Galapagos Islands holiday: Cruise or hotel / land-based trip?

by on 27th February, 2018

Cruise or hotels?


With the increase in Galapagos hotel-based trips – also called island hopping or land-based – most people planning to visit Galapagos have to ask themselves:

Should I go on a Galapagos Cruise or stay on land in nice hotels?

Read our expert advice comparing both types of trips, helping you decide on whether you would prefer a ‘Galapagos cruise or Galapagos land based trip.



Galapagos is never a cheap destination and cost factors into many planning decisions.

Cruises: Galapagos cruises have always been expensive and work out at several hundred USD per person every night. You get all your meals and at least two tours a day plus your cabin.

Hotel-based: Luxury hotels are expensive but if you are OK with 2-3* rooms, private bathroom, central, clean and with breakfast only, then hotel-based – even including trips – will generally work out cheaper than a cruise.

VERDICT: If you need to keep the budget down, hotel-based wins.



Most trips will be with small groups and you’ll encounter the tame and photogenic wildlife at every corner.

Cruises: Park rules and simple sailing times mean that cruises can reach much further flung and remote parts of the Galapagos than hotel-bases trips. Some animals live on islands that only cruises can reach. These remote outposts have far fewer visitors and do transport you to a very primal world.

Hotel-based: For a general wildlife experience, and to see almost ALL the main animals in Galapagos, island-hopping trips cover most of the bases. Iguana, turtles, sea lions, tortoises, sharks and Blue-footed Boobies you will see on your trip. There are also lots of sites you can visit independently where you will come into contact with wildlife.

VERDICT: Cruises, just – especially if you have something specific to see, or want to see animals away from towns and in remote areas.



There are some activities only cruises can offer, mainly because of location, and also some that only hotel-based trips can offer.

Cruises: Most boats offer 2-3 daily tours, usually with a snorkel of 1-2 hours, a land-based walk/tour and then often a snorkel or swim elsewhere if possible on the itinerary. Cruises can access more remote snorkel sites and islands, and often have a bit more time to explore each area as the boats don’t need to rush back to town for a certain time. The boat sailing around is also lovely and gives you the chance to spot giant rays, whales and dolphins, and at night you may see Phospherescence in the sea and enjoy wonderful star-filled skies. You are restricted to being on the boat at night time, though.

Hotel-based: These trips are more flexible within the more limited number of islands you can visit. If you like kayaking, hiking and biking and in general being more active, then a land-based may be more for you, especially if you settle yourself on one island for a few days and fancy moonlit strolls along beaches. If you want to visit lots of uninhabited islands, be prepared for a lot of time in speedboats (4-5 hours a day) in order to reach them and return to a hotel.

VERDICT: A tie (BOO!), because it depends on how you travel. More active people may prefer land-based, snorkelers a cruise and families often prefer hotel-based trips because of the flexibility.


Food and accommodation

Cruises: Ships offer some of the best meals in Galapagos, with well-trained chefs producing plentiful, fresh and tasty meals and snacks just when you want them. Cabins are generally small unless you go to the luxury market / catamarans. No internet.

Hotel-based: San Cristobal and Santa Cruz have plenty of restaurant and hotel options, from basic to luxury, plus some internet. Isabela has a more limited supply and gets booked up, while Floreana is very hit and miss and can be quite basic.

VERDICT: Cruises still shade this, also because you don’t have to think about anything, will be well looked after the whole way and it feels like a sailing experience.



A worry for many before going on a Galapagos trip is seasickness.

Cruises: Most non-sailors, no matter how stable the boat, will feel the roll of the ocean on the first day. The good news is that with either medication and/or patience of a day, your body quickly adapts and you forget all about seasickness. Stay out of your cabin, look at the horizon and islands as much as possible, and take a pill if you need to.

Hotel-based: Sleeping on solid ground means any seasickness you may get will be on a speedboat trip during the day. You can avoid almost all boats with hotel-based trips because there are many shore snorkels to choose from and you can fly between most of the islands, albeit it’s not cheap.

VERDICT: For those who suffer, island-hopping wins hands down, while still offering a fantastic trip.


Galapagos options:

Land based tours

Superior tourist class boats

First class boats


Contact us for more!


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