Land Based Travel Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

10 Reasons to Take a Land Based Tour through the Galapagos Islands

There are several ways to explore the Galapagos Islands. The most popular way to experience the islands is to take a cruise, but you can also join a land based tour or travel independently throughout a few of the islands. While taking a cruise is sure to be an amazing experience (and an experience we’d like to have at some point in the future), we absolutely loved our land based tour of the islands. We felt it was the perfect introduction to such a magnificent chain of islands.

Land Based Travel Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

During our 11-day adventure with Galakiwi, we hiked, biked, snorkeled, ate, and paddled our way around the islands. We visited the four inhabited islands in the Galapagos, aka the islands with a human population: San Cristobal, Floreana, Isabela, and Santa Cruz. It was a fantastic time, and because we loved our adventure so much, we wanted to share 10 reasons why we think you should take a land based tour through the Galapagos Islands, as well!

1. See a Different Side of the Islands

First and foremost, we were able to see a side to the islands that you would miss on a cruise ship. By returning to land each night rather than a cruise ship, we were able to spend our free time exploring the island, something you can’t do if you are on a boat. Our evenings were spent dining at local restaurants, relaxing at beach bars, browsing small shops and convenience stores for local products, and going on long walks to see what we could find.

Land Based Travel Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

We were able to get a feel for the culture of the islands—one of our favorite evenings was when we heard a soccer game being played in the lot next to our hotel. We were just heading to our hotel room for the night when we heard lots of cheering and commotion flowing into the hotel hallway. Micah and I couldn’t resist investigating, and we were treated to a wonderful scene of a lively game of soccer. This was one of the many experiences we would have missed if we weren’t staying overnight on land.

Land Based Travel Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

2. Less Chance for Motion Sickness

You will have less of a chance for motion sickness! Realistically, when you travel in the Galapagos, you are sure to encounter boats for transport between islands or for activities like snorkeling. But when you do travel by boat, the rides will be much shorter, and you won’t be spending the majority of your trip out on the water.

Land Based Travel Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

3. You Get to Stay in Hotels

Staying on land meant that we stayed in actual hotels every night! Your hotel room will likely have more space than a cruise cabin, and you will be able to see the different island flavors through the design of the hotel. Plus, if you are prone to motion sickness, spending the night in a bed that doesn’t rock you to sleep is a big bonus.

Land Based Travel Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

4. Taste More Local Foods

There’s more opportunity to taste local food when you stay on land. Rather than having all of our meals on a cruise ship, we were able to enjoy the majority of our meals at a variety of local restaurants. While most of our meals were included with the tour, we had a couple of meals where we could explore and find a restaurant on our own to give us more flexibility. We tried lots of soups, fish, veggies, rice, desserts, and even a burrito! Before we arrived, we weren’t sure what we would think of the food, but we ended up loving the variety of the dishes we were served!

Land Based Travel Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

5. More Opportunities to Meet Locals

Staying on the islands also gives you a better opportunity to meet locals. Whether you chat with a bartender, a server at a restaurant, a shop owner, or a hotel employee, you will have some great opportunities to interact with locals on a more personal level.

Land Based Travel Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

6. Experience Nightlife on the Islands

Although we didn’t experience it because we had such early wake up calls, another reason to travel by land is to check out the nightlife on the islands. While I’m not sure if there are many “clubs” on the islands, there are bars scattered around here and there. And striking up a conversation at a bar is a great way to get an inside peek at the life and culture of the islands!

Land Based Travel Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

7. Escape the Cruise Ship Crowds

Traveling independently or with a small land based group tour gives you a better chance at escaping the crowds. Rather than going on an excursion with the other 50-100+ people from your cruise ship, you will have a smaller group to travel with around the islands. Galakiwi tours have a maximum participant limit of 16 and the average group size is 10. We loved the small group feel and really appreciated the many moments we were alone in the vast nature paradise of the islands.

Land Based Travel Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

8. More Time for Inland Exploration

Being based on land also gives you more time for inland exploration. With more opportunities to hike, bike, and explore the highlands, you will be able to experience a wider variety of landscapes and adventures. And don’t think that spending more time on land will limit your wildlife viewing. We saw a TON of wildlife during our trip and some of our favorites were sea lions, marine iguanas, sea turtles, penguins, hammerhead sharks, blue footed boobies, and more birds than I can even begin to remember!

Land Based Travel Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

9. Have One Main Guide as Opposed to Many

Rather than having different guides throughout the trip, with Galakiwi you will have one main guide the entire time. Having one person show you around all of the islands gives you a unique chance to get to know them and learn about their life, background, and interests. We had such a great time getting to know our naturalist, Pablo—he is so passionate about the islands, and it shows. Thanks to Pablo and the wonderful staff at Galakiwi, we had an unforgettable experience.

Land Based Travel Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

10. Support the Local Economy

Perhaps one of the best reasons to take a land based tour throughout the islands: it helps support the local economy. By traveling on land and visiting independently run hotels, restaurants, and other businesses, more of the money you spend goes directly to the people living on the islands. Spreading your money between a variety of small, local businesses helps create a greater impact. When you support local businesses, it ensures locals can make a living in the place that they call home.

Land Based Travel Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Are land based tours always a better option you might be wondering? I’ve heard that cruises can be better for the fragile ecosystem of the Galapagos, but there are always more than two sides to every view. Thankfully, Galakiwi is a green tour operator, and they do such a great job at focusing on sustainability through every aspect of the tour. Not only do you support local businesses when traveling with Galakiwi, you will also be encouraged to be plastic free and use refillable water bottles (they provide the water!). Galakiwi also focuses on recycling, utilizing reusable containers, walking instead of taking cabs when possible, just to name a few. A green mindset flows from both the business and personal lives of the Galakiwi crew.

Land Based Travel Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

That said, we’d still love to take a cruise through the islands at some point in our lives. Joining a cruise is a completely different experience that allows you to see a more remote side to the islands. We’d love to see another side of the islands someday, but we are extremely grateful for the experience we had with Galakiwi. We absolutely loved our land based tour through the Galapagos Islands, and we can’t wait to get back and explore more soon.


Have you been to the Galapagos Islands before? How did you travel or which way would you like to explore the islands?


Special thanks to Galakiwi for hosting us on an amazing adventure! As always, all opinions are our own.

  • Jane M
    Posted at 02:15h, 16 July Reply

    Thanks for this post. I have always really wanted to visit Galapagos but felt icky about taking a cruise there and basically missing out on the local culture. But I am also worried about the impact on the environment from land travel. This company looks like a fantastic option to visit Galapagos. Now I just need to find time in the calendar and money :).

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 11:33h, 25 August Reply

      I know what you mean. The ecosystem is so fragile there! That’s one thing we really appreciated with Galakiwi–they did a great job minimizing the environmental impact of our travels! Hope you can find a slot in your calendar to visit them! 🙂
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  • Mike Cotton
    Posted at 04:55h, 16 July Reply

    A land based our of the Galapagos Islands sounds amazing. Escaping the crowds would be a huge consideration for me, as well as mitigating the environmental impact as much as we can.

  • Lydia Smith
    Posted at 07:46h, 16 July Reply

    One would have thought the cruise was evert thing. Never though of a land based tour. My next visit to Galapagos would sure be a land tour. Thanks for this insight

  • Natasha
    Posted at 12:27h, 16 July Reply

    As much as I would love to do a cruise around the islands, after reading this I think a land based tour would be soo much better! I love how you’s stumbled upon some locals playing football! Seeing the wildlife is also a massive attraction for me! I do believe in helping out the local economy as well in giving a little back into the community for showing you their beautiful homeland!
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    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 11:27h, 25 August Reply

      So glad to hear that! We loved stumbling across the football as well–so fun to see the local culture like that! Always great to support the local economy too!
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  • Tami Wilcox
    Posted at 18:54h, 16 July Reply

    I haven’t been on a cruise yet because I prefer to be a little more free with my schedule, and I really don’t like the crowds or waiting in long lines. Pretty sure I’d love this Galapagos Tour. I just have to add it to my list!
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    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 11:26h, 25 August Reply

      We are the same way–we like to have more freedom in our schedules too! This was a really great alternative to cruising in the islands!
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  • Lillie
    Posted at 12:12h, 17 July Reply

    These are excellent reasons to go land-based for Galapagos touring, yet I’d never thought if it before! Head always been stuck on the boat thing. That meal looks scrumptious!
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  • Paige W
    Posted at 20:10h, 17 July Reply

    Great post! I have been wanting to go to the Galapagos, but hadn’t ever thought of doing the land-based tour. I love all of these reasons. I really love that money goes into the local economy. That’s one of the big reasons I don’t do big tours very often is I’m afraid that money goes to a wealthy CEO or something.

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 11:21h, 25 August Reply

      Thanks, Paige! We really loved that most of the money went to local businesses too–so great to spread the love around! It was a great option for seeing the islands!
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…A Photo Essay: Columbus, OhioMy Profile

  • Megan Jerrard
    Posted at 01:01h, 18 July Reply

    Totally agree with taking a land based tour! (and for less chance of motion sickness :D) We actually did less of a tour per say and more just based ourselves on San Cristobal for a week – we loved it. There was so much to see and do and it was really easy to organize day tours / ferries to other islands independently. We found taxis really cheap for getting around, and found explroing on our own meant we found secluded beaches with just as much wildlife as the tourist hot spots 🙂

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 11:20h, 25 August Reply

      Would be so cool to be based in San Cristobal for a week–that would be a great experience! Glad to hear you were able to organize lots on your own and so awesome you found some secluded beaches!
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  • Danielle Guy
    Posted at 05:50h, 18 July Reply

    I never realized that you could stay on the island!! My sister is going in January and I am sooooo jealous!! Love your photos!
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  • Suruchi
    Posted at 08:20h, 18 July Reply

    A cruise tour is high on my bucket list but I will be more than happy to enjoy the Galapagos Island by land too. You have shared some of the wonderful reasons for opting the land tour especially contributing to the local economy and enjoying the local culture.

  • Michelle
    Posted at 22:20h, 18 July Reply

    I actually didn’t even know there WERE inhabited islands in the Galapagos, so I didn’t even know this was an option! So I thought there wasn’t an option and that cruising was mandatory! Thank you for opening my eyes to new possibilities. It’s always best to be aware of all of your options!

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 11:07h, 25 August Reply

      So surprising, isn’t it?! We weren’t aware of it until recently too! Such a great way to see the islands though–really glad we had the opportunity to seem them on a land based tour!
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…A Photo Essay: Columbus, OhioMy Profile

  • Emily Kydd
    Posted at 12:09h, 19 July Reply

    Very cool! I have wanted to go to the Galapagos forever, and while I love a boat trip, you make strong arguments for a land based trip. Truthfully I kind of thought you had to do a boat cruise, so thanks for the info!


    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 11:05h, 25 August Reply

      Yeah I know–I didn’t really realize you could even do a land based tour though the islands until this trip either! It was a really great way to see the islands. Hope you can visit them soon!
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  • Mags
    Posted at 08:56h, 20 July Reply

    I just went to the Galapagos in Feb. and did a very similar trip, except shorter so I only made it to Santa Cruz and Isabela. I can’t wait to go back and try a cruise to see some of the uninhabited islands, but I thought the land tour was great. I loved hanging out in Santa Cruz at night.

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 11:04h, 25 August Reply

      Would love to see some of the uninhabited islands too! We were thinking the same–it was so nice to hang on the islands and night and we loved that experience, but a cruise would be a cool experience for our next trip there. Maybe combine the next one with both land and cruise!
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…A Photo Essay: Columbus, OhioMy Profile

  • Sarah
    Posted at 20:48h, 20 July Reply

    Hiking, biking, tasting local foods, meeting locals – my goodness, this sounds like a wonderful way to travel. Also on board with reducing the barfy feeling I get at sea. Thanks for the tips!

  • Punita Malhotra
    Posted at 05:15h, 22 July Reply

    Land based tour in the Galapagos islands? Yes, please. This post is really useful because just a few weeks back I was researching the continent and was pretty lost about Galapagos. Would love to try their food.

  • Cate
    Posted at 06:17h, 25 July Reply

    I haven’t been to the Galapagos yet but it’s definitely on my travel list! I’d be more inclined to do a land tour, if I were to do a tour, because I’d rather have more time and opportunity to explore the local culture and eat more local food. This is helpful in getting a glimpse of what a tour might be like – thanks!
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    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 10:55h, 25 August Reply

      Yeah that was one of the things we liked most about this tour–it was so great to see more of the local culture and try out the local foods!
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  • Agness of Fit Travelling
    Posted at 07:36h, 27 July Reply

    I am totally convinced, Jenna! I hope to go there soon. Which local food would you recommend?

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 10:45h, 25 August Reply

      We loved all the different fish that we ate, and the cream based soups were delicious, too! Can’t go wrong with either (or both!)!
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  • Fiona Maclean
    Posted at 03:45h, 28 July Reply

    My limited experience of cruising suggests that it’s great as a toe in the water way to see things. But for a true explorer your way is obviously better!
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    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 10:44h, 25 August Reply

      Yeah, that’s one really great thing about cruising–you get to sample a lot of different spots! Would love to take a cruise there sometime too, but I feel like for us it would be hard to top this trip, haha! 🙂
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…A Photo Essay: Columbus, OhioMy Profile

  • Karla
    Posted at 03:10h, 29 January Reply

    All the information which is shared by you are absolute correct. I`ve always dreamed to fly to Galapagos

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