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Last updated on December 31st, 2018 at 12:01 pm


Galapagos Island Hopping Tours vs. Galapagos Cruises

And the winner is… 

Wait, wait, wait,  You’ll have to read on to find out! 

Are you ready to cross the Galapagos Islands off your bucket list but not sure how to explore the 21 islands that make up the archipelago? There are two main ways to visit the islands: via a multi-day Galapagos cruise or on Galapagos Island Hopping Tours. Today, let’s explore Galapagos Island Hopping vs. Cruises. During a cruise, you will be sleeping, eating, and relaxing on a ship as you travel around the various islands, spotting blue-footed boobies, giant tortoises, and snorkeling your days away off the side of the luxury Galapagos cruise. Island hopping, however, includes staying at a 4-star or 5-star luxury hotel on one of the islands, sleeping in late, and taking small speedboats to reach the different protected sites where you too will spot the ever popular blue-footed boobies & giant tortoises. First, we have to cover…

How to Get to the Galapagos Islands:

Whether you are embarking on a Galapagos cruise or a Galapagos Island Hopping Tour, your first stop will likely be Quito or Guayaquil, both major cities on mainland Ecuador. From Quito and Guayaquil, there are direct daily flights to Baltra and San Cristobal.

Step one of your journey to the Galapagos Islands is to decide just what islands you think you want to visit! Lucky for you, we have an article on exactly what the best islands to visit in the Galapagos are!

Galapagos Island Hopping Tours vs. Galapagos Cruises Map

Galapagos Island Hopping Tours



Pros of Galapagos Island Hopping Tours:

Pro #1:

No set schedule: Unlike cruises, many island hopping programs do not have set departure dates. Therefore, you can visit the Galapagos Islands on your own schedule. If your adventures on the mainland of South America are already set in stone, the ideal option for you is an island hopping tour.

Pro #2:

More customizable: Want to see Wolf Volcano, swim with Galapagos penguins, or stay at a luxury property? All island hopping tours can be custom tailored to fit your preferences for islands, hotels, activities, etc.

Pro #3:

Option to stay on several different islands – Each island has unique flora, fauna, and geologic features so it’s best to visit more than one island during your time in the Galapagos. With island hopping, you can spend a few nights on Santa Cruz, Isabela, and San Cristobal before returning to the mainland. There are daily inter-island ferries and charter flights serving the largest islands.

Pro #4:

Affordable –  Island hopping packages are typically more affordable than cruises because only hotels, excursions, and some meals are included. All-inclusive options are also available if you prefer.


Cons of Galapagos Island Hopping Tours:

Con #1:

Multi-hour boat rides each day – The Galapagos Islands are expansive and cover more than 17,000 square miles of ocean. Each day, you will need to travel 1-2 hours each way to reach the landing sites to begin exploring the islands.

Con #2:

Typically only one excursion each day – Because you will be spending time in transit to reach the islands, many programs only allow for one excursion each day.


Bottom line about Galapagos Island Hopping Tours:

Island hopping is a great choice for travelers who have set travel dates, have more time to explore the islands and want to see the Galapagos Islands without breaking the bank.

Galapagos Cruises

Pros of Galapagos Cruises:

Pro #1:

Maximize your time by traveling while you eat and sleep – Time is of the essence while traveling, and this adage is especially true when there is so much to see and do on the Galapagos. Cruises maximize your time as you sail to different islands while you sleep and eat. Because you travel during your downtime, most cruises allow you to do two separate landings plus a snorkeling excursion each day.

Pro #2:

All-inclusive – Since you are on a boat in the middle of the ocean, odds are you may have trouble finding a restaurant within walking distance. Sure enough, cruises feature all-inclusive meal plans so all of your breakfasts, lunches, and dinners are taken care of during your time on the ship. Most cruises can prepare meals according to your specific dietary needs with advance notice.

Pro #3:

Variety of cruise sizes – Ships exploring the Galapagos Islands range from small 10 person yachts to 100 person vessels. Regardless of ship size, the average guest to naturalist guide ratio is 12:1 (the national park allows a maximum of 16 guests to one guide while on the islands). Speak with a travel consultant to find the right fit for you!

Cons of Galapagos Cruises:

Con #1:

Price – Since cruises are all-inclusive programs and include all meals, transfers, excursions, entrance fees, and fuel surcharges for the ships, they tend to be more expensive than land-based programs.

Con #2:

Set departure dates – All cruises have set departure dates every month so you will need to plan the rest of your trip in South America around cruise dates.

Con #3:

Sleeping on a ship – As noted before, you will be traveling while sleeping to maximize your time on the different islands. If you are a light sleeper or prone to seasickness, an island hopping excursion may be the better fit for you.

Bottom line about Galapagos Cruise Tours: 

Cruises are excellent for travelers with limited time to explore the Galapagos and are looking for an all-inclusive program

So, what you have been waiting for.

The winner of whether a Galapagos Island Hopping vs Cruise is better is…


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