The Galapagos Islands are a set of about 20 volcanic islands off the coast of Ecuador in South America. Their unique landscape and abundance of rare plants and exotic wildlife make it a dreamy destination for any nature or wildlife enthusiast.
HOW TO GET THERE:
Of the over 20 islands, only 3 are inhabited. Two of these islands (Baltra and San Cristobal) are served with major airports that connect you to mainland Ecuador with 2-6 flights per day. Tickets can be as low as $150 round-trip from the two international airports in Ecuador: Quito and Guayaquil. To save money on flights to the Galapagos, check out this post.
IS IT RIGHT FOR ME?
To get the maximum fulfillment in the Galapagos, it is important that you enjoy nature walks, wildlife spotting, and snorkeling/diving. If you are not a water person, you will likely feel left-out on half of the adventure. Keep in mind that the Islands are not exactly a tropical paradise like Bora Bora or Grand Cayman, but do have a unique history and topography. Visiting the Galapagos for 6-12 days is the perfect amount of time.
HOW TO SEE THE ISLANDS:
There are two main ways to see the island: Land Tours and Cruises.
Land tours are basically day trips to different islands while staying overnight in the same hotel on either San Cristobal or Santa Cruz. These itineraries involve trips on various sizes of boats, some of which can be extremely rough on the water. It also doubles your travel time each day, which is certainly less fun after the first day. Land tours tend to cost slightly less than cruises depending on the accommodations you choose, however if you get a good deal on a cruise, they tend to equal out.
The best way to see the various islands is via Cruise. Cruises are not the typical cruise you may think of from Carnival or Royal Caribbean. They are much smaller ships (often with about 8 cabins) that provide an all-inclusive experience. Most cruises include all meals, private cabins, excursions, visits to multiple islands, and a private guide. The range of quality for a ship ranges greatly, as does the price. Although numerous cruise lengths are available, the most common cruises leave from San Cristobal or Santa Cruz for about 5 or 8 day trips. An eight-day cruise will surely give you a complete experience of the islands, but be prepared to bring your wallet.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
Unfortunately, visiting the Galapagos is extremely expensive. Assuming you want to do more than sit in a hotel on one of the islands, a week full of excursions in the Galapagos will start at about $2000 per person and can get more expensive from there. Keep in mind, that the only way to visit the more remote islands is via a tour or cruise.
THE BIGGEST TIP TO SAVE MONEY IN THE GALAPAGOS:
Cruises in the Galapagos will discount their prices by 50% closer to departure to sell their unsold rooms. Although this involves some risk for the traveler, the savings could be immense. For example, last year we booked a 5-day cruise on the SeaStar Journey for less than $2,000 per person. The list price of this cruise is over $5,000! Half the people on our cruise had booked it for the listed price, while half of us were able to snag last-minute deals! Thankfully, it didn’t make the trip awkward, but secretly, we were thrilled to not have paid $5,000 for the exact same cruise.
HOW DO I BOOK:
Want to get a deal? Here is what you do:
All in all, we were able to spend 9 days in the Galapagos Islands for a total of $5,600 total. (for 2 people, not including flights). As you can see, that is still a lot of money that could’ve been used for other, much longer trips. So in a nutshell, I would still recommend visiting the Galapagos if you mostly fit the following criteria: