The Galapagos Islands are a remote archipelago currently administered by Ecuador in South America. These islands are known for their biodiversity, and are a great destination for tourists interested in nature, hiking and the environment!
The remote location and small population also make them a great choice for visitors looking for some peace and quiet away from wider civilisation. You’ll be able to see a huge variety of wildlife, from sea lions, turtles, iguanas and so much more.
There are nineteen islands in total – though only four of these are permanently inhabited. Getting between islands can be a pricey endeavour, so it’s important to understand what each one has to offer before planning your itinerary. Two of the islands even have their own direct flights to Quito.
That’s why I’ve created this guide! I’ve figured out what each inhabited island is best for, and categorised them to help you better plan your itinerary to this gorgeous Ecuadorian outpost.
So let’s get started!
Looking for a specific place to stay? These are my highest recommendations for places to stay on the Galapagos Islands. If you’re travelling on a tight budget, check out some of the amazing hostels in Galapagos – they offer quite a bit of bang for your buck!
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Best Airbnb in Galapagos: Flip Flop House
This spacious house comes with excellent reviews – and the host has superhost status, ensuring only the best service standards! Right in the centre of the only town on Isabela Island, Flip Flop House is perfect for those looking for a calm beach vacation. It is also well-sized for families and groups.
Best Hostel in Galapagos: Galapagos Dreams
Galapagos Dreams is the only traditional hostel in the Galapagos Islands allowing you to choose between staying in a dorm or having your own private room! Both options are very well priced given the location, and the hostel is well-rated thanks to their great facilities and social spaces.
Best Hotel in Galapagos: Eco Hotel Katarma
Eco-tourism is the reason so many people visit the Galapagos Islands every year, so it goes without saying that I would include an eco-hotel in my top three! This boutique hotel has been designed using local artists and architects around responsible travel. Most of the materials used are recycled from previous projects.
Galapagos Islands Neighborhood Guide – Places to Stay in Galapagos Islands
In terms of tourism, Santa Cruz is the most popular island in the entire archipelago! The main airport is actually on a separate island – Baltra – however, Santa Cruz is the closest inhabited island, and is only a short ferry ride away.
San Cristóbal is the most populous island in the Galapagos, and is home to the administrative capital – Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.
The largest island in the archipelago, Isabela is nevertheless quite small population-wise – making it a great pick if you want an easy going and relaxed beach holiday!
Floreana is easily the most unique of all the islands in terms of culture! By far the least populated, and smallest in size of the inhabited islands.
The Galapagos Islands are fairly close together, but ferries can be expensive. If you’re travelling through Ecuador, this is undoubtedly a consideration. Though all of the islands are great for natural beauty, some have larger populations (and therefore more facilities) than others, so where you end up largely depends on what you want to get out of your trip to the archipelago.
Santa Cruz Island is one of the most popular destinations, especially for nature lovers! Of the inhabited islands, Santa Cruz houses the best-known nature reserves, and most attractions in the island can be easily reached by a short hike from the main town. Though all of the tourist accommodation is in Puerto Ayora, the other towns are also worth a visit.
In terms of population, however, San Cristóbal Island is the largest island in the archipelago! Backpacking the Galapagos Islands is notoriously expensive, however, a good way to save money is to base yourself in the largest town – Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, which is on this island. Facilities are also more widely available than in other remote locations, making it a good choice for those that want their home comforts.
Isabela Island, on the other hand, is the largest island in terms of physical size. Though not as often visited as San Cristóbal Island and Santa Cruz Island, Isabela Island has a reasonably sized main town that comes with all the facilities you need for a short stay on the islands. This convenience, alongside the calm atmosphere and the great water sports facilities, make it an excellent choice for families.
Finally, there is Floreana Island. This island might be the smallest of the inhabited islands – both in terms of size and population – but it still makes for an interesting trip for those looking for something a bit different!
The extreme isolation makes it feel somewhat like a time capsule but is ideal if you are looking to spend some time away from humanity. The few people that do live there are known for their friendliness, and overall the Galapagos is the safest place in Ecuador.
Galapagos’s 4 Best Islands to Stay On
Let’s take a look, in more detail, at the four best islands in Galapagos. Each caters to different interests, so be sure to pick the one that’s right for you.
In terms of tourism, Santa Cruz Island is the most popular island in the entire archipelago! The main airport is actually on a separate island – Baltra – however, Santa Cruz Island is the closest inhabited island, and is only a short ferry ride away. This makes it the most convenient option if you are only staying for a few days.
Convenience aside, Santa Cruz Island is home to the most popular nature reserves, and also has plenty of water sports activities! The island played a major role during the eco-tourism boom in the area, and has the largest collection of hotels in Galapagos as well as restaurants and shops for visitors to enjoy during their stay.
Beautiful Bungalow in Santa Cruz: Bright Garden Bungalow
This gorgeous bungalow is in a peaceful corner of Santa Cruz Island – only a couple of minutes away from Charles Darwin Research Station! It is surrounded by a luscious garden, letting you enjoy your own slice of the native fauna. Filtered water is also available – giving you extra peace of mind when cleaning.
Best Hostel Santa Cruz: Galapagos Dreams
This is the only typical hostel in the islands where you can opt to stay in a dorm, and it is also the best priced! Galapagos Dreams is within easy walking distance of all the main attractions on Santa Cruz, and they provide regular social events where you can mingle with others.
Best Hotel in Santa Cruz: Boutique Hotel Galapagos Habitat
This gorgeous five-star hotel is easily the priciest on the island – but absolutely worth it for anyone willing to splurge! Rooms are kitted out with the latest technology, and many people claim the hotel has the fastest WiFi on the island. Breakfast is provided for free, as is bicycle hire. It has everything you would expect from one of the best hotels in the Galapagos!
Things to See and Do in Santa Cruz
- Snorkel off the coast at Tortuga Bay – the perfect spot to check out native ocean life and possibly even a few turtles
- If you want a guaranteed turtle sighting, head to Charles Darwin Research Station – it is free for guests and is the largest breeding area on the islands
- There are plenty of bicycle hire places in Puerto Ayora – hire one for a day and take a trip around the coast of the island
- Garrapatero Beach is a black sandy beach that is accessible by a short 2.5km hike from the main town – perfect for spotting crabs and flamingos
- Climb to the top of Los Gemelos, two volcanic craters above the clouds where you can spot native birdlife
- Bongo is a popular restaurant and bar in the heart of Puerto Ayora – they have well-priced food during the day and live music in the evenings
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San Cristóbal Island is the most populous island in the Galapagos and is home to the administrative capital – Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. For visitors on a budget, San Cristóbal Island is slightly cheaper than elsewhere in the Galapagos Islands thanks to this large population as most good from the mainland arrive here before continuing to the other islands!
It is also the best island for discovering local culture! Though fairly similar to the culture of mainland Ecuador, the isolation has given the Galapagos Islands some quirks that can be best observed in the capital. This is the only part of the archipelago with multiple bars – and even a nightclub.
Gorgeous Apartment in San Cristóbal: Galeodan Penthouse Suite
This spectacular penthouse apartment comes with unbeatable views across the harbour – giving you the perfect space to wake up every morning! There is a private patio, as well as a king-sized bed to provide ultimate comfort. It is only a five-minute walk away from the town centre, and a stone’s throw from the beach.
Best Hostel San Cristóbal: Hostal Gosen
Like most hostels in the Galapagos Islands, Hostal Gosen only provides private rooms – but nevertheless has a sociable atmosphere and great communal facilities! Hostal Gosen actually has the cheapest private rooms in the entire archipelago, making them a great choice for backpackers that want some privacy.
Best Hotel in San Cristóbal: Eco Hotel Katarma
Aside from the obvious environmental benefits of the Eco Hotel Katarma, there are plenty of fantastic facilities to ensure you enjoy your stay! There is a great outdoor swimming pool, hot tub, and a buffet breakfast is provided every morning. Rooms come with blackout curtains, as well as luxury toiletries. Who said a stay at Galapagos islands hotels can’t be luxurious?
Things to See and Do in San Cristóbal
- Hop onboard the 360 Tour – one of the best highlight tours in Galapagos, this ride stops at four different sites around the island (though only lets you off at two due to government regulations)
- Want to try camping? Puerto Chino is your best bet – it’s one of the few spots on the islands that doesn’t require a licensed guide
- The Interpretation Centre is a great attraction if you want to learn about the history – both natural and cultural – of the islands
- Playa Mann is the main beach in the capital – popular with locals at weekends, you can also spot sea lions on quieter periods
- Calypso is the only ‘nightclub’ on the island – it is quite old fashioned, but an interesting way to mingle with locals and discover their culture
- If you need to nurse a hangover after a night at Calypso, head to Fresco Cafe where you can enjoy a cheap espresso overlooking the harbour
- Take a scenic boat trip around the nearby islands such as Espanola Island, Lobos Island and Kicker Rock.
The largest island in the archipelago, Isabela Island is nevertheless quite small population-wise – making it a great pick if you want an easy-going and relaxed beach holiday! For families, there are plenty of activities across the island to keep the kids entertained, whilst adults will love the white sandy beaches and laid-back bars.
The entire population is based in Puerto Villamil. As such, this is where all of the best restaurants, bars and hotels in Galapagos are located. There are no banks on the island, so make sure to bring plenty of cash with you! If you can handle it, this just adds to the secluded paradise atmosphere of Isabela Island.
Spacious Family House in Isabela: Flip Flop House
The ideal size for a family of four, Flip Flop House is well located – giving you easy access to the local shops and restaurants! The lounge area comes with a large television, as well as a collection of DVDs. There are two bathrooms – perfect if you want a separate area for the kids.
Best Hostel Isabela: Hostal La Gran Tortuga
This family-owned hostel is perfect for backpackers and families looking to enjoy a cosy and local atmosphere! They offer single, double and triple rooms – making them perfect for both solo travellers and groups. Rooms are basic but come with full air conditioning and warm filtered water in the bathroom.
Best Hotel in Isabela: The Wooden House Boutique Hotel
This stunning four-star Galapagos hotel is located right on the beachfront and is perfect if you are packing for a beach holiday of sun and relaxation whilst on the Galapagos Islands! There is an outdoor swimming pool, as well as a large sunbathing terrace with an onsite restaurant serving up delicious meals. There’s also an onsite diving school, as well as snorkelling, biking, and kayaking rentals. A complimentary breakfast buffet is included each morning.
Things to See and Do in Isabela Island
- The hike to the Wall of Tears is packed with highlights – including beautiful lakes, flocks of flamingos and iguana filled beaches
- The Giant Tortoise Breeding Centre on Isabela is smaller than others on the islands, but still has some great information about the native species
- Head to Los Tuneles – a tour is advised, but the day-long excursion involves walking through volcanic tunnels, snorkelling and shark spotting
- Concha de Perla is another great snorkelling spot – and you are even permitted to play with the native sea lion population
- Encantado de Pepa is a hugely popular cafe with locals, not least because of its owner who is somewhat of a local character – the location also helps
- Bar Casa Rosada is a great hangout spot in the evening – with live music, a laid back atmosphere and volleyball
- Enjoy some kayaking and snorkelling in the bay of Puerto Villamil.
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Floreana Island is easily the most unique of all the islands in terms of culture! By far the least populated, and smallest in size of the inhabited islands, Floreana Island is a destination for visitors that want to experience true solitude. Tourism has picked up somewhat in recent years, but is still nowhere near the level of other islands.
Floreana Island has an interesting history involving the first Norwegian settlers in the islands, and has gone from being one of the least desirable islands to a fulfilling getaway spot! There might not be as many activities as on other islands, but it is certainly an adventurous experience.
Best Private Room in Floreana: Black Beach Private Room
Well, it’s literally the only Airbnb on Floreana Island, so lucky it’s a nice one! The photos for this listing are… nonexistent… but the host has received rave reviews and the coveted ‘Superhost’ status. The rooms are basic, but you just can’t look past that location: perched on the edge of a paradisical black beach just two minutes from the dock.
Best Villa in Floreana: Black Beach House
Whilst there aren’t many Airbnbs on Floreana, Black Beach House is a private villa that can be reserved through Booking.com! The two-bedroom villa can sleep up to six people and is only a short walk away from most of the activities on the island. There is also a terrace overlooking the ocean.
Best Hostel Floreana: Hostal Santa Maria
The Hosta Santa Maria is the first guesthouse on the island – and a great option for backpackers wanting to enjoy the seclusion of Floreana! It is located right on the coast and is a short walk away from the only town on the island – giving you an added sense of isolation.
Best Hotel in Floreana: Casa de Lelia
Until recently there was only one hotel on the island – until Casa de Lelia opened their doors! This is a very basic hotel, due to the limited facilities available on the island, but is locally owned and well-rated by previous guests. A small buffet breakfast is provided every morning.
Things to See and Do in Floreana Island
- Post Office Bay is a unique attraction where visitors leave postcards addressed to themselves – whilst new visitors take old postcards and aim to hand-deliver them
- Punta Cormorant is the only notable hiking trail on the island, but it is often touted as the best route for spotting flamingos – as well as green volcanic gems
- Devil’s Crown is an excellent snorkelling area filled with native sea life amongst a collapsed volcano – and what’s more, it doesn’t have as many tourists as others
- The Wittmer Family Hotel is the only shop and restaurant on the island – it’s expensive and takes cash, but has some truly unique souvenirs
FAQs about Finding a Place to Stay in Galapagos
Here’s what people usually ask us about the areas of Galapagos and where to stay.
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Final Thoughts on Where to Stay on Galapagos
The Galapagos Islands have managed to successfully retain their natural beauty – and in a world increasingly looking for more environmentally friendly travel options, the islands provide plenty of options. They also have an interesting culture that often goes overlooked but is well worth exploring.
In terms of the best island, I’m going to go with San Cristóbal! It has the most facilities available and has a great selection of all the fantastic attractions that make the Galapagos Islands a worthy destination. As for where to stay on Galopgas Islands after you arrive?
Book yourself into the Galeodan Penthouse Suite on San Cristóbal for an amazing retreat in your own little garden of paradise. For a more budget choice, however, you’ll have to head over to Santa Cruz Island and check into Galapagos Dreams – the best hostel in the Galapagos Islands.
That being said, depending on how isolated you want to be each of the inhabited islands has their own charms and are well worth exploring. I hope I’ve helped you narrow down your options.
Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments!
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