Galapagos cruise or island hopping land tour?
Perhaps one of the most asked questions by travelers visiting Galapagos. After all, there are 21 islands in the Galapagos chain. The islands sit on the Nazca Plate and it’s considered one of the most biodiverse sites in the planet. It’s certainly a great place to visit, but a there’s a lot to see and do too. So, how to choose the right trip type?
There are about 85 yachts and ships ready to take visitors on over-night trips. There are hotels and restaurants on Floreana, Isabela, San Cristobal, and Santa Cruz. Day boats are available to visit the uninhabited islands if you are inland. There are 116 visitor sites, 62 snorkeling sites or scuba-diving sites, and 54 land sites.
The thing with this question is that there’s no best answer, it mostly depends on what you expect from your trip and the experience you are looking forward to.
Below you have a detailed cons and pros list of each of your options for you to consider before your visit.
The Galápagos Cruise Experience
Oh! The places you’ll see. A cruise is the best way to get a big-picture panorama of the archipelago. Cruises have unique access to remote visitor sites on uninhabited islands with special wildlife viewing opportunities, such as Fernandina in the far west.
Time-efficient. Cruises are best for time budgeting. Ships will be navigating at night, meaning fewer daylight hours are spent in transit.
Convenient. As with cruising in general, the planning work is done. The itinerary is set. Meals are taken care of. Travelers only have to unpack and pack the main suitcase once.
Added bonus: constant service. Most cruises have a cruise director and 24/7 service staff on board.
Life at sea. Although larger ships and premier catamarans have come a long way in stabilization, a boat navigating the open sea is still a boat. It will rock. This is an important factor for anyone who is sensitive to motion sickness.
Unlikely internet. A few upscale vessels, such as La Pinta and Explorer II, offer internet at additional cost, but most do not. For those who need to be reachable or who get uncomfortable if they aren’t, this could become a source of stress.
Confinement. Even on the most luxurious cruise options with wide cabins and plenty of deck space, inexperienced cruise passengers are subject to “cabin fever,” especially for longer cruises of 8 days or more. Restless kids faced with ample downtime on board between site visits are also prone to cabin fever.
Of course, budget is also to be considered. Cruises rage in class and tour duration, and the cost depends on this. Cruises in Galapagos are calssified in Budget Class, Standard Class, First Class, and Luxury, and they can go for 5, 6, 8 and even 12 days. Do take in mind that the price of a cruise will be higher that a Land Tour.
The Land Tour Galápagos Experience
Flexibility of dates and schedule. Cruises have fixed departure dates that may not fit within your specific vacation window. Hotels, on the other hand, are more accommodating to rigid date ranges. Hotel excursions aren’t as tied to the strict visitor site schedules as cruise ships, so itineraries are less regimented.
Tailor-made experiences: Whether you are an independent solo traveler or a mother organizing a family trip, land tours will allow you to plan and choose activities that suit you better. Inland tours allow you to go for an adventure tour, a scuba diving day trip or a more slowed pace activity suitable for children.
Inland activities. Most cruise itineraries are limited to coastal visitor sites, which can exclude inland highlights like highlands of Santa Cruz, which is where the giant tortoises are found in the wild. Staying on land provides more activity options, such as scuba, kayak, bicycle riding, hiking a volcano rim, shopping, or just relaxing and taking a leisurely walk. More chances to meet local people.
Unlike the fixed schedules of a cruise, a hotel-based stay on either Santa Cruz, Isabela or San Cristobal Island gives you the option of spending more time on shore and gaining a better idea of the human side of the Galápagos. Day excursions by yacht. Land-based travelers will get a sample of “life at sea” and reach nearby visitor sites via small yacht (16-20 passengers), with opportunities for wildlife viewing, snorkeling, nature walks, and even scuba diving.
More transit time. Land-based travelers spend more daylight hours in transit, either by land vehicle or yacht. Plus, multiple hotels could mean extra check-in, check-out, and bag packing.
Less ground covered. Land-based travelers will probably be reaching nearby visitor sites via yacht, which means a choppier ride than cruise ships. Day trips by yacht simply can’t reach the farthest-flung uninhabited visitor sites and their wildlife viewing opportunities.
A small review of two specific tour types might give you a better idea of what to expect from each:
– Galapagos Cruise aboard the M/V Isabela
A typical cruise ship tour lasts several days and takes place on the ship and the islands. The M/V Isabela II Galapagos Cruise Ship is used for luxury cruise tours. It can take 40 passengers on a tour of the islands. There is a crew consisting of various personnel. This one includes a Level 3 naturalist that will take passengers on an excursion. There’s also a medical officer. The ship offers several amenities including Wi-Fi Internet access, however it’s intermittent and low bandwidth. The ship is 183 feet in length and travels at a speed of 10 knots. It is powered by 2 GM Detroit Diesel 900 BHP engines. There are life jackets and life boats on board. There are three major areas visited: Southern Galapagos, Central Galapagos, and Northern Galapagos.
– Galapagos Island Hopping 6-Day Mustisport Adventure
If you don’t want to take a cruise, and if you are more into adventure, consider an Island Hopping. An 6-day Mutisport Adventure Tour will allow more flexibility and more access to island activities. You may visit Santa Cruz highlands with a bike tour and kayak in Isabela Island. Instead of returning to a cruise ship or yacht after a few hours, stay on the island for a few days. The downside may include uncomfortable speed boat rides to the coast that may take hours. It could be an adventure, however.
Galapagos Cruise Or Island Hopping draw your own conclusions before book your holiday in the Galapagos islands.