By Allie Almario
As popularity for visiting Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands increases, travelers are seeking a different perspective on exploring Darwin’s favorite archipelago. Most travelers fly into one of two islands – Baltra or San Cristobal — from mainland Ecuador, then join a cruise for a circuit of four to eight days. But a growing number of people are interested in a land-based trip, preferring to stay at a hotel instead of on board a ship. While the logistics of flying into the Galapagos and overnighting at a boutique hotel can be tricky, those who are adventurous and willing to step out of the box will appreciate the benefits of the more unusual way to explore the islands.
NOTE: The best islands to overnight in are Santa Cruz, San Cristobal and Isabela. They offer a variety of hotels and highest level of standards for hospitality.
Here are a few reasons why it might make sense for you to look at staying at a hotel in the Galapagos.
1. Seasickness is a concern.
Travelers who unfortunately suffer from motion sickness may be leery of spending several days on a boat. Staying at a hotel overnight means a roomy, comfortable bed with no movement, no rocking, no sound of waves lapping against a ship hull.
We still highly recommend that you take day trips to nearby islands or coves, but those excursions usually mean just a quick jaunt of anywhere from an hour or two each way on board a boat. On a full day trip, you’ll likely depart early in the morning, motor out to a nearby island, and disembark for a few hours of hiking and snorkeling. You’ll be back on board for a quick simple lunch, then off the boat again for another few hours of hiking and snorkeling before sailing back to port.
2. You’ve been on a Galapagos cruise before and want to return.
So on your last Galapagos trip, you spent a week cruising around several islands, and now you want to return. But you want to do it a little differently – staying at a hotel for a few days allows more in-depth and concentrated exploration, at your pace, with more free and independent time. While some visitor sites on the islands of Santa Cruz, San Cristobal and Isabela do not require a guide to accompany travelers, most do. Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to book excursions in advance with a naturalist guide to have access to the best sites.
3. Trip Cost
Depending on what your travel budget may be, staying at a hotel with just a few scheduled activities accompanied by a guide may end up saving you money. However, keep in mind that compared to a cruise costs, some “a la carte” items that can be included on a trip cost may add up if you have to pay for them on your own; for example, you’ll need to pay separately for meals, snorkeling gear, wetsuit rentals, kayaking sessions, entrance fees for visitor sites – all of which may be included at no extra charge while you’re on board a ship. Make a note to budget for those additional expenses. You’ve probably guessed by now that logistics and complicated flight schedules and island transfers can make planning a land-based trip on your own confusing and challenging, so we recommend speaking with a destination specialist to make the most of your land-based Galapagos adventure.