The Best Way to See the Galapagos Islands: Cruise or Land-Based?

Best Way to See the Galapagos - Knowmad Adventures

A couples of the most common and important questions when planning a trip to the Galapagos Islands are“What is the best way to see the Galapagos Islands and should I do an expedition-style cruise or a land-based Galapagos trip?”  The answer really depends on your own personal travel style and what you most want to experience during your trip to the Galapagos. Knowmad Adventures Galapagos Trip Specialists are experts on all the possibilities, advantages, and disadvantages that come with each option. Take a look at the guide we’ve created below to help you easily decide which option is the best way for you to see the Galapagos Islands!

The Trip Specialists at Knowmad will help you navigate the different boat options, itineraries, and seasonal differences, coordinating Galapagos and mainland Ecuador travel for a holistic, seamless and safe experience, all at a guaranteed best value.

Reach out today at 612-315-2894 or by filling out the short form above to take the first step in creating your adventure-of-a-lifetime. 


Galapagos by Cruise


Best Way to See the Galapagos WidlifeBest Way to See the Galapagos Islands Wildlife

Most experts agree that a cruise is the best way to see a wide variety of wildlife during your trip. The boat travels at night, meaning you can make it to plenty of different islands, including the further out, more remote islands with unique wildlife viewing opportunities that simply aren’t possible to visit during a land-based trip.  While you’ll see Galapagos tortoises, sea lions, and iguanas on any trip to the Galapagos, a cruise is simply the best way to fully experience the diversity of species found in the Galapagos. As this is a priority for many travelers, it often ends up being the determining factor when picking between cruise and land.



Best Way to See the Galapagos Islands Sunset

Most your travel time while on a cruise happens at night. This means more time to explore during the day, and less time spent getting from point A to point B when you could be snorkeling with a sea lion. The nature of a land-based trip means that you’ll spend part of your time in a car driving to port or on a boat getting to different islands and visitor sites. On a cruise you are off the boat every morning and afternoon doing different excursions.



Best Way to see The Galapagos Islands Ecuador - Knowmad Adventures

There are thirteen major islands and seven smaller islands in the Galapagos. During most land-based trips you’ll see an average of three to four islands. On a cruise you’ll likely visit between five and eight different islands, with at least two different visitor sites each day.  This allows you to get a more complete understanding of the biodiversity and size of the archipelago.

Have you decided that an expedition cruise sounds like the best way to see the Galapagos Islands? You may be interested in reading,“The Top 10 Galapagos Cruises For All Different Groups & Budgets.”


Galapagos by Land


Best Way to See the Galapagos Islands - Knowmad Adventures

If you are someone that hates being confined to a set schedule each day, a land-based trip may be the best way for you to experience the Galapagos Islands. All cruise itineraries are set by the National Park. This means each boat has set times that they can be at a particular site, and activities they have permission to do. There is little room for flexibility, spontaneity, or unguided exploration. You can’t wander too far away from you guide, and often have to stay on marked trails at each landing. Land-based can also be the best for young children, as they’ll have more freedom to run around and explore when and where they’d like.



Best Way to See the Galapagos Islands - Knowmad Adventures

Unless you have the budget to charter your own cruise, land-based trips are the only way to achieve a fully private Galapagos experience, and sometimes for a similar cost as a cruise. A land-based trip can be 100% customizable to meet your own travel style and Galapagos wish list.



Galapagos Islands Travel - Knowmad Adventures

During a land based trip you can go on longer hikes (most cruises have shorter walks that are accessible to a variety of travelers), bike ride, stand-up-paddleboard, kayak, snorkel, scuba dive, and more. On cruises most excursions revolve around shorter walks, panga rides, swimming, and snorkeling. Some boats have kayaks on board as well.



Best Way to See the Galapagos Islands Culture - Knowmad

On a cruise you may achieve a better view of the wildlife and biodiversity of the islands, but you often miss the fascinating historical and cultural aspect of the Galapagos. On a land-based trip you can head out with local fisherman for a cultural exchange, explore a sustainable Galapagos farm, take a walk with one of the islands’ first inhabitants as you learn about the mysteries of Floreana, make chocolate with the Galapagos’ only chocolatier, and more. Knowmad travelers Kim & Dan said of their land-based trip, “We loved staying on the islands and getting to know some of the locals.” If you’re someone that’s more interested in culture and history than wildlife, a land-based trip is definitely the right fit for you.

Does a land-based trip sound like the best way to see the Galapagos Islands? Take a look at our island hopping adventure here, or inquire with a Knowmad Trip Specialist about a customized stay at the unique Galapagos Safari Camp.


The Best WAy to See the Galapagos Islands might be… Choosing Both Land & Sea!

Why choose between cruise and land when you can do both? Pairing a three to five night cruise with two to five nights on land – like these travelers did on their, “Galapagos Islands Travel: Land + Sea” adventure – can be an amazing way to experience both aspects of the Galapagos. You can see a variety of different islands and wildlife while cruising, and then take advantage of the freedom land has to offer by relaxing on a beach, booking a diving adventure, exploring the town of Puerto Ayora, and more!


I haven’t included this above as, despite popular belief, a land-based trip isn’t always the best solution to avoid seasickness. If you’re prone to getting seasick the advantage of a land-based trip is that you aren’t sleeping on a boat, and spend less time on a boat overall. However, this also means you are often taking smaller yachts or even speed boats to visit other islands, which can be worse for seasickness than being on a cruise. My three recommendations for travelers prone to seasickness are catamarans, which are generally quite stable, a larger 100 passenger ship, or a land-based trip with minimal boat trips to other islands. I’d also suggest avoiding the months of August, September and October when the winds tend to pick up a bit more.


Still can’t decide which option is the best fit for you? Or have you decided and you’re ready to get planning? Give a Knowmad Adventures Trip Specialist a call at 612-315-2894 or email us at [email protected] to start planning your trip to the Galapagos Islands today! 


¡Saludos! Renee

Renee Davies, Trip Specialist - Knowmad Adventures Custom Travel

Renee is a Trip Specialist at Knowmad Adventures, a company dedicated to creating unique, private and custom trips in South America. She lived in Mexico for over 3 years and is excited to help Knowmad travelers discover the wonderful impact not just travel, but really experiencing a different country and culture can have on your life. Read Renee’s biography and more about the Knowmad team.