Puero Ayora, Galapagos

Visiting the Galapagos Islands on a Land-based Tour

Land-based tourism is another way to see the natural wonders of the Galapagos Islands. This option is growing in popularity. You may go on a prearranged tour with an agency or go independently.


What exactly is a land-based tour?

Instead of spending your time on a yacht (where you eat, sleep and travel through the Galapagos archipelago), you stay in hotels on one of the three inhabited islands: San Cristobal, Santa Cruz, and Isabela. Floreana Island overnight stays are rarely included on land-based tours, though it does have several hotels. Each day, you travel to one or two visitor sites, either on land or at sea. Some packages island-hop, taking in several of the populated islands.


Why take a land-based tour?

Cost: Galapagos land-based tours tend to be more cost-effective than cruises.

Wildlife: Many Galapagos animals – particularly sea lions, marine iguanas, Sally Lightfoot crabs and a variety of sea birds – can be observed in and around the port towns. In addition to visiting sites close to town, visitors take day cruises to other nearby (uninhabited) islands, where you can spot wildlife and often snorkel or even scuba dive.

Sea sickness-free (or nearly so): With each night spent firmly on land, this is a preferable choice if sea motions make you nauseous (though note you will still travel between islands by boat).

Experience island life: With nights spent in hotels and meals eaten at hotels or restaurants, you will interact with locals in a way that isn’t possible on a cruise.


Are there any disadvantages to taking a land-based tour instead of a multi-day cruise?

Not all of the sites in the Galapagos Islands are accessible by a day tour, so there will be certain areas – and islands – that a land-based tour just can’t reach.

Also, as cruises often travel overnight and hotel-based stays require going back-and-forth from site to hotel with daytime travel, you’ll see less places overall.


Anything else I should know?

One increasingly popular choice is for visitors to combine a Galapagos multi-day cruise with a land-based tour. This option allows you to maximize wildlife viewing, experience island life, and squeeze in a day trip or two if you’re still yearning to see more.

If you make your own arrangements, remember that the Galapagos Islands entry regulations require you to show proof of all hotel reservations for your entire stay in the islands, as well as a round trip ticket.


Do you have other questions about land-based tours? Write your questions below in the comments or contact us and we’ll help you plan your dream Galapagos Islands vacation.


Galapagos Travel Planner - FREE Download

Can I Organize My Own Galapagos Trip?

There are many reasons why you may want to organize your own trip to the Galapagos Islands.

You may not have found your perfect trip after scouring the internet for options. You may plan to spend longer than the usual week in the islands and want to do something extra like a dive course. Or you may have lots of time on your hands and enjoy the challenge of planning logistics in far away places.

Yes, you can

Whatever your reasons for organizing your own trip, the answer is: yes, it can be done! Independent flights can be researched and booked online ahead of time, as can hotels and day tours.

  • Firstly, fly from Quito or Guayaquil on Ecuador’s mainland to either Baltra or San Cristobal Islands. Then, take a public boat to one or all of the three populated islands: Santa Cruz, San Cristobal and Isabela (all islands have plenty of hotels, restaurants and tour agencies). If you wish to avoid the long and often rough boat crossings between the islands, there is also the option to take a speedy inter-island flight. Find out more about travel to and within the islands.
  • Explore the Galapagos by booking day trips. Day trips include tours to one or more sites on the island you are on (without the need to travel to another island), or a boat trip to one or more sites on a different island. Find out more about day trips here.
  • Make sure you do plenty of research beforehand and be aware that travel may not be as quick or easy as you might anticipate – allow time to get around. Ask plenty of questions before you go!

Things to know

Remember that independent travel around the islands does mean that you won’t see as much as you would if you were on a cruise, as many sites in the Galapagos National Park are accessible by cruise vessel only. But you’ll still get to see plenty of wildlife (particularly if you take day trips) and experience day-to-day Galapagos life.

Though independent travel is generally more budget-friendly than a cruise or organized tour, travel costs do add up quickly: public boats between the islands cost around $40 one way, inter-island flights around $160-180 (also one way), hotels start at around $40 per person, full-day trips are around $100-150, and food is more expensive than on the mainland.

The luxury of going independently though is being able to take your time – stay for up to 30 days if you wish!

Galapagos Travel Planner - FREE Download

Photo credit: Flickr/CCC ecg

Galapagos yacht

What is the best way to visit the Galapagos islands?

The unique wildlife, dramatic landscapes and fascinating human history of the Galapagos islands draw in travellers from around the globe. For most visitors, the trip is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

So what’s the best way to make the most of that one-time visit?

Read more