It's a general thought, that a cruise is the best way to see the Galapagos Islands, but also more expensive.
The alternative is a land based trip, where you can base yourself in one of various Galapagos hotels on the islands and then take independent day trips or excursions to see the Galapagos wildlife, or buy a land-based Galapagos tour package.
Cruises will include the smaller islands like Espanola, Genovesa, Fernandina, and Rabida, while island-hoppers will stay on the larger islands like San Cristobal, Isabela, and Santa Cruz. Some islands are also too far away for land-based tours.
Which option to chose will depend on you interests (including snorkeling/diving), which islands you want to visit and your budget.
This is some of the pros and cons of taking a land-based trip or cruise.
Chose a land base trip:
- If you do not want to spend a lot of time in a boat, land-based will be your best option.
- It is less expensive than a cruise - Hotels are more expensive than for the mainland.
- More interaction with the local people taking the land-based trip.
- Can be considered more environmentally responsible than a cruise.
- Slightly greater chance of catching a water-borne disease when land based..
- You may need to know more Spanish.
- Takes lot more work to arrange.
- Many day-tours and tour packages might be sold out early.
- You will be able to visit the smaller islands as well as the islands far away.
- Also cruise ships will visit islands which are closed to island-hoppers.
- Go one day earlier to Quito or Guayaquil . If there are flight delays, you will miss your boat.
- The crossings can be rough - primarily on the smaller boats.
- At the sea it can be cold in the morning and during night.
- The naturalists. These are the guides who tell you everything about the island and the itinerary.
- The islands are all very different. Get a guide book, read up in advance.
- The boat. Size matters. Larger ships will have better amenities, and smaller boat will have more intimate atmosphere.
Some other useful links: