Santa Cruz II Galapagos Cruise

Why should I travel to the Galapagos when I can go to the Caribbean for half the price?

User Avatar Author: Isabel  Espinoza
10 months ago
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If you’ve ever asked yourself, “Why should I go to the Galapagos when I can go to the Caribbean for half the price?”, then have a look at this blog. Maybe the experience of your holiday shouldn’t just be focused on the amount of money that you’ll spend, but also the adventure and once-in-a-lifetime experience that you’ll get out of it. Travel to the caribbean or galapagos? These are 5 reasons why Galapagos is the best choice.

1. A Year-round Destination vs. a Seasonal Destination

Sea lion with Santa Cruz II Cruise in the background

There are plenty of opportunities to spot Galapagos’ iconic animals throughout every season!

While the Caribbean and the Galapagos only have two seasons and have the same daylight hours lasting for around 12 hours a day, the types of seasons that each location has differed enormously.

Weather in the Galapagos

The Galapagos has what is known as the hot and dry seasons. During the hot season running from January to June, the vegetation becomes greener due to the occasional rain showers, thus initiating the courtship dances of the many endemic species that live on the islands. This is a spectacle that can’t be fully appreciated in any other location in the world. During the dry season running from July to December, the various sea currents that meet in the archipelago such as the Cromwell, Humboldt, South Equatorial, and the Panama currents, bring nutrients and cooler water up from the ocean depths, making the marine flora and fauna increase dramatically.

Therefore, in the dry season, marine life becomes dynamic and boisterous. Interestingly, this means that whatever month you visit the Galapagos Islands you will be treated to a suitable climate and many unique experiences because the Galapagos Islands are truly spectacular year-round.

Weather in the Caribbean

Likewise, the Caribbean has two seasons, but both aren’t as inviting. One is the hot season and the other is hurricane season. The former offers you beautiful days but, in contrast to the Galapagos, the other may offer slightly terrifying hurricanes that can easily ruin your dream tropical holiday. Don’t be fooled by the radically price-reduced cruises that are offered during this season, as the beautiful sunny days may be mixed in with a surprise tropical storm. This contrasts with the Galapagos Islands, which have never had to deal with hurricanes. Ever.

Coastal exploration of the Galapagos Islands

Panga rides are used to explore the coast of several islands in the Galapagos.

2. Live the Boat vs. Live the Destination

As a result of the sheer size of the Caribbean, which covers a massive 2.7 million km2 (1.06 million mi2) it is difficult to explore the whole area, especially when the inevitable ties of time and budget restrain us. In those circumstances, we would just have to choose the best places to visit and settle for those few attractions.

A Tour of the Caribbean

Because of the size, many travelers often choose to visit it aboard a cruise ship, which includes most costs, such as comfortable accommodations, food, and entertainment. These vessels are like miniature floating cities that have everything you could ever dream of, from restaurants and movie theaters to basketball courts and pools. You almost forget that there is another world outside of the ship. Of course, you will always find something to do, but if you think about it, how different is that from being in a large well-known city? No culture, exploration, nor unique wildlife is included in these trips. And worse yet, there are only a few visits to the islands with minimal time to buy a few souvenirs and zero time to be immersed in the culture. Eighty percent of your time is spent on the ship.

An Experience of the Galapagos Islands

On the flip side, the Galapagos Islands are known to be an expedition destination, meaning that all tourism is aimed at getting an accurate and immersive comprehension of the culture and environment. Every vessel’s objective is centered around stopping at most, if not all, of the iconic spots so that visitors can have close and personal experiences with the many endemic species that live wild on the islands. (It’s important to note that most of these animals are wild around the Galapagos Islands and are very curious of visitors). Each vessel only has a maximum capacity of 100 guests, which is barely one-fifth of the minimum number of guests on a Caribbean cruise, allowing each visitor to have significantly one-on-one time with their naturalist guide.

Galapagos cruises also include a variety of activities, from hikes to snorkeling and kayaking, giving guests the freedom to explore with the comfort of a guide close by answering questions about the wildlife. The entire time you are in the archipelago, you are surrounded by glorious views of the rugged wild terrain and turquoise waters. As a guest in the Galapagos, you will only spend 20% of your time on the boat, and the rest of the time you’ll be adventuring throughout the islands.

Did you know?

Even though we often use the word cruise when we talk about our expedition vessels, according to definitions provided by CLIA, Cruise Critic, and the CDC based on gross tonnage and number of passengers aboard, these are the boats that actually sail in the Galapagos Islands:

Type of vessel (According to definitions used by the CDC and CLIA)

Gross registered tonnage (GRT)

Number of passengers

Super Mega Cruise Ships

(Can’t sail in the Galapagos Islands)

More than 140,000 Approximately 5,000
Large Ships

(Can’t sail in the Galapagos Islands)

More than 60,000 Approximately 3,000
Medium Ships

(Can’t sail in the Galapagos Islands)

Less than 30,000  Approximately 500
Extra Small Ships

(Sail in the Galapagos Islands!)

Less than 3,000  Approximately 100
Intimate Ships

(Sail in the Galapagos Islands!)

Less than 1,000  Approximately 40

The entire Galapagos Marine Reserve covers 133,000 km2/ 51,000mi2, which is about 5% of the size of the Caribbean. Although there’s still tons to see, your budget will likely cover most of it, with the best cruise itineraries stopping at the iconic sites throughout the islands in a few days. This is managed by expedition vessels traveling at night so that guests can make the most of the activities during the sunlight hours in the glass-bottom boat, paddleboarding or hiking.

I'm ready to go to the Galapagos!

3. Exclusive vs. Massive

Couple hiking in the Galapagos National Park during sunset

The number of people allowed in the Galapagos National Park and in the Islands makes Galapagos an ideal destination for those who enjoy exclusivity.

Tourism in the Galapagos

The Galapagos Islands first became famous after the visit of Charles Darwin, the founder of the theories of natural selection and evolution. Since then, the islands have steadily become known as a National Park filled with exotic and endemic species. Because it is a National Park, a restricted annual number of only 75,000 visitors are allowed on the islands. This means that the most iconic sites aren’t congested with thousands of visitors, so the fauna is always willing to come out and show off. In contrast, the Caribbean can receive more than 25 million visitors in any given year. With most visiting in the hot season to avoid the hurricanes, you can imagine the constant hustle and bustle of the main tourist attractions!

In addition, both locations have inhabitants, but their number varies greatly between the two. The Caribbean has 43.6 million inhabitants in comparison to only 25,000 inhabitants on the Galapagos Islands. In the latter, the locals-only live on the main islands and are concentrated in only 3% of the entire island space. The rest of the Galapagos is a National Park where friendly and curious penguins, sea lions, and blue-footed boobies and other iconic species are the only greeters.

Tourism in the Caribbean

Meanwhile, the main greeters in the Caribbean are the thousands of inhabitants on each island. Instead of seashore drop-offs, Caribbean visitors are let off at major ports and received into sterile restaurants, stores, and buses that have been specifically designed for the tourists. It may include a short visit to the beach or a brief drive by the village, but very little interaction with the locals takes place.

In the Galapagos, most of the adventures are on foot. The only exceptions are on San Cristobal and Santa Cruz islands, which are bus transfers to the airport, the research centers, and traveling further into the highlands. All efforts are made to keep the islands as natural as possible without affecting the comfort or safety of visitors.

In the Caribbean, no luxury is spared, even if it affects wildlife. Cruise ships share the port with many other cruise ships. So, instead of just the 1,000 guests from your ship disembarking, there could be many thousands of guests milling around the tourist attractions and port. In contrast, the number of people at each visitor site on Galapagos is restricted by the Galapagos National Park rules. If you are on one of the larger vessels with 100 guests, you’ll have the visitor site to yourself!

4. Social & Environmental Responsibility

Sightseeing Isabela Island with Naturalist guides

Every visit in the Galapagos National Park must be guided by a certified naturalist guide.

When we travel, we want to make sure that we are making a positive impact on the area that we are visiting. In the Galapagos, the rules of expedition vessel operations are incredibly strict. For example, every single one of the 69 vessels that have been approved to provide cruises must operate within the Marine Reserve and therefore must follow the Park’s rules and regulations. It’s also necessary to point out that no visitor is allowed to explore without the supervision of a certified Naturalist Guide, which ensures that every visitor follows the strictest of rules, even if it’s subconsciously. In the Caribbean, cruise ships mostly spend their time in international waters where rules and regulations are liberal and flexible, especially in relation to the environment. This leads to each company following its own interpretation of those laws.

As well as strictly following the rules within the Galapagos National Park, the majority of Galapagos expedition vessel staff are local inhabitants, making cruise vessels a local operation. Every cruise is giving back to the local community and the National Park. In contrast, giant Caribbean cruises ships employ international crew and only contribute to the local community if a guest buys a small trinket from one of the local stores.

5. Comparing Costs: Affordable vs. Expensive

Galapagos coastline view

The Galapagos has the perfect combination of breathtaking landscapes and unique wildlife!

We often compare multiple tropical destinations and choose to travel to the cheapest. We understand that your budget often comes into play when you are deciding where you’ll spend the holidays. We also understand that Galapagos isn’t the cheapest location to visit because of its distance from the mainland. But remember that comparing the Galapagos Islands to other tropical islands, like the Caribbean, is like comparing apples to oranges.

While the Caribbean only has beautiful beaches, deep blue waters and what can be described as the perfect tropical island climate, the Galapagos has this in addition to being an expedition destination like Alaska or the Maldives. This is because it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, chosen for its unique species and spectacular terrain. I guess you could say you’re getting the best of both worlds!

All in all, it is very easy to focus on the cost and the appearance of the islands and decide that you could get more out of your trip to the Caribbean. You could be forgiven for reaching that conclusion because on a big cruise liner the accommodation, food, entertainment, and shops are all included. Also, an occasional visit to a tropical beach is put into the program for a change in scenery. It seems that you get everything in the deal! But what about the value of the experience?

On the Galapagos, you can have many close encounters with animals that can’t happen anywhere else in the world. Sure, there are extra fees in visiting the National Park and islands that require a flight to get there but think about the uniqueness and life-changing experience that you can have. Also, due to the remoteness of the islands, remember that food needs to be imported to the islands due to strict rules on agricultural practices and products. On all of our vessels, only the freshest ingredients make it to your plate.

Additionally, everything we do and the equipment we make available for our guests is done to offer you the very best experience possible. We have the best dinghies, the most delicious food, and the best vessels to make sure that your trip doesn’t affect the environment, is safe, and that you have the most enjoyable time.

Comparison between caribbean cruises and Galapagos Expedition Vessels

Comparison between Caribbean cruises and Galapagos Expedition Vessels

So what is the difference between the Galapagos Islands and the Caribbean? If you only look at cost and the fact that they are both a group of islands, the Caribbean is going to come out on top. But how valuable is a life-changing experience? What about the culture and being welcomed into the community and the National Park? There’s nothing that can compare to that feeling when a sea lion wants to play with you in the water, or a curious iguana stares you down from a meter away.

Millions of people all over the world have photos inside a cruise ship or on some tropical beach. But how many people do you know go on cruises where you are actually giving back to the community and the environment while having intimate, unforgettable encounters with endemic species? Choose to make a positive impact on the world and choose an expedition destination. Choose the Galapagos Islands. You won’t regret it.

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