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in most cases, the first decision you will make is whether to base your Galapagos vacation on:

  • One Island
  • Island Hopping (self-managed or with a package tour)
  • A Cruise

Of course, you can always take a cruise and spend some time on land. Every year we find more travellers come to stay with us, at Galeodan Suites, before or after a cruise - Sometimes before and after.

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Many sightseeing excursions include an opportunity to discover underwater Galapagos. Snorkelling is an integral part of most day-trips, sometimes with the option of diving. You can even take a live-aboard diving cruise. For more about the possibilities see Dive & Snorkel.

Access to the Attractions

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As described in Where You Can Go in Galapagos, most of the attractions are in the restricted zones of the Galapagos National Park or Marine Reserve.

“Visit Sites” in the restricted areas can only be accessed with a naturalist guide and, if over water, on an organized day-tour or cruise.

Wherever you are staying, you will also find several points of interest within walking distance or a tax-ride. For the many attractions within easy access on San Cristobal, see San Cristobal Sightseeing on our Galeodan Suites site (opens in a new tab).



Day-trips over water can be booked on a “Daily Tour” or “Vivencial Fishing” Boat. Most take 12 passengers, and are licensed to visit a distinct set of visit-sites, depending on their category and home port. There are a few overlaps, for example: you can visit Kicker Rock (San Cristobal) on either type.



For the sake of the Islands and the continued health of its many unique inhabitants, it is essential for visitors to use common sense and consideration at all times and particularly when visiting the Protected Areas of the Galápagos Islands.. To this end, the Galápagos National Park has issued a set of “Rules for Visitors of the Galápagos Protected Areas”.



The following list serves simply to indicate which of the most popular attractions can be reached on a Daily Tour or Vivencial Fishing boat, from the 3 islands: San Cristóbal, Santa Cruz and Isabela. (Floreana has hotels but no day-tour boats.)

These are the most popular local and day-trip attractions - By base-island.

San Cristobal (Puerto Baquerizo Moreno)


By Land:
  • Highlands
  • El Junco (crater lake)
  • Interpretation Centre (natural and human history of Galapagos)
  • Galapaguera (tortoise breeding centre)
  • Tijeretas
  • Beaches: Carola, Playa Mann, Puerto Chino & Baquerizo
By Water:
  • Kicker Rock *
  • Española
  • Floreana
  • Punta Pitt
  • Isla Lobos
  • Cerro Brujo
  • Rosa Blanca
  • Bahia Sardina *
  • Beaches: Puerto Grande, Manglecito, Ochoa etc.
  • * Featured together on the very popular 360 Tour which is exclusive to Vivencial Fishing boats



For more details, visit San Cristobal Sightseeing on our Galeodan Suites site (opens in a new tab).


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Santa Cruz (Puerto Ayora)


By Land:
  • Darwin Centre
  • Highlands
  • Lava Tunnels
  • Los Gemelos “Twin Craters” (lava sink-holes)
  • Beaches: Tortuga Bay, Garrapatero, etc.
By Water:
  • Bartolomé
  • Sombrero Chino
  • North Seymour
  • Mosquera
  • South Plazas
  • Santa Fé
  • Beeches: Bachas etc.
  • Floreana *
  • * You can actually stay on Floreana


Los Gemelos Panorama 1


Isabela (Puerto Villamil)


By Land:
  • Sierra Negra (Caldera)
  • Humedales (wetlands)
  • Wall of Tears
  • Galapaguera (tortoise breeding centre)
By Water:
  • Tintoreras
  • Los Tuneles



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One Island



With day-trips, you can spend a week, based on one of the main islands and still see a lot of Galapagos.

Based on the attractions, the atmosphere and environment, San Cristóbal is an ideal choice. If you want the best fishing, or surf, then San Cristóbal is the only choice.

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Although some remote islands are only accessible on a cruise, you can still enjoy most of the sites on day-tours from San Cristobal, Santa Cruz or Isabela. At the same time, you can save a substantial amount of money by staying in hotels and taking small boats to the visit-sites. You also get a more intimate experience of life in Galapagos.

Travel between the islands is accomplished by taking the inter-island ferry boats or flying. While the crossings between San Cristobal and Santa Cruz or Santa Cruz and Isabela take around 2 hours, crossing between San Cristobal and Isabela requires 2 crossings and most of a day. For that trip we do recommend taking an island hopper flight. See our page: Moving Around Galapagos.

You can make your own plans, work with an agency on a bespoke tour, or join a package tour with a group of 6 to 16 (commonly). Some organized tours may use the same boat for all excursions and crossings.

Galapagos - Island Hopping

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Galapagos Cruises


There is a considerable range of size, quality and cost for cruises in the Galapagos. Sizes range from 16 to 110 passengers and the cost, per-person, from around $1,100, for a 4-day cruise on a budget boat, to $14,000 and up for 7 days on a luxury boat.

When the Galapagos National Park first issued regulations and licences to operate cruises, they set the maximum capacity to 16 passengers, considered to be the maximum that should be on a vulnerable visit-site at any one time and, at the same time, the most that can be under the direction of a naturalist guide.

A majority of boats carry 16 passengers. However, a few major operators ignored the limits and combined multiple licenses to carry 80 to 110 passengers on a single boat, with multiple guides going ashore in shifts.

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Typical Galapagos Cruise boat - 16 passengers

NG Endeavour 2

National Geographic Endeavour - 96 passengers


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Cruise Itineraries

Most cruise boats run a 15 day cycle around the Archipelago following itineraries which are “fixed” by negotiation with the Galapagos National Park. If you purchase a 4, 5, 6, or 8 day  cruise, you will be joining for a portion of the overall itinerary. Note that the first and last days are partial days as the boat unloads and loads passengers, so an “8 day” cruise is 7 full days (7 nights).

The Park coordinates all the boats and itineraries to minimize stress on the visiting sites and the operators have limited scope to determine their own itineraries as they have to fit in with the overall matrix.

Once an itinerary has been agreed, the boat cannot deviate without the Park’s consent. Occasionally the Park will set an island or visitor site off-limits to all boats to allow the site time to recover from the impact of the constant procession of tourists. In that event, boats will be given alternate sites to visit that can be incorporated into the scheduled itinerary.

Cruise 3

8 day itinerary covering Western Islands

Cruise 2

8 day itinerary covering Eastern Islands



Get the Best of Both Worlds:

While expensive, a cruise is an efficient way of seeing the most of Galapagos in the shortest time. The routine can be somewhat regimented, with most of the longer crossings achieved overnight, so excursions can start early next morning. In recent years, more and more travellers are staying with us, in San Cristóbal, before or after a cruise - Sometimes both. They get the best of both worlds: all the benefits of a cruise plus the deeper insight and appreciation that comes from “living” in Galapagos, albeit for just a few days.


Some Things to Look Out For

Get the itinerary you want. Some itineraries are better and more popular than others; some operators are more forthcoming than others regarding their exact schedule and itineraries. If you are buying through an agency, rather than direct, there is another layer through which you may end up with something other than what you were expecting. If you find yourself on the wrong itinerary, or even the wrong boat, do not accept the common excuse that the Park forced the change on the operator - That does not happen. 

Beware online reviews. For several reasons, we caution against putting faith in sites like Tripadvisor or Google. Reviews age quickly - A boat that was excellent a couple of years ago maybe under new and less dependable management now - Or vice versa. Moreover, these sites make no effort to verify authenticity and are especially notorious for accepting malicious, or fictitious puff reviews.

Last minute deals?  Now and then someone scores a great deal on a last-minute cruise and they go online to tell everyone to follow their good example and wait until they get here before looking. Now, there are some worthwhile last-minute deals but in many cases you end up with the itinerary nobody wants and the cabin next to the engine room. But if you really like to gamble then go for it. Just remember that the travellers that were not so lucky keep it to themselves. Having said that, there are some operators that do offer significant discounts, weeks, or even months ahead.



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