In the Galapagos Islands, crystal white beaches teem with playful sea lions, feisty iguanas, kooky blue-footed boobies, and puffed-up frigatebirds. While the ocean shelters an array of exciting water-dwelling creatures. Due to the strict environmental protection here, the animals do not fear humans. They will actually swim alongside, below, and above you. Their boldness makes it possible to get up close and personal with sea turtles, sea lions, stingrays, and even sharks. The entire archipelago is home to an impressive 4,000-plus animal species, with 40% of those species uniquely inhabiting these specific islands. In combination with the incredibly stark volcanic landscapes, this makes The Galapagos the destination to beat for nature lovers everywhere; and an absolute paradise for bird watchers!
You can tour the 19-island archipelago either by cruise or by something called island-hopping. Island-hopping essentially means you will stay in one or a couple of hotels in the four inhabited islands (Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Isabela, and Floreana) and take day trips to distinct spots in the archipelago. One of the first and most common questions people ask when planning a trip to The Galapagos is to cruise or island-hop? Really there is no right answer, just the right answer for you depending on your budget, what you want to see, and your travel style. So let’s dive into the pros of each, shall we?!
Pros of a Galapagos Cruise
- You will see more of the archipelago in a shorter amount of time than an island-hopping program. The length of a cruise program in The Galapagos generally ranges from 4-8 days (3-7 nights). And each cruise maintains a couple itineraries depending on the time of year and cruise traffic. Every itinerary allows you to sail to more than one island on the same day, embarking on 1-2 activities on each island! Whereas taking daily excursions from a hotel only allows for one island per day typically.
- You can access the same sense of maritime adventure and excitement Darwin must have felt when he sailed into the Galapagos on the Beagle with sullen Captain FitzRoy. When Darwin marveled at the great variety of life within the islands, so isolated from the mainland, he began to formulate his evolution theory!
- Cruise programs are all-inclusive. Therefore you won’t have to worry about seeking out the best restaurants each night. This also means you can connect with fellow passengers during mealtimes and share in the incredible experience.
- You have a great variety of cruise sizes and categories to choose from, making it anything but the average cruise experience. Cruise accommodations range from 16 passengers (catamarans/yachts) to 100 passengers on a larger cruise ship, and a few 20-40 passenger ships in between. You also have your choice of tourist class, first-class, or luxury service.
- Can only visit Fernandina and Genovesa islands by cruise, which some argue are the most precious islands in the entire archipelago. Fernandina Island is home to the more elusive Galapagos Penguin, and Genovesa Island (aka “bird island”) houses the most representative Galapagos birds all in one place.
Pros of a Galapagos Island-Hopping Tour
- If you suffer from seasickness, an island-hopping tour is the way to go! Of course, you will still take to the water during the day, however for much shorter periods; and sleeping will be smoother in your hotel.
- In general, you will have more flexibility and free time to explore the breathtaking beaches and get to know some of the local people who live on the islands. You will also have dinners to yourselves, and can try a different restaurant each night!
- If you have the time (longer than 4-5 days), you can stay on a couple of different islands to maximize your experience!
- When it comes to island hopping programs, you are sure to find some more budget-friendly options.
- If you have fixed dates for your trip, you will get more flexibility with a start date in the Galapagos with island hopping. This is because all cruise itineraries have set departure dates and limited availability. However, you can start an island-hopping program any day of the year!
Whether you embark on a multi-day seaward journey or sleep on solid ground between excursions, a visit to The Galapagos will leave you with a deep connection to the natural world!