Flakey, black iguanas make their erratic, daily shuffle from the wetlands to the beach, carving tracks in the cream sand with their tails as, feet away, a pair of bubble-gum pink flamingos dip their heads in a slush-colored swamp. Behind, the Sierra Negra volcano looms dangerously, just perceptible in the highland mist – ahead, the Pacific Ocean stretches as far as the eye can see. This is not a take from a nature documentary, but the view from the terrace of Iguana Crossing, one of the fantastic options of where to stay in the Galapagos Islands, located on Isabela, one of the four inhabited islands.
Inky with volcanic rock or white-washed and fresh, tucked into enchanted forests or into accessed only by boat, fitted with computerized telescopes or ocean-facing bathtubs, simple or lavish: right across Santa Cruz, Isabela, San Cristobal and Floreana there are welcoming, eco-minded and sustainable hotels with ocean views, stylish interiors, family-friendly features and prices to suit all pockets.
Read on to learn more about the spectrum of options around the four populated islands.
Where to stay in the Galapagos Islands on Santa Cruz
Royal Palm Hotel
Hidden away in 500 acres of tropical forests in the Santa Cruz highlands, the Royal Palm Hotel is at the top end of the Galapagos hotel spectrum, where the elite go to rub shoulders with their influential counterparts. Eight casitas and 13 exclusive villas, white washed with chic, slate roofs, are each fitted with private Jacuzzi rooms, and the facilities include an observatory with computerized telescopes for amped-up stargazing. Such seclusion comes at a price: up in the highlands, the hotel’s location means that in the evenings it is smothered in a chilly mist, known as garúa. And though the views are picture-perfect, it’s a 20-minute car journey to get anywhere near the sea.
US$345-US$975 per night
Angermeyer Waterfront Inn
The thrill of the Angermeyer begins on arrival: accessed only by boat via its waterfront entrance on Puerto Ayora, even the tamest of hearts feels like a plucky adventurer. The historic building was once the home of Gus Angermeyer, one of the first settlers to the islands after he left Germany in the 1930s, inspired by the writings of Charles Darwin. Built from the only available natural resources – lava rocks and wood – the hotel immerses guests in the islands’ pioneering spirit and indulges them in romantic, waterfront dining. With members of the Angermeyer family sometimes on hand to share their experiences of the islands pre tourism and the best wildlife spots, this is where to stay on the Galapagos Islands for an authentically Galapagos experience.
US$351-US$732 per night
Posada del Mar
A fresh, no-frills base for Santa Cruz adventures, Posada del Mar keeps things simple. Rooms are air-conditioned and some have balconies looking over the port, which is just steps away – helpful when you’ve got an early start for a boat trip. The location is also ideal for exploring the boutiques, bars and restaurants of the little town, and for walking to attractions like the gorgeous Tortuga Bay. The plethora of things to do around Puerto Ayora makes up for the bare minimalism of the hotel – with no pool or knowledgeable management team, this is where to stay on the Galapagos Islands to wash, sleep and stash your stuff.
Around US$95 per night
The only hotel located right on the waterfront of the vibrant port town of Puerto Ayora, Hotel Solymar is most loved for its attractive pool looking over the dock where parents can relax as their children go for a splash. This is another Galapagos hotel with a pedigree history: the original founders first came to the islands in 1958 and began constructing holiday cottages to accommodate their ever-growing flock of visiting friends. The restaurant serves hearty seafood (breakfasts are a real winner) and the Pelican Bar is a rustic, beach-perfect watering hole where the Piña Coladas and ice-cold beer flow.
From US$192 per night
Where to stay in the Galapagos Islands on Isabela
A striking modern building on the dreamy Puerto Villamil oceanfront of Isabela, Iguana Crossing is named after the daily pilgrimage made by the black reptiles from the wetlands to beach, where they congregate by the dozen to sunbathe on the creamy sands. Iguana Crossing was one of the first hotels on the now crowded stretch of the little town and over the years has remained faithful to its eco and community-oriented philosophy. It also has one of the best restaurants on the island, a hot tub with views over the flamingo-specked wetlands, and an infinity pool for the searing Isabela afternoons and for children to let off steam. This family-friendly Galapagos hotel is where to stay on Isabela island for a little pampering: massages are available in your room or down on the pristine beach.
US$292-US$558 per night
Scalesia Lodge takes immersion in the wild a step further – instead of rooms, guests sleep in luxury, safari-style tents. Set in 40 acres of enchanting forests in the highlands of Isabela (with its own tortoise-breeding program), the property has a dazzling view of the coastline. The impressive main building was built with jet-black volcanic rock, blending subtly into the surroundings and full of private nooks for contemplating life. The location on the slopes of the Sierra Negra volcano is ideal for those seeking peace in the islands, though the 20-minute drive to the beach and lack of swimming pool will leave water babies disappointed.
From US$199 per night
The boutique Volcano Hotel is found right in the thick of things, centrally located in the sleepy village of Puerto Villamil. Steps away are all the charming restaurants, bars and town plaza; the creamy, white beach is just across the street, visible from many of the bedrooms (301 is the best) and the second-floor terrace. Rooms are airy, clean and comfy and the cheerful, English-speaking staff are careful to coordinate breakfasts with your daily activities. Rustic, boat-like décor is chic and well-maintained, refurbished in 2015 so that everything is ship-shape and works like a dream.
From US$136 per night
Casita del Playa
You can’t get much closer to the beach than Casita del Playa, a 12-room, boutique hotel whose lawn fades into sand and, at high tide, is just a couple of steps from the ocean itself. Most of the rooms have sea views – all have the soothing soundtrack of the waves. Modern and neat, Casita del Playa is a short walk from the charming town center where the pizzerias and fresh seafood restaurants are located. More budget-minded than the previous Isabela options, the true luxury of this Little Beach House is its spectacular view and perfect location on one of the Galapagos’ most charming islands.
US$161-US$299 per night
Where to stay in the Galapagos Islands on Santa Cruz
Golden Bay Hotel & Spa
Lying back in the bathtub overlooking the bay that perfectly frames Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, or on the private balcony watching the sun go down on the archipelago, you can’t help but think that you must have done something good to deserve it. Sat proudly on the white beach studded with black lava rocks, the brand new Golden Bay is an ultra-comfortable, elegant and modern hotel whose extra effort in cuisine and service does not escape unnoticed. A sophisticated cocktail bar and secluded swimming pool are the perfect foils for the exertion of daily activities, and spacious family rooms mean that this is where to stay on the Galapagos Islands to see that everyone is looked after.
US$372-$US500 per night
This white, stylishly rustic boutique hotel is great value for the price-conscious Galapagos traveler. Ideally located on Puerto Baquerizo’s oceanfront boardwalk just a few meters from the golden Playa de Oro beach, it is a great base from which to explore the island and make the most of its amazing wildlife and adventure activities. Eco-minded Casa Opuntia – named after the prickly pear cacti that flower spectacularly here once a year – is known for its lovely garden overlooking the bay. Families are welcomed by the warm and efficient staff, and with plenty of enclaves and lookout points, the cozy hotel is where to stay on the Galapagos Islands for a romantic getaway.
US$132-US$142 per night
Family-run Galapagos Sunset is another oceanfront option in Puerto Baquerizo, though simpler in style and without beach access. Most of the air-conditioned rooms look out onto the port and a roof terrace is the charming location for breakfast and sundowners. Located in the thick of the Galapagos capital, Galapagos Sunset is surrounded by restaurants, tour agencies and souvenir shops and is less than 10 minutes from San Cristobal’s airport – ideal if you’ve not got long to stay on the island. Sports and series fans rejoice – the light and stylish rooms are fitted with 32-inch, flat screen cable TVs.
US$100-US$275 per night
Black Beach House
Owned and run by a German expat whose family was among the first pioneers to move to the tiny island in 1932, Black Beach House is surrounded by wildlife; guests often spot sea lions, tropical birds and penguins from the terrace. The modest, hands-on villa includes a shared kitchen and tumble dryer. Steps from the sea, Black Beach House is where to stay on the Galapagos Islands for exploring Floreana on foot, discovering hidden coves and wildlife hotspots.
Where to stay in the Galapagos Islands on Floreana
Floreana Lava Lodge
There are only two hotel options on the Galapagos island with a population of 100, and, as luck would have it, both are good, depending on your budget. At the upper end of the scale, Floreana Lava Lodge houses guests in individual, wooden cabins with private decks looking out onto the ocean. Simple but comfortable, the hotel is ideally situated for exploring the pristine coastline of this unblemished, volcanic island. Snorkeling and watersports equipment are available and, amazingly (considering its remote location) there’s good Wifi in public areas. Arrival and departure times are strict – check before you book and set out.