GALÁPAGOS LAND BASED HOLIDAYS TRAVEL GUIDE
2 minute summary
You may be on dry land but a land based vacation is certain to still make a splash.
Read on in our Galápagos land based vacations guide.
WHAT DOES A GALÁPAGOS LAND BASED HOLIDAY ENTAIL?
What we rate & what we don't
OUR BEST & WORST OF GALÁPAGOS LAND BASED HOLIDAYS
Isla Floreana has a human history that's just as fascinating as its natural equivalent with tales of buccaneers, baronesses and eccentric Europeans, increasing anticipation during a 2.5hr boat ride from Isla San Cristóbal. Local guides know Floreana's cultural history inside out with visits to Puerto Velasco Ibarra unveiling what it's like to be part of a population of just 150, outnumbered by penguins.
Land based vacations help to provide a living for Galapagueños, especially within villages that have previously struggled to survive commercially due to the strict national park controls restricting fishing and farming. Staying on land rather than on a ship lets residents benefit from tourism and further recognise the need to keep the environment protected, reduce waste and commit to a sustainable future.
Volunteering projects offer a chance for travelers to do much more than simply visit the Galápagos; they provide a chance to become part of the local community. Placements on the islands of Santa Cruz and San Cristóbal normally last at least a couple of weeks with tasks including replanting indigenous plants, clearing invasive species or assisting English language teachers at the local school.
Santa Cruz highlands
Alongside giant tortoises, the Santa Cruz highlands showcase traditional farming practised in places like El Garrapatero. Sugar, coffee and Galápagos moonshine, made from distilled sugarcane, can all be found in them there hills and you’ll also have a chance to see the hard work that goes into growing organic produce; certain to leave a lasting impression when contemplating future purchases.
Animal encounters on a Galápagos land based vacation can never be underestimated with giant tortoises, marine iguanas, sea lions, penguins and turtles all to be found living within habitat that's remained largely untouched since Darwin's day. A lack of predators on the island means the animals have no fear of humans and observing them without cages, and on their terms, is an extra special experience.
Land based vacations offer opportunities to explore the Galápagos islands on foot with the 17km hike up to the rim of Volcán Sierra Negra, or the steep walk to the top of Cerro Tijeretas, on San Cristóbal, just a couple of reasons to pack your hiking boots. Exceptional views provide just rewards for highland hikers whilst lagoons at Tortuga Bay are just a 3.5km walk from the bustle of Puerto Ayora.
Cutting clear of the ocean by some 140m, the weather-beaten León Dormido (Kicker Rock) serves as a symbol of all that the Galápagos islands stand for: a sanctuary for wildlife. Sea birds and sea lions stick to the rocky crags above the surface, while below the waves, rays, hammerheads and white-tipped sharks offer snorkellers one of the most exciting underwater experiences imaginable.
Villamil Bay on Isabela, Garrapatero on Santa Cruz and practically the entire north coast of San Cristóbal conjure up those crisp white sand and clear blue ocean hues that screen savers were made for. Kick back, snorkel, swim, soak it all in, as some of the beaches and isolated coves you'll discover on a Galápagos land based vacation are absolutely beautiful, just as nature intended.
Cheap boat tours
Cheap is not always cheerful and if you're on a land based vacation in the Galápagos and thinking about a cheap boat trip then make sure you ask for an environmental certificate from the national park authorities first. If it looks too good to be true then it probably is; with poor working conditions and a lack of environmental care just a couple of costs that can be cut to offer cheap boat tours for tourists.
It’s amazing how many people think it’s fine to stick stones in their pockets as souvenirs. Same goes for black coral, shells, volcanic rocks, animal parts, native wood or plants. It’s not fine to buy them from a stall holder either, so report this practice, and don’t fund it. Locally-made and ethically sourced items make great souvenirs so ask your tour op or guide where to look for a little something to take home.
If you're harbouring thoughts of James Bond zipping across ocean waves from one deserted island to the next then please slow down for a moment and think about what effect a speed boat's engine will have on the unseen marine life below the surface. Noise, pollution and seasickness are all consequences of speed boats so opt for a slower, less damaging alternative when planning a tour.
Charles Darwin Research Station
This is an incredibly important center of research and vital to ensuring some of the most endangered animals on earth are reintroduced to their natural habitat. However, if you're heading to the station hoping for a theme park then think again. This is not a family fun zone packed full of interactive exhibits; it's a research center, for research. So don't expect too much for the kids.
Food, shopping & people
TRAVEL LIKE A LOCAL ON YOUR GALÁPAGOS LAND BASED HOLIDAY
People & language
León marino/lobo marino = sea lion
Pinzón de Darwin = Darwin’s finch
Zayapa = Sally Lightfoot crab
Gifts & shopping
Coral, shell, solidified lava and animal products should be avoided, and reported, at all costs.
You might not be able to come home with your own penguin chick, but you can sign up for an adoption pack that contributes to conservation of giant tortoise, Galápagos penguins and hammerhead sharks, to name but a few of the species covered on the Galápagos conservation website.