Twelve years ago I took a land based trip to the Galapagos Islands. This is not the usual route for visiting these remote islands, I’d say most visitors cover the territory by boat- however; it was the ideal approach for me. My companion and I stayed at a small hotel in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz, on a rocky beach just around the corner from the Darwin Research Station. Many days we would wander up the road and visit the finches and elderly tortoises that lived there.
For part of the trip we took day cruises to nearby islands to view some of the distinct animals that live on the land. We saw blue-footed and red-footed boobies, land iguanas, sea iguanas, fur seals, flamingos, and a wide variety of birds. You can’t wander off on your own in the Galapagos so there is always an Ecuadorian naturalist nearby discussing the animals, their features, and other points of interest.
The rest of our days were spent under the water, where we dove with hammerheads, seals, dolphins, turtles and all sorts of fish. Due to the frigid Humboldt Current moving through in late August, the water was 63 degrees and I had to wear two wetsuits to stay (almost) warm – but the richness of sea-life this current brings makes diving in the Galapagos Islands amazing. In order to see places further afield, like the islands named Wolf and Darwin (considered some of the best dive sites in the world), you have to do a live-aboard, but most of the islands like Isabela, Floreana and North Seymour are close enough to visit in a day.
Today the island of Santa Cruz has some really lovely places to stay for a land based adventure, such as the eco-friendly Finch Bay and more luxe Royal Palms. There are the Red Mangrove Lodges on Santa Cruz, Isabela and Floreana, Iguana Crossing on Isabela, and many other boutique options to suit the wide variety of needs and wants of today’s traveler. But even with these deluxe hotel choices everyone that makes it to either live in or visit a destination as remote as the Galapagos Islands has at least a little bit of the pioneer spirit in them.