For budget travellers, those with sustainability at the front of their minds and those wanting to avoid the crowds, visiting the Galapagos without a tour sounds rather inviting. In this short blog, we address the question; “can you visit the Galapagos Islands without a tour?”, and offer some initial advice for your land-based Galapagos trip.

Can you visit the Galapagos without a tour?

In short, the answer to this question is yes, absolutely. Whilst you may have heard myths that the Galapagos is only accessible for those on an organised trip, this is in fact incorrect. Although the Galapagos Islands are comprised of mostly national park status land, tourists are able to fly to the Galapagos Islands and embark on activities and day trips as well as stay at a selection of excellent hotels on the islands.

For some sustainable accommodation, scroll down to the bottom of this blog post.

The benefits of visiting the Galapagos Island without a cruise or tour

In recent years, land-based tourism in the Galapagos Island has increased. Whilst some cruise companies are in fact responsible, sustainable and many of them offer visitors amazing experiences, cruise tours make up only one way of seeing the islands. In fact, land-based visitors have actually surpassed cruise ship visitors, due to a few different factors.

Guests to the Galapagos Islands are choosing to explore without a cruise because they want to save money, because they want to connect with the local community, they want to support sustainability across the islands, they enjoy exploring in their own time, or because they want to avoid sea sickness or being bound to a boat. During your trip, you might want to consider a visit to the Galapagos without a tour, for the following reasons:

Responsible travel

Did you know that only 5% of profits from tours worldwide (in developing countries, enjoyed by those from developed countries) goes back to local communities? This is one reason you might want to consider a land-based trip to the Galapagos Islands. Responsible day-trip companies and operators recommended by your sustainable hotel can ensure that at least 70% of money spent goes back to local families and communities. Plus, as a traveller free to choose where you eat, drink and sleep, you can guarantee that your consumer dollars are going straight to locals. On a tour, this isn’t always possible, and international companies often capitalise from Galapagos tours, depriving locals of a fair cut.

Sustainable travel

Visiting the Galapagos Island without a tour is also sustainable, if done correctly. Able to control the amount of plastic packaging consumed, using reusable water bottles, avoiding the use of petrol engines on boats and enjoying walking or cycling as a mode of transport can collectively have a very positive impact on the islands. This is especially true when practised by large numbers of tourists. In addition, you can also select a sustainable hotel – such as Chez Manany – which will see you paying for incredible sustainability initiatives and an eco-positive experience. Read more about Chez Manany’s sustainability initiatives here. 

Budget friendly stays

It is no surprise that Galapagos cruises and tours are expensive. You can expect to pay around $5,000 for a week long adventure by cruise. But there is no need to pay this much for your holiday, if you don’t want to. Travel bloggers have reported being able to spend over a week in the Galapagos for anything from $800-2,000 – much cheaper than the cost of a cruise. So whether you’re a student, backpacker or just conscious of your overall spend, a land-based trip might just be what you’re looking for.

Freedom to explore (responsibly)

Now that you know the answer to the question “Can you visit the Galapagos Islands without a tour?”, you can start planning a trip. Naturally, cruises in the Galapagos Islands run on a schedule, mostly visiting the main attractions. But what if you’d like to see something else not included on the itinerary? Or perhaps, you’d like a little more freedom in your schedule. On the five inhabited islands in the Galapagos – San Cristobal, Santa Cruz, Isabela, and Floreana – there are plenty of day trips to choose from, and you’ll be free to roam on your own too. Snorkelling, cycling, kayaking and more are all possible using hire equipment and you’ll leave having seen the same animals that cruise passengers do. All you need is a little insider information! From your chosen hotel, ask for some information about day-trips and things to do.

If you’re staying on Isabela Island, check out this Ultimate Guide.

Chez Manany Galapagos Ecolodge

Guests staying at Chez Manany on Isabela Island are provided with not only a sustainable accommodation option but the advice and help of two locals. Manany and Wilson, who designed and built the ecolodge, are always excited to host guests and guide them when it comes to their visit to Isabela Island.

Ask the pair “Can you visit the Galapagos Islands without a tour?”, and they’ll be happy to prove that you can. You’ll have endless recommendations for sustainable, responsible, budget-friendly activities across Isabela as well as the Galapagos Islands.

Chez Manany Owners

Click here to find out more about Chez Manany!

Read this interview with Chez Manany owners Wilson and Manany.