When Exploring the Galapagos which is Best – by Boat or Land?

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You are planning your dream vacation to the Galapagos Islands and the first question you need to answer is: What’s the best way to explore the Galapagos, by boat or by land?

How can you see as many islands as possible in the short time you are visiting? Which way will you be most comfortable traveling from Island to Island? Are there certain birds or reptiles you want to see, and which sites do you need to visit to make sure that happens? What companies offer the most comprehensive itineraries with the least impact on the environment?

Galapagos by boat

10 reasons we think a boat tour is best

You have a dedicated Naturalist Guide

Your naturalist guide is trained to provide you with the best information, covering all aspects of the Galapagos and ensure that you are experiencing the islands to the fullest. They will help you spot wildlife that you might not see otherwise and ensure you are following the National Park Guidelines to help protect the land throughout your visit.

Spending a week with the same naturalist guides on a boat tour is a great opportunity for you to get to know them better, ask more questions and understand Ecuadorian culture first hand. With land based tours you will have a new guide  daily with each new company you travel with and potentially could be unsatisfied with the inconsistency of the different guides.


Other families (or not) are on the cruise with you

Land based tours don’t allow you to pick who you book your trip with, you are grouped with whoever booked the tour for that day. If you are a family, you most likely want to book with other families so that your kids will have others their ages to explore with. Also, the guides will be prepared to cater their information to a younger crowd. With boat tours, you can pick dates that are family specific, which offer longer hikes and activities geared towards your kids.

You go wireless for the week

Unwind and Unplug for the week. This is your vacation and the perfect excuse to shut down your computer and turn off your cell phone. On average we spend the majority of our day in front of a screen, whether it’s a computer, TV, cell phone or Ipad – so when you visit the Galapagos, a boat tour will get you away from electronics and deeper into nature.

With a land tour you will most likely be able to return to your hotel and check your email or watch TV, but we think when you visit an ecosystem as unique as the Galapagos, you shouldn’t waste your time with WIFI.

Galapagos by boat

Leave a smaller footprint

By exploring Galapagos by boat, you aren’t contributing to hotel, bar, shops and restaurant construction on the islands. With the increase of tourism, comes the increase of building more infrastructure, and bringing more migration and resources to the islands which puts more pressure on the local water, sewage and supplies.

The Galapagos Islands have seen extremely fast growth in land based tourism and are doing their best to cater to the new visitors on the island, but by chosing a boat tour you are leaving a smaller footprint throughout your trip.

You don’t need your credit card all week

Everything is prepaid with a boat tour, so once you arrive in the Galapagos your meals and activities are all taken care of. With land tours you will constantly be negotiating for prices, swiping your credit card and calculating a running total of your expenses so you don’t overspend your travel budget.

Don’t forget to tip your crew and guides at the end of your trip whether you are on a boat tour or land tour, they work hard to make sure your vacation to the Galapagos is one of a kind!


Meals are prepared for you

Upon waking up on your boat, you will have a full buffet of options waiting for you and coffee already made to start your day. After a long hike or an active snorkel trip, you will be greeted with snacks to keep your energy up until your next meal. Lunch and dinner are deliciously prepared by the boat’s chef. For example, Ecoventura’s chef has gone through extensive training and has experience with some of the best local cuisines waiting for you to taste.

With land based tours you will be seeking out and deciding on a restaurant at every meal. It is hit or miss what type of meal you will get depending on where you go.

You pick your itinerary

Each boat has permits to visit specific islands and landing spots across the various islands of the Galapagos. In an attempt to control tourism and manage how many visitors are at each site, you are only able to visit the locations with permission from the National Park. Only tour boats have unique access at remote sites to disembark passengers on uninhabited islands that land based tours are not able to visit. Make sure to do your research so you know which islands you want to visit and the variety of options that are available, each itinerary is unique.

Check out our Itinerary A and B here


You can go further and see more wildlife

With boat tours you will be traveling at night so you are able to go further and explore more islands than you would be able to if you were only doing land tours. Tour boats are able to visit the islands and wildlife in the early morning and late afternoon, when the wildlife is more active and the sun is less intense because they don’t have to spend this time traveling.

Being on a tour boat, you will see more variety of wildlife and landscapes since you will visit islands that are too far for a speedboat to reach in a day and be able to return to port.


With land based tourism, a bigger portion of your day is spent traveling on lightweight ferries or speed boats that are known to rock with the waves and can leave you sea sick as you travel to and from your destination. Your schedule throughout the day, if you chose a boat tour, will allow you to return to the boat and have a proper meal, and a few hours to relax,  spending more time on the different islands while enjoying a variety of activities than if you took a land based tour.

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Stress-free vacation

All of the planning and logistics are done for you on a boat tour. The itinerary is set, meals are provided and your week is planned, so you don’t have to worry about anything.  You only have to pack and unpack once while on the boat, the guides are your wake up call and help you get to each new location with ease.

You will spend your land based tour packing and unpacking 2-3 times as you travel to each new hotel and location, figuring out logistics of where you are going next and what activity is planned so you don’t miss anything.

Galapagos by boatThese are our reasons, We want to hear your comments!

Did you take a land based tour or a boat tour when you visited the Galapagos?