Fraud Blocker

Galapagos Islands Tour: Land-based vs Cruise

Galapagos Island Tour Featured image

A Galapagos Island Tour now may be a master plan! This protected National Park is filled with incredible nature, and you can take a closer look at its wonderful flora and fauna. But, what is the best option to get to know this magical place? Is it better to go for an island hopping or a cruise? Today, you will learn how to design your perfect Galapagos holiday. 

There are two ways of exploring the Galapagos Islands: Island-hopping and by cruise. First, let’s be clear about the difference between these two. Island hopping (land-based) means you’ll be staying at hotels on the main islands to do guided excursions. While on a cruise you will be able to explore the archipelago and enjoy a quality experience. These boats guarantee full comfort, outstanding customer service, immediate attention, and natural guides on the Islands. Let’s review other differences between these two options:

1. Wildlife Viewing

Galapagos Island Wildlife

The unique wildlife is one of the main characteristics of the Galapagos Islands. For those with a profound or more scientific interest in wildlife watching, taking a Galapagos Cruise clearly is the best choice. Even though wildlife is abundant everywhere on the Enchanted Islands, traveling to remote areas allows you to see a major variety of species. Some species such as the Galapagos Albatrosses are only found on certain islands, that cannot be reached on a day tour.

Even though the number of wildlife spotted during a land-based tour will be less than while on a cruise, you will still find a lot of opportunities to spot unique species. Even in the cities, you will encounter a lot of animals like sea lions, iguanas and different birds. The giant turtles can be found in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island. Also, to spot an abundance of the iconic blue-footed boobies, make sure to include a day in North Seymour Island on your trip.

2. Galapagos Island Tour Activities

Galapagos Island Tour Activities

If you love being active, taking a land-based tour offers you the possibility to include a wider range of activities into your trip or even combine these for an exciting multisport adventure. Activities available include sea-based activities such as scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking, or surfing as well as land-based ones as cycling or hiking.

In contrast, excursions on a cruise usually have a strong focus on hiking and snorkeling. Sometimes kayaking will be available. There are also some cruises that specialize in diving, an activity that is not available on normal cruise boats.

3. Places Visited

Places visited

During a Galapagos cruise, you will usually travel from one spot to the next during nighttime. This will allow you to visit a variety of places during the day. Also, you will visit remote areas that can only be reached on a cruise boat.

On the other hand, on a land-based tour, the number of places you can visit is limited to areas that can be reached during the day. There are a couple of uninhabited islands that can be reached on a day tour. However, you won’t be able to see places located in more remote areas.

4. Galapagos Island Accommodation

Galapagos hotel

Usually, cabins onboard are nice when you book one of the luxury or first-class ships. These cruises have wide cabins. Nevertheless, in other cases, space on board is limited compared to a hotel.

All main islands have good hotel infrastructures and plenty of accommodations options. These range from simple hostel rooms to more luxurious hotels and even include some more unique options like glamping.

5. Galapagos Island Tour Costs


Visiting the Galapagos on a cruise ship is more expensive than a land-based tour. However, due to the variety of boats, there are options for different budgets. Cruises range from Budget (Tourist) Class over Mid-Range (Tourist Superior) Class to First Class and Luxury Class. There are even some boats that offer the possibility to book a shared twin room providing an affordable alternative for single travelers who do not have a travel companion.

If your budget is very limited, island hopping is the best and least expensive way to explore the Enchanted Islands. Staying on one of the main islands allows you to choose accommodations based on the budget. Then, you can add only the excursions and activities you are most interested in.

6. Experience

Galapagos Tourists

Even though there are many cruise ships touring around the Galapagos Islands simultaneously, each visitor site has its own maximum number of guests permitted. This means that, often, not more than one or two groups can disembark at a specific place during the same time. This will give you the feeling of being the only visitor, and adds magic and exclusiveness to your trip.

Unlike staying on the islands gives you the opportunity to see how locals live their daily life. It opens up the possibilities to interact with different people and get an authentic insight into the Galapagos lifestyle.

7. Customization & Flexibility

Galapagos Island Tour visitors

A cruise will follow a determined route and schedule that allows little to no flexibility. However, you can choose between different routes of varying lengths (5-14 days) and find one that fits best to your interests and preferences.

A land-based tour allows you to tailor your personalized itinerary staying the number of days that suit you best and only including the tours you are really interested in. There is even a small number of sights that can be visited independently without needing a tour.

8. Independence

Galapagos Island Tours

Usually, the people that go on a Galapagos Island Tour share common interests and a passion for nature and wildlife. If you are a social person and enjoy having like-minded people around you, a cruise is a great choice for you. Privacy is usually limited to your cabin though.

If you are not a group person, a land-based tour gives you more independence. You can book a private guide for certain activities. Also, there are a lot of places that can be visited independently without the need for a tour. And even if you join group excursions during the day, you have the evenings at leisure with the flexibility to choose where to dine.

9. Sea Sickness

Galapagos cruise

Smaller-sized boats might be subject to movements, but the intensity of movements depends on climate conditions and the time of the year you travel. If you are very sensible, it might be recommendable to opt for a larger vessel. There are also possibilities to reduce seasickness, including motion sickness pills and natural alternatives like acupressure wrist bands.

If you get seasick easily and are afraid of staying on a boat for an extended time, a land-based tour is a great way to see the Galapagos Islands without the risk of getting seasick. In this case, it is recommendable to avoid speedboats to connect between the main islands and use flights instead.

10. Connection & Disconnection

Galapagos restaurants

If you are planning to disconnect from your daily routine during your holiday you will easily be able to do so during a Galapagos Cruise. Wifi isn’t available on most cruise ships forcing you to unplug and connect with the incredible scenery surrounding you. Digital detox guaranteed!

If you need to connect regularly with friends and family back home or even need to catch up with work or check emails, you will easily find Wifi in most hotels and restaurants of the inhabited islands to do so.

Did you like this blog? You might also like: