Have you ever dreamed about exploring the enchanted Galapagos Islands on a luxury cruise, just like me? I recently had the chance to cruise this remote archipelago and here I share with you what you can expect!
A UNESCO World Heritage Site and the very place that inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution – exploring the Galapagos islands on a luxury cruise is an unreal experience!
What makes the Galapagos Islands so special?
Blue-footed boobies nesting on North Seymour, giant tortoises grazing on Santa Cruz and penguins basking in the sun on Bartolome Island – the number of species that are found nowhere else in the world make these islands so special
Created by volcanic activity between 3 to 5 million years ago, new the islands were void of life. All the plants and animals that we can now find arrived by sea or air, adapting to their new environment. Over time, the species
The Galapagos are still a place where you can study evolution. Remarkably, many islands and their residents are still close to their original state, with little to no human influence.
The Galapagos Finches are the ideal example of how evolution showed on the islands. Their common ancestor arrived on the islands a few million years ago. Since then, that single species evolved into different ones, adapted to the lifestyle of their particular islands.
Endemic species are the ones that are only found in one area. These endemic species are confined to one place because they are highly adapted to this place in specific.
How to get to the Galagapos Islands?
To enter the Galapagos Islands you have to first fly to Ecuador. As there are no direct flights you will start the trip in Quito or Guayaquil. From there you’ll take a flight with Avianca or LATAM to either Baltra Island or San Cristobal.
Flight prices are roughly around 200 USD one way from Quito to/from Baltra Island.I’d recommend you check for flights ahead of time and to jump on offers!
Remember: before entering the Galapagos Islands you’ll need to have your return flight booked!
What do you need to enter the Galapagos Islands?
Of the most important entry requirements is the Galapagos National Park Entrance Fee of 100 USD that you will pay in cash on arrival in the Galapagos Islands.
Besides having round trip tickets booked and a valid passport at hand, to enter the Galapagos Islands you need to obtain the Transit Control Card I Ingala Card at your departure airport. It should cost around 20 USD.
All covid related restrictions are lifted, so no test is required.
What are the best islands to visit in the Galapagos?
There are 18 islands and a few islets within the archipelago. Of all these, there are only 3 islands you can base yourself on: Santa Cruz, Isabela, and San Cristobal. Land-based excursions are limited to five islands that can be reached in one day. Consequently, that limits the possibilities of you exploring islands that are further away – which are the ones that most cruise companies include in their itinerary.
How to visit the Galapagos Islands?
To visit and explore the Galapagos Islands you can choose between land-based excursions and multiday cruises. I embarked on the M/C Endemic Catamaran from Golden Galapagos on 3 days eco-luxury cruise around the Southern islands of the archipelago. With only 8 cabins, this carbon-neutral luxury catamaran has all the amenities a girl could ask for…
- Highest sustainability standards
- Open sky lounge with whirlpool
- 3 innovative meals a day
- SUP, sea kayak and snorkeling gear
- Refillable adventure bottle + water dispenser
- GoPro to capture to amazing underwater-world
- Panoramic suites with your private balcony (perfect for stargazing)
3 Night Galapagos Eco-Luxury Cruise Itinerary & What To Expect
Baltra + Isla Bartolomé (Bartholomew Island)
Baltra Island is where the cruise begins and where you’ll likely fly into from Quito or Guayaquil. Once at the port, you’ll meet your guide who escorts you on the spacious dinghy (or panga how they call it in Ecuador) to the catamaran.
Upon arrival, you’ll be shown your elegant and bright ocean-view suite with an introduction to the ship and safety measures.
Sipping on drinks while getting to know your fellow passenger over a multi-course meal, you’re off to a great start!
In the afternoon you’ll arrive at Bartolome Islands, a small islet off the island of Santiago for the first water-based excursion.
Snorkeling Pinnacle Rock
There is a coralline beach next to the Pinnacle which allows a wet landing from which you can start a snorkeling trip. It’s a popular spot with the opportunity to see the Galapagos penguin and sea lions at the foot of Pinnacle Rock.
It actually didn’t take long before five penguins shot like torpedos past us – what a first experience!
After an hour of adrenaline snorkeling, you’ll arrive back on board – greeted by the crew, handing you towels and refreshments + snacks. Love that service!
Hiking Isla Bartolomé
Isla Bartolomé is a barren islet situated in Sullivan Bay and one of the most visited and photographed islands. In particular, it’s distinguished by its famous site -the Pinnacle Rock.
One of the things you’ll notice is its lack of vegetation. What you can find though are various lava formations, lava flows and lava cacti.
Up a set of wooden staircases, you’ll climb a 600m trail to the 114 m summit from which you’ll have an incredible view. On a clear day, you can see more than 10 islands!
The highlight without a doubt is the towering Pinnacle Rock. Formed by an eroded cone, its shape is one of the most recognizable in the archipelago and home to a small colony of Galapagos penguins.
Well worth the hike!
Once back from the hike, you’ll be pleased to see the crew waiting for you with a cold drink and some cold towels. This is something I noticed about luxury cruises, it’s level of service and attention that sets them apart, especially in the Galapagos Islands.
If you’re independently traveling the islands, you can check out this 1-day tour to Bartolome Island from Puerto Ayora!
Highlights: Hammerhead Shark Sighting – Flamingos – Blue-footed Boobies – Old Mailing Station
One 7-hour cruise through the night later and you wake up at the island of Floreana in the southeast of the Galapagos Islands.
Floreana was the first island that got successfully populated and is today home to about 200 people. The history of the island is one of mystery. Countless sailors, whale hunters and other adventurers visited the island in search of water, tortoises and even isolation.
Devil’s Crown Snorkeling
Due to its coral reef in the middle, Devil’s Crown is one of the top snorkeling spots in the Galapagos Islands. The semi-submerged, volcanic cone offers the chance to spot sea lions, turtles, sharks, penguins, and many many colorful fish.
The highlight for us was not only to spot a turtle, a shark and a sea lion in one single moment but also to see a hammerhead shark!
Such a bonus to have a GoPro on board to capture these moments!
Cormorant Point lies on the archipelago’s northern tip and was the destination of our morning excursion. It’s especially distinctive by its olive-green-colored sand.
A short 1-hour walk passes by a saline lake that is home to various coastal birds and the ideal place to spot flamingos. Lowering our voices, we were lucky to watch different flamingo colonies for a good while, feeding in the distance.
The trail continues to an almost perfect white-sandy beach with clear turquoise water – one of the most important nesting sites for the Green Pacific Sea Turtle. Right by the shore, you can often spot sea turtles as well as stingrays hiding in the sand, so be mindful of your steps!
Paddle Boarding & Sea Kayaking
It wouldn’t be a true Galapagos adventure luxury cruise without some more playtime in the water. The catamaran is equipped with new sea kayaks and a SUP that you could take out to explore the nearby coast.
A short panga ride later, we got dropped off in the most gorgeous bay, surrounded by warm-yellow sand beaches and rocky coastlines. I made my way around toward a mangrove islet and was greeted by sea lion pups all the way. A short paddle later, and I got washed up the beach, underneath me dozens of sea turtles resting by the shore.
I’d highly recommend activities like these, it just provides such a beautiful opportunity to immerse yourself more in the wildlife.
What a great experience to be more active!
Post Office Bay – Old Mailing Station
Post Office Bay is a place of a fascinating local history that goes back many centuries. When whalers roamed the nearby seas, they regularly stopped on the island to refuel, hunt for tortoises and to leave letters in a certain place on the island. Passing ships that were on their way back to England, the USA, or wherever in the world, would pick them up and deliver them.
Till today, thousands of visitors continue to leave postcards in the wooden barrel. The new visitors who come look hopefully through the colorful pile, browsing the addresses that might be near their homes. Once you find one, you’ll take it and deliver it personally – that’s the tradition, or put a stamp on it and send it off.
Arrived back on board just in time for one of the most magical sunsets of our cruise! Cocktail in hand, it’s the ideal time to unwind and review the adventurous day just lived.
If you’re staying in Puerto Ayora, I’d suggest checking out this full-day tour to explore the island!
Santiago Island & Sombrero Chino
Highlights: Snorkeling with Penguin Colony – Sea Lion mums & pups
Making the 7-hour night cruise back north again, we wake up at the Chinese Hat or Sombrero Chino. A small islet off the island of Santiago, it’s typically a place you only visit on a luxury cruise around the Galapagos Islands.
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Sombrero Chino Hike + Panga Ride
One of the archipelago’s most recognizable islands, Sombrero Chino is a fantastic site for snorkeling and boats with some impressive landscapes! Of volcanic origin, it was created by the nearby Santiago volcano that erupted, forming what is called a ‘spatter cone’.
Our morning excursion included a wildlife spotting panga ride, stopping by sea lion colonies and coastal birds. Cruising through the gorgeous clear blue channel, xxx dropped us off on the white-sandy beach.
Lined with sea lion mums and their pups, it was the perfect welcome. Following the narrow trail, it’s a great place to see Sally Lightfoot Crabs, lava lizards. sea turtles, mockingbirds, shorebirds, the Galapagos hawk and of course, marine iguanas.
Sombrero Chino Snorkeling
Sheltered by the bigger Santiago Island, the water is calm yet deep enough to attract some spectacular wildlife like penguins and sharks. Starting our trip, our panga driver Jefferson pointed out a colony of penguins sitting on the rocks.
In no time we arrived at the rocks, witnessing 5 Galapagos penguins. Sunbathing and being unfazed by our presence, there are few things as rare and special as seeing these little guys in real life.
A snorkeling trip for the books!
During lunch, you’ll sail to North Seymour Islands for one last snorkeling trip and some birdwatching just before sunset.
North Seymour Snorkeling
Highlights: Courtship dance of the Blue-footed Boobies – Mating behavior of the Frigatebirds – Sea Lions surfing in the waves
After lunch and a bit of free time, you head out for your last snorkeling trip. The area offers great opportunities for divers of all levels as well as snorkelers. It’s a deep enough area that attracts sea lions, Galapagos sea turtles, spotted eagle rays and mobulas but also large numbers of fish and often hammerhead sharks.
The small island of North Seymour is an important fishing site for marine birds. The trail leads conveniently through the nesting area of many coastal birds and aromatic salt bushes.
It’s also the place of the largest colony of frigatebirds within the Galapagos Islands. With 2 out of 5 species, you can witness the Great and the Magnificient frigatebirds here, as well as many juveniles.
During the mating season, you can witness the mating behavior of the Frigate birds, admiring their striking red inflated throat pouch and noises. Truly fascinating!
The area is also home to many Swallow-tailed gulls as well as nesting Blue-Footed Boobies. If you’re lucky you can watch their interesting courtship behavior!
Visiting this island should be on every Galapagos Island itinerary. To make your visits more affordable, I’d suggest staying in Puerto Ayora and doing day trips. Check out this one-day tour to get the most out of exploring this incredible island!
Back on board, we joined the captain and crew for a farewell gathering to celebrate a wonderful time on board. A beautiful farewell celebration, with our guide David introducing everyone and us toasting to the team! Thank you!
Our last morning started with a way too early 5.45 am wake-up call for a ride in the zodiac for sunrise. Nothing I’d rather get up for than another wildlife adventure!
Black Turtle Cove Panga Ride
Black Turtle Cove lies on the north shore of Santa Cruz islands and inhabits 4 different mangrove species. From the shore, out into the lagoon, it’s obvious that this is a unique environment – the perfect ground for animal watching.
Every so often we see some sea turtles popping their heads up to catch some air but also to mate!
For over one hour, you’ll glide along the calm water, dozens of juvenile white tip reef sharks slipping underneath the panga.
We return to the catamaran, one last breakfast with the group and you already head back to the airport. A three-day luxury cruise in the Galapagos Islands came to an end, but the memories will last a lifetime!
If you’re keen to check out the complete itineraries for an unforgettable eco-luxury trip around the Galapagos Islands, head to Golden Galapagos’s website.
Disclaimer: This was a sponsored trip. All opinions and thoughts are my own.
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