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How much does it cost to travel to Galapagos Islands?

You should plan to spend around $138 per day on your vacation in Galapagos Islands. This is the average daily price based on the expenses of other visitors.

Past travelers have spent, on average for one day:

  • $33 on meals
  • $54 on local transportation
  • $131 on hotels

A one week trip to Galapagos Islands for two people costs, on average, $1,935 . This includes accommodation, food, local transportation, and sightseeing.

All of these average travel prices have been collected from other travelers to help you plan your own travel budget.

  • Travel Style: All Budget (Cheap) Mid-Range Luxury (High-End)
  • Average Daily Cost Per person, per day $ 138
  • One Week Per person $ 967
  • 2 Weeks Per person $ 1,935
  • One Month Per person $ 4,145
  • One Week For a couple $ 1,935
  • 2 Weeks For a couple $ 3,869
  • One Month For a couple $ 8,291

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How much does a one week, two week, or one month trip to Galapagos Islands cost?

A one week trip to Galapagos Islands usually costs around $967 for one person and $1,935 for two people. This includes accommodation, food, local transportation, and sightseeing.

A two week trip to Galapagos Islands on average costs around $1,935 for one person and $3,869 for two people. This cost includes accommodation, food, local transportation, and sightseeing.

Please note, prices can vary based on your travel style, speed, and other variables. If you're traveling as a family of three or four people, the price per person often goes down because kid's tickets are cheaper and hotel rooms can be shared. If you travel slower over a longer period of time then your daily budget will also go down. Two people traveling together for one month in Galapagos Islands will often have a lower daily budget per person than one person traveling alone for one week.

A one month trip to Galapagos Islands on average costs around $4,145 for one person and $8,291 for two people. The more places you visit, the higher the daily price will become due to increased transportation costs.

Independent Travel

Traveling Independently to Galapagos Islands has many benefits including affordabilty, freedom, flexibility, and the opportunity to control your own experiences.

All of the travel costs below are based on the experiences of other independent travelers.

Prices in Galapagos Islands are reasonable and comparable to your average travel destination. Hotels, food, and sightseeing are generally within normal price ranges.

Within South America, Galapagos Islands is a very expensive destination compared to other places. It is in the top 10% of cities in South America for its travel costs. There are only a few cities as expensive as Galapagos Islands in the region, such as many other destinations.

For more details, and to find out if it's within your travel budget, see Is Galapagos Islands Expensive?

How much money do I need for a trip to Galapagos Islands?

The average Galapagos Islands trip cost is broken down by category here for independent travelers. All of these Galapagos Islands travel prices are calculated from the budgets of real travelers.

Accommodation Budget in Galapagos Islands

Average daily costs.

Calculated from travelers like you

The average price paid for one person for accommodation in Galapagos Islands is $65. For two people sharing a typical double-occupancy hotel room, the average price paid for a hotel room in Galapagos Islands is $131. This cost is from the reported spending of actual travelers.

  • Accommodation 1 Hotel or hostel for one person $ 65
  • Accommodation 1 Typical double-occupancy room $ 131

Hotel Prices in Galapagos Islands

Looking for a hotel in Galapagos Islands? Prices vary by location, date, season, and the level of luxury. See below for options.


Find the best hotel for your travel style.

Kayak helps you find the best prices for hotels, flights, and rental cars for destinations around the world.

Recommended Properties

  • Hostal Vista al Mar HostelWorld View Price
  • Galapagos Best Hostel HostelWorld View Price

Transportation Budget in Galapagos Islands

The cost of a taxi ride in Galapagos Islands is significantly more than public transportation. On average, past travelers have spent $54 per person, per day, on local transportation in Galapagos Islands.

  • Transportation 1 Taxis, local buses, subway, etc. $ 54

Recommended Services

  • Transfer from Santa Cruz Island to Isabela Island Viator $ 55
  • Transfer from Santa Cruz Island to San Cristobal Island Viator $ 48

Flights to Galapagos Islands

Rental cars in galapagos islands, food budget in galapagos islands.

While meal prices in Galapagos Islands can vary, the average cost of food in Galapagos Islands is $33 per day. Based on the spending habits of previous travelers, when dining out an average meal in Galapagos Islands should cost around $13 per person. Breakfast prices are usually a little cheaper than lunch or dinner. The price of food in sit-down restaurants in Galapagos Islands is often higher than fast food prices or street food prices.

  • Food 2 Meals for one day $ 33

Entertainment Budget in Galapagos Islands

Entertainment and activities in Galapagos Islands typically cost an average of $35 per person, per day based on the spending of previous travelers. This includes fees paid for admission tickets to museums and attractions, day tours, and other sightseeing expenses.

  • Entertainment 1 Entrance tickets, shows, etc. $ 35

Recommended Activities

  • Private Tour Sighting Giant Tortoises and Lava Tunnels Viator $ 36
  • Private BiciTour Giant Tortoises and Lava Tunnel in Galapagos Viator $ 90

Tips and Handouts Budget in Galapagos Islands

The average cost for Tips and Handouts in Galapagos Islands is $13 per day. The usual amount for a tip in Galapagos Islands is 5% - 15% .

  • Tips and Handouts 1 For guides or service providers $ 13

Alcohol Budget in Galapagos Islands

The average person spends about $15 on alcoholic beverages in Galapagos Islands per day. The more you spend on alcohol, the more fun you might be having despite your higher budget.

  • Alcohol 2 Drinks for one day $ 15

Water Budget in Galapagos Islands

On average, people spend $2.78 on bottled water in Galapagos Islands per day. The public water in Galapagos Islands is not usually considered safe to drink.

  • Water 2 Bottled water for one day $ 2.78

Galapagos Islands On a Budget

Galapagos Islands

Food and Dining


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The Cost of Traveling the Galapagos Islands

The True Cost of Traveling the Galapagos Islands: A Budget Breakdown

Julia October 5, 2021 Ecuador Leave a Comment

The Galapagos Islands in Ecuador get a bad reputation for being horrendously expensive, but don’t give up on them just because you don’t have a trust fund. It can actually be affordable to visit the Galapagos Islands, particularly if you skip a cruise and travel by land. Here is my break down of the cost of traveling the Galapagos Islands by land.

Disclosure:  Some of the links below may be affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase.

Table of Contents

The Main Factors Impacting Your Budget for the Galapagos Islands

Planning a trip to the Galapagos Islands raises a lot of questions, not least of which is “How much does it cost to travel to the Galapagos Islands?” The cost of course varies quite a bit on how you decide to do your Galapagos Islands vacation. Fortunately, there are a lot of factors that you have a lot of control over to help influence whether you do a budget trip to the Galapagos Islands or a luxury trip.

Taking a Galapagos Islands Cruise vs. Traveling the Galapagos by Land

One of the biggest decisions you’ll face is if you want to explore the Galapagos Islands by sea or land. Traveling the Galapagos Islands by land is a much more affordable option and can offer a better experience for some. However, if you want to get to the furthest reaches of the Galapagos Islands a cruise may be the right option for you. Just make sure you budget appropriately!

DIY Tour of the Galapagos Islands vs. a Galapagos Islands Tour Package

Something else that will heavily impact your Galapagos Islands budget is if you choose to plan and book everything yourself or not. If you plan to simply jump on a tour of the Galapagos Islands, you will face a much higher cost but you won’t have to plan as much. There are definitely pros and cons to both approaches!

Accommodations: Budget Hotels in the Galapagos vs. Luxury Hotels in the Galapagos

The Galapagos Islands are on the more natural side, so you won’t find many all inclusive resorts in the Galapagos Islands…. Instead, you’ll find hostels, small guest houses, hotels, and some villas in the Galapagos.

For shared rooms in hostels in the Galapagos, you’ll find options as low as $10 – 15 per night and private rooms start at $20 – 25, but don’t expect a lot of luxury in these accommodations. For something a bit more upscale budget $50 – 150 per night. If you’re looking for the most luxurious hotels in the Galapagos Islands, expect to pay more.

Galapagos Islands Tours & Day Trips

If you choose to do a “do it yourself” tour of the Galapagos, you’ll still want to book day trips to neighboring islands. There are a lot of great choices, and you really can’t go wrong as the islands have such dramatic landscapes and memorable experiences.

To get the best prices, wait and book your Galapagos day trips once you land on the islands. You’ll want to visit more than one tour operator to compare what they tell you about each of the trips as well as the cost and availability. This will help you fine tune your itinerary and keep your Galapagos budget in line!

Find out why I ultimately chose to travel the Galapagos by land in Critical Things to Know Before Going to the Galapagos Islands .

Galapagos Islands Seals

DIY Galapagos Islands Trip Costs

The cost of a DIY tour of the Galapagos Islands will be the most affordable and is an awesome way to experience these pristine islands. This is the type of trip I ultimately decided on for my Galapagos Islands vacation (even though I originally planned to do a Galapagos Islands cruise).

Let’s take a look at the real cost of my 10 day trip to the Galapagos Island to help you create your own budget and know what to expect things to cost in the Galapagos.

Plane Tickets to the Galapagos Islands

The only way to get from Ecuador to the Galapagos Islands is by plane. I booked 2 one way tickets in and out of the Galapagos. This way I was able to fly from Guayaquil to Quito with a day long layover and then onward to Santa Cruz Island (Avianca for $227), and fly back direct from San Cristobal to Guayaquil (LATAM for $167). Whether you fly one way or round trip, the cost will be about the same.

Pro Tip: Make sure to book tourist rates on the airlines! Some of the flights from Ecuador to the Galapagos offer resident pricing for Ecuadorians. These prices are much lower than what the tourist rates, however if you book them as a tourist you may be denied boarding or stuck with a large bill at the airport.

Galapagos National Park Fee

To enter the Galapagos Islands, you have to pay the Galapagos National Park Fee at the airport of $100. There’s no way around it. Plan it into your budget.

Galapagos Islands Migration Card Fee

Similar to the Galapagos National Park Fee, you must pay a $20 fee for a Galapagos Migration Card at the airport. It’s your ticket to the Galapagos Islands.

Budget Hotels & Hostels in the Galapagos Islands

My accommodations varied from a hostel with a shared room with 2 – 3 people in Santa Cruz for $20/night to my own hotel rooms in Isabela and San Cristobal for $25/night. I did not book ahead, but I did negotiate. If you’re willing to find accommodations once you land, you are more likely to get great prices, but you won’t be able to read reviews prior to booking.

Cost: Average $20 – 25/night x 9 nights = $205 total

Food and Drink

Meal prices vary all over. I splurged sometimes on fresh tuna steaks (~$10) and other times I was super satisfied with an empanada or two ($1 – 2). Also, my accommodation in Santa Cruz provided a great breakfast and most day trips cover the lunch. As such, my food expenses were very reasonable. I did however go out for drinks a few times with new friends I met along the way so it averaged out to about $20/day. You can easily spend more or less in this category.

Cost: Average $20/day x 10 days = $200 total

Inter-Island Ferries in the Galapagos

Traveling by land means you’ll be taking the inter-island ferries. There are a number of companies that run them, but the prices are fixed so it does not matter where you buy your ferry tickets. I went from Santa Cruz to Isabela, Isabela to Santa Cruz, and Santa Cruz to San Cristobal. The cost of the ferry in the Galapagos is $30 each way.

Cost: $30 x 3 = $90

Galapagos Islands Day Trips and Excursions

This is a bucket that can have great variation by person. From booking ahead to booking in person, to choosing a flexible tour operator or getting discounts for booking multiple tours at once… Make sure to talk to more than one tour agency before booking your day trips in the Galapagos Islands.

Here are the day trips I took and their associated costs:

  • Las Greitas (Santa Cruz): $1.60 – Just take a water taxi there and back
  • Cabo Rosa Tunnels (Isabela Island): $120
  • Sierra Negra Volcano Hike (Isabela Island): $40
  • Tintorones (Isabela Island): $50
  • Scuba Diving Gordon’s Rock + Punta Carrion (Off of Santa Cruz): $185
  • Floreana Island Tour (From Santa Cruz): $140
  • 360 Degree Tour (San Cristobal): $130

Total Cost for 10 Day Trip to the Galapagos Islands by Land

In adding all of these expenses together, you can understand why the cost of traveling the Galapagos Islands by land is so much more affordable than the cruises. To answer the age old questions of how much does a trip to the Galapagos Islands cost? $1,676 for 10 days. Not bad at all, and it’s an amazing bucket list trip!

  • Plane Tickets: $394
  • Galapagos National Park Fee: $100
  • Migration Card: $20
  • Accommodation: $205
  • Food and drink: $200
  • Ferries: $90
  • Day Trips: $667

Total cost of Galapagos trip: $1,676 for 10 days

Giant Tortoise on the Galapagos Islands

Cost per Day for a DIY Tour of the Galapagos Islands

Now, I realize not everyone is going to the Galapagos Islands for 10 days – some may be more, some may be less. So let’s break it down another way – the per day cost of travel in the Galapagos Islands.

Fixed Costs When Traveling to the Galapagos Islands

The fixed costs will not change no matter how many days you stay or how you travel around the Galapagos (unless of course you want to fly business class). In this scenario they would be:

  • Plane Tickets to the Galapagos Islands: $394
  • Galapagos Islands Migration Card: $20

Total fixed cost: $514

Daily Costs for the “Full of Adventure” Galapagos Trip

If we average out the remainder of the costs, assuming you also are planning some day trips and island hopping into your schedule to maximize your time in the Galapagos, we come up with:

Total cost per day: $1,162 for 10 days or $116/day

Daily Minimum Cost to Travel the Galapagos by Land

You can dramatically bring down the cost per day if you decide to just hang out for a while rather than exploring other islands and taking day trips. This would of course cause you to miss out on some of the things that make the Galapagos Islands great, but if you go this route you’ll still love your trip.

In this case, the only daily costs you HAVE to incur are:

  • Accommodation: $205 for 9 nights
  • Food and drink: $200 for 10 days

Minimum cost per day: $43/day

I’d consider $43/day to be very reasonable considering the exotic bucket list destination. Now, let’s take a look at one other type of expense, just to make you feel a little bit better about your cost and decision to travel the Galapagos by land.

Blue Footed Booby Bird

The Cost of Galapagos Islands Tours

Another popular option for visiting the Galapagos Islands by land is to do a pre-planned tour of the islands or a Galapagos travel package. Most tours in the Galapagos Islands will run you far more than doing it yourself, but it does take the guess work out of the planning.

You’ll find most Galapagos tours start from $1000 and go up depending on how long they are, where they take you, and the type of accommodations included.

Sample Galapagos Islands Tour Costs

As noted above, make sure to factor in your fixed costs which include your plane tickets, National Park fee, and migration card fee. From there, to get an idea of what multi-day tours in the Galapagos Islands cost, check out these four sample tours.

  • 7 Day Galapagos on a Budget Experience: Includes Santa Cruz Island, Isabela Island, Flamingo Lagoon, Los Tuneles, Kayaking Puerto Villamil, the Isabela Highlands, Tintoreras, the Wetlands, the Charles Darwin Research Station, and more!
  • 6 Day Galapagos Island Hopping Budget: Includes Santa Cruz Island, Isabela Island, Flamingo Lagoon, Tintoreras, Los Tuneles, the Charles Darwin Research Station, Santa Fe Island, and more!
  • 5 Day Galapagos on a Budget Experience: Includes Santa Cruz Island, Isabela Island, Flamingo Lagoon, Los Tuneles, Tintoreras, Charles Darwin Research Station, Twin Craters, and more!
  • 4 Day Galapagos Budget Tour: Includes Santa Cruz Island, Isabela Island, Flamingo Lagoon, Los Tuneles, Charles Darwin Research Station, and more!

Galapagos Iguana

The Cost of a Galapagos Islands Cruise

If you were concerned about the cost of traveling the Galapagos Islands by land, l think it’s time to just consider that the Galapagos Islands might not be for you. But never fear – there is also “The Poor Mans Galapagos” or Isla de la Plata, which is just off the main land of Ecuador and avoids the $500+ fixed costs.

If you weren’t concerned about the cost and were thinking it sounds like a great deal – I’m with you! Visiting the Galapagos Islands is much more affordable than I was expecting it to be. The reason for this is so often people think you have to take a cruise to see the best of the Galapagos Islands. This was my original thought until I arrived and started talking to the locals.

Now, let’s take a look at the cruise costs and see if that’s the right trip for you. We’ll of course start with those fixed costs as they do not change whether by land or cruise, long trip or short trip – they will still be incurred.

The Average Cost of Cruising the Galapagos Islands

The average cost of a 5 day Galapagos cruise is about $3,500 per person. However, this can increase or decrease drastically depending on the category of boat and how many days you will be cruising for.

Part of the reason the cost of Galapagos cruises are so high is simply because of the supply and demand. Cruise ships in the Galapagos are limited to only 100 passengers and often have higher demand than the available slots.

If you’re on a strict budget or timeline, plan to book in advance. However, if you’re looking to find the best rates, wait to book until you land in the Galapagos Islands. Unfortunately, this does come with risks of missing the chance to cruise the Galapagos – particularly if you’re traveling with a group of people! But, you’ll be able to ask questions and learn more about the cruises to select the best Galapagos tour for you and at a price much lower than online or through a tour agency.

Sample Galapagos Islands Cruise Costs

As noted above, factor in your fixed costs of your plane ticket to the Galapagos Islands, Galapagos National Park Fee, and your Galapagos Islands Migration Card (~$500). These will not change whether you travel the Galapagos Islands by land or by cruise.

Here are some sample Galapagos cruises to get a sense of what a trip to the Galapagos costs and routes available:

  • 7 Day Galapagos Islands Cruise – Eastern Islands Itinerary: Includes Mosquera Islet, San Cristobal Island, Santa Fe Island, Santa Cruz Island, Espanola Island, Eden Islet, North Seymour Island, and more!
  • 5 Day Galapagos Islands Cruise – Western Itinerary: Includes Isabela Island, Santa Cruz Island, Floreana Island, and more!
  • 5 Day Galapagos Islands Cruise – North Itinerary: Includes Santa Cruz Island, Santiago Island, Rabida Island, Bartolome Island, Genovesa Island, and more!

Other great Galapagos cruise websites include:

  • LiveAboard.com for the scuba divers out there
  • GalapagosIslands.com for a wide variety of cruises around the Galapagos Islands
  • Galapatours.com which is a Galapagos cruise search engine

Sunset in the Galapagos Islands

Plan Your Bucket List Adventure

Now that you have answered the burning question of how much a trip to the Galapagos Islands costs, you’re all set to start planning your bucket list adventure – particularly since the Galapagos trip costs can be surprisingly affordable!

Before I went, I didn’t know that you could travel the Galapagos on a budget, so you’re well ahead of the curve! The most important thing to keep in mind is that a land-based itinerary will take your Galapagos Islands trip cost down substantially. And, you’ll still have the trip of a lifetime!

Learn more about How to Travel to the Galapagos Islands on a Budget .

Interested in other bucket list adventures? Check out these posts!

  • Epic 2 Week Patagonia Itinerary: Travel Guide to an Outdoor Paradise
  • Day Trip to the Great Wall of China: The Essential Travel Guide
  • Planning a Trip to Cinque Terre: The Complete Guide
  • The Essential Guide for Planning Your Mount Everest Base Camp Trek
  • How to Visit the Dead Sea: The Essential Guide for First Time Visitors

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Exploring Galapagos Islands on the Cheap: A How-To Guide

trip to the galapagos cost

S oft, snow-white sand. Belching sea lions at your feet. Radiantly coloured fish swimming before you. These are the things that come to mind when one daydreams of a visit to the Galapagos Islands.

For many, that is all the Galapagos ever is – a mere daydream. It's often dismissed as unfeasible to visit due to its exorbitant costs.

But what if you could travel the Galapagos on a first class, all-inclusive cruise with a personal guide for up to a third of the retail cost? What if you could dine and sleep on <$60 a day in one of the world’s most sought-after holiday destinations? I’m happy to tell you that you that this is not a dream , but a feasible reality that we ourselves have done.

Intrigued? Here's our ultimate guide on how to see Galapagos on the cheap!

  • 1 Galapagos 101: What you need to know
  • 2 How much does a trip to Galapagos cost?
  • 3 Why last minute cruises exist
  • 4 How to book a last minute cruise in Galapagos
  • 5 Where to book a last minute Galapagos cruise
  • 6 Booking a last minute cruise: Must-know facts
  • 7 Last minute cruise booking checklist
  • 8 When to visit Galapagos
  • 9 Getting there: Flights & inter-island transfers
  • 10 Where to stay
  • 11 What if you don't book a last-minute cruise?

trip to the galapagos cost

Galapagos 101: What you need to know

First off, yes, you can visit the Galapagos Islands without a tour . This is the most important myth to dispel, as there are four islands that tourists can reside on without being on any sort of tour. These islands are Santa Cruz, San Cristobal (a.k.a. Chatham), Isabela, and Floreana (a.k.a. Charles or Santa Marta). The islands are serviced by ferries.

You can fly into the Galapagos yourself and stay on any of these islands. Santa Cruz and San Cristobal are the busiest, most populated islands and have the most to offer in terms of tours, restaurants, and accommodation. However, all of the islands have beaches, sights, and activities which can be explored for cheap or free on your own. For tips on that, read our post here !

trip to the galapagos cost

How much does a trip to Galapagos cost?

This depends on how you want to explore the Galapagos, and the flexibility of your trip. If you want to do a pre-booked multi-night cruise, this is the most expensive option. A midpoint alternative would be booking a last minute cruise after arrival. The cheapest approach is to stay on an island and do day tours. In this post we'll compare all of these options!

NOTE:  By using the right credit card, you can save hundreds of dollars on your trip. For example, foreign transaction fees on most credit and debit cards are up to 3%, which add up quickly over a trip. You should use a no foreign transaction fee card like the  Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card to avoid these fees, earn travel points on every purchase, and get a massive sign-up bonus of 60,000 points (worth $750 ) when you hit the minimum spend of $4,000 in the first 3 months with your everyday purchases.

Land based, day tours only

Concept : Stay on an island (and/or island hop), do land or sea-based day tours and visit local sites Pros : Cheaper, flexible option & easy-going pace Cons : Cannot access many islands by day tour Average cost : $500-$800 USD  for 5-nights with activities & food (breakdown below) Example tours: – Puerto Ayora: Bartolome Island and Sulivan Bay Day-Trip – From Santa Cruz: Galapagos, Excursion to Tortuga & Tour – Cerro Mesa Reserve and Garrapatero Beach Tour Book through: GetYourGuide , Viator

Last minute cruise

Concept : Stay on an island & attempt to book a last minute discounted cruise Pros : Significant savings, able to visit more distant islands Cons : No guarantee of finding a cruise, requires flexibility Average cost : $800-$1800+ USD  for a 5+ night cruise (breakdown below)

Pre-booked cruise

Concept : Book a cruise in advance Pros : Security of knowing you have the cruise, route, and class you want Cons : Expensive! Average cost : $2500+ USD  for a 5+ night cruise (breakdown below) Example tours: – Galápagos Islands 5-Day Nature Tour – 6-Day Galápagos Adventure Tour on 4 Islands – San Cristobal: 4-Day Galapagos Island Tour Book through: GetYourGuide , Viator , Intrepid Travel , G Adventures

Land-based, day tours only: Cost breakdown

trip to the galapagos cost

Basing yourself on an island and taking day tours is the most affordable way to see the Galapagos. Take note once more, there are only four islands in the Galapagos that tourists can stay over on without a tour : Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Isabela, and Floreana.

Detailed cost breakdown:

  • Accommodation : prices start at $25+ USD/night for single, budget private room. A basic budget double room is ~$40 USD/night on average.  HotelsCombined.com  is comprehensive for Galapagos and includes hostels.  AirBNB has comparable listings too.
  • Food : $5-$15+ USD per meal out (cheaper to eat outside of tourist zone!)
  • Tours and activities : $50-$200 USD per tour (land tours cheapest, diving tours most expensive)

GRAND TOTAL : $550-$800+ USD  for 5 nights (varies depending on accommodation, # of tours taken, and where you dine e.g. such as local or DIY meals vs tourist restaurants)

Booking a last minute cruise: Cost breakdown

Photo from our last minute, first class cruise in 2013

This approach works for those who are flexible with their trip duration and  are okay with the possibility of not finding a last minute cruise. If you don't find a last minute cruise, you can simply do land-based day tours/island hopping.

Here is a cost breakdown of finding a last minute cruise:

  • 5-night cruise : $800-$1700+ USD total (varies by cruise class, duration, route). This is inclusive of accommodation costs.
  • Food : included
  • Tours and activities : included (note: tipping and other items like wet suits could be extra)

GRAND TOTAL: $800-$1700+ USD

Note: Keep in mind you must also allocate extra costs for accommodation &/or activities before and after your cruise.

Pre-booked cruise: Cost breakdown

cruise galapagos

A pre-booked cruise is the most costly way to see the Galapagos. This is why people envision The Galapagos as an expensive place. Prices vary by company, class, and route, but you will pay a premium to have a secured spot on a particular ship in advance. There are endless company options, but  Viator , Intrepid Tours , and G Adventures  are popular and have accessible reviews.

  • 5-night cruise : $2500-$5000+ USD (varies by class, ship, route, etc.). Accommodation costs included.
  • Tours and activities : included (note: tipping and other items like wet suits for diving could be extra)


Note: Keep in mind you must also allocate extra costs for accommodation &/or activities before and after your cruise. Prices vary hugely by company, class, boat size, route, and more.

Why last minute cruises exist

Cruise ships charge outrageous prices in advance for their tickets, preying on holiday-goers who have a fixed annual vacation slot to fill. In reality, these seats do not always sell out and as a departure date approaches, remaining tickets are hugely slashed in price to fill the spots. In both the Galapagos and mainland Ecuador (Quito and Guayaquil), there are businesses that operate entirely on selling last minute cruise tickets.

Now, one can never guarantee a booking within a set timeframe, but there's usually at least some options within a few days window. The worst case scenario is that you don't book a multi-night cruise and do a land-based approach instead. This is arguably not a bad alternative, given the abundance of wildlife and world-class beaches that  can be seen for free or via day tours . We've done this on our second trip to Galapagos, and it worked out great.

At the bottom of this article is a map marked with important reference points. It includes where to book last minute tours and cheap/free activities. 


How to book a last minute cruise in Galapagos

As the name implies, “last minute” cruises must be booked on short notice – typically a few days before departure . Last minute cruises are booked in person, usually at tour shops that specialize in selling vacant cruise spots.

Where to book a last minute Galapagos cruise

Guayaquil, Quito, and the Galapagos Islands (Santa Cruz and San Cristobal specifically) all have shops that sell discounted tours. Below is a list of shops offering last minute tours.

Personally we've only booked on arrival to Galapagos (in Santa Cruz), which is usually the cheapest option. Mainland tourist shops find cruises the exact same way as Galapagos-based companies; that is, by making a phone call to contacts in the islands. However, cruises sold on the mainland often involve increased pressure to book and (false) claims that you definitely won't find cruises on arrival.

Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz

Moonrise tour agency.

About : This is a family run business that mainly specializes in last minute cruises. We used them in 2013 to book several day trips and were pleased with their service and the tours themselves. Address : Avenida Charles Darwin near the corner of Charles Binford (See map) Website :  www.galapagosmoonrise.com Phone : 05/2526-589

Joybe Tours

About : This is another family run business that sells day tours and last minute cruises. We used them in 2013 to book our multi-night last minute cruise and were hugely impressed with our first-class cruise! Address : See map Website : N/A Phone : N/A

Quito & Guayaquil

About : Based in Quito and Guayaquil, this company occasionally posts last minute deals on their website, otherwise visit in-person in Quito. Note: this recommendation comes from Frommer's (we haven't personally used them). Address : Quito – Almagro N31-80, Edificio Venecia. Guayaquil – in the Edificio Samborondon Business Center, Torre A Piso 3. Website : www.ecoventura.com Phone : Quito – 02/2907-396, Quayquil – 04/2839-390

Quasar Expeditions

About : One of the bigger cruise operators and also has an office in Puerto Ayora. Note: this recommendation comes from Frommer's (we haven't personally used them). Address : Quito – Almagro Plaza, Ponce Carrasco E8-06 y Av. Diego de Almagro, Oficinas 1101-1106 Website : www.quasarex.com Phone : USA – 1.866.481.7790, UK – 0.800.883.0827, Australia – 1.800.463.266

Zenith Ecuador Travel

About : Has access to ~100 boats and can reach contacts to try and find a last-minute deal. Simply provide your dates and requirements and ask to speak to eh owner, Marcos Endara (tell him you are a Frommer's reader). Note: this recommendation comes from Frommer's (we haven't personally used them). Address : Quito – Juan León Mera 453 and Roca Website : www.zenithecuador.com Phone : 02/2529-993

Booking a last minute cruise: Must-know facts

Choosing a route, boat, and company, routes & itineraries.

Whatever you do, don't book a last minute tour blindly. Research your preferences ahead of time, including which islands you want to see. Each island and cruise route offers unique wildlife and scenery. Some itineraries focus more on landscapes, while others feature diving or wildlife.

There are more “typical” cruise ship routes which include visiting islands that you can see independently on day tours (e.g. Floreana, Bartolome, etc.). These routes tend to be cheaper since they are closer to the main islands, whereas those going to more remote islands are more costly.

land iguana

Companies & boat types

When choosing a boat and a company, try to look up reviews in advance. Where possible, find out who will be the naturist guide, as this is the wildlife narrator of your entire trip! Trip Advisor is a good place to get trip reports on companies, boats, and tour guides. It can also be a useful place for determining the going rate for full price and last-minute bargains for ships, routes, and classes.

As you research, make a shortlist of boats and routes that meet your approval (we've got a handy list below). It will be hard to remember this on the spot, so we really do advise making a “must have” list. You can then cross-check this against the last-minute options available. You may wish to print this out beforehand in case wifi is not accessible.

Allow buffer time & bring CASH

If your holiday time is fixed, you may want to book two weeks off if you want to do a 5-7 day cruise. Buffer room is essential. In our experience, we had 12 days which was plenty to book a 5-night cruise in two days time. It may take a couple days  of popping in and out of cruise shops to find a ship/route you like that works with your departure date.

Take note that most last minute tour offices only accept cash for tour bookings.  Be  sure to know your bank’s daily withdrawal limit, bring some cash ahead of time, determine your tour budget and ensure that you can withdraw that amount over a couple of days beforehand to pay for your cruise.

Know what's included in your tour

When booking, be sure to clarify what is included in the price (meals, diving equipment, tours, etc.) . Most often alcohol is not included, so if you want to drink, factor this into your on-board cash stash. Finally, tipping is expected. Be sure to bring cash for this too so you can tip crew members after your tour ends.

Be wary of bottom of rock bottom deals

Tread cautiously around extremely cheap cruises.  Reduced costs may be due to under-qualified guides with limited English, or boats that are crammed or unreliable. There's nothing like forking out a wad of cash for a disappointing trip. Know what you want, be prepared to ask questions, then show up and see what's on hand.

Last minute cruise booking checklist

Here is a checklist when booking!

Our experience booking a last minute tour

In 2013 we booked a 5-night, first class cruise for less than one third of the retail price. We did so within two days of arrival to Santa Cruz and booked at Joybe Tours. Our boat was The Odyssey , a 16-person yacht that included visited the Isabela, Fernandina, and Bartholomew Islands. We had a very knowledgeable and friendly guide, great food, and tours. It was the rainy season when we visited (December), which meant occasional drizzle, warmer ocean water for swimming, and less tourists.

In total, we paid $840 USD each for our all-inclusive first-class cruise . We splashed out on this once-in-a-lifetime experience, but there were cheaper alternatives available. The less pricey options were lower class boats that visited islands we could (and later did) access via day tour.


When to visit Galapagos

When is the best time of year to visit the Galapagos? The truth is, there are benefits to visiting in different months. Galapagos birds, fish, and animals have different breeding  seasons, so you can see surges of particular species at various times of the year.

  • The warm, rainy season is from late   December to June . This means warmer waters for swimming, but the chance of cloud and showers (though these are often quick passing).
  • The cool, dry season is from  late June to December.  “Cool” is a relative term here as the days are still warm but the water is cooler. As the temperatures are a bit more comfortable, this is the breeding season for sea lions, shore birds, fur seals, marine iguanas, which is exciting for wildlife viewing.
  • Peak periods include Christmas/New Years (late December/early January), and June to September. Consider that you will have a harder time finding last minute cruises and accommodation during these periods. It may be wise to at least book accommodation ahead during peak times.

Getting there: Flights & inter-island transfers

The cheapest way to get to Galapagos from Ecuador is between  Quito, Ecuador and  Baltra Airport, Galapagos (GPS).  Baltra is the airport for Santa Cruz, even though it is physically located on a different island. After landing in Baltra, tourists are immediately transported to Puorto Ayora, Santa Cruz by bus and ferry. Be sure to have small cash for these transports (a few dollars will suffice). Alternatively, you can pre-book an airport arrival transfer direct to your hotel, which includes all ferry tickets and coach transfers, and the option to stop at the Charles Darwin Station. Departure transfers are also available.

If you wish, it is possible to plan an open-jaw trip by flying into one island and out of another. You can transfer between islands by ferry ( pre-book on Viator ), and fly in or out of San Cristobal (SCY) airport.

Ecuador flights

Flight costs

If you book in advance (~6+ weeks), a flight to Baltra should be around $200+ USD  one-way from Quito. You will find the best rates by searching  Skyscanner , and we recommend selecting “whole month” when searching to find the cheapest day.

If you're not planning to start or end in Quito, try searching from your preceding destination to the Baltra Airport anyway. There's a good chance Skyscanner will be able to find a cheap route between the two points, usually connecting via Quito or Guayaquil.

For more hacks on how to find cheap flights to Galapagos , check out our other posts:

  • How to Book the Cheapest Flight Possible to Anywhere
  • How to Fly Cheap in South America: A Guide to Budget Airlines and Air Passes
  • How to Find Airline Mistake Fares (& Get Ridicuously Cheap Flights)

How to get between islands in Galapagos

trip to the galapagos cost

A handful of islands in the Galapagos can be accessed by transfer ferries. You can book these yourself in person by showing up at the relevant dock. Transferring islands is essential if you wish to book an option-jaw flight (flying into one island and out of another).

Generally speaking, there is one early morning (e.g. 6AM) and one afternoon (e.g. 2PM) ferry between islands each day. These are general time estimates subject to change, and you must confirm this on arrival as it varies by island. It's recommended to buy ferry tickets the day prior so you know the timing in advance.

Prices range from around $20-$60USD one-way depending on the island. As of 2016 prices between San Cristobal and Santa Cruz were $30 USD one way.  This website provides a schedule, but we cannot take liability for errors in the schedule or price ( confirm in person and in advance of your travel plans). Alternatively, pre-book your island transfer with pickup direct from your hotel on Viator ( San Cristobal to Santa Cruz  and  Santa Cruz to San Cristobal ).


Where to stay

Before flying into the Galapagos Islands, you'll likely start your trip in Quito or Guayaquil. From there, you can fly to Baltra or San Cristobal and stay in one of four islands where tourists are allowed to stay. These include Santa Cruz, San Cristobal (a.k.a. Chatham), and Floreana (a.k.a. Charles or Santa Marta).

Quito, Ecuador

Hotel plaza internacional.

The Hotel Plaza Internacional is what I call a budget “boutique” hotel. This colonial-style accommodation will set you back $26 USD/night for a private double room with an ensuite.

My best friend and I stayed here in November 2015 on our “flashpacking” trip (i.e. you can get cheaper but this is good value for what it is). We loved the generous free breakfast (eggs are extra but worth it!), and the gorgeous city view. The hotel staff were very helpful and were always be happy to flag a taxi on our behalf to ensure a fair price.

Hotel Plaza Internacional

Guayaquil, Ecuador

Villa garza inn.

The Villa Garza Inn  ( read reviews ) is another mid-range budget option that is clean, spacious, and with a friendly staff on board. Most attractively this hotel includes FREE transport to and from the airport. The price per night is $44/USD, but factoring in the inclusion of transport, free wifi, and a private ensuite room – this is a pretty good option. Ask the owners for food recommendations nearby, we had phenomenal asado (BBQ meat) up the street!

Villa Garza Inn

Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos

Santa Cruz is the busiest of the four tourist islands. Its capital, Puerto Ayora, is filled with tourist shops, tour booking agencies, bars, and even a small grocery store. There are several land-based activities accessible here, including lava tunnels, a tortoise sanctuary, and a lagoon (check our post here for ideas).

Santa Cruz has the most booking agencies for day trips and last minute tours, so this is arguably your best starting point if you're trying to snag a discounted cruise.

Hotel España

We stayed at Hotel España  ( read reviews ) in 2013 and once again in November 2015. This is a clean, centrally-located budget option that starts at ~$29USD/night for a single private room with an ensuite. It's definitely a great “flashpacker” style option, especially if you get a room in the newer half of the building. Free functional wifi and a TV are included. The main lobby has hammocks that are perfect for swinging in with a beer at the end of a jam-packed day!

Hotel Espana

San Cristobal Island, Galapagos

San Cristobal is the second busiest of the islands that tourists can stay on. It is noticeably less buzzing and built up, but is still freckled with tourist shops and restaurants. The peace and quiet can certainly be a welcome reprieve from the busyness of Santa Cruz, and it does offer some stunning hikes and snorkel sights accessible on foot.

Hostal Laura de Casa

This cute little hostel is clean, fairly close to the main strip, and is colourfully outfitted. During our visit in November 2015 the wifi was strong and so too was the hot water. The owners have created an adorable garden here where guests can lounge. Single rooms start at $25 USD/night.

hostal casa laura

Floreana Island, Galapagos

Floreana is the quietest inhabited island, with a population of just 150. Unfortunately (or fortunately!), the tranquility means far less options for accommodation and dining. Most commonly tourists stay on Santa Cruz and/or San Cristobal, but if your budget allows it, there are definitely more off-the-beaten track vibes to be had here.

Isabela Island

One of the most volcanically active places on earth, this is the largest island in the Galapagos. On offer here is plenty of volcanic landscapes, the second largest volcanic crater on earth, and colourful wildlife including flamingos and sea turtles. We haven't stayed overnight at this island but made a day visit to it during our multi-night cruise in 2013 and it was incredible! Transfers from Santa Cruz to Isabela Island can be pre-booked on Viator .

Book in advance or on arrival?

Accommodation in Galapagos is a bit pricier to book ahead online, but can be essential during peak travel periods such as Christmas and New Years. We've visited twice (in November and February) and booked accommodation on arrival during these visits. While not booking ahead is a gamble no matter what, you can usually determine how busy it is based on remaining availability on sites like Booking.com .

Keep in mind that in South America, many accommodation options are not listed online. Countless times while backpacking we would panic upon discovering no accommodation vacancies online, only to find that there were many (unlisted) places available when we arrived.  If you're hesitant to book on arrival , you can always book your first night or two and then explore your options when you get there.

For more tricks and websites to help get the best hotel rates when you travel, check out “ How to Book the Cheapest Hotel Possible “!

What if you don't book a last-minute cruise?

Put simply, being land-based is not a bad way to explore the Galapagos. If you aren't looking to visit remote islands or particular diving/spots sights, then you probably won't be disappointed with this option!

If you want to see the main highlights of Galapagos – sea lions, volcanic craters, tortoises, marine iguanas, glimmering beaches and the like – you can do all of this being land-based . Remember, you can also island hop to San Cristobal, Santa Cruz, Isabela, and Floreana without a tour, offering your own DIY island exploration.

Day tours are highly recommended (do at least a couple!). This will allow you to see islands that you can't access without a tour (which is the majority of them). Prices range from $70-$200+ USD and most include a meal (diving/snorkel trips are priciest). Bartolomé Island is an excellent tour for stunning scenery. South Plaza Island (Isla Plazas) showcases yellow land iguanas and gorgeous contrasts of red and green flora from cacti and shrubbery.

Besides booking tours, you can also visit beaches, lagoons, lava tubes, tortoise reserves entirely on your own. Keen to snorkel or kayak? You can even rent that gear yourself. For detailed ideas on how to explore the islands yourself, check out our article on cheap & free Galapagos activities .


Eating cheap & local

Get off the tourist strip.

If you wander a bit, you'll find Mom and Pop restaurants lining the backstreets, just North of the tourist strip. Prices are around the $5 mark per meal. Take note these are true hole in the wall places (to keep well, check our health tips here to avoid food poisoning!).

When in doubt or lost in translation, just ask for the platos del dia or almuerzo (plate of the day) which is usually a tasty, filling combination of soup, salad, rice, and a meat (often fried fish or chicken). Yum!

Make or bring your own food & snacks

Making your own meals helps stretch the funds here. San Cristobal actually has a small grocery store where you can stockpile items like tuna, bread, and produce for a DIY picnic anywhere. Prices are still shockingly higher than the mainland, but these DIY meals are much cheaper than a meal on the tourist strip.

Keep in mind that you cannot bring any produce (e.g. fruit, veg) out of protection for the flora here. Even some packaged goods like nuts may be sacked by airport security.


The Thrifty Gist

  • Consider a land-based approach to seeing Galapagos via day tours or free/cheap activities on your own
  • Avoid booking ahead for a multi-night cruise if you can
  • If booking a last minute cruise, be sure to bring cash and/or know your bank's daily withdrawal limit
  • Consider basic accommodation, pack some of your own meals, and/or check out local dining spots to cut costs. Save your budget for tours and exploring!

Related Posts

  • 10 Ways to Explore the Galapagos on a Budget
  • How to Plan Your Own Trip (& Save Big Travel Bucks)

Have you travelled the Galapagos on a shoestring? How did you cut costs? Have a general question or comment on how to do the islands cheaply? Share below!

Thrifty Nomads has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Thrifty Nomads and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author's alone. Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Thanks for the info Jen. I have a couple of questions – do you have any advice/comments on a single woman travelling alone? and since day trips don’t go to some islands, would it be a good idea to check for day trips first and then maybe book a multi-day cruise to islands that don’t have day trips? thanks, Maggie

I was wondering how you would book a last minute cruise yet still be able to have nice accommodations in case you don’t find one.

Thanks, Mary

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Galapagos Islands Tours & Vacations

Male Marine Iguanas and Sally lightfoot crab on the rocks of the Galapagos islands, Ecuador.

Step into an isolated world. See giant tortoises roaming and unforgettable landscapes unfurl before your very eyes. 

Inquisitive sea lions and spiky marine iguanas breach and bask between island and shore. Friendly hammerhead sharks patrol the depths and blue-footed boobies cut through the sky. Come with us on our Galapagos Islands tours & holidays and observe the local wildlife in the same, untouched way Charles Darwin did hundreds of years ago. Nowadays, these Ecuadorian islands host a steady stream of modern-day explorers from animal-seekers who long for face-to-face encounters to sun-chasers itching to relax on a pristine beach or two. Embark on your own adventure as you wander from isla to isla, soak in crystal-clear waters, traverse volcanic landscapes, and spot animals you've only ever seen pictures of . To be honest, there's simply no place on Earth quite like the Galapagos.  

Our Galapagos Islands trips

Let's create an exclusive trip for your group.

Galapagos Islands highlights

Transport in the galapagos islands.

Intrepid believes half the fun of experiencing a new country is getting there, and getting around once there! Where possible, Intrepid uses local transport options and traditional modes of transport - which usually carry less of an environmental impact, support small local operators and are heaps more fun.Depending on which trip you're on while in the Galapagos Islands, you may find yourself on:

Galapagos Islands tour reviews

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Galapagos Islands at a glance

Capital city.

Puerto Baquerizo Moreno

US dollar (USD)

(GMT-06:00) Galapagos



Type A (North American/Japanese 2-pin), Type B (American 3-pin)

Learn more about Galapagos Islands

Best time to visit.

Simply put, there’s no bad time to visit the Galapagos Islands. Good weather is mostly found year round, as are the animals. This being said, November through to June is the preferred time to visit, with clearer skies, calmer seas and decreased winds. Of these, March and April have less rain, while November and December are the warmest. July to November is the best time for divers as whale sharks can often be spotted at Wolf and Darwin islands.

Learn more about the best time to visit the Galapagos Islands

Culture and customs

Ever since Charles Darwin brought attention to the giant tortoises, sea lions, hammerhead sharks and other spectacular wildlife of the Galapagos Islands, people have been fascinated by this archipelago of volcanic islands. Originally a pirate hideout, people started migrating to the islands from Ecuador after it became part of the country in 1832. Of the 13 major islands and scores of smaller islands and islets that make up the Galapagos, only five of them are inhabited – about 26,000 residents spread over the islands of Isabela, Santa Cruz, Floreana, Baltra and San Cristobal. The wildlife rules the rest of the islands, which are carefully managed to help protect the precious environment.

Geography and environment

Located in the Pacific Ocean about 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands are a volcanic archipelago of 13 major islands, six smaller islands and more than 100 islets. Some are sparsely vegetated with largely mountainous interiors, whereas others are comparatively lush with white-sand beaches. Many of the islands are in a state of flux, as continual volcanic eruptions cause them to erode and expand.

The largest island, Isabela, makes up half the land area of the Galapagos and is characterized by three active volcanos, a blue lagoon, clear lakes filled with flamingos and beaches where iguanas and sea lions roam. Santa Cruz is the second largest island with giant tortoises, marine iguanas and Galapagos crabs residing in Tortuga Bay. The oldest and most remote island, Espanola (also called Hood), boasts boobies, albatrosses and many species of birds and lizards not found anywhere else in the world. 

Top wildlife to spot

1. Sea Lions

Whether you're loafing about on the beach or snorkeling offshore, you’ll be hard-pressed not to come face-to-face with these frolicsome critters at some stage. Playful, plentiful, and pretty much fearless, you’re supposed to keep a 2-meter distance from these guys at all times - though their insatiable curiosity can make this hard.

2. Marine Iguanas

The only lizards in the world that can live and forage in the ocean, the marine iguana is found solely in the Galapagos. Fierce and ferocious though these Godzilla-like reptiles may appear (Darwin called them ‘Imps of Darkness’), it’s all bluff – they only feed on algae. And with lung capacities permitting up to half an hour of underwater foraging, you’re just as likely find them gorging on the islands’ surrounding seabeds as scampering about the craggy rocks they inhabit.

3. Hammerhead Sharks

Boasting one of the animal kingdom’s most puzzling physiologies, hammerhead sharks are found in abundance off Wolf, Bartolome, Santa Cruz and Darwin islands. Unlike most sharks, they will often merge into schools of over 100 during the day - making for some incredible and surreal photo opportunities. And with no known human fatalities and a wealth of choice natural prey on offer, diving amongst them isn’t as scary or dangerous as one might think.

Darwin finches gave rise to one of the most game-changing theories of all time. By studying the differences between finches from different islands, Darwin hypothesized that the birds’ adaptations to their habitats resulted in their mutation into different species: his Theory of Evolution.

5. Giant Tortoises

No trip to the islands is complete without a visit to its most famous residents. Weighing up to 882 pounds, regularly living for more than 100 years, and able to go for up to 1 year without food, these gentle and slow-moving monsters are an intriguing and humbling spectacle to observe.

6. Sea Turtles

Snorkeling alongside these majestic creatures of the deep (or more accurately, the shallows) is one of those rare, life-affirming moments that makes a trip to the Galapagos immediately worthwhile. Keep your eyes peeled on the beaches for turtle nests too - the Galapagos is a hotbed of activity for these critters. 

7. Blue-Footed Boobies

Despite essentially looking like handsome seagulls with painted toenails, blue-footed boobies, when caught hunting, serve up one of the Galapagos' most thrilling spectacles. Diving from heights of up to 100ft, groups of boobies hit the water at speeds up around 60km per hour. They usually let out a shrill whistle before letting rip, which means you'll usually have warning enough to get your camera out too. How considerate.

8. Flightless Cormorants

Granted, a flightless cormorant spotted on land isn't one of the most invigorating sights you'll see during your time here. But wait until you don your snorkel gear and spot one weaving elegantly through the water - the flightless cormorant will likely become one of your favorite discoveries in the Galapagos Islands for this reason alone.

9. Frigatebird

With its striking wingspan and deeply-forked tail, the magnificent frigate bird is easily one of the most impressive birds in the skies of the Galapagos archipelago. But they don't have such a swell reputation amongst other birds. Whilst they hunt fish on the oceans surface, they also force their winged brethren to regurgitate their food, which then they eat - a process known as kleptoparasitism. Still, they look gorgeous – particularly the males, with their bright-red chin sac.

Healthy and safety

Intrepid takes the health and safety of its travelers seriously, and takes every measure to ensure that trips are safe, fun and enjoyable for everyone. We recommend that all travelers check with their government or national travel advisory organization for the latest information before departure:

From Australia?

Go to:  http://www.smartraveller.gov.au/

From New Zealand?

Go to:  http://www.safetravel.govt.nz/

From Canada?

Go to:  https://travel.gc.ca/

Go to:  http://travel.state.gov/

Go to:  http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/

The World Health Organisation

also provides useful health information:  Go to:  http://www.who.int/en/

Further reading

Similar destinations.

Thinking about a trip to the Galapagos Islands but still browsing other destinations? Check out our tours to neighboring countries:

Colombia tours

Brazil tours


Galapagos or Madagascar? 

Galapagos Islands travel FAQs

Do i need a covid-19 vaccine to join an intrepid trip.

Trips from 1 January 2023 onwards

From 1 January 2023, Intrepid will no longer require travelers to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19 (excluding all Polar trips and select adventure cruises).

However, we continue to strongly recommend that all Intrepid travelers and leaders get vaccinated to protect themselves and others.

Specific proof of testing or vaccination may still be required by your destination or airline. Please ensure you check travel and entry requirements carefully.

Do I need a visa to travel to Galapagos Islands?

Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveler. Entry requirements can change at any time, so it's important that you check for the latest information.

Please visit the relevant consular website of the country or countries you’re visiting for detailed and up-to-date visa information specific to your nationality.

Check the Essential Trip Information section of the itinerary for more information.

Is tipping customary in the Galapagos Islands?

While tipping isn’t mandatory, tips are very much appreciated by service workers and guides.

Leaving a 10% tip is customary in restaurants.

Some automatically add a 10% service charge to your bill, in which case an extra tip isn’t required.

What is the weather like in the Galapagos Islands?

The Galapagos Islands enjoy almost perfect weather all year with two distinct seasons offering warmer, rainier months and cooler, drier months.

Temperatures rarely dip below 70°F or reach higher than 90°F. You can travel to the islands anytime throughout the year and experience fantastic weather.

Light rainfall is expected from January to May (along with high humidity levels), but it never lasts for long and doesn't often turn into heavier downpours.

What is the internet access like in the Galapagos Islands?

There are reliable internet cafes in Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz Island) and Puerto Baquerizo (San Cristobal Island).

Some hotels and restaurants on other islands will have a Wi-Fi connection, but it is best not to rely on it.

Can I use my cell phone in the Galapagos Islands?

There's good cell phone reception on the larger islands, but don’t expect it when at sea. The best local telephone companies are Porta and Movistar.

Ensure you have global roaming activated before leaving home if you wish to use your cell phone.

What are the toilets like in the Galapagos Islands?

Most towns have Western-style flushable toilets, though you will likely encounter squat toilets as well. Regardless, it’s a good idea to carry your own toilet paper and hand sanitiser, as they are not always provided.

What will it cost for a...?

  • Juice = USD 1
  • Street food snack = USD 1.50
  • Simple lunch at a local restaurant = USD 3-5 
  • Sit-down dinner at a cafe or restaurant = USD 10–20

Can I drink the water in the Galapagos Islands?

Tap water isn’t considered safe to drink in the Galapagos Islands.

Avoid drinks with ice and make sure to peel fruit before eating it.

Help the environment and try to avoid buying bottled water. Instead, fill a reusable water bottle with filtered water. Your leader or hotel can tell you where to find filtered water.

Are credit cards accepted widely in the Galapagos Islands?

No, credit cards are not widely accepted.

There are a handful of shops on Santa Cruz that may accept major credit cards, but it’s preferable to pay in cash.

How many islands make up the Galapagos Islands?

The Galapagos Islands are made up of 13 larger islands and more than 60 smaller islands and islets. 5 islands are habitable to just over 30,000 people.

These 5 islands are Isla Baltra, Isla Floreana, Isla Isabela, Isla Santa Cruz, and Isla San Cristobal.

What is ATM access like in Galapagos Island?

The banks in Puerto Ayora and Puerto Baquerizo have ATMs.

The Banco del Pacifico in both towns is open from 8 am to 3:30 pm Monday to Friday and 9 am to 12.30 pm on Saturdays.

It's best to withdraw your money on the mainland in case these are out of order.

Check each bank's website for up-to-date opening hours.

What public holidays are celebrated in the Galapagos Islands?

  • 1 Jan: New Year's Day
  • 6 Jan: Epiphany
  • 1 May: Labour Day
  • 24 May: Battle of Pichincha
  • 10 Aug: Independence Day
  • 9 Oct: Guayaquil Independence Day
  • 2 Nov: All Soul's Day
  • 3 Nov: Cuenca Independence Day
  • 25 Dec: Christmas
  • 31 Dec: New Year's Eve

Please note, Galapagos Islands public holidays may vary.

Are the Galapagos Islands a safe destination for LGBTQIA+ travelers?

The Galapagos Islands are a relatively hassle-free destination for LGBTQIA+ travellers.

Same-sex marriage was legalised in Ecuador in 2008. The country hosts several fiestas where it’s acceptable for men to cross-dress as women.

However, homophobic attitudes do exist among the older generations. It is best to avoid public displays of affection where possible.

For more detailed advice, we recommend visiting   Equaldex   or   ILGA   before you travel.

What to drink in the Galapagos Islands

Quench your thirst after a glorious day spent exploring the Galapagos  by sipping on a glass of canelazo, horchata tea, or freshly made fruit juice.

During your cruise around the islands, it makes sense to try as many traditional Ecuadorian drinks as you can, especially since there are heaps to choose from.

Do I need to purchase travel insurance before traveling?

Absolutely. All passengers traveling with Intrepid are required to purchase travel insurance before the start of their trip. Your travel insurance details will be recorded by your leader on the first day of the trip. Due to the varying nature, availability and cost of health care around the world, travel insurance is very much an essential and necessary part of every journey.

For more information on insurance, please go to: Travel Insurance

Are Intrepid trips accessible for travelers with disabilities?

We are committed to making travel widely  accessible , regardless of ability or disability. We do our best to help you see the world, regardless of physical or mental limitations. 

We are always happy to talk to travelers with disabilities and see if we can help guide them toward the most suitable itinerary for their needs and, where possible, make reasonable adjustments to our itineraries.

Does my trip support The Intrepid Foundation?

Yes, all Intrepid trips support the Intrepid Foundation. Trips to this country directly support our global Intrepid Foundation partners, Eden Reforestation Projects and World Bicycle Relief. Intrepid will double the impact by dollar-matching all post-trip donations made to The Intrepid Foundation.

Eden Reforestation Projects

Eden Reforestation Projects are helping to mitigate climate change by restoring forests worldwide; they also hire locally and create job opportunities within vulnerable communities. Donations from our trips support restoration across planting sites in 10 countries around the globe. Find out more or make a donation World Bicycle Relief

World Bicycle Relief provides people in low-income communities with bicycles to mobilize school kids, health workers, and farmers in far-out areas – giving them access to vital education, healthcare, and income. Donations help provide Buffalo Bicycles – specifically designed to withstand the rugged terrain and harsh environment of rural regions – to those who need them most. Find out more or make a donation

Galapagos on a Budget, leon dormido

Home » South America » Ecuador » How to visit the Galapagos on a Budget – Your practical Galapagos Trip Cost Guide

How to visit the Galapagos on a Budget – Your practical Galapagos Trip Cost Guide

Our trip to the Galapagos Islands was a little dream that finally came true. Even though the Pacific islands are not precisely cheap, we have realized that your Galapagos Trip cost doesn’t necessarily have to force you into bankruptcy. On the contrary, a trip to the Galapagos on a budget is totally doable.

Therefore, in this article, we have listed all our Galapagos islands trip costs cent by cent so that you get an idea of the Galapagos prices on-site and what the Galapagos cost. Besides that, you will find a lot of helpful savings tips that will help you travel to the Galapágos Islands without breaking the bank.

What to find out in this post

  • 1.1 Average Galapagos Vacation Cost per day
  • 1.2 Our total trip to Galápagos Islands Cost
  • 1.3 Our Average Galápagos Travel Cost by day
  • 2 Galapagos Prices – What costs what
  • 3 How to visit the Galapagos on a Budget
  • 4.1 Getting to Galapagos Islands
  • 4.2 It’s cheaper in a group
  • 4.3 Rent a bike instead of going by taxi
  • 4.4 Walk as much as you can
  • 5.1 Book your accommodation in advance
  • 5.2 Or check your accommodation just on-site
  • 5.3 Travel outside of the high season
  • 5.4 Use Airbnb
  • 5.5 Or how about staying in Galápagos for free while hanging out with locals?
  • 6.1 Avoid Tourist Restaurants & Compare Prices
  • 6.2 Menu del Día
  • 6.3 Eat out for lunch instead of dinner
  • 6.4 Shop groceries in supermarkets
  • 6.5 Bring food from the mainland
  • 6.6 Have breakfast in your accommodation
  • 6.7 Cook yourself
  • 6.8 Refill your bottle
  • 6.9 Make use of the Happy Hour
  • 7.1 It doesn’t always have to be a tour
  • 7.2 Bargain
  • 7.3 Bring a snorkel and an underwater camera
  • 7.4 Bring sunscreen from home/from the mainland
  • 8.1 About the AuthorVicki

Galapagos Trip Cost

Great Tortoise on Santa Cruz, Galapagos

In the following section, we’ll check the approximate Galapagos travel costs that you can expect on an average day in the islands. Of course, how much you’ll really end up spending all depends on your personal travel style.

Author’s note: The following travel expenses for Galápagos reflect the approximate prices for a trip on-site. They do not include cost information for a Galápagos Cruise .

Average Galapagos Vacation Cost per day

The Galapagos prices can differ greatly depending on the travel style and planned activities. Those who only do activities on their own instead of joining tours, and cook for themselves can even stay just under € 47.77/ $ 53.88 per day. If you only visit one or two islands, it can get even cheaper.

However, we recommend you not to be too stingy, because, believe me, the tours are the real highlight of a Galapagos trip – because there are a lot of exciting and unique sea creatures to discover.

If you follow our 10-day Galapagos Itinerary and eat out on average once a day, you will end up with around € 82.33/ $ 92.86 per day, which is a total of € 822.30/ $ 927.51 for the ten days.

Author’s note: The daily prices listed do not include the outward and return flight.

Our total trip to Galápagos Islands Cost

For 10 days in the Galápagos, we, therefore, spent € 1,125.26/ $ 1,269.23 per person (including the flights).

Our Average Galápagos Travel Cost by day

Food: 11.30 €/ $ 12,74 (Of which are: Breakfast: 1.98 €/ $ 2.23, Lunch: 3.18 €/ $ 3.58, Dinner: 6.14 €/$ 6.92)

Accommodation: 13.26 €/ $ 14.95

Activities:   46.17 €/ $ 52.07

Transport:   9.17 €/ $ 10.34 (+ 302.96 €/ $ 341.72 Flights to/from Guayaquil)

Other Expenses:   2.33 €/ $ 2.62

Author’s note: The expenditures were, of course, made in the national currency, US dollars, and are only listed here in euros for better understanding. The exchange rate corresponds to that at the time of our trip (1 euro = 1.127 USD). Any discrepancies are caused by rounding.

We have tracked our costs with the Trexpense Pro * app. A great way to keep track of your spending while traveling.

* Disclaimer: The pro version of the app was made available to us free of charge for testing.

Galapagos Prices – What costs what

  • Budget accommodation (private double room for 2) from € 20 per night (depending on the island and season)
  • Private double room Airbnb (for 2): from € 20 per night (depending on the island and season)
  • Budget accommodation – bed in a hostel: from 10 – 15 € per night (depending on the island and season)
  • Lunch in an inexpensive restaurant (menu): from about $ 4-5 (about 3.5 – 4.50 €)
  • Dinner in a cheap restaurant: about $ 8-10 (about 7-9 €)
  • Dinner for 2 in a good restaurant: approx. $ 20 (approx. € 17.50)
  • 1 liter of water in the supermarket: approx. $ 2.5 (approx. € 2.20)
  • A boat trip between the islands: $ 25 (about 22 €)

How to visit the Galapagos on a Budget

Sea horses, Galapagos, Los Tuneles

Now that you’ve got a small overview of what costs how much in Galapagos in this section, we will now tell you how you can save a lot of money during your Galapagos trip with a few ridiculously simple tricks.

Galapagos Transport on a Budget

In the following section, you will find a lot of helpful Galapagos travel tips, with which you can save a lot of money for the transport to and between the Galapagos Islands.

Getting to Galapagos Islands

Even before you even step foot on the Galápagos Islands, you can already save some money – because the journey is often one of the most expensive factors of a trip. The more flexible you are in terms of time and departure airport, you can really save some bucks. Compare prices between the two airports on the island (Seymour Airport and Airport San Cristóbal) and the two departure airports in Guayaquil and Quito.

When you ultimately choose a flight, it is essential to book your flight well in advance and compare prices. I prefer to use flight comparison sites like Skyscanner .

It’s cheaper in a group

If you arrive at Seymour Airport (Balta Island – near Santa Cruz), you either have to take a bus or a taxi to get to Puerto Ayora. Since the price of the taxi is calculated per car and not per person, you can save money by teaming up with other travelers.

But also in general, the prices are often lower if you are traveling with several people. Whether taxi rides, accommodation (cheaper from 2 people), or even tours. If you are traveling in a group, many tourism agencies are happy to give a discount if you’ll choose their tour.

Rent a bike instead of going by taxi

Another great way to save some money in the Galápagos Islands is to take a bike instead of a taxi. Of course, this doesn’t apply to the journey from the airport, but if you want to move around the islands, e.g., the El Muro de las Lágrimas tour.

A bike is particularly worthwhile if you’re going to make several stops during your trip.

Walk as much as you can

Of course, it is even cheaper than by bike or taxi if you simply walk all the way. Destinations that are not too far away, such as Tortuga Bay on Santa Cruz or the port on Isla Isabela, can also be easily reached on foot.

An app like Google Maps or Maps.me can be helpful to find your way around the Galápagos Islands.

Gálapagos Accommodation on a Budget

Accommodation is probably one of the most expensive aspects of any trip. However, your Gálapagos accommodation doesn’t even have to be that expensive. In this paragraph, you will learn how you can save a few extra dollars for your accommodation here and there without ending up in the last descent.

Book your accommodation in advance

If you start looking for accommodation early enough, you not only have more places to choose from, but you may even find a bargain or two. I use Booking.com to find the best accommodation. At Booking, you can find accommodations of all price ranges with numerous helpful reviews from other independent travelers worldwide.

Check Galápagos Accommodation on Booking.com

Or check your accommodation just on-site

Some backpackers swear by this tip: Always find your accommodation personally on-site. Often you can negotiate a better price face-to-face at the accommodation, especially if you stay for several days or if you are in a group or as a couple.

Of course, this trick only works if there are still enough rooms in the accommodation available, and you are good at negotiating. However, some property owners might not go down in price, i.e., there is no guarantee that you can really get a good discount. Thus, if you have little time, you should book your accommodation in advance anyway.

Travel outside of the high season

Even if the difference in Gálapagos between high and low season is not really big, you can still save a few bucks if you arrive in the low season (September – November). At this point, fewer visitors come to the island so that you can get a few discounts not only on accommodation but also on tours.

airbnb app, Rent a room in Galápagos

We love Airbnb. This platform not only a great way to find a bargain or two but also gives you the opportunity to get to know the life of the locals up close. Here you will find many locals that rent their guest rooms to travelers. Especially if you are traveling as a couple, with Airbnb, you can often find a lot of interesting places for a small price.

What’s even better is that Airbnb gives you an absolutely unique insight into the culture of a country, since you’re at home with the locals. Moreover, your hosts are able to provide you with the best insider tips and answer many of your questions.

Important: To support the locals, please only rent rooms in a local’s private flat and not an entire apartment. Renting the apartments to tourists increases the rental prices in the tourist regions for everyone and expels the locals from the area. Because they can no longer afford their own apartments due to increased rent. But if you stay in the guest room of locals, you will help them pay their rent and benefit from tourism in their city.

Check available rooms on Galápagos on Airbnb

Or how about staying in Galápagos for free while hanging out with locals?

There is another cheap option, or even free of charge, to stay in the Galapagos Islands. This option is called Couchsurfing. Eduardo and I absolutely love Couchsurfing and have already used it in various countries on three continents and only had great experiences. (We actually met while using Couchsurfing, but that’s another story)

However, note that you should only couch surfing if you plan to spend a little time with your host and offer him something in return (e.g., you can help him learn your language, cook something delicious, etc.). Please do not use Couchsurfing just as a free overnight stay but as an opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture of the country and get to know the locals.

Check Couchsurfing Hosts on Galápagos

Gálapagos Food on a Budget

Avoid tourist restaurants & compare prices.

Just have a look around where the locals eat and compare prices. Instead of eating directly in the tourist center, try the side streets – the prices often look very different.

Extra tip: If you want to try fresh seafood, this is your perfect chance. Even if you might up spending $ 15 on a lobster, just think about how much you would pay for it back home. 

Menu del Día

Especially those who are out for lunch can make a great deal by ordering a menu. Depending on the restaurant, the menus contain 1-2 courses, dessert, and a drink (often a fresh juice). Prices vary, but with a little bit of luck, you can find them for as few as $ 4.

Our recommendation: The cheese soup (Sopa de Queso) is a popular dish in Ecuador and is included in many menus as a first course. Definitely try it!

Eat out for lunch instead of dinner

As already mentioned above, there are many restaurants on the islands that offer a menu at lunchtime. In the evening, most of these restaurants are closed or only offer à la carte dishes.

Therefore, it can be far cheaper if you go out for lunch and instead, only prepare something in your accommodation in the evening.

Shop groceries in supermarkets

If you want to save money on food, you should eat and shop where the locals do. Of course, the residents of Ecuador don’t go out to eat every day, but shop in supermarkets and then eat at home. Also, the various bakeries on the island also offer bread and pastries at relatively low prices. Just have a look around.

Author’s note: Not every supermarket offers cheap prices and some products can be surprisingly expensive in spite of everything. This is because the products first have to be delivered from the mainland, which causes high transport costs.

Bring food from the mainland

Another great tip to save money is to bring as many products as you can from mainland Ecuador. In Quito and Guayaquil, you will usually find much lower prices than on the Galapagos Islands.

Important: However, note that you can only bring processed foods to the Galápagos Islands. Fruit, vegetables, or food from which plants could develop are prohibited.

Have breakfast in your accommodation

Some accommodations offer their guests breakfast. The breakfast is often already included in the room price; some offer it with an additional charge. It is often worth taking such an offer instead of having breakfast outside.

Breakfast was not included in our accommodations, but there was a refrigerator in which we could store food. So we had the opportunity to make our own breakfast every morning instead of eating outside. Even if the yogurt in Galápagos is rather expensive at first glance, it is still worth buying instead of eating out. Add a bit oatmeal (which you can buy here to pretty affordable prices) and fruit, and you have a fast, delicious, healthy, and, above all, inexpensive breakfast.

Cook yourself

One last way to really save money on food in Galápagos is to cook yourself. Book an accommodation where you have access to a kitchen (e.g., at Airbnb or hostels with a shared kitchen). So you can prepare something warm instead of eating in an expensive restaurant. You can find everything you need in the supermarket or at a market (well almost everything, but for a couple of days, it’s definitely going to be enough)

It gets even cheaper if you bring the packaged food (e.g., pasta, rice, and ready-made sauces, etc.) from mainland Ecuador.

Refill your bottle

In almost every accommodation in the Galápagos, there are water dispensers where you can refill your water bottle for free. With this method, you not only save money, but you also help the environment by avoiding plastic waste .

It is advisable to add a refillable bottle to your packing list instead of using plastic bottles.

Make use of the Happy Hour

Alcohol and drinks in Galápagos can often not precisely be described as cheap. It helps to make use of the Happy hour. Many of the bars on the islands offer a happy hour at which you can save up to 50% of the actual price (e.g. with 2 for 1 offers).

Happy hour times differ from bar to bar.

Galápagos Tours and Activities on a Budget

sea lion in Pinzon, Santa Cruz

The tours in the Galapagos Islands are probably the most expensive of the entire trip. It can be challenging to find half-day tours for under $ 100. Of course, that is quite a bit of money.

It helps to think in advance about which tours you want to take during your Galapagos trip. On TripAdvisor and similar portals, you can find many helpful reviews and tips from other travelers about the offers and tours of each island. We decided to take a tour on each island and were thrilled by every single one of them. We can, therefore, highly recommend the following tours (if you like snorkeling and are interested in the marine life of the Galapagos Islands):

  • Pinzón (Santa Cruz)
  • Los Tuneles (Isla Isabela)
  • Kayak rental/Tintoreras tour (Isla Isabela)
  • León Dormido/Kicker Rock (San Cristóbal)

It doesn’t always have to be a tour

On each of the tourist islands, tours are offered for seeing almost every attraction. What many visitors are not so aware of is that it doesn’t always have to be a tour. You can discover many of the attractions of the islands on your own. Looking at how much the tours usually cost on the islands, you can save quite an amount of money by doing things on your own.

Some of the attractions can be reached on foot, for others, you have to rent a bike or take a taxi. In the following, you can find a few examples of activities and sights that you can discover without a tour.

  • Los Gemelos
  • Rancho Primicias
  • Tortuga Bay
  • Las Grietas
  • Playa de Los Alemanes
  • Columpio Mágico
  • Darwin Research Station

Isla Isabela

  • Tintoras (with rented Kayak)
  • Playa de la Concha
  • Posado de Flamengos
  • Pozas Salinas
  • El Muro de las Lágrimas
  • Arnaldo Turpiza Breeding Station

San Cristóbal

  • San Cristóbal Interpretation Center
  • Playa de Oro
  • Cerro Tijeras
  • Loberia Beach
  • Puerto Chino Beach
  • La Galapaguera Tortoise Habitat

Those who have been traveling in South America for a longer time may even be used to it already: negotiate, negotiate, negotiate. Although negotiating in the Galápagos Islands is not as extreme as you might know from Southeast Asia or Morocco, you can ask for a few bucks off anyway – they worse that can happen is that they say no, am I right? 😉

Especially if you are interested in more than one tour or you book it together with several people, you can usually get a few dollars off your tour.

Bring a snorkel and an underwater camera

Another practical way to save money on Galápagos is to bring a snorkel and an underwater camera with you. Bringing it saves you money on every snorkeling trip because you don’t have to borrow snorkeling equipment. The same applies to an underwater camera. You certainly want to have photos of your adventure, don’t you?

Author’s note: If you go on snorkeling tours, the equipment is usually provided free of charge. This tip is rather for if you want to go snorkeling on your own.

An underwater camera usually costs you around 25$ rent for every day.

Bring sunscreen from home/from the mainland

We were shocked to see that you sometimes have to pay $ 20 for a tube of sunscreen. Generally, sunscreens are not cheap in South America – but less so in the Galápagos. That’s why it’s worth buying it on the mainland, or even better at home.

Galápagos tip: No matter how tanned you are: Good sun protection is incredibly important. As the sun so close to the equator is clearly not walk in the park. If you are prone to sunburn quickly, we recommend a sunblock with sun protection factor 90 or 100. Surprisingly, in South America, these are usually far cheaper than a sunscreen with SPF 30 or 50.

Were you able to find some helpful Galápagos savings tips that you would like to try out on your trip? How much did you spend on your trip? Or maybe you have some great savings tips for us yourself? Let us know in the comments below!

More Galapagos

Perhaps one of our other Galápagos articles can help you plan your trip as well

  • Our Ultimate Galápagos Itinerary
  • Our Ultimate Guide to Puerto Ayora & Santa Cruz Island

Galapagos budget travel PIN

Interested in Galápagos?

Galapagos on a Budget, leon dormido

About the Author Vicki

Hi, we are Vicki & Eduardo, an international travel couple on a mission to help you save money for priceless travel experience. Follow us through the miracles of this world and you will be rewarded with a bunch of practical travel tips.

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The Ultimate Galápagos Islands Travel Guide

Discover the islands that inspired Charles Darwin.

trip to the galapagos cost

The Galápagos Islands, located roughly 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, remained a closely guarded natural secret for millions of years. Over that time, the archipelago evolved into a home for an all-star cast of plants and animals. Sometime in the 1800s, some swashbuckling pirates and intrepid explorers started arriving in the Galápagos Islands. The most famous early visitor was Charles Darwin, a young naturalist who spent 19 days studying the islands' flora and fauna in 1835. In 1859, Darwin published On the Origin of Species , which introduced his theory of evolution — and the Galápagos Islands — to the world.

Since then, word of these islands and their magnificent beauty has steadily grown. In 1959, the Galápagos became Ecuador's first national park, and in 1978, it was named a UNESCO World Heritage site . Today, more than 275,000 people visit the Galápagos every year to see those incredible animals and landscapes for themselves.

As amazing as you think the Galápagos Islands will be, they routinely exceed expectations. It's a place where lizards swim, birds walk, and humans — for once — don't take center stage.

Reasons to Visit

Biodiversity brings over 100,000 visitors each year to these remote islands that were totally unknown to the world until 1535. Without the influence of a human presence, the island's flora and fauna, and the surrounding marine life, thrived for thousands of years by evolving into unique species you won't find anywhere else in the world, such as the charismatic giant tortoises and blue-footed boobies. Beyond seeing the main stars of the island, many visitors also enjoy the beautiful beaches and choose the Galápagos Islands as their honeymoon destination .

This is also one of the world's top scuba diving destinations, so spending time on or in the water is a must, whether that means you're ready to jump in with your snorkel for a sea lion swim or are happy to enjoy the views from the deck of your adventure cruise . Brimming with natural beauty, the Galápagos is for many a once-in-a-lifetime destination where the marvels of the natural world are waiting to astound you.

Best Time to Visit

There's no bad time to visit the Galápagos Islands. No matter what time of year you go, the adventure is sure to be unique and wonderful. June through December are the cooler and drier months. Even though this is the dry season, a garúa (or light, misty rain) is still possible, particularly in December, and skies can be cloudy and gray.

January through May are the warmer and wetter months, but the rain creates brilliantly clear blue skies between showers — great for photography. March and April tend to be the hottest and wettest months, while August tends to be the coolest time.

Water temperatures vary throughout the year because of the powerful ocean currents in the archipelago. Between June and December, the colder currents dominate and the water temperature dips low. A wet suit (likely provided by your boat or hotel) may be required while snorkeling during these months. However, the upside is that the cold current brings in huge quantities of plankton, which attract hungry marine life.

If you're set on seeing a particular species in the Galápagos, talk to the tour operator and pick the month and itinerary that will give you the best chance for a sighting. Some species are seasonal, and many exist only on specific islands. For example, the waved albatross, also called the Galápagos albatross, is not a full-time resident. These birds just show up for mating in the spring and summer.

How to Get There

Getty Images/Mauricio Handler

Flights to the Galápagos Islands depart multiple times each day from Quito or Guayaquil on mainland Ecuador. Flights from the U.S. are plentiful to both cities. Hotel options are better in Quito and, in general, this city is more compelling with a stunning colonial center, which was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1978. It's also home to ample museums, shopping, and restaurants to easily fill a few days. However, Quito is over 9,000 feet above sea level, so altitude can be a problem for travelers arriving from lower elevations. Steamy Guayaquil, Ecuador's largest city, is at sea level, so altitude is not an issue. However, the hotel and restaurant selection is much more limited in Guayaquil.

If you're booking your own flights from mainland Ecuador to the Galápagos Islands, remember that there are two airports on two different islands in the archipelago. San Cristóbal Airport is on the island of the same name. Seymour Airport, which runs entirely on sun and wind power, can be found on tiny Baltra Island, which is separated from Santa Cruz Island by a narrow channel. Be sure to book your flights to the same island you'll be based on, or where your boat departs and returns.

By Land or By Sea

Getty Images/Westend61

The first decision you have to make when visiting the Galápagos Islands is also the most difficult. Do you want to stay in a hotel on one of the three inhabited islands, exploring other islands and areas via day-trip boat rides? Or do you want to be based on a live-aboard boat, which provides accommodations and transportation from island to island? There are three main factors to consider when choosing between land and sea: cost, time management, and access.

A trip to the Galápagos Islands can be pricey. However, it's easier to craft a less expensive experience if you choose to be land based. These days, there are hotels and restaurants at many price points on San Cristóbal Island, Santa Cruz Island, and, to a much lesser extent, Isabela and Floreana Islands. Live-aboard boats come in a range of price points, too. However, all but the most bare-bones boats still add up to more than a land-based vacation.

If you choose a land-based vacation, expect to spend a lot of time getting from your hotel onto a boat, out to the day's destination, then back to your property. On the other hand, live-aboard boats do most of their navigating during the night when travelers are asleep in cabins on board. This means passengers wake up in a new destination ready for a full day of exploration. Because land-based explorations are limited to the five islands that can be reached in one day, travelers won't be able to visit the more distant islands that boat-based itineraries include.

Unless you're terrified of sailing, suffer from seasickness , or hate the idea of being on a boat for a week, book a cruise. You'll waste less time running back and forth, plus you'll see as many distinct areas of the Galápagos Islands as possible.

Most live-aboard boats offer five- to eight-day itineraries, with set departure dates and routes. Routes are dictated by Galápagos National Park officials to mitigate crowding and environmental stress. Your boat will provide a northern or southern itinerary (sometimes called eastern and western itineraries), alternating weekly. Both include wonderful land excursions, plenty of time in the water, and ample opportunities to see the famous flora and fauna of the Galápagos.

Boats in the Galápagos Islands are limited to a maximum of 100 passengers, but most carry fewer than that. The benefit of traveling on a smaller-capacity vessel is a more intimate onboard experience and faster transfer times between your main vessel and the rubber dinghies. Smaller boats also tend to have more character and history. And if you're traveling with a big group, don't worry, as larger-capacity boats tend to have more onboard services, like guest lectures and medical facilities.

Ecoventura , which has several vessels that allow for up to 20 passengers at a time, is another excellent operator. In addition, two naturalists take guests onshore and explain every animal and plant in great detail.

Scuba divers who want to focus on underwater adventures have a few options in the Galápagos Islands as well. The Galapagos Sky , Galapagos Aggressor III , and Galapagos Master are live-aboard boats that were designed specifically for scuba divers. They ply the waters all the way to the little-visited northernmost islands in the archipelago, where deep, cold, current-filled diving yields time with manta rays, whale sharks, sunfish, and hammerhead sharks. Note that these are for experienced divers only.

Best Hotels and Resorts

A wide range of hotels can be found on Santa Cruz Island and San Cristóbal Island, and several boats operate out of harbors on those islands as well. Be sure to book a hotel that's located near the harbor (not in the highlands), so you can be close to the boat's boarding spot for day trips.

For example, the 19-room Golden Bay Galapagos is situated right on the harbor of San Cristóbal Island. You can watch sea lions cavort on a small beach directly in front of the property, and day-trip boats leave from a dock that's no more than a three-minute stroll away. Book the corner suite, which features a living-room bathtub and glass walls that slide open to eliminate all barriers between you and the nature outside. Meanwhile, the Angermeyer Waterfront Inn is right on Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island. The hotel's newest room has been cleverly fashioned inside a beached wooden boat.

Or, book a hotel that owns and operates its own boats to ensure a seamless standard of service and the most practical and convenient itineraries. For example, the unparalleled Pikaia Lodge , located in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island, has its own boat that is used exclusively for guests on packages that include land and sea adventures.

The Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel , set in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island, also has its own yacht, dubbed the Sea Lion . This vessel can hold up to 20 passengers plus two guides (many other day-trip boats carry 16 passengers and have just one guide). Sea Lion itineraries also encompass all five islands that day-trip boats are allowed to visit.

Last-minute deals are sometimes available for travelers who can afford to spend a few days searching for sales after arriving. However, the Galápagos Islands are a major tourist destination, so it's advisable to book well in advance. Dive boats, in particular, tend to fill up fast because there are so few of them.

If you are spending the night in Quito or Guayaquil, there are a few nice hotels that we also recommend checking out. In Quito, Casa Gangotena , on Plaza San Francisco in the heart of the capital's colonial center, is the best hotel in Ecuador, combining history, style, and service. Another top option is Illa Experience Hotel , a 10-room boutique hotel in the city's central San Marcos neighborhood. The property sits in a renovated mansion, and each floor presents different decor, including colonial, republic, and contemporary styles. In Guayaquil, Hotel del Parque , located in the city's leafy Parque Histórico, is a sophisticated boutique property with 44 rooms. The restored building dates back to 1891, and houses a spa where you can book a massage in a repurposed church bell tower.

Best Restaurants

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As you can imagine, the seafood in the Galápagos Islands is extremely fresh and the islands have many fine dining establishments to cater to hungry visitors. You'll find a range of dining options across all the islands' main hubs, many of which are associated with hotels, such as the Finch Bay Restaurant in Santa Cruz, which blends local Ecuadorian cuisine with international style. Another popular restaurant is the FraFre GastroBar , where the fish is served with a regional flair that's popular among locals and tourists. You'll also find more casual eateries like the humorously named Booby Trap that serves up fish tacos and pizza on Isabela Island alongside wonderful oceanfront views.

If you are looking for a memorable meal in Quito, Zazu is the only Relais & Châteaux restaurant in Ecuador. For a more casual experience, head to sibling restaurant Zfood , where a Hamptons-style fish-shack vibe is replicated perfectly and seafood reigns supreme. At Urko , chef/owner Daniel Maldonado stays focused on showcasing Ecuadorian ingredients and flavors. Go for the tasting menu to get a full sense of what he calls cocina local .

Things to Do

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Aside from observing the fabulous animals above and below the water, you can incorporate many other striking landscapes into your adventures. If you want to island-hop, you can coordinate visits to these sites yourself, but if you're on a cruise you may have to follow the pre-planned itinerary.

Throughout the islands you can enjoy the white sands of beaches like Tortuga Bay and Puerto Villamil, or take the adventurous route for a hike to the top of the Sierra Negra Volcano, an active shield volcano that last erupted in 2018, providing a dazzling show for offshore boaters. For something more tame, you can pay your respects at the Charles Darwin Research Station in Puerto Ayora, which has been used as a scientific base since 1964. Visitors can access the exhibition hall, gardens, and public library.

Best Islands to Visit

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There are 127 islands that make up this tropical archipelago, but only about 20 are frequently visited by tourists, and only four have major populations. Isabela Island is the largest of these, but despite its size, it has fewer people than Santa Cruz, which is the most populated island with approximately 12,000 inhabitants between the towns of Puerto Ayora and Santa Rosa. When you fly into the Galápagos, you will most likely arrive through Baltra Island, which is separated from Santa Cruz by a short ferry ride. Meanwhile, the province's capital is located on San Cristobal Island.

Booking a live-aboard boat trip will give you more opportunities to see the many different islands that make up these enchanted isles. However, if a particular attraction or animal captures your attention, you may want to seek out specific sites like Bartolomé Island, known for its volcanic rock formations like Pinnacle Rock, and Española Island, where you'll find the nesting sites of the waved albatross at Punta Suarez. If you're interested in the history of human discovery, Floreana Island was the first to be visited by people. Here, you can hear the stories of the many seamen who rolled into these waters and learn about the fascinating postal system they set up using a simple wooden barrel. Bird-watchers are especially fond of Genovesa Island, where frigatebirds and red-footed boobies are frequently spotted. For Galápagos penguins and flightless cormorants, the sparsely vegetated Fernandina Island is another popular spot.

Packing Tips

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A trip to the Galápagos is a big adventure, so you should come prepared with the right clothes and tools to face the elements. It may be tough to find what you need once you arrive on the islands — especially if you are spending most of your time at sea — so we've broken it down into essential categories and created a packing list to get you started.

Basic supplies are available at small shops on both San Cristóbal and Santa Cruz islands, but prices are high and the selection is limited. It's best to have the essentials with you. These include sturdy closed-toe walking shoes with durable soles. Although land excursions are generally short and trails tame, you may be walking over jagged volcanic rock and other obstacles from time to time. However, you will also want sandals or flip-flops to wear in towns and on boats. Leave the heels at home, especially if you've booked a boat-based itinerary. Even the most luxurious boats have narrow, steep stairways that are nearly impossible to navigate safely (or gracefully) in heels.

You'll also be glad to have rain gear and good weather protection for your camera. You will be traveling on boats and in dinghies, and rain showers can occur at any time. If you're exploring an island when wet weather rolls in, there will be no place to shelter out of the rain.

Health and Comfort

Stock up on lots of insect repellant and water-resistant, high-SPF sunscreen. As you might have guessed Ecuador is on the equator, which magnifies the strength of the rays, and most Galápagos excursions are completely exposed to the sun. We also recommend purchasing reef-safe sunscreen to help protect the coral, animals, and waters around the islands. A hat with a brim for sun protection during land excursions is also recommended. If you're planning to participate in kayaking and snorkeling excursions, a rash guard is also useful for sun protection. When water temperatures are colder, a wet suit will be provided. If you have fins, a mask, and a snorkel that you love, bring them with you. Snorkeling gear is provided, but the quality and cleanliness vary.

Seas are generally calm, and boat captains take great care in choosing protected anchoring spots. However, if you're prone to motion sickness, bring some Dramamine with you. Prescription preventions like scopolamine patches work well, too. Note that scopolamine is generally not available for sale in Latin America. Bring a reusable water bottle , so you can fill it up for day-long excursions and reduce your plastic waste.

There are ATMs on Santa Cruz and San Cristóbal islands, but they can run out of cash, so bring some with you to cover tips. Credit cards are also often accepted at shops and restaurants. The official currency of Ecuador is the U.S. dollar.

What Not to Bring

The introduction of non-native plant species is considered a top environmental threat to the Galápagos Islands, so do not bring any fruits, vegetables, or plants of any kind with you. Anything that might have seeds or spores clinging to it, such as the soles of your shoes and any outdoor gear or camping equipment, should be washed and inspected thoroughly before being brought to the islands. The threat of invasive plant species is so great that visitors arriving in the Galápagos have to sign an affidavit swearing that they're not bringing in any food, animals, seeds, or dirty camping gear.

In 2012, Ecuador's then-president Rafael Correa abolished fees at national parks and reserves in the country. However, Galápagos National Park was not part of that exemption and still requires a $100 entrance fee per person, which is payable only in cash upon arrival at either airport in the Galápagos Islands. In addition, each visitor must buy a $20 transit card, which is also payable only in cash at the airport. The transit card is a measure of immigration control, so all visitors must purchase one at the airport when they arrive and return it when they leave. If you are booked on a tour, your tour operator might take care of this for you, but it's better to ask ahead of time.

Before Visiting the Galápagos Islands

With the anticipation building for your trip, you may be looking for books and movies to get into the spirit of an adventuring naturalist. Here are some of our recommendations of what to read and watch to prepare for your trip.

  • My Father's Island by Johanna Angermeyer: Published in 1998, this book provides an account of the author's German ancestors, who were among the first to settle on Santa Cruz Island. Their challenges and triumphs are humbling, offering valuable perspectives on the Galápagos. Members of the Angermeyer family still live on Santa Cruz Island, where they run the Angermeyer Waterfront Inn.
  • The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden: Released in 2013, this documentary cleverly splices video footage, letters, and other archival material to recount a real-life murder mystery involving a self-proclaimed baroness, her lovers, and other settlers on Floreana Island in the 1930s. Cate Blanchett narrates one of the main characters.
  • On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin: This classic and its author will be referenced repeatedly during your time in the Galápagos. Read up on Darwin's seminal theory of evolution, which was inspired, in part, by observations he made in the archipelago.

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Faqs - booking galapagos flights, how long is the flight to galapagos.

An average nonstop flight from the United States to Galapagos takes 23h 26m, covering a distance of 2734 miles. The most popular route is New York - Baltra with an average flight time of 14h 27m.

What is the cheapest flight to Galapagos?

The cheapest ticket to Galapagos from the United States found in the last 72 hours was $455. The most popular route is New York John F Kennedy Intl to Baltra and the cheapest round-trip airline ticket found on this route in the last 72 hours was $567.

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Based on KAYAK flight searches, the most popular destination is Baltra (55% of total searches to Galapagos). The next most popular destination is San Cristobal (45%).

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Top 5 airlines flying to Galapagos

Great. Loved that there was WiFi on flight to keep in touch and excellent service of beverages and snacks.

Business class is great. New airplane, very comfortable, better than some of the major airlines I am used to

Terrible. Flight was cancelled due to the weather in the east and sout east(florida). Did not get any compesation of any kind. According to them, it was not under their control so I lost all the money paid for the 2 fairs from Raleigh, NC to Orlando, Fl.

great flight. Pilot was communicative, flight attendants were excellent. Really nice experience except my tv didn’t work.

Overall, the flight was better than the flight I took to go to Florida, which had a bunch of problems. The crew is really nice and the plane was new so it had a small problem when we were on the runway, but the flight itself was great. They even made some time back up, which is always a good thing.

at the time for boarding the lady just call Group A and no other goups and everybody from A to F go inside without the right turn,and when we get in theres no more spsce for carry on , the ones that get in at not correct group from the back occupy our space !!!!! a mess !!!!

There were multiple delays but JetBlue tried to make the boarding and departure process as quick and efficient as possible. The crew was as detached from reality as could be, meaning: not very friendly and just doing things by the numbers.

I had back trouble prior to my flight and everyone was great about helping me.

Jetblue needs to improve on Onboarding as it seems to always be behind on departing. It never leaves on time. I would recommend to have an earlier Onboarding in order to leave on time and respect your customers time as well.

40 minute delay before take off after boarding flight. Bright lights throughout night flight due Issues with light panels. In flight Entertainment nonfunctional

Due to one crew member not showing up to work, our flight was significantly delayed causing us to miss our connecting flight in Houston to Mississippi causing us to be delayed by more than 6 hours and missing our event all together. Very disappointing. All because ONE crew member called in sick. United did grant us a $15 meal voucher, which was a small but appreciated concession that I wasn’t able to use because I ordered my lunch and paid for it before applying the concession, and the staff said it was too late to use it. Ugh! We also had a TWO delay coming back from Mississippi, but that was on American Airlines and it was due to weather, so not their fault. Anyway, not at all impressed with United’s handling of our flight and the HUGE disappointment of missing our important family event for our 90 year old mother. All that money and all that stress and emotions for nothing. Having to wait the hour to bring an employee from LAX seemed like something that should not have happened. Why don’t you have a local back-up? Santa Ana is not a little airport in a rural area.

Flight delayed from Cape Town to Washington then got diverted to miami and in miami we had to fend for ourselves , im still trying to get to Shreveport now

delay several times and wait extra long to board. no entertainment service because there are problem for some rows. always encounter some delays for the last flight of the day.

I just wrote a text which was supposed to be for the flight from Denver to spokane not Frankfurt to Denver.

On time every leg of the journey and exceptional staff at counter, gate, and on board. I haven’t travelled in US for a long time and was genuinely surprised how pleasant this was.

Hated every minute of it. This flight should have only taken 1.5hrs but was delayed over 10hours. Now I am being told I cannot be compensated or refunded my ticket price or extra leg room, which I purchased but did not receive, because the airline is throwing the blame on the 3rd party I purchased tickets through and 3rd party putting the blame on airline. No one wants to help. They received their money and that's all they care about. Im going on 3 days of still trying to get to my final destination, had to cancel car rental, car insurance and hotel. Currently staying in airport until hotels open up. Thank you Lufthansa, Kayak, Underpricer and United for making this trip the worst ever.

The delays (5 hrs) were a comedy of errors, and the multiple safety issues encountered were very concerning.

flight delays, staff only communicating when pushed, food service lasting a grand total of 7 minutes, stuck in seat from 45mins into flight until landing

Crew was great and did their best to make us comfortable and captain came out at the beginning to announce why the flight was delayed, weather situation up ahead, and kept us updated throughout the flight.

the flight from Tampa departed with a delay. The food on board was poor, usually on international airlines alcoholic beverages are offered free of charge , but here it was for a fee, the cutlery was wooden, there were no hot drinks (tea, coffee). Unfortunately, I didn't take pictures of the portions of food, but it wouldn't have been enough for a child either.And in the future, I will try not to use the services of this airline

Just get Economy Plus for international flights, so worth it the extra room, bigger seats…

This flight is frequently delayed. The connections seemingly are more frequently delayed. I’ve missed connections as a result twice on the same route to charlotte then Charleston. Final destination arrival has been the next day, twice in a row. No pilots, no crew. Too many excuses. Unfortunately, my days with American are over.

Entertainment was okay not because anything was wrong but it is a short flight so having no wifi is annoying but understandable. Crew was outstanding as usual

It was spectacular. I had basic Economy and was given so much space and their seats lean back so far. Staff was superb, food was superb, everything was superb, Finnair is Fantastic.

Those seats were way too narrow. I had the middle seat, one person was a very skinny person and we still couldn’t avoid touching each other anytime one of us moved. The other person was larger and we were basically sitting in each others lap the entire flight. There was zero entertainment. The flight was long enough to justify tvs, but no. Gotta sit there in your infant seat and twiddle your thumbs.

The Flight attendant had an attitude and didn't allow anyone any time to prepare for landing despite being absent throughout the entire trip

Flight boarded without pilots. Sat on plane for 3 hrs. after over an hour late boarding. Plane never took off. Had to deplane near midnight. Line for rebooking was 3 hours + long. I had to leave.

The flight was great but board was a nightmare. The gate was changed 4 times during the layover period

The experience was great and much better than the flight going out. of course I was in first class but the service was excellent

Cold air blew constantly on my legs almost making me numb.

Spirit canceled the flight in March and never notified me!

Seats suck, not enough room, overcrowded planes, hectic situation all together.

Pretty good. Would’ve been excellent if we would have left on time and the crew wasn’t late.

I do not like the customer service, I had an emergency and needed to cancel a pet reservation right after I had booked it and they would not do anything but issue a credit. I haven't flown in years as I have 7 kids and don't have spare time. I want my $125 back on my card please

Spirit airline tries to screw you at every opportunity. Spirit wanted 65$ for an extra pound in the suitcase Made me open the suitcase at the counter to remove 1 pound. Staff very cold and rude Will never fly spirit again and will recommend same to family and friends

Delayed..4 times...completely disorganized boarding. After 5 hours they scrambled to move ppl off plane bc they overbooked. Then they didn't have a cabin crew. WiFi on plane didn't work. Zero amenities. Once we boarded we sat on tarmac for an hour. Explore all alternate options including purchasing a pair of hiking boots and walking to your destination instead of flying spirit.

what I like about Spirit is that the pilot and crew are good communicators. The plane itself - well, its a budget airline and you get what is expected, But I generally just feel safer, somehow, when I know more about what is going on - and Spirit has always done a good job of telling me what is going on: why the delay, why the turbulence, why this and that... and that means a lot to me.

The crew was courteous and are very well prepared for the job.

I paid just under 200 for flight and luggage, then paid 200 to change the flight, then paid 100 for a carry on. Then the cancelled the flight. Of the 500 I spent they refunded 250. I bought a delta flight for 270 never flew with spirit, but spirit kept 250, not even refunding the 100 for the carry on though they cancelled the flight (for weather on a day with only a slight rain ).

Flight attendants heavily pushed their affinity credit card. Very annoying

I purchased a carry on bag online…was supposed to cost $72 but after a whole slew of bs charges, the total was over $175.00. Because of these hidden charges, I will not even consider flying Frontier ever again. It’s just not worth the hassle. I’m scratching this company off my list forever.

Flight was OK. Seats were good no cell phone charges on the plane no TVs or entertainment.

There were 3 leg for the trip and each leg was delayed by 90 minutes or more. The boarding process takes forever with people waiting on the jetway even though most folks do not have carry-on. The whole process is poorly managed.

Flight cancelled and was told by a rude gate agent that they don’t accommodate on other airlines. Had to wait 5 hours for a connecting flight that had a 7 hour layover. Would not allow bags to be checked early so we couldn’t go through security .Had to rent a car for the afternoon to store bags and get a meal. Also incurred a hotel fee. No apology or reason given for the cancellation- just rudeness.

They cancelled the flight then did nothing to help us rebook. It was awful - I won’t fly with them again

The process of buying the ticket and navigating all the hidden charges that Frontier throws at you was a terrible experience. The actual airport experience and flying was fine.

The truck that was refueling the plane drove away with the hose still connected to the plane and ripped part of the plane off with it

Not have to pay for every single item to take a flight. Seating and delays sucked.

Flight was cancelled and I had to spend the night in the airport lugging my suitcase around

If you don’t check in 24 hours in advance, they will charge you $110 to check your bag instead of the $30. I did not get an email with this information and did not check in. In addition, my flight home was cancelled at layover and I had to spend the night in the airport, and then have another layover at another airport before making it home. Will not fly frontier again.

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Information About the Enchanted Islands

Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin in the Galapagos

As one of the most famous visitors to the Galapagos, Charles Darwin and his impact on the world and the Islands continues to draw people to this amazing destination year after year. So, who is Darwin and what did he actually do?

Galapagos Weather

Galapagos Weather: When to go?

Galapagos is the perfect year round destination because of its location on the equator and warm island weather. However, there are a few factors that might help you decide your perfect time to travel either during the dry or wet season...

Galapagos Wildlife

Galapagos Wildlife

The Galapagos Islands are known for their fearless and curious wildlife. You can’t find another place in the world where sea lions will play with you in the water, iguanas pose for pictures, and sea birds walk right up to you. Learn more about each of these amazing creatures below.


Marine Life

Galapagos Facts

Galapagos Fast Facts

  • Fact 1: In 1978 UNESCO designated Galapagos as the first World Heritage site.
  • Fact 2: The endemic Galapagos marine iguana is the only lizard to swim in the ocean.
  • Fact 3: The lava tunnels on Santa Cruz, which you can walk through, provide an understanding of how the islands were formed.

Learn more here!

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Home » South America » Ecuador » Galapagos

Backpacking Galapagos Travel Guide

“ A man who dares to waste an hour of time has not discovered the value of life ”- Charles Darwin.

Follow in Darwin’s footsteps and embark on an adventure unlike any other to a place with untouched islands and undisturbed eco-systems… I’ve always wanted to explore the Galapagos Islands; there is something truly incredible about this rarely visited place and, in the future, I very much hope to head on out there.

This week, I chatted to Galapagos veteran Lisa Swenson and she filled me in on everything I needed to know to explore Galapagos on a backpacker budget…

I had always wanted to explore the Galapagos, with its confusing and utterly fascinating creatures – a land where a Godzilla like creature is a harmless vegetarian and tortoises grow to the size of a fully grown man; what’s not to be curious about? My husband and I decided to not get bogged down by the daunting tour prices and instead try and do Galapagos on a budget. And a pretty tight one at that. Here is a great travel guide to backpacking Galapagos on a budget…

Exploring Galapagos on a budget

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Galapagos budget backpacking guide

We  flew into Quito and bought our Park Pass for Galapagos, an essential, at the airport which cost us about $100 per person. Once we reached Baltra we had to taxi across the dry desert island to get to a water taxi that would then take us to Santa Cruz. Our ‘real’ journey to Galapagos had begun, and it did not seem like an easy one.  

The bus was cramped and people were squished together like canned sardines. The air was humid and stuffy and there wasn’t any air-conditioning – this certainly wasn’t any luxury tour but we didn’t care; we were heading somewhere amazing and would be seeing Galapagos on a budget. We were so thankful when we saw the ferry. But of course, we were once again jammed in with as many people as they could fit on the $2 water taxi. Finally, we could begin the last leg of our first journey and head on over to Santa Cruz.

Galapagos budget backpacking guide

Backpacking Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz was a destination in itself. We could have spent an entire week here seeing all that it had to offer – sandy beaches, colourful villas and ever smiling locals. Once we got to Puerto Ayora we realised it had everything we needed – restaurants, cheap places to stay, shops and even a couple of bars. The small island town was always busy with the locals walking or riding their bikes from home to work.

The town was directly on the blue sapphire water with access to piers, beaches, and water taxis and this made it to the perfect place to arrange Galapagos day trip . The day trips ranged from $45 – $95 dollars for an all-day snorkelling and land excursion to Isla Daphne including lunch. There are a lot tourist excursion kiosks so make sure you shop around and bring your haggling A-game to get the best price.

Galapagos budget travel guide

Backpacking Isla Daphne

The boat ride out to the island was beautiful; the water was calm and crystal blue. Birds soared through the salty blue sky squawking overhead as we skirted over the water. The island jetted out of the waterm full of life. We spotted a ton of birds: frigates, boobies, and some stunning tropic birds…

backpacking galapagos budget backpacking guide

While snorkelling we saw sea lions, a few eagle rays, sea turtles, and a white tipped shark. Although the cost of this excursion isn’t crazy cheap, it is well worth doing and is one of the better value trips whilst exploring Galapagos on a budget.

Spotting Tortoises

After the trip we ventured out on our own to the El Chato Tortoise Reserve to see some unique species of birds. We then cabbed to Rancho Primicias where the Galapagos tortoises grazed about throughout the free range property. We walked along the lush green trails weaving in and around ponds and trees and constantly spotting many giant tortoises. They were massive- much larger than the ones at the Darwin Center and El Chato.

Backpacking through the Lava Tunnel

The Lava Tunnels were very similar to many caves I had previously explored in the US but with one major difference; the tunnels are surrounded by hardened lava rock. We paid the taxi driver extra so we could see these tunnels and crawl through the narrow openings. The tunnels had a string of dim lights that helped us see our way.

Galapagos backpacking budget travel guide

The driver picked us up on the other side of the tunnels where a bucket of water awaited us to wash ourselves off after clambering through the admittedly mucky tunnel. We then went to see Los Gemelos – two huge sinkholes that look like gorges. We went on a short walk and guess what we saw…

Giant iguanas and flamboyant flamingos in the lagoons near the Darwin Station. Our first tryst with these super fascinating beings. What an incredible experience! It was at this point that we really felt that our budget Galapagos adventure was off to an amazing start… We were seeing the highlights of the islands, on the cheap, without the need for an expensive tour.

backpacking galapagos budget backpacking guide

It was almost sunset by now. We were absolutely exhausted but so overwhelmed and happy at what we had seen today. Not bad for the first day of a budget trip yeah?

Backpacking Isabela

The following day we returned to the same kiosk we had gotten the day trip deal from. The salesman gave us a map of Isabela, marked out locations for us and told us that we could see much of the island on our own. We went ahead and bought the ferry ticket, loaded our backpacks in and left on a 2 hour journey to Isabela. Our search for accommodation took way longer than we anticipated. We found a nice private room with a private bath for $50 – expensive I know! You can find hostels in the area for as cheap as $8.

Backpacking Los Tunneles

We embarked on a day trip to the beautiful Los Tunneles, early next morning. There were lava bridges over the sapphire blue waters and tunnels under the water. In the shallow snorkelling area, the snorkelling guide pointed out a sea horse for us all to come over and see! This was my first sea horse sighting and I was so happy to see one in the wild. We saw shoals of parrot fish darting in and around prettily through the lava formations.  I even spotted a squid, spotted eagle ray, sting rays, and a couple of sharks. This area is so fascinating to explore. The snorkelling experience was truly one of a kind because of the beautiful formations.

Backpacking Punta Tortuga

After returning to the island we had a few hours to kill before taking the long water taxi back to Santa Cruz so we explore the small mangrove cove close to the pier called, Punta Tortuga. We saw some colourful fish and a couple of rays but we weren’t very impressed so we ventured to the beach area on the other side of the docks. Best decision ever! We left our backpacks on the shore with the sunning sea lions standing guard, and dove right in. We swam off shore with the friendly sea lions and a ton of little penguins.

I was constantly tapping, poking, and grabbing my husband to show him the little torpedo of penguins diving through the mangroves chasing the shimmering fish. While swimming I felt what I thought was my husband grabbing my toes to point out some more sea life and turned around to look, I saw two wee little penguins nibbling at my toes! Such an endearing experience.

backpacking galapagos budget backpacking guide

Backpacking the Other Islands

Galapagos has many other islands to see that offer more wildlife viewing on the land as well as in the ocean surrounding them. Many of the Islands are only accessible by long cruises. Wolf Island is one of those due to its distance from Santa Cruz. Many islands also only allow scuba divers so make sure you do a bit of research before venturing out & bring your hammock with you if you want to camp!

Galapagos is famous for its splendid wildlife. Most adventurers come here to get their fill of spotting beautiful creatures that aren’t found anywhere else. The most famous animal of all would be the giant land tortoise. The islands where they can be spotted are Santa Cruz, Isabella, and San Cristobal. Another famous reptile is the Galapagos Land Iguana which can be found on Isabella, Santa Cruz, Fernandina, Baltra, and North Seymour. Another rare beauty is the Marine Iguana, which can be spotted on all the islands as they travel through the ocean all over Galapagos.

Galapagos budget travel guide

In the ocean waters you might happen across a Manta Ray or as the locals called them the Diablo Ray or Devil Ray. We spotted two doing somersaults as we cruised on the deep blue sea. Some mantas were doing flips while eating so we caught sight of their white bellies. These rays are found in deep channels and in the Canal Bolivar. Hammerhead sharks and white tip sharks can also be spotted all over Galapagos. The famous and ultra vibrant Sally Lightfoot Crab is also easy to spot. We saw many of these rock hopping along the shoreline.

Galapagos Budget travel guide

Galapagos is the most famous for the Darwin’s Finch, which can be spotted on Santa Cruz and Espanola. The Galapagos is also home to the Galapagos Flamingo which is one of the largest flamingos. They can be found in shallow lagoons in Isabella and Floreana. The Blue-footed booby  is a popular favourite and is found all over the Islands, you can’t miss their bright blue feet! My favourite of bird by far were the inquisitive wee little penguins that swam all around the islands and dove in and out of the mangroves. A land so rich in wildlife, you will end up spotting most of these animals while backpacking Galapagos on a budget.

Galapagos budget travel backpacking guide

The main cost of going to Galapagos is the air fare. First you have to get to Quito (flights from the states are around $500 for a roundtrip) and then you have to make your way to Baltra, a $200 return flight from Quito. Of course, if you’re already in South America, you can travel overland from Colombia or Peru and enter Ecuador that way. Once you’ve made it to Baltra, you must pay a park entrance fee of $100 per adult and $50 per child. The rest of the trip was pretty budget friendly.

The food in general was amazing and there was always plenty of yummy beer to go with it. Meals ranged from $3 a person to $15 a person. If you eat where the locals eat you can get a good wholesome dinner for just $5 a meal. If you plan to eat where the tourists do, you’ll end up spending around $10-$15. Our most expensive dinner was $15 for the two of us to share a pizza and drink cokes at a tourist restaurant. So, yeah a word of advice; eat local if you aim to backpack Galapagos on a budget.

You can find plenty of hostels with private rooms and shared rooms. They charge per person for rooms – starting from $8 for shared, going to about $15 a night for a private room.

Couchsurfing is another viable option in the Galapagos. CS is a great platform for backpackers who want to crash on a couch for free. I would advise you to do a thorough check on the host though. 

There are plenty of budget hostels in The Galapagos , but if you are still wondering  which is the best part of the Galapagos to stay in?  Well, let me give you a few suggestions.

Santa Cruz Galapagos

In terms of tourism, Santa Cruz is the most popular island in the entire archipelago! The main airport is actually on a separate island – Baltra – however, Santa Cruz is the closest inhabited island, and is only a short ferry ride away.

San Cristobal Galapagos

San Cristóbal

San Cristóbal is the most populous island in the Galapagos, and is home to the administrative capital – Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.

Isabela Island

Isabela Island

The largest island in the archipelago, Isabela is nevertheless quite small population-wise – making it a great pick if you want an easy going and relaxed beach holiday!

Floreana Galapagos

Floreana is easily the most unique of all the islands in terms of culture! By far the least populated, and smallest in size of the inhabited islands.

We did not have any service while we were in the Galapagos and we were fine with it. But if you absolutely must have reception, grab a local SIM card for about $5 and activate 3G on it. You can also use free WiFi that most hostels offer. Also, make sure you have a good Virtual Private Network for your cell; which basically prevents others from stealing your info while you’re using public Internet.

Volunteering abroad is an amazing way to experience a culture whilst giving something back. There are loads of different volunteer projects in Galapagos ranging from teaching, to animal care, to agriculture to pretty much everything!

Despite high levels of tourism, poverty is common throughout the Galapagos and there are plenty of opportunities for backpackers to volunteer. Most gigs you’ll find are helping with permaculture, and sustainability projects, helping the landscape recover from the damaging effects of mass tourism. It’s also possible to find opportunities in English teaching and housekeeping. If you plan to volunteer in Galapagos for more than three months, then you’ll need to apply for a volunteer visa.  


Our go-to platform for finding volunteering gigs is Worldpackers who connect travellers with host projects. Have a look at the Worldpackers site and see if they have any exciting opportunities in Galapagos before signing up.

Volunteer programs run through reputable work exchange programs like Worldpackers and platforms like Workaway are usually very well-managed and reputable. However, whenever you are volunteering do stay vigilant, especially when working with animals or children.

trip to the galapagos cost

Worldpackers: connecting travellers with  meaningful travel experiences.

Alternatively, Workaway is another excellent common platform used by travellers searching for volunteering opportunities. Workaway is pretty massive, with over 40,000 hosts registered (that’s 40,000 opportunities) and over 350,000 reviews on the site. With a database base that big, odds are you’ll be able to find something that strikes your fancy. You can read our review of Workaway for more info on using this terrific platform.

Volunteer programs run through reputable work exchange programs like Worldpackers and platforms like Workaway are usually very well-managed. However, whenever you are volunteering do stay vigilant, especially when working with animals or children.

Global Work and Travel

Last, but certainly not least, Global Work and Travel is another viable option for finding volunteer opportunities in Galapagos. What sets Global Work and Travel apart from other volunteering platforms is the amount of assistance they give, from a 24/7 global help-line, help with VISA processing to airport transfers and continued support once you are in Galapagos. It may be a smaller platform, but the projects you’ll find are high quality and immaculately organised. There are new programs and opportunities listed constantly as Global Work and Travel continues to grow its reach.

For those interested in volunteer work in Galapagos, Global Work and Travel offer a fantastic project one where you’ll get to choose between community conservation or assistant teaching . There are options to stay anywhere from 2 to 10 weeks with weekends off. As with all volunteer abroad programs, there’s a cost, but you’ll be able to pay it off in interest-free instalments. Don’t forget to bring your camera and make sure you are between the ages of 18-85 to qualify!

Global Work and Travel Promo Code

If you’re en route to Galapagos and you want to check out what’s available in terms of a last-minute Galapagos cruise, you should check out  Galapatours. This is an online portal of all the cruise operators in Galapagos, and it’s updated daily. This means you can check out any last minute offers before you arrive and grab a place on a boat with a great island itinerary that will get you to the islands and wildlife you most want to see.

Feeling crushed by the extravagant pricing of cruises – from $6500 all the way to $14,000 for a ten day cruise, I was pleasantly surprised by how inexpensive they could be if you just rocked up and looked around a bit.

A great tip for those wanting to backpack Galapagos on a budget – go for a last minute trip. Once you get to the island you can find specials and deals being offered everywhere for last minute trips.

Day trips range from $40-$95 depending on where you want to go. Tour costs very much depend on what you want to do and see. For a week of adventuring, I would estimate spending between $400-$800 dollars on cruises to see all of the islands.

That’s a total steal compared to the prices quoted online… If you want to see the Galapagos on a budget; just go and figure it out once you have arrived.

All of that said, sometimes it makes sense to book a tour in advance, especially if you are picky and limited on time, looking for an eco-tour, etc. You’ll find our guide to the best Galapagos tours hire .

On every adventure, there are six things I never go traveling without:

Pacsafe belt

Travel Security Belt

This is a regular looking belt with a concealed pocket on the inside – you can hide up to twenty notes inside and wear it through airport scanners without it setting them off.

sea to summit towel

Microfiber Towel

Hostel towels are scummy and take forever to dry. Microfibre towels dry quickly, are compact, lightweight, and can be used as a blanket or yoga mat if need be.

Gifts for backpackers

Petzl Actik Core Headlamp

A decent head torch could save your life. If you want to explore caves, unlit temples, or simply find your way to the bathroom during a blackout, a headtorch is a must.


‘Monopoly Deal’

Forget about Poker! Monopoly Deal is the single best travel card game that we have ever played. Works with 2-5 players and guarantees happy days.

Mesh Laundry Bag Nomatic

Hanging Laundry Bag

Trust us, this is an absolute game changer. Super compact, a hanging mesh laundry bag stops your dirty clothes from stinking, you don’t know how much you need one of these… so just get it, thank us later.

For plenty more inspiration on what to pack, check out my full  backpacking packing list.

To keep your spending to an absolute minimum whilst traveling in South America in general I recommend sticking to these basic rules of budget adventuring….

  • Camp: With plenty of gorgeous natural places to camp, the Galapagos is an excellent place to take a tent, though camping is highly restricted. There are still a few opportunities, however. Check out this post for a breakdown of the best tents to take backpacking.
  • Cook your own food: I took a small gas cooker with me to the Galapagos and cooked a few of my own meals as I could and saved some cash – check out this post for info on the best backpacking stoves.
  • Haggle: Haggle as much as you can. You can always get a better price for things especially while in local markets, though you might find that the locals won’t budge much on certain things.
  • Pack a travel water bottle : save money (and the planet) every day! Stop buying bottled water! I may be repeating myself, but having your own water bottle is that important!

Why You Should Travel to Galapagos Islands with a Water Bottle

Plastic washes up on even the most pristine beaches… so do your part and keep the Big Blue beautiful

You aren’t going to save the world overnight, but you might as well be part of the solution and not the problem. When you travel to some of the world’s most remote places, you come to realise the full extent of the plastic problem. And I hope you become more inspired to continue being a responsible traveller .

Plus, now you won’t be buying overpriced bottles of water from the supermarkets either! Travel with a filtered water bottle instead and never waste a cent nor a turtle’s life again.

grayl geopress filter bottle

Drink water from ANYWHERE. The Grayl Geopress is the worlds leading filtered water bottle protecting you from all manner of waterborne nasties.

Single-use plastic bottles are a MASSIVE threat to marine life. Be a part of the solution and travel with a filter water bottle. Save money and the environment!

We’ve tested the Geopress  rigorously  from the icy heights of Pakistan to the tropical jungles of Bali, and can confirm: it’s the best water bottle you’ll ever buy!

  • Lonely Planet Ecuador & the Galapagos Islands  –  This book is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Spot an iguana, swim with penguins, get out there and discover the heart of Galapagos islands.
  • Galapagos: Islands Born of Fire  –  This book offers an unforgettable photographic tour of the Galapagos. Explore with the author the incredible diversity of wildlife and habitats of the most fascinating and exotically beautiful places in the world.
  • Huasipungo: The Villagers: a Novel  – “The Villagers” is a story of the ruthless exploitation and extermination of an Indian village of Ecuador by its greedy landlord. An interesting read.
  • The Queen of Water  – Virginia’s story will speak to anyone who has ever struggled to find his or her place in the world. It will make you laugh and cry, and ultimately, it will fill you with hope.
  • Galapagos Regained  – The book centres on the fictional Chloe Bathurst, an unemployed Victorian actress who finds work on Charles Darwin’s estate, nurturing the strange birds, exotic lizards, and giant tortoises he brought back from his trip around the world. An interesting take on the theory of evolution.
  • Galápagos  – A story of the character Kilgore Trout who watches and broods over his no-longer-human descendants who have made natural selection a matter of debased survivalism.
  • Beyond the Islands  – A hilarious and troubling take that recreates the Galápagos Islands as the famous cradle of evolutionary theory and as an earthly paradise.

Galapagos Islands Offline Map Travel Guide

You will end up exploring the islands mostly on foot or by boat. Because of the lack of connectivity you will need something that will go off-grid with you. The Galapagos Islands Offline Map Travel Guide app is your best bet. It is detailed and will help you save all the info offline. Perfect if you’re backpacking Galapagos on a budget and want to save money on transport.

Galapagos budget backpacking guide

Are you a native English speaker looking to earn cash whilst traveling the world? Teaching English online is a great way to earn a consistent income—from anywhere in the world with a good internet connection. Depending on your qualifications (or your motivation to obtain qualifications like a TEFL certificate) you can teach English remotely from your laptop, save some cash for your next adventure, and make a positive impact on the world by improving another person’s language skills! It’s a win-win! Check out this detailed article for everything you need to know to  start teaching English online .

In addition to giving you the qualifications to teach English online,  TEFL courses  open up a huge range of opportunities and you can find teaching work all over the world. To find out more about TEFL courses and how you can teach English around the world, read my in-depth report on  teaching English abroad .

Broke Backpacker readers get a 50% discount on TEFL courses with  MyTEFL  (simply enter the code PACK50), to find out more, please read my in-depth report on teaching English abroad.

Whether you are keen to teach English online or looking to take your teaching game a step further by finding a job teaching English in a foreign country, getting your TEFL certificate is absolutely a step in the right direction.

The waters surrounding the Galapagos Islands make up some of the best scuba diving opportunities to be had in all of South America. The marine life is so abundant due to the heavy ecological protections placed upon the island by the Ecuadorian government years ago.

Joining a Liveaboard trip in the Galapagos is a great way to experience both the islands and the underwater marvels of the sea surrounding them.

Going to the Galapagos is an expensive affair generally. Plus it can be difficult to move around the islands.

Liveaboard trips go to remote dive sites and parts of the islands otherwise inaccessible to foreigners (and other divers). Eat, sleep, and go diving, all from the comforts of an awesome boat…

Sounds pretty awesome right?

For more information,  check out Liveaboard scuba diving trips in the Galapagos here.

Check out our  Ecuadorian safety guide  for tips and advice for visiting. Otherwise, you can read our  Backpacker Safety 101  for some more general information on staying saf while backpacking.

Pick yourself up a  backpacker security belt  to keep your cash safe on the road.

Check out this post for plenty of ideas on ingenious ways to  hide your money when travelling.

I strongly recommend travelling with a headlamp whilst in Galapagos (or anywhere really – every backpacker should have a good headtorch!) – check out my post for a breakdown of the  best value headlamps to take backpacking.

Travel Insurance for Galapagos

Traveling without insurance would be risky so do consider getting good backpacker insurance sorted before you head off on an adventure.

I have been using World Nomads for some time now and made a few claims over the years. They’re easy to use, professional and relatively affordable. They may also let you buy or extend a policy once you’ve started your trip and are already abroad which is super handy.

If there’s one insurance company I trust, it’s World Nomads.

ALWAYS sort out your backpacker insurance before your trip. There’s plenty to choose from in that department, but a good place to start is Safety Wing .

They offer month-to-month payments, no lock-in contracts, and require absolutely no itineraries: that’s the exact kind of insurance long-term travellers and digital nomads need.

trip to the galapagos cost

SafetyWing is cheap, easy, and admin-free: just sign up lickety-split so you can get back to it!

Click the button below to learn more about SafetyWing’s setup or read our insider review for the full tasty scoop.

Being a Responsible Backpacker in the Galapagos Islands

Reduce your plastic footprint:  Perhaps the best thing you can do for our planet is to make sure you do NOT add to the plastic problem all over the world. Don’t buy one-use water bottles, the plastic ends up in landfill or in the ocean. Instead, pack a  tough travel water bottle .

Go and watch A Plastic Ocean on Netflix – it’ll change how you view the plastic problem in the world; you need to understand what we are up against. If you think it doesn’t matter, get off my fucking site.

Don’t pick up single use plastic bags, you’re a backpacker – take your daypack if you need to go to the shop or run errands.

Bear in mind, that many animal products in countries you travel through will not be ethically farmed and won’t be of the highest quality. I’m a carnivore but when I’m on the road, I only eat chicken. Mass-farming of cows etc leads to the rainforest being cut down – which is obviously a huge problem.

Need more guidance? – Check out our post on  how to be a responsible backpacker.

Backpacking South America and the Galapagos Islands can be one hell of a party at times. Take it from me, it can be easy to get carried away. It is important to keep in mind that you are an ambassador for your country, which is awesome. We can make a positive impact on people when we travel and get rid of any ugly stereotypes that may be associated with your country.

If you visit indigenous villages or small communities always ask before taking photos. The people who live in these villages are not exhibits in a museum. They are normal folks just living their lives.  Always show them the complete respect that they deserve.

When buying a local craft, do not haggle so low that the price is unfair to the person who spent countless hours crafting it. Pay people what they are worth and contribute to the local economies as much as possible.

Avoid eating at fancy gringo-owned restaurants. I don’t care how badly you want that lasagne and red wine.  You make a choice with every dollar you spend. Try to spend your money in places where the experience is mutually rewarding.

I know it can be hard, but do your best to use the  least amount of plastic water bottles  that you can. Refill the ones that you do buy!  Use a Grayl Geopress . Refill at your hostel! There are plenty of ways to reduce plastic!!!

Backpacking South America or any region for that matter often illuminates some of the great socio-economic inequalities of the world. Never take it for granted that you are healthy and financially able to go traveling. Show the world around you some gratitude and help to make a positive impact on it. Most of all have the time of your life and spread the love!

Hope this budget travel guide has inspired you to stop freaking out about expensive tours and get out there and explore Galapagos on a budget!

trip to the galapagos cost

And for transparency’s sake, please know that some of the links in our content are affiliate links . That means that if you book your accommodation, buy your gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). That said, we only link to the gear we trust and never recommend services we don’t believe are up to scratch. Again, thank you!

About the Author:  Lisa Swenson

Lisa Swenson is a third grade teacher at a local Arts Integration and Dual Emersion School in Georgia. Lisa enjoys adventuring outdoors with her family; Nathan, Stephanie, and Rebekah. She enjoys traveling to new places and exploring outdoors by hiking, kayaking, biking, camping, and photoghoraphing.

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How much does it cost to Travel to the Galapagos Islands?

The question to that question may depend on the experiences, services, tours, and way to travel around the archipelago. But in this text, we expect to give travelers an overview of the costs of some of the services and tours.

Fees & Entrances


  • It is very important to mention that the costs of goods, foods, and services in the Galapagos Islands are approx. 2,5 times more than Ecuador mainland. Why? Because almost everything in the archipelago has to be imported from the mainland and the surcharge of transportation and fees has to be transferred to the consumer. Remember that the production of fresh food is limited, not only for the harsh conditions in the islands but also for National Park restrictions.
  • Travelers can travel to Galapagos only by airplane, and the flights as foreign travelers cost approximately $500 – $550 p/pers in economy class. Three airlines fly to Galapagos, and there are Avianca, Latam Airlines, and Tame airlines.
  • Foreigners have to pay the Galapagos National park fee in cash ($100 p/adult and $50 p/child) as well as the Transit Control Card at Guayaquil or Quito´s airport ($20 p/pers)

Cruising Prices

There are many cruise options in Galapagos. The price varies depending on the number of days onboard and the category of the boat starting from $2.529 p/pers for a four days cruise.

At Latin Trails, there are two options for people looking for comfort, exclusivity, and convenient itineraries.

Petrel Catamaran  is a boutique yacht that accommodates 16 guests aboard.

  • This award-winning yacht offers three itineraries from 5 to 6 days.
  • 6 days – 5 nights cruising the Eastern and Central Islands  (Itinerary A)
  • 5 days – 4 nights cruising the Central and Northern Island  (Itinerary B)
  • 6 days – 5 nights cruising the Western Islands  (Itinerary C)

Galapagos Seaman Journey  is a first-class catamaran for 16 passengers too.

This first-class catamaran has four main and convenient itineraries:

  • 4 days – 3 nights cruising the Eastern and Northern Islands  (Itinerary A)
  • 5 days – 4 nights cruising the Eastern and Central Islands  (Itinerary B)
  • 8 days – 7 nights cruising the Western and Central Islands  (Itinerary C)
  • 8 days – 7 nights from the combination of Itineraries A+B  (Itinerary C1)

There are also other cruise options for lower budgets that can be requested by Latin Trails´ travel assessors

If you have some doubts about  what is the best itinerary in Galapagos , you should read this post


How much does it cost to Travel to the Galapagos Islands? We tailor-made your package according to your needs


Land Tours – Galapagos Island Hopping

Many  Island Hopping  packages can be adapted to different budgets and needs. Thus, some of the services and the approx. costs to have into consideration are:

  • First-class hotels in Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz), San Cristobal, and Isabela may cost approx. $450-$650
  • Tourist Superior class hotels are available in all the Galapagos inhabited islands from $160 p/night in a twin room, including breakfast for two people.
  • Breakfast:  Most of the hotels include breakfast; but, in the case, the traveler wants to take a breakfast in town the approximate cost goes from $10 or more p/pers in a local restaurant.
  • Executive Local Menu:  Includes soup, main dish, and a small dessert for approx. $7-$10 p/pers without beverages.
  • Restaurants A La Carte:  Main course dishes starts from $15, and the price may increase depending on if it is added an entrance or a dessert.
  • Street Market Restaurants (Puerto Ayora):  it is a street near to the dock that it is set up every day at night offering a variety of local food. The main dish here may round $15-$20. If the option that traveler chooses is a lobster or a fresh fish the price may increase to $25-$30 depending on the size of the piece chosen.
  • Restaurant:  The price of a meal can be approx. $30 p/pers without including starters and
  • Hotel´s menus : Most of the hotels with a tourist superior or higher category has their restaurant and dining them it is enjoying not only the meal but also the environment and privacy. The dinner can be more or less $40-$50 p/pers without
  • Important note:  Restaurant services have a surcharge of 12% for VAT and 10% for service, yet it is expected to receive tips.
  • Bottled water: In Galapagos is mandatory to drink bottled water to avoid any stomach disturbance. A 1 lt bottle water cost $2.5.
  • Soft Drinks: In a restaurant the cost of a coke or a juice it is approx. $5, but if it is purchased in a local shop can cost between $2.5-$3 p/coke.
  • Alcoholic Beverages: A beer in a restaurant it cost approx. $6-$10, a cocktail round about $10-$15 as well as a glass of wine. In the case of a bottle of wine, depending on the type of wine, it may cost approx. $50-$60 p/bottle.


  • Taxis:  There is the most affordable service that travelers can pay within the islands with an average taxi ride cost of $3 in an SUV up to 4 people. For a taxi from/to Puerto Ayora to the highlands, the ride may cost $20-$25.
  • Note:  The navigation might be rough depending on the seasonality (rainy/dry) and if it is against the sea current. The average time of the ride is 2-3 hours one way. Santa Cruz is the hub for catching the boat to San Cristobal, Isabela or Floreana.
  • Inter-island flights:  There is only one airline that offers a domestic flight between islands with an average cost of $195 p/pers. The flights are on small aircraft (BN-2 Islander) with an average fly between 25-45 min and depends on the weather condition in the islands.

Daily Excursions

  • Boat Tours: The average cost per person for daily navigation excursions is $250. At this rate, it is included the snorkeling equipment, lunch, and guide. It is not included any tips or beverages
  • Land Tours: this type of tours offer a ground journey with a guide to visit some of the interesting sites within the island such as the highlands of the islands, tortoise´s farm, trekking to some of the beaches or volcanos. In this case, the prices may go from $220 p/pers, including lunch, guide, entrances, and transportation.

Do we answer the question of how much does it cost to travel to the Galapagos Islands? If you need further information or are you interested in getting a package price for a Galapagos Trip? Please, don´t hesitate to contact us at  [email protected] .

Check out this free guide about the reasons to choos a small yacht

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How Much Does A Galapagos Cruise Cost?

Budgeting for a trip to the galapagos islands.

Jon Jared

  • In this guide
  • Land or sea?
  • Wildlife highlights
  • Galapagos activities
  • Machu Picchu and the Galapagos
  • Costs & inclusions
  • Why so expensive?
  • Cheaper options

A five day cruise of the Galapagos Islands on a mid-range (Tourist Superior) ship might cost between $2,000 - $3,500 per person, if booked direct with the ship operator.

If you’re happy to sacrifice on amenities and space, you can secure a spot on a Tourist / Economy class ship for as little as $1,500 per person. Prices change frequently so make sure to ask about your options when enquiring.

At the other end of the spectrum, a 15-day cruise in the Grace Kelly Suite on the super exclusive M/Y Grace could set you back a cool $19,000 per person.


The Beluga, a Superior First Class motor yacht

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Note that prices vary according to the season, ship class and trip duration. Some ship operators allow you to book direct via their website, others are retailed via travel agencies. While booking direct is normally cheaper, a travel agent will organise your cruise along with your airfare, mainland accommodation, ground transfers and, most importantly, peace of mind. For many this is a worthwhile investment.

Typically the price includes your accommodation for the duration of the cruise, all meals and snacks, and all guided excursions. Higher classes of ships will include equipment like snorkelling, wetsuits and kayaks, whie economy classes may charge extra (or not have them at all!)

Land-based tours on the Galapagos are priced according to length of stay and the accommodation standard. A six-day island hopping trip visiting Santa Cruz, Isabela and San Cristobal Islands might cost between $4,000 and $5,000 per person

Why are Galapagos cruises so expensive?

There’s no denying that a Galapagos cruise can be a pricey vacation. When weighing up how much to spend it’s useful to know where some of the costs come from.

Firstly there’s the guides and staff. All cruises must be accompanied by at least one certified guide, this is as much for the protection of the ecosystem as for your own benefit. Your guide is a major component of the overall experience, you’re paying for highly educated, in-depth professional expertise—make sure you get full use of it and ask lots of questions!

Top-end cruise operators also pride themselves on the quality of onboard cuisine, with highly trained chefs and three excellent meals per day. Some cruises can be as much about the food as the wildlife.

Consider too that much of the food, along with the fuel, fresh water (which is very scarce on the islands), and all other supplies, has to be imported 600 miles from the mainland.

Can you visit the Galapagos without a tour?

Covid restrictions notwithstanding, it is ordinarily possible to visit the Galapagos without a tour.

There are hostels and budget hotels on Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, and Isabela. (In ordinary times you could get a walk-up room without pre-booking, note this is not currently possible due to Covid-19 restrictions.)

There are also reasonably priced, mid-range hotels and guest houses on the inhabited islands which can be booked in advance via the main hotel booking sites.

Public speed boat ferries cost around $30 each way and travel between Santa Cruz and San Cristobal, and Santa Cruz and Isabela. There is no public ferry to Floreana. Speed boats leave in the morning from each island and return in the early evening. Schedules change, your accommodation should have the current schedules.

There are a number of activities you can do independently on the inhabited islands. You can rent snorkelling equipment, bikes and kayaks in the towns of Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, and Isabela. Surfboards and SUP equipment are also available from tour operators on San Cristobal and Isabela Islands. There are short hikes or bike routes along the coast and inland on all three islands.

Note however that you’ll need to be accompanied by a certified guide to visit the uninhabited islands and see the best of the islands’ wildlife.

You can eat relatively cheaply by finding the places that the locals eat. Binford St on Santa Cruz is lined with food kiosks selling local seafood. Playa Mann beach on San Cristobal is close to town and home to a daily food court that offers local fare for less than the tourist restaurants. The main square in the town of Puerto Villamil on Isabela Island has several restaurants that serve set menus.

If your hostel has a kitchen, you can find fruits and vegetables and basic ingredients in markets on the inhabited islands. Seafood is available where the fishing ships come in, and there are a few grocery stores offering basic staples.

Are cheap Galapagos cruises a good idea?

Cheap Galapagos cruises are advertised by many agencies on the mainland. This is a buyer beware situation. While everyone wants to stretch their travel money as far as possible, booking a cheap boat without doing your homework could prove a costly mistake. When costs are low it means corners have been cut somewhere, most often with the quality of the guides, the condition of the boat and the operator’s environmental credentials.

Galapagos Cruise vs Land Tours

About the author.

How Much Does A Galapagos Cruise Cost?

Jon is a travel writer and guidebook researcher based in Quito, Ecuador. He has authored the Moon guides to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands and contributes to Delta Sky Magazine and the Happy Gringo Travel website.

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How Much Does a Galapagos Cruise Cost? 5 Factors With the Biggest Impact

A guide to explain cost factors that matter most in the Galapagos

Safari-Style Luxury Adventures in South America - Quasar Expeditions

Updated: March 09, 2024 Published: December 04, 2023


The Galapagos Islands have earned a reputation for being highly priced — but that’s not the whole story. The reality is that Galapagos cruises vary in cost based on several factors, like the timing of your trip or the cruise category you choose. Fortunately, there are times of the year for scheduling a Galapagos cruise where you may be able to enjoy some savings!

No matter what time of year you intend to visit these fabled isles, planning ahead and understanding the differences between the various available Galapagos options will help you decode your budget—and determine which cruise options are best for you. From choosing the length of your voyage, to saving money by choosing to travel during certain times of the year, this guide will explain which cost factors matter most.

So, let’s weigh anchor and build a budget to cruise Earth’s most diverse island chain!

The 5 Factors With The Heaviest Weight on a Galapagos Cruise Cost

There are 5 major factors that have an influence on the cost of a Galapagos cruise. These are the time of year when you want to travel, the cruise category you choose, the duration of the cruise, flights to Ecuador and Galapagos and finally Pre/Post cruise lodging and tours in mainland Ecuador.

Let's dive into each one so you can learn how to make the most of your Galapagos cruise in each category.

FACTOR #1: The Time of Year When You Visit Galapagos

Unlike many of the top vacation destinations in the world, there is no such thing as a “BETTER or WORST” time to travel to the Galapagos Islands as it relates to the experience, the weather and the wildlife. Because the islands are positioned on the equator, there are only two seasons in this part of the world. The result? Travelers can enjoy lovely air and water temperatures year-round and every month is filled with wonder, delight, and incredible wildlife encounters.

There is, however, one category of travelers we want to call out that may benefit from offers or add-ons by traveling at a specific time of year. Those with more timing flexibility, excitement about exclusive offers like free airfare, and a preference toward cruises with fewer children aboard find September and October to be the most well-rounded months to visit Galapagos. If that style of travel sounds like yours, these two months are an incredible time to experience the best of Galapagos for 5 reasons:

snorkeling with sea lions

1. Unparalleled snorkeling. Imagine riding the Humboldt Current with newfound friends: green sea turtles, sweet young sea lions, Galapagos Penguins, and Flightless Cormorants. This current bathes the archipelago with rich nutrients and is most abundant during September and October. This is the time of year with the absolute best snorkeling in the Galapagos.

2. Exclusive offers. Travelers with flexibility are rewarded with exclusive September and October savings. This is generally the only time Quasar offers discounts or complimentary perks that include: Complimentary domestic airfare to Galapagos from the cities of Quito or Guayaquil (savings of $500+ per person).

3. Amazing weather. The Garua season is the best time to visit Galapagos if you want to avoid the stronger equatorial sun—and at this time of year, temperatures hit the vacation sweet spot (highs of 80°F/26°C and lows of 69°F/20°C).

4. Abundant wildlife. Especially since the “great pause” in tourism over the last couple of years, elusive Galapagos animals are re-emerging and the otherworldly landscapes are more vibrant than ever. You’ll also get to witness the Waved Albatross, one of the few migratory birds that isn’t present all year in Galapagos. September and October are two of the best months to see them and their spectacular courtship dance.

5. Fewer travelers in the National Park. These months fall right after the “popular” summer months and during back to school season for the North American market, which represents the largest market for Galapagos. During this time, you will see fewer visitors around the National Park and fewer (or no) children on board, but still enjoy amazing weather and spectacular wildlife encounters. No matter which month you travel—remember, there is no WORST time to go!—we can’t wait to show you why Quasar has been voted #1 Intimate Cruise Line and help you book your adventure now. Read more here - Best Time to Visit the Galapagos Islands

FACTOR #2: The Cruise Category You Choose

Regardless of the cruise category you are looking for, Galapagos is considered an expensive cruising destination because of the remoteness of the archipelago and the high demand that exists for travel to the Islands.

In Galapagos you have 4 cruise categories to choose from: Budget Cruises, Tourist Superior Cruises, First Class Cruises and Luxury Cruises. The main differences between these categories lie in the type of vessel, the amenities and luxury of the accommodations, the quality of the naturalist guides and the food.

Galapagos Evolution Yacht

Budget Cruises: In terms of accommodations, these cruises are the equivalent of 1 and 2 star hotels, and can cost anywhere between $250 - $430 dollars per person, per day. This normally includes accommodations, meals, excursions and all non-alcoholic beverages. A week-long budget cruise can cost anywhere between $1800 to about $3,000 per person.

Tourist Superior (or Mid-Range) Cruises: Cruises in this category are the equivalent of a 3 star hotel and start at around $450 per person, per day and go up to about $600. A week-long tourist superior cruise can cost between $3,100 and $4,200 per person.

First Class Cruises: First class cruises are the equivalent of a 4 star hotel and they cost between $610 to about $780 per person, per day. A week-long tourist superior cruise can cost between $4,300 and $5,500 per person.

Luxury Cruises: These cruises are the equivalent of a 5 star hotel in terms of accommodations and service. Luxury cruises in Galapagos start at around $800 per person for the day, and go up all the way to around $1,700 per person for the day, depending on the suite category you choose. A week-long luxury cruise can cost anywhere between $6,000 to around $12,000 dollars per person, with some ships offering suites that can go even higher. In general, luxury cruises offer all-inclusive pricing, that includes all activities, excursions, meals, alcoholic beverages, park fees, transit cards, onboard wifi and more. Quasar’s cruises fall in the Galapagos luxury cruise category and they include all the extras mentioned above.

Entering the Galapagos National Park: Once in Galapagos, regardless of the cruise category you have booked, non-Ecuadorians must pay a Park fee of $200 for adults and $100 for children under 12. There are discounts available for Ecuadorians and for some Andean countries that are members of Pacto Andino.

FACTOR #3: The Duration of Your Cruise

One of the greatest mistakes people make when planning their Galapagos trip is not budgeting enough time to savor the region’s immense, breathtaking landscape, diverse wildlife population, and bountiful outdoor adventures. For most of us, it's both a long way to go and a sizable investment to get to the Galapagos, so it’s important to make the experience worth it by spending the right amount of time on the islands.

The duration of a Galapagos cruise is the second most important factor when considering your budget for a Galapagos adventure. How long you spend in Galapagos depends on how much time and money you have and how eager you are to see the Islands.

dolphins jumping out of water in the Galapagos

Lower-end ships often offer less expensive cruises with itineraries that are not as adventurous, staying close to populated islands to save on fuel costs. However, if you want to see certain animals like the famed flightless cormorant, the Galapagos penguin, or the waved albatross you will need to venture to the far-off islands on itineraries that are longer, and normally only offered by the higher-end ships.

Below is a breakdown of the cruise durations available in Galapagos:

15-Day Cruises If the Galapagos has always been on your dream list, and your budget allows, go for the full 15-day trip. This is the longest cruise itinerary available in Galapagos and it lets you see everything the islands have to offer! Few cruise companies offer these longer itineraries, but Quasar is one of them. We offer two incredible 15-Day cruise itineraries aboard our yachts Evolution and Grace.

8-Day Cruises We realize that most folks may not have 15 days to spend in Galapagos or the budget for a 15-day trip, so the next best alternative is to choose a week-long cruise, which is great for seeing a lot of the islands and their amazing animals and varied landscapes. If you want to see the best of Galapagos and you can afford an 8 day cruise, then this is the duration of the itinerary you must to book. For most First Class and Luxury Cruise companies in Galapagos, this is the standard duration of their itineraries. Since Quasar’s inception in 1986, we’ve never offered cruises shorter than 8 Days.

4 and 5-Day Cruises If you're short on time or money, you might think about a 4 or 5-day cruise. Budget and Tourist Superior class cruises generally tend to cruise for 4 and 5 Days and they normally stick to the central islands to save on fuel costs.

But keep in mind, a "5-day" trip is really only 3 days of exploring and a “4-day” trip is only 2 days! The first and last days are mostly about getting to/from Galapagos and on / off the boat. Considering the time and cost to get to Galapagos, such a short trip may not be a good investment. Right about the time you are starting to relax and realize just how many amazing experiences await throughout the archipelago, you have to catch your flight to go back home. We strongly encourage everyone to consider a week-long, even if the cost is a little higher

Remember that the Galapagos isn’t about the port towns or airports–it’s all about rare flora and fauna throughout the national park. Our 3 decades operating in the Galapagos have taught us that an 8 day/7 night cruise is just right to maximize amazing animal encounters, experience the islands from both land and sea, and balance your trip with optimal relaxation.

FACTOR #4: Flights to Ecuador and the Galapagos

There are no direct international flights to the Galapagos Islands. Anyone visiting the archipelago must first fly into the cities of Quito or Guayaquil in mainland Ecuador, and then connect to the Galapagos. Many major airlines offer international flights to Quito and Guayaquil from various parts of the world.

Flying to Ecuador from the United States From the United States, you have airlines with direct flights to Ecuador like American Airlines and Latam (flying from Miami), Jet Blue (flying from Ft Lauderdale) and United (flying from Houston).

Flying to Ecuador from Central America From Central America you have airlines like Copa (flying from Panama) and Aeromexico (flying from Mexico City) with direct flights to both Quito and Guayaquil.

Overhead view flying into the Galapagos

Flying to Ecuador from Europe If flying to Ecuador from Europe, you have airlines with direct flights to Ecuador like KLM (from Amsterdam) and Iberia (from Madrid).

Flying to Ecuador from Asia or Oceania Unfortunately there are no direct flights to Ecuador from Asia or Oceania, however one of the best options seems to be to fly to Santiago, Chile either from Auckland with Latam or from Sydney with Qantas. From Santiago then you can take a direct flight to Guayaquil, Ecuador.

Please check with each airline for the best possible flights to Quito or Guayaquil in Ecuador, but you can expect to pay anywhere from $400 to up to $1,000 if flying to Ecuador from the US, between $900 and $1500 if flying from Europe, and between $1,500 and $2,000 if flying from Asia or Oceania.

Domestic Flights to Galapagos form Mainland Ecuador In addition to the international flights you also have to book domestic flights to the Galapagos from either Quito or Guayaquil. Depending on where you are flying from (Guayaquil or Quito), or how far in advance you purchase your flights, flight prices range from $300 to about $580 for adults and $200 - $400 for children. Please note flight prices are constantly changing so it is best to always check with airlines like Latam, EQ Air and Avianca that currently have daily flights out to the islands. Children under 12 normally get an important discount on domestic air. You also need to pay a mandatory transit card (used to track visitors and make sure they don’t stay more than 3 months in the islands) and it costs $20 per person. Learn more - How to get to the Galapagos Islands

FACTOR #5: Pre and Post Cruise Lodging and Tours in Ecuador

For anyone interested in cruising the Galapagos, it is strongly recommended to add a minimum of 2 nights in Mainland Ecuador on the front end of your trip to accommodate for flight delays, cancellations or baggage issues. How much you spend in your travels on the mainland will depend on the type of hotel you stay at and if you choose to do any Ecuador tours . But it’s always best to consider at least a couple of days in Mainland Ecuador as part of your overall Galapagos trip budget. Trying to connect directly from you international flight to your Galapagos flight is not recommended in case you experience any flight delays, cancellations or lost luggage.

Ecuador tours after a Galapagos cruise

Extra Costs

Finally, you should always consider some budget in your trip for extras like bar consumption, laundry, items of personal nature and tips to guides and crew. Drink prices are high in Galapagos, mainly due to the import tariffs on alcohol in Ecuador and the cost of getting the alcohol to the islands. With tips, you can expect to pay about $10 per person, per day for crew and for guides on budget ships and about $20 - $30 per person, per day on the luxury ships. You can also learn more on Galapagos travel in our Galapagos FAQs page.

Drinks onboard a Galapagos Luxury Cruise

Two weeks will give you plenty of time to have a grand tour of the islands, including snorkeling, whale watching, exploring, and plenty of nights kicking back in the hot tub under the stars.

As a traveler to Galapagos, you must make several choices that will ultimately impact the cost of your Galapagos cruise. Because the Galapagos Islands are a bucket list destination, it’s also important to lock in your desired travel dates as soon as possible. The Galapagos has a massive demand and the most sought-after cruise companies tend to have limited space.

If Galapagos is on your must-see list, we encourage you to act now — especially if you wish to travel during the holiday season or a Galapagos Fall Cruise during the months of September and October when Quasar includes all the complimentary perks.

Activities like snorkeling and kayaking allow you to explore these exotic isles however you choose. All-inclusive extras like an open bar, five-star cuisine, and seamless ship-to-shore access ensure your cruise will be filled with memories.

Galapagos kicker rock

Book a call with Quasar Expeditions if you have any questions or if you'd like to learn more about the incredible experiences that await in Galapagos!

Hello! My name is Paul. I am a photographer, traveler, teacher and writer. I have extensive experience in travel to Galapagos, Peru, Patagonia and the western seaboard of South America specializing in ways travelers can experience these once-in-a-life destinations like locals on the road. Lover of wine, chocolate, travel, coffee, and helping others plan vacations of a lifetime!

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Planning a trip to the enchanted Galapagos Islands from Ecuador? Whether you’re starting your travels from the city of Guayaquil, Quito, or now also Manta, understanding the flight options and durations is crucial for a smooth travel experience. In this post, we’ll explore the flight times, distances, and airline choices available to make your journey …

Continue reading “Travel Time: How Long from Ecuador to Galapagos?”

Ever dreamed of embarking on a voyage to an exotic land where sea lions laze around beautiful white-sand beaches and blue-footed boobies dance in the background? A destination that transports you to the past, to the time animals ruled the world, providing a glimpse of life as it developed through millions of years. Head to …

Continue reading “Are Galapagos Cruises Worth It? A Comprehensive Analysis”

CRUISES VS. HOTELS IN GALAPAGOS When considering a trip to the Galapagos Islands you’ll be faced with deciding between staying on a live-aboard vessel and cruising through the archipelago, versus a land-based hotel stay. But which will give you better access to the things you want to see and do, and what about concerns like …

Continue reading “What’s The Best Way to See the Galapagos Islands? Cruise vs Hotel”

A Galapagos cruise provides an exotic escape from the mundane across the world’s most diverse island chain while catering to your every whim. However, the logistics of boarding your vessel can seem confusing because a cruise through the Galapagos Islands has several differences from many popular cruising destinations around the world. While the voyage through …

Continue reading “Where Do Galapagos Cruises Leave From? Your Departure Guide”

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Galapagos Adventures

has 31 years of experience organizing travel to the Galapagos Islands.  We have successfully navigated through difficult times on multiple occasions including the most recent events involving the global pandemic.   We KNOW Galapagos so we can answer all of your questions.   There is a LOT of information on this site – everything from the travel logistics to detailed specifications for numerous yachts and ships.  Use the drop down menus below to narrow your search to specific topics.  Any information you can not find on this site is an email or phone call away.   Click here to send us an email   to get started in finding the tour that is right for you.

2020/ 2023 Prices (please see incidental expenses for additional costs)

One of the most common questions we get is “how much does a Galapagos tour cost?”. 

While this may sound like a very easy question to answer, tours come in a wide range of trip lengths and qualities.   Therefore we can not give you a specific price for a tour unless we know exactly what tour you are interested in booking.

HOWEVER we can give you very good idea of what you can expect to pay for a Galapagos tour .

There are a number of incidental expenses associated with ALL Galapagos tours.  These expenses are the same regardless of which tour you book and include such things as the airfare to Galapagos from mainland Ecuador, the park fee, and a few nights in mainland Ecuador that are required due to international flight schedules (see “ trip logisitics ”).   NOT including the cost of the international flights to Ecuador, these expenses  cost approximately $1000 per person (click on the link above to get an itemized list of these expenses). Most yachts and ships charge between $500 to $1000 per person per night including your accommodations, meals, and tours.  

Therefore you can figure a 10 day/ 9 night tour including 8 days/7 nights in Galapagos and 2 days/2 nights on the mainland will cost between $4500 (7 nights x 500 plus *$1000) to $8000 (7 nights x 1000 plus *$1000) NOT including the cost of your international flight to Ecuador.  

Variables in the cost of a tour

There a wide range of trip lengths.  The shortest tours are 3 nights, the longest tours are 14 nights and there are a lot of various tour lengths in between (3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 14).  The longer the tour, the more you can expect to pay.

There a wide range of qualities and like everything else in life, the higher the quality, the higher the price.

Some but not all vessels even have high seasons and low seasons.

Money saving things to consider:

Many yachts and ships offer last minute discounts if you book a tour that is  60 days or less until the departure date .  However sometimes the increased cost for the international airline tickets will nullify some or all of the savings.

Pre-packaged tours which are advertised by other operators are more expensive than custom packages that Galapagos Adventures builds for you.  (see Comparing prices ).  Some of these pre-package tours will include some or all of the incidental expenses.  These costs are simply built into the price.  Whenever comparing tours and tour prices ALWAYS count the number of NIGHTS (not days) in Galapagos.  Some of the economy tours you see advertised are cheap because they will pad a 3 night Galapagos trip on a low end vessel with 4 nights on the mainland.  The services on the mainland are much less expensive than Galapagos and this allows them to advertise a 7 night Galapagos trip (which is really a 3 night Galapagos trip) at a very low price.  Buyer beware.

If you are interesting in getting exact prices, please send us your travel dates, number of people in your party, and approximate number of days you would like to be in Galapagos. We will then provide you with as many options/offers as we can locate so you can select the cruise that is right for you.

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Top Cities to Visit in Galápagos

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How much is the cheapest flight to Galápagos?

Prices were available within the past 7 days and start at $141 for one-way flights and $281 for round trip, for the period specified. Prices and availability are subject to change. Additional terms apply.

About Flying to Galápagos

Pack your bags, book your Galápagos flights, and get ready for an adventure. Whether you're wanting an action-packed escapade or a soulful sojourn in solitude, you'll find tons of ways to tweak your trip to your preferences. Immerse yourself in the culture, from tasting the local cuisine to experiencing the nightlife in Galápagos. During your trip, visit the must-see landmarks and revel in the views of the most scenic areas. It's no wonder why adventure seekers, amature historians, and inveterate travelers alike are attracted to this enticing destination.

Here at Expedia, we're committed to making it easy for you to find cheap trips to Galápagos that won't leave you broke. We know you want to put more of your hard-earned cash toward enjoying this area and less of it on the cost of getting there.. That's why we offer you an incredible selection of cheap plane tickets, including one-way and return reservations, to ensure your Galápagos travel arrangements remain within budget. Take advantage of our lowest rates on airfare and have leftover money to spare on your travel.

If It's time for you to find flight to Galápagos that match your price range and travel plans, look no further than our expansive selection. We offer a variety of airlines, airports, and flight times making it easier for you to book your airfare. Whether you're in search of a redeye ticket or a flight to a particular airport terminal, you'll find precisely what you need. We also provide an intuitive mobile booking app that lets you reserve a trip whenever and wherever makes the most sense for you. Book your flight to Galápagos today and prepare for an experience you'll never forget.

Here at Expedia, we’re committed to helping you find cheap flights to Galápagos that won’t break the bank. We know you want to put more of your hard-earned cash toward exploring the sites and less on the price of your airfare. That’s why we provide you with a vast selection of affordable plane tickets, including roundtrip and one-way reservations, to ensure your Ecuador travel plans remain within your budget. Take advantage of our lowest rates on airfare and have leftover money to spare on your travel adventures.

When it comes to finding flights to Galápagos that match your price range and itinerary, look no further than our options right here. We offer a variety of airlines, airports, and flight times making it easier for you to book your airfare. Whether you’re looking for a redeye ticket or a flight to a specific terminal, you’ll find exactly what you need. We also provide a hassle-free mobile booking app, which lets you reserve wherever and whenever is most convenient for you. Book your airfare to Galápagos today and get ready to embark on an unforgettable getaway tomorrow.

Galápagos Flights Information

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My Trip To Ecuador

Is it Expensive to Visit Galapagos Islands?

trip to the galapagos cost

One of the most asked questions of people planning to go to the Galapagos is, “How much does it cost to travel there?”

You may have heard that traveling to the Galapagos is too expensive, but that’s just a myth!

I know that when you search on Google , you may come across some Galapagos cruise websites with crazy pricing, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up on your dream vacation. It is a fact that it can be expensive to visit the Galapagos Islands . But, how you plan your trip to the Galapagos Islands can significantly impact the expense.

As someone who’s been there and experienced the magic of the Galapagos, I want to debunk this myth and help you find affordable options to make your trip happen. So, don’t let the prices scare you away! And if my advice helps you plan your dream trip to the Galapagos, consider showing your appreciation by buying me a coffee 🙂

For example, my wife and I went on a land-based trip to the Galapagos and spent under $5000 altogether. We opted for medium-end hotels (but you can find even cheaper accomodation on Hostel World or VRBO ), ate out every day, and went on six different tours. However, if you’re on a tight budget, you can definitely do it for under $2000 (plus the cost of your airfare to get to the Galapagos). Plus, while we were on the island, we were offered some insane last-minute deals on cruises – we’re talking about discounts of up to 70% off! So don’t let the initial prices scare you off, there are plenty of ways to make the Galapagos affordable and accessible to everyone.

Fortunately, you can manage many variables to help decide whether to take a budget or a luxurious journey to the Galapagos Islands. I shared our full trip details in the video:

What Are the Major Costs of Traveling to the Galapagos Islands (Besides Airline Tickets)?

Buying tours would be your major expense for your Galapagos Islands trip if you opt for an island-hopping journey. You can save about 30% if you purchase tours through local agencies upon arrival on the islands. However, there are some tours I highly recommend buying in advance online so you don’t face disappointment like I did. I strongly suggest getting tours for Bartolome Island ($350), North Seymour Island ($340), and Tour 360 ($250) in advance before your trip because I consider them must-visit sites on the Galapagos Islands . There’s a chance you won’t be able to get them on the islands due to the limited number of visitors allowed, and you probably won’t have enough time to wait once you’ve arrived in Galapagos. Tours were our major expense, and we spent $2,100 in total for two people .

2. Food and Dining Costs on the Galapagos Islands

trip to the galapagos cost

Our second major expense was dining out, as it’s more costly in the Galapagos compared to mainland Ecuador. We spent a lot on the very first day (paying $60 for a simple burger and fried chicken dish), but we quickly found cheaper and far more delicious options.

If you decide to dine at a restaurant along the beachfront with a nice view, be prepared for prices to double instantly. However, venturing away from the beachfront will lead you to many local cafes, most serving freshly caught fish grilled to perfection.

Trying grilled Brujo fish, galapagos

For example, we enjoyed a whole Brujo fish, fried with two different sauces, for just $25, and it was absolutely delicious.

Additionally, you can purchase freshly caught fish at the Puerto Ayora fish market (we paid $10) and ask local chefs to cook it for another $10. Then, enjoy your dinner on the beach at sunset!

Keep in mind that full-day tours often include lunch (which is always delightful, such as the fresh-caught fish ceviche we tried), and for breakfast, we chose a hotel that offered this meal so we could quickly eat and then continue exploring the Galapagos Islands.

Our total food expenses were $450 over 10 days.

3. Entry Expenses, Guides, Permits

Visiting the Galapagos Islands involves several specific fees and expenses aside from the usual travel costs like flights and accommodations. These entry expenses are in place to help manage tourism and contribute to the conservation of the islands. Here are the main fees as of my last update in April 2023:

  • Galapagos National Park Entry Fee : This fee is required for all visitors and goes directly towards the conservation of the islands. The cost varies depending on the visitor’s age, nationality, and residency status. For most foreign tourists, the fee is $100 for adults and $50 for children under 12. Residents of Ecuador and tourists from some South American countries may be eligible for reduced rates.
  • Transit Control Card (TCT) : Before traveling to the Galapagos, all visitors must obtain a Transit Control Card from the Consejo de Gobierno del Régimen Especial de Galápagos. This card is intended to prevent illegal migration and monitor the movement of visitors. The cost is $20.
  • Isabela Island Fee : If you plan to visit Isabela Island , you’ll be required to pay an additional fee upon arrival. This fee is around $10, and it contributes to local conservation efforts on the island.
  • Guides Fee : Many places and hiking trails in the Galapagos Islands cannot be explored without a guide, as getting one is mandatory . The fee for a guide is usually around $10 per person. This ensures that visitors have informed and safe experiences while also protecting the islands’ delicate ecosystems.

4. Accommodation

Surprisingly, the cost of accommodation in the Galapagos Islands was not as high as we expected. You can find many budget-friendly options on Booking.com or Hostelworld . We also decided to spend our last night at the famous Finch Bay , which I highly recommend; it was one of the best stays ever. In total, we spent $850 for 10 nights, but it could have been much cheaper if you are okay with staying in hostels (some are as cheap as $20 per night).

Tips to Save Money on the Galapagos Islands

  • Avoid purchasing tours online, as the prices I found often carried a 20-40% extra markup. Instead, buy them directly on the islands for a better deal. However, an exception is the iconic Bartolome Island tour, North Seymour Island and Tour 360 . Due to their high demand and strict visitor restrictions, it’s advisable to book this one online in advance. I missed out on Bartolome Island experience when I visited because the tour was fully booked 3.5 weeks ahead. Many tourists we’ve met booked it via Viator . The rest of the tours were easily accessible besides North Seymour Island and Tour 360 we got luck to get on board due to last minute cancellation.
  • Search for the most affordable lodging options on platforms like Hostel World , but also compare prices and availability on Booking.com . A little time spent on research can lead to significant savings.
  • Get your own snorkeling kit and underwater camera. While you can skip on snorkeling kit, I highly recommend bringing your own GoPro or a cheaper camera . Capturing your marine memories in the Galapagos can be priceless. From playing with sea lions to swimming near Galapagos sharks , these memories are worth every penny, especially considering the local camera rent costs $50 per day. I would still recommend bringing your own snorkeling kit , as there are some extraordinary places to snorkel that you can explore without the need for renting equipment. Having your own kit provides the freedom to discover these hidden gems at your leisure.

Raw Brujo fish at Puerto Ayora's food market

  • If you’re traveling on a tight budget and prefer not to spend extra on tours, the Galapagos Islands still offer a wealth of magnificent places to visit either for free or at a minimal cost. Destinations like Tortuga Bay, Las Grietas, Wall of Tears, Concha Perla, Puerto Chino Beach, and Playa Tijeretas (see the image below) are just a few examples where you can enjoy the natural splendor for as little as $10 per person or even free of charge.

Cerro Tijeretas trail path to Punta Carola

The Reason Behind the Cost of a Galapagos Trip

El Chato Tortoise Reserve on Santa Cruz Island

Galapagos is not a cheap place to visit (but so worth it). Due to their location, the challenges of sustainable tourism there, and the need to support local development, the Galapagos Islands are more expensive than the mainland of Ecuador . While budget travel is feasible, the trip can still cost you a lot. 

The substantial logistical expenditures for transporting food to the islands and other necessities are one of the main factors why a Galapagos trip is expensive.

Another reason is that the crew and employees are native to the Galapagos, and official regulations determine salaries and pay to ensure a decent living wage.

Over $100 is paid by foreign visitors every person because The Galapagos National Park , which includes the islands, depends on park entrance fees (paid upon arrival in the archipelago) to pay for its conservation and protection initiatives.

Due to logistics, workforce, and equipment, activities, trips, and lodging frequently have higher than usual expenses.

How Much Money Will I Spend to Travel to The Galapagos Islands?

I am swimming in Las Grietas, Galapagos

The cost may depend on the experiences, services, tours, and ways to travel around the islands.

Only airplanes are available for travel to the Galapagos Islands, and for international passengers, economy-class flights cost between $500 and $550 per person. Three airlines offer service to Galapagos: Avianca , Latam Airlines , and Tame Airlines .

You must purchase the Transit Control Card ($20 per person) and the Galapagos National Park entrance charge ($100 per adult and $50 per child) in cash at the airports of Guayaquil or Quito .

In Galapagos, there are numerous cruise alternatives. The cost varies based on how many days you spend on the boat and what category it is, with a four-day cruise starting at $2.529 per person. The travel assessors at Latin Trails might also request additional cruise options that are more affordable.

Playa Mann beach on San Cristobal Island (Galapagos)

In Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz) , San Cristobal , and Isabela Island , first-class lodging may run about $450-$650. If you have budget, these are must-stays in the Galapagos:

  • Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel (Santa Cruz)
  • Hotel La Isla (Isabela)
  • Hotel Galápagos Casa Playa Mann (San Cristobal)

All inhabited Galapagos islands provide first-class tourist lodging starting at $160 per night for a twin room with breakfast for two.

Top-rated Galapagos hotels offer breakfast; however, if you choose to eat breakfast in town, a local restaurant will likely charge $10 or more per person on average. Lunch is typically included in our daily tour itineraries. As such, our food expenses were very reasonable, so it averaged out to about $20/day. You can easily spend more or less in this category.

The average cost per person for daily navigation excursions is $150-250 depending on popularity and length. This rate includes snorkeling equipment, lunch, and a guide. It does not include any tips or beverages. For land tours, the prices may go from $220 per person, including lunch, guide, entrances, and transportation.

Malecon at San Cristobal Island, Galapagos

We found the most reasonably priced service on the islands, with an average taxi fare costing $1-3 for an SUV seating up to 4 persons. A taxi to/from Puerto Ayora to the highlands is often between $20 and $25. For the inter-island boat ride, we spent an average of $45-$50 per person for a speedboat.

Once again, if you are looking for the cheapest options, make sure to check Hostel World and VRBO and also compare different hotels on Booking .

Travel Options to Galapagos Islands

Galapagos by cruise.

cruise vs island hopping Galapagos

You can visit the Galapagos Islands by boarding a cruise ship. Personally, this is my dream travel. But since it is costly, we opted to do the land-based trip. The cost is insane but you can save over 70% by taking a last-minute cruise deal while on Galapagos.

The best way to observe a variety of wildlife when traveling is on a cruise. Since the boat cruises at night, you can reach a wide variety of islands, including the farther-flung, more secluded islands with distinctive prospects for animal viewing that are inconveniently inaccessible on a land-based excursion.

Even while you’ll see Galapagos tortoises, sea lions, and iguanas wherever you go in the Galapagos, a cruise is simply the most excellent way to properly appreciate the variety of species that the Galapagos has to offer.

Sealions at Floreana Island Galapagos

On a cruise, you spend most of your time traveling at night. As a result, you will have more time during the day to explore and less time spent traveling between locations when you could be snorkeling with sea lions.

The Galapagos consists of seven smaller islands in addition to thirteen larger islands. You’ll typically see three to four islands while traveling on land.

On a cruise, you’ll visit five to eight distinct islands, with at least two unique tourist attractions daily. You can then have a more thorough knowledge of the archipelago’s size and biodiversity.

However, do not feel disappointed if you can’t visit Galapagos by cruise, because a land-based trip has its advantages and it was a blast and way cheaper for us.

Galapagos by Land

Getting to Pinzon Island Galapagos

A land-based vacation may be the best option for visiting the Galapagos Islands if you dislike being bound by a rigid daily schedule. Children may benefit most from land-based activities because they will have greater flexibility to run around and explore whenever they choose. It’s cheaper too, that’s why we did land-based tour.

Land-based excursions are the only option to enjoy a completely private Galapagos experience, sometimes for a similar price as a cruise, unless you have the money to charter your cruise.

Speedy boat ride from Santa Cruz to Isabela Islands on Galapagos

Longer treks, biking, paddleboard, kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving, and other activities are all available on land-based excursions. You can customize your land-based vacation to fit your travel preferences and Galapagos bucket list .

Tips on How to Go to Galapagos Islands on a Budget

There is no need for such an expensive Galapagos tour. Traveling the Galapagos on a tight budget while still feeling at ease is possible.

Trip to Galapagos Islands featured image

I’ve just created my own inexpensive Galapagos island-hopping itinerary with enough planning.

In our case, a budget double room is $30–$40, but a single private room costs only half as much. We spent about $20 on food per person for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

We advise finding nearby “comedores.” Delicious cuisine is served here, and the restaurant is intended for residents to eat lunch or dinner. It will always be the least expensive choice, but it won’t be the most pleasant one.

Eating at Isabella grill, Galapagos

Tours can be costly, but it depends on what you decide to do. To visit each island on foot, we went on day trips, rented a cab for an hour with another couple, went on walks, and used water taxis to get to other parts of the island that were not reachable by car or foot.

Boat schedule on Santa Cruz island (Galapagos)

Boat schedule on Santa Cruz island

Ferries are an excellent way to travel between islands without paying for a tour. The cost per person ranges from $20 to USD 150. The most expensive excursion is always scuba diving (USD 150).

The Galapagos Islands have long been on many tourists’ bucket lists as a once-in-a-lifetime vacation. However, only a handful of individuals can afford to visit the enchanted islands because it is a pricey location.

Nonetheless, with proper tour planning, you can still visit the Galapagos and enjoy what the islands offer on a budget. Planning everything beforehand will save you a lot of money.

The primary factor to consider when planning your budget for a trip to the Galapagos is the tour company you’ll select for your excursion. Keep in mind that this firm will be responsible for making your trip worthwhile and handling every aspect so that you can concentrate on making the most of your time in the Galapagos.

The most crucial thing to remember is that a land-based itinerary will significantly reduce the expense of your Galapagos Islands trip. Your trip is still a once-in-a-lifetime journey, even if you did it on a budget!

If these tips were helpful, consider showing your appreciation by buying me a coffee 🙂

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About the author.

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Oleg Galeev

I'm Oleg, and together with my wife, we've explored Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, journeying through more than 20 cities ( Quito , Cuenca , Banos , Tena , Puyo , Guayaquil , Riobamba , Otavalo , Mindo and more) and nearly every island in the Galapagos (including iconic ones such as Bartolome Island , San Cristobal Island , Isabela Island , Santa Cruz Island and more). In this blog, I give you my real thoughts about each place we visited. This info can help anyone planning a trip to the Galapagos Islands or mainland Ecuador . I'm just a traveler, not a tour company, so I'm not trying to sell anything. That means I'll tell you the truth—both the good and the bad — about traveling in Ecuador based on what we experienced.

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Galapagos Blue-footed Boobies

The Galapagos is an enchanted place, and it has stayed that way largely because it has been protected. Several islands in the remote volcanic archipelago remain as pristine as they were well before Charles Darwin first visited in 1835.

But for how long? With nature tourism surging since the pandemic, it’s not surprising that the Galapagos, 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, is now at the top of everyone’s bucket list. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTCC), wildlife is now the primary motivator for travelers who want to experience nature. Where better to see it than the Galapagos Islands?

A Fragile Ecosystem

However, the rise in tourism in the Galapagos is putting a strain on resources the Islands can provide such as fresh water, electricity (provided by diesel-run generators), food and transportation. With so many travelers wanting to visit the Galapagos—and they should—how is this sustainable? What needs to happen right now to protect the people and wildlife of the Galapagos, so that we can all enjoy it for years to come?

According to Dolores Gangotena, co-founder of Quasar Expeditions , a pioneer in responsible and regenerative tourism with her husband, Eduardo Diez, “The number of tourists the Galapagos receives–300,000 in 2023–is not sustainable,” she says. “Every year I see more people living in the Islands, more hotels being built, more cars, more motorcycles, and even more dogs, which also pose a threat to the fragile ecoystem,” she continues.

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Landscape View of Darwin's Arch near Darwin Island of Galapagos.

The Galapagos is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and National Park managed by the Galapagos National Park Service, the Charles Darwin Research Center and the Ecuadorian government. For the past 12 years, the Charles Darwin Foundation has warned about the need to monitor the human capacity of the islands. If strained much further, it could cause an extreme threat to everything that makes Galapagos such a draw to begin with, according to Gangotena. “Change needs to happen, and it needs to happen now,” she says.

Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism

Gangotena first visited the Galapagos in 1969 on a school trip, and the experience was life-changing. Her love of nature and passion to preserve it inspired her to launch Quasar Expeditions in 1986. The mission was simple: “to share nature with the world in order to protect it, and keep the destinations as pristine as we found them,” she says. When Gangotena and Diez founded Quasar—now a family business, with their sons—they were the first small-boat luxury cruise company in the Islands, and they have been leaders in sustainable tourism ever since.

A family business: Quasar Expeditions founders Dolores Gangotena and husband Eduardo Diez with sons, ... [+] in the Galapagos

An outspoken advocate for conservation in the Galapagos, Gangotena says that unless oversight tightens up and the footprint slows down, she is worried for the future of the Islands. “People using the resources of any natural area need to understand the impact of their actions and know how to protect, prevent damage, and learn love for the destination,” she says.

According to Gangotena, stronger regulation for fishing boats is needed to prevent over-fishing. (Global warming is already posing a threat to wildlife by diminishing food sources like fish.) Education about “proper garbage disposal, recycling, and using state of the art engines and generators that consume less fossil fuels” is important. Small boats for day trips and artisanal fishing need to be better regulated to protect wildlife. And policymakers need to work closely with conservationist groups like the Charles Darwin Foundation to monitor and manage the impact on resources in the Galapagos, which can have a ripple effect on people and wildlife.

Environmental and Community Impact

Over the years, Quasar has been involved with supporting the Galapagos community as well as the environment. The company has funded a project to educate teachers and students on how to become stewards of the environment. The company sources locally and Gangotena supports local craftspeople and nonprofits throughout Ecuador. She has created an organic vegetable farm project and a hospitality training school on the islands, and offers students a chance to spend time on board the Quasar yachts in order to observe firsthand what may become an employment opportunity for the future.

By keeping the Quasar expeditions small–two elegant yachts that house 16 and 32 guests onboard–guests not only have a richer more intimate experience, but the environmental impact is significantly lower than it would be on one of the larger boats that tour the area. “Smaller is always better,” she says. “Every guest is given individual attention by the naturalists and personal interactions with the wildlife, in order to enjoy every single moment nature offers us when there.”

In the Galapagos Islands, off of Floreana Island a Galapagos sea turtle (Chelonia mydas agassisi) ... [+] swims in Champion Islet

When travelers snorkel off the coast of Santiago Island with Quasar, they share the sea with an underwater world: giant sea tortoises in suspended animation; juvenile sea lions, curious enough to paddle just inches away from your mask; schools of electric-hued tropical fish; tiny but speedy penguins. As the sun slices through a tranquil mangrove lagoon at Bahia Elizabeth off Isabela Island, kayakers scour the waters for rays and sea lions, which are plentiful and easy to spot. A hike up to Darwin’s Lake reveals unobstructed views of sea and sky that extend for many miles. Pelicans and cormorants crisscross the sky. Marine iguanas build nests in the sand or sun themselves on the lava rocks. Nearly half of all life on the Galapagos–marine and land iguanas, Darwin's finches, Galapagos giant tortoises, Galapagos sea lions, blue- and red-footed boobies, Galapagos penguins, for example–is found nowhere else on the planet.

Because the Galapagos is on the equator, every constellation is clearly visible, and the night sky is thick with stars. Schools of dolphin frolic off the sides of Quasar Expeditions’ luxuriously outfitted 12-passenger yacht, the Grace, which once belonged to its royal namesake, Princess Grace. Sea lions chase schools of jumping fish, and frigates swoop into the sea.

Colorful marine iguana

The company has newly expanded routes into Patagonia and Belize. And in 2025, there will be an addition to their Galapagos fleet. The Conservation, outfitted for 18 guests, will be the first yacht in the Galapagos to operate with a hybrid engine system.

Expectations are high when it comes to the Galapagos, and the sheer beauty of these boats, with their knowledgeable naturalist guides, elegant accommodations, skilled and gracious Ecuadorian operations team, ever-evolving and fascinating itinerary, next-level food and wine, make this a superior experience. But the goal is to aspire higher: “We hope we change our guests' view on nature and on how they can make a difference at home,” says Gangotena. “When this happens, we will have achieved something significant.” Something you will also want to protect and share, for years to come.

Rona Berg

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I've visited all of the 13 main Galápagos Islands. Here are 10 things every first-time traveler should do.

  • As a South American travel specialist, I've traveled to the Galápagos Islands several times.
  • Travelers can expect to see species like the giant tortoise and the blue-footed booby. 
  • Adventurous visitors can even hike to the rim of one of the world's largest volcanic craters.

I've worked as a South American travel specialist for eight years and have traveled to all 13 of the main Galápagos Islands.

Located 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, the beautiful islands are mainly known for the many rare wildlife species that reside there.

Here are the top things I think every first-timer should do when visiting the Galápagos Islands.

See the islands' most famous residents up close

Many of the birds, reptiles, and mammals found on the Galápagos Islands are endemic, meaning they can't be found anywhere else in the world. Perhaps the most well-known species in the Galápagos is the giant tortoise, which can weigh over 500 pounds. 

In my experience, the best place to see them in the wild is in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island, where you can visit a private reserve like El Chato. You can also see the giant tortoise at the Charles Darwin Research Station's breeding facilities on Santa Cruz Island.

However, keep in mind that Galápagos National Park rules mandate that visitors must remain at least 6 feet (or 2 meters) away from all wildlife. If you get too close, the giant tortoises may hiss like enormous cats to warn you to step back. 

Hike to the rim of one of the world's largest volcanic craters

Visitors to Isabela Island can hike to the rim of the Sierra Negra Volcano, which measures 6 miles in diameter, making it one of the largest craters in the world.

The trailhead is a 45-minute drive from the town of Puerto Villamil, and the approximately 12-mile hike typically takes about five to six hours to complete.

Since the volcano is within the national park, all visitors must be accompanied by a licensed naturalist guide. 

See the blue-footed booby's mating dance

In my opinion, nothing is more entertaining and fascinating than experiencing the blue-footed booby's intricate and goofy multi-part mating dance.

These iconic birds can be found on the majority of the islands and their mating dances typically take place during the spring and summer months. 

Experience the underwater world while snorkeling or diving

The ocean surrounding the Galápagos has just as much action as the islands themselves, and snorkeling and diving are the most popular ways to experience it. The protected marine reserve surrounding the islands is home to endemic species like the Galápagos penguin, the only species of penguin found in the northern hemisphere.

 You may also be lucky enough to see the marine iguana, the only known swimming iguana in the world. 

Visit a coffee farm in the highlands of Santa Cruz

The rich volcanic soil of the Galápagos Islands is ideal for growing coffee beans. Because 97% of the islands are within the national park and only a small part can be used for agricultural purposes, coffee production is limited.

However, several coffee farms on Santa Cruz Island offer tours and tastings.

Experience local life in the town of Puerto Ayora

Only four of the 13 major islands in the Galápagos are inhabited by people. Puerto Ayora, located on the island of Santa Cruz, is home to the largest human population.  

I recommend stopping by the Santa Cruz Fish Market in the morning to watch the sea lions and pelicans patiently line up around the fish counter for scraps. In my opinion, this is one of the best ways to have a glimpse of local life and witness how the islands' human inhabitants coexist with the wildlife. 

At night, enjoy dinner at one of the many restaurants along Charles Darwin Avenue that use fresh, local seafood from the market.

Also check out the Galapagos Islands' first microbrewery, The Santa Cruz Brewery, which opened in 2015. One of its unique brews includes an English porter made with locally-grown coffee. 

While in Puerto Ayora, you can also hike or take a water taxi to Tortuga Bay. This wide, white-sand beach is popular for spotting iguanas and a variety of birdlife. You can also have some fun in the water with activities like kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, and snorkeling. 

Learn about the human history of the islands

Although the wildlife tends to be the star of the show, the Galápagos Islands have an interesting human history as well. 

Long before Charles Darwin visited in 1835 , the Galápagos Islands were frequented by pirates and whalers. Post Office Bay on Floreana Island is named after the islands' first post office. The office is a barrel placed by whalers on a small beach in the 1700s, where they would leave messages for other sailors to pick up and deliver. 

If Post Office Bay is included in your itinerary, bring a postcard with you — visitors can still leave their own postcards in the barrel for other travelers to take and hand-deliver. Take a look through the pile to see if there's a postcard you can deliver when you return home.

Sail past Kicker Rock at sunset

Visitors who explore the Galápagos Islands on a cruise may see Kicker Rock on the itinerary. The ships often circumnavigate this massive rock monolith rising about 500 feet above the ocean.

It's also considered one of the top snorkeling spots on the islands. 

Explore the islands' naturally-formed lava tunnels

The highlands of Santa Cruz Island have ancient lava flows under the surface, which created tunnels that visitors can walk through. Galápagos Magic Camp , a tented safari-style lodge, has private lava tunnels where visitors can enjoy a candlelit dinner.

Learn about conservation efforts to protect the islands

In my opinion, the most important thing visitors to the Galápagos Islands can do is learn about the initiatives in place to help protect their fragile, unique ecosystems. 

For example, the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island, and similar facilities on San Cristobal and Isabela Islands, raise endangered giant tortoises in breeding centers to eventually be released into the wild. 

IGTOA , the International Galapagos Tour Operators Association, is a non-profit organization made up of travel companies, tour operators, and conservation organizations that contribute to a variety of conservation projects. It's a fantastic resource for those looking for a conservation-minded professional to help plan an unforgettable (and sustainable) Galápagos adventure.

Correction: September 26, 2023   — An earlier version of this story misstated that the blue-footed booby is an endemic species to the Galápagos Islands. Although the islands are home to many, the blue-footed booby can be found along the Pacific coastline.

I've visited all of the 13 main Galápagos Islands. Here are 10 things every first-time traveler should do.

I've been to 54 countries and have lived in 10. These 5 underrated places are worth the trip.

  • Kate Boardman has visited 54 countries around the world and lived in 10, including the US.
  • She's enjoyed spots like France and Bali but says people should visit underrated places like Oman.
  • In Guatemala, she climbed an active volcano, and in Ecuador, she swam with hammerhead sharks.

Insider Today

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Kate Boardman , a 36-year-old former teacher and current content creator from Massachusetts who has lived and traveled all over the world. The following has been edited for length and clarity.

I first lived abroad when I was 15, when I participated in an exchange program in Germany. I lived there for a year, attending school and staying with a host family.

That was my first exposure to living overseas and truly immersing myself in other cultures. From there, the travel bug hit me hard. It inspired me to study international business in France while I was at university, and future trips after that.

I've been to 54 countries and lived in 10, including the US. The sense of freedom and self-growth that comes from traveling is unbeatable. I also love being able to see the world in a different way.

The most popular destinations are popular for a reason.

Everyone talks about Paris, London , Bali — all travel destinations that are super popular, in part thanks to social media.

I visited Bali in early 2012 and saw it expand firsthand. There was a lot of construction — with many beach clubs being built — and it became overcrowded by foreigners. It's led to locals being priced out of their homes.

I also think spots like Cancun are super overrated; there are way cooler places to visit in Mexico. Many tourists spend a week in an all-inclusive resort and think that's fun — but that couldn't be more unattractive to me.

Obviously, there's still beauty in places that are oversaturated and famous. But I think that there's an excitement that comes from experiencing places that are off the beaten track.

It's often in those places that you can have the most surprising experiences.

I was treated like family in Iran

I would say my favorite country that I have visited is Iran. I went in 2018 and was there for 10 days.

Normally, when I'm traveling, I backpack alone and stay in hostels as a solo traveler. However, in Iran, if you're American, Canadian, or from the UK, in order to get permission to enter the country, you need a set itinerary and a licensed travel guide.

It was a very coordinated trip and a bit more challenging to visit, but it was so rewarding because I was welcomed with the warmest hospitality.

One of the unique aspects of this trip was how close my guide and I became. He went above and beyond, inviting me over to his family's house for dinner, where I got to meet and hang out with his friends and family. It was truly special.

Because I had a guide, everything was kind of set for me in Iran. He arranged different accommodations, including a road trip through the country, where we stayed in various cities at different guesthouses.

It only cost me around $1,000.

The nature and landscape of Iran are absolutely beautiful and amazing. The sights, attractions, and history are mind-blowing. You've got these gorgeous mosaics everywhere. All of the architecture had my jaw dropping in awe while walking around.

The food is also delicious, and the markets are incredible, each filled with gorgeous textiles, jewelry, turquoise, and rugs.

I would totally visit there again. I hope the political situation changes because that would definitely be one of my group trip destinations. I think it's just incredible.

Georgia took me by surprise

Georgia is just one of those countries that's not on a lot of people's radar. And then they go there and they're like, 'Whoa, that's awesome. Why didn't I know about this before?'

I knew very little about Georgia before I visited in 2018. I spent only five days in the country, but I was completely blown away.

I stayed in Tbilisi, which is the capital city. It's a really beautiful, trendy, and artsy kind of city. It has amazing wine and incredible food.

Probably one of my favorite things about the trip is that I stayed in this hostel called Fabrika . It was an old Soviet Union sewing factory that they turned into a super cool, industrial, hipster hostel.

In Tbilisi, I also went on a pub crawl throughout the Old Town, which featured a bunch of underground cellars and bunkers that have been turned into trendy nightclubs and bars.

During my time in the country, I took a trip out to the countryside to an area called Kazbegi, which is absolutely stunning. There were gorgeous and breathtaking mountains, hills, and massive churches.

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In the city, I also had a Turkish bath, which is a big thing in Georgia. I got a full scrub down.

Guatemala has something for everyone

When most people from the US think about going to Central America, they're focused on Mexico or Costa Rica. Guatemala seems to be a place that kind of gets overlooked.

But life is great in Guatemala.

You've got beautiful weather all year round, the jungle, rainforests, and the Caribbean's white sand beaches, while the Pacific side has its black sand beaches. It's got a little bit of everything.

I first lived in Guatemala in 2021, where I worked as a teacher at an international school. They provided housing in Guatemala City. However, after I finished working for them, I moved to a beach town on the Pacific coast and lived there for about six months.

I've traveled there on other occasions too, staying for periods of four or five months.

The typical salary for a Guatemalan is about $500 a month, with a good salary being $1,000. I would say that $2,000 a month is more than enough to live there extremely comfortably.

There are a lot of digital nomads moving there, especially to Antigua — an old colonial town with a lot of charm, cobblestone streets, and painted buildings.

There's just so much to do in Guatemala; it's so magical.

The biggest must do is hiking the active volcano called Acatenango . Sometimes, you can see it erupting right from its base camp. There's not many places in the world where you can experience that.

Another good place to visit is El Paredon, a super up-and-coming hippie surf town. The surfing is great, and you've got these black volcanic sand beaches. It's just a really laid-back place.

Lake Atitlan is also an incredible spot. It's surrounded by volcanoes and several Mayan villages, each with its own personality and vibe.

Oman's deserts are magical

Oman is in the Middle East, bordering the United Arab Emirates and Yemen. I've been there three times between 2016 and 2018.

The country is culturally rich, and the capital city, Muscat, is really beautiful. It has old traditional marketplaces and gorgeous architecture — the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is definitely worth checking out.

The deserts there are incredible, so doing a desert trip is a must. I camped out in the desert with the locals, rode camels, and drove Jeeps over the sand dunes.

Having tea and watching the sunset in the desert was magical too.

Oman also has wadis, which are basically big canyons in the middle of the desert with swimming holes. There, you'll find bright turquoise water contrasting with the orange rock.

The country's islands are also beautiful and incredible for snorkeling. They look like you'd be in the Caribbean, but you're in the Middle East.

The Galapagos Islands are truly like nowhere else in the world

I visited Ecuador last year for about six weeks. I was leading a gap year program with a group of high school students. We split our time between the Galapagos Islands and the mainland, which consisted of cities and the Amazon.

Because Ecuador has incredibly unique biodiversity that doesn't exist anywhere else in the world, The Galapagos Islands are an absolute must. I've never seen such incredible wildlife in my life; so many species exist only on those islands.

While visiting The Galapagos, my group went snorkeling with 50 to 100 hammerhead and Blacktip sharks. We also swam with sea lions and saw giant tortoises.

Another amazing aspect of Ecuador is learning about the Inca culture. My group did a homestay and lived with a family for about 10 days and learned about their way of life.

We experienced how connected they are with Mother Earth, whom they refer to as Pachamama, and learned about their traditional medicine: They grow their own food and seek out plant medicine when they're sick, rather than relying on processed foods.

Learning about and sharing their way of life was truly special.

I want to show people how to travel the world

There are many beliefs people have about different countries and cultures, sometimes considering them too dangerous, expensive, or unattainable.

I want to inspire more people to explore, step out of their comfort zones, and experience more of the world. I am hosting group trips with the goal of bringing people to these countries and showing them why they are so life-changing.

Watch: From Nepal to Kosovo, here's how countries are celebrating Pride

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A marine iguana sitting on plastic waste

‘Currents bring life – and plastics’: animals of Galápagos live amid mounds of waste

As diplomats search for a deal to curb the world’s growing problem of plastic, piles of bottles, buoys, nets and packaging keep building up in what should be a pristine environment

A s our small fishing boat slows to a halt in a shallow bay south-east of Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz, in the Galápagos Islands , a green turtle surfaces next to us, followed by a second, then a third a few metres away. A spotted eagle ray glides underneath the vessel.

The skipper, Don Nelson, steps on to the black volcanic reef, slippery with algae. We follow, past exposed mangrove roots and up on to higher ground. Pelicans swooping into the trees and small birds, perching on branches, ignore our approach.

This remote archipelago still hosts the unique species such as giant tortoises and finches that inspired the naturalist Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution almost two centuries ago, and it is impossible not to be struck by the apparent harmony with which animals coexist with humans here.

But then, up ahead, a jarring sight: a marine iguana, a notable Galápagos species found nowhere else in the world, sits atop a mound of plastic litter – fishing buoys, oil drums, household containers and drinks bottles – pushed on to the reef by high spring tides. The prehistoric-looking reptile, classed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), is among the species here most at risk from plastic.

“These reefs are resting places for pelicans and marine iguanas,” says Mariana Vera, Galápagos programme manager of Conservation International. “There are a lot of turtles because it is the nesting season. It is overwhelming and sad to see them full of plastic.”

A woman removes fishing rope from a mangrove root at the shoreline

Research has found that most of the plastic washed up here comes from Peru, Ecuador and China . Plastic originating in Asia is unlikely to have reached the Galápagos by ocean currents, according to a 2019 study , which suggests that items with Asian labels are likely to have come from nearby fishing boats.

Globally, about 20% of plastic pollution in the ocean comes from maritime sources, but in the Galápagos, although estimates vary greatly, that figure could be as high as 40%, according to research due to be published by the Galápagos marine reserve and the Galápagos Conservation Trust.

It has been four years since news of a massive fishing fleet of hundreds of mostly Chinese vessels surrounding the edge of this reserve shocked the world. It led to a vow, from the then president of Ecuador, Lenín Moreno , to protect what he described as “a seedbed of life for the entire planet”, and various diplomatic agreements between the countries.

Since then, the Chinese fishing fleet has reportedly kept a greater distance from Ecuador’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), an area extending 200 nautical miles beyond its coast, throughout which it has jurisdiction over marine resources.

But the illegal dumping of plastic waste from its fishing vessels in the high seas – outside the EEZ – along with the other plastic from mainland Latin America, continues. “The problem is constant,” says Rodrigo Robalino, the Galápagos national park’s environmental manager, who accompanies us.

The islands are the second most important nesting and feeding area for marine turtles, listed as endangered by the IUCN, after Mexico.

A young Hispanic man stands on a hillside with cactii and scrubby vegetation behind him

“We find pollution like this on all the islands but there are hotspots where the tides and currents gather,” says Robalino. The windward shores have a heavier burden of plastic.

We walk past huge columns of cactus to a further tideline of sun-bleached mangrove roots, strewn with mainly clear plastic drinks bottles.

The pollution is recent, Robalino says, because it is clear, with no barnacles attached. We count 21 bottles in all, among strands of fishing line. Six, including a soap dispenser, have Asian labels; three are Peruvian, with brands including Inca Kola, a joint Peruvian and Coca-Cola brand, and Sporade, made by AJE and sold all over Latin America. Those with labels include international brands including Dasani, made by Coca-Cola, and PepsiCo’s Gatorade.

“These plastic bottles are coming from other countries in the region,” says Robalino. “But also from international fishing fleets, including the Chinese fleet that surrounds the marine reserve.”Twice a week, the reserve organises clean-ups of the four inhabited islands: Isabela, Floreana, San Cristóbal and Santa Cruz. Plastic is shipped to Guayaquil, 600 miles away in Ecuador , to be recycled or landfilled.

Last year, they collected 13m tonnes. For the more remote islands (there are 13 major islands and many more smaller ones), only occasional clean-ups are possible. They are more difficult to access and it can cost up to $2,000 (£1,600) and take up to 15 days to get there, clean up the beaches and return. From May to November, weather conditions make it impossible to reach many islands. For Robalino, Vera and the fishers and community volunteers who take part, the clean ups are a sisyphean task. But they have no choice.

A bird stands on a nest made with pieces of plastic waste and plants

“If we don’t do it, the plastic breaks down into fibres that birds often use for nests, and then into microplastics, which can be carried by the wind or go into the ocean,” says Robalino. Contaminated with chemicals, microplastics can be toxic and cause genetic damage to marine life and humans when ingested.

The waters around the Galápagos islands, which were designated a Unesco heritage site in 1978, are among the richest on Earth for biodiversity, partly due to their location amid three major ocean currents. The largest, the Humboldt current, sweeps cold, nutrient-rich water from Antarctica along the coasts of Chile and Peru, before turning west to the islands.

Thanks to the protection offered by the marine reserve, biodiversity on the islands, 97% of which are uninhabited, remains relatively undisturbed. But the currents, with their rich nutrients, have led to two of the largest threats: overfishing and plastic pollution.

“Currents are a source of life in the Galápagos,” says Nicolás Moity, a marine ecologist at the Charles Darwin Foundation on Santa Cruz. “They brought the species here at the beginning. The early giant tortoises came from the mainland as small tortoises and evolved here.

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“You have warm and cold currents intermingling, creating an amazing plethora of life. You have penguins and corals in the same place.

“But now, in this globalised world, the currents are bringing plastics to the Galápagos,” he says.

Plastic bottles lying on driftwood

Moity, who is working with the reserve and environmental organisations to identify how the plastic accumulation sites affect biodiversity so they can better target clean-ups, says that after some plastic-picking trips, “you come back three days later and you see the same”.

Three years ago, Moity examined sea urchins and found that 75% of them had ingested microplastics. “Microplastics get ingested by everything from zooplankton to bigger animals – and we don’t know the effect,” he says.

Many of the animals most at risk from plastic entanglement or ingestion are also under threat from other human activities, including degraded habitats and climate breakdown: the critically endangered Santa Cruz giant tortoises, endangered green turtles, vulnerable marine iguanas, endangered Galápagos sea lions and whale sharks, according to a paper in 2023. Earlier this year, another study showed giant tortoises were eating plastic , mistaking it for food, with up to 86% of the debris found in tortoise faeces being plastic.

Ecuador has bid to host the signing of the UN plastics treaty , the first legally binding global treaty to halt plastic waste, in the Galápagos. The latest talks towards the treaty are under way this week in the Canadian capital, Ottawa, until 29 April. The aim is to complete negotiations by the end of 2024 and for the treaty to be signed in 2025.

Dr Jen Jones, chief executive of the UK-based Galápagos Conservation Trust, is working with the marine reserve to finalise a five-year study on plastic pollution. She expects to present some of the findings at this week’s talks.

“We have looked at multi-year datasets from clean-ups, looking at all plastics, bottles fishing gear, such as ropes and other items,” says Jones. She found a higher percentage of the plastic – “at least 40%” – came from maritime sources than previous research on plastic bottles suggested , which put the figure at about 13%.

The trust is also hosting a mini-summit for small islands in the Pacific, which suffer a similarly unfair burden of plastic pollution as the Galápagos, to highlight the islanders’ role in protecting the world’s biodiversity and to urge more powerful nations to address the unfair burden of plastic pollution.

“This is a social justice issue,” says Jones.

A marine iguana climbs on a rock covered in waste plastic

Senegal, Peru and Rwanda have also put forward bids to the UN at the treaty negotiations to have the resultant agreement signed in their countries.

The incoming chair of the talks in Canada, Luis Vayas Valdivieso, who is also the Ecuadorian ambassador to the UK, has an impartial role in the negotiations. But Valdivieso, who has recently returned from Rapa Nui, or Easter Island, a Chilean territory in Polynesia, where he witnessed plastic pollution, says he understands the unfair burden islanders and small-island nations face.

“I see the concern from the islands and the people from the islands,” he says. “They are making huge efforts. In the Galápagos and other islands they have special legislation – they don’t use single-use plastics, but still they are seeing pollution.

“You can have the best national legislation in the world, to ban plastics. But if you don’t have a global agreement, it won’t work.”

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Disney+ is one of the most popular streaming services out right now, especially with its National Geographic originals — such as Earth Moods , Animals up Close With Bertie Gregory , Life Below Zero , The Space Race and Wild Yellowstone — that aim inform, educate and entertain its subscribers. While there are already plenty of perks and deals with a Disney+ subscription , the streamer is upping the ante with a contest to get a free cruise to the Galápagos Islands for Earth Day, thanks to Nat Geo.

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The giveaway is part of Nat Geo’s ourHOME Collection of nature docuseries, originals and short films — including Secrets of Elephants , Queens , Dolphin Reef , The Olympic Elk and Fire of Love — on Disney+ that’s designed to celebrate Earth Month .

You have to be a Disney+ subscriber to enter the giveaway. Not a member? You can sign up for Disney+ starting at $7.99 per month for the basic ad-supported plan. However, you can go ad-free for $13.99 per month, or $139.99 for an annual plan — that’s a savings of nearly 20 percent off per year.

You can also get the Disney Duo bundle, which comes with the ad-supported versions of Hulu and Disney+ for $9.99 per month, which is a nearly 40 percent savings altogether. If you’d like zero ads, you get the Disney Duo Premium for $19.99 per month, which is also nearly 40 percent off the ad-free plans of bother services.

In addition, the Disney Trio offers Hulu, Disney+ and ESPN+ (with ads) for $14.99 per month — about a savings of 45 percent off compared to signing up for separate subscriptions. You can even go somewhat commercial-free with Disney Trio Premium . It includes the ad-free versions of Hulu and Disney+ and the ad-supported version of ESPN+ for $24.99 per month.

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Protect Your Trip »

The 9 best gay cruises for 2024 (+ planning tips).

Dance parties, drag queen performances and fun destinations await on these LGBTQ voyages.

The Best Gay Cruises

A party on board The Cruise With La Demence

Courtesy of The Cruise with La Demence

Embark on an all-gay or LGBTQ-friendly cruise for excellent entertainment, food and excursions.

Whether you are looking to hop aboard a Pride Week cruise with a major line or sail away with a smaller company that specializes in LGBTQ voyages, the following cruise operators promise a fun, safe and memorable vacation.

(Note: While many of these cruise lines sail to LGBTQ-friendly ports of call, travelers should research destinations to learn more about cultures, customs and safety in each location and determine what's right for them.)

Virgin Voyages

Atlantis events, brand g vacations, celebrity cruises, royal caribbean international, the cruise with la demence, source journeys.

Travelers lounge on a gay cruise with VACAYA

Gabriel Goldberg | Courtesy of VACAYA

Founded by avid travelers Randle Roper, Patrick Gunn and John Finen, VACAYA bills itself as the first all-LGBT travel company in the full-ship charter/resort buyout sector of the travel industry to launch in more than 25 years.

"[VACAYA] was sparked by our own vacations, where we all had encountered two very different experiences," says Gunn. "The all-gay cruises were liberating, empowering and fun, but limited to a small spectrum of people. And while everyone loves a good time, there's more to a memorable vacation than just parties. Mainstream vacations offered more activities and destinations, and were accessible to a diverse set of people, but didn't always feel like a friendly, judgment-free environment."

As such, VACAYA set out to bring LGBTQ travelers from across the spectrum together in a welcoming, inclusive setting, while offering varied onboard activities and immersive itinerary options. Cruisers will enjoy traveling to ports around the world, in the Caribbean , the Galápagos, Europe , Antarctica and more. You can participate in shipwide events ranging from themed deck parties to performances by LGBTQ entertainers to rejuvenating yoga classes. Note that VACAYA's cruises are for adults only.

Previous cruisers had abundant praise for VACAYA's voyages, highlighting the company's responsiveness when booking and the kindhearted staff, as well as the genuine connections they made with other passengers on board. Many were also impressed by the events and entertainment options throughout their sailings.

In 2024, VACAYA will offer a number of voyages worldwide. The seven-night Caribbean Cruise on Celebrity Apex in February will sail round-trip from Fort Lauderdale, with several fun-filled days at sea in addition to stops in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Antigua. In August, VACAYA has a 12-night river cruise in Northern Europe on board Advance by Transcend Cruises; this sailing includes the Amsterdam Pride event. The 11-night Antarctica expedition on Atlas Ocean Voyages' World Navigator in December 2024 is sold out, but you can join the waitlist.

The pool on a Virgin Voyages cruise ship

Courtesy of Virgin Voyages

The Virgin brand has long been known for its celebration of the LGBTQ community, and cruise line Virgin Voyages is no different. The strictly adults-only cruise operator aims to provide a unique experience, with onboard tattoo parlors, impressive live entertainment, and dining options that include more than 20 eateries and menus created by Michelin star chefs. This line gets the stamp of approval from previous LGBTQ cruisers, who praise the ships' gender-neutral bathrooms, diverse staff and onboard shows with resident drag queens.

Virgin Voyages offers gay-specific sailings through travel companies like Atlantis Events, but its more mainstream itineraries still offer a welcoming, inclusive atmosphere that attracts LGBTQ cruisers year-round. Virgin hosts a number of events during Pride Month each year, including deck parties and interactive social media campaigns.

"Each June here at Virgin Voyages, we like to go big for Pride Month with larger-than-life events … all monthlong," the cruise line says in a statement on its website. "It's an important time for us – both internally within our crew and for our sailors – to honor and celebrate the LGBTQ community; who for so long has had to continually fight for equality and the right to be seen, heard and included."

Virgin Voyages sails to a variety of LGBTQ-friendly countries, including New Zealand, Greece and Spain. In June 2024, consider a seven-night sailing aboard Scarlet Lady departing from Barcelona with stops in Marseille and Cannes in France as well as Spain's Palma de Mallorca and Ibiza.

Read: The Best Cruise Lines for the Money

The world's largest gay and lesbian travel brand, Atlantis Events was founded in 1991 and welcomes more than 20,000 travelers annually on LGBTQ vacations. For its all-gay cruises, Atlantis charters megaships from popular lines like Royal Caribbean International , Norwegian Cruise Line and Virgin Voyages in addition to smaller vessels with companies like Oceania Cruises so cruisers will have a fully immersive experience.

On board, travelers can enjoy all the perks these ships have to offer (think: pools, hot tubs, sports courts and plenty of dining choices), plus special events like drag performances, motivational speakers, LGBTQ movies on demand in each cabin and high-energy circuit parties across the ship.

"As an LGBTQ cruiser, you're looking for a ship with lots of entertainment, including dance parties and events," says Marcos Martinez, founder of Men Who Brunch, a Black gay lifestyle blog. "One of the best cruise [lines] for gay cruising is Atlantis, since you'll be able to meet hundreds of attractive men and party all day and night on the ship."

Atlantis hosts primarily gay men; women make up about 5% to 10% of bookings, according to the Atlantis website. Previous cruisers said the atmosphere on board was fun, friendly and welcoming, though some noted that the company's customer service could be better, especially when it comes to details about the cruise.

Due to the company's popularity, its three 2024 cruises are already sold out.

Read: The Best Cruise Lines in the Caribbean

Travelers on an all-gay cruise with Brand g Vacations pose in front of the Taj Mahal

Courtesy of Brand G Vacations

Specializing in all-gay river cruises – and now luxury ocean liners – Brand g Vacations was founded in 2011 and explores destinations all over the world. Chartered river cruises typically welcome between 40 and 200 LGBTQ passengers (and their straight allies), which allows cruisers to get to know one another in a smaller setting. Guests tend to skew more mature (think: 40 and older), and the line attracts both men and women.

Onboard entertainment differs slightly from larger ocean voyages: Expect more cabaret-style entertainment than massive all-night dance parties. Cruisers will also enjoy performances by drag queens, gay Broadway stars and more, on top of typical river cruise perks like sightseeing and lavish meals. Past guests recommend choosing Brand g if you're looking for a well-planned, relaxed and luxurious experience over a busier, more party-heavy vacation.

Brand g aims to provide a nearly all-inclusive cruise experience , with Mercedes or small van airport transfers, upscale hotel stays prior to embarkation, and unlimited alcoholic beverages as well as meals included in the fare. As such, prices tend to be on the high end. Plus, cruisers can feel good about their trip knowing that Brand g donates to causes in the U.S. and around the world that assist LGBTQ refugees, AIDS organizations, LGBTQ centers and more.

In 2024, Brand g sails through unique waterways around the world, including the Amazon, the Loire, the Danube, the Mekong, and the Columbia and Snake rivers in the Pacific Northwest. The line's small cruise ship charters also take guests to Iceland, Spain, Morocco, Italy, Croatia and other European destinations.

Read: The Top River Cruise Lines

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Aerial shot of Celebrity Cruises ship Celebrity Apex at sunset

Courtesy of Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity Cruises sets the scene for an excellent vacation for gay travelers, from its extravagant annual Pride parties to its daily LGBTQ programming throughout the year. The mainstream line has received numerous awards for its inclusivity, receiving accolades from the Cruizie Awards, TTG Travel Awards and Travel Weekly's Magellan Awards for being one of the best cruise lines for LGBTQ passengers.

LGBTQ cruisers can start their vacations off on a high note with a special welcome party on the first night of their voyage to meet other travelers on board. After night one, there are other social events for gay cruisers to party and hang out together. Additionally, Celebrity Cruises was the first cruise line to legally marry a couple at sea in 2018, and it continues to perform same-sex marriages on its ships.

Past cruisers enjoyed their voyages with Celebrity, noting that the line was welcoming, the food was delicious, and there were plenty of areas to hang out as a group with fellow LGBTQ passengers or other companions throughout the ship.

Although all itineraries are gay-friendly, consider booking a sailing during Pride Month in June for an extra special experience. Onboard entertainment during this month includes guest entertainers, a flag raising ceremony, Celebrity's signature Pride Party at Sea and more. The Italian Riviera & France cruise will depart from Barcelona on June 8, 2024, on the new Celebrity Ascent; this 10-night Mediterranean sailing stops at ports in France, Italy and Malta. Private travel companies like VACAYA also charter Celebrity ships for all-gay voyages throughout the year.

Read: Cruise Packing List: The Top Essentials for Any Cruise

Young Lesbian Couple on Boat Trip on Summer Vacations.

Getty Images

Specifically marketed toward lesbians and LGBTQ women, Olivia has hosted more than 350,000 travelers by land and sea over five decades. Cruisers can choose between river voyages or ocean sailings to destinations around the world. On the lesbian cruises, expect a mix of nostalgic decade-themed dance parties, folk singers, writing workshops, karaoke and other activities. Cruisers can also relax poolside, spend some time in the onboard spa or take it easy in one of the ships' lounges.

Travelers who are looking to connect with others who share similar backgrounds can do so in one of Olivia's specialized programs. There are group and solo traveler meetups, as well as programs like Sisters, which is for LGBTQ women of color; Gen-O, for cruisers 40 and younger; Women in Uniform gatherings, for veterans and those currently in the armed forces; and events for OWLs (which stands for "older, wiser lesbians"). Past cruisers on Olivia's voyages report feeling a true sense of community and belonging on board, resulting in a fun, carefree trip.

In June 2024, set sail with Olivia from Edinburgh, Scotland, to Dublin on Windstar Cruises' Star Legend. Or, visit the islands of Tahiti on the line's Star Breeze in September. Other cruise itineraries include Alaska, the Greek Isles, Mexico and the Panama Canal.

Read: The Best Girls Trip Ideas

Aerial shot of Royal Caribbean International cruise ship

Courtesy of Royal Caribbean International

Royal Caribbean International provides a welcoming and inclusive experience for LGBTQ travelers. The popular cruise line frequently partners with Atlantis Events to offer all-gay voyages throughout the year, but even the standard sailings earn praise.

Highlights of the sailings are the ships' entertainment options (including the Tony Award-winning musical "Mamma Mia!") and attentive staff, according to past cruisers. Itineraries typically include LGBTQ meetups at the beginning of each cruise for gay travelers to meet like-minded passengers. Outside of the sailing experience, Royal Caribbean has also publicly committed to supporting the LGBTQ community throughout the year, and it was the first cruise line to earn the title "Gay Traveler Approved" from GayTravel in 2016.

In 2024, consider a Royal Caribbean voyage that sails to gay-friendly destinations. "Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, [is] full of gay bars, clubs and gay beaches," says Martinez. Hop aboard Navigator of the Seas in May for a seven-night sailing round-trip from Los Angeles that stops in Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta and Ensenada, Mexico. Navigator of the Seas also hosts a seven-night itinerary throughout the year that calls on Mazatlan, Mexico, as well.

Ready to plan a cruise? Find the best value sailings on  GoToSea , a service of U.S. News.

A party on board The Cruise With La Demence

Courtesy of The Cruise With La Demence

According to past cruisers, if you're looking for one of the best party scenes on the open seas, consider an all-gay cruise with La Demence. Powered by a popular gay nightclub in Brussels with the same name, La Demence – French for "the madness" – primarily caters to a European crowd. Most passengers are male, though women are also welcome.

On board, passengers should expect to dance the night away at massive deck parties that last into the wee hours of the morning. The line prides itself on its top-notch DJs, impressive light setup and electric party atmosphere. Previous cruisers had high praise for the itineraries – which exclusively visit gay-friendly locations – as well as the fruity cocktails, themed nights (costumes strongly encouraged) and glamorous entertainment. Enjoy unique events like drag bingo, high heel runs and more.

La Demence sails every summer to European destinations like Greece, Italy and Malta. The 2023 cruise was chartered on Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas. Fares include all food and nonalcoholic beverages, plus access to all parties, shows and the onboard gym.

Read: The Top Party Cruises

Source Journeys has been planning luxury vacations for LGBTQ travelers for more than 20 years. The Miami-based company, with the vision of founder and chief executive officer Craig Smith, offers small group land tours and full-charter cruises for like-minded travelers with a focus on giving back to the communities they visit. The company also supports LGBTQ organizations, such as the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force and the Human Rights Campaign.

Past guests of their tours say their fellow travelers were as fun and interesting as the destinations. They appreciated the excellent personalized planning for the trips by Smith and his life partner, Rafael Rodriguez.

The company's cruises in 2024 include a seven-night Galápagos sailing in late September on a Relais & Chateau luxury yacht: Ecoventura's new ship, Evolve. The intimate ship accommodates just 20 passengers. Source Journeys is also offering a seven-night river cruise through Burgundy and Provence, France, in June on Avalon Waterways' Avalon Poetry II, as well as a seven-night voyage from Venice along the Dalmatian Coast. This ocean cruise scheduled in August is chartered on Star Clippers' masted sailing ship, Royal Clipper.

Frequently Asked Questions

When it comes to gay cruising, gone are the days of discreet "Friends of Dorothy" meetups. The term – a euphemism that dates back to the 1950s – was once used to indicate gay social events on daily cruise line programs, without explicitly calling out members of the community on board. It's a far cry from today's LGBTQ cruising industry, which loudly and proudly celebrates passengers from all walks of life.

According to experts, LGBTQ cruising is a market that will only continue to grow. Travelers can take their pick between cruise operators tailored specifically to queer communities and major cruise lines that offer festive Pride celebrations and inclusive onboard entertainment. As travel on the high seas continues to grow in popularity for vacationers, gay and lesbian travelers should consider setting sail on a fun-filled cruise vacation for their next trip.

When planning a cruise, vacationers should first consider what their ideal sailing looks like.

Gay-friendly vs. all-gay sailings: Cruisers should think about whether they'd like to travel aboard a gay-friendly mainstream line – such as Celebrity Cruises or Virgin Voyages – or opt for an all-gay, full-ship charter with a third-party vacation company.

"Each and every LGBTQIAPK person has a different level of comfortability in their 'outness,' " says Patrick Gunn, co-founder and chief marketing officer of LGBTQ vacation company VACAYA. Of VACAYA's all-gay charters, he adds, "For one magical week, our community gets to be the majority and live life out loud in the blissful utopia VACAYA creates on a gay cruise. That single change from being an always-minority to a sudden majority can have a profoundly positive real-world effect on individuals."

  • Travel style: Some cruise operators (think: Atlantis Events and La Demence) are known for their electrifying all-night parties, which may be perfect for gay groups of friends. Meanwhile, other companies like VACAYA and Olivia look to provide a more diverse selection of activities, ranging from tea dances (LGBTQ parties that, historically, included tea service) to philanthropic service activities to immersive onshore experiences.
  • Ports of call: Some of the most LGBTQ- and gay-friendly destinations for cruises include: Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Sydney; Barcelona, Spain; Taipei (Keelung), Taiwan; Helsinki; Quebec City; Auckland, New Zealand; Mykonos, Greece; Reykjavik, Iceland; Amsterdam; Tel Aviv, Israel; Buenos Aires, Argentina; and San Francisco. Countries that gay travelers may want to avoid include the Maldives, Jamaica, Morocco, Malaysia and Haiti, as homosexuality is illegal in these destinations.

Why Trust U.S. News Travel

Gwen Pratesi has been an avid cruiser since her early 20s. She has visited destinations around the globe on nearly every type of ship built, including the newest megaships, luxury yachts, expedition vessels, traditional masted sailing ships and intimate river ships on the Mekong River. Pratesi covers the travel and culinary industries for major publications, including U.S. News & World Report.

You might also be interested in:

  • The Best Cruise Lines
  • The Top Solo Cruises (No Supplement Fare)
  • The Top Themed Cruises
  • The Top 3-Day Cruise Itineraries
  • The Best Cruise Insurance Plans

Vacation Ideas for Every Traveler

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