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Adventure Cruises in Galapagos
Explore the amazing Galapagos Islands aboard a small ship cruise. Discover the birthplace of Darwins 'Theory of Evolution'.
A Galapagos cruise should be high on most peoples destination bucket list. For many, the Galapagos Islands hold a certain amount of intrigue to those seeking one of the few remaining spectacular wildlife encounters on earth. With its raw, natural beauty and amazing wildlife, the isolated Galapagos Islands are best visited by boat, and more specifically, a luxury cruise or liveaboard boat offering different levels of accommodation onboard. Taking a Galapagos small ship cruise ensures that you will gain access to some of the best visitor sites, most of which are closed to bigger cruise ships.
In order to preserve the natural beauty of the Galapagos Islands, the Galapagos National Park have reduced the number of guests to the visitor sites by requiring boats to wait 14 days before returning to the same area. This means that most boats offer alternating itineraries to cover as many of the best Galapagos sites as possible. Escape the crowds and explore the islands on a Galapagos Cruise in small groups and with experienced naturalist guides. All Galapagos small ship cruises have between 12 - 100 passengers, ensuring a more personalised service and experience.
The Galapagos Islands were first made famous when British scientist Charles Darwin based his ‘Theory of Evolution’ on his findings there. Made up of a cluster of around 13 volcanic islands, around 95% of this area is now part of the Galapagos National Park system and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A Galapagos cruise will offer a truly unique experience. From the stunning landscapes which looks like something from the Jurassic age, to the endemic wildlife with up to 26 species native to these islands and in their natural habitat, there really is nowhere else on earth like the Galapagos Islands.
Best Galapagos Tours
Whilst there are many things to see and do in the Galapagos, some of the best Galapagos tours involve visiting the below destinations;
Baltra Island - The home of the first airport in the Galapagos Islands, Baltra Island is where many Galapagos cruises start and finish.
Charles Darwin Research Station - Located close to Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island airport, a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station is usually at the start or the end of the trip. The station is an information centre, library, museum and breeding ground of tortoises which will be introduced into the wild.
Tortuga Bay - located on Santa Cruz Island, Tortuga Bay gets its name from the black sea turtles that lay their eggs here. With a beautiful white sandy beach, Tortuga Bay also offers amazing snorkelling in the Galapagos Islands.
El Chato Tortoise Reserve - Also located on Santa Cruz, the El Chato Tortoise reserve is divided into 2 areas, Chato & Caseta. During the dry season, the reserve offers visitors the chance to observe Giant Tortoises in the wild.
Floreana Island - located at the south of the Galapagos Islands, Floreana is home to the ‘Post Office Bay’, where whalers placed an unofficial post box in the hope their letters would get sent home, as well as a great place to spot flamingos and sea turtles.
Isabela Island - the largest island in the archipelago, Isabela was formed by 5 young volcanoes joining together. With a mix of extensive lava fields in the north and dense vegetation and unique red mangroves in the south, Isabela Island offers many great visitor sites in the Galapagos.
For more information on the main islands visited on a Galapagos cruise, please see our Galapagos Island Cruises page.
Best Time to Cruise Galapagos
Due to its proximity to the equator, the Galapagos Islands see very little rainfall and there is no set best time to visit the Galapagos Islands to see wildlife. The area has 2 main seasons; the warm wet season from late December to June, or the cool dry season from July to early December, which means there are amazing Galapagos itineraries year-round. Galapagos in January - May is the time when green sea turtles, marine and land iguanas start nesting, whereas June marks the start of when California Sea Lions start breeding, and August for Fur Seals to start breeding and tortoises in Santa Cruz island to lay eggs in the wild. Nutrient-rich waters brought in by the strong Humboldt current in August offer excellent opportunities to snorkel with sea-lion pups. Dolphin and whale spotting is very common in September & November on the crossing to Fernandina Island, and December marks the start of the warm season in the Galapagos and offers many wildlife encounters. Many wildlife species breed and nest year-round, such as the red-footed and masked boobies, flightless cormorants, penguins and greater flamingoes.
With the Galapagos Islands being hugely popular, it’s recommended to plan ahead for your Galapagos trip as spaces can fill up fast.
How to get to the Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos Islands are located in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, 600miles (1000km) off the coast of Ecuador in South America. International flights will usually arrive in either Quito or Guayaquil international airports, located on the Ecuadorian mainland. Direct flights from US cities are available as well as from some European cities. To get to the Galapagos Islands a domestic flight is required from either Quito or Guayaquil,. These flights are usually not included in the advertised tour cost, but can be arranged at the time of booking with Liveaboard.com. It is strongly advised that you make your domestic travel arrangements at the time of booking your Galapagos cruise so that you ensure you arrive on time for the cruise departure.
Where do Galapagos Cruises depart from?
Most Galapagos cruises will either depart from Baltra Island, San Cristobal Island, where 2 domestic airports are located or Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz). Your cruise operator will then arrange to collect you from the airport and take you to your ship.
Very few boats sail directly from Ecuador, as most of the action and adventure lies within the Galapagos Islands themselves, so you will get more out of your trip if you start it in the heart of the action.
Galapagos Cruise Tips
When planning your Galapagos trip there are a few things to take into consideration . . . when to book?, how many days? what to take? etc. Below are some tips to help you to get the most out of your trip of a lifetime;
Plan ahead - To avoid disappointment it’s best to plan your Galapagos Small Ship cruise well ahead of time. Most Galapagos yachts sell out at least 6 months in advance, so try to book early. That being said, sometimes there are good deals to be had due to cancellations. So if you are planning a spur-of-the-moment Galapagos cruise it’s a good idea to check for some last minute Galapagos cruise deals. This is one way to see Galapagos on a budget, but you risk the chance of the cruises being sold out.
Arrive early - it is recommended to try and arrive at least 1 to 2 days before your cruise departure date in case of flight delays. The last thing you want is to miss a few days of your long-awaited Galapagos cruise and have to join the tour later.
Choosing the right trip - As mentioned earlier, yachts are restricted from returning to the same visitor site within 14 days. For that reason, you will see many different itineraries, ranging from East, West, North, South, A and B. Most boats have put a lot of effort into scheduling the itineraries, so no matter which one you pick you will have a memorable experience. Galapagos itineraries can be as short as 4 days, but most are 8 days long. However, the best way to see the Galapagos and all it has to offer is to do 2 back-to-back 7 night itineraries, this way you will be covering most of the islands and visitor sites. Various boat sizes are available for cruising the Galapagos Islands, see our Best Small Ship Cruises in Galapagos page for more information.
Cruises versus Island Hopping - whilst you can still explore some of the visitor sites and islands of the Galapagos by staying in a hotel and moving from island to island, only a few areas in the Galapagos National Park are accessible by day boat. Taking a liveaboard is the only real way to explore the 40 National Park landing sites, with the added benefit of arriving at the sites early before anyone else gets there.
What to pack - Whilst on your Galapagos expedition, there are a few things you want to make sure you take with you so you can get the most enjoyment out of your Galapagos cruise. A good, comfortable pair of hiking or walking shoes are essential for the trails you will be exploring. A second set of waterproof type sandals is also ideal for beach walks and wet landings from the panga. In regards to clothing, you don’t need to worry about bringing too much. It’s recommended to bring a light raincoat or poncho, sunglasses, hat, lightweight sweater for cooler evenings, mosquito repellant and some long, lightweight clothing for sun protection. Also, as the Galapagos Islands are so close to the equator a good SPF is essential. For the evenings the dress code varies from boat to boat, but at the most will be smart-casual.
Snorkelling Gear - most Galapagos yachts will provide a full set of snorkel gear, but it is recommended that if you do have your own, and it is comfortable then to take it with you. Particularly if you have your own mask, or you need a prescription mask. Wetsuits are generally not included in the cost of the trip and can be a good idea to arrange to rent one of these to keep you warm in the water and to protect you from the sun.
Galapagos Travel Advice - You will need a valid passport to visit the Galapagos, with at least 6 months still available. Most countries do not require a visa to enter Ecuador, but it is a good idea check with your local embassy before making travel arrangements. The local currency is the US dollar, but most yachts accept major credit cards. If taking cash, try to bring smaller notes, as $100 bills are not accepted by many restaurants and stores. It is also recommended to bring US$ cash to tip the guides and crew aboard your Galapagos cruise.
Contact our reservations team to discuss your next Galapagos cruise adventure to the amazing Galapagos Islands.
- 8.9 Fabulous
- 41 Verified Reviews
Overall, cruising in Galapagos is truly an amazing experience. We have traveled and sailed in other parts of the world, but nothing can compare to experiencing wildlife as you are able to do on Galapagos Islands while learning from professional and experienced Naturalists, there to answer any question you may have about what you see or hear. Each Island has it's own unique experience to offer from geology, history, flora, fauna and sea life - fantastic!!
Cruising Galapagos in February on the Nemo II
Didn't dive on this trip, but snorkeling certainly met our expectations. Conditions on the last few days of the trip weren't too good due to low visibility, but the first several sessions were wonderful. Wish I had seen more sharks and hammerheads especially.
Cruising Galapagos in February on the Grand Majestic
There was no scuba diving on this tour, only snorkeling which was great.
Cruising Galapagos in February on the Cormorant
Snorkeling was good lots of fish decent visibility
Cruising Galapagos in February on the Natural Paradise
The Snorkeling was great, I would have preferred to spend more time in the water and less time on the land.
Cruising Galapagos in January on the Estrella del Mar
Very good overall. After three nights we felt that we had seen everything there was to see which was confirmed by the day trips being offered in Puerto Ayora.
Cruising Galapagos in January on the Cormorant
I was all very good. It’s an easy and relaxed way to get around. Every thing is maded for the gests. Don’t have to anything just enjoy.
Cruising Galapagos in December on the Fragata
The guide and crew were fantastic, as was the wildlife. Definitely bring sunblock, insect repellent, lightweight long sleeve shirts (to repel sun and bugs), and possibly a walking stick for walking on uneven terrain and volcanic boulders.
Cruising Galapagos in December on the Estrella del Mar
Excellent diving. One suggestion, however, is that the recommended 7mm wetsuit may not be warm enough for some divers. Although the islands are on the equator, there are cold currents that lower the temperatures on some dives to the low 60's, depending on the time of the year.
Cruising Galapagos in November on the Aqua
Excellent. Very comfortable way to explore the Galapagos.
Cruising Galapagos in November on the Grand Majestic
Amazing. The purpose of the trip and best diving really revolves around the days at Wolf, Darwin and western Isabella/Fernandina Islands. Those four days were worth the trip!
Cruising Galapagos in October on the Aqua
Good, water colder than I anticipated, lots of fish, seals, penguins
Cruising Galapagos in September on the Mary Anne
Ok. Rough water, little sleep, but great crew and company onboard and a beautiful ship
Cruising Galapagos in September on the Mary Anne
We did snorkeling and it was amazing. One of my best vacation experiences ever. Our favorite was getting to swim alongside the turtles and sea lions.
Cruising Galapagos in September on the Archipel II
It was incredible, my best dives ever! We were lucky and saw all animals we were hoping to see such as 10 whale sharks, hundreds of hammerheads, sunfish, mantas etc. The conditions are quite demanding in September though, so this is definitely no trip for beginners. Be prepared to have strong currents, waves up to 2m height, strong winds and water temperatures between 14 and 25 grades Celsius. I found Nitrox and a semidry suit really helpful to go diving up to four times a day in such conditions.
Cruising Galapagos in September on the Aqua
Wonderful, amazing adventure. I would recommend it to all my friends.
Cruising Galapagos in September on the Galapagos Legend
Amazing and would love to return and see other areas of the Galapagos
Cruising Galapagos in August on the Beagle
This trip was definitely a bucket list trip and it did not disappoint! We look forward to returning soon to visit the other islands....
Cruising Galapagos in July on the Monserrat
Really good BUT for us it was the snorkelling that made it exceptional
Cruising Galapagos in May on the Tip Top II
It was an incredible vacation. The captain of Nemo2 was great, the naturalist Marcus was enthusiastic and very knowledgeable. The ship was great, we enjoyed the small group environment. Thank you !
Cruising Galapagos in April on the Nemo II
We snorkles and it was beautiful, especially swimming with the sea lions
Cruising Galapagos in April on the Tip Top III
Overall, my experience with diving in Galapagos was excellent, with a few exceptional moments such as swimming with a large school of manta rays just under me or doing so in the middle of hundreds of tropical fish. However, although quite experienced as a snorkeler, being a 67 year old woman, I was cautious and took care to snorkel only when conditions seemed good to me, as the guide took people - both young and old, experienced or not so much - to very choppy waters a couple of times.
Cruising Galapagos in March on the Beagle
Excellent. Good planning and very good time when we come back to the boat.
Cruising Galapagos in February on the Sea Star Journey
Great experience.. good combination with walking, hiking, beach, snorkelling, visiting with Zodiacs and swimming :-) Our guide Enrique was great! We even could use the kayak and the SUP. After each excursion we were welcomed back with a special drink and snacks...
Cruising Galapagos in July on the Endemic
We would highly recommend the Legend. We are prone to seasickness, so we took a large boat. I don't think we missed out on anything compared to the smaller boats except the ship had to anchor a little further out than the smaller boats and tender us in to shore.We also spent 5 days on land based activities in the Galapagos after the cruise. You will see much more wildlife cruising and visiting the uninhabited islands than you will visiting the human-populated islands.
Cruising Galapagos in March on the Galapagos Legend