Should I Go on a Galapagos Naturalist Cruise?

Exploring the islands on a small yacht is the classic way to see the Galapagos, just like Charles Darwin did when he traveled around the Galapagos.

What is a typical day like on a cruise? 

Cruises are slow paced. You wake up early in the morning, have breakfast, and then head out for your first excursion of the day. On the island excursion, you walk for about 2 hours at a slow pace, so you have plenty of time to check out the wildlife. On some mornings, you will go snorkeling for about an hour after your naturalist walk. Then you return to the boat for some free time while you motor to a different site. After lunch, you go for your second island excursion. On some afternoons, you have another chance to snorkel. After the afternoon activities, you return to the boat for snack and some free time before dinner. In the evening, you get a briefing for the next day.  This is the basic day on a cruise.  Some cruises also include opportunities for kayaking, or you will take a panga ride out to explore the shoreline by boat.

What types of boats are there? 

Yachts range in size from 10 – 100 passengers, although a majority hold 16 passengers as this is the maximum number of visitors who can tour anywhere within the Park with 1 naturalist.

Comfort level on yachts is generally broken up into categories, including Tourist, Tourist Superior, First Class, and Luxury. We generally don’t recommend Tourist Class yachts as the level of service and comfort is often quite bad, and you don’t want to spend all the time and money to get to the Galapagos to end up sick or not able to enjoy the experience. Generally as you go up in class you gain a larger cabin, more common areas, better and more diverse food, fancier dining rooms and settings, and more accommodating and helpful staff. For more details and the differences in pricing, see our post on What is the Difference Between Classes of Boats in the Galapagos?

Yachts can be single hull yachts, two-hulled catamarans, or motor sailboats. Sailboats don’t travel by sail much, if at all, as motoring is more reliable and helps keep the boat on its assigned itinerary. They are usually long and narrow, with smaller cabins, and they can be a bit less stable than single hull or catamaran boats. Catamarans are generally wider, thus offering more space for their length, and also more stable. Single hull yachts are the most common. As a general rule, the longer and wider the boat, the more stable it is in the ocean, and the more spacious the cabins and common areas will be.

Who should do a naturalist cruise?

  • Travelers who want to visit as many different islands as possible, and thus see more species and diversity between the species on different islands. Travelers who want to visit more remote sites and observe greater numbers of wildlife in natural settings (this depends on the cruise itinerary).
  • People who want to be quite comfortable, and not pack and unpack every couple of days
  • If you want to do the majority of your travel at night and wake up in a new spot each day.
  • Travelers who want plenty of time for relaxing, and lounging on the sun deck.
  • You will have a daily routine of two land visits (about 2 – 3 hours each), and at least one snorkel (about 1 hour each time), on every full day of the trip
  • The daily excursions are generally not physically difficult, making them accessible to people of all ages and health

If a naturalist cruise is for you, see our Galapagos Cruise options and Which Islands Should My Cruise Visit? 

Who should not do a naturalist cruise?

  • If you really struggle with sea-sickness as you may not want to live and sleep on a boat
  • Travelers who want to be active every day. Activities on a cruise are slow-moving with lots of stops to watch and talk about nature, and there is lots of down time on the yacht between excursions.
  • Although some cruises have kayaks on board, usually the number is limited and the cruise itinerary will only allow kayaking in a few spots for a short period of time. The kayak sites are generally underwhelming, and most people decide to snorkeling, walk on the beach, or stay on the boat instead.
  • Space on a yacht is limited. Your cabin will be relatively small, and the shared spaces are limited compared to walking around freely in a town.
  • Night-life on a yacht is pretty mellow, and most people just go to bed not long after dinner. A land-based trip would offer more opportunities for going out to bars, exploring the night-life in towns, and meeting local Galapageños.

If a naturalist cruise isn’t for you, don’t worry!  There are other styles of trips out there for you:
Should I go on a land-based multisport adventure?
Should I go on a more mellow land-based island hopping trip?

A Few of Our Favorite Galapagos Cruises: 

The Angelito I Galapagos Cruise is a perfect way to experience the best of the Galapagos Islands for travelers seeking a quality Galapagos naturalist cruise but who don't need luxury accommodations. It offers great guides, personal service and top-notch wildlife-rich itineraries. Trip Lengths: 4, 5, 8, 11, 12, or 15 Days Destination: Galapagos Islands Lodging: 16-Passenger, tourist superior class yacht Activities: Wildlife viewing, naturalist walks, snorkeling

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The luxurious 20-passenger each Origin, Theory, and Evolve Galapagos Yachts are sister ships custom designed for comfort and sustainability. The sophisticated design maximizes ocean views from the ten deluxe staterooms on the main deck and the expansive indoor and outdoor social and observation areas. The Origin, Theory, and Evolve offer world-class service and amenities while saving fuel and treading gently on the earth. The itineraries are carefully designed so you will experience the best of the Galapagos, while the inspired gourmet style menus, open bar policy, and sun deck and hot tub will keep you comfortable and happy. Trip Length: 8 Days Destination: Galapagos Islands Accommodations: Luxury yachts with 20 passengers each Activities: Wildlife viewing, naturalist walks, snorkeling, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding