Galapagos Cruises Versus Land-Based Tours

By ~ Eric-Sheets 

You have made the decision that you want to visit the Galapagos Islands. We understand! It is one of our favorite places in the world! Now, its time to decide between Galapagos cruises or land based tours. Or maybe a little of both! Read on to find out which of these three options would suit you best.

As long-time Galapagos vacation planners, we have created some very engaging Galapagos cruises and tours, personalized itineraries and custom routes. Lets take a look at the different ways you can explore this amazing, one-of-a-kind, bucket list destination

Galapagos Cruises

Cruising on small ships and luxury yachts has long been the popular way to experience the Galapagos. For a long time there just wasn’t much built on the islands themselves to accommodate tourists. Just as Charles Darwin did in 1835, traversing the waters around these magical islands is one of the great travel experiences on the planet. Highlights include:

  • Naturalists on board offering daily programs
  • Opportunity to visit several places during the trip
  • All inclusive meals

There is a myriad of ships and yachts to choose from. You could spend your time reading reviews and studying itineraries. Or, you can enlist the help of an expert who has seen the yachts and taken the trips. All you do is explain what you like to do, be it snorkeling, kayaking, photography, scuba, etc. Like all cruises there is variety in pricing and you can choose to cruise on yachts with as small as 12 total passengers up to small ships that carry 100.

Galapagos Cruise Boat Options

For many years, a Galapagos cruise was the only way to see the natural wonders and countless species that populate the region. It still is the most popular way to visit. Travel planning experts have chosen the cruise partners to work with to ensure you have the best experience possible. The Coral I and Coral II yachts, for example, are delightfully intimate and ideal for exploring the eastern and southern islands of San Cristobal, Espanola and Floreana, among their many available routes that also visit Isabela Island; the largest of all the Galapagos. If looking to uncover the remote wilderness of the western isles in islets such as Fernandina and Santiago, fine vessels including the Reina Silvia and Galapagos Legend operate both long and short journeys. These incorporate rugged coastline, volcanic craters and endless wildlife opportunities as well as a few historic highlights along the way. You can see all of the Galapagos ships right here on this website

The Galapagos Cruise Experience

Galapagos cruises can be arranged for as few as 4 days and as many as 14. You may be kayaking crystalline seas in the morning or enjoying a birdwatching walk, perhaps followed by a chance meeting in the afternoon with Giant Galapagos Tortoises in the Santa Cruz Highlands. Then, whereas one evening can be spent on a sunset Zodiac tour, you might find yourself hiking to a viewpoint the next, or simply enjoying the serenity of your luxury yacht’s observation deck, drink in hand. However you choose to spend each day during your cruise is up to you. But it will be stress free, filled with fun evenings and gourmet cuisine, friendly staff and abundant activities.

Land-based Galapagos Tours

Some people do not enjoy the cruising experience. That doesn’t mean they don’t get to enjoy this destination just as much now. Some of the benefits of choosing a land-based Galapagos experience are:

  • Can be more affordable than cruising
  • Only see the things you want to see and do specific activities
  • Enjoy day trips on the water and to other islands


Galapagos Lodges, Hotels and Villas

Like cruising, you have several choices of land based experiences in the Galapagos. One of our personal favorites is the luxurious Galapagos Safari Camp on Santa Cruz Island to be hidden amidst the forest, benefiting from authentic accommodation and stunning views. While here, you will not only feel at one with nature and have numerous expert guides onsite, but can also decide exactly how to spend your time. This is the real advantage of planning a land based visit. You will have the flexibility to enjoy the Galapagos at your pace. Pikaia Lodge and the Semilla Verde Hotel, also on Santa Cruz Island, are other examples of land-based experiences. Alternatively, staying at a villa is ideal for families or groups of friends. Your group can enjoy a custom designed Galapagos experience built around your group activity preference. The overall land based experience can be just as encompassing as a cruise, without the set schedule of one. You gain the best of both worlds; infinite wildlife encounters with ultimate flexibility.

Combine a Land-Based Galapagos Experience with a Cruise

If you want both, plan a cruise coupled with a land based stay on the islands too. That way you don’t have to decide between the two options. This option has become quite popular in recent years as the hospitality infrastructure has matured.

Ecuador Travel Extensions

You’ve come so far, why not spend some time discovering the gateway to the Galapagos: Ecuador! There are cities like Quito to see or combine the Galapagos with an Amazon jungle experience offering lodges or river cruises of varying lengths. Your travel expert can include several options in Ecuador before or after your Galapagos cruises or land-based tours.