Swim with sea turtles, stingrays and dolphins, walk on the beach past seal colonies, come face to face with a land iguana and giant tortoise, and marvel at animal life every day. It’s possible on the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador. In this paradise, animals don’t see humans as enemies, and that makes for the most extraordinary experiences you won’t find anywhere else in the world. But what should you look out for if you want to take a trip to the Galapagos Islands? The best way to visit this wonderful world of Galapagos is by cruise. I personally visited the islands with Golden Galapagos Cruises, a small-scale boutique organization, focusing on comfort and high-end service. In this article I tell you all about a trip to the Galapagos Islands and staying on the Golden Galapagos Elite 4 day cruise, including tips on transportation, itineraries, activities and best travel time.
- Welcome to the Galapagos Islands in Euador
- What makes the Galapagos Islands so unique
- Galapagos cruise or land tour
- A cruise on the Galapagos Islands
- Golden Galapagos Islands Elite 4 day cruise
- Activities – Golden Galapagos Elite 4 day cruise
- Mini Travel Guide Galapagos Islands Euador
- More about Ecuador
Welcome to the Galapagos Islands in Euador
The Galapagos Islands! Perhaps you have always dreamed of visiting these islands. Maybe you remember it from school books or have seen images of it on television. The Galapagos Islands are a unique place on earth and a trip there is an experience you will remember for a lifetime. But good preparation is essential because there are countless tours and packages offered. I myself am in the luxury position of having had the opportunity to visit the Galapagos Islands several times, both for work and personal reasons. So in this article I am excited to tell you more about the Galapagos Islands and how to get the most out of your trip.
What makes the Galapagos Islands so unique
The Galapagos are a group of islands located in the Pacific Ocean, a two-hour flight from mainland Ecuador. These 19 volcanic islands belong officially to Ecuador and are named after the giant Galapagos tortoise, which lives here in large numbers.
Because of its remote location, plants and animals in the Galapagos Islands have evolved here in their own unique way, uninfluenced by their counterparts on the mainland. As a result, several endemic species have emerged. For example, you will find special species of turtles, penguins, flamingos, marine iguanas and birds, which you can only find in this place in the world. Darwin developed his theory of evolution there and published his findings in the famous book The Origin of Species. Since 1978, the Galapagos Islands have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the surrounding ocean has been declared a protected marine reserve.
Galapagos cruise or land tour
There are several ways to visit the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador. For example, you can book a hotel on one of the inhabited islands and go on tours from here. That way you decide what you do during the day and in the evening you eat in one of the restaurants. But surely the very best way to experience the Galapagos islands is by taking a cruise.
Staying on a cruise is an experience in itself, but where better to do this than on the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador? You go to bed in the most remote places, wake up with a view of sea turtles and visit islands you can only visit with a special permit. A cruise is an experience you don’t want to miss when you travel to this place on earth.
A cruise on the Galapagos Islands
In the Galapagos Islands, you can choose from numerous ships that operate different itineraries. All providers have the proper papers to operate on the Galapagos Islands and provide a special experience. But there is definitely a difference in service, ship size, included activities, comfort, style and itinerary. Are you looking for a boutique cruise, with up to 18 people on board, with a focus on comfort and high-end service? Then you’ll want to take a trip with Golden Galapagos Cruises in Ecuador. This organization includes four ships, including the Elite Cruise. In this article, I’ll tell you more about what to expect from a trip and stay on the Golden Galapagos Islands Elite 4 day cruise.
Golden Galapagos Islands Elite 4 day cruise
The Elite 4 day cruise consists of three decks, with more space per guest than any other cruise on the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador. The main deck features a reception area and restaurant with bar where you order cocktails, a glass of wine and fresh juices. It is also where you enter the ship, enjoy tasty snacks daily and store your expedition materials. On the upper deck, you’ll find a terrace on both the front and back. The highlight is the skydeck which covers the entire ship. Here you can sit on one of the beds during the day, relax in the Jacuzzi and in the evening dine under the stars. Can you imagine that you share the Elite Cruise with only 18 fellow passengers?
The Elite 4 day cruise on the Galapagos Islands has ten suites, spread over two floors. And when you enter your suite, you can’t believe your eyes. All suites have a fantastic balcony with sliding glass doors that offer a view of the world, which may call itself the Galapagos Islands. There is nothing like waking up in the morning and looking out at a sea turtle or group of seals playing.
The rooms, each a whopping 35 square meters, are fully equipped, including king-size bed, closets, desk, air conditioning, sitting area and spacious bathroom. The rooms catch lots of natural light through the large glass windows and feel even more spacious thanks to the fresh colors. And should you wish to communicate with the outside world, Wi-Fi is available throughout the entire ship.
During the Golden Galapagos Elite 4 day cruise, all meals are included. You start the day with breakfast, part buffet and part à la carte. Lunch consists of a buffet, where the chef prepares a number of dishes, with your selected ingredients, in front of you. In the evening, take your seat in the restaurant or on the sky deck for an à la carte three-course meal. And all dishes are prepared with care and attention to detail. Think fresh pastas and delicious fish, including a special meal of tiger prawns.
An added service are the daily snacks, snacks, fruits and fresh juices that are waiting for you after each activity. There is also a counter where you can grab coffee, tea, soda and other goodies twenty-four hours a day.
Activities – Golden Galapagos Elite 4 day cruise
The reason for a cruise, of course, is to discover the incredible wildlife of the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador. Therefore, every day you will go out several times to explore the area. And you do this through the most beautiful excursions, all of which are included during your stay on the Elite Galapagos Islands 4 day cruise. The specialized guides will tell you every evening about the program for the next day. Moreover, if you snorkeled, for example, you will review the underwater footage at the end of the day. Prepare for a life filled with snorkeling among sea turtles, coming face to face with seals, giant turtles and penguins, canoeing along the blue-footed boobies and countless visits to the islands. Herewith I tell you more about what the program of the Golden Galapagos Elite 4 day cruise looks like.
Trip itinerary – Golden Galapagos Elite 4 day cruise
The trip I took myself is the Elite 3 nights – 4 day cruise that visits the southeastern Galapagos Islands, starting at San Cristobal Island and ending at Baltra. Golden Galapagos Cruises also offers a 4 night/5 day trip along Central Galapagos Islands, and a 7 night/8 day itinerary that combines the south and central parts.
Day 1 – Galapagos Island San Cristobal
After we are warmly welcomed by our guide and the crew of the Elite Galapagos Islands 4 day cruise, a comprehensive briefing follows, explaining our program, life on board and the rules that accompany our visit to the Galapagos National Park. After a full lunch and some free time to explore our cruise, we depart for Galapagos Island San Cristobal to visit the David Rodriguez Breeding Center.
While walking through this reserve, we come face to face with the Galapagos giant tortoise, the animal for which the Galapagos Islands are so famous. The guide talks extensively about the habitat, evolution and future of these tortoises. You couldn’t have a better start.
Day 2 – Galapagos Island Española
This night we sailed a good number of hours from Galapagos Island San Cristobal to Española. Since it is the first night on the Galapagos cruise, everyone is a little off from sleeping on the boat. The next few nights will be better. Breakfast is scheduled at 7 a.m. so we can leave by dinghy at 8.
A boat ride at Suarez Point
Galapagos Island Española is known for its colony of albatrosses, Gannets and other unusual birds. In a small boat we sail around the bay and the first thing we see are sea turtles, their heads sticking out of the water. It is not just one but dozens of them. On the rocks, iguanas and seals are sunbathing and regularly the playing animals swim around the boat.
We see the blue feet of the blue-footed boobies, glistening on the rocks and pelicans and albatrosses flying around, diving straight into the water with their beaks to fish. We can even enjoy rays and starfish in the water. And as if that were not enough, our guide points out jumping dolphins in the distance. We sail there and are overwhelmed by dozens of dolphins, swimming with our boat. Even when we turn off the engine, they stay by our boat. We are just speechless.
If you are in the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, snorkeling excursions are of course not to be missed. It is one of the best ways to observe marine life. This afternoon, after lunch, our first snorkeling activity is scheduled. Around a rocky outcrop near Española Island, we are dropped off by boat for 45 minutes of snorkeling. And then you realize again what a special place you are in. We enjoy countless colorful fish, sea turtles and seals around us.
All snorkeling equipment is included during the Elite Galapagos Islands 4 day cruise. At the beginning of the cruise, you get your diving suit, snorkel, mask and flippers, which remain in your possession until the end.
Seal colony at Galapagos Island Española
This afternoon we visit Gardner Bay on Galapagos Island Española and here you will feel like you are entering paradise. The beaches are snow white and everywhere you look there are seals. The seals are totally unafraid of humans, so you just walk past them, at your own pace. Every now and then the male seal shows you who’s boss by running around screaming.
Our guide tells us that up to five hundred seals used to live here, but when a dead whale washed ashore, many seals left, due to the fly nuisance. The skeleton is still displayed on the beach. But five hundred seals, wow, and we are already impressed.
Day 3 – Floreana Island
This night we sail again for several hours from Galapagos Island Española to Floreana. And everyone has a good night. We are getting used to this life on a Galapagos cruise. After a full breakfast, we start the day.
Flamingos at Cormorant Point
This morning we sail our dinghy towards Cormorant Point on the island of Floreana. A large flamingo colony lives on this island. We walk a few meters and slow our steps; there is a group of flamingos, very close by. And these really are the most beautiful animals, because of their graceful posture and bright colors.
We continue along the path and end up on the other side of the island, which is the habitat of sea turtles. According to our guide, there are around seventy sea turtles here on a good day and ten on a bad day. This is another moment that leaves you speechless. The animals lie here, almost like rocks so still, on the beach. And as a visitor, you walk along here at your leisure. Although you have to be careful not to accidentally step in a stingray.
And also in the water there is a lot going on. Our guide tells us that as many as five male sea turtles swim around a female and take turns climbing on it, to fertilize her. There are also sea turtle tracks leading to a grassy area, the place where the nests are made and where, of course, as a visitor you are not supposed to walk. On the way back, we meet a perfect crab that stepped right out of a cartoon.
Again today we get to enter the water for another snorkeling trip, and this time around Devil’s Crown. But not before we see the Galapagos penguin, pelicans and the blue-footed boobies along the way. Devil’s Crown is one of the best places to snorkel and we understand that right away. After less than five minutes we see hammerhead sharks, rays, starfish, seals, colorful fish and lots of coral.
The post office
On one of the beaches of Galapagos Island Floreana you will find a special place: A post office with a mailbox where you can leave your written postcards. At this post office, only there is no stamp involved. It is a tradition that originated because sailors used to come here to deliver and pick up their mail. Nowadays, the idea is that in exchange for leaving your card, you take another card, addressed to someone from your city or country, from the pile, and then hand it over in person.
We also visit a lava cave, which is connected to the sea through a tunnel. And afterwards, there is time to sail a canoe yourself. This canoe has a transparent bottom, so you can see exactly what is happening below you.
Day 4 – Mosquera + Baltra
It is almost time to say goodbye to our Elite Galapagos islands 4 day cruise. But not before we visit Mosquera, located between Galapagos Island Baltra and North Seymour. This small group of islands is known for its rocks and sandy beaches where seals, iguanas, crabs and various birds live.
After a beautiful morning on the island, we sail back to the Elite Cruise to pack our things and say goodbye to the crew. Our dinghy will take us to Galapagos Island Baltra, where the plane brings us back to mainland Ecuador.
Mini Travel Guide Galapagos Islands Euador
Best time to visit the Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos Islands in Ecuador have a (sub)tropical climate and can be visited all year round. And also the Galapagos animals show themselves throughout the year. The average temperature is around 25 degrees. Each month has its own advantages and disadvantages. The best time to visit the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador is generally between December and May. During these months, water temperatures are higher and the sea is calmer. However, there is a high chance of rainfall. The months of April, May, September and October are low season in the Galapagos Islands, which sometimes means lower costs. Temperatures are lower between June and November with more chances of fog.
How to travel to the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador
Golden Galapagos Cruises purchases all flights to the islands in advance, so you are guaranteed an available flight, linked to your trip and cruise. The easiest way is to have Golden Galapagos Cruises arrange your logistics, so that all the logistics fit together. Of course, you can also choose to book your own flight tickets. There are direct flights from Quito and Guayaquil that fly to both Galapagos Island Baltra, and San Cristobal. It is important to inquire carefully about which island your cruise will depart and end on. This is because there are different routes, which are sailed.
Looking for a flight for your trip to the Galapagos Islands? Through Skyscanner you can easily search, compare and book domestic flights in Ecuador.
At the airport in Quito or Guayaquil
At the departure airport, in Quito or Guayaquil, a Golden Galapagos Cruises contact person will be waiting for you, with your boarding passes in hand. Then you go to a counter where you buy the transit cards a USD 20. These are needed for everyone traveling to and from Galapagos. Then your luggage is checked for fresh and animal products, which you are not allowed to take with you, and given a baggage release sticker. The good thing is that all the work is taken out of your hands by the Golden Galapagos team. A flight takes about two hours and it is one hour earlier on Galapagos compared to the mainland.
Arrival Galapagos Islands
Upon arrival at the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, you will pay a National Park fee of USD 200 per person. Your luggage will be checked again and then you will meet your guide from the Golden Galapagos Cruise. A short ride will take you to the pier, from where a dinghy is ready for you to bring you to your ship. The start of your 4 day cruise on the Galapagos Islands.
Why book a Golden Galapagos Elite 4 day cruise
The Golden Galapagos Elite 4 day cruise is a perfect way to explore the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador in style. It is a place of luxury and comfort. Moreover, the small-scale and boutique concept ensures plenty of privacy and tranquility during the activities. The guides are specialists, so you will learn a lot about the special environment in a short time. There are different itineraries and packages. For example, you can choose 3 nights/4 days, 4 nights/5 days or 7 nights/8 days. Golden Galapagos has several luxury cruises including the Endemic, Petrel Elite and Ocean Spray.
There is almost more crew on the Elite Golden Galapagos 4 day cruise than there are guests. The team on the Galapagos Elite cruise does everything they can to make your trip the best it can be. Every time you arrive back on the Elite Cruise there is a team ready to help you get off the dinghy, rinse your feet, receive your life jacket, provide you with snacks and drinks and tell you more about the next activity. All with a big smile.
Galapagos Islands trip and cruise prices
A trip to the Galapagos Islands is a unique destination and experience, which comes with a price tag. Here is a rough overview of Galapagos Islands trip cruise prices.
- Transit card: USD 20 pp.
- Entrance fee Galapagos National Park: USD 200 pp.
- Return plane ticket Galapagos Islands, from Quito or Guayaquil à USD 250 pp.
- A Golden Galapagos Islands 4 day cruise, from USD 4500
Included in your Golden Galapagos 4 days cruise and trip
- Transfers from and to the airport
- Contact person at the airport
- Luxury suite with balcony
- Excursions, activities and expeditions
- Specialized guides
- All meals and snacks
- Non-alcoholic drinks and fresh juices
- Expedition equipment such as snorkel, goggles, wetsuits and flippers
- Use of underwater go-pro camera
- Welcome and farewell cocktail
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About Golden Galapagos Cruises
Tourism in the Galapagos Islands is regulated from the government and has a maximum number of visitors per day. It is therefore important to plan your Galapagos Islands trip early. Curious about Golden Galapagos Cruises? You can find more information on the website, facebook or instagram.
Hotels in Ecuador
In every country I look out for the most beautiful and unique places to stay. A boutique atmosphere, a stylish design, a lovely setting, and a good service are important topics for me, when choosing a hotel. In addition, I like to support the locals and love a sustainable approach around a hotel. Are you curious about my favorite hotels in Ecuador? In the next article you will find an overview of the best boutique hotels in Ecuador, where I personally stayed.
More about Ecuador
Did you enjoy reading this article about a trip and cruise on the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador? Let me take you on a journey along the most beautiful destinations and places to visit Ecuador. In the next articles you will find my Ecuador travel guides with lots of inspiration and tips.
- Things to do in Quito Ecuador | The ultimate travel guide with 30 tips for your stay
- La Selva Jungle Lodge Ecuador – everything you want to know
- Things to do in Riobamba Ecuador – a comprehensive guide with tips
- Best boutique hotels and lodges in Ecuador – 13 tips
- Chimborazo volcano Ecuador – tips for a visit and climb
- Things to do in Otavalo Ecuador – A comprehensive travel guide
Disclaimer: I was invited to stay at Golden Galapagos Cruises in Ecuador but this review is based on my personal view and is independent from the invitation.This article may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something using one of our links, we may receive a commission at no extra cost to you, which helps us keep this blog alive. Thank you for your support! Please see our disclosures for more information.