Oh no! It’s the last day of your cruise through the Galapagos Islands, and you realize there’s still so much left to see. Whether you’ve chosen a four-night cruise or a 14-day cruise, the Galapagos Islands always leave you thirsting for more; so consider extending your stay in the archipelago to do a little land exploration.
Or much worse, oh no, my flight was delayed and I missed my cruise. What a nightmare!
The simple solution, stay an extra night or two before and/or after your Galapagos cruise. Santa Cruz, Isabela, and San Cristobal Islands are home to some of the most spectacular hotels in the tropics from where you can explore parts of the islands not visited on cruises.
Booking a shorter cruise and extending it with stays at hotels is also an excellent way to make your travel budget go further, as hotels tend to be less expensive than cruises.
How long should you spend in Islands?
The first step is deciding how long you plan to spend in the Galapagos Islands. Cruises vary between four days and 14 days, and the growing land-based tours and excellent quality hotels are a popular way for travelers to extend their stay in the Islands for a few days after their trip.
If you are planning to do a cruise/ hotel combo, then four to eight day cruises are ideal plus some days in a hotel, depending on how much time you have for your vacation.
It is recommendable to stay one night at a hotel in Galapagos before your cruise, just in case there is a problem with your flight from mainland Galapagos. Cruises have itineraries that are fixed in stone, or more precisely dictated by the Galapagos National Park.
For the same reason, it’s recommendable to spend one night in either Quito or Guayaquil on the Ecuadorian mainland before your flight to Galapagos just in case your flight from home to Ecuador is delayed. Quito is generally prefered, as this spectacular Andean city is a tourist mecca in it’s own right. If you have problems with high altitude however (Quito is at about 8000 feet, 2800 meters), sea-level Guayaquil is a better alternative. Check out our list of favorite Guayaquil and Quito hotels here.
Where to Stay on the Islands?
Your cruise will begin and end at either Santa Cruz Island or San Cristobal, next to the airports. Some cruises start from one airport and end at the other airport. Make sure you confirm you are reserving a hotel on the correct island!
See our list of the best hotels in Galapagos, for lodging hand-selected by our team of local Galapagos experts.
Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz is a great place to stay if you’re hoping to do a bit of island hopping. Its central location in the archipelago means that it’s easy to take a speedboat or private charter plane to the other islands. It’s also the biggest and liveliest city in the Galapagos Islands, with a host of restaurants, nightclubs, hotels, and stores.
Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal features a completely different experience and is great for the more active travelers who are hoping to pack more adventure into their vacation. Here in the eastern part of the Islands, there are plenty of options for mountain biking, surfing, diving, snorkeling, hiking, and exploring an island ecosystem unlike any of the others in the Galapagos.
Beyond Santa Cruz and San Cristobal Islands
If you choose a shorter cruise, then consider exploring the other parts of the Islands which you haven’t yet seen. If you got to experience a longer cruise, return to those one or two spots on the journey that highlighted your experience.
For a more relaxed setting, Puerto Villamil on Isabela Island is a quaint town on the shores of a tranquil beach. Between the various snorkeling sites, volcanoes, and biking or hiking trails, this is also a great spot if you want to get to know the youngest of the Galapagos Islands in greater depth.
Decide out which activities best suit you.
Cruises are a great way to experience staple Galapagos activities like snorkeling, swimming, hiking, and panga rides. But if you want to integrate other activities into your vacation, like visiting other islands, snorkeling, diving, sea kayaking or mountain biking, then land-based Galapagos tours are your best option.
If you are hoping to do some diving while in the Galapagos, then your best option is to book a diving cruise, though there are excellent diving day trips from both Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island or Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal. There are very few boats that have permission from the National Park to do diving cruises, so make sure to book these in advance!
Once you surface, explore the miles of hiking trails that wind through amazing volcanic scenery, and witness first-hand how the Islands literally climbed up out of the water over millions of years.
No matter how long you stay in the Galapagos Islands you will want more time. For centuries these enchanted islands have captured the hearts of explorers, travelers, and adventurers alike. For so many people, a trip to the Galapagos comes only once in a lifetime, so make sure that you take advantage of your time here and consider extending your stay.