Somewhere near the top of most people’s bucket list, the legendary Galapagos Islands is one of the most diverse and fantastic natural paradises on the planet. Formed more than five million years ago as a result of volcanic activity, the archipelago is the quintessence of nature in its most primitive and pure state.
On its islands and islets, endemic species survive that have adapted to extreme conditions, immersed in a dream-world landscape with white sand beaches and bays with crystal clear water. The Galapagos Islands was declared a “Natural World Heritage Site” by UNESCO in 1978, and it now receives thousands of tourists from around the world each year, which has required that its hotels to develop over the years.
Currently, there is a hotel niche that offers a perfect balance between comfort, adventure and respect for the environment – exactly what many contemporary travelers seek. The dream of enjoying the “enchanted isles” as you contemplate the sea from an infinity pool, sample new and exotic gourmet flavors, or have a relaxing massage after a day of excursions may just be a reality.
Here is a list of some of the best hotels in the islands, places that offer comfort, family atmosphere, wonderful details, relaxation and, of course, the best excursions in the islands.
Are you a traveler who likes adventure and nature? Do you prefer places that are respectful to the environment, but that are also comfortable and provide excellent service? If so, the Pikaia Lodge is the perfect lodging for you. Its beautiful “green” facility is close to the white-sand beaches, with easy access to the main sites for wildlife watching in the Galapagos Islands. On a site that rises 450 meters above sea level, the hotel is situated on 31 hectares of private grounds on which its own Galapagos giant tortoises roam free.
All common areas and rooms have great views of extinct volcanic cones, rainforests, lush green farms, the arid savannah of the Galapagos National Park, nearby islands, and the blue horizon of the Pacific Ocean. The hotel was constructed on the small plateau of a crater, giving it a panoramic view of the island. Pikaia’s six first-floor suites, each with a shady terrace, are decorated in a warm contemporary style, have bamboo floors, and are supplied with all the creature comforts: two queen beds or one king-size bed, cotton sheets, duvets and hypoallergenic pillows. In the spacious bathrooms, guests will find a shower area overlooking the sea.
In addition, there are six beautiful upper-level rooms with private balconies, one room with access to gardens and one with its own private pool. All suites have wonderful views and are designed to offer maximum comfort, each with a LED TV, direct dial phone, DVD, an IPOD with speakers, a safety deposit box, natural cross ventilation, thermal insulation, and remote control to control the air conditioning. The bathrooms are spacious, have vanity sinks, mirrors for each guest, a line of biodegradable bathroom products, and showers with windows that, while maintaining privacy, give the feeling of taking a shower outdoors.
The hotel’s “Evolution” restaurant offers a menu that combines local products with imported ingredients in a fusion of Ecuadorian food with modern international dishes. Guests can also eat outdoors on the covered terrace or in the shade, enjoying panoramic views of the horizon from the infinity pool. International cocktails, local creations, natural juices, exotic liquors, wines, beer and a variety of drinks are served at the DNA bar, strategically located between the restaurant, the lobby-lounge, terraces and the indoor pool area.
For exploring the Galapagos Islands, the Pikaia Lodge has its own private 16-passenger yacht — the Pikaia I. Other exploration experiences offered by the Pikaia Lodge include hiking, kayaking, visits to beaches, lava tunnels, volcanic craters, watching giant turtles, visit the highlands and the Charles Darwin Center for Scientific Research.
And after a full day of exploring, there’s nothing like the hotel’s spa, is a luxurious environment for body treatments and massages, ideal for relaxing . Plus, the well-equipped gym is another favorite of Pikaia guests.
The concept of social responsibility is one that the management and staff of Pikaia Lodge take seriously. Their model of land-based tourism is designed to contribute to the conservation of the wildlife and the unique landscapes of the Galapagos Islands. The hotel also attempts to contribute to the development of local communities, as it has the goal of creating 70 permanent jobs for residents of Santa Cruz Island.
“A sensational hotel. Very nice environment. We stayed in the villas. Very good service. They organized everything very well,” commented a Royal Palm Hotel guest on the TripAdvisor webpage.
Located on Santa Cruz Island, the highlands of the Galapagos, the hotel is designed as a haven of peace and quiet. Its landscaped gardens, pool, outdoor Jacuzzi, and fountains — as well as the longest lava tunnel in the islands (which is located on the hotel’s grounds) — form a part of the hotel’s magic and its exclusive surroundings.
From its location, just a 20-minute drive from the pier of the dynamic city of Puerto Ayora, guests have wonderful views of the highlands and the ocean. In the eight (8) cabins and 13 exclusive villas of the hotel, you can enjoy privacy, space and a relaxing isolation. The villas are independent, while the cottages have been built around a fountain that faces the hotel. All rooms have luxury bedding and carefully chosen comfortable furniture. With the amenities of any five-star hotel, the Royal Palm Hotel provides Internet access, flat screen LCD TVs with satellite channels, private Jacuzzis, and safes in each room. The Royal Palm Restaurant and Bar combines colonial style with the traditional designs of the islands with facilities that allow guests to dine indoors or out.
The restaurant is open all day and in the evening for breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks, cocktails and snacks. The fusion of Ecuadorian and international food is the hallmark of the hotel. Many products are derived from nearby fish farms and fishermen. In addition, the Royal Palm Restaurant and Bar offers a fine wine list from several South American countries. To rest up from a demanding excursion or to spend a relaxing day, the Royal Palm has a heated pool, a large Jacuzzi, a small gym, outdoor tennis courts and nature trails.
Villa Escalesia is one of the few exclusive rental houses in the Galapagos Islands. But perhaps to call it a “house” is to fall short of fully describing this astonishing and luxurious beachfront villa, located on the Santa Cruz Island and overlooking Pelican Bay. Ideal for a visit by a family or a group of friends to the Galapagos Islands, Villa Escalesia is clearly a better alternative to a hotel room if you are looking for a more home-like environment.
It must be said, of course, that this would be one of the most beautiful homes anyone could imagine, with its four large rooms with private bathrooms and sea views, an annex bedroom with bathroom, a garden with native plants, and a pool bar in the back – complete with a Jacuzzi, a steam bath and a terrace. And as if that weren’t enough, the villa comes with a number of services, including a chef, a housekeeper and a caretaker, who collaborate to make your stay a time of enjoyment and relaxation.
Also, your children will have ample space to play and have fun, without the stressing out other guests like in a traditional hotel. In the villa there is a master bedroom with a king-size bed, two other bedrooms with double beds, and three bathrooms (one for visitors). In addition, there is a kitchen, a living room, and a living room on the second floor. All bedrooms are air conditioned, and there is a guest house with two bedrooms and a bathroom.
Villa Escalesia belongs to Royal Palm Hotel Galapagos and, as such, shares the same philosophy of respecting the environment, with the villa using local resources as much as possible. In fact, fruits and vegetables are sourced from the gardens of the villas and the hotel, a practice that reduces the amount of carbon emissions generated by delivery trucks and ships transporting imported goods.
The house can be rented in three modes: bed and breakfast (self-catering), full board (fully catered), or partial board, for a vacation of a lifetime.
A luxury safari in the middle of a natural paradise? It seems like a dream vacation for adventurers who enjoy the comfort, and it’s something that can now be found in the Galapagos Islands! In a one-of-kind program in the archipelago, guests can enjoy all the comforts while experiencing a safari adventure and nature in its purest form.
For this, the Galapagos Safari Camp was designed with understated luxury and comfort — nothing ostentatious — and with a family touch. It was created for guests to feel that they have moved their home to one of the most beautiful places on earth.
Located on the Santa Cruz Island, next to the Galapagos National Park, the Galapagos Safari Camp sits at 480 meters above sea level. This means that from the terrace of its central building, beautiful views can be appreciated. The social area is complemented by a family suite and nine African-style luxury tents. Each of these spaces has a terrace, two twin beds that can become a double, a private bath with hot water, a fan, a desk and a balcony with hammocks. Likewise, each of the tents has three layers: one for protection from the sun, another for protection from rain, and an inner canvas shell.
The natural environment that surrounds the tents cannot be more beautiful and exotic. Forest and silence allow travelers to immerse themselves harmonically with nature, without disconnecting from everything, if they don’t want, as there is free wireless Internet access in the public areas. Additionally, this original hotel is located just 30 km from Puerto Ayora, the most dynamic and important city of Galapagos, and 25 km from Baltra airport. It is also 30 km are the beaches of Turtle Bay, Garrapatero and De los Alemanes.
In the central building of the Galapagos Safari Camp is a restaurant where the chef shines with meals that come directly from the “farmhouse to the table.” There is also a bar with a fireplace, comfortable seating areas and an infinity pool. The family suite is the perfect alternative for families with children, as it even has a playroom. This guest suite is located opposite the main building and can accommodate up to six guests.
In addition to all the amenities found in the cabins, the suite and the central building, the environment of the Galapagos Safari Camp offers a number of possibilities. You can, for example, walk while observing the variety of birds or turtles in their natural habitat. And from the observation points, you can see the sea horizon and several nearby islands. On foot, by bicycle or on horseback, you can visit the highlands of Santa Cruz or reach the Galapagos National Park. Then too, in the nearby white sand beaches and turquoise waters, you can go deep- or shallow-diving, surfing, swimming or kayaking.
The wonderful experience here was summed up well by an American guests who described it this way: “This place was awesome and a great way to experience the Galapagos for the first time. We had a very good trip here and felt very comfortable. The tents were fantastic and the views were out of this world! The sky at night was amazing too! The service and hospitality couldn’t have been better. Also we enjoyed every island we visited. Definitely a place to recommend to friends! Thank you!”
Located on one of the beaches of Isabela Island, near Puerto Villamil, the Iguana Crossing Boutique Hotel owes its name to one of the iconic animals of the Galapagos Islands: endemic Marine iguanas.
Local materials and labor on the island were used in the construction of this hotel, considered one of the best in the archipelago – and ideal for a dream honeymoon. Virtually surrounded by the Galapagos National Park, the Iguana Crossing is nestled in an idyllic setting: Isabela Island, on which live more than 60 percent of the flora and fauna of Galapagos Islands and where you can discover six volcanoes – five of them active.
The Iguana Crossing has 13 rooms, 10 of which have ocean views and three (3) overlook a volcano. In addition, there are junior suites and the master suite. All are provided with services and details that ensure comfort and convenience to guests in this wonderful natural setting.
The restaurant offers a variety of regional food. The menu includes national delicacies such as shrimp ceviche, fish ceviche, and the “sancocho,” a traditional Ecuadorian soup made with fish and cassava. But undoubtedly the star of the menu is the lava stone grill. The vegetables used here are grown on the hotel’s farm, as are the fresh fruits and natural coffee beans. Bread is baked every morning at a local bakery and the seafood can’t be any fresher, as it comes from the day’s catch.
The pool, an ample seating area, a hot tub on the terrace, and a massage service make this the perfect choice if you prefer to rest or relax.
Golden Bay Hotel & Spa
The architects who designed the Golden Bay Hotel & Spa conceived the building as harmonizing with the surrounding nature, as it combines modernity with a fantastic natural environment to enhance the beauty of the bay, the port and the green hills of San Cristobal Island.
In a beautiful building, the 21-room hotel combines comfort with environmental requirements. It is located in a privileged location with spectacular views over the bay of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the administrative capital of the Galapagos, situated on the northeast end of San Cristobal Island. A five-minute walk will take you into the town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, with all its touristic activities, while the airport is only 10 minutes away. In addition, the hotel has direct access to the Playa de Oro beach, where you can observe sea birds, iguanas and playful sea lions up close. San Cristobal has one of the five largest beaches in the archipelago. Possessing stunning landscapes and varied wildlife, it is also one of the oldest islands in terms of both its geology and its human settlements (dating back to the second half of the nineteenth century).
The Golden Bay Hotel & Spa offers a range of services, both inside and in the outdoor areas, which make the stay in a comfortable and pleasant experience. Just a few of the hotel’s services include: a restaurant that blends traditional and the international cuisine, a snack bar with panoramic terrace, a swimming pool built into a fantastic garden with local species of plants, a supervised children’s area, a panoramic terrace, and a spa with the most sophisticated treatments.
The Golden Bay Hotel & Spa has four types of rooms, all carefully decorated and equipped. The natural light that flows through the panoramic windows is part of the design and personality of the hotel. All rooms have balconies, private bathrooms, LED TVs, cable, minibar, safes and other amenities expected of a luxury hotel. On the lower floor, some of the rooms are specially outfitted for people with special needs.
Conceived as an ecological and sustainable project, the Golden Bay Hotel & Spa uses best practices to protect the environment. With everything from the materials used in its construction to its system of energy conservation, as well as a water treatment plant and wastewater recycling process, every effort has been taken to make sure that the hotel respects the fragile ecosystem of the islands. In addition, the hotel has an agreement with the municipality to work together in caring for Golden Beach. In the hotel’s kitchen, locally grown products are used, and a large percentage of the staff has been hired from the area.
Almost effortlessly, guests can go to the beach right off the hotel, where you will come face-to-face with the islands’ famous sea lions and other endemic species have made the archipelago famous. The Nautical Museum, Interpretation Centre of the National Park, the “Wolf Pack” (a sea lion colony), nature trails and hills nearby are some of the sites where you will appreciate the fantastic wildlife the islands. The visit to the fishing pier is also an interesting experience. In private or shared tours, you can find all these attractions, in addition to snorkeling, diving, surfing and fishing.
This is an option for those who prefer to neither spend too much time at sea nor within the four walls of a traditional hotel. The Scalesia Lodge is a luxury safari with beautiful tents that come with a full set of amenities and services for a comfortable stay. These tents are located in the midst of nature, with great views of the coast of Isabela Island and the Pacific Ocean.
The main house of the hotel is of a modern minimalist design, but with ample social space, a restaurant, various meeting areas, a conference room, a swimming pool and decks. Perfect, for example, for someone wanting to combine work and relaxation. Here, you can enjoy an adventure in nature and choose to completely disconnect yourself from the “rest of the world.”
The lodge is located in the highlands of Isabela Island, in the middle of 16 hectares of Scalesia forest (a forest composed of about 15 species of shrubs and trees endemic of the Galapagos Islands), and 20 minutes from the town of Puerto Villamil.
The Scalesia Lodge embodies a new concept of accommodation that summarizes comfort, flexibility and ecological principles. A cozy environment for children and with ample space for rest and observation of nature, the sixteen luxurious tents of Scalesia are designed with clean, contemporary lines. All have private bathrooms and incredible views of the coast and the highlands.
In addition, the lodge offers excellent cuisine, combining local ingredients with an international flair – all prepared with fresh food.
This safari hotel also offers a number of activities and tours around the islands. Evening programs and a range of daily activities, allowing you to explore Isabela Island, and learn about wildlife and endemic species that inhabit this island.
Alfonso Tandazo is President and CEO at Surtrek Tour Operator.