What is the best option to visit Galapagos Islands?
This is probably the most common question asked when planning Galapagos Islands travel. We´ll help you to know the options and the main difference between Cruise vs Island hopping in the Galapagos Islands
There are two ways of exploring the Galapagos Islands: Island-hopping and by cruise. First, let’s be clear about the difference between these two. Island hopping (land-based) means you’ll be staying at hotels on the main islands: Santa Cruz, San Cristobal and Isabela, and from there, doing guided excursions during the day and at night you stay at comfortable hotel. Please visit this page to see different options of island-hopping tours.
A cruise involves you traveling on a boat during the duration of your trip, and the boat being your base for all activities (lodging, meals, excursions, etc.), you travel at night and during the day you have the whole day to explore the most remote spots of the Galapagos. For more information about Galapagos cruise based tours, click here.
CRUISE vs ISLAND HOPPING – THE MAIN DIFFERENCES:
What is the best option to visit Galapagos Islands? Below, we show you the main parameters vary about cruise vs Island hopping. We hope this guide helps you clarify and personalize your tour according to your interest.
The biggest difference here is that for cruises, your lodging (including meals) will be on the boat, Cruises usually include the following accommodation categories: Luxury, First Class, Tourist Superior, and Tourist, and the main difference between these is space and comfort. For island-hopping you will stay at a hotel on one of the main islands. Lodging options in the islands has different categories; and you choose the option in your budget.
Flexibility is the most important factor marking the difference between island-hopping vs cruise -based Galapagos tours. A land-based itinerary allows you the freedom to go at your own pace. You can customize your whole itinerary, you get to choose where to stay, what to do, when to do it, and at what pace. When you book a cruise, you book a package deal, the schedule, excursions, and activities are pre-determined for you. With a cruise, the only thing you’ll get to decide is its duration.
Cruises work on specific scheduled departure dates; typically, cruises are 4, 5, 8, or 15 days long. For reference, a semi-loop of the archipelago is 8 days, and a full loop is 15. If you have a very tight vacation schedule, these dates may not work for you.
Island-hopping allows you to be more flexible in choosing the duration and you can start every single day of the year. Although most travel companies have set itineraries; however, you can request to customize if you so wish. Keep in mind that hotels and day tours can run out of availability, especially during the high season in the Galapagos. Another thing to consider is that cruises do maximize your range of visit on a shorter time frame — that is, you’ll get to see significantly more on a 4-day cruise than on a 4-day island-hopping tour.
RANGE OF VISIT AND ACTIVITIES
The Galapagos archipelago consists of 13 major islands, 9 medium-sized islands, and 107 islets. A cruise allows you to see more of it; you’ll get to see more wildlife in the water and on land. Cruises do most of their travel by night, so you’ll get to reach more remote areas that otherwise cannot be reached by day tour. Cruise-based excursions tend to be wildlife-focused, and you have more limited time for activities on land. Cruises don’t include as wide a range because of scheduling limitations, but also because activities have to accommodate all passengers (and not everyone has the same physical ability to participate). You have more activities on one day with a cruise since you usually visit 2 spots in one day and you do 2 activities per spot.
Island-hopping means you’ll remain mainly in the three main islands (Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, and Isabela), and your visits to other islands are limited to those that can be reached during the day. Another important fact is that some places are restricted to cruise boats, making island-hopping a more limited way of experiencing Galapagos in their entirety. However, Island-hopping offers a wider range of activities than cruises, and these activities tend to be more active and adventurous. Island-hopping gives you an opportunity to do a little bit of both, and to choose how adventurous you want the activity to be. The activities that are more available to island-hoppers are: hiking, cycling, surfing, kayaking, scuba diving, and snorkeling. Also, you’ll have the opportunity to get to know the Galapagos people while strolling around the villages in your free time, and more possibilities of interacting with locals and other travelers
COMFORT AND SEASICKNESS
Keep in mind that space on cruises will be much more limited than on the islands (the exception being a luxury cruise with spacious cabins). Know your comfort levels and remember that on cruises, you will be confined to one boat and the same people the entire time. Your amenities will also be more limited, a cruise provides a great way to get unplugged and spend quality time with loved ones as there is very little cell coverage and internet connectivity out on the water (except at a few island stops along the way). On a cruise, you don´t need to search for restaurants, as meals are included but you have fewer food options than in the Islands. Additionally, keep in mind that on the cruise you will have just one guide your whole cruise, with island-hopping your guide might change every day.
Seasickness is a real concern for cruise-goers. The smaller your boat, the more likely you are to experience it. If you’re never been on a boat for prolonged periods before, consider a larger vessel and come prepared with any medications that might offset the motion sickness.
Island Hopping is a much better option for people who suffer terribly from sea-sickness. Sailing in a speedy-boat is not more than 3 or 4 hours per day, depending on the Island or attractions that you decide to visit
In general, Island Hopping is definitely the cheaper option. The all-inclusive nature of cruises makes their rates higher and less flexible. The variety of cruises do suit different budgets, Island-hopping allows you to be more flexible with your budget, as you can choose which excursions and activities to engage in.
Cruise vs Island hopping – Our biggest recommendation for your decision-making process is to do your research and have a clear idea what you want to accomplish during your visit to the Galapagos. Feel free to message us directly for any questions, and for more information on the tours we offer here.
Photos: Felipe Lopez