The Galapagos Islands, an archipelago near Ecuador, is a great travel destination for the more advanced scuba diver because of the strong currents and deeper dive sites. The variable dive conditions add a sense of adventure which is why many divers put it on their dive site bucket list and what better way to experience this than liveaboard Galapagos Islands vacations.
There are 17 islands for you to explore on your dives which is why the best liveaboard trips for scuba diving are a smart way to explore the biodiversity of this tropical region. Go looking for sea lions, hammerhead sharks, eagle rays, and unique to this area, the red-lipped batfish and Galapagos clingfish. You may even get to see a Mola mola or ocean sunfish.
Although the seasons do not vary to any great extent the wet season runs from January to June, with the dry season being July to December at which time it is also cooler on the islands.
You don’t need to be a diver to swim with the marine wildlife because even snorkeling in these clear blue waters gets you close. There are plenty of luxury cruises for liveaboard trips, perfect for non-divers, that let you explore all the beauty of nature both underwater and on land.
10 Best Galapagos Liveaboard Trips
The good news is that diving in the Galapagos is year-round so you can visit at any time that works best for you. However, you should keep in mind that June to December is the coldest time, with water temperatures between 62°F – 68°F and January – May are the warmest months, with temperatures above 75°F for your dives.
Read up on what you need to know about diving in the Galapagos Islands and then pick out your favorite liveaboard Galapagos trips from our top 10 below. It will be an unforgettable experience, whether you choose to go underwater or not.
1. All-Inclusive Trip: Estrella del Mar
If planning your vacation stresses you out more than it should, and Getting to the Galapagos Islands is not the easiest thing to plan. Then why not let the crew of Estrella del Mar take care of your entire itinerary, including flights to and from mainland Ecuador so you can sit back and really enjoy the planning of this Galapagos diving liveaboard.
You have the choice between three different itineraries, some are 7 days / 6 nights where you get to explore the South and Central Islands, to as long as 17 days / 16 nights.
Each one is a diving experience that you will not forget and this is an adventure-packed option, with land excursions and snorkeling, giving you the chance to see the abundant wildlife and marine life, including the popular sharks that are indigenous to the area, in one of the world’s most ecologically diverse places.
Unlike some, this is truly all-inclusive, diving gear, snorkeling gear, full board food that is both local and global cuisine, in fact, the only extras are your drinks and airport transfer. Enjoy a full wrap-around deck or chill out in the lounge and take in the outstanding scenery around you. This liveaboard for the Galapagos Islands is a wonderfully simple but comfortable and budget-friendly way to dive in Galapagos.
What We Liked
- The package is all-inclusive
- Three itinerary options
- Includes wetsuits and snorkeling gear
- Naturalist Guide
2. Most Luxurious: Endemic Cruise Ship
If any vacation is splurge-worthy than it is this one aboard the luxury Endemic Cruise Ship. Soak up the sunshine and panoramic views right from your cabin suite with floor to ceiling windows leading to your private balcony. With 8 Golden Panoramic Suites available all are en-suite and have individually controlled air conditioning.
This liveaboard is perfect for snorkeling and diving Galapagos, with two decks giving you easy access into the crystal clear waters and included in the package are the snorkeling gear, wetsuits, and a snorkeling guide to help you spot groups of fish and other underwater treasures. Stay active during this vacation with all the other activities that this Galapagos Islands liveaboard offers, such as hiking on the many islands including national parks, kayaking or stand up paddleboarding.
In fact, the Endemic Cruise Ship boasts that a typical day aboard this Galapagos luxury cruise might include a morning adventure where you can see soaring Frigatebirds and snorkel with sea lions, after the delicious lunch you could have an afternoon up close with Galapagos penguins and tortoise and end the day with a beautiful gourmet dinner and drinks whilst enjoying the sunset.
The Endemic has itineraries that vary from 3 to 7-nights in length and explore the more isolated islands and remote visitor points in the search for unique wildlife and sharks indigenous to the Galapagos Islands Then, before your onboard gourmet meals, enjoy the view from the sundeck or one of the more secluded alfresco lounges. What a wonderful way to enjoy your Galapagos scuba diving liveaboard trip. The Endemic Cruise Ship offers luxury cruises to the Galapagos Islands, catering for a maximum of 16 people with an almost one to one service. What more could you ask for on your Galapagos dive vacation?
What We Liked
- Spacious bright cabins with private balcony
- Both land and water activities
- Vegetarian meals available
- Diving and snorkeling gear included
3. Most Budget-Friendly: Golondrina
It is difficult to plan a budget trip but the Galapagos Golondrina is kind to your wallet. This Galapagos small ship cruise has just 8 en-suite bunk bed cabins which are perfect for when you are traveling with a group of friends.
The 5 – 8-day cruises take you to all the top spots of the island where you get to snorkel with the sea lions and penguins, swim with sea turtles and eagle rays, sharks, and manta rays, hike to spectacular panoramic viewpoints.
Snorkeling equipment is available for rent but if you want to really stay within a budget you can, of course, bring your own gear and wetsuit to dive the Galapagos.
With this full-board option local freshly prepared dishes are served a la carte style and both vegan and vegetarian options are available but it is always smart to mention this beforehand when booking. Overall this is a wonderful way to dive Galapagos, visit the dive sites, see the marine life, and have some of the best diving in the world.
What We Liked
- Good for groups
- Combining itineraries possible
- Airport transfer included in the package
4. Most Family-Friendly: Cormorant
A liveaboard is great for family vacations because there is already an itinerary filled with activities planned out for you. The Cormorant is a smart choice for you and the kids since there are 4 interconnecting rooms available on the upper deck – this gives you both private space with easy access.
There are several itinerary options available from as short as 4 days to as long as 15 days and whichever you may decide on each Galapagos Islands dive trip gives you the chance to visit beaches that are like visiting paradise and spot the sea lions and Galapagos penguins that these islands are famous for.
Each tour is led by a qualified Galapagos National Park guide, who will share their passion and knowledge of the area with you
There is plenty of space for lounging, including a sundeck, covered outdoor lounge, and both indoor and al fresco dining areas and as an added bonus there is also an onboard hot tub for you to enjoy and get into full relaxation mode.
What We Liked
- Both long and short cruises available
- Good for families
- Underwater camera rental included
- Staterooms have a private balcony
5. Best for Mixed Groups: Galapagos Legend
Maybe the standard itineraries on a Galapagos dive liveaboard are too intense for you or maybe you are traveling with a group of both divers and non-divers. Either way, there is something for everyone aboard the Galapagos Legend, a large cruise ship with 55 cabins accommodating a total of 100 guests.
Spending the whole day onboard provides you with plenty of entertainment as the Galapagos Legend has excellent luxury facilities, an onboard gym, swimming pool, jacuzzi, bar, boutique, library, and both indoor and outdoor lounges for socializing.
All cabins are en-suite and air-conditioned, with ample storage space each has either a window or porthole. If you don’t just want a dive holiday then this is a wonderful mix of both diving and cruising the Galapagos and having the best time ever.
Though the crew only provides snorkeling gear, guided tours are included and licensed divers can join underwater explorations while the rest of the group is out with the snorkeling guide. Whether you dive, snorkel, or hike this is a great way to get to see some of the amazing marine life of whale sharks, sea turtles, and even manta rays.
What We Liked
- Plenty of luxury onboard facilities
- Licensed divers welcome
- Onboard snorkeling guide
- Spa and yoga available
6. Best Budget Trip for Scuba Divers: Aqua Liveaboard
The Aqua is another rare find among the Galapagos Islands cruise ships offering a budget scuba diving liveaboard. Each cabin has a bunk bed set up with either two twin beds, double or a triple with the bottom bunk as a double bed, each is ensuite and is airconditioned.
Among the crew is both a naturalist guide and a dive guide for your Galapagos diving tours, so you get the best expert leading you through the amazing biodiversity of the marine life both on land and underwater. With sea lions, sea turtles, hammerhead sharks, and whale sharks. If you are really lucky you might even spot Mola mola, the ocean sunfish, and Mola ramsayi, the southern sunfish.
All the wildlife of the Galapagos Islands dive sits, including Darwin and Wolf, will give you a diving experience you will not forget. The public spaces on the ship are comfortable and on the main deck there is an indoor lounge, bar, library, and dining area, and if you like to stay active in between dives you can go snorkeling or take one of the kayaks out on the water.
The average water temperatures of 70F to 80F and there is no wet and dry season really and the weather does not vary too much. Nitrox is available for more advanced divers and less experienced divers can sign up for dive courses but these are not included.
What We Liked
- Shaded diving area
- Full gear rental available
- Diving and non-diving itineraries
- 3 different itineraries available
7. Best Overall for Diving: Galapagos Aggressor III
This is the sleek and luxurious Galapagos Aggressor III and if you want a Galapagos diving cruise and scuba diving trip where you don’t have to worry about anything then this is the one for you.
This Galapagos liveaboard dive cruise is an excellent place to take dive courses, with a great swim platform fully equipped with low-pressure hoses for cleaning gear, personal lockers, rinse tanks, filling stations, and a camera table.
With four action-packed dives, a day, and two night dives, they certainly offer the best diving, almost guaranteed to give you your best dive to date. You will certainly get the chance to see the manta rays and whale sharks at most of the dive sites you get to visit while cruising the Galapagos Islands.
The trips are 8 days and 7 nights, with each trip starts and ends in San Cristobal, including an airport transfer when you first arrive on the island. If you prefer food that you are more familiar with then you are in luck, the chef’s specialty is American fare as well as offering some wonderful local dishes.
What We Liked
- Good diving facilities
- Underwater camera available for rent
- Onboard Wi-Fi available
- Nitrox course available
8. Best for Diving at Wolf and Darwin: Humboldt Explorer
Wolf and Darwin are famous dive spots that you will find on many divers’ bucket lists. This Galapagos diving liveaboard cruise will help you spot a wide variety of sharks like hammerhead, white tip, and whale sharks but also schools of tuna, manta rays, and eagle rays.
This ship is available for charter so if you have a larger group you can plan a private trip along the beautiful Galapagos Islands coasts. It has 8 air-conditioned double cabins and all have a private bathroom/shower and an ocean view, with a maximum of 16 guests you can also relax in the air-conditioned salon, the covered back deck and sun deck with Jacuzzi.
The crew is also smaller than many of the alternatives, making this a more personal and cozy experience. Really targeted at scuba divers, with nitrox, nitrox courses, and dive courses being available and visiting some of the island’s best dive sites you can be assured you’ll get in some great dives, what more could you want.
You can rent the rest of your dive gear, as well if you do not have your own diving equipment. So this Galapagos diving liveaboard will suit those who want a more personal feel.
What We Liked
- Nitrox and nitrox course available
- Dive courses available
- Large windows in each room
- TV inside cabins
9. Most Professional Diving Vessel: Galapagos Master
The Galapagos Master takes diving seriously so this is a top choice for an unforgettable experience, especially for advanced divers that can cope with the strong currents and changing conditions. Besides the main cruise ship, there are two dive tenders to get to the dive sites and with two dive instructors to guide you on your underwater dives.
It has 9 cabins and caters for up to sixteen guests, all air-conditioned with plenty of storage and private en suite bathrooms. A large lounge and dining area are situated on the middle deck with comfortable cushioned bench seating and have an entertainment system.
The meals are served buffet-style and the outer deck has shaded seating great to sit back and relax in between your dives and the upper-level has a sundeck and bar where people can get together and share their experiences. Truly a great way to enjoy the islands and get dives that are unforgettable.
Each 7 night or 10-night itinerary features up to 4 dives per day, including a night dive. You will also spend extra time at the most popular dive sites of Darwin and Wolf which are famous for drift diving and spotting the sea lions and sharks indigenous to the region. Truly the Galapagos dive trip offers many unforgettable diving experiences.
What We Liked
- Dive packages include 4 dives per day
- Night diving included
- Cabins with large windows available
- Two dive tenders
10. Best for Underwater Photography: Galapagos Sky
This offers some world-class diving with 5-star service, with 8 luxury cabins accommodating a maximum of 16 people, all have air conditioning, and are en-suite with a luxurious feel.
The scenes that you see underwater are incredible so it is only understandable that you want to capture these moments. The Galapagos Sky knows how much divers appreciate taking and sharing underwater photography so they kept this in mind during the design of the ship.
Onboard there is a multimedia room for sharing the photos and videos that you took during the dives and there is also a charging station and camera station, so you will be sure to capture the sharks and wildlife you get to see on your dives around the islands. The dive platforms have fresh water showers, with equipment and camera rentals, and storage.
Nitrox is included in the package and you will have two divemasters to guide you on your underwater dives along with fresh warm towels after your dives. The chef really cooks up a treat for you and there are vegan and vegetarian meals available in the full-board option. Unlike many of the alternatives, this diving cruise offers set menu dining for a more luxurious experience.
What We Liked
- Multimedia viewing room
- Cabins with large windows available
- Nitrox included