Cruise the Galápagos Islands

The Best Way to Explore the Galapagos

A cruise is the best way to see a lot of the Galapagos Islands. You sail from island to island, in the meantime, you go on all kinds of excursions and tours. Mostly it will be watching wildlife, which is abundant on the islands and the surrounding waters. Discover the best tips for a Galapagos Islands cruise.

You have several options to visit the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador. It depends on your time and budget of course. But if you have made the long journey to these unique islands it would be a shame not to get the most out of your visit. I have been to the Galapagos twice. The first time, I explored the region by doing day trips. Second time I hopped on a cruise boast. Let me tell you what the differences are. 

Each Galapagos island is different with its own attractions and wildlife. Partly for this reason, you should actually make a tour of the various islands. This is best done by ship, where you also sleep on the boat. You have them in all kinds of sizes, as well as in various price ranges.

Full-Day Excursions versus a Multi-Day Cruise

You can actually visit the Galapagos Islands in 2 ways. What you choose depends on the budget, your number of days on the islands and what you like most. And whether you get seasick quickly, of course. I have tried to list the pros and cons of both in this article. So that you can make the right choice.

The Famous Galapagos Cruise

Most excursions are carried out by zodiac in the Galapagos Islands.

A cruise here is done with relatively small ships. So don't expect immense cruise ships, these are prohibited here. Think of one or two decks, a restaurant and of course several bedrooms.

You travel by cruise for several days. You spend your time on the ship, where you will also eat and sleep. These are usually trips of 7 nights or more. You usually sail around various islands, where there are countless routes. You usually spend the night in quiet bays, where you can swim well and snorkel.

Often you sail late at night or early during breakfast on the day to the next location, where you go ashore to explore the island. There are often other tours possible. Like snorkelling with sea lions, penguins and marine iguanas.

Tours from Your Hotel

The other choice is to do all kinds of trips from a hotel on one of the islands. Where you will be picked up from the hotel and then usually take a small boat to a nearby island or islet. Here too you go on land or in the water (or both of course).

After a few hours you will return to your hotel and relax. But you can also for example walk  around your hotel, where you will also spot plenty of animals. You can also often go out on a bicycle. Many tourists visit several hotels on several islands during their trip. Which allows them to see more of the diversity.

The next day you leave again for an excursion. The disadvantage is that you are fairly limited in which islands you can visit. In addition, I missed the sunrise and sunset very much. Finally, I really felt like a tourist, only touching the surface of the Galapagos Islands. Therefore, on my second visit, I decided to opt for a cruise.

The sunset from aboard of the catamaran. ©Corno van den Berg

Cruise Length: 3, 4 or 7 Days

You can go on all kinds of cruises in terms of length. Logically, the more days, the more places you visit. And therefore how big the chance is to be able to see special animals or special animal behaviour.

The most popular cruises are 3 or 4 days. There is a great variation in the route. So it makes sense to find out which islands are visited. As well as which animals you can see on your trip.

If you want to see the most iconic animals of the islands, you actually need a 7-day tour. Read all about the animals on the Galapagos Islands in this article.

Type of Cruise Ship

You can choose from various types of ships. One of the most popular ways is by catamaran. There are also sailing ships and smaller cruise ships. In principle, most boats do the same, which is mandatory, although the experience is somewhat different.

Some ships have kayaks and sups on board. So that you can, for example, go out on the water with playful sea lions that jump out in front of your kayak. Ask if this is included in the program when you book.


Catamarans are limited in space, but also in people. Which makes your trip a bit smaller. A catamaran is remarkably stable in the water due to its two hulls. Which is ideal for people prone to seasickness. The sleeping quarters are often a bit small, but you do have everything on board. Such as a toilet, shower and a double bed or two single beds. You have various types of catamarans on the Galapagos, with a sail and without. The first can sail on a motor, but also with sails, which is cool to see.

A catamaran sailing vessel in the Galapagos Islands. ©Corno van den Berg

Sailing Boat

Those who like sailing can indulge themselves here. The offer is limited, but available. The ships also have an engine in case of little wind. Here, too, the sleeping area is often limited in size. Although you do have all the facilities.

Cruise Ship

The size of cruise ships is limited by the government of Ecuador. So you don't see any big cruise ships here. The advantage is that these boats are much more stable in the water. Which is useful for people who quickly suffer from seasickness.

Excursions at the Galapagos Islands

With all boats you will be taken from the boat to the landing spot or beach by zodiac, or panga. You also have a dry landing, usually on a pier. With a wet landing you jump into the water with your bare feet at a beach. After which you put on your shoes and go for a walk. Both are simple and can be done by anyone.

Bear in mind that the program is fixed, even the time of visit. As well as the length of an excursion. The Galapagos local government schedules all excursions for all visitors. So both from the cruises and the day trips. Most cruises call at various islands, where you see various animals. Of course you can choose the cruise that best suits your interests.

On the foredeck of your cruise you can relax and look around. ©Corno van den Berg

My advice: Cruise or Hotel?

A ship has several advantages; you can visit many more locations in a short time, see the sunrise and sunset at sea and get to places where others cannot reach. And, you are usually far away from other tourists. And so in the middle of the animals.

The disadvantage is that you usually cannot easily get out on your own, which is possible from a hotel. A mix of both is best. For example, you can stay in a hotel for a few days upon your arrival so that you can do a number of excursions. Then you can go out on the cruise ship so that you can also visit more remote places.

A cruise is relatively pricy, but you get a lot in return. The cruise includes food and drinks and (most of) the excursions. The experience is intense because you often also sleep near the island. You can see even more animals in the evening or early morning.

With the cruise you are really busy all day with the landscape, the animals and the beauty of the islands. And you really make a tour, where you come to places where the day excursions do not go. In addition, sleeping on the boat is an experience. And the first cup of coffee in the morning on the water cannot be experienced.

The giant tortoises are unique to the Galapagos Islands. ©Corno van den Berg

5 Reasons to Go on a Galapagos Cruise

  1. You get to places where you can't get to with the day trip
  2. Days are much longer to experience the Galapagos Islands  
  3. Sunrise and sunset are magical, you will miss them on the day excursions
  4. Sleeping on a boat is more intense. Feeling that you really experience the special islands
  5. Greater chance to spot more special animals. Think penguins, the unique Galapagos cormorant and more.

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