You have probably heard of the Galapagos Islands, its golden beaches, its turquoise water, its diving spots full of a variety of sea creatures, its abundant wildlife : a paradise on Earth. At around 1000km (600mi) from the coast of Ecuador, the Galapagos are made up of 18 main islands, each with its own charms, natural wonders, and fascinating locations to explore.
But with such an array of possibilities, you may be wondering what is the best way to visit the islands? How to get the most of it?
There are typically two common ways to experience the Galapagos Islands: on a cruise or by island hopping on your own. Each way has its own perks and allows for a very different experience according to your budget, time constraints, and if you want to have everything prepared ahead of time or like to improvise.
So, let's dive into this!
Let's start with what a cruise experience has to offer:
First things first, what does a cruise consist of? Cruises can usually last from 5 to 15 days that you spend on the same boat, sailing between islands to get to the most astonishing attractions of the archipelago.
- Most cruise itineraries are optimised to waste as little time as possible and to see the most of the Galapagos Islands in a determined amount of time. Boarding on a cruise is a ticket to a variety of breath-taking sights, diving spots, days full of amazing experiences that will leave you fulfilled. The longest distances between islands are traveled by night for more time efficiency, enabling you to wake up to a new piece of heaven every morning.
- On a cruise, the boat is your new home, you sleep there, eat there, everything is planned by the crew and the guides: you have nothing to worry about. You wake up in your cabin in the morning, enjoy breakfast on the boat, spend a day full of activities accompanied by knowledgeable guides and come back to an already served dinner at the end of the day. All included!
- Another perk of cruises is that you can access some of the most isolated islands, only available by boat and discover unique species of fish or birds that you wouldn’t see anywhere else.
- Because everything is included and a complete crew must be paid, cruises are frequently more expensive than island hopping. However, with the pandemic and the Galapagos Islands slowly starting to reopen to tourists, prices tend to be more competitive than before.
- On another note, if you suffer from sea sickness, you might need to think twice before getting on a cruise, as the sea can get agitated according to the season!
Island hopping offers a different kind of experience:
As opposed to cruises, when you go for the island hopping experience, you are based on one of the main islands and usually go on day trips departing from the island. After spending a few days on one island and discovering its surroundings, you can hop to another island and do the same.
- Island hopping is synonymous with independence and freedom. You are free to decide day by day what activities you would like to do, and how much time you would like to spend in each location.You can take part in organized, guided expeditions, but you can also decide to visit some beaches on your own, or go on a bike ride around the island, exploring by yourself. It takes some organization and research to find the best activities, but is also a good solution for spontaneous travelers.
- According to the type of accommodation you choose, you can get closer to the locals. There are hotels on the islands, but you may also stay in an Airbnb and get a true sense of the place by staying with local people. You are also free to experience local restaurants, and discover the culinary specialties that best suit your palate!
- However, Island hopping can be more time consuming than cruises. Indeed, the transportation between the main islands can take a few hours and, on the day you’re moving, you may need to devote half a day to transportation only, without any other activities.
- Finally, as mentioned above, some of the most secluded parts of the archipelago remain available only via cruise ships.
To conclude, there is no good or bad way to experience these enchanted islands, it all depends on your needs and wants. And you might even consider mixing a little bit of both: booking a cruise for a week and spending the remaining days island hopping on your own!
Check out our Galapagos programs here!
Written by Lucille Thorel-Delille