Visiting the Galapagos is such an adventure no matter how you do it you will have a wonderful time. We had a hard time deciding how to “do” the Galapagos whether by cruise or by land. Cruise is the more popular and well known way to visit the islands but it costs a lot of money causing many people to forgo a trip to the Galapagos. There are ways to get cheaper last minute cruises but they still cost a pretty penny. In the end we decided to do Galapagos by land and here’s our experience.
We had 7 days to spend in the Galapagos Islands. There are only 4 islands you can spend the night on and those are San Cristobal, Isabela, Santa Cruz and Floreana. With only 7 days we decided to split that time between two islands. We chose Santa Cruz because it was the easiest to get to and Isabela since the ferry ride didn’t seem too long.
We booked our flights through LATAM Airlines to fly in and out of Santa Cruz from Quito. We then purchased our ferry tickets early through Galapagos Transfers which I would highly recommend doing as we did not have to stress about getting ferry tickets for the times we needed.
Staying on the islands was great because it really allowed us to get to know that island. We were able to hit all the stops as apposed to only having time for a few. We were also thankful because the week we were there the seas were rough and we didn’t think it would be a good time to be on a boat 24/7. Although, that did make for very rough ferry rides.
While on Santa Cruz we stayed at Hostel Baltra which turned out to be the perfect accommodations for us. We were a group of four traveling together and they have several different sized apartments available. We booked the two bedroom and it was great. The location is on a main street just minutes from Academy Bay. We were also really close to the road full of tables and delicious street food. Another pro to doing a land based tour is the ability to scuba dive where many cruises are not able to accommodate diving. We had an amazing dive where we saw tons of sea life including hammerhead sharks!
We got to visit all the main sights of Santa Cruz while there and I think one of our favorites was Las Greitas. When we arrived we had it all to ourselves(another pro to not being on a cruise). This is a gorgeous blue waterhole in the middle of big black rock cliffs. We spent hours here without any sort of time restraint and loved it.
We were warned ahead of time that the ferry rides could be rough and it’s no joke.You’re packed on to a boat for a few hours and with rough seas it’s pretty bad. We did learn on our second ferry ride that sometimes there’s a seat up top with the captain and you can ask to sit up there which me and my girlfriend did. It made for a much more enjoyable trip.
When we arrived on Isabela we learned quickly how small of a town it was. It has dirt roads and really has the feel of an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. We loved Isabela and found it extremely charming. We walked on the beach and ran in to a family running around grabbing things out of the sand. After asking what they were doing and them explaining they were catching little crab things they showed us how and we spent quite a while helping them catch these little guys for dinner.
While that was a blast our favorite experience was the sea lions. We went snorkeling at Conche De Perla and while admiring the brightly colored fish a sea lion swam right up to us and started playing. Soon another one joined.
We just swam in place as the sea lions flipped and swirled in front of us. Often swimming fast at our faces and then diving away at the last second.
While on Isabela we stayed at Hotel La Gran Tortuga which was a very clean hotel with very friendly staff and great breakfast. They do take credit card but I would highly suggest paying in cash since the internet is spotty, during check out we had a hard time paying by card and THERE ARE NO ATMS ON ISABELA. Come to this island prepared with cash.
Overall, if you can’t afford a cruise it is still worth it to go! There are plenty of adventures to have. Cruises give you ability to see more islands and have a naturalist with you on your excursions but if you can survive