The Galapagos Islands holds prime real estate on world travelers’ bucket lists, and with good reason. We hand select only the best Galapagos cruises for your choice or design private, land-based Galapagos tours you will never forget!

This archipelago consists of 19 main islands and several smaller, more minor ones, and just four of them are inhabited by humans--only wildlife reigns on the others! And, adventure-seekers will be rewarded on land when hiking the second largest volcanic caldera in the world, or in the water while snorkeling or scuba diving with sea lions, penguins and sharks. We help you pick the right Galapagos cruises and, or, create private land-based Galapagos tours for you

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There are few places in the world where visitors can be in such close proximity to animals on land and in water. Wildlife lovers will leave here planning their return visit, while non-wildlife lovers will become instant converts. Below are some tips to keep in mind as you are planning your trip to the Galapagos Islands.

Get in the water

While the land excursions in the Galapagos are interesting and varied, allowing you to observe giant tortoises in their natural habitat, hike over cooled lava rock to see colonies of marine iguanas, and climb to the top of Pinnacle Rock on Bartolome for unparalleled views, the water activities are perhaps the most fascinating. Put on your wetsuits and snorkel gear and the underwater world will treat you to a marvelous spectacle as colorful schools of fish swim amid coral formations, giant sea turtles float alongside you, penguins buzz past, and playful sea lions circle around in an attempt to invite you to join in. These fearless sea creatures will come right up to you and make you feel like visitors in their territory, a truly humbling experience.

Understand how “luxury” is relative

There is a lot of talk on the different categories of Galapagos boats, but keep in mind that even the “luxury” category boats are still not luxurious by general standards, especially when compared to yachts in the Mediterranean and other areas of the world. This is the land of expeditionary and ecological experiences, so your expectations should match. The “luxury” category vessels may have larger cabins (some with private balconies), more onboard amenities or inclusions, top-notch guides, and more focus on hospitality and personalized attention onboard, but in the end, the focus is always on the excursions and natural history of the islands.

Choose a land-based program for more flexibility and privacy

While boat-based programs allow you to cover the most territory in the shortest amount of time, cruise itineraries are strictly enforced by the National Park, which doesn’t leave much room for modifications. For those who prefer to have more flexibility and/or privacy, land-based programs are an excellent alternative, and are especially recommended for honeymooners and multi-generational families, as well as active travelers who want to incorporate activities like volcano trekking, biking, kayaking and scuba diving. Plus, if you don’t love the idea of spending a week on a boat, these programs allow you to come back to a more spacious room at a hotel, possibly beachfront or with an outdoor pool, and also have access to the infrastructure of a town.

Visit Isabela Island as an extension to your cruise

Especially if doing a shorter cruise, consider extending your stay with a few nights on Isabela Island, the largest island in the Galapagos, located in the western part of the archipelago. This island is a highlight for many and the majority of visitor sites accessed from Puerto Villamil are not visited on cruise itineraries. Puerto Villamil itself is a sleepy beach town with a laid-back vibe, and is a fantastic place to relax after an active cruise program. From here, you can also hike the infamous Sierra Negra Volcano, the second largest volcanic caldera in the world, and do some fantastic snorkeling excursions.

Consider a private villa Experience or boat charter for families

If you and your family, or extended family, are traveling together to the Galapagos, consider a private villa experience or boat charter. Both options afford amazing privacy and exclusivity, and can be even more cost-effective than a shared cruise, depending on the size of the group. We work with two fantastic villas in Puerto Ayora and can customize your time according to your group’s interests and preferences. For example, some may want to go SCUBA diving, others might choose to search for Giant Tortoises in the Highlands, while others want to stay and relax by the pool. This is all possible within the same day. We can equip your villa with a private chef to prepare meals, hire private guides for your excursions, and charter day yachts to take you to neighboring islands for one or more days.

Avoid beaches on Santa Cruz Island on weekends to avoid the local crowds

Two of the best beaches on Santa Cruz Island are Tortuga Bay and Garrapatero Beach, and we recommend seeing one or both during your land stay in Puerto Ayora. As we are customizing your program, we may include days at leisure so you can explore on your own or arrange for these beach visits during the week and avoid the local crowds that flock to these beaches on Saturdays and Sundays.

The Galapagos Islands are entertaining, engaging and safe for the entire family-- they offer something for everyone, from kids to grandparents. Whether it’s a family activity that can be enjoyed together or solo excursions, there are many ways to explore the beauty of the Galapagos by land or sea.

Relish a tranquil boat ride, relax in a hammock, or leisurely stroll along the stunning beaches. Soak up the magic of the Islands’ unique flora, fauna and geology. Swim and snorkel with playful sea lions and other marine life, or go sea kayaking for an invigorating afternoon. For the more adventurous, embark on an inland hike or climb to the top of Bartolomé Island.

Explore the lush highlands of Santa Cruz Island in a peaceful, deluxe campsite where Galapagos Finch bird sightings are common. African-style safari tents offer a relaxing escape close to the natural wonders of the Galapagos Islands. The Safari Camp allows the whole family to stay in the middle of nature, far away from crowds.

Onboard the luxury Integrity yacht, be whisked away for a child-friendly sea excursion and visit highlights of the Galapagos Islands such as Isabela Island, the largest in the archipelago; Fernandina Island, the youngest; and the Eastern Keys.

After a full day of exploring the Galapagos’ spectacular landscapes and fearless wildlife, unwind on the terrace at camp with a cocktail, while enjoying the views of nearby islands. The adventure culminates on mainland Ecuador where your family is immersed in 400-year-old Andean culture at a historic, upscale, hacienda on a working local farm.

Step aboard our five-star Galapagos cruises, and embark on daily guided shore excursions in a small, intimate group to experience the magic of these islands. Shore groups are limited to 16 people by the Galapagos National Park to preserve the ecological paradise that inspired Darwin’s masterpiece, On The Origin of Species.

Informative single lodge programs offer fewer travel days and more time to explore and relax; mixed-lodge itineraries visit more islands. When not visiting Puerto Ayora or San Cristobal, the two largest settlements in the Galapagos, don your SCUBA gear for a diving excursion, explore the islands’ coves and shores via sea kayak, or venture into the Highlands by mountain bike.

Combining a cruise with several days post-cruise on one of the islands is another amazing experience – allowing for the opportunity to visit a wide variety of islands by boat, and then relax or organize multi-sport activities during your stay at your hotel or villa.

From December to May, the Galapagos is warmer and more overcast with daily precipitation and a more tropical climate, making it an ideal time to snorkel.

In January you can spot green sea turtles laying eggs, land birds nesting, marvel at the bright green, red and black-colored adult marine iguanas on Española (Hood Island), and observe the land iguanas beginning reproductive cycles on Isabela Island. By February, Nazca (Masked) boobies, greater flamingos, Bahama pintail ducks (black-tailed pintail), and sea lions can be spotted in Gardner Bay.

March 21st marks the beginning of the summer equinox and signals the early arrival of the Waved albatross on Española Island. Witness penguins still active in the water, or watch the amazing courtship of the Waved albatross in April. vIn May, North Seymour's Blue-footed boobies begin their courtship and sea turtles continue to hatch on Gardner Bay, Punta Cormorant, and Puerto Egas. Also during this time, most of marine iguanas' eggs hatch from nests on Santa Cruz, Palo Santo trees begin to shed their foliage, and band-rumped storm petrels also start to nest.

The dry season, running from June to December, is marked by the southern trade winds that usher in the colder and stronger Humboldt currents to the islands. As the sea water temperature starts to cool, its waves start to pick up, the garúa season begins, where Giant Tortoises on Santa Cruz Island migrate from the highlands to the lowlands in search of suitable nesting places. The Galapagos also welcomes many migrating birds and some species of whales and dolphins, including humpback whales migrating up to equatorial latitudes.

July welcomes actively breeding seabird communities, notably the Blue-Footed and Nazca boobies on Española. Flightless cormorants perform beautiful courtship rituals and nesting activities on Fernandina. Walk along the shores of Puerto Egas on Santiago Island and you may discover American oystercatchers nesting.

August welcomes the baby Sea lions, courting of Galapagos hawks on Española and Santiago, and nesting Nazca (masked) boobies and swallow-tailed gulls on Genovesa Island. Giant Tortoises return to the highlands of Santa Cruz and migrant shore birds start to arrive and stay on the islands until March. The ocean’s currents are at the strongest levels.

By September, the peak of the cold has arrived with air temperature levels at 19C-66F. Enjoy the remarkable activity of Galapagos penguins on Bartolome delighting swimmers and snorkelers alike as they frolic at the surface and swim like torpedoes underwater. Listen to the barking and fighting of male sea lions for their preferred females in the western and central islands.

By October, the Lava herons start nesting, Galapagos fur sea lions begin their mating period and Blue-footed booby chicks appear all over Española and Punta Vicente Roca (Isabela). Marvel at the stunning sunrises in the misty mornings of the western islands where summits are clear. The sun comes out by midday, but low-lying fog covers the shoreline.

In November, you can watch the mating of sea lions on the eastern part of the archipelago, along with brown noddies and nesting band-rumped storm petrels. Some species of jellyfish can be seen around the islands, such as the genus physalia around Gardner and Tortuga Islets, or stranded at the shores of the Flour Beach at Floreana. Seas are calmer now with good visibility for snorkelers as the southeast trade winds have decreased strength and water temperatures are slowly rising. Sea lion pups (especially at Champion Islet) play aqua-aerobics next to snorkelers and may even nibble at your snorkeling fins.

By December, watch as Giant tortoise eggs begin to hatch until April, and green sea turtles display their mating behavior. As rainy season begins, the green returns, but the Western islands remain very dry. The first young Waved albatrosses fledge and the first red pouches of Great frigatebirds can be seen on Genovesa. Occasional whales and dolphins are also spotted at this time.

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