Galapagos Islands
October 22, 2019

By: Nick Dall

Experience the best of all worlds at the Galapagos Habitat Hotel

Secondary Categories: Ecuador

Close to town but far from the madding crowd and boasting its own modern and luxurious yacht to whisk you to the archipelago’s many attractions, the Galapagos Habitat Hotel ticks all the boxes.

Lazing on your balcony – while sea lions frolic in the foreground and boats bob out on the bay – it’s almost impossible to believe that you’re a mere five-minute walk from Puerto Ayora, the main human settlement in the Galapagos Archipelago (and only half a mile from the Charles Darwin Research Station). But this is all part of the counterintuitive charm of the recently-refurbished Galapagos Habitat Hotel.

The hotel has an "official sea lion resting area" to cater for the sea lions looking for a place to relax with their marine iguana friends. 

The hotel

One of the best things about the Galapagos Habitat is its small size. With a total of only 17 rooms strung out along the oceanfront and nestled amongst the mangroves, the hotel is both spacious and intimate. Many of the rooms have gorgeous ocean views and two of the suites are enormous (we know which ones to ask for if this is a priority). The entire property has a lovely ambience and the rooms are quaint and understated.

All of the communal areas are right on the water’s edge, and the restaurant deck actually overhangs the Pacific Ocean. Eating your breakfast in the company of iguanas and sea lions never gets old. On that note, the dining is top notch. Over 80% of the produce is locally and sustainably sourced (seafood, fruit, vegetables) – the only major exception being the grilled Argentine beef which is a specialty of the house.

It's not necessary to leave the hotel to enjoy the wildlife spectacles that have made this archipelago famous the world over: marine iguanas scuttle by the restaurant deck.

The boat

The rapid and luxurious Windrose motor yacht is the only Galapagos vessel that can comfortably visit two outlying islands in one day. This means that you can enjoy the comfort and space that comes with staying in a land-based hotel, while also getting to experience the incredible diversity of species and environments associated with a Galapagos cruise. The 74-foot vessel, which can attain speeds of up to 34 knots, cuts travel time between islands by 40%. It’s not only her speed that sets her apart, either: her three opulent decks and lounges mean you’ll always feel like you’re on a small boat cruise, even when she’s carrying her full quota of 16 passengers.

Combining yacht tours to stunning islands with the flexibility of spending your free time how you want, makes the Windrose the perfect choice for your Galapagos exploration.

The Windrose’s regular weekly schedule allows to you to plan around your personal preferences – you might love birdwatching, for example, or hate snorkeling. All day trips include lunch, snacks and soft drinks as well as complimentary snorkel gear. And the insights of an expert, bilingual, naturalist guide. Here’s a quick summary of the weekly schedule. For more detailed info, read our Island by island guide to the Galapagos.

  • Monday: Seymour (big colonies of frigate birds, boobies and marine iguanas) and Bachas (lovely white beach, great for snorkeling).
  • Tuesday: Bartolomé (snorkel among parrot fish, marine turtles, sea lions, and penguins) and Chinese Hat (tiny island that’s home to Galapagos Hawks and Galapagos Penguins).
  • Wednesday: South Plaza (very picturesque island with interesting plants and birds) and Santa Fe (small island covered in weird cacti and home to endemic land iguanas).
  • Thursday: Santa Fe (small island covered in weird cacti and home to endemic land iguanas) and South Plaza (very picturesque island with interesting plants and birds).
  • Friday: Seymour (big colonies of frigate birds, boobies and marine iguanas) and Bachas (lovely white beach, great for snorkeling).
  • Saturday: Bartolomé (snorkel among parrot fish, marine turtles, sea lions, and penguins) and Sullivan Bay (explore a lava field and snorkel on a white sand beach).
  • Sunday: Chinese Hat (tiny island home to Galapagos Hawks and Galapagos Penguins) and Dragon Hill (endemic land iguanas and a lovely walk past saltwater lagoons).
The blue-footed booby is a favorite among visitors to Galapagos and their brightly colored feet make them one of the easiest birds to identify.

The ideal location

Being so close to Puerto Ayora gives you a chance to appreciate (human) life on the Galapagos. An early morning visit to the fish market is an education in marine biodiversity, while the town’s harbor is a great spot to enjoy sundowners with a pelican. While most visitors to the Galapagos do pass through Puerto Ayora, very few stay more than a couple of hours.

The highlight of the fish market is the presence of pelicans and sea lions ready to steal something to feed themselves. (Photo: Christian Declercq) 

Santa Cruz’s central location within the archipelago means that you can (almost) mimic the itinerary of a full Galapagos cruise without having to spend a single night at sea. Great if you’re worried about either getting seasick or running out of things to do on a boat for five days – families with young kids often have this concern. (Read our blog entitled Galapagos cruise versus land-based for help making this choice.)

At the same time, most Galapagos cruises start and end in Puerto Ayora, so you could easily combine a few nights in the hotel with a four or five-day cruise. (There is no obligation to book any daytrips on the Windrose, and it’s totally OK to simply chill out in the hotel’s gorgeous surrounds, sipping on Pisco sours and chewing the fat with the resident iguanas and sea lions). On the other end of the spectrum you can stay a whole week at the hotel, and enjoy a different excursion almost every day. Or you can do a bit of both.

Galapagos Habitat’s suites boast style, comfort, space and amazing ocean views on their private balconies.

From the horses’ mouths

The Galapagos Habitat played host to the 2019 SA Expeditions global summit, a special occasion which brings together our entire network for a few days of thoughtful exploration. Here’s what some of the team had to say about their experiences at the property.

Tom Carroll, Destination Expert: The location was great and I didn't expect there to be so much wildlife so close! This was my first time in the Galapagos and I was not expecting sea lions and (small!) sharks to be swimming and playing right beside the hotel. The setting is fantastic and the hotel has a nice atmosphere and relaxed feel. The seaside breakfasts were incredible!

Kevin Floerke, Destination Expert: The location is excellent with great access to town while still feeling secluded. Being right on the water surrounded by sea lions is fantastic. Also, the food and bar were both excellent.

The location of the hotel allows you to enjoy your meals on the shores of Academy Bay, surrounded by Galapagos wildlife and mangroves on Santa Cruz Island. (Photo: Diego Toapanta) 

Sara Hensel, Destination Expert: I did not expect Puerto Ayora to be such a fun, lively little town and the Galapagos Habitat is so ideally located – close to the action yet tucked away and quiet!

Allen Ramirez, Graphic Designer: I never really thought about evolution that much until I visited the Galapagos and saw for myself the unique species that have developed in these far-flung islands. I was really struck by the conservation efforts that go into protecting those endemic species. Snorkeling and experiencing the abundant marine life was something truly special.

Whether you’re planning the land-based Galapagos adventure of a lifetime (our 7-day Quito to Galapagos Habitat is a real winner), or you’d simply like to spend a few days on terra firma before or after your Galapagos luxury catamaran cruise, we’d love to help. Speak to a Destination Expert about mixing up a Galapagos cocktail that will leave the whole family smiling.

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