Ways to see the Galapagos islands

There is four different ways to visit and see the Galapagos Islands

-          Tour by larger tour ship

-          Tour by smaller tour ship

-          Island hoping on small fast boats

-          Staying on one island/s and doing day trips


Sea Tour of Galapagos on a larger tour ship

This is still not a cruise liner! In fact currently the largest tour ships to the Galapagos are only large enough for 100 passengers (although there are plans for a large cruise liner to be in operation). Only about 10 ships hold more than 40-50 passengers! The larger ships tend to be more luxurious and comfortable than the smaller ones, they are more stable (i.e. you are less likely to get sea sick) and they are normally luxury or first class. The nature guides are normally better.

There are also disadvantages…the larger ships are often more expensive. They have a rigid schedule and lack flexibility. Also, sometimes you may feel that you are being corralled around (the logistics of having to move larger numbers of people in short time frames)

Sea Tour of Galapagos on a smaller ship

There are many small ships (about 60) that have licenses to offer Galapagos tour cruises. They are banded into different classes (many like hotels are ranked from 1 to 5 stars). These are:
- Economy
- Tourist
- Superior Tourist
- First Class
- Luxury

Basically you pay for what you get. This comes in many forms. From the quality of your accommodation, the food and the quality of you guides.

Smaller Galapagos ships normally have from 8-20 passengers. Smaller ships are cozier, and allow you more interaction with crew and captain. They also are often a little more flexible. The disadvantages are they as less stable, have fewer facilities (e.g. snorkeling gear) and if there is another tourist you don’t like, its harder to get away from him/her!

Island hopping on small fast boats

Only lately have Galápagos tour operators begun offering multi-day tours that allow visitors to sleep on various islands. This is because there are now regular fast speedboat services between Santa Cruz, San Crisobel, Fernando and Isabela islands. The price is lower than the ship tours and all the main logistics are organized for you i.e. fast boat reservation, accommodation on the islands and the main sites.  There are some disadvantages. The trips can only go to the main islands, and sites that have public access (while Tour boats have access to the restricted sites). So you can get to see a lot of the islands, but not some of the best sites for wildlife.


Staying on an island/s and doing day/weekend trips

ways to seeThis is a great option for those on a budget. The best starting point is Puerto Ayora. From here you can visit independently many of Santa Cruz’s free or cheap sites and wildlife (see our page on Santa Cruz and things to do). You can also take day tours to Bartolome and North Seymour.

You can take the fast boat to San Crisbol. Again, there are many free or cheap sites and wildlife to see. Take a day trip to Kicker rock.  You need to return by fast boat to Puerto Ayora before taking a day trip to Floreana (great snorkeling) or to Española Island to see the albatrosses and blue footed boobies. , and then by fast boat to Isabela (our favorite!). Here is so much to see and do… and all very close to where you would be staying in Puerto Villamill

This way provides you will great flexibility, and is much cheaper than any other option. So what’s the downsides? There is very little information on where to visit (as everyone is selling tours). Even an internet search wont help you that much! It takes time to organize each day (when you could be out there doing!) and you need to find your own accommodation and transport. And, there is no guide to explain anything to you. Lastly, again you can only access the ‘public’ sites and not the restricted site.

If you are a confident independent travelling, speak Spanish, have time on your side, and are not going in the main peak season, then this is an excellent option!