Best Answer: 97% of the land area and 100% of the maritime area of the Galapagos Islands is within the National Park. The only places not within the Park are the population centers where you will find the hotels. There are 70 terrestrial visitor sites and 75 marine visitor sites throughout the National Park where travelers are permitted to go ashore or go snorkeling to see animals up close in their natural habitat. The only way to access the great majority of these landing sites is on a live aboard vessel that takes you on a cruise through islands.
Only a hand full of landing sites are accessible from the hotels and this is mostly by day boat. All the hotels compete for spaces on the day boats as there are more hotel accommodations than there are spaces on the day boats because few boats that are permitted to go into the Park operate day trips. If you are lucky enough to get a day boat out into the National Park, you start your day by having to take a power boat ride to the landing site. These can be two hour rides each way. Not that pleasant and really a waste of your day.
In contrast, the permitted live aboard yachts arrive at your first landing site before you wake up and you’ll have the opportunity to go ashore and visit two different sites for up to 2 ½ hours each, along with snorkeling, kayaking and dinghy rides. Many yachts offer cabins, services and amenities equivalent to Galapagos hotels or better. The hotels are best for those who want to stay on after or arrive before their cruise for some diving or down time as well as families with toddlers too young to travel aboard the yachts.
The lesson here is that when you see a hotel package that seems too good to be true it is because you are likely to spend very little time within the Galapagos National Park seeing its animals. The hotels give you access to the port towns, which are small and can be fun, but they are not the key reason the Galapagos has become a premier destination.
A variation on this theme is port-to-port tours. These are provided by vessels that are not permitted to visit the Galapagos National Park landing sites. Instead they visit the ports, which are also the population centers. If your aim is to visit population centers this is a good option.