There are two main ways to explore the Galapagos Islands: cruising or land-based island hopping tours. But which is one is better? The answer will depend on some key factors which you need to consider when planning a trip to the Galapagos.
Viewing the wildlife
The wildlife is abundant all throughout the islands. However, you will see a wider variety of animals on cruises as they are able to visit remote islands. You need to consider what kinds of wildlife you want to see as some species are only found on certain islands. For example, the Galapagos Albatross is exclusive to Espanola Island, which is easier to travel to by cruising.
Cruise excursions are mainly hiking or snorkelling. Diving is also available but only on certain ships. Land-based tours offer a wider variety of activities such as scuba diving, snorkelling, kayaking, cycling, hiking, and surfing. Unlike cruises, land-based tours don’t have set schedules so you are able to choose which activities you want to do and have the flexibility to spend more or little time on each activity.
Cruising is more time efficient as sailing happens mostly at night. This allows you more time to explore during the day as you won’t be spending your time travelling between islands. It also means you have more opportunities to visit different areas and see different types of wildlife. If you prefer unguided exploration, consider island-hopping tours over cruising because it gives you greater flexibility on what sites to visit and to explore them at your own pace.
There are plenty of cruises to suit all tastes and comfort levels ranging from tourist class to deluxe categories. For a personalised Galapagos experience, consider cruising on smaller yachts or catamarans. For land-based tours, hotels are available on the main islands varying from boutique to deluxe class. Since accommodation is available on certain islands you will only have access to day tours to nearby islands.
A holiday to the Galapagos Islands will never be cheap but with land-based tours, you have the ability to choose your accommodation and only add day tours and activities that you are most interested in. These are both factors that keep prices low. Cruises are generally more expensive but have the comforts and amenities of a hotel. You are also able to visit more of the Galapagos Islands in a much shorter amount of time compared to land-based tours.
Generally, movements can be felt more on smaller ships as opposed to larger vessels which tend to be more stabilised. There are also options to reduce your chances of seasickness by taking precautions such as motion sickness pills. The beauty of land-based tours you spend more time on land and can choose to island hop as often or as little as you like.
To put it simply there is no ‘best’ way to see the Galapagos Islands because it’s a matter of preferences and your motivation for travel. For those who can’t decide between the two, perhaps consider combining both options. This will allow you to travel around the islands with ease and then end of your trip relaxing on one or a couple of islands.