1. How do I decide what type of yacht to choose?All of the Galapagos yachts that we use offer exceptional wildlife viewing, a bilingual naturalist guide, an excellent itinerary, and the benefits of small group travel. They all include your meals and offer double occupancy cabins (there are limited triple and quadruple options) with private baths. Please note that these are general descriptions -- your trip coordinator will have more specific details on the individual yachts and help you choose the right yacht for you.. Some factors to consider might be your overall trip budget, how long you would like to spend in the Galapagos, and if there are any species or islands in particular that you would like to see.
2. When is the best time to go to the Galapagos?The Galapagos Islands are located at the Equator so there is not a lot of seasonal variation. Air temperatures tend to run in the 70s-80s yearround, slightly warmer from January-April. The climate is relatively dry, though the majority of precipitation falls from January-April as well.
Water temperatures tend to vary significantly as the cold Humboldt current comes up from Antarctica from approximately May- November. Expect water temperatures in the 60s to low 70s during this season and in the 70s the rest of the year. Keep in mind that this also means that snorkeling is coldest during this season so the opposite months (December - April) are best for travelers snorkeling without a wet suit. The Humboldt current is strongest in September and October, so the water will be a little more choppy during these months. Here is a link to a chart with the average air and water temperatures in the Galapagos: Galapagos Temperature Table
In general, you can visit the Galapagos year round and have a wonderful experience! TIP: Avoid the school holidays (especially August and Christmas) if you want to avoid the crowds and take advantage of special rates. Booking in advance is always highly recommended for the largest selection of available yachts.
3. How are the naturalist guides classified?Historically, guides in the Galapagos were classified according to their experience, foreign language ability, and education into three categories: Class I, Class II, and Class III. Although the Galapagos National Park Service has been moving away from these classifications, you may still hear the terminology used so it helps to understand the basics of this outdated system.
Generally, Class I guides were considered to be the least experienced and did not speak fluent English. They are commonly found on economy or simple tourist yachts. We do not use any yachts that have Class I guides.
Class II guides tended to be the most common. They spoke fluent English, were knowledgeable and well trained.
Class III guides historically had completed the most university education. They typically had a degree in a related field and often spoke more than two languages.
Although many yachts continue to refer to their guides as Class I, II, or III, the objective requirements used to classify the guides have been all but discarded. The more expensive yachts still tend to have the most highly educated guides. They will usually call these guides Class III, but the guides may or may not have actually completed the historical certification process.
We have selected yachts in every price category that have quality guides who consistently receive positive reviews. Quality may change or guides may switch yachts, so we update our yacht offerings regularly to reflect the latest reviews.
4. How do I choose a "good" itinerary?All of the Galapagos yachts offer interesting itineraries that provide a diverse mix of wildlife and geologic phenomena. On any itinerary, you are likely to see the most well-known Galapagos wildlife such as sea lions, iguanas, tortoises, and blue-footed boobies. In fact, once a yacht reaches a particular island, you will likely have the very same experience on that island (guide excluded) whether you are on a small sailing yacht or a luxury expedition ship, and the daily itinerary (two island visits, time for snorkeling, etc.) is also very similar on every boat.
However, there are some yachts that travel only to the accessible central Islands, and there are others that are more likely to visit the remote islands to the far west or north in the island chain in addition to these central islands. The remote islands tend to experience less impact from travelers so they are more pristine, and they occasionally offer wildlife that is seldom found in the more central islands. For example, the islands of Fernandina and Isabela in the far west are known as the best areas for whale watching and for seeing large numbers of sea turtles. These are also the only islands on which the flightless cormorant can be found. The island of Genovesa (Tower), in the far north, is the only island where the red-footed booby is commonly sighted.
Travelers generally consider itineraries that include either Fernandina and/or Genovesa to be especially good. Most of the expedition ships and the more expensive motor yachts will include at least one of these islands. Keep in mind that all island itineraries are subject to change so you should not choose a yacht solely because of the itinerary it offers. For more details on which ships visit Genovesa, Isabela and Fernandina, please ask your trip planner.
5. What itinerary length should I choose?All of the cruises provide a wonderful taste of Galapagos wildlife, geology, and natural history. The 8-15 day cruises are generally recommended for travelers that want to make the Galapagos a focus of their trip and don't want to miss any of the details. These longer cruises typically visit twice or three times as many islands and sites than the shorter cruises that are 5 days or less in length. Since each visitor site has something unique to offer, travelers with a special interest in biology, ecology, etc., may feel short-changed on the shorter cruises. For instance, there are two different species of sea lions and three species of Galapagos boobies. On the shorter cruises, travelers may only see a few of these species, while travelers on the longer cruises are likely to see nearly all of them. The 8-day cruise is the most common option, so travelers will have a wider selection of yachts available to them if they opt for an 8-day cruise.
Travelers that aren't worried about seeing everything and instead want to fit in other destinations such as the Amazon or the Highlands may prefer the 4, 5 or 6-day cruises. These options provide a great introduction to the magic of the Galapagos. It can be particularly nice for families with younger children whose attention spans are likely to dwindle after five or six days on a small yacht or for anyone short on travel time.
One other thing to consider is that you pay the same amount for your internal flights to the Galapagos as well as the $100 Galapagos National Park entrance fee whether you are doing the shortest 4 or longest 15 day cruise.
6. What are the typical demographics of other passengers onboard?Travelers come from around the world, though most speak English fluently. They range in age from children to seniors. Families, solo travelers, and honeymooners are all common. No one should feel out of place!
7. Are these trips suitable for kids?Absolutely! The Galapagos Islands offer access to unique wildlife like almost no other place on earth. Activities such as snorkeling with sea lions, observing playful dolphins leaping in front of the boat, and nearly tripping over massive land iguanas straddled across the paths are sure to delight the senses of kids and adults alike.
Most yachts suggest a minimum age of 6-7 years old. Safety is a concern for younger children as deck handrails are not low enough to adequately protect young children. Entertainment onboard is also limited, especially on the smaller yachts.
Families may want to consider joining one of the larger vessels (50 passengers plus) as these are more likely to offer suite accommodations, onboard swimming pools, games rooms, and other facilities for children. Most do not have television or video games.
Our Family Travel Page has some helpful hints for making the most of your family vacation. We realize that you know your kids best so we will be happy to answer all of your questions and try to give you the most accurate impression of what to expect. However, please remember that these are adventure tours and flexibility is essential!
8. Are these trips a good choice for solo travelers?Absolutely! Most yachts have special single rates or can arrange a shared room at no additional cost. The relatively small groups and shared interests in wildlife and nature allow travelers to easily meet others. Solo travelers should also take a look at our exclusive Solo Traveler Departures.
9. Do cruise rates include international flights?Cruise rates do not include international flights. We find that it is usually less expensive for travelers to book these separately and this also allows you the flexibility to choose the schedule and routing that is most convenient for you. You can purchase international flights on your own, or we can certainly help you arrange these flights with an airfare consolidator who specializes in South America flights.
10. Do cruise rates include internal flights and/or hotel before or after the cruise?The rates online include your cruise experience only – all meals while on your cruise, excursions, transfers to and from the ship while in the Galapagos, and the accommodations aboard ship. Rates do not include flights to and from the Galapagos or extra hotel nights in Quito or Guayaquil. We normally arrange your flights to and from the Galapagos as well as any extra hotel nights or airport transfers you may need while on the mainland. Our hospitality packages include 2 hotel nights, 2 airport transfers, and your Galapagos transit card. Rates for hospitality packages start at $140 per person.
11. How do I get to the hotel from the airport when I arrive?We can arrange an airport transfer for you or you can take a local taxi. Taxis are usually less expensive, though many travelers prefer the convenience of having our Adventure Life staff waiting for them at the airport when the arrive, especially after an exhausting flight. Please let us know your preference!
If you purchase a hospitality package for Quito or Guayaquil, your transfers to and from the airport for your Galapagos flights are included in this package cost. If you would prefer to arrange your own hotels, but still want us to arrange your transfer to the airport we would be happy to do so at an additional cost.
12. How much should I budget for tips?Tips are not required on the Galapagos cruises, but they are customary. Tipping amounts vary widely, but recommended tips generally run ~$10-15/ day per traveler. Some yachts will include envelopes for tipping the guide and crew, others have a box for each, and still others make no mention of tips at all (although they are still much appreciated!)
13. Are there any discounts available?Absolutely! Many yachts offer last minute or low season discounts throughout the year. We also offer on-going discounts that can be found on our Travel Discounts page.
14. How far in advance should I book?Although you can book your Galapagos cruise anytime, we generally recommend at least 3-4 months notice. Some yachts fill up well before that, especially high-end vessels. Christmas, Spring break, and summer departures are also likely to fill up 6 months in advance or more. Travelers that book early will have a range of yachts from which to select.
Last minute travelers can also be accommodated (sometimes even one week before departure) but may have limited options. For last minute bookings, it helps to be flexible and organized. Your first choice yacht may not be available for your selected dates, but your trip coordinator can recommend some other similar options that would be equally enjoyable. You may be asked to send your registration form and trip payment in right away to secure your spaces, as yachts will usually not place holds for last minute departures.
15. Can I extend my stay?Absolutely! Travelers commonly add a visit to the Amazon, the Ecuadorian Highlands, or a multi-sport activity (biking, whitewater rafting, etc.) to their Galapagos tour. Check out our Ecuador Extensions for ideas. Extra days can also be arranged in the Galapagos at one of the hotels on the island of Santa Cruz (a nice option for divers in particular). Let us know how you would like to customize your trip and we will do our best to accommodate you.
16. What are the meals like onboard?All of the Galapagos yachts offer Ecuadorian and international dishes onboard. Meals are a mix of buffet and table service. More affordable yachts tend to have simpler menus while the luxury yachts offer a wider selection and fancier cuisine. Fresh seafood is served on all vessels. Vegetarian and other special dietary requests can also be accommodated with enough notice. Beverages such as coffee, tea, water, and juice are usually included with every meal. Alcohol and soft drinks are available for purchase.
17. Is snorkeling available on every yacht? Is snorkeling equipment included?Snorkeling is available on every yacht. Most itineraries have free time for snorkeling, swimming, or just relaxing on the beach nearly every day. Most vessels also have snorkeling equipment available for a small rental fee. Travelers are welcome to bring their own equipment if they prefer. Wet suits are not available on most yachts. We recommend that travelers visiting from May to October consider bringing a light wet suit, as water temperatures can dip into the low 60s during this season.
18. Is diving available?Some yachts offer optional diving in the Galapagos on every departure, while other yachts have select dive only departures throughout the year. Contact us - 1-800-344-6118 - for the most up to date offers on diving excursions in the Galapagos.
19. What are wet/dry landings?The majority of islands in the Galapagos are uninhabited. They have no structures of any kind including docks for landings. Yachts will typically anchor offshore and then travelers will take smaller motorized zodiacs (pangas) to reach the islands.
On a dry landing, the panga will motor next to a cement or natural rock outcropping and travelers can step out of the panga directly onto the dry land. On a wet landing, the panga will approach a sandy beach and travelers will step out of the panga into ankle deep (or possibly knee deep) water and walk to shore. As all yachts will have both wet and dry landings in the course of an itinerary, it is important that travelers bring shoes/sandals that they don't mind getting wet. It's a good idea to bring a towel along for wet landings so that you can dry your feet and change into socks and hiking shoes.
20. What should I pack?After you book your tour, you will receive a detailed packing list with your departure packet. Most yachts do not have a dress code so casual clothes are fine. Bring shorts, swimwear, sunscreen, and a sun hat for the days. A long sleeve fleece or sweater and long pants are advisable for the cool evenings on the water.
Bring comfortable walking shoes and sandals, or other shoes that you don't mind getting wet. Make sure to bring plenty of film, batteries, and personal toiletries, as it's impossible to get these items on the uninhabited islands. Most itineraries will include a stop at the small town of Puerto Ayora on the 10 day tour where travelers can access an ATM, souvenir shops, etc.
Travelers may also want to bring their own snorkeling gear (if they have odd sizes, prescription masks, or prefer their own equipment, etc.) and a light wet suit for the colder water season.
21. What immunizations are required?No immunizations are required for entry into the Galapagos. A yellow fever vaccination is recommended for travelers who extend their Galapagos trip to the Ecuadorian Amazon. This vaccination, which is valid for 10 years, must be administered at least 10 days before your arrival in Ecuador. Travelers must bring along their International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP) as proof of vaccination. The vaccine is required for any travelers entering Ecuador from a country with a perceived risk.
Please note that some countries, such as Costa Rica, require a yellow fever vaccination if traveling directly from Ecuador. Please check with the Center for Disease Control for information for your onward travel from Ecuador.
Hepatitis A and Typhoid are generally recommended for any travel into Ecuador. Talk to your doctor or visit the website for the Centers for Disease Control www.cdc.gov for the latest information.