Paul Schicke
Written by Paul Schicke Senior Expedition Designer

Updated: January 22, 2024
Published: December 04, 2023


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Galapagos Sea Lion on a beach

The Galapagos Islands have earned a reputation for being highly priced — but that’s not the whole story. The reality is that Galapagos cruises vary in cost based on several factors, like the timing of your trip or the cruise category you choose. Fortunately, there are times of the year for scheduling a Galapagos cruise where you may be able to enjoy some savings!

No matter what time of year you intend to visit these fabled isles, planning ahead and understanding the differences between the various available Galapagos options will help you decode your budget—and determine which cruise options are best for you. From choosing the length of your voyage, to saving money by choosing to travel during certain times of the year, this guide will explain which cost factors matter most.

So, let’s weigh anchor and build a budget to cruise Earth’s most diverse island chain!

The 5 Factors With The Heaviest Weight on a Galapagos Cruise Cost

There are 5 major factors that have an influence on the cost of a Galapagos cruise. These are the time of year when you want to travel, the cruise category you choose, the duration of the cruise, flights to Ecuador and Galapagos and finally Pre/Post cruise lodging and tours in mainland Ecuador.

Let's dive into each one so you can learn how to make the most of your Galapagos cruise in each category.

FACTOR #1: The Time of Year When You Visit Galapagos

Unlike many of the top vacation destinations in the world, there is no such thing as a “BETTER or WORST” time to travel to the Galapagos Islands as it relates to the experience, the weather and the wildlife. Because the islands are positioned on the equator, there are only two seasons in this part of the world. The result? Travelers can enjoy lovely air and water temperatures year-round and every month is filled with wonder, delight, and incredible wildlife encounters.

There is, however, one category of travelers we want to call out that may benefit from offers or add-ons by traveling at a specific time of year. Those with more timing flexibility, excitement about exclusive offers like free airfare, and a preference toward cruises with fewer children aboard find September and October to be the most well-rounded months to visit Galapagos. If that style of travel sounds like yours, these two months are an incredible time to experience the best of Galapagos for 5 reasons:

snorkeling with sea lions

1. Unparalleled snorkeling.
Imagine riding the Humboldt Current with newfound friends: green sea turtles, sweet young sea lions, Galapagos Penguins, and Flightless Cormorants. This current bathes the archipelago with rich nutrients and is most abundant during September and October. This is the time of year with the absolute best snorkeling in the Galapagos.

2. Exclusive offers.
Travelers with flexibility are rewarded with exclusive September and October savings. This is generally the only time Quasar offers discounts or complimentary perks that include: Complimentary domestic airfare to Galapagos from the cities of Quito or Guayaquil (savings of $500+ per person).

3. Amazing weather.
The Garua season is the best time to visit Galapagos if you want to avoid the stronger equatorial sun—and at this time of year, temperatures hit the vacation sweet spot (highs of 80°F/26°C and lows of 69°F/20°C).

4. Abundant wildlife.
Especially since the “great pause” in tourism over the last couple of years, elusive Galapagos animals are re-emerging and the otherworldly landscapes are more vibrant than ever. You’ll also get to witness the Waved Albatross, one of the few migratory birds that isn’t present all year in Galapagos. September and October are two of the best months to see them and their spectacular courtship dance.

5. Fewer travelers in the National Park.
These months fall right after the “popular” summer months and during back to school season for the North American market, which represents the largest market for Galapagos. During this time, you will see fewer visitors around the National Park and fewer (or no) children on board, but still enjoy amazing weather and spectacular wildlife encounters. No matter which month you travel—remember, there is no WORST time to go!—we can’t wait to show you why Quasar has been voted #1 Intimate Cruise Line and help you book your adventure now. Read more here - Best Time to Visit the Galapagos Islands

FACTOR #2: The Cruise Category You Choose

Regardless of the cruise category you are looking for, Galapagos is considered an expensive cruising destination because of the remoteness of the archipelago and the high demand that exists for travel to the Islands.

In Galapagos you have 4 cruise categories to choose from: Budget Cruises, Tourist Superior Cruises, First Class Cruises and Luxury Cruises. The main differences between these categories lie in the type of vessel, the amenities and luxury of the accommodations, the quality of the naturalist guides and the food.

Galapagos Evolution Yacht

As a general rule of thumb, you can use the guidelines below to book the best Galapagos cruise to fit your budget. For the sake of comparison, we are using week-long cruises as the standard duration, since this is the duration we recommend for the best Galapagos experience. You can read more on this in the next section.

Budget Cruises: In terms of accommodations, these cruises are the equivalent of 1 and 2 star hotels, and can cost anywhere between $250 - $430 dollars per person, per day. This normally includes accommodations, meals, excursions and all non-alcoholic beverages. A week-long budget cruise can cost anywhere between $1800 to about $3,000 per person.

Tourist Superior (or Mid-Range) Cruises: Cruises in this category are the equivalent of a 3 star hotel and start at around $450 per person, per day and go up to about $600. A week-long tourist superior cruise can cost between $3,100 and $4,200 per person.

First Class Cruises: First class cruises are the equivalent of a 4 star hotel and they cost between $610 to about $780 per person, per day. A week-long tourist superior cruise can cost between $4,300 and $5,500 per person.

Luxury Cruises: These cruises are the equivalent of a 5 star hotel in terms of accommodations and service. Luxury cruises in Galapagos start at around $800 per person for the day, and go up all the way to around $1,700 per person for the day, depending on the suite category you choose. A week-long luxury cruise can cost anywhere between $6,000 to around $12,000 dollars per person, with some ships offering suites that can go even higher. In general, luxury cruises offer all-inclusive pricing, that includes all activities, excursions, meals, alcoholic beverages, park fees, transit cards, onboard wifi and more. Quasar’s cruises fall in the Galapagos luxury cruise category and they include all the extras mentioned above.

Entering the Galapagos National Park:
Once in Galapagos, regardless of the cruise category you have booked, non-Ecuadorians must pay a Park fee of $100 for adults and $50 for children under 12. There are discounts available for Ecuadorians and for some Andean countries that are members of Pacto Andino.

FACTOR #3: The Duration of Your Cruise

One of the greatest mistakes people make when planning their Galapagos trip is not budgeting enough time to savor the region’s immense, breathtaking landscape, diverse wildlife population, and bountiful outdoor adventures. For most of us, it's both a long way to go and a sizable investment to get to the Galapagos, so it’s important to make the experience worth it by spending the right amount of time on the islands.

The duration of a Galapagos cruise is the second most important factor when considering your budget for a Galapagos adventure. How long you spend in Galapagos depends on how much time and money you have and how eager you are to see the Islands.

dolphins jumping out of water in the Galapagos

Lower-end ships often offer less expensive cruises with itineraries that are not as adventurous, staying close to populated islands to save on fuel costs. However, if you want to see certain animals like the famed flightless cormorant, the Galapagos penguin, or the waved albatross you will need to venture to the far-off islands on itineraries that are longer, and normally only offered by the higher-end ships.

Below is a breakdown of the cruise durations available in Galapagos:

15-Day Cruises
If the Galapagos has always been on your dream list, and your budget allows, go for the full 15-day trip. This is the longest cruise itinerary available in Galapagos and it lets you see everything the islands have to offer! Few cruise companies offer these longer itineraries, but Quasar is one of them. We offer two incredible 15-Day cruise itineraries aboard our yachts Evolution and Grace.

8-Day Cruises
We realize that most folks may not have 15 days to spend in Galapagos or the budget for a 15-day trip, so the next best alternative is to choose a week-long cruise, which is great for seeing a lot of the islands and their amazing animals and varied landscapes. If you want to see the best of Galapagos and you can afford an 8 day cruise, then this is the duration of the itinerary you must to book. For most First Class and Luxury Cruise companies in Galapagos, this is the standard duration of their itineraries. Since Quasar’s inception in 1986, we’ve never offered cruises shorter than 8 Days.

4 and 5-Day Cruises
If you're short on time or money, you might think about a 4 or 5-day cruise. Budget and Tourist Superior class cruises generally tend to cruise for 4 and 5 Days and they normally stick to the central islands to save on fuel costs.

But keep in mind, a "5-day" trip is really only 3 days of exploring and a “4-day” trip is only 2 days! The first and last days are mostly about getting to/from Galapagos and on / off the boat. Considering the time and cost to get to Galapagos, such a short trip may not be a good investment. Right about the time you are starting to relax and realize just how many amazing experiences await throughout the archipelago, you have to catch your flight to go back home. We strongly encourage everyone to consider a week-long, even if the cost is a little higher

Remember that the Galapagos isn’t about the port towns or airports–it’s all about rare flora and fauna throughout the national park. Our 3 decades operating in the Galapagos have taught us that an 8 day/7 night cruise is just right to maximize amazing animal encounters, experience the islands from both land and sea, and balance your trip with optimal relaxation.

FACTOR #4: Flights to Ecuador and the Galapagos

There are no direct international flights to the Galapagos Islands. Anyone visiting the archipelago must first fly into the cities of Quito or Guayaquil in mainland Ecuador, and then connect to the Galapagos. Many major airlines offer international flights to Quito and Guayaquil from various parts of the world.

Flying to Ecuador from the United States
From the United States, you have airlines with direct flights to Ecuador like American Airlines and Latam (flying from Miami), Jet Blue (flying from Ft Lauderdale) and United (flying from Houston).

Flying to Ecuador from Central America
From Central America you have airlines like Copa (flying from Panama) and Aeromexico (flying from Mexico City) with direct flights to both Quito and Guayaquil.

Overhead view flying into the Galapagos

Flying to Ecuador from Europe
If flying to Ecuador from Europe, you have airlines with direct flights to Ecuador like KLM (from Amsterdam) and Iberia (from Madrid).

Flying to Ecuador from Asia or Oceania
Unfortunately there are no direct flights to Ecuador from Asia or Oceania, however one of the best options seems to be to fly to Santiago, Chile either from Auckland with Latam or from Sydney with Qantas. From Santiago then you can take a direct flight to Guayaquil, Ecuador.

Please check with each airline for the best possible flights to Quito or Guayaquil in Ecuador, but you can expect to pay anywhere from $400 to up to $1,000 if flying to Ecuador from the US, between $900 and $1500 if flying from Europe, and between $1,500 and $2,000 if flying from Asia or Oceania.

Domestic Flights to Galapagos form Mainland Ecuador
In addition to the international flights you also have to book domestic flights to the Galapagos from either Quito or Guayaquil. Depending on where you are flying from (Guayaquil or Quito), or how far in advance you purchase your flights, flight prices range from $300 to about $580 for adults and $200 - $400 for children. Please note flight prices are constantly changing so it is best to always check with airlines like Latam, EQ Air and Avianca that currently have daily flights out to the islands. Children under 12 normally get an important discount on domestic air. You also need to pay a mandatory transit card (used to track visitors and make sure they don’t stay more than 3 months in the islands) and it costs $20 per person. Learn more - How to get to the Galapagos Islands

FACTOR #5: Pre and Post Cruise Lodging and Tours in Ecuador

For anyone interested in cruising the Galapagos, it is strongly recommended to add a minimum of 2 nights in Mainland Ecuador on the front end of your trip to accommodate for flight delays, cancellations or baggage issues. How much you spend in your travels on the mainland will depend on the type of hotel you stay at and if you choose to do any Ecuador tours. But it’s always best to consider at least a couple of days in Mainland Ecuador as part of your overall Galapagos trip budget. Trying to connect directly from you international flight to your Galapagos flight is not recommended in case you experience any flight delays, cancellations or lost luggage.

Ecuador tours after a Galapagos cruise

Extra Costs

Finally, you should always consider some budget in your trip for extras like bar consumption, laundry, items of personal nature and tips to guides and crew. Drink prices are high in Galapagos, mainly due to the import tariffs on alcohol in Ecuador and the cost of getting the alcohol to the islands. With tips, you can expect to pay about $10 per person, per day for crew and for guides on budget ships and about $20 - $30 per person, per day on the luxury ships. You can also learn more on Galapagos travel in our Galapagos FAQs page.

Drinks onboard a Galapagos Luxury Cruise
Two weeks will give you plenty of time to have a grand tour of the islands, including snorkeling, whale watching, exploring, and plenty of nights kicking back in the hot tub under the stars.

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CONCLUSION

As a traveler to Galapagos, you must make several choices that will ultimately impact the cost of your Galapagos cruise. Because the Galapagos Islands are a bucket list destination, it’s also important to lock in your desired travel dates as soon as possible. The Galapagos has a massive demand and the most sought-after cruise companies tend to have limited space.

If Galapagos is on your must-see list, we encourage you to act now — especially if you wish to travel during the holiday season or a Galapagos Fall Cruise during the months of September and October when Quasar includes all the complimentary perks.

Activities like snorkeling and kayaking allow you to explore these exotic isles however you choose. All-inclusive extras like an open bar, five-star cuisine, and seamless ship-to-shore access ensure your cruise will be filled with memories.

Galapagos kicker rock

Book a call with Quasar Expeditions if you have any questions or if you'd like to learn more about the incredible experiences that await in Galapagos!

Paul Schicke
By Paul Schicke
Senior Expedition Designer

Hello! My name is Paul. I am a photographer, traveler, teacher and writer. I have extensive experience in travel to Galapagos, Peru, Patagonia and the western seaboard of South America specializing in ways travelers can experience these once-in-a-life destinations like locals on the road. Lover of wine, chocolate, travel, coffee, and helping others plan vacations of a lifetime!

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