Roughly 170,000 tourists visit the Galapagos Islands every year ––or 400+ people per day–– which is a considerable amount of people coming into a small and fragile ecosystem. It’s a high-profile place, and people want to see it for themselves. The most popular way to tour the Galapagos Islands is in small cruises – you travel during the night and sleep in the boat, and during the day, you explore the Islands. That can get expensive, especially for younger travelers and families with younger kids.
For that reason, we’ve developed land-based Galapagos Islands Tours that are a less expensive alternative to the Galapagos Cruises, and that provides a great experience that cannot be matched by the cruises.
The typical cost for a cruise can get into the thousands of dollars per person. The options below priced at least 30% under the cost of a Galapagos Cruise and include accommodation, food, activities, and professional, certified guides – most importantly, they are different, and you will have a much better story to tell your friends when you’re back!
Yes, you can do Galapagos on your own –– however, you’ll get a lot more from your Galapagos trip if you have a knowledgeable naturist guide that speaks English and Spanish to show you the gems in a structured way so that you can enjoy your adventure vacation. Also, we highly recommend using a certified guide to learn how to care for the delicate ecosystem while you are in the Galapagos.
The Galapagos Island Hopping Budget Tours depart with a minimum of 4 people. The tours include the highlights of all the four inhabited islands (San Cristobal, Isabela, Santa Cruz, and Floreana). Transport between the islands is by private speed boat. This trip is ideal for those who don’t want to be onboard during the entire tour and are looking for a competitive price! The five days Galapagos Tour is ideal for the younger traveler or families on a budget – we understand most families are. We have a 6-Day Tour as well –however, the most immersive experience is the 9-day Galapagos Island Hopping Adventure Trip.
Why are these tours a great alternative to a Galapagos cruise?
Higher Value / Lower Cost
The most convincing argument is the cost! Traveling to the Galapagos Islands is on the bucket list of so many travelers, and it’s definitely not a cheap adventure. A 5-day cruise in a beautiful Tourist Superior Class boat with an excellent itinerary costs around USD 1,400 at least – this does not include flights to Galapagos (+/- 500 USD), entrance fee to the Galapagos National Park (100 USD per adult), the INGALA transit card (20 USD p. p.), wetsuit rental and personal expenses.
On the other hand, a 5-day Galapagos Islands hopping tour including all the four inhabited islands (San Cristobal, Floreana, Isabela & Santa Cruz) costs less than half of what a Galapagos Cruise would cost you, and you can upgrade from basic accommodation to luxury accommodation for only a couple of hundred dollars extra. Excellent itinerary, great organization, experienced guides, all meals, activities, and snorkeling equipment included – like on a cruise without the motion sickness!
If you prefer smaller, individual tours for couples, families, or groups of friends starting any day, you like to start with a minimum of 2 passengers.
A cruise takes you to places that you cannot reach without a big boat, like Fernandina and the Western side of Isabela. Island Hopping is a great alternative, and lots of wildlife encounters are guaranteed as well!
More freedom to discover the Galapagos Islands
A lot of our clients don’t like to be on board of a boat the whole time. Even in a first-class (luxury) yacht, the space in the boat is limited. When I went on an 8- day cruise in May 2012, I enjoyed it a lot, but sometimes I would have enjoyed having a little more flexibility to explore the islands individually and see how the locals live on the islands. To be able to see a lot on a cruise, you have to stick to a fixed itinerary and spend all nights on the yacht. During the Island Hopping Tour, you can have a drink at a local bar at night after dinner and sleep in a hostel or hotel room and explore the community of fishermen and locals.
Galapagos Islands Tours Tailored To Your Needs (Especially For Families With Kids)
Galapagos is excellent for little kids, but doing The Galapagos inside of a boat with small kids is a concern I wouldn’t want to experience. Parents have to be less afraid of their children going overboard, and we can have a unique child-friendly itinerary, family rooms, etc. and a choice of activities during the tour.
Locally Operated. More Environmentally Sound
Barefoot Expeditions works with a local Galapagos Islands operator paying particular attention to eco-friendly tours. Last but not least, our tours use less fuel than a cruise that is traveling around for several days, which means less pollution! Sustainable tourism is a priority.
Are you curious now?
What To Expect?
Your accommodation during the Galapagos Island Hopping Tour is in clean, basic hostels in double or triple rooms with private bathroom (no dorms). Examples: Casa de Jeimy (San Cristobal), La Gran Tortuga (Isabela), La Peregrina (Santa Cruz), or similar.
You have the choice to upgrade to from Basic to Standard Accommodations with larger rooms, TV, and AC. Most of these hotels have a pool. Examples: Hostería Pimampiro (San Cristobal), Wooden House (Isabela), Villa Laguna (Santa Cruz), or similar.
Small local speed boats between islands. Navigation times can be long (max 2h 30) depending on the distance between the islands. As you can imagine, we are at the mercy of the mighty ocean, so if a swell comes in, then the ride can get bumpy, especially during the Garua season (see below). If you are usually subject to motion sickness, please bring patches or motion-sickness medicine – you can also buy medicine in the islands. The patches are effective!
This is an active tour and group tour: you have to be fit (be used to hiking and swimming). Please take into consideration that this is not a kick-your-feet-up-and-drink-margaritas kind of tour. It is very active and lots of fun but you will definitely get a workout. We wake up early to make the most out of the day, as days are quite short (sunset is at 6:00 PM, and it never changes since The Galapagos Islands are in the Equator).
Meals during the tour are not “a la carte” – there are preset menus. We do our best to vary the meals, but remember we are on an island, and lots of products are imported or not available. Rice is a common plate here in Ecuador, chicken, and extremely fresh fish as well. Your meal is always accompanied by freshly squeezed fruit juice too.
Species you CAN see on this tour:
Sea lions, frigate birds, blue-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, swallow-tailed gulls, tropicbirds, marine iguanas, sharks, rays, penguins, giant tortoises, turtles, Darwin finches, mockingbirds, lava lizards.
Species you CANNOT see on this tour:
Albatrosses, red-footed boobies, flightless cormorants, pink iguanas (nobody can see this one as it is ultra-protected and living in a part of the islands totally closed to tourism): if you are interested in spotting one of those, let us know, so we can complete the tour with a cruise. Land Iguanas can be spotted on the 8-day tour only.
If your goal is to see a great majority of the animals in the Galapagos Islands, we recommend you book a 15-day tour that visits all the possible islands. In essence, some animals just live on some islands, sometimes in very specific pockets of certain islands.
Galapagos Island Hopping Tours Information
- Transportation: is made onboard of small speedboats between islands. Navigation times can be long (max 2h30) depending on the distance between the islands. We cannot control the ocean. If a swell comes in the ride can be bumpy, especially during the Garua season (see below). If you are usually subject to motion sickness, please bring parches or pills (you can also buy pills on the islands). The parches are really effective!
- This is an active tour: you have to be fit (be used to hiking and swimming).
- This is not a relaxed tour. Early wake-ups are usual here on the Galapagos, to make the most of the day, as days are quite short (sunset is at 6 PM).
- Meals during the tour are not “a la carte”, but menus. Please let us know any allergy/special diet you may have.
- We do our best to vary meals, but remember we are on the islands and lots of products are imported or not available. Rice is a common plate here in Ecuador, chicken, and (extremely fresh!) fish as well. Your meal is always accompanied by a fresh fruit juice.
- Accommodation is in nice hotels with private bathrooms, hot water, Wi-fi. They are usually family-run businesses. In Ecuador, we get hot water with the help of gas, so in case you don’t have hot water in your shower, just inform the reception so that they can change the gas tank.
- Almost all the accommodations where you are going to stay have WiFi, but be prepared that it is comparatively slow. But it will be enough to send some emails home.
- Please take some good walking shoes with you for the hike to Sierra Negra on Isabela Island. The ground can be muddy and you will feel more comfortable if you have the right shoes.
- Be sure to bring good sun protection as the sun on the Galapagos Islands can be very intense. Don’t forget some insect repellent.
- On the Galapagos islands, the tap water isn’t drinking water. You can brush your teeth with the water, but you shouldn’t drink it (just to let you know).