The Galapagos is an archipelago of incredible diversity and a good itinerary will show it off well. Whether it’s a four-day cruise or an eight-day cruise, there should be opportunities to see a variety of islands that can each offer something unique. Some islands allow you to see the Galapagos’ exotic endemic plants and animals in their natural habitat, while others are about the landscapes. One day you could be lazing on a powder-white beach beside Galapagos fur seals as you spot boobies flying above; another day you could be walking amongst a prickly pear cacti forest at the base of a volcano.
The best itineraries also allow visitors to experience the wonders of the archipelago in exciting and adventurous ways. Kayaking, hiking, and snorkeling are popular activities on a Galapagos cruise. Some even accommodate experienced divers. The better activities can be found on higher-end cruises which are often equipped with state-of-the-art equipment that can be easily shared between guests.
What Galapagos Cruises Offer the Best Itinerary?
There are several routes a Galapagos luxury cruise can take, but they generally focus on either the east or west of the archipelago rather than darting from end to end. Therefore, you usually have to decide which area ticks off the most boxes for you in terms of what species you want to see and what experiences you would most like to have. Honestly, however, it has to be said that whichever part of the Galapagos you choose to sail around, you will get a well-rounded experience of the archipelago and all it has to offer.
The Best Islands to Visit on your Galapagos Cruise Itinerary: East vs. West
Deciding which side of the archipelago to explore is a big factor when it comes to choosing an itinerary. The big question is: “will I be missing out on anything in the west if I take the eastern route?” and vice versa. The simple answer is no. No matter which itinerary you choose, you will get the opportunity to see most of the Galapagos’ most coveted endemic species, gain insight into scientific research and conservation, and enjoy all of the land and water-based activities. That said, the eastern islands are generally better known for their pristine beaches whereas the western islands offer more interesting geological formations. Still, it’s a very tough call and to help you decide which you’d most like to explore and which itinerary you’d most like to choose, let’s take a look at what each of them offers.
East Galapagos Islands
Santa Cruz is one of only four inhabited islands in the Galapagos, which means it’s a great place to see how humanity and nature intertwine in this unique ecosystem. Two of the island’s most popular spots are Tortuga Bay, a picturesque beach where you can swim with black sea turtles, and the Charles Darwin Research Station which shows you exactly how the region is conserving Galapagos plant and animal life.
Kicker Rock, a characterful sea-stack best seen from a San Cristobal clifftop is one of this island’s highlights. The hike to reach the viewpoint is equally spectacular. Keen snorkelers and divers might know Kicker Rock best for its exceptional diving opportunities. San Cristobal is also home to the Galapagos’ largest freshwater lake, some beautiful sandy beaches, and Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, a popular surf town.
Cormorant Point is the natural highlight of Floreana because it features pink sand and green sand beaches and is the best place in the Galapagos to spot a flock of flamingos. What’s more, Flour Beach (the pink sand beach) is a top location for spotting green sea turtles. Floreana also has one of the region’s most intriguing human histories and many visitors can wind their way through the mangroves to send a letter at the world’s smallest post office.
North & South Seymour Islands
The Seymour Islands are two of the few Galapagos islands created by land uprising rather than volcanic eruption. This means they have low and flat landscapes (largely covered by the unusual prickly pear cactus) that attracts an array of wildlife but they’re best known for their large population of land iguanas.
First things first, Espanola Island is the only place on earth to see nesting waved albatross, one of the planet’s biggest birds. Keen birdwatchers can also spot many of the region’s other famous endemic birds including cormorants and boobies. Meanwhile, keen sunbathers can enjoy lazing alongside sea lions in Gardners Bay, a beach often pegged as the most pristine in the Galapagos. What’s more, this island is excellent for snorkeling with rays and sharks.
West Galapagos Islands
Genovesa is possibly the best Galapagos island for birdwatching. Visitors to Genovesa can land at the white-sand beaches of Darwin Bay and follow the trails inland past tidal pools and through foliage to find various endemic species of nesting birds including frigates, storm petrels, lava gulls, and noddy terns. Alternatively, climb Prince Philip Steps up the cliffside to find the birds nesting atop the cliffs.
Santiago is a volcanic island teeming with Galapagos wildlife including fur seals and green sea turtles and characterized by incredible volcanic rock formations. The lava rock caves are a favorite resting place for the fur seals. With several top dive sites including Cousin Rocks and Beagle Rocks, Santiago is also an excellent choice for divers.
Isabela is by far the largest Galapagos island and a top contender for ‘most beautiful island’ too with natural highlights like Elizabeth Bay and Concha Perla. Visitors to Isabela get the chance to hike to Sierra Negra, an active Galapagos volcano, birdwatch in the wetlands, and spot Galapagos penguins on the coast. Of course, there’s plenty of great snorkel opportunities here too.
With very little vegetation, Fernandina’s stark volcanic appearance is often considered one of the archipelago’s most interesting and unusual landscapes. The rocky island is popular with land iguanas, flightless cormorants and Galapagos penguins. Meanwhile, the surrounding sea is teeming with sharks, rays, tortoise, and more penguins.
Choosing the Best Galapagos Cruise Liner
Between the routes they take and the experiences they offer, there is so much to consider when choosing a Galapagos cruise itinerary. But while the itinerary dictates what your Galapagos cruise will look like, it’s the cruise liner itself that dictates your overall experience. Therefore, it is often worth factoring the cruise liner into your decision, or at least considering what aspects of the cruise are most important to you.
TLA provides Galapagos cruises on only the archipelago’s finest vessels because we believe that a luxurious onboard experience makes all the difference to your cruise, no matter which itinerary you choose. On an elite vessel like the renowned 16-passenger Aqua Mare or the brand new Cormorant II which features jacuzzis on private balconies, every moment is made to feel special. A once-in-a-lifetime destination like the Galapagos deserves to be matched with equally exceptional experiences and services after all.
Is there a Galapagos Cruise Itinerary Suitable for Families?
All Galapagos itineraries are suitable for families! In fact, they’re generally suitable for all ages and abilities. Kids will love the opportunities to get up close to rare wildlife on land, spot sharks while snorkeling, and learn about saving the turtles at the research and breeding stations.
However, there are some cruises better suited for families than others, especially for those with younger children and those who feel weary about sailing. TLA is an expert in planning Galapagos family cruises and they can arrange a cruise on the perfect vessel with the perfect itinerary for your family.
Adventures Beyond your Galapagos Cruise
It’s no secret that getting to the Galapagos is quite the adventure. It requires a flight to Ecuador in South America, followed by another 2.5-hour flight to reach the archipelago. Of course, the Galapagos alone is worth the journey, but it provides a good opportunity to visit the other parts of the continent you’ve dreamt of seeing while you’re there. So, why not add another adventure to your South America trip?
TLA has curated the ultimate Galapagos and Machu Picchu itinerary that allows you to experience the best of Quito, Galapagos, Lima, Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu, and Cusco all in one two-week trip without feeling rushed.
Alternatively, you can go from island hopping to living in a luxury lodge deep in the Ecuadorian Cloud Forest. Here, your fascination with the natural world will be further engaged with an incredible diversity of forest wildlife.
Get in Touch
To learn more about the best Galapagos cruise itineraries for your age range or group size, get in touch with TLA here or call toll free on +1 855 217 9045. We can also assist you with creating your Galapagos adventure into a bespoke multi-destination trip to all your dream South America destinations.