What Galapagos Excursions and Activities do you prefer?
For your Galapagos Excursions, decide if you want to see the Galapagos by motoring between islands and living on a boat. Or would you prefer staying on one or two islands and taking day excursions? You can do some of each; we did both.
How to decide – a cruise, a land package, diving?
A cruise will be much more expensive than a land trip. However, it is not possible to see the remote islands if you do not go on a boat cruise.
[TIP: You will visit the more remote spots only …
on 7-night/8-day boat cruises, especially if they don’t go back to shore to combine two 3-night/4-day trips into a 7-night/8-day trip.]
Galapagos Boat Cruise
We chose a boat cruise on a catamaran for 16 passengers, and 4 nights on land because we scheduled daily diving with a dive operation off of Santa Cruz. Since we couldn’t dive due to catching head colds, and we had seen so much on the boat, 4 nights/5 days on land was way too much. If we had gone diving, it would have likely been the right amount of time.
If you love being on the water, choose a cruise for your Galapagos excursions. A cruise will take you places that you cannot go on excursions from land trips.
A 7-night/8-day trip means you will see different and the same wildlife on different lava islands. The activities tend to be hiking and snorkeling each day that you are cruising. For many, 5 days is plenty, but you won’t get to the most remote spots.
If you choose a cruise for your Galapagos excursions, you’ll need to choose:
- type and size of boat
- number of passengers
- which islands you want to visit
- type of amenities offered
- the level – luxury, first class, tourist superior, economy tourist class
There are over 100 boats to check out. I set my criteria and then reviewed a spreadsheet of boats.
I did the research on the boats and captured the details in a spreadsheet. If you want to know more or are interested in my research, I will gladly share with blog subscribers. Please subscribe to the blog (if you haven’t already) and use the contact form below to request my spreadsheet. Please be specific as to what you are looking for and be sure to include your email address.
A Land-based Trip
If you choose a land trip for your Galapagos excursions, which is cheaper than a boat cruise, choose between a tour (a higher cost) or do-it-yourself (lower cost). If you do-it-yourself, you have two choices: you can book your first 1-2 nights and plan the rest once you get to the island — Puerto Arroyo in Santa Cruz is a good starting place, and has many travel agents that offer last-minute deals for 1-day cruises — or you can take the ferry from Puerto Arroyo to other islands for day trips or to stay on another island, like Isabela.
There are so many places to stay at various price points. If you don’t want to pay $275/day for accommodations, don’t be discouraged. We stayed in a very nice, clean hostel (a small hotel) with large air-conditioned rooms for $150/night including a full breakfast for 2, and you can stay for much less than that. In a future blog post, I will share information on the various types of accommodations.
Something I would have done if we were doing land only is stay on Isabela for 2-3 days, and do some excursions from there. If you want my help and input on where to stay, and how to decide, please sign up for the blog and contact me using the contact form below; be sure to include your email address and what information you want.
Choosing which islands you want to see on your Galapagos Excursions
The islands you choose to visit on your your Galapagos excursions will depend on the animals and sights you want to see. I chose Isabela and Bartolomé for the penguins, and Rabida since I read that it has the best snorkeling. Those 3 islands coupled with our preference for a 16-person first class catamaran and traveling on our Galapagos excursions in early December narrowed our choices from 100 boats to 3 boats. I suggest that you pick the islands first. Here is a brief overview of the islands. If you want more detailed information about each of the islands, please see the note at the end of this post.
Santa Cruz — Most trips to the Galapagos begin and end on Santa Cruz. If you want to plan your own trip, I suggest using Santa Cruz as your base.
Isabela — This is the largest island in the Galapagos.
Bartolomé — (pronounced Bartholomew) is famous for its dramatic vistas and barren volcanic landscape. We anchored and snorkeled near the oddly shaped Pinnacle Rock.
San Cristóbal — Most boats only stop on San Cristóbal to pick up and drop off passengers. The island’s main town is Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.
Santiago — Also called James Island, Santiago was a major base where early buccaneers and pirates stocked up on fresh water and food.
Fernandina — This is the westernmost island in the archipelago.
Rábida — Rábida, also known as Jervis Island.
Genovesa — Home to Darwin Bay.
Floreana — This small island was the first to be inhabited.
Española — Almost the entire world population of waved albatrosses breed here and many tourists also enjoy the mating dances of the blue-footed boobies.
When to go on Galapagos Excursions?
The peak season is mid-June through early September, and mid-December through mid-January. We went the first week of December on our Galapagos excursions and had good weather, even though it was quite hot in the afternoons.
The water temperature in December through May averages 76°F/25°C and the air temperature averages 72-86°F/22-30°C. Seas tend to be calmer. It is common for it to rain for a short period of time daily. Most of the day tends to be very sunny with high humidity. It seemed much hotter to us!! Perhaps it was the proximity to the equator. Also, flowers and vegetation begin blooming at this time adding color to the otherwise stark landscape. It is also is a good time to observe birds mating or sea turtles nesting on the beaches.
From June through November, the Humboldt Current brings colder water averaging 72°F/22°C – brrr! There are also cooler land temperatures 66-79°F/19-26°C. This brings nutrient-rich water attracting fish and sea birds, like the albatross on Española (we did not see them) and penguins (we saw lots). It is the mating season for blue-footed boobies. This time of year there are clouds and a misty rain called Garua. Winds tend to be stronger making the seas rougher. However, the abundant marine life makes this the preferred time of year for experienced divers (advanced divers).
Traveling by air makes the most sense, and you can get there from Guayaquil or Quito on Tame, LAN, or Avianca. You must buy a round-trip ticket if you are not a resident of Galapagos. It is a requirement that all bags are inspected by Galapagos Biosecurity Agency quarantine staff. Every tourist must buy a $20 tourist transit card, and pay an entrance fee to Galapagos National Park ($100 for Adults and $50 for children if you are not an Ecuadorian resident).
Be sure to subscribe to our blog to receive more information on each island, accommodations, and my research on the boats!
NOTE: When you sign up you are entitled to a complimentary document detailing the Galapagos islands, and spreadsheet detailing all of the boats (100) to choose from for a Galapagos cruise. Use the contact form below to request my spreadsheet or more information on the islands. Please be specific as to what you are looking for and be sure to include your email address.
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