Visiting Galapagos: by land or by sea?

Millennium Galapagos catamaran cruise boat

One of the most frequently asked questions by first-time visitors is whether they should go on a Galapagos cruise or do a land-based tour. The short answer to this question is that it all comes down to your budget and how much time you have.

For most visitors, a trip to Galapagos is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. As such, they try to pack as many activities as possible into their stay, as the likelihood that they will ever return to the islands is slim. With that in mind, these are our recommendations to make the most out of your Galapagos vacation.

Visiting Galapagos in one week or less:

While you can certainly get a “taste” of the islands in one week, it is not nearly enough time to fully experience everything Galapagos has to offer. If you have seven days or less, you realistically only have two options: a cruise, or a one- or two-island land-based itinerary. Either way, advance planning is key, so as not to waste any time once you arrive in the islands and to ensure the activities you want to do are available.

Visiting Galapagos in one to two weeks:

This is the minimum amount of time we suggest as it will allow you to visit several of the inhabited islands as well as do some day trips to explore more remote locations. If your budget allows for it, we recommend a 6- or 7-night western islands cruise combined with one week on San Cristobal where you can relax and do many self-guided activities while still having plenty of options for some less expensive day trips as well.

Visiting Galapagos in two to three weeks:

A trip of 14 to 21 days is the sweet spot as you can start with a 1- or 2-week cruise, then chill out on one or two of the inhabited islands with lots of time to rest and experience more of what life is like here. You can also do a few day tours depending on your interests.

Visiting Galapagos in three weeks or more:

To be honest, only long-term travelers can typically allocate this much time to stay in the islands. And, unless you are really looking to get off the grid for awhile, or are coming here to surf in January or February, it makes more sense to plan a maximum of three weeks in Galapagos and use your extra time to explore the rest of Ecuador.

Also, keep in mind that unless you have prearranged a volunteer project or work contract, the maximum amount of time you can stay in Galapagos in any 365-day period is 60 days. If you travel to continental Ecuador (or any other country) and then return to Galapagos, the clock/calendar does not reset. In addition, every time you enter Galapagos, you must pay the national park fee and the transit control fee.

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Check out our Top Ten Travel Tips for helpful info on planning your trip to Galapagos!

galapagos surf discovery owners on beach at sunset wearing sombreros

We not only live in Galapagos, but we’ve also been on multiple cruises and visited all of the day trip destinations on Isabela, San Cristobal, and Santa Cruz. We will give you our unbiased and expert opinion as to how to make the most of your trip on any budget. Contact us and let us know how we can help you!

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