Superyacht Destination Guide: Galapagos Islands

With thanks to Fraser Yachts and Superyacht Galapagos

The Galapagos Islands, otherwise known as The Enchanted Archipelago, is a widely revered tourist destination. Its varied and endemic wildlife species coupled with its idyllic white sand beaches ensure this part of the world is placed firmly at the top of many people’s dream holiday wishlist.

The group of 21 islands (13 large and six small), islets and rocks span a total area of more than 17,000 square miles and are situated 600 miles west of Ecuador in mainland South America.

There’s no better way of exploring the Galapagos than by superyacht, cruising freely from island to island and getting up close to the natural glory of the marine environment.

Yacht at entrance of a cave in the Galapagos

When to visit the Galapagos aboard a superyacht

The Galapagos has a cool and dry season (June to November) and a wet and warm season (December to May), so the best time to visit should be based on what you want to see. The waved albatross, for example, can only be observed between April and November. With such a variety of marine, animal and bird life there is nearly always a spectacle from mother nature to marvel at whatever time of year you visit.

Volcanic ranges, uniquely evolved animal species and a sense of discovery permeate any Galapagos Islands yacht cruise. This archipelago in the heart of the Pacific Ocean is a nature-lover’s dreamland. First made famous by Charles Darwin’s visit in the 19th century, much of the archipelago is now a protected land and sea area. With only 25,000 inhabitants, this is an adventurous trip that is befitting a luxury explorer yacht.

A yacht cruise in the Galapagos gives you unique access to this remote, magical archipelago that is packed with raw nature and beauty. Walk through hardened black lava flows, dive with friendly sea lions and see dozens of rare bird species.

What to do in the Galapagos Islands

There are a great many activities to enjoy and places to visit. Aside from the obvious trekking, snorkelling, kayaking and scuba-diving options, which are all worth doing, there are a few specific things you should look to incorporate in your itinerary.

Sea lions in Galapagos

A visit to Tortuga Bay (Santa Cruz Island) is a must – it’s tranquil and provides the chance for some face time with the Galapagos’ marine turtles. For similar reasons La Loberia (San Cristóbal Island) is also worthy of a stop off – the beach is incredibly scenic and is laden with playful sea lions.

When you’re ready for some downtime, the gorgeous natural landscape is enough to help you relax and unwind on board.

Cruising permits and yacht clearances in the Galapagos

There are strict rules affecting vessels of all types visiting the Galapagos. If chartering, your charter broker will be able to assist with these. If you are visiting on a private yacht, you will need to use a local yacht agent to help with the entry permits, cruise itinerary, certified guides and even provisioning as there are strong regulations about food products entering the islands.

All vessels, regardless of the number of people and tonnage, must obtain a Galapagos Entrance Permit, known as ‘Autografo’. It is mandatory to have a yacht agent to represent them with the Ecuadorian authorities (tax payments, ship reception, obtaining permits, etc.). The ‘Autgrafo’ is processed in the Ecuadorian Ministry of Defense, who recommend starting the paperwork at least 60 days before arrival.

Luxury yacht at sea in the Galapagos

After applying for the ‘Autógrafo’, the yacht’s cruise itinerary will have to be confirmed by the National Park Directory who will also insist on you having a certified naturalist guide on board throughout the cruise.

Every single vessel, regardless of the type of visit, with or without an ‘Autógrafo’ permit, will go through an inspection on its arrival. This inspection consists of an interior and exterior (hull) inspection that will determine if the vessel can stay in the Galapagos Marine Reserve waters. All vessels must have fumigation and clean hull certifications given in the previous port prior to arrival.

With no direct international flights allowed (not even private jets) to or from the Galapagos, visitors must arrive and depart from either Quito or Guayaquil in mainland Ecuador.

Yacht berths in the Galapagos

There are no marinas within the islands. The main ports are: Puerto Baquerizo (Wreck Bay) on Isla San Cristobal; Puerto Ayora (Academy Bay) on Santa Cruz Island; Puerto Villamil on Isabela Island, and Baltra Island where the main airport and fuel terminal are.

Luxury yacht at sea in the distance

Plan your trip to the Galapagos

Not organised your trip to the Galapagos yet? What are you waiting for! Search for specialist yacht charter companies and yacht agents who can help you source a vessel, obtain clearance and develop a tailored itinerary.

Discover more key superyacht cruising locations in our library of Destination Guides


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