The Galápagos Islands, a remote archipelago 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, remained a secret to most of the world until a young Charles Darwin visited and later published On the Origin of Species in 1859. In 1976, Galápagos was named a UNESCO World Heritage site, and now, more than 275,000 people visit the volcanic islands each year to admire the otherworldly fauna, unique wildlife, lava tunnels, and turquoise coastal waters.
Joyfully, “isolated” does not mean today’s travelers have to rough it. And though you can cruise the archipelago, many prefer a land-based tour that combines daily excursions with conveniences not always afforded by cruising: flexible departure dates and itineraries, private land-based excursions, the freedom to choose where to eat, and a bed that doesn’t rock with the waves. At these five best resorts in the Galápagos Islands, you’ll experience eco-conscious luxury while still getting a front-row seat to the spectacular nature that you came for.
Best Galápagos Island resorts: Santa Cruz Island
Centrally located in the archipelago, Santa Cruz is the most populated of the four inhabited islands, and the development and infrastructure means that some of the best Galápagos hotels are found here. Santa Cruz has a bit of everything. Sandy beaches, Tortuga Bay for spotting sea turtles and marine iguanas, the world-renowned Charles Darwin Research Station and its breeding program for the endangered giant tortoises that live wild in the El Chato Reserve, and the tourism hub of Puerto Ayora for ending the day with dinner and some shopping.
Galápagos Safari Camp, Santa Cruz highlands
With just nine luxury, Meru-style tents and one “family suite” villa located in the lush highlands, Galápagos Safari Camp is one of the best resorts in the Galápagos Islands—and an Extraordinary Journeys favorite, especially for families.
Far from the buzz of Puerto Ayora, privacy is at a maximum on this 135-acre farm that’s owner-operated by Michael and Stephanie Mesdag. Highly eco-conscious, this energy-efficient camp used to be a cattle farm that has since been rewilded. Evoking an African safari in both look and feel, your Galápagos safari is custom-tailored to your interests, pace, and abilities.
- All land safaris are private, meaning you have your own naturalist guide and a chauffeur-driven vehicle at your disposal, allowing for utmost flexibility and spontaneity. Included sea safaris are semi-private but can be privately charted for exclusive use. If you have been on safari and want to replicate the experience outside of Africa, GSC is ideal. The main lodge evokes a tented camp and the ritual of sundowners is celebrated each evening at a scenic viewpoint.
- Dine al fresco enjoying a four-course tasting menu of Ecuadorian cuisine served with jaw-dropping views of Galápagos National Park.
- Unwind with a siesta on a hammock on your private deck, or head to the viewpoint for sunset drinks.
Who it’s best for: Adventurous and eco-conscious travelers who want a personalized experience, families, and those who want to be close to nature without sacrificing comfort.
Keep reading: Elizabeth’s Visit to Galapagos Safari Camp
Pikaia Lodge, Santa Cruz highlands
Perched on the edge of an extinct volcanic crater and situated between the sunny, arid savanna and the tropical mist forest of the volcanic highlands, Pikaia Lodge’s location is privileged, private, and panoramic. A Relais & Châteaux property with a sleek, minimalist design, it’s also the only hotel in the Galápagos to have its own private tortoise reserve. There are just 12 rooms and two suites at this intimate property, and each boasts floor-to-ceiling windows for soaking up glorious views of the Santa Cruz highlands and the Pacific. The eco-lodge operates on alternative energy sources and has a strong social responsibility program.
- On an all-inclusive guided adventure program, guests can board the 145-foot private luxury yacht, M/Y Vision – Pikaia, for a full-day cruise that visits two islands. Advanced divers can board the 105-foot Galápagos Aggressor III, considered one of the finest dive yachts in the world.
- Come face-to-face with the giant tortoises that roam the private reserve.
- Sample some of South America’s finest wines in the air-conditioned, walk-in cellar.
Who it’s best for: Romantic couples, families with older children, and discerning eco-travelers.
Montemar Eco Luxury Villas, Santa Cruz highlands
In the highlands of Santa Cruz Island, Montemar Eco Luxury Villas is located on a 43-acre private reserve where Galápagos giant tortoises roam freely. The owners, Roberto and Reyna, are local Galapagueños, and are a naturalist guide and National Geographic grantee, respectively. They offer the furthest thing from mass tourism possible—a value Extraordinary Journeys embodies.
There are only two villas here: the eight-guest, four-bedroom Villa Tortuga, and the four-guest, two-bedroom Villa Lechuza. Handsomely accented with local and endemic materials, each home-away-from-home is self-contained, and features a lounge, kitchen, dining area, and a generous deck. Villas are serviced by a dedicated hospitality team, which includes housekeeping and a private chef.
Guest excursions are completely bespoke. Whether you are a foodie craving farm-to-table meals, a serious diver, or an enthusiastic birdwatcher, Roberto and Reyna will curate daily itineraries based on your interests, ambitions, and abilities.
- Sustainability in action: Montemar collects 100 per cent of its water from rainfall, generates 99 per cent of its energy from solar panels and solar water heaters, and grows its own organic produce and coffee.
- Look out across the property to see wild horses and giant tortoises that freely roam the property.
- Sip a fresh-brewed latte made with beans sourced from the on-site coffee plantation.
Who it’s best for: Families, friend groups, or privacy-seeking travelers who value an owner-hosted experience. It’s also great for long(er)-stay visitors who prefer the warm hospitality of a home-away-from-home to a resort or hotel experience.
Finch Bay Galápagos Hotel, Santa Cruz coast
Accessible via a short boat ride from Puerto Ayora, Finch Bay is the Galápagos luxury hotel of choice for travelers who want to eke out some beach time between adventures. A bit larger than the other properties mentioned here, it counts six suites graced with ocean views and 21 rooms replete with sling hammocks. From Finch Bay’s sand-skirted location, adventure stretches out in each direction. Hike 20 minutes to reach Las Grietas to swim in an emerald-hued “ocean water chasm” flanked by tawny lava cliffs. Garrapatero Cove and beach, which is said to have the finest white sand in all Galápagos, is a 20-minute drive away. Depart right from Playa de Los Alemanes in a kayak to reach Divine Bay, where seal lions and their pups fan out across the beach, just yards away.
- Board Finch Bay’s 20-person (maximum) Sea Lion Yacht to visit one of four islands on an all-day tour with a naturalist guide.
- Savor a private, poolside dinner illuminated by candlelight or make the quick trip to Puerto Ayora in one of Finch Bay’s private water taxis to dine in town.
- Indulge in wellness treatments from massage to yoga to soaking in a hot tub.
Who it’s best for: Active travelers who want a toes-in-the-sand Galápagos hotel stay.
Best Galápagos Island resorts: San Cristobal Island
San Cristobal is the easternmost island in the Galápagos archipelago and one of the oldest geologically. It’s made up of a handful of fused volcanoes, all extinct, the Junco Lagoon, which sits at 2,296 feet above sea level, and the small town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. San Cristobal is one of the few islands where three different species of booby birds and great frigatebirds nest in the same area, and it even has its own endemic giant tortoise species. Offshore, you’ll find one of the best dive sites in the Galápagos, where hammerhead sharks circle. You may even spot the Galápagos dolphin in the waters that hug the island.
Seated yards from the sea, Indigo Galápagos is San Cristobal’s most luxurious property. With a clean, modern design that blends nicely with the tranquility of the islands, Indigo’s trendy pool deck and 35 rooms all boast ocean views. Suites are handsomely appointed with mid-century accents. From the lobby, it’s a five-minute walk to the buzzy center of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno or Playa Mann (a lovely swimmable beach), and a five-minute drive to San Cristobal Island Airport, meaning you can be unpacking with a drink in hand not long after touching down.
- As this is not an all-inclusive property, your explorations will be à la carte, curated by your Extraordinary Journeys Galápagos specialists based on your interests.
- Indulge in a decadent facial and a full-body massage at the on-site spa.
- Dine at Darwin’s Secret, where the food philosophy is “signature and destination cuisine,” served with ocean views.
Who it’s best for: This is one of the best Galápagos Islands hotels for travelers who prefer the service levels and amenities of a franchise hotel brand.
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