Let’s answer this question by taking a look at the many options to explore the Islands. Below we’ll provide you with a very brief introduction to the Galapagos Islands, and then discuss options for land-based experiences, sea-based expeditions, and the best option overall: the award-winning Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel.


Introduction to the Galapagos Islands

As the world is inching its way toward the “new normal,” which looks more and more like the “old normal”, the enchanting Galapagos Islands and their people have opened their arms to welcome us back. For more specific in-depth information about the Islands, their wildlife, and the activities you can enjoy, please check out some of our other blog articles. In general, the diversity of wildlife in this archipelago is spread out across its eighteen main islands, three smaller islands, and 107 rocks and islets, which are among the most beautiful land formations in the world. Together with the crystalline blue waters, they will make for the most picturesque photos you will ever take! The wildlife itself has also been the subject of countless nature magazine covers and films. From the world-famous blue-footed boobies and their adorable courtship dance to the playful sea lion pups and the majestic but non-threatening Galapagos sharks, there is an immeasurable amount to see as each island has its own native and endemic species. Quite literally, no two islands are the same. There are so many activities to do to help us get closer to these amazing creatures and their beautiful homes,  including guided photography walks, snorkeling with a staggering array of colorful fish, and other marine life or trips along the rugged shorelines of the islands on a paddleboard or in a zodiac. There is never a shortage of things to do!



A family selfie with a Galapagos Giant Tortoise
A family selfie with a Galapagos Giant Tortoise

Land-based Experiences

Of all of those islands mentioned, only four are actually inhabited by humans. One, Floreana, is a fishing village of only about 100 people, and it’s not really a tourist attraction. The other three, Santa Cruz, San Cristobal and Isabela, are set up for tourism as well as serving as a fully functioning community for its residents.

Santa Cruz is the most populated island with approximately 20,000 inhabitants and is considered the financial center of the Islands. There is plenty to do and see here, including a visit to the renowned Charles Darwin Research Station. For a small donation, you can see scientists working to repopulate the tortoises of the other islands. There is even an exhibit of the world-famous Lonesome George and a complete whale skeleton! There are some farms within a 40-minute car/bus ride that you can visit that have dozens of the Santa Cruz giant tortoises roaming around freely. Santa Cruz is also home to the top-ranked Galapagos Islands Lodge: the Finch Bay Hotel, one of the archipelago’s only beachfront Galapagos hotels. There are other hotels on the island from all different categories and price ranges, but there’s no doubt that the Finch Bay Hotel is your best option. Getting to Santa Cruz is fairly easy since there is an airport with flights to and from Mainland Ecuador lying on the northern edge of the island. Traveling from Santa Cruz to the other populated Islands is also fairly easy as Isabela is a two-and-a-half-hour boat ride to the west and San Cristobal is two hours to the east. There are also multiple daily excursions offered by dozens of tour operators. Interestingly enough, the Finch Bay Hotel has its own 20-passenger yacht, the Sea Lion, that offers multiple  daily excursions to several fascinating destinations.

Lying on the western edge of the archipelago, Isabela is the largest island in the Galapagos. When looking at a map, it actually looks like a giant seahorse. With a population of close to 2,000 inhabitants, it is the third most populated island in the archipelago. Puerto Villamil is a very small town, so the options of places to stay there are somewhat limited. Most of the hotels seem to be on the opposite sides of the price spectrum as either cheap or expensive with not much to choose from in the middle. Isabela was actually formed by six shield volcanoes merging together, five of which are still active, making it one of the most active volcanic areas on earth. Isabela’s abundant bird, animal and marine life is staggering, and the island is home to more wild tortoises than anywhere else in the islands. Other notable species you might see include penguins, marine iguanas, Galapagos land iguanas, boobies, Galapagos hawks and many, many more. The west coast of Isabela in the Bolivar Channel is the best place in Galapagos if you’re interested in spotting whales and dolphins.

Despite its smaller population, San Cristobal is noted for being the political center of the Province of Galapagos. Like Santa Cruz, the island of San Cristobal has an airport that offering daily flights to and from mainland Ecuador. However, its position on the eastern-most edge of the archipelago makes it a little difficult to travel to the other islands. Most of its approximately 8,000 residents work in the government or in tourism or fishing. Popular sites near the town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno include the Cerro Tijeretas, a nesting colony for frigate birds, and a statue of Charles Darwin on the original site where he first landed in the Galápagos Islands. La Loberia, a colony of sea lions, is about ten minutes by bus from the town. Local boat tours also take visitors to two popular nearby sites. One of the most iconic land formations in the Galapagos, “Kicker Rock,” is the remains of a lava cone that is now split in two. Isla Lobos (“Sea Lion Island”) is also a nesting site for blue-footed boobies. The selection of Galapagos Islands lodges on San Cristobal is more varied than on Isabela, but not as much as on Santa Cruz.


Sea-based Expeditions


Staying on land is not the only way to experience these awe-inspiring islands. Of course, a sea-based expedition might be on your bucket list, and there are quite a few options. Several years ago, the Galapagos National Park Service noticed that there was an increasing number of tourists coming to the Islands, so they implemented regulations to protect this precious ecosystem. While limiting the number of vessels and tourists that can visit any one site, they included most of the islands as part of the Galapagos National Park sea-based excursions.

The Galapagos National park encompasses 97% of all of the land in the territory, including all of the area not inhabited by humans in the archipelago.

Many tour operators, including Metropolitan Touring, offer Expedition Cruises with 3-day, 5-day and 7-day options. Metropolitan Touring owns and operates three such expedition vessels: the Santa Cruz II, the Isabela II and La Pinta. Each one offers different passenger capacities, numbers of crewmembers, as well as the length of the cruise itself. What these three vessels have in common is that they are operated by experienced and knowledgeable captains, deck officers, helmsmen, seamen, Chief Engineers, machinists and zodiac drivers who make sure that each and every person on board is completely safe and secure during the cruise. The hotel departments of all three are led by confident and experienced Hotel Managers and their eager-to-please staffs of chefs, stewards, waiters, dishwashers and bartenders who make sure each of your requests and desires are met. Each vessel also counts on an experienced Expedition Leader and their thoroughly-trained and fully knowledgeable staff of Certified Naturalist Guides who will answer every question you may have about the flora, fauna, geological history, and human history about the Islands as well as topics like photography, oceanography and astronomy.

If you can’t spend an entire week onboard a ship but still want to travel to other locations, local operators on all three of the islands also offer day cruises to the nearby islands, rocks and islets. One major difference is that the Finch Bay Hotel, a beachfront Galapagos hotel, has its own comfortable and spacious 20-passenger yacht, the Sea Lion, with its attentive and welcoming staff, and different activities on each daily itinerary to enjoy the nearby attractions.

Santa Cruz Island: Land and Sea—The Best of Both Worlds


Santa Cruz really offers the best of both worlds.  The crown jewel of this particular piece of Paradise is the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel. The Finch Bay has, without a doubt, the most ideal location of all hotels in the archipelago. Nestled on the island’s southern shores, this award-winning resort is just off Academy Bay, which is filled with colorful sailboats at anchor there. The Finch Bay, as the archipelago’s only beachfront Galapagos hotel, is right on Playa de los Alemanes, which can provide hours of sandcastle-building, tanning, and snorkeling. You will enjoy lots of activities in Galapagos for kids and adults of all ages. From here, you can enjoy a wide variety of fun-filled activities, such as Day Tours, including the daily excursions that you can take aboard the Sea Lion Yacht and the trips you can take to the island’s highlands to observe the Santa Cruz Giant Tortoises in their natural habitat. There are also day hikes you can take to some other stunning white-sand beaches, like Tortuga Bay, or if an adventurous option is more your taste, teenagers and young adults have an exciting option back at the hotel. By simply walking past the beach, you can reach a strikingly beautiful volcanic fissure that found its way to the ocean. Known as Las Grietas, this spectacular site is an amazing place to take a dip and marvel at its rock formations and tropical fish. Back at the hotel, fine cuisine can be enjoyed with indoor and outdoor dining options to savor succulent local and international dishes. A children’s menu is available as well as dishes specifically prepared to take dietary needs into account. Other extras include a tour of the hotel’s organic garden, known as Chakrita, and Ceviche cooking classes. Aside from the amazing food, other amenities offered by the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel include the pool area and the Spa. The Spa offers an exercise room with all the necessary equipment for a nice workout. A massage or any of the other treatments, including a relaxing soak in a hot tub, can be an amazing way to recharge the batteries after a day of hiking through gorgeous otherworldly landscapes. The pool area also has a lot to offer besides a refreshing dip, including comfortable lounge chairs to catch some rays or read a good book. If a delicious cocktail and unique freshly prepared snacks is what you’re looking for, there is a well-stocked and well-served poolside bar.

In conclusion, the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel is the best option for a vacation that offers daily tours of Galapagos National Park, with the flexibility of choosing land and sea alternatives. A trip to the Galapagos without visiting the National Park is just not worth it. The hotel itself has an Expedition leader on staff to organize all of your activities. Let’s not forget that one of the recognitions this world-class resort has received is being one of the most Eco-friendly hotels in Latin America in order to protect this UNESCO World Heritage site. With everything it offers, you can do it all!



Isabel Espinoza


The Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel is located on the southern end of Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos archipelago. However, in spite of being on one of the few, populated islands in the archipelago, the hotel manages to serve as a true oasis of tranquility, surrounded entirely by nature and with direct access to the beach.

No matter what you’re hoping to get out of your Galapagos vacation – be it relaxation, land or sea exploration (or a combination of all three of these!) – the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel offers flexible programs that allow you, our cherished guest, to experience a fantastic piece of the archipelago at your own pace and taste.

Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel and the Alemanes Beach
Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel and the Alemanes Beach
Where to stay in Galapagos?
While the Galapagos Islands offer plenty of accommodation options on both Santa Cruz and Isabela Islands, there’s truly no better option than the Finch Bay Hotel. This hotel in Galapagos is the only one with sustainability practices both in its operation and cuisine. It is also the only one with a private pool and direct access to a secluded beach. This makes it a perfect option when visiting Galapagos with kids. Enjoy this and many other perks in the best hotel in Galapagos, selected by TripAdvisor. Check out our rooms and suites!

What are my options for getting to the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel?

If you’re a traveler hoping to focus entirely on simply enjoying your vacation and having everything taken care of, then our Finch Bay programs (the arrival process of which is detailed further down below) will provide you with full assistance from the moment you exit the airport in the Galapagos all the way to your arrival at our hotel, and onwards. All you need to worry about when you book our Finch Bay programs is making sure you enjoy the natural beauty of the Galapagos from the moment you get here! Scroll down below and have a look at how each of our programs work in terms of assisting you with your transfer from Baltra Airport to the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel.

If you’re a traveler that prefers to take care of the details of your trip on your own, and you’re staying at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel, this blog will also present you with a useful and convenient guide about how to get to our hotel on your own! We’ll actually start with that first.

How do I get to the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel on my own?

To get to our hotel, the first thing you need to know is what airport you need to fly into. If you’re going to stay at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel, and you’re looking to buy your airline tickets on your own, you need to fly to…

Seymour Airport  (GPS) on Baltra Island

The Arrival Process

Once you’ve arrived and gotten off the plane in the Galapagos, you’ll head through immigration services, where you’ll need to pay for your Galapagos National Park Entrance Fee as well as the fee for the airport shuttle service (named Lobito). After acquiring your park entrance and shuttle bus tickets, you’ll proceed to the baggage claim area, where you’ll retrieve your checked baggage.

Seymour airport at the Baltra Island
Seymour airport at the Baltra Island

The Transfer Process

Note: If you booked your night(s) at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel independently of any of our programs, but still wish to have our transfer services included, please feel free to either tell us upon making your reservation or contact us directly by clicking here. Once we confirm this airport transfer service, you can rest assured that our representative will be waiting for you right outside the airport when you arrive. 

Once you’ve gone through the arrival process, simply exit the airport and hop on the shuttle bus that will take you down to the Itabaca Channel pier. Given this is a shared and public service, it’s possible you will have to wait until the next bus is available.

Once you’ve hopped on the shuttle bus, you’ll get to enjoy a brief, 10-minute ride across the mesmerizing, arid landscapes of Baltra Island until you arrive at the Itabaca Channel pier. Once at the pier, you’ll board a ferry that will take you to the other side of the Channel, dropping you off on Santa Cruz Island. This ferry ride lasts approximately 15-minutes.

Ferry crossing the Itabaca canal
Ferry crossing the Itabaca canal

Once you arrive at the Santa Cruz Island pier, you’ll have the choice of either hopping aboard a public bus or hiring a taxi (the latter of which are pick-up trucks in the Galapagos!) that will assist you in taking you to Puerto Ayora, which is situated on the opposite, southern end of Santa Cruz Island. Should you opt for a taxi, it’s important that you tell the taxi driver that you wish to go to the “Muelle de Puerto Ayora.

Puerto Ayora municipal pier
Puerto Ayora municipal pier

The journey to Puerto Ayora from this side of the island takes approximately 60-minutes, affording you fascinating views of the landscapes and highlands of Santa Cruz Island. Lush farmlands and Palo Santo forests are just a few of things you’ll get to enjoy on your way to Puerto Ayora.

As we begin heading down from the highlands of Santa Cruz, you’ll notice a dramatic change in the surrounding scenery, as it becomes more urban in nature – and that’s because you’re finally arriving to Puerto Ayora! The bus or taxi will drop you off at the Puerto Ayora pier (Muelle Municipal de Puerto Ayora), where you’ll begin the final leg of your journey to the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel.

Once at the pier in Puerto Ayora, you’ll need to board a water taxi that will take you to the hotel pier on the opposite side of the small inlet. Note: The Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel has its very own water taxi that can take you to the hotel pier for free. In order to make use of it, you’ll need to call the reception desk at our hotel so that they can send it over to pick you up. You’ll also receive baggage assistance upon arriving at the hotel pier when you request the Finch Bay’s water taxi.

After you disembark from the water taxi at the hotel pier, you’ll enjoy a short walk (2,000 ft/600 m) along a pedestrian-only pathway that will take you through mangrove-areas and small, brackish lagoons before reaching the beachfront area and entering the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel grounds.

Welcome to the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel!

Christopher Klassen

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