Galapagos islands hotels have been growing in number over the past decade. The 4 inhabited islands now have a well-rounded mix of hotels and hostals catering to overnight stays, Galapagos land tours and cruise extensions. In fact, hotel stays in Galapagos are becoming an increasingly popular choice for the flexibility that they add to a vacation at the islands. With the wide range of Galapagos islands hotel options for visitors, the only complication now is how to choose between them.
Keep reading for our tips and recommendations to help choose a Galapagos islands hotel. Which island to stay on? Which type of hotel to consider? Which hotel amenities are essential for Galapagos visitors?
Only four of the Galapagos islands are in fact inhabited, each of which offer their own selection of Galapagos island hotels. Each island has it’s own unique pros and cons, so let’s take a quick look at each one.
Santa Cruz has the largest population and is centrally located at the arhipelago. It’s main town, Puerto Ayora, is lined with fancy boutiques and restaurants, and also has the most diverse range of hotel choices. Daily tours are available to surrounding islands, as well as dive trips to explore the amazing Galapagos marine life. Easy visitor sites that can be visited without a guide include: Tortuga Bay beach, Las Grietas, the Charles Darwin Research Station and El Chato tortoise reserve. Santa Cruz is a great choice if you want to shop, enjoy the social life of the islands, and have maximum flexibility to join a cruise departure or organise day tours.
San Cristobal is located to the south east of the archipelago. Puerto Baquerizo Moreno has a sleepy town feel compared to Santa Cruz, and many visitor sites are literally just a short walk away. Golden sand beaches like Playa Mann and Punta Carola are on a loop trail including La Tijeretas for snorkeling. La Loberia beach is one of the best sites to find lazy Galapagos sea lions. A ride across the island ticks off Puerto Chino beach, El Junco lagoon and Galapaguera tortoise breeding center. San Cristobal is perfect for tourists who prefer to relax, explore, and do their own thing. San Cristobal hotels range from backpacker hostels right up to the modern & luxurious Golden Bay Hotel.
Smaller still, Isabela island has beach front hotels in Puerto Villamil town. The long, dreamy stretch of white sand on your doorstep is among the finest beaches at Galapagos. While the town may be small, there are enough rustic style restaurants, bars and basic shops to get you by. Nearby visitor sites include Las Tintoreras, Sierra Negra Volcano and Cabo Rosa / Los Tuneles for incredible Galapagos snorkeling tours. Isabela is the best island for days of beach relaxation combined with freedom to explore.
Your final option is Floreana, with a tiny community of just a couple hundred inhabitants. The lack of airport and daily speedboat ferry make it is significantly harder to get to, but that’s part of the charm. Floreana was the first Galapagos island to receive human settlers back in the 1930s, and home to the incredible Galapagos Affair story – in fact, tourists can still visit some of the famous sites from that story. Today though Floreana has just a limited and basic selection of hotels. This is the island to stay on if you really want to escape from other tourists, and have the place practically to yourself.
Still undecided? Why not shoot for the best of both worlds. Our top tip is to consider staying on multiple islands. Not only will you spot a more diverse range of Galapagos birds and animals, but also you can mix together a combo of beach, landscapes and shopping to keep everyone happy. Intra island speed boats and flights operate every day, making multi island hopping a realistic option.
Organised Galapagos land tours are becoming more and more popular, combining 2 or 3 island stays with the best day tours at each site. All of the stress of booking seperate hotels and tours is taken care of for you. Happy Gringo’s 6day Galapagos Discovery and 8day Galapagos Explorer are best-sellers, while our 9day Galapagos Adventurer tour includes more active excursions for intrepid travelers.
In truth all of the islands have good hotels – it all depends on what you are looking for.
Santa Cruz island has the widest selection of Galapagos islands hotels to choose from. There are options to suit all budgets from backpacker hostels to high-end resort style hotels. Most hotels are found close to the main Charles Darwin Avenue along the front, plus some more secluded options just a water taxi ride across the bay.
San Cristobal and Isabela also have a varied selction of hotel choices, but the best hotels can fill up quickly in high season. The tiny town on Floreana has very limited hotel choices, and should be reserved well ahead of time to avoid disappointment.
Now that you’ve got a better idea of which island you want to stay on, the final step is to choose your hotel.
Here are some important factors to consider:
Price – There are hotels available across the full spectrum of budgets. Galapagos islands hotels are pricier than their mainland Ecuador equivalents, but don’t let that put you off – Galapagos is a unique destination after all.
Style – What do you have in mind? A romantic getaway for couples, or a family hotel with interconnecting rooms? Modern boutique hotel with jazzy lounge music, or a more rustic beach style? A hotel that has won awards for style and chic, or a safari camp? There are even hotels with unique Galapagos history linked to early settlers, such as Angermeyer Waterfront hotel and Wittmer Lodge.
Coast versus Highlands – The majority of hotels in Galapagos are located for convenience in coastal towns, close to beaches, ports and marine wildlife. Some visitors, however, prefer to hunker down in the lush green highlands with giant tortoises for company and cooler weather.
Beach Front – Similar to most global tourist destinations, beach front hotels come at a premium. Most of the best Galapagos beach hotels are found on Isabela island.
Galapagos island resort vs regular hotel – Some hotels like Finch Bay, Royal Palm and Galapagos Safari Camp offer a resort style experience, with meal inclusions and group amenities. Most Galapagos hotels though are a more traditional bed for the night with breakfast service.
Views – An ocean view with private balcony will certainly stretch the budget more, but the tradeoff might be worth it. Who doesn’t love to watch waves gently lap to the shore, or enjoy a glowing sunset from the privacy of your own terrace?
Pool – On hot, tropical days a dip in the pool is the winning ticket. For hotels without a swimming pool, the sea is of course an easy and free alternative.
A/C – An a/c unit in your room certainly makes life more comfortable, especially during the warm & wet season from January through to May. Cheaper Galapagos hotels may only have ceiling fans, which can feel like just shifting the hot air around the room when temperatures are high.
Internet – In general, Galapagos internet access is not as fast or reliable as you might be accustomed to back home. The fancier hotels tend to offer a better connection, while internet in hostels can sometimes be pretty sketchy.
Early Breakfast Service – How flexible is the hotel at adapting their breakfast service to you? Most Galapagos day tours start early in the day, so you’ll want to get a good meal inside of you before heading out.
Noise – Our final important Galapagos hotels tip - look for a quiet hotel that guarantees a good night’s sleep. While most hotels do fit the bill, those located right on the main town tourist drag might be affected by noise from restaurants and bars at night.
At the end of the day, your final Galapagos islands hotel choice will depend on tradeoffs between each consideration.
Happy Gringo have already done the hard work for you. We only offer a select subset of Galapagos hotels to our clients. We look for the best in class for each budget type on each island – backpacker, standard, comfortable and luxury. Above all we only work together with hotels that we trust to take good care of our clients.
For more information about hotels, tours and cruises to the Galapagos Islands, just contact a member of our experienced team. We are happy to assist with Galapagos hotel bookings, or to give a FREE QUOTE for a unique Galapagos land itinerary designed just for you.
In conclusion, there is literally something for everyone in the range of Galapagos islands hotels that are available. Hotel stays and land tours offer a flexible and often cheaper alternative to cruising, and are becoming increasingly popular at Galapagos. Even just a few extra days on land after your cruise is a great opportunity to see another side to the islands. Just follow the steps in this blog to make the right choice for your Galapagos hotel vacation :)