Where to Stay in the Galapagos Islands - 4 Best Areas & Hotels

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Rocky and grassy islets near clear waters
Many visit the Galápagos Islands to see geological marvels and marine habitats

The Galápagos Islands, sitting around 600 miles off the coast of mainland Ecuador, are one of the world's most pristine and biologically diverse travel destinations. Comprised of 18 primary islands and more than 100 smaller islands and islets, you will find equally diverse experiences from one side of the Galápagos archipelago to the other.

Four of the 18 main islands in the Galápagos are inhabited and open to tourism: Santa Cruz Island, Isabela Island, Floreana Island, and San Cristóbal Island. From the largest, Isabela, to the most visited, Santa Cruz, each island destination offers a unique vacation experience you won't find anywhere else.

If you need help choosing where to stay in the Galápagos Islands, make sure to read the entire way through this comprehensive guide. From the vibrant capital of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristóbal to sleepy Puerto Valazco Ibarra on Floreana, you'll learn all about the different Galápagos Islands and what kind of traveler each location is suited for.

🛏️ Best budget hotel: El Rincon de George
🏨 Best mid-range hotel: El Arco de Darwin
🏖 Best family-friendly hotel: El Rincon de George
💕 Best romantic hotel: El Descanso del Guia
🛎️ Best luxury hotel: Hotel Angermeyer Waterfront Inn

4 Best Places to Stay on the Galapagos Islands

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Best Areas to Stay in the Galápagos Islands

A view of the ocean with ships from the sandy shore near rocks
Santa Cruz Island is the most developed in the Galápagos with many hotels available

Santa Cruz Island

Santa Cruz Island, located in the center of the Galápagos archipelago, is the most populous island and the most commonly visited by tourists. Its main city, Puerto Ayora, boasts a large selection of dining, shopping, and entertainment options, including upscale art galleries and plenty of hand-crafted artisan goods.

Santa Cruz Island has all types of accommodations, from hostels to luxury oceanfront villas. Most properties are located within upscale and energetic Puerto Ayora. However, plenty of small hotels and lodges are located outside the town.

Travelers generally choose to stay on Santa Cruz Island because of the sheer number of tours offered from this area. Visitors are also attracted by the frequency of flights between the mainland and nearby Seymour Galápagos Ecologic Airport and the ease of travel to other inhabited islands in the Galápagos.

As the hub of the Galápagos, all ferries between the islands connect to Santa Cruz. And as the most visited island, you will find far more amenities here than on sparsely populated islands like Floreana.

But there's also a lot to do right on Santa Cruz, from checking out the Charles Darwin Research Station to visiting the lava tunnels and nearby giant tortoise reserves. Plus, it's the starting point for some of the most popular snorkeling and diving tours in the Galápagos, including those to North Seymour Island, Santa Fe, and Pinzón.

🛏️ Budget-friendly places to stay in and nearby Santa Cruz Island

🏨 Mid-range places to stay in and nearby Santa Cruz Island

🏖 Child-friendly places to stay in and nearby Santa Cruz Island

💕 Romantic accommodations in and nearby Santa Cruz Island

🛎️ Luxury accommodations in and nearby Santa Cruz Island

A view of a bay near buildings from a rocky shore
Isabela Island promises a relaxing and quiet vacation while in the Galápagos Islands

Isabela Island

Located west of Santa Cruz, Isabela Island is the westernmost inhabited island in the Galápagos. It's also the largest island in the archipelago. However, it maintains a population far smaller than Santa Cruz and San Cristóbal.

Isabela is the best Galápagos island to stay on for a relaxing vacation without giving up the amenities generally expected from a popular tourist destination.

Puerto Villamil, the primary town on Isabela and where nearly all of the island's hotels are, has a laid-back and peaceful ambiance. There is still plenty of dining and shopping options, but don't expect the same international variety as on the more populated islands.

Most properties on Isabela Island are in the affordable to mid-price range, with rates generally comparable to Santa Cruz. While you won't find quite as many luxury options, there are a handful of upscale boutiques around Puerto Villamil.

Visitors generally stay on Isabela for a peaceful vacation amid the island's natural charm and for day trips that aren't offered from other locales. You'll find regular ferries between Isabela and Santa Cruz, and the small Puerto Villamil Airport has service to Santa Cruz and San Cristóbal.

Some of the most visited attractions on Isabela Island are the Concha de Perla, a lagoon with lots of marine life, the scenic Cerro Orchilla viewpoint, and the Arnaldo Tupiza Tortoise Breeding Center. Popular tours from Isabela include those to Tintoreras Bay, Los Túneles, and the Sierra Negra, a shield volcano.

🛏️ Low-priced accommodations in and nearby Isabela Island

🏨 Mid-range places to stay in and nearby Isabela Island

🏖 Child-friendly places to stay in and nearby Isabela Island

💕 Romantic places to stay in and nearby Isabela Island

Rock formations in the middle of the sea on a cloudy day
Floreana Island is the ideal place to go for a relaxed vacation surrounded by nature

Floreana Island

Floreana Island is the smallest and least populated of the inhabited Galápagos Islands. It's the perfect destination for travelers who want to be immersed in nature without the crowds of tourists found on other islands.

Puerto Velasco Ibarra is the only town on Floreana Island and where you will find all of the accommodations. With a population of fewer than 150 residents, there isn't a lot of excitement on Floreana, which is ideal for travelers looking to unplug and escape from it all.

Do note that there are very few hotels on Floreana, but the prices are generally reasonable, especially compared to more visited spots like Puerto Ayora. Properties do, however, book out well in advance because of the limited selection of rooms.

Floreana is the least connected of the inhabited Galápagos Islands. There's no airport here, and the ferry service to Santa Cruz doesn't run daily. Still, there's no shortage of outdoor activities on the island, from visiting the island's black volcanic sand beach (a stark contrast to the red sand beach of Rabida Island) to going to Asilo de la Paz, the oldest inhabited site in the Galápagos.

🎉 View the latest Floreana Island accommodation deals

A view from a sandy shore of the beach with a ship near the rocky mountains
San Cristóbal Island is where to stay in the Galápagos Islands for scenic day tours

San Cristóbal Island

Situated to the east of Santa Cruz, San Cristóbal Island is the easternmost inhabited island in the Galápagos. It has the second largest population of the Galápagos Islands, and its main city of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno is the administrative capital of the Galápagos Province.

San Cristóbal is a popular tourist destination, albeit less busy than Santa Cruz, where you'll have plenty of dining and shopping options. There is an assortment of hotels, mostly modest, with a few upscale boutiques in and around Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. Prices here are typically lower than on other islands.

One of two major airports in the region, San Cristóbal Airport, connects the island to the mainland cities of Quito and Guayaquil. There is also a regular ferry service to Santa Cruz Island from the docks. With low prices and easy accessibility, San Cristóbal is where to stay on the Galápagos Islands for travelers on a budget.

You'll find plenty of activities that you can do on San Cristóbal without hiring a guide, including visiting the gorgeous beaches of Playa de Oro, Playa Mann, and Punta Carola.

There's also the San Cristóbal Interpretation Center, a university-run visitor center highlighting the natural and human history of the Galápagos. Top San Cristóbal tours include trips to Kicker Rock, Española Island, Lobos Island, and Sardina Bay.

🛏️ Low-priced accommodations in and nearby San Cristóbal Island

🏨 Well-priced accommodations in and nearby San Cristóbal Island

🏖 Family-friendly accommodations in and nearby San Cristóbal Island

💕 Romantic places to stay in and nearby San Cristóbal Island

Where to Stay in the Galápagos Islands

Iguanas and crabs on rocks near the ocean with ships
In Santa Cruz, kids can enjoy watching sea lions, iguanas, and other marine creatures

Where to stay in the Galápagos Islands with family?

For most travelers, central Santa Cruz Island is the best choice for where to stay when visiting the Galápagos Islands with family. As the most populated island in the archipelago, Santa Cruz offers families the widest selection of hotels, dining options, and kid-friendly activities.

From visiting one of the island's giant tortoise reserves to watching sea lions and iguanas sunning on Turtle Bay, Santa Cruz has plenty of activities for both kids and adults. Plus, parents of picky eaters will find a broader range of cuisines, especially international fare, on Santa Cruz than on other islands in the Galápagos.

San Cristóbal Island is another good option for families traveling to the Galápagos. Home to the provincial capital of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, San Cristóbal boasts room rates lower than Santa Cruz while still offering many great attractions and activities for kids.

The island of Isabela is more laid-back than Santa Cruz and San Cristóbal. It can be a popular choice for families looking to escape crowds found on more visited islands. However, the relaxed ambiance and relative lack of things to do can be a problem for more active, energetic children.

🏖 Child-friendly places to stay in and nearby Santa Cruz Island

Where to stay in the Galápagos Islands for a romantic getaway?

Offering some of the best wildlife, landscapes, and natural beauty in the world, the Galápagos Islands boasts some top spots for a romantic getaway. Whether you're after an action-filled romantic trip with your partner or want to unplug and take in the unforgettable scenery, you will find the ideal getaway in the Galápagos.

If your idea of the perfect romantic trip is a luxury oceanfront suite with world-class views and many amenities, consider the vibrant island of Santa Cruz and its main town, Puerto Ayora.

Here you'll find some of the best hotels in the Galápagos and tons of local and international dining and shopping. Puerto Ayora is also home to luxury art galleries, jewelry designers, and other artisan craftspeople.

Plus, Santa Cruz has more day excursions available than any other island. Taking a boat to Bartolomé Island to view Pinnacle Rock is one of the most popular tours for couples.

For peace and quiet and a romantic getaway that feels like it's just you and your partner immersed in the middle of nature, check out sparsely populated Floreana Island. For a slightly more balanced blend of privacy and activity options, consider Isabela Island.

💕 Romantic accommodations in and nearby Santa Cruz Island

A sea lion on the beach near small rock formations
Staying near the Galápagos capital in San Cristóbal might help in cutting expenses

Where to stay in the Galápagos Islands on a budget?

Although there are plenty of great budget options within the Galápagos Islands, it should be mentioned that the Galápagos archipelago is not the cheapest place to visit. This is especially true when compared to mainland Ecuador and other destinations in South America.

But with everything the region offers, the Galápagos Islands provide a terrific value for the travel experience. And for visitors hoping to stretch their dollar further, the best place to stay in Galápagos Islands will be the capital of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristóbal Island.

For most travelers, though, the savings in hotel prices will be minimal compared to the travel costs to and from the Galápagos, as well as day trips and tours, except perhaps on long-term stays. As such, the best advice for budget travelers is to plan your trip around the activities you want to do rather than on room rates.

While San Cristóbal has the cheapest accommodations, the islands of Santa Cruz and Isabela each offer budget and mid-priced hotel options that are only slightly pricier than on San Cristóbal. Ultimately, each island offers visitors a unique experience with modest hotels that fit within nearly any budget.

🛏️ Low-priced accommodations in and nearby San Cristóbal Island

🏨 Well-priced accommodations in and nearby San Cristóbal Island

Where to stay in the Galápagos Islands for snorkeling?

With some of the most diverse marine life in the world, it should come as no surprise that the Galápagos are one of the top travel destinations for snorkeling. With countless species to be spotted throughout the archipelago, there's no shortage of sites to snorkel throughout the islands.

For most land-based travelers, Santa Cruz is the best island to stay in Galápagos for snorkeling. Here, departing from the main town of Puerto Ayora, you can board numerous snorkeling day trips to popular sites like Bartolomé Island, North Seymour Island, and Pinzón.

Turtle Bay, a moderate walk from Puerto Ayora, is a terrific spot to snorkel from shore. It's a great low-cost snorkel experience where you can spot turtles, rays, sharks, and many fish species. Shops in town have snorkeling gear for rent if you're not traveling with your own.

San Cristóbal is another incredible island for snorkeling. Although there are fewer tour options than on Santa Cruz, San Cristóbal offers trips to top snorkeling spots like Kicker Rock and Lobos Island. There's also Playa Tijeretas, where you can snorkel from shore without taking a guided tour.

🛏️ Low-priced accommodations in and nearby Santa Cruz Island

🏨 Well-priced accommodations in and nearby Santa Cruz Island

🛎️ Luxury accommodations in and nearby Santa Cruz Island

Santa Cruz Island is where to stay in the Galápagos Islands for the best diving sites
Santa Cruz is a popular starting point for scuba diving and snorkeling day tours

Where to stay in the Galápagos Islands for scuba diving?

Scuba diving is one of the most common reasons people travel to the Galápagos Islands. And while many divers opt for liveaboard cruise tours, plenty of great diving opportunities can be accessed as part of an organized day tour. For the widest variety of options, the best place to stay in the Galápagos Islands for scuba diving will be Santa Cruz.

Two of the most popular diving day trips from Santa Cruz are Gordon Rocks, a spot famous for numerous species of sharks, including hammerheads, and Cousins Rock, near Santiago Island, where you can find barracudas, manta rays, and pufferfish.

Some divers opt to stay on San Cristóbal for day trips to Kicker Rock, one of the most well-known diving spots in the Galápagos Islands. Home to plenty of sea turtles and white-tipped sharks, you can also encounter a variety of species of eels and rays.

And Isabela Island isn't without its own options for scuba diving tours. While you'll find fewer choices here than from Santa Cruz or San Cristóbal, you won't want to miss out on Tortuga Island. The island, the most popular diving trip from Isabela, is home to Galápagos sharks, sunfish, and even the occasional Galápagos killer whale.

🛏️ Low-priced accommodations in and nearby Santa Cruz Island

🏨 Mid-range places to stay in and nearby Santa Cruz Island

🛎️ Luxury places to stay in and nearby Santa Cruz Island

Where to stay in the Galápagos Islands for nightlife?

Although the Galápagos Islands aren't known for being a nightlife destination, there is still plenty going on once the sun goes down on the larger inhabited islands of Santa Cruz, Isabela, and San Cristóbal.

As the most populous island in the Galápagos, Santa Cruz, specifically its primary city of Puerto Ayora, is undoubtedly the best island to stay on Galápagos for nightlife. You'll find many restaurants and bars on Charles Darwin Avenue running along the waterfront.

San Cristóbal, the second most populated Galápagos Island, also has an impressive nightlife scene. Isabela Island has a handful of evening spots as well. However, nothing as lively as on the two more visited islands.

Floreana, the smallest and least populated island in the Galápagos archipelago, is an excellent destination for surrounding yourself in nature, but things get pretty quiet once the sun goes down.

You'll definitely find something going on every night of the week in the larger towns of Puerto Ayora and Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. Don't expect too many all-night parties, though, as travelers are generally up with the sun for day tours which begin early in the mornings.

🛏️ Budget-friendly places to stay in and nearby Santa Cruz Island

🏨 Well-priced accommodations in and nearby Santa Cruz Island

🛎️ Luxury accommodations in and nearby Santa Cruz Island

In Summary

For most travelers, Santa Cruz will be the most suitable place to stay in the Galápagos Islands. It's the most populous island in the archipelago, with more to see, do, and eat in its main town, Puerto Ayora, than anywhere else in the Galápagos. Plus, you will find the most extensive selection of day tours for snorkeling, diving, and hiking.

San Cristóbal, home to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the capital of the Galápagos Islands, is the second most visited island and the best place to stay on a budget, although you'll find reasonably priced hotels in most locations.

Isabela Island, the Galápagos' largest, provides a more peaceful and laid-back experience than San Cristóbal or Santa Cruz. Though you'll still find various dining and shopping options and attractive day trip tours.

And Floreana, the smallest island with fewer than 150 residents, makes sense for a romantic getaway where you and your partner can completely disconnect and isolate yourselves in nature.

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Written by Jonathan Davis

JDavis WRITER Jonathan is a Florida-based travel writer who can't seem to stay in one place for long. With more than two decades of trips under his belt, Jonathan has a wealth of information to share about travel within the United States and abroad.


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