The Best Hotels in the Galapagos
A visit to the Galapagos is all about getting up close with nature and the best hotels make guests feel like Charles Darwin, providing incredible access to wildlife. Guests feel like true explorers at Galapagos Safari Camp where accommodations include “glamping” tents. For the best of land and sea, book a stay at Finch Bay Eco Hotel or Pikaia Lodge. Both sustainably-minded properties have their own yachts staffed with naturalists and stocked with snorkeling gear.
Av. Los Flamingos Y, 16 De Marzo, Puerto Villamil 200250, Ecuador
This top-of-the-line property of the San Vicente Hotel Group (which owns the nearby San Vicente and Hostal Villamil), is a three-level, all-white hotel that feels almost like a beach villa. It’s actually just a couple of blocks from Puerto Villamil’s two-mile-long stretch of municipal sand, and most of the surrounding sandy streets are filled with palm trees. The facilities here provide enough so that guests’ only real concern will be getting to other parts of the island. The restaurant stays open all day with a varied menu and drinks list. There are flat-screen TVs in the rooms and free Wi-Fi in common areas. Shaded by a few umbrellas and a cane canopy over the Jacuzzi, the rooftop terrace is the favorite hangout for most guests at this small hotel. In every direction comes another jaw-dropping view, such as the Pacific Ocean, the Sierra Negra Volcano, the highlands, or a saltwater lagoon filled with flamingos.
Puerto Ayora, Ecuador
Across the bay from Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island, Finch Bay is one of the few hotels in the Galapagos Islands located near a beach. While the hotel prides itself on its ecofriendly touches—such as its own water treatment plant, solar panels, a composting system, and the addition of 500 new mangrove plants surrounding the hotel—the atmosphere is more that of a contemporary resort than a rustic nature lodge. Outside, an oversized pool overlooks the ocean; inside, a Cordon Bleu–trained chef heads a modern restaurant. Dark volcanic stones line the walls in the suites, while standard rooms all come with hammock-slung wooden balconies. Like most hotels in the Galapagos, Finch Bay is all-inclusive, providing land and sea excursions to attractions like the highlands of Santa Cruz, to search for giant tortoises in the wild. Also included are daily excursions on the hotel’s private yacht to nearby islands like Bartolomé or North Seymour, national park highlights, which can be reached on day trips.
Finca Palo Santo, Salasca, Santa Cruz, Galapagos
The two owners of Galapagos Safari Camp dreamed up the idea for this luxury tent camp while sitting in a tree and admiring the views on the 135-acre farm where the lodge now sits. Opened in 2007 in the highlands of Santa Cruz’s transition zone at 1,575 feet above sea level and bordering Galapagos National Park, the camp is modeled after African safari camps but sports an Ecuadoran theme. The main lodge, complete with a 15-foot Balinese teak dining table and a glass wall looking out to sweeping vistas of the Pacific Ocean, anchors the rural property. The luxury tents are connected to the lodge by a volcanic rock path and sheltered under three layers of covering to protect from sun and rain. They sit on elevated platforms and are outfitted with balconies and en-suite bathrooms with hot showers. Part of the owners’ vision for the property has been to rid the former cattle farm of invasive species, allowing the endemic plants that are better protected in the national park to once again flourish. These measures will increase the activity of the giant tortoises that occasionally make their way onto the property.
El cascajo, Ecuador
Set on two extinct volcanic craters 450 feet above sea level in the highlands of Santa Cruz, the extremely high-end (but still carbon neutral) Pikaia Lodge, which opened in mid-2014, is unlike anything the Galapagos has ever seen. With strict building regulations on the highly fragile islands, Pikaia, owned by a live-aboard dive yacht impresario, was the first lodge to be granted a building permit in more than a decade, and the lodge is built entirely of recycled materials. The terrain, a mix of dry savanna and tropical highland forest, was regenerated with 12,000 endemic trees and grazing habitats for giant tortoises, for which Pikaia created its own private reserve. The entire all-inclusive property is powered with portable Eolic wind generators and soundproof electric generators using clean biodiesel. Despite the ecofriendly ethos of the property, there is no shortage of all-out luxury, from the infinity pool that’s softly illuminated at night, to the cushy spa or the lounge with a 3-D HDTV screen for lectures and videos. There’s also a contemporary restaurant and a wellness center on-site, plus two slick yachts used for excursions to neighboring islands and dive trips.
Av. Conocarpus, Puerto Villamil 200250, Ecuador
Iguanas swim here in the ocean, which, separated only by a line of palm trees, nearly laps right up to the front of La Casa de Marita. The three-level building began 20 years ago as a house, literally Marita’s house. It has continued to expand over the years, adding a room here and a wooden deck there. The idea was not to create a large hotel, but a family-friendly inn that’s just friendly and comfortable enough that everyone feels welcome. They’re short of being luxurious, but the colorful, funky rooms have clay-tile floors and are equipped with eclectic wooden furniture; those on the ocean side have small balconies crisscrossed with hammocks. An on-site restaurant caters mostly to hotel guests, often preparing buffet dinners or beachside tables for groups or special occasions. There are a few chairs and tables with umbrellas on the beachfront, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but here, it is all one needs.