When first researching the Galapagos, last minute cruises seemed to be the ideal. But after doing a little more digging and arriving to the islands, we decided that a Galapagos Land-Based Itinerary was perfect for us. Don’t get me wrong we were still in the water more than we were on land the entire time we were in the Galapagos. The big advantage to sleeping on land is the ability to explore the islands and dining options at night and the easy and cheap ferries allow you to see multiple islands without having to commit to spending your entire trip on a boat.
Things You Need to Know About Traveling to the Galapagos
– There are 3 inhabited islands on Galapagos
– Santa Cruz is in the center
– Order of amenities/activities from greatest to least: Santa Cruz San Cristobal Isabela
– Santa Cruz (Baltra) and San Cristobal have airports
How to Plan Your Galapagos Land-Based Itinerary
We flew into Santa Cruz, spent 4 days there then took a ferry to Isabela. After 4 days on Isabela we took a ferry to San Cristobal and spent 7 days there. Santa Cruz is in the center so we had to take two ferries that day. One to Santa Cruz, then a “layover”, then a ferry to San Cristobal. This was a long travel day by boat. After Santa Cristobal, we returned to Santa Cruz and spent 9 more days there before returning to Quito.
If we could do it again we would fly into San Cristobal then visit Santa Cruz then Isabela. You would only have to take one additional ferry from Isabela to Santa Cruz to fly out. This plan avoids the double ferry day and the San Cristobal airport is way more conveniently located then the Santa Cruz (Baltra) one.
How Much Does a Galapagos Land-Based Itinerary cost?
Accommodations and Dining in the Galapagos
The land-based option is much more affordable. While getting to the Galapagos is pricey, once you are there it is cheap! We were staying in great accommodations for around $30 a night, and the food was super reasonable. Did we mention the street food empanadas?
Tours in the Galapagos
The tours are all around $100 per person and while this is expensive they are so worth it. They are all day and include lunch (sometimes delicious ceviche!), knowledgeable guides, and transportation. Plus you simply can’t get to some areas without a tour. We chose two, the Tuneles Tour in Isabela, and the 360 Tour in San Cristobal, and they were both amazing!
We also booked two dive days (4 dives total) off of Santa Cruz. These were more expensive than a snorkel only tour at about $160 a day. That’s including gear and lunch. The diving is epic and like nowhere else in the world, so we thought it was worth definitely the cost. Read more about our dives here.
Healthcare in the Galapagos
Free! Grant broke out with a weird rash so we stopped by the emergency room on Santa Cruz and had a lovely, cost-free, experience! Hopefully you don’t have to go, but good to know! I also refilled one of my medicines over the counter without a prescription for a very low price.
Cruises in the Galapagos
If you are still interested in last-minute cruises, you can find them in Santa Cruz. The cheapest we found was $100 per day per person. This isn’t bad since it includes meals, accommodations, and activities, but we like to be on our own schedule and wanted to dive. Unless you book a dive cruise (you must be a certified advanced diver) there isn’t any diving on regular cruises.
Visiting the 3 Inhabited Galapagos Islands
Located in the center of the Galapagos islands, Santa Cruz, will most likely be “home base” for your Galapagos land-based itinerary. Santa Cruz is not a large island but it is the most densely populated of the Galapagos islands. It is also the best spot to be for a lot of the day tours to uninhabited islands and scuba diving locations. Read more about our Santa Cruz trip here.
The Galapagos are a cast of all-star islands, but San Cristobal is absolutely the MVP. From mind-blowing secluded coves and hikes to an incomprehensible amount of wildlife, San Cristobal has it all. We spent almost a week on San Cristobal as part of our Galapagos Islands land-based itinerary and it was by far the highlight of our trip. Read more about our San Cristobal trip here.
If you are looking for that end of the earth, back in time, out in the middle of nowhere feeling, Isabela Island is your spot. Despite its large land mass, this seahorse-shaped island is the least populated of the inhabited Galapagos islands. That being said, what it lacks in the form of a town it way more than makes up for in natural beauty and animal encounters! Read more about our Isabela trip here.
Overall, I feel like we did the Galapagos right! Being able to enjoy the flexibility of island life while still seeing all of the animals on our bucket list was amazing. We absolutely loved it, checked off our entire animal bucket list, and got to experience the local island culture.
Want more information to help plan your Galapagos Land-Based Itinerary? Check out the Galapagos Lonely Planet here.
Happy in paradise,