There are several ways to explore the Galapagos Islands. The most popular way to experience the islands is to take a cruise, but you can also join a land based tour or travel independently throughout a few of the islands. While taking a cruise is sure to be an amazing experience (and an experience we’d like to have at some point in the future), we absolutely loved our land based tour of the islands. We felt it was the perfect introduction to such a magnificent chain of islands.
During our 11-day adventure with Galakiwi, we hiked, biked, snorkeled, ate, and paddled our way around the islands. We visited the four inhabited islands in the Galapagos, aka the islands with a human population: San Cristobal, Floreana, Isabela, and Santa Cruz. It was a fantastic time, and because we loved our adventure so much, we wanted to share 10 reasons why we think you should take a land based tour through the Galapagos Islands, as well!
1. See a Different Side of the Islands
First and foremost, we were able to see a side to the islands that you would miss on a cruise ship. By returning to land each night rather than a cruise ship, we were able to spend our free time exploring the island, something you can’t do if you are on a boat. Our evenings were spent dining at local restaurants, relaxing at beach bars, browsing small shops and convenience stores for local products, and going on long walks to see what we could find.
We were able to get a feel for the culture of the islands—one of our favorite evenings was when we heard a soccer game being played in the lot next to our hotel. We were just heading to our hotel room for the night when we heard lots of cheering and commotion flowing into the hotel hallway. Micah and I couldn’t resist investigating, and we were treated to a wonderful scene of a lively game of soccer. This was one of the many experiences we would have missed if we weren’t staying overnight on land.
2. Less Chance for Motion Sickness
You will have less of a chance for motion sickness! Realistically, when you travel in the Galapagos, you are sure to encounter boats for transport between islands or for activities like snorkeling. But when you do travel by boat, the rides will be much shorter, and you won’t be spending the majority of your trip out on the water.
3. You Get to Stay in Hotels
Staying on land meant that we stayed in actual hotels every night! Your hotel room will likely have more space than a cruise cabin, and you will be able to see the different island flavors through the design of the hotel. Plus, if you are prone to motion sickness, spending the night in a bed that doesn’t rock you to sleep is a big bonus.
4. Taste More Local Foods
There’s more opportunity to taste local food when you stay on land. Rather than having all of our meals on a cruise ship, we were able to enjoy the majority of our meals at a variety of local restaurants. While most of our meals were included with the tour, we had a couple of meals where we could explore and find a restaurant on our own to give us more flexibility. We tried lots of soups, fish, veggies, rice, desserts, and even a burrito! Before we arrived, we weren’t sure what we would think of the food, but we ended up loving the variety of the dishes we were served!
5. More Opportunities to Meet Locals
Staying on the islands also gives you a better opportunity to meet locals. Whether you chat with a bartender, a server at a restaurant, a shop owner, or a hotel employee, you will have some great opportunities to interact with locals on a more personal level.
6. Experience Nightlife on the Islands
Although we didn’t experience it because we had such early wake up calls, another reason to travel by land is to check out the nightlife on the islands. While I’m not sure if there are many “clubs” on the islands, there are bars scattered around here and there. And striking up a conversation at a bar is a great way to get an inside peek at the life and culture of the islands!
7. Escape the Cruise Ship Crowds
Traveling independently or with a small land based group tour gives you a better chance at escaping the crowds. Rather than going on an excursion with the other 50-100+ people from your cruise ship, you will have a smaller group to travel with around the islands. Galakiwi tours have a maximum participant limit of 16 and the average group size is 10. We loved the small group feel and really appreciated the many moments we were alone in the vast nature paradise of the islands.
8. More Time for Inland Exploration
Being based on land also gives you more time for inland exploration. With more opportunities to hike, bike, and explore the highlands, you will be able to experience a wider variety of landscapes and adventures. And don’t think that spending more time on land will limit your wildlife viewing. We saw a TON of wildlife during our trip and some of our favorites were sea lions, marine iguanas, sea turtles, penguins, hammerhead sharks, blue footed boobies, and more birds than I can even begin to remember!
9. Have One Main Guide as Opposed to Many
Rather than having different guides throughout the trip, with Galakiwi you will have one main guide the entire time. Having one person show you around all of the islands gives you a unique chance to get to know them and learn about their life, background, and interests. We had such a great time getting to know our naturalist, Pablo—he is so passionate about the islands, and it shows. Thanks to Pablo and the wonderful staff at Galakiwi, we had an unforgettable experience.
10. Support the Local Economy
Perhaps one of the best reasons to take a land based tour throughout the islands: it helps support the local economy. By traveling on land and visiting independently run hotels, restaurants, and other businesses, more of the money you spend goes directly to the people living on the islands. Spreading your money between a variety of small, local businesses helps create a greater impact. When you support local businesses, it ensures locals can make a living in the place that they call home.
Are land based tours always a better option you might be wondering? I’ve heard that cruises can be better for the fragile ecosystem of the Galapagos, but there are always more than two sides to every view. Thankfully, Galakiwi is a green tour operator, and they do such a great job at focusing on sustainability through every aspect of the tour. Not only do you support local businesses when traveling with Galakiwi, you will also be encouraged to be plastic free and use refillable water bottles (they provide the water!). Galakiwi also focuses on recycling, utilizing reusable containers, walking instead of taking cabs when possible, just to name a few. A green mindset flows from both the business and personal lives of the Galakiwi crew.
That said, we’d still love to take a cruise through the islands at some point in our lives. Joining a cruise is a completely different experience that allows you to see a more remote side to the islands. We’d love to see another side of the islands someday, but we are extremely grateful for the experience we had with Galakiwi. We absolutely loved our land based tour through the Galapagos Islands, and we can’t wait to get back and explore more soon.
Have you been to the Galapagos Islands before? How did you travel or which way would you like to explore the islands?
Special thanks to Galakiwi for hosting us on an amazing adventure! As always, all opinions are our own.
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