Have you dreamt of doing some Galapagos Island Hopping? You wouldn’t be alone, visiting The Galapagos Islands is on many a travel lovers bucket lists. There are few places on this planet where you can have such an up-close personal encounter with wildlife. The beaches are pristine and unspoilt. The landscapes are unusual and fascinating.
Many people are surprised when they realise how big The Galapagos Islands are. Many of them are spread out and each island offers something different whether it be awesome volcanic scenery, land iguanas, a higher chance of spotting whales or hammerhead sharks. Some islands are better for spotting giant tortoises, others for vivid pink flamingoes. Therefore, the best way of seeing the Galapagos is by island hopping.
There are different ways you can do this including DIY self-organised trips as well as luxury and budget tours. Some island hopping Galapagos trips are land-based, whilst others will involve staying on a boat, literally sailing into the sunset each night.
Today we’ll be talking about the best island hopping trips in the Galapagos which are actually affordable. You’ll be amazed at how many cruises charge more than $10-15K for a pretty similar experience!
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What you can expect from this article...
- 1 DIY Galapagos Island Hopping
- 2 Affordable Galapagos Island Hopping Tours
- 2.1 Tour companies in The Galapagos Islands which I trust
- 2.2 Things to consider when booking a Galapagos tour
- 2.3 Which islands to visit in the Galapagos
- 2.4 Affordable Land-Based Island Hopping Galapagos Trips
- 2.5 Affordable Live Aboard Island Hopping Galapagos Trips
- 2.6 What to pack for an island hopping tour in The Galapagos Islands
DIY Galapagos Island Hopping
If you are on a shoestring budget, you could consider organising your own itinerary in the Galapagos Islands. Whilst accommodation, food and activities will be more expensive than in mainland Ecuador, it may still work out as an affordable way to see The Galapagos islands on a budget.
However, a word of warning. Day trips in the Galapagos can be really expensive (
Affordable Galapagos Island Hopping Tours
Tour companies in The Galapagos Islands which I trust
There are literally hundreds of tour companies to choose from in the Galapagos Islands! It can be a minefield trying to choose the right one and if you get it wrong, it could spoil your whole trip. Therefore whichever company you choose, I recommend you read plenty of reviews. TripAdvisor is a good place to start.
The company I travelled with was G Adventures. I’ve travelled with them five times now in 8 countries and every trip has been amazing. I’ve been well looked after, the quality of accommodation has always been good and the tour leaders knowledgable and friendly.
My Galapagos cruise with G Adventures was no different. The standard of cabin far exceeded my expectations, the delicious 3-course meals were tasty and filling, the staff couldn’t do enough to help. We sailed overnight so that we arrived at the best places before the other tourists, getting to enjoy paradise without the crowds!
I took a 10-day trip which I felt was a really good length of time to get a good feel for The Galapagos Islands. Obviously shorter trips will be more affordable but if your budget can stretch to 10 days then I would encourage you to take this trip. Read my review here.
I have also travelled extensively with Intrepid Travel which is a company very similar to G Adventures. I’ve taken a marine trip with Intrepid, sailing around the Thai islands and was very impressed with the standard of their trips. Therefore, although I haven’t seen the Galapagos with Intrepid, knowing their dedication to customer experience, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them.
Read More | G Adventures vs Intrepid Travel – Which is Best?
Things to consider when booking a Galapagos tour
The different islands in The Galapagos are all very diverse. Some have picture-perfect white sandy beaches with turquoise water. Some have rocky volcanic hikes, some are covered in cacti. There are places better for seeing flamingoes and other places better for spotting sharks. Don’t make the mistake of assuming all Galapagos trips are the same. Do your research and decide which Islands you want to visit first. (See below for a description of different islands.)
It’s also important to check the standard of accommodation included. Some budget tours may stay in basic hostels where as luxury cruises may offer swanky cabins. Decide what you are comfortable with and if you want luxury accommodation, be prepared to pay a fair bit extra!
Consider if you are likely to suffer from sea sickness. There are medications you can take to combat this but if you know you suffer motion sickness badly, you may want to consider a land based tour.
If you decide to take a land based tour, be aware you won’t get terribly far from the main islands Floreana, Santa Cruz, Isabela and San Cristobal. Also, there may be a fair bit of time spent travelling between places whereas boat trips usually sail overnight so they can enjoy the best beaches to themselves before other tourists turn up.
Which islands to visit in the Galapagos
All the islands are incredibly diverse with different wildlife and scenery on offer, here’s a little overview of what to expect from each area in The Galapagos Islands.
North Islands – Genovesa, Darwin, Wolf
Only some of the North Islands are accessible for dry landings but here is where you will find the most amazing dive spots. The island of Genovesa is one of the best places for bird watching. You may even get to see the Red Footed Boobie!
East Islands – San Cristobal and Isle Lobos
Isla Lobos is a small island with a LOT of wildlife. I saw a huge variety of mammals and birds there. San Cristobal is the largest island in the east and home to a tortoise breeding centre which you can visit. It also boasts the gorgeous beach Cerro Brujo – possibly the prettiest beach I have ever seen.
South Islands – Floreana and Espanola
The Southern islands are home to some of the most amazing wildlife in The Galapagos Islands. On Espanola you are likely to spot the huge Galapagos Albatrosses (watch out for their mating dance!) There is also a huge number of Marine Iguanas here – they sleep on top of each other in piles to keep warm. You will have to be careful not to step on them as they are EVERYWHERE! On Floreana, there is a lagoon where you may spot flamingoes depending on the time of year.
West islands – Isabella and Fernandina
The West islands are the newest islands meaning they have some incredible lava scenery and impeccable coral for snorkelling and diving. You are also more likely to see whales on the western side.
Central islands – Santa Cruz, Bartolome and Santiago
Santa Cruz is the most populated of the central islands and is also home to The Charles Darwin Research centre which is well worth a visit. Santa Cruz is a great island to visit if you are looking for Giant tortoises. Bartolome is home to one of the best views in The Galapagos and Santiago is where you will find fascinating lava formations.
Affordable Land-Based Island Hopping Galapagos Trips
Best for an overall view of The Galapagos Islands
This budget island hopping trip will take you to four of the most popular islands in The Galapagos; Floreana, Santa Cruz, Isabela and San Cristobal.
You will have the opportunity to snorkel with sea lions at Kicker rock, hike the Sierra Negra Volcano for spectacular views, visit a tortoise breeding centre, a flamingo lagoon and see the Charles Darwin Research Centre.
It will give you a really good feel for what the Galapagos has to offer without completely breaking the bank.
- Santa Cruz
- San Cristobel
Accommodation is a mixture of hotels, hostels and camping.
Best for sporty people
If you like to keep active on your holiday then this might be the trip for you. With a blend of hiking, cycling, snorkelling, kayaking and even surfing on offer, you certainly won’t get bored on this Galapagos island hopping multisport trip. A big highlight will be hiking up Siera Negra Volcano and then cycling back downhill! This trip starts and ends in Santa Cruz and takes 8 days.
- Santa Cruz
Accommodation is a mixture of hotels and community guesthouses.
Best for 18-29 year olds
If you are aged below 30 and want to travel with other young people, this may be the trip for you as it’s restricted to 18-29 year-olds so it’s likely to be a lively one! It’s also very affordable costing under <$1000. This may even work out cheaper than a DIY Galapagos trip if you are planning on taking day trips as most day trips will cost in the region of $120-150 per day.
- San Cristobal
- Santa Cruz
Accommodation is a mixture of hostels and hotels.
Best for a whirlwind trip
Whilst researching the shorter 4 days trips that are popular for budget backpackers in the Galapagos, I noticed that many only offer 2 days of activities and lot’s of free time. Whilst free time on a guided tour is lovely, when it comes to the Galapagos Islands, you’re going to want to be taken to as many amazing places as possible to see as much as possible! You will likely end up booking an additional excursion on your ‘free day’ adding to the overall cost of your trip.
I did, however, find this 4-day trip which has included activities and day trips for all 4 days. It’s also a bargain at around $600. It would be hard to arrange a DIY trip for less than this when tours are taken into consideration.
- Santa Cruz
Accommodation is a hotel in Santa Cruz
Best for kids
If you’re travelling as a family then consider booking a Family adventure with Intrepid. There will be other children for your kids to befriend (as well as making friends with the local friendly sea lions of course.) A highlight of this 8 day trip will be seeing Islas Lobos – the world’s second largest sea lion colony!
- San Cristobal
- Sant Cruz
Accommodation will be in local child-friendly hotels and guesthouses.
Affordable Live Aboard Island Hopping Galapagos Trips
Best for seeing red footed boobie
If you want to reach the
- Baltra, Santa Cruz, Santa Fe, Plazas, Lobos, Seymour
- Genovesa, Bartolome, Santiago
- Espanola, Floreana, San Cristobal
Accommodation is in twin cabins with bunk beds.
Best for those who want to see it ALL
If you have a bit more time on your hands and you can’t decide which islands you want to see the most, then there is a way to see them all! This 17 day trip visits the Central, North, East, South and West islands so you will get to see a huge variety of landscapes and wildlife. Obviously this is not the most budget-conscious island hopping trip on this list – it is 17 days after all! But if you have the budget, it looks AMAZING! So I couldn’t leave it off the list!
- Santiagos, Bartolome, Rabida, Genovesa
- Baltra, South Plaza, Santa Cruz, Santa Fe
- Florean, Espanola, San Cristobal
- Fernandina, Isabela
Accommodation Twin cabins with bunk beds
Best for divers and seeing the North and West Islands
If you love diving and have your advanced open water scuba certificate then this will be a brilliant option for you including a massive 18 dives! This trip visits the
- Darwin, Wolf
- Fernandina, Isabela
- Santiago, Bartolome
- Santa Cruz
Accommodation Twin Cabins with bunk beds
The Best for those on a tight budget who still want to sail
For those who are on a tight budget, this is a brilliant option. Not only is this an affordable cruise (at least when compared to regular Galapagos cruises) but it also includes your flights to and from Quito saving you a considerable chunk of money. You’ll get to see beautiful Bartolome and visit the best island for bird watching, Genovesa.
- Bartolome, Genovesa
- South Plaza, Baltra, Santa Cruz, Santa Fe
Accommodation Twin Cabins
My Personal Favourite
This is the trip I took in The Galapagos Islands and I really can’t rave about it enough. It was just incredible.
This trip is a little longer but if your budget can stretch to 10 days, I think it’s the ideal amount of time in The Galapagos Islands. Visiting the central, south and east islands gave me a really good overview of the Galapagos Islands and was the perfect balance of stunning scenery and epic wildlife opportunities. The gorgeous beach at Cerro Brujo is the most beautiful place I think I have ever seen. Snorkelling with sea lions was my favourite activity. Read my full Galapagos with G Adventure review for more information!
- Bartolome, Santa Cruz
- San Cristobal
- Floreana, Espanola
Accommodation Twin Cabins (normal beds)
Best for those wanting a bit of luxury and also seeing the beautiful Southern islands
Being that bit further away from the largest islands, the Southern islands are some of the prettiest and most peaceful. There is an abundance of wildlife as well as unspoilt white sandy beaches. This boat is the most luxurious of all these trips. You can check the boat out here. It’s a bit posh!
- Santa Cruz, Santa Fe, Plaza
- Espanola, San Cristobal, Lobos
Accommodation: Hotel and twin cabins
Best for those who want to combine their Galapagos trip with trekking the Inca Trail in Peru
If you can’t decide between the climbing Inca Trail and visiting The Galapagos Islands then this trip combines the best of both worlds.
This 14 day trip will involve 5 days of sailing the Central islands including Cerro Dragon where you may spot the more elusive land iguanas. you’ll then be flown (flights included) to Quito and onto Cusco where you can explore the charming city nestled in the Andes before completing the iconic Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu.
- Santa Cruz
- Santa Fe
- San Cristobal
Accommodation A mixture of twin cabins, hotels and camping.
Still not found a Galapagos Island Hopping trip that floats your boat (get it?!) Then
What to pack for an island hopping tour in The Galapagos Islands
- Number one item to pack is an action camera. You won’t want to miss getting some great pictures and videos of the magical underwater world in the Galapagos Islands. I have a GoPro Hero 6 which takes fantastic quality photos and videos but you can also get great budget versions such as this one for under $50!
- You’re going to be getting on and off boats a lot during your trip to The Galapagos Islands so make sure you have a dry bag to keep your belongings safe. A waterproof phone cover is also a great idea for protecting your phone and being able to use it as a camera on the beach.
- Consider taking your own mask and snorkel and even your own fins if you are planning to do a DIY budget Galapagos trip and save on money spent to hire them. It’s also useful on cruises as you won’t have to battle to find one which is your size and doesn’t leak!
- Make sure you take reef safe sunscreen. Regular sunscreen can be really damaging to the coral and subsequently the wildlife. If you want to know more about this, I suggest you read this article.
- The tap water is not safe to drink in the Galapagos Islands so I recommend you save money and do your bit for the environment by investing in a Water To Go bottle. These bottles filter the tap water as your drink making it completely safe for consumption. This will also save you money in the Galapagos Islands. If you use the code GLOBETROTTERGP when you purchase one on their website, you’ll get 15% off.
- You’ll be in and out of the water constantly when you are in the Galapagos Islands so you’ll need an antibacterial towel which dries fast such as these fun stripey towels from Dock and Bay.
- The volcanic rock in the Galapagos Islands is very unforgiving on your feet so I’d recommend taking water shoes or waterproof sandals like these ones from Teva.
- And don’t forget your travel insurance. Make sure it covers adventure activities like snorkelling and diving.
For more packing tips, read this complete Galapagos packing list…
- Galapagos Budget Cruise with G Adventures Review
- The Galapagos on a budget – the ultimate guide
- G Adventures vs Intrepid Travel
- The Galapagos Central islands
- The Galapagos Eastern islands
- The Galapagos Southern Islands
- A Galapagos Packing List
Have you found the right Island hopping Galapagos trip for you? I really hope so! If you have any questions, feel free to post them in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer them.
In the meantime, here are some pretty pins for your Pinterest boards so you can come back to this post later…