Did you know that the Galapagos Islands, their unique species and breathtaking landscapes, were the inspiration for Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution?
Scattered over 23,000 square miles of the Pacific Ocean off the Ecuadorian coast, the Galapagos consists of 13 major islands, 6 smaller islands, and many more islets and rocks. It’s a double UNESCO World Heritage Site and a must-visit destination in South America.
But what’s the best way to see everything the Galapagos Islands have to offer? Why, the best Galapagos cruises, of course! Find out more about travelling the Galapagos Island by boat in this guide to choosing the best Galapagos cruise.
Why Cruise the Galapagos Islands?
There are many ways to see the Galapagos Islands. But, by far, the best way to see the Galapagos is by boat.
Part of what makes the Galapagos a must-see destination are the opportunities for wildlife viewing. The islands have literally thousands of plant and animal species, including penguins, swimming marine iguanas, sea lions, and giant tortoises. Many of these species are endemic, meaning they don’t exist anywhere else on the planet.
What’s more, due to a lack of natural predators, and incredible protection and preservation efforts, many of these animals are playful and friendly. Meaning that, accompanied by a licensed guide, you can get up close and personal with much of the wildlife. Cruising offers a chance to have this experience in small and intimate groups, where you have more time to enjoy and explore.
But beyond the opportunities for interacting with unique wildlife, each of the Galapagos islands is beautiful and has something to offer in its own right. Ongoing seismic and volcanic activity are still shaping these islands, and a boat cruise offers the most conclusive and intimate way to experience the volcanic rock, white sand beaches, and gemstone-blue ocean.
How to Build the Best Galapagos Cruise Itinerary
The unmissable sites and stops in Galapagos are innumerable. Instead of getting too caught up in creating the best Galapagos cruise itinerary, choose the amount of time you can dedicate to your experience. Cruise lengths range from 4 nights to 15 nights, with everything in between.
But choose wisely… The amount of time you spend on your cruise will dictate what you can and cannot see.
For example, an 8-day cruise will give you plenty of time to see most of the best sites in Galapagos. You’ll see many habitats and species and have a chance to do quite a few on-shore and off-shore activities. If you can stay longer than 8 days, though, you can basically see everything the Galapagos has to offer.
That’s because, the Galapagos National Park limits cruises to 15-days. These comprehensive cruises have no repeated landing sites – indeed, choosing itineraries for 15-day cruises is basically choosing between the same spots, just visited in different patterns. If you have less than 8 days to dedicate to your exploration of the Galapagos, then you do need to carefully consider what’s most important for you to see and do.
You might also consider choosing the best Galapagos cruise by what’s offered on the vessel. On most vessels, you’ll be served breakfast, lunch, and dinner and snorkeling is typically always included. Daily guided shore excursions and disembarking twice per day are also common across most boats.
After that, what you can do on and off shore truly depends on the boat you choose. Some boats offer water sports like kayaking, paddle boarding, and surfing, while others may offer glass-bottom boats. If you’re traveling as a family, you might consider looking specifically at family cruises.
Choosing the Best Galapagos Tours Boat
As we’ve just hinted at, choosing your cruising vessel is an important consideration. What your boat offers will have a lot to do with the size of the boat itself.
There are smaller yachts, sailboats, and catamarans that can carry anywhere from 14 to 16 guests. On these vessels, you’ll find everything from the very rustic to the very luxurious. However, even the most luxurious of these boats are small – which means, small cabins, smaller bathrooms, and less dining and deck space. The tradeoff here is that, because there’s less people on board, you get the most intimate experience with the most time ashore.
Smaller cruise vessel can carry anywhere from 40 to 60 passengers. These are still relatively small and intimate, but they offer a lot more in terms of both space and amenities. On these boats, you’ll usually find lots of deck and dining space, incredible cuisine, great cuisine, and even multiple shore craft meant for on-shore excursions that includes hiking and snorkeling. These vessels offer larger cabins and bathrooms and a variety of cabin options, from luxurious to basic.
The largest cruise vessels you’ll find in the Galapagos fit between 60 and 100 passengers. Cabin options vary according to the level of creature comfort you desire. These are the best vessels for accommodating families, with plenty of options for adjoining cabins or cabins with additional space. Aboard these ships, you’ll have multiple decks, libraries, salons, and beautiful vistas.
SCUBA divers may consider a live-aboard dive boat. These boats can carry as many as 16 people and they’re specifically designed for the needs of divers as well as they’re gear. Live-aboard dive boats navigate special routes, with unique itineraries that cover all the top dive spots in the Galapagos (and there are many). Divers have the chance to spot manta rays, whale sharks, hammerhead sharks, and all sorts of amazing marine animals.
Best Time to Cruise the Galapagos
The best times to visit the Galapagos islands are between the months of June and August. This sits right in the middle of the cooler, dryer season, where temperatures stay in the mid-70s. Of course, these are also high-tourist times. That means more people and higher prices. However, even the largest cruise boats are limited to bringing only 16 people on shore at a time, so you’re never overcrowded while on excursions.
December and January are also busy times of year. Christmas holidays bring many tourists down to the island, as do the mostly-sunny skies, calm ocean, and perfect temperatures. The ocean may be a bit rougher at this time of year, but it’s also the best time to see the marine life that comes alive with the chilly water of the Humboldt Current.
The Best Galapagos Cruises with Kuoda
The Galapagos Islands are an opportunity to see and interact with unique species you won’t find anywhere else in the world, besides that the landscapes themselves are absolutely out-of-this-world stunning. And the best way to experience all of that and more is with the best Galapagos cruises.
This world-renowned destination is world-renowned for a reason, though. As such, the national park, the boats, and the cabins can be booked as many as 6 to 9 months in advance. If you’re thinking of catching this years tourist season by boat, start planning your itinerary with Kuoda today.