The Galapagos Islands are a holy grail for many travelers, the remote archipelago consisting of 19 volcanic islands in the Pacific ocean is not only a place of unparalleled beauty but is also one of the most unique and diverse ecosystems in the world. Charles Darwin penned his ground breaking study on natural selection while reasearching the flora and fauna of the islands, above and below the water.
Unfortunately the Galapagos Islands are often considered inaccessible to the budget traveler due to the remote location and the expenses required to travel there. Live-aboard cruises are often the only way to see the most remote islands and can cost thousands of dollars per day, however there are ways to see the beauty of the Galapagos Islands without breaking the bank or selling a kidney. With these tips you can save thousands of dollars on your trip just like I did.
1. Go in the ‘off season’
Peak season in Galapagos is December through May, the waters are much calmer and there is less rain, however that brings more tourism and higher prices. A better time to visit is between June to August when the animals are more active, with the cheapest months being September to November.
2. Be flexible
Being flexible with your dates and time of year will allow you to be more selective and will give you the upper hand in finding the best deals and most competitive rates.
3. Book last minute
You can often find good last minute deals on flights and as the departure dates for live-aboard tour boats loom near, some operators are inclined to give discounted rates to fill the cabins.
4. Arrange your trip from Quito or Guayaquil
If you fly into Ecuador and stay for a few days you can book a last minute live-aboard cruise through one of the hostels or local travel agents. There are almost always spots that tour operators are trying to fill and you can get some amazing deals on excellent cruises. Sometimes these packages will even include the flights from Quito or Guayaquil to Galapagos.
5. Stay in Puerto Ayora and do day trips
Another option is to fly from Quito or Guayaquil and stay at a hotel or hostel in Puerto Ayora on Sant Cruz Island. Flights from Quito or Guayaquil cost around US $425 round trip. The town is quaint and is the major hub for a lot of tour operators so you can get great last minute deals or book day trip for diving or to the closer islands for hikes and nature filled adventures. The Charles Darwin Research Station is just a few minutes outside of town which is a must see if you are interested in the nature and diversity of the islands. There are also a few beaches such as Tortuga Bay within walking distance from Puerto Ayora as well as lots of souvenir shopping, restaurants and bars.
Whichever way you decide to get there, keep in mind and you will need to pay a US $100 park entry fee upon arrival at the airport, which goes towards the conservation and preservation of the islands.