How to Get Around on the Galapagos Islands
Taking a Galapagos cruise is by far the most popular and convenient way to experience the Galapagos, however, some visitors prefer the flexibility and freedom that independent travel affords. Whilst there are some important considerations to bear in mind, island hopping in the Galapagos is definitely possible and provides an unparalleled opportunity to get to grips with the islands on your own terms and at your own pace. Read on to learn more about how to get around on the Galapagos Islands and details on the different transportation options available.
Cruises are an undeniably fantastic way to experience the Galapagos, especially for those keen to witness the wilder islands or for those simply short on time. The islands are relatively spread out and a cruising tour enables you to access remote destinations you simply wouldn’t otherwise get to see. Navigating between the islands at night also means saving on a lot of travel time as well. Taking a Galapagos cruise is the best way to experience the islands.
However, there are many great advantages to independent travel and Galapagos Lodges too!
Since the Galapagos Islands are such a remote destination, many travelers like to stay on the islands for some time before or after their Galapagos cruise. Independent travel on the Galapagos Islands means that you are your own boss, with total flexibility regarding departure times and dates and ultimate decision-making power around where to go, when and for how long.
Another great advantage of independent Galapagos travel is the ability to spend considerably more time on each island. Many visitors relish the opportunity to arrange island stays of several days, where they can gain unparalleled glimpses into daily life and the chance to interact with locals. By basing yourself in one of the port towns, such as Puerto Ayora, you’ll have plenty of time to immerse yourself in island culture, as well as the freedom and flexibility to take day trips to nearby sites. There are plenty of worthwhile attractions on the islands that can be accessed outside of a cruise schedule, ranging from enticing beaches and souvenir shops, to memorable diving excursions and conservation centers.
Travel Options for Island Hopping the Galapagos
Independent travelers to the Galapagos can travel between eight islands, four of which are inhabited (San Cristobal, Santa Cruz, Isabela, Floreana) and four which are uninhabited (Seymour, Bartolomé, Plazas, Sante Fe). On rare occasions, boats also travel to Española National Park, but this excursion is becoming increasingly restricted to organized day tours and is left for the Galapagos cruises.
Most visitors to the Galapagos start their adventure on Santa Cruz island. For those travelling independently, this is where you can pick up a day tour (approx. $60-$150) to the uninhabited islands. There is plenty of choice, so be sure to shop around for a tour that suits your needs and budget.
Once you’ve selected your destinations and worked out an itinerary, there are two ways to get between the islands: by air and by sea. Your choice will depend on time constraints, as well as budget and personal preferences.
Float planes: These are a great option for those attracted to the independence that island hopping offers, but who also want to save on time, as well as have that bit more comfort. Two local airlines, Emetebe and Zair, offer flights in small 5-person planes. There are routes between Santa Cruz (Baltra), San Cristobal and Isabela, with a journey time of approximately 30 minutes for each route. The downside is that tickets can be quite expensive, between $150-175, which can start to add up if you’re planning to visit lots of islands.
Boat rides: The government company Ingala operates passenger ferries between Isabela, Santa Cruz, Floreana and San Cristobal islands. These depart twice a day (in the early morning and early afternoon). They are the cheapest way to get between the islands, with tickets costing around $25-30. The boats arrive in Puerto Ayora, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, Puerto Villamil and Puerto Velasco Ibarra.
Private companies also offer speed boat transfers, with a higher price and faster journey time to the public ferries. The boats are quite small so if you’re susceptible to motion sickness we’d definitely recommend taking some tablets beforehand. You may also want to take a waterproof or poncho as the ride can get quite wild and bumpy. Accessing some islands will also require taking a short water taxi ride to a pier as boats stop just short of the shore.
On the inhabited islands themselves you can use public transportation to get around. There are taxis, water taxis and bike rentals available, and the towns are all easy to navigate on foot.
Taking a cruise is the only way to visit the most remote Galapagos islands, but it is definitely possible to travel independently in the Galapagos and still have a fantastic time! You’ll see plenty of wildlife and have the opportunity to immerse yourself in a wide range of activities and day excursions. For those taking a cruise, learning how to get around on the Galapagos Islands can allow you to stay a few extra days before or after your cruise. For more information about booking a Galapagos Tour, please contact us, or call 1-888-215-3555.