Where to Begin Your Awesome Galápagos Adventure
A trip to the Galápagos Islands is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure that brings you up close to spectacular wildlife and incredible plant life in isolated and protected terrain. The islands inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution and are considered one of the most amazing destinations for unique ecological experiences in the world. Exploring the Galápagos National Park aboard a chartered yacht is well worth the effort it takes to get there.
There are a few choices you should make before booking your trip to the remote archipelago in the Pacific Ocean, more than six hundred miles from mainland Ecuador. The first choice is which city in Ecuador to fly into because all flights to the Galápagos Islands originate from either Quito or Guayaquil. You should plan to arrive at least one day early in order to make your connection so your priorities will determine where you choose.
Quito, the Capital of Ecuador, is an appealing city and the historic city center is a UNESCO World Heritage site. There are many choices for hotels and restaurants as well as museums and other attractions. Some of the better accommodations include Casa Gangotena, located in the colonial city center, Illa Experience Hotel, a boutique hotel housed in a restored Mansion with unique decor, Lo Major En La Mitad Del Mundo, and international chains such as Swissotel Quito and JW Marriott Hotel. Recommended dining options include acclaimed Zazu, casual seafood-focused Zfood, amazing local cuisine option Urko, or sophisticated Peruvian fare at Lua Restaurante.
Quito is home to Mariscal Sucre International Airport, one of the busiest airports in South America and about eleven miles east of the city center. There are many daily flights into Quito from the United States and Europe and ground transportation into the city is plentiful and inexpensive. The flight from Quito to the Galápagos Islands takes about two and a half hours and will probably stopover in Guayaquil. Quito has a mild climate because it is 9000 feet above sea level so if you have problems with the thin air at higher altitudes, this might not be your better option.
Another option for flying into Ecuador is to fly to Guayaquil, the largest city in the country. It is a warmer and more humid location along the southern coastline. Once a haven for pirates, Guayaquil is referred to as the Pearl of the Pacific and offers many sightseeing opportunities such as the Malecon, El Faro Lighthouse, and Plaza Logos. Hotel and dining choices are more limited in Guayaquil but there are some good selections. The boutique Hotel del Parque is in a restored building from the late nineteenth century and has a spa in the former bell tower. Notable restaurants include La Pata Gorda for seafood, Le Gourmet for locally sourced ingredients prepared with a French flair, and Casa Julian, located in the Hotel Del Parque.
The José Joaquin de Olmedo airport in Guayaquil was previously named the “Best Airport in Latin America” by the Airports Council International and is an hour and a half flight from the Galápagos Islands. All flights out of this airport are direct to either airport in the islands. If you do not mind hot humid weather and prefer a more direct route, flying into Guayaquil is a good choice.
Where you land in the Galápagos Islands depends on your itinerary and where your yacht will meet you. San Cristóbal Airport is on the southern shore of San Cristóbal Island, the easternmost of the inhabited islands. Seymour Airport is located on the small island of Baltra which is just north of Santa Cruz Island. This airport facility runs solely on sun and wind power. The major ports where you might rendezvous with your yacht include Wreck Bay on San Cristóbal, Academy Bay on Santa Cruz, Puerto Villamil on Isabela Island, or near the main fuel terminal on Baltra.
Your charter consultant will be able to assist you with the best place to arrive in the Galapágos Islands to be closest to your awaiting yacht.