No matter how you explore the Galapagos Islands – by land or by sea – you are guaranteed an excellent vacation, full of exciting activities, natural exploration, and the flora & fauna that have earned the Galapagos its identity as a natural laboratory of evolution. There are pros and cons to both land-based tours and cruises, so here’s what you need to know while you’re planning your Galapagos adventure.
Why Choose a Galapagos Cruise?
Galapagos cruises have been the most popular way to experience the Galapagos Islands for decades, and there’s no question why:
- Cruises allow you to access some of the more remote visitor sites, including some of the best snorkeling areas.
- Cruises take advantage of nights and time between activities to travel to the next destination, so no time is wasted on transportation.
- Your hotel goes with you everywhere, so you just need to unpack once and then you can settle in.
- There are a number of options to choose from to fit any budget, and some great ways to save money, like booking a last-minute cruise or planning your trip in the shoulder seasons.
- Cruises tend to have the best naturalist guides, and you’ll get to know them and the rest of your crew very well.
- Cruises are all-inclusive: Once you’re on the boat, all transportation, excursions, meals, and everything else is completely covered. All you have to do is enjoy the adventure!
The Disadvantages of a Galapagos cruise?
- Cruises, especially on the smaller yachts that cruise the Galapagos, aren’t great for people with motion sickness. If you really want the cruise experience but you know that you get motion sickness, consider a catamaran or a larger ship, which are both known for their stability.
- The itineraries can be a bit more restrictive – since the National Park approves all of the schedules for the visitor sites months in advance, the boats must follow the itinerary fairly strictly – you might get a few extra hours at a certain site, but you’ll usually only see each site once.
- They tend to be more expensive than land-based tours, but there are great deals and discounts throughout the year that can save you up to 50%. Make sure to let us know what you’re looking for and we’ll keep you posted with any opportunities to save!
Why Opt for a Land-based Tour?
Also known as island-hopping vacations, land-based tours are those itineraries based out of hotels on the Galapagos Islands. In the past 10 years, as more hotels are built in the Galapagos, this has become an increasingly popular way to experience these islands. There are a lot of reasons you should consider a land-based tour:
- They’re great for people with motion sickness. Other than the short speedboat rides to a few visitor sites, you won’t have to worry about feeling sea sick!
- Even the luxury hotels are generally less expensive than luxury Galapagos cruises.
- They allow you to plan your own itinerary according to what you want to see and do. If you want to visit the same snorkeling site multiple times, land-based cruises allow you to do that. Of course, most hotels also offer their guests all-inclusive packages and itineraries upon request.
- You can meet the locals and get to know a bit more about Galapagos culture.
What you miss with a land-based tour
While land-based tours can be an affordable alternative to cruises and allow you much more flexibility in your schedule, there are some things land-based tours simply can’t provide.
- You miss out on access to the more remote visitor sites – There are a number of islands, islets, and snorkeling sites that are only accessible by boat, and the only boats that visit them are the cruise ships. If you know that you have your heart set on a certain visitor site but you’re leaning towards a land-based tour, make sure to check that there are day-tours that visit this site.
- You have to plan time into your itinerary for travel between islands and to visitor sites. The speed boats between islands and to sites run on a fixed schedule that’s pretty easy to figure out, but this does require extra planning and could take valuable time from actually doing the activities.
- You are limited to the visitor sites on and around the four main islands – Isabela, Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, and Floreana. Fortunately, each of these islands has plenty of things to see and do, so you won’t feel like you’re missing out!
- Unless you choose an all-inclusive hotel package, you’ll have to budget your vacation more carefully to include all tours, meals, transportation, and tips.