The Galapagos Islands, which are in the Pacific Ocean off the Ecuadorian coast, are home to some of the most interesting and beautiful plant and animal life you’ve ever seen. Today, the islands are incredibly popular as a tourist destination, and certainly a must-see for travel enthusiasts. Here’s what you should know about visiting the Galapagos Islands during your next vacation.
Decide where you’ll be based during your trip.
When you visit the Galapagos Islands, you have two options for how to get around:
1. Stay in a hotel one of the three main islands, and explore the islands by day via boat rides.
2. Stay on a boat during your entire trip, which will serve as your “hotel” and your transportation to explore the islands.
There are several differences to consider when deciding whether to be land- or boat- based:
• Your trip will cost less if you’re land-based. However, live-aboard boat experiences are offered in a range of prices, but they still tend to cost more than a land-based trip.
• By staying on land, getting to and from your destinations around the Galapagos Islands will take a lot longer than if you were in a live-aboard boat. When you live on a boat during your trip, it will travel during the nighttime, so you’ll awake in a new destination and not have to waste any time on traveling.
• The cabins in live-aboard boats are small, especially compared to the space you’ll get in a hotel.
• Land-based trips only allow you to visit five of the islands, because there are only five that can be accessed in just one travel day. If you opt for a boat-based experienced, you’ll see a lot more of the Galapagos Islands.
One last consideration: if you get seasick, it may not be worth it to you to have a boat-based trip, even though you’ll get a lot of great experiences out of it. Feeling seasick the entire time can put a major damper on your trip.
Logistics for a land-based trip.
Most of the Galapagos Islands are not inhabited, but there are numerous hotels that can be found on the three inhabited islands. There are also day boat excursions that can be accessed on these islands, but it’s best if you secure a hotel that’s close to the harbor to limit your travel time to and from the boat.
The Red Mangrove Aventura Lodge, which is set on Santa Cruz Island, is a very popular place to stay if you want a land-based trip. It’s a bit more pricey than other hotels, but it’s set on the water and often has views of sea lions.
Logistics for a boat-based trip.
If you opt for a cruise to explore the islands, your itinerary will probably be between five and eight days long. You’ll have strict departure dates and routes to follow so that you can take full advantage of the islands. Whether you embark on a northern or southern trip, your itinerary will likely include time on land, a lot of time in the water, and several opportunities to experience the amazing plant and animal life of the islands.
If you’re going to book a cruise, make sure that it has the level of activity you want. If you’re interested in a laidback trip, you don’t want a cruise that’s going to have you running all over the minute the sun comes up. On the other hand, if you want to see as much as possible during your short time here, avoid a cruise that has too much downtime built in.
Tips for what to do on the Galapagos Islands.
Whether you’re trying to squeeze everything into just one week or you’re staying on the island for a bit longer, consider adding these must-dos to your itinerary.
• If you’re visiting the island in May, book a whale watching trip. The water won’t be too rough, and this is the very beginning of the whale watching season.
• Know which animals you want to see most, which will help you choose which islands to go to. There’s different wildlife on different islands.
• Book at least one snorkeling trip.
• While you’re here for the flora and fauna, it’s still a great opportunity to try Ecuadorian cuisine, and you may end up having some really great meals while on your trip.
One last thing to remember is to never touch the wildlife! Not only is this not safe for you, but it’s not save for the animals, plants or the environment overall. The Galapagos Islands are gorgeous and unique, and it’s in everyone’s best interest to preserve them as much as possible.