The Galapagos Islands frequently top travel bucket lists, and it’s easy to see why. The islands have been shaped by volcanic activity; they are teeming with native wildlife species – many of which cannot be found anywhere else on earth; and the whole region is constantly changing and evolving. It’s a fascinating look at the world as it might have been hundreds of thousands of years ago because it still remains largely free from human interruption.
But what’s the best way to see the Galapagos; a cruise or hotel based vacation? In this blog post we’ll discuss the pros and cons of both, so you can make the best decision for your trip.
Cruising the Galapagos
The most popular way to explore the Galapagos Islands is by cruise. Travelers can choose from a variety of vessels, all with different facilities. You can choose the best one for your budget and travel style.
The pros of cruising around the Galapagos are many. Primarily, you’ll have the opportunity to see much more of the archipelago than you would if you stayed in a hotel. Because the boat travels through the night, you’ll be able to visit a new island every day, seeing a greater variety of landscapes and wildlife, including rare species that live only on specific islands.
Cruises will often combine island visits with activities such as snorkeling and kayaking. The order of visits is always very structured in the Galapagos, but in multi day cruises you have the advantage of visiting more secluded and less frequented beaches, shores and coves, that day trippers cannot reach.
Some of the 6 or 8 day cruise itineraries which are the ones we recommend, allow you to explore the lesser-visited islands such as Fernandina, Santiago and Genovesa. Here you can really immerse yourself in nature.
Because the sea can be choppy between July and September, a cruise at this time is not suitable for those who suffer from seasickness. This is the biggest downside and unfortunately it’s one that’s not easily remedied. If you only suffer from mild seasickness, you may find medication from your doctor helps; as will choosing to take a cruise in the calmer months.
You also need to allow plenty of time for a Galapagos cruise. We recommend 6-8 days at least. Shorter cruises are available but you may have to compromise on activities, and you’ll miss out on visiting the quieter islands mentioned above.
Travel Recommendations for Galapagos Cruises
Aracari can help you choose your own bespoke cruise itinerary, taking in the particular sights you want to see. Check out this sample itinerary for an example of what that might look like.
Hotel Based Visits to the Galapagos
For those who wish to experience the Galapagos but are unable to enjoy a cruise, hotel stays offer a great alternative. Santa Cruz boasts several luxury hotels, and this is a great base to explore from.
Choosing to stay in a hotel or lodge allows you greater flexibility and independence. Where cruises are carefully structured and planned, a land-based vacation can be more spontaneous. You can pick a hotel on any of the four inhabited islands (San Cristobal, Santa Cruz, Isabela and Floreana) and take day trips by boat. A hotel stay is particularly appealing to families with young children who may need to change plans at the last minute, or might want to schedule rest days in between activities.
Even if you choose to stay in a hotel, you will still spend a lot of time travelling by boat. Every day you will need to travel to the port and then take a small speedboat or yacht to your destination. Trips to nearby islands can take several hours, and this can be very exhausting. Cruising is a much more efficient use of time because you’re travelling at night.
Additionally, because the Galapagos are so spread out, you will only be able to visit the islands nearest to where you are staying. These islands tend to be more heavily visited and this has a big impact on wildlife and the scenery. If this is something you would like to avoid, a cruise is certainly a better choice.
Santa Cruz is home to the most upscale hotels in the Galapagos. We work closely with hoteliers to provide Aracari travelers with an exceptional stay. If you’d prefer a smaller hotel or guest house, we’ll find you superb lodgings the town of Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz.
The Galapagos is best traveled by cruise and we generally recommend this as a way to explore the region. Cruises are suitable for travelers with plenty of time and good sea legs!
If cruising really isn’t for you, perhaps because you suffer from severe seasickness or have young children, a hotel based vacation is still a wonderful way to see some of the Galapagos Islands.
Whatever your requirements, get in touch with an Aracari travel consultant to plan your bucket list Galapagos adventure today.