The Galápagos Islands quite rightly feature on many a travel bucket-list, especially for those who love wildlife. Some, however, are not so keen on the idea of cruising. Humboldt Director Kirsty lists her favourite ways to enjoy the Galápagos from the comfort of solid ground!
When one thinks of a holiday to the Galápagos, a cruise normally springs to mind. This fascinating collection of islands is logically and naturally explored by boat on cruises ranging in length from four days to two weeks. However, boats are not for everyone and if you are such a person then there are a few luxury hotels on the islands which make great bases for visiting the Galápagos from the security of dry land. Some boat travel will always be involved if you wish to take day trips out to islands close by with a guide, but a hotel is certainly best for people who are not sure of their sea legs or simply do not want to be in such a confined space with their fellow travellers for overnight itineraries.
Here are our top picks for the best luxury hotels in the Galápagos, perfect destinations in their own right, or in combination with a short cruise.
Situated on Santa Cruz island, Finch Bay is one of the National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World and it is easy to see why. It is truly in a unique location, perched on a powdery beach. Being on the land does not limit interaction with the flora and fauna, situated as it is in this special part of the world where the wildlife knows little fear and exhibits boundless curiosity.
The décor at Finch Bay is fresh and contemporary with delightful accents of Galápagos-inspired artwork featuring birds and animals, all designed by top Ecuadorian designer Julio Vinueza. All rooms feature porches or balconies and the suites offer private balconies and sweeping ocean views. The environment is not forgotten for the sake of this luxury experience – this is a destination where it is of immense importance – and all of the amenities are 100% organic and biodegradable.
There is a strong focus on the cuisine at this hotel and guests can enjoy fine dining at the end of a day exploring the islands. A variety of day tours are on offer or guests can choose one of the packages enabling them to have exactly the experience they want, with a personalised programme of yacht day trips and land-based explorations tailored to your interests.
Scalesia Lodge is located on Isabela Island in the west of the archipelago. Inspired by luxury African tented safari camps, this is a true barefoot luxury experience. The lodge is tucked away in the highlands of Isabela Island combining forest views with the tempestuous Pacific Ocean. Guests arrive either by speedboat or plane to begin their experience at Scalesia.
The tent-suites are dotted amongst the forest with spacious private decks and panoramic views of the surrounding greenery a particular highlight of a stay here. Inside the tents are cosy, simple and stylish and the perfect place to lay your head after a day getting to know the Galápagos without feeling like you are losing touch with the exceptional nature that surrounds you.
Isabela is a wonderful part of the Galapágos. The most pristine of the three populated islands, it features six large volcanoes. The northern half of the island is famous for its wild and remote environment, characterised by shallow waters. The southern part of the island is quite different with towering volcanoes and spewing fumaroles. The majority of all wildlife species in the Galápagos can be found on Isabela, and guests can have the chance to see blue footed boobies, pelicans, penguins, flamingos, herons, ducks, finches, tropical birds, sea turtles, sea lions, marine iguanas, manta rays, sharks, eels and tropical fish here. Sally lightfoot crabs, hawks, owls, dolphins and whales are among other species are often spotted, while Galápagos tortoises and land iguanas roam freely around the Sierra Negra Volcano.
Along with its sister hotels, Sacha Lodge in the Ecuadorian Amazon and Hacienda Piman in the northern Andes, Scalesia offers delicious cuisine and a warm, authentic welcome.
Montemar Eco Luxury Villas
For something really quite different in the Galápagos, our top pick is the Montemar Eco Luxury Villas. Situated on Santa Cruz Island, they are the first completely eco-efficient operation in the Galápagos. There are three villas on offer with either two or four bedrooms. The external design is minimalist concrete, aiming for as little environmental impact as possible. Inside, the villas feature clean lines, teak floors and floor to ceiling windows to make the most of the spectacular highlands view.
Sustainability really is king here. They collect 100% of the water used at the hotel from the rain and 99% of the energy comes from solar panels and solar water heaters. Local materials have been used in the construction including bamboo, lava rocks and sustainably sourced Spanish Cedar. Ingredients for meals come from the organic, biodynamic garden, and they raise their own free-range chickens.
Montemar is run by a local couple, Roberto and Reyna. Both ecologists, they offer an amazing insight into the island, its wildlife and the eco system – as well as the daily lives of the human population that also call these incredible islands their home. The focus here is relaxation and moving at a slow pace. There are no large group tours or rushing out on a tight schedule. Guests can take yoga classes, go for quiet walks and make use of the spa in between discovering the magic of the archipelago’s wildlife.
Pikaia Lodge is the only Relais & Chateaux hotel in the Galápagos, offering everything you would expect from the world-renowned luxury chain. Located on Santa Cruz Island, it is a true luxury base from which to explore these spectacular islands and islets. The hotel offers packages of varying lengths designed to immerse guests in the ecological bounty of islands, while also giving them plenty enough time to sit back, relax and enjoy the landscapes.
The hotel has been designed with sustainability in mind. The hotel is carbon neutral and they believe that by offering a land-based programme for exploring the islands, they are minimising their environmental impact on this unique and fragile eco-system. The hotel employs local residents, an important factor as it contributes directly to the local economy.
The design of the rooms is fresh and bright and all feature floor to ceiling windows, offering spectacular views of the nearby ocean. With only 29 rooms in total, the hotel will never feel crowded, meaning that guests can enjoy the Galápagos with a feeling of total intimacy and exclusivity.
The food at Pikaia is excellent, as one would always expect from a Relais & Chateaux property, and guests can enjoy unique sustainable fine dining in the Evolution restaurant, perched on top of a dormant crater and offering views over the infinity pool and across the Galápagos highlands.
For a different and perhaps more exclusive experience of the Galápagos, a hotel stay is a great way to combine luxury and an authentic experience in this special part of the world.
Are you planning a trip to the Galápagos Islands? Learn more about the region here and click here to browse itineraries in Ecuador. Contact us today to speak to your dedicated travel specialist and plan your trip.