explore nearby islands?
We generally recommend a cruise because we believe it offers a far richer and more immersive experience. You’ll see much more of the archipelago, including lesser-visited islands, than you ever could by staying in a hotel.
Hotels do have their benefits, and there are some truly beautiful lodgings in Santa Cruz. If you have small children, suffer from seasickness or simply want greater flexibility – a hotel or villa stay may suit you better. For ultimate luxury and privacy, we recommend the Villa Escalesia in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island. It has breathtaking ocean views, wonderful facilities (including an infinity pool and sun deck) and the option to enjoy services such as a private chef, housekeeper and personal concierge.
How long do you have? We recommend a minimum 6-8 days because the islands are well spread out and there is so much to see. We wouldn’t want you to miss anything! This sample itinerary spends 7 days in the Galapagos on the Ocean Spray cruise and is a fantastic example of what you can expect to see on your trip.
Shorter trips are of course available, but you will be limited in what you can do.
When to Travel
The Galapagos is truly a year-round destination with something to see and do every month of the year. It’s close to the equator and experiences two seasons; warm from December to May, cool from June to November. During the cool season it is also foggy on the hills of Santa Cruz island, and the water is quite cool so you will need a wetsuit to snorkel.
As for wildlife, there’s a different spectacle to take in every month; from the hatching of giant tortoises to the mating ritual of flamingos. If there’s something very specific you wish to see, let this guide when you choose to visit.
The Galapagos Islands are an extremely popular travel destination, and as such you will likely need to book your trip at least six months before your intended departure date. For busier times, such as holidays, you should book your trip a year in advance.
Choose Your Experiences
Finally, you need to choose the kind of activities you want to focus on. There are three key cruise types, catering to three traveler types; naturalist cruises, diving cruises and family cruises.
The majority of Galapagos cruises are ‘naturalist’ cruises. These have a strong wildlife focus and are aimed at travelers eager to learn. Every cruise has expert guides (generally at a guest to guide ratio of 16:1) who provide detailed information about the ecology and biology of the region.
Galapagos Diving Cruises
Experienced scuba divers can choose to join diving cruises to the Darwin and Wolf islands located at the far north of the archipelago. Here the most varied and exciting underwater wildlife is found. A luxury diving cruise will usually involve some naturalist visits but the focus is mostly on diving. Aracari are able to offer ‘occasional diving’ itineraries which offer an equal balance of diving and naturalist excursions.
Family Galapagos Cruises
On larger boats, special family departures are available. On these cruises small children will be assigned their own special guide and there are numerous activities tailored to their age group. This cruise allows every family member to get the very most out of their Galapagos trip.
Feeling inspired to start planning your very own Galapagos adventure? Get in touch with an Aracari travel consultant today.