Traveling to the Galápagos Islands requires planning well in advance of beginning your itinerary. Early on you’ll need to decide whether to stay on a boat, seek land accommodations, or split your time between some days on a boat and some on land. You can get around the islands by boat or air shuttle once you’ve arrived there. The Galápagos Islands are spread over 23,000 square miles of ocean with many of the islands inaccessible or uninhabitable. This is something you should consider as you make your reservations for lodging during your stay on the islands.
Based on your lodging destinations, you’ll either arrive at Aeropuerto Ecológico de Galápagos (GPS) on Isla Baltra or San Cristóbal Airport (SCY) on San Cristóbal Island. Upon arrival you will pay your entrance fee to the Galápagos Islands National Park of $100 US per person (cash only) for visitors 12 years of age and over. Visitors under 12 years of age will pay $50 US per person (cash only).
There are two national airlines with flights to the Galápagos Islands.The two national airlines TAME and Avianca Ecuador (formerly called AeroGal) travel to Aeropuerto Ecológico de Galápagos (GPS) on Isla Baltra or San Cristóbal Airport (SCY) on San Cristóbal Island. For inter-island air travel, EMETEBE is a small plane that can shuttle visitors between some of the islands. EMETEBE has four destinations including Isla Baltra, Isla Isabela, Isla San Cristóbal and Santa Cruz. For more specific details, check their website.
Traveling to some of the more remote islands can take 10 to 15 hours by boat. If you are staying on land you will need to skip visiting some of the more remote islands that are further away. Visitors that are land-based will be limited to single day trip outings. These are trips where you travel out and return that same day to your hotel. This limits how far you can travel for the day. There are about 5 nearby islands that are within reach to those with land based accommodations. Islands further away cannot be reached within a single day.
If you choose to be boat based your crew will travel at night while you are sleeping just as a cruise ship travels at night while passengers sleep then are readied for activities the following morning. If you are interested in seeing more islands and can stay on a boat for longer periods of time then being boat based may work for you. However, if you are prone to motion-sickness or tend to get seasick you may be better off with day trips and being land based.
If you are land based, you can select from hotels in Isla Santa Cruz, Isla San Cristóbal, Isla Isabela, or Isla Floreana. There are several day boat trip options. You may even considered booking a hotel that is closer to the harbor when booking your boat trips. The boat accommodations will cost more than the land accommodations however, boat accommodations offer more choices in destinations.
There are many hotels on Isla Santa Cruz, Isla San Cristóbal, Isla Isabela, or Isla Floreana to select from. Many of the hotels have a limited number of rooms and range from different price points such as $30s ranging up to $700+ per night. We’ve listed hotels with more amenities than many of the other lower priced hotels that will have less amenities.
One of the overnight accommodations on Isla Isabela:
Hotel Albemarle, located in the fishing village of Puerto Villamil, Isla Isabela
Overnight accommodations on Isla San Cristóbal are:
Golden Bay Hotel & Spa in Playa de Oro, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, Isla San Cristóbal
Golden Bay Hotel & Spa Restaurant in Playa de Oro, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, Isla San Cristóbal
Casa Opuntia Galápagos near Playa de Oro, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, Isla San Cristóbal
Overnight accommodations on Isla Santa Cruz are:
Angermeyer Waterfront Inn in Puerto Ayora, Isla Santa Cruz
Finch Bay Galápagos Hotel in Puerto Ayora on the south side of Isla Santa Cruz
Finch Bay Galápagos Restaurant in Puerto Ayora on the south side of Isla Santa Cruz
Red Mangrove in Puerto Ayora, Isla Santa Cruz
Royal Palm Hotel Galápagos in Puerto Ayora, Isla Santa Cruz has 21 casitas (little houses) and villa accommodations.
Hotel Solymar in Puerto Ayora, Isla Santa Cruz
Villa Escalesia in Barrio de Pelican Bay, Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz
Boat based itineraries are available from about 2 to 12 day trips. Departure dates, routes are determined by the national park officials to minimize environmental stress and avoid crowding. Larger boats will have more onboard services than the smaller boats. Another thing to keep in mind is that dive boats fill up faster than the other boats so you may want to book those as soon as you know your schedule.
Three of the larger boats that offer boat accommodations are:
Celebrity Cruises which depart from Isla Baltra. Longer night packages can include Quito tours and overnight stays prior to arriving in Isla Baltra. To board the Celebrity Cruise, passengers must have a valid passport that has at least six months validity prior to departure from Ecuador. Also, the visitor’s passport name must be identical to the name on Celebrity Cruise reservation or visitors may not be permitted to board the cruise ship.
The Rainforest Cruises depart from Isla Baltra. There are a variety of night packages to book including travel to Peru or Brazil. There are up to 20 boats available for cruises.
Haugan Cruises has three newer fleet of vessels in the Galápagos – Ocean Spray, Petrel, and the Motor Trimaran Camila. There are four to fifteen day packages available to tour various Galápagos Islands.
The Galápagos Islands have two seasons throughout the year. The dry season is called the Garoa because of the fog and mist in the air during the July thru December months. The hot and wet season is from January through June. The months of March and April tend to be the wettest months of the year on the islands.
These are some helpful tips to consider when planning your travel lodging arrangements to the Galápagos Islands. Interested in learning more about how to plan a visit to the Galápagos Islands? Check out our post for traveling to Galápagos Islands called Galápagos Islands, Ecuador: Getting There. And finally, since there’s a good chance you’ll stop over on your way to the islands, learn about some of the interesting sights of Quito.
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