Home to dozens of shark species, sea lions, penguins, marine iguanas, mola mola, dolphins, turtles and countless fish, the legendary Galapagos islands – a UNESCO world heritage site, offers some of the best diving in the world.
So what’s the best way to experience them? Through a liveaboard of course!
Spending one or two weeks living aboard a yacht designed especially for divers; where you’re provided with food, lodging and all the air and nitrox you can breathe, is without a doubt the best way to discover the unique and diverse marine ecosystem of the Galapagos.
However – there’s actually a whole range of Galapagos liveaboards to choose from – so which is for you!?
Maybe you’re looking for an ultra luxurious, super-yacht experience in the Galapagos. Or perhaps it’s that budget-friendly option you’re after!
It’s also useful to know when is the best time of year to go diving the Galapagos and how to get there. We’ll cover these things to.
But first, let’s take a look at the best Galapagos liveaboards available of 2023.
|Best For||Liveaboard||Daily Cost (Euros)||Max Guest Capacity||Itinerary Length (Nights)||No. Of Logged Dives Required||Months of Operation||Destinations||Check Best Price|
|Overall||Danubio Azul||€€||10||8 Days, 7 Nights||40||Jan – Dec||Cousins Rock + Wolf + Darwin + Isabela + Santiago||GET BEST PRICE|
|Budget, Beginners, Short Trips||Aqua||€||16||A & B: 8 Days, 7 Nights|
B4: 4 Days, 3 Nights
B5: 5 Days, 4 Nights
|A: 1 – 20|
B, B4, B5: 0
|Jan – Dec||North Seymour + South Plaza + Santa Fe + Santa Cruz + Floreana + Santiago + Bartolome||GET BEST PRICE|
|Luxury||MV Majestic Explorer||€€||16||8 Days, 7 Nights||100||March – Jan||Wolf + Darwin + Cabo Douglas + Punta Vicente Roca + Cousins Rock||GET BEST PRICE|
|Advanced Divers||Galapagos Sky||€€€||16||8 Days, 7 Nights||60||Jan- Dec||Cousins Rock + Wolf + Darwin + Cabo Douglas + Punta Vicente Roca + Isla Pinton||GET BEST PRICE|
|Longer Trips||Galapagos Master||€€€||16||A: 8 Days, 7 Nights|
B: 11 Days, 10 Nights
|50||Jan – Dec||Punta Carrion + Baltra + Darwin + Wolf + Punta Vicente Roca + Cousins Rock||GET BEST PRICE|
|Groups W. Non-Divers||Galapagos Aggressor III||€€€||16||8 Days, 7 Nights||0||Jan – Dec||Baltra + Punta Carrion + Wolf + Darwin + Cabo Marshall + Punta Vicente Roca + Cousins Rock||GET BEST PRICE|
|Small Groups||Nortada||€€€||12||8 Days, 7 Nights||50||Jan – Dec||Baltra + Cousins Rock + Wolf + Darwin + Cabo Douglas +Punta Vicente Roca + Cape Marshall||GET BEST PRICE|
|Scuba Photography||Humboldt Explorer||€€||16||8 Days, 7 Nights||100||Feb – Dec||Isla Lobos + Punta Carrion + Wolf + Darwin + Cousins Rock||GET BEST PRICE|
Fewer dives logged that you’d like, but want to enjoy an epic liveaboard experience nonetheless? No problem! The Danubio Azul comes highly recommended not only for the great range of both well-known and quieter diving spots it visits, but also for its helpful crew and expert guidance along the way.
With up to only 10 guests per trip (unlike the average of 16), set your own pace, without feeling the need to delve beyond your qualification level. 6 professional and experienced crew members and a guide, to 10 guests, means there’s always the support you need.
Starting in Baltra, the seven-night cruise sees you dive multiple top spots in the volcanic archipelago. The Galapagos is a living lab, brimming with bird life, fish species, crustaceans, corals and anemones.
But the star of the show? The hammerhead shark, swimming in unparalleled numbers alongside the Galapagos shark, whale sharks, and the silky tip. And don’t be alarmed by the high-speed dive of a cormorant beside you, it’s quite a sight to see them darting below the surface for food.
With your feet firmly back on board the almost 22m long boat, a hot shower and a cold drink await. Bask in the surrounding beauty on the sun deck, or grab a drink at the bar and get to know your fellow divers better before dining al fresco on fine cuisine.
The Danubio Azul was recently refurbished in 2017, making it one of the ‘newest’ yachts in this price range. The 5 staterooms are comprised of twin or bunk beds, and just one with a double bed (book it quickly). All are equipped with AC, private bathroom and ample space.
The Danubio Azul offers an intimate experience at an affordable price, so don’t be surprised to find it booked out in a snap.
The Aqua cruises to some of the most sought-after dive spots in the Galapagos archipelago, over itineraries ranging from three to seven nights, at the best prices in the Galapagos. Vist the top dive spots of Wolf and Darwin Islands, Bartolome, Cousins Rock and more!
Somewhat of a rarity in the Galapagos, choose from a range of itineraries that cater to different needs, duration, and activities simultaneously. Thrown into the diving deal are land excursions and a naturalist guide.
Extend your diving itinerary to include a short naturalist cruise, from as little as 3 nights (a specialty of the new owners) which sees you really take full advantage of the trip both above and below the deep blue before returning home.
Recently renovated in 2019, this 26m long boat is custom-built for diving and boasts 9 comfortable staterooms, each with an en-suite bathroom, AC, ample storage space, warm fresh-water showers, and daily housekeeping.
With a dedicated team of local and international crew, and an unusually high crew-to-guest ratio of almost 1:1, everything you need for a great trip is taken care of, notwithstanding it coming in as the most affordable option in the Galapagos.
Spots are filling up fast all the way into mid-year, so don’t hesitate on this one!
One of the most highly-rated luxury liveaboards in the Galapagos, redefine your idea of onboard luxury with The MV Majestic Explorer!
You’ll start to forget you’re even on a yacht at all, taking it easy in the hot tub topside, cold one in hand, or catching a tan on the generous leisure deck between dives.
Equipped with 8 well-appointed, air-conditioned staterooms, each with private en-suite bathroom and plenty of space, this 36m yacht is all about comfort, and geared up for a good time, across the lavish social spaces, including a full entertainment system and an air conditioned salon and bar.
Traversing top dive sites like Darwin and Wolf, take a dip with hammerheads, eagle rays, sea lions, Galapagos, silky and whale sharks!
Get the chance to watch prehistoric-looking marine iguanas dive for dinner at Cabo Douglas, and not forgetting the little guys, catch a glimpse of seahorses, tiny blennies and hawkfish at Cousin’s Rock.
The yacht is fitted with all the top diving necessities, onboard kayaks, snorkeling equipment, a camera station, rinse bay for underwater cameras and individual gear bins too.
Apart from unparalleled diving opportunities to the best spots in the Galapagos, and top of the range facilities, enjoy three buffet-style meals daily. You’ll also be well fed and watered throughout the day with an entourage of snacks and drinks.
Step out of the monotony of day to day life, and into the lap of ultimate luxury with this Galapagos diving liveaboard, while there’s still space.
The waters and terrain of the Galapagos lend themselves well to advanced divers, and the Galapagos Sky will get you there, in the epitome of style.
Combine 7 Nights and 8 days of pure diving bliss with top-notch onboard service. The perfect itinerary sees you explore Darwin Island, a square kilometer lacking any dry landing sites, it’s famously named in honor of Charles Darwin. Exciting, challenging conditions await for the advanced diver!
Just as Darwin was impacted by the Galapagos Islands (it inspired his Theory of Natural Selection) discover the immense natural beauty and come into close contact with scalloped hammerhead sharks, tunas, eagle and golden rays and the marine iguana.
Wolf Island is an experienced open-water divers dream, and equally renowned for its rare number of endemic marine species (20% of these, in fact) and is a somewhat more remote location in the Galapagos National Park, making it an uber-popular diving location, abundant with hammerheads, whale sharks, manta rays and green turtles.
Add to that Cousins Rocks, Cabo Douglas and the newly added trip to Isla Pinzon! 8 Luxurious cabins accommodate up to 16 guests, complete with en suite bathrooms and all the creature comforts you need.
Tour these top diving locales and more aboard the Galapagos Sky, with over 30m of lavish liveaboard to take advantage of, including all the features a diver could wish for and entertainment and leisure facilities to match.
And just when you think it can’t get any better, a beach BBQ and excursions on land serve as a reminder of the natural beauty that surrounds these rich waters.
Don’t leave a single coral unturned on this leisurely 11 day, 10-night cruise around all the top diving spots in the Galapagos, aboard the Galapagos Master.
Included on tour are at least two days at the famed northern Islands of Darwin and Wolf, and the top diving locales of North Seymour Island, Roca Redonda, Cousins Rock and more. Encounter not only schools of hammerhead sharks and playful sea lions but also tuna, rays barracuda and marine iguanas.
While exploring the Western side of Wolf Island, your dive may just be accompanied by a Galapagos red-lipped batfish at the Anchorage.
The comfort and luxury of this 32 m steel yacht is a great ‘home away from home’ option for an extended stay in the Galapagos. Join up to 16 guests across the sprawling liveaboard, whether lounging on the sundeck, catching a drink at the cocktail bar, or enjoying the AC in one of 9 private staterooms.
Scuba diving is of course key, with two dive masters to facilitate dives from the custom-built, fully equipped yacht. For the non-divers, meet the local marine life by way of snorkeling the rich waters, at some of the best locations the volcanic archipelago has to offer.
The extended itinerary gives divers an opportunity to not only get in about 30 dives but to also explore above water every now and again and enjoy land activities and of course, the phenomenal yacht!
If you’re looking for a combination of luxurious leisure facilities, a complete range of amenities and great diving all year round, then the Galapagos Aggressor III is for you, and the non-divers cruising along with you.
While taking in the sights submerged in the deep blue below, the attentive crew are available to take care of guests staying topside. After a spot of snorkeling or swimming for the non-divers, there’s plenty of time to kick back with a DVD, lounge on the sun deck, dip into the onboard hot tub or grab a drink at the bar.
The 8 luxurious staterooms on this 30,5 m liveaboard are equipped with private en-suite bathrooms, AC and a TV monitor with media player, the perfect escape after a busy day. Master staterooms can be made up into a queen bed for couples.
As there are no minimum logged dives required, there’s no pressure to keep up with an advanced pace, but for the thrill-seekers, you’re in the hands of an experienced local open water scuba dive master.
The best of both worlds, up to 20 dives are included a day to the top dive spots in the Galapagos, as well as not one, but two-night dives! It gets better still, as the tour includes a panga ride at Pinnacle Rock, private bus tour at Santa Cruz Island, and a visit to giant tortoises.
There’s something for everyone on the Galapagos Aggressor!
Renovated in 2014, this 25,9 m vessel is a unique, intimate offering. Perfect for smaller groups, the four cabins accommodate a maximum of up to 12 guests. A more personal experience is promised over 7 nights and 8 days. Also available for private charter!
After a warm-up dive in Academy Bay to get started, the week-long cruise triangles between the most sought after dive spots of Wolf and Darwin Islands, Cousin’s Rock and Cape Douglas.
The ‘shark mecca’, Galapagos is home to more confirmed shark species than anywhere in the world. Meet scalloped and great hammerheads, whale sharks, white tipped reef sharks and possibly even a close encounter with the bull or mako sharks, while on tour of these prime diving locations.
One of the best places to explore the diverse underwater world of the archipelago, Wolf Island has a secret, submerged network of underwater tunnels and caverns carved to shape by erosion.
Highly recommended for the small group sizes, the Nortada is also praised for both the experienced dive guides and a friendly, highly attentive crew.
Spaces are limited aboard this premium liveaboard and you may find yourself scrambling for a spot on the Nortada, with its outstanding diving itinerary!
Backed by a plethora of exceptional reviews, the Humboldt Explorer is well recommended for not only its exceptional crew but also for its ability to access remote areas of the Galapagos where diverse wildlife encounters await, ready to be captured.
One recommendation goes as far as saying that opportunities exist to capture images “like a photo of the Nat. Geo. Magazines”. Close encounters lie ahead with hammerhead sharks, jacks, bonito, trevally, as well as whale sharks, Galapagos sharks, sea turtles and of course, marine iguanas.
Underwater photographers be sure to pack a macro lens for capturing the tiniest of seahorses and frogfish at Cousin’s Rock!
Custom built for diving, the Humboldt is almost 34 m in length and also features a camera station, separate rinse basin for underwater cameras and a camera charging station to top up for more exceptional footage to follow.
Over 7 nights and 8 days, the 8 Staterooms come complete with expansive ocean views, AC, en-suite bathrooms with fresh warm water showers and all the comforts of home. This comfort extends to an air-conditioned indoor salon and a library.
Live the good life and catch a tan on the sun deck, or soak up the views from the hot tub before gearing up for your next dive, or dinner.
Don’t miss out on the chance to get the shot of a lifetime in some of the most remote areas of the Galapagos!
Just like you have to get travel insurance to cover medical bills and accidents whilst abroad, you must also get scuba diving insurance in order to be covered for any accidents that occur on a dive.
There’s several reputable scuba diving insurance companies offering different packages – some include travel insurance as part of their main deal or an optional add on. You’ll find that some diving insurance companies offer other cool perks to – like coverage for damaged scuba gear, lost days of diving due to weather or illness, trip cancellation etc.
But which perks you get, what add ons are included and how much you pay for all this varies between the different scuba diving insurance companies and the various packages offered by each!
If you want to find out more, you can check out this epic page on the best diving insurance where we break down, compare and review the very best scuba diving insurance companies of all time so you don’t have to.
Known as a prime diving location throughout the year, venturing to the Galapagos Islands is worth the trip at any time, it just offers a different experience depending on when you go.
The best months to take a Galapagos diving cruise by liveaboard are during the warmer, wet season when the waters are tepid, calm and visibility is at its best.
Galapagos Liveaboards in January
January is a great time for joining a Galapagos liveaboard as it falls within the warm season. Air temperatures on average are between 22℃ and 30℃, while average sea temperatures are around 24.5℃.
Rainfall is regular during this time, but usually light showers versus a downpour. It’s the perfect time for spotting green turtles laying their eggs.
Galapagos Liveaboards in February
The breeding season for birds, turtles and sea lions spans from February to April and is also one of the hottest, most humid times of year in the Galapagos.
Ambient temperatures range on average from 24℃ to 30℃ and the drizzle of rain continues. Sea temperatures sit around 25℃, which is comfortable and allows for more time in the clear waters.
Galapagos Liveaboards in March
The rainiest season of the year, March is hot, humid and marks the start of summer.
Temperatures out the water average at a low of 24℃ a high of 31℃, with sea temperatures at about 25℃. The perfect excuse to escape the heat, diving is great during this time as water visibility is optimal.
Galapagos Liveaboards in April
Rainy season starts to taper off in April and there’s an explosion of life on the islands. Water visibility is great, and with pleasant seas at around 25℃. Air temperatures range from 24℃ to 31℃ on average, and surprisingly this is considered a low season for visitors.
Galapagos Liveaboards in May
Although ambient temperatures become milder and average between 22℃ and 28℃, the sea stays at a perfect 25℃.
The last of the rains fall in May, and the humidity starts to settle. Blue-footed boobies dance around North Seymour island and penguins start nesting on Fernanda Island.
Galapagos Liveaboards in June
June marks the beginning of the cool, dry season and just a drizzle of rain continues. The rich, dense plankton population appears with cooler sea temperatures, now at around 23℃. Waters are not as clear and currents stronger, but bring an influx of whales and rays!
Out of the water, the temperatures also drop, between 21℃ and an average high of 26℃.
Galapagos Liveaboards in July
Cooler land temperatures range between 20℃ and 26℃, and an average water temperature of 22℃ is popular amongst the whales, dolphins, and sharks that inhabit the surrounding seas at this time.
Galapagos Liveaboards in August
August is a drier month, and cooler too, from 19℃ to 26℃ on land and 21.5℃ by sea. The Humboldt current continues to flood rich nutrients via rough seas, and even without crystal clear waters, divers can get up close with the array of marine life.
Galapagos Liveaboards in September
Plenty of passenger boats are dry-docked during September for maintenance, so take this into consideration before booking a Galapagos scuba diving liveaboard. While the Galapagos Sky, for example, is sometimes dry-docked for April and the Humboldt in May.
If you do find yourself in the Galapagos, the marine life is still abundant in the 22℃ seas, and can be explored by way of land-based diving.
Galapagos Liveaboards in October
October in the Galapagos is part of the cool, dry low season, with water temperatures of 22.5℃ and averages of 20℃ to 26℃ on land.
The seas are abundant with active marine life, from sea lions and their pups to dolphins, up to 24 species of baleen and toothed whales and green turtles.
Galapagos Liveaboards in November
Signaling the end of the cool and dry season, the air temperatures start to warm between 21℃ and 26℃, and the seas rise to 23℃. Swim with sea lion pups, whales, dolphins, and marine iguanas.
Galapagos Liveaboards in December
One of the busiest months in the Galapagos, December gives way to the warm season and calmer, clearer waters.
Average air temperatures on land fluctuate between 22℃ and 27℃, while the seas are around 22.5℃. Booking early is essential if you plan to travel during this time!
The Galapagos is a wild wonderland, full of incredible species both above and below the water. Marine iguanas, Galapagos penguins, sea lions and Galapagos sharks along with schooling hammerheads, whale sharks, manta rays and mola mola are the delight of scuba divers.
The Galapagos archipelago is comprised of around 20 islands dotting the Pacific ocean, off the coast of Ecuador. Although not all of these are visited by liveaboard, and many are not accessible on land, remaining mostly uninhabited. The islands are as follows:
To give you the very best possible idea of the Galapagos as a dive destination, we’ll sum up some of the best spots – just to give you an idea of the wonders that await you aboard a liveaboard to the Galapagos!
Read on to learn more about the main Galapagos islands as frequented by liveaboards, and what makes these prime diving locations so popular!
Apart from seabirds and the occasional attempts of a diver, the northerly Wolf Island sees no visitors on the shores of a now extinct volcano. Named after Theodor Wolf, a German geologist, the waters around this small island provide the perfect dive point for the more advanced diver.
Tracing around the edges of the +1k㎡ island, some well-known diving spots include La Banana, the Anchorage, the Pinnacle, the Caves, Shark Bay, the landslide and Elephant. During the cooler months you are more likely to spot large marine animals like whale sharks, while the warmer months bring better visibility (up to 30m).
Richly populated with hammerhead and endemic Galapagos sharks, eagle and manta rays, dolphins, marine iguanas and green turtles, Wolf Island is a super popular scuba diving destination for all and a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Although not ideal for beginners due to low water temperatures, strong currents and surges, some of these sights can be tackled with the guidance of an experienced dive master, and a good pair of gloves for gripping sharp rocks.
The beauty of Wolf is unparalleled beneath the surface, not only for an abundance of marine life, but also for an exquisite coral reef. Landslide in particular is a favored diving spot due to its coral covered cave.
Shark Bay is a favorite amongst advanced divers, and home to not only hammerheads, but the Galapagos silky shark too. The currents can be challenging here, at around 1-3 knots or more, making this spot one for experienced divers only.
Accessible only by liveaboard, Wolf Island is one of the most sought after dive locales in the world. It is especially sought-after for the opportunity to dive amongst the abundant shark species in the surrounding waters.
The northernmost island of the Galapagos, Darwin is also an extinct volcano and one of the smallest islands in the archipelago, at just 1km.
Uninhabited and closed for land visits, Darwin also has no dry landing. Probably for the best, as it is home to a generous bird population, with one inhabitant known for gruesomely drawing blood from the other seabirds and feeding from it!
The waters surrounding the island attract a vast array of marine life, including sharks, turtles, rays and dolphins. As with Wolf Island, Darwin is best suited to advanced divers due to the challenging water conditions that beginners potentially are not ready for.
With that said, many a liveaboard sail to the island and have an experienced dive master aboard to facilitate dives in the calmer areas around the island.
Although the journey sailing to this northernmost island takes some time, it’s widely regarded as one of the ultimate diving locales across the globe, and not to be missed! Advanced divers should be accustomed to the strong currents and choppy surface water, which reveals a hidden underwater experience like no other.
El Arco is well-loved for the many species of sharks that reside here, such as hammerheads and endemic Galapagos sharks. Alongside these ‘all-stars’ swim manta rays, and sometimes whale sharks. Darwin’s Arch is also frequently visited, with an aptly named stone arch rising from the waters. Spot hammerheads, blacktips, jacks here, and on occasion whale sharks.
The prime diving sites around Darwin are littered with colourful reef fish, from the elusive parrotfish, to surgeonfish and trumpetfish. Don’t be surprised to come across playful, tame sea lions or dolphins at Darwin.
No diving trip to the Galapagos is complete without cruising to Darwin Island and experiencing the abundant ocean that surrounds it.
The largest island in the Galapagos, Isabela lies in a westerly direction and stretches over a whopping 4 640 km² while straddling the equator.
A unique and diverse landscape exists on Isabela, with an array of plants and animals that inhabit it, such as tortoises, penguins, marine iguanas and sea birds.
The human settlement on Isabela is the third-largest in the volcanic archipelago.Sites like the prisoner-built El Muro de las Lágrimas, or the Wall of Tears, can be visited while on the island. To get a view of the island, the Danubio Azul liveaboard makes a diving stop at Isabela.
There are spectacular dive sites around the island for Beginners and advanced divers alike. To the southeast of Isabela, the waters of Tortuga Island teem with hammerheads, white-tipped reef sharks, stingrays, manta and eagle rays, turtles, tuna, barracuda, shy parrotfish and many more.
Another site only accessible by liveaboard, Cape Marshall hosts an exciting geological formation.
A wall of volcanic rock descends into the water, and the strong currents and surges make it a spot more suitable to advanced divers.
Manta, marble and mobula rays share these waters with sunfish, hammerhead sharks and turtles.
The equally famed Cousins Rock finds itself on many liveaboard itineraries and was formed by the remains of an eroded crater, that juts out from the Pacific.
Although the terrain above-water is popular with sea lions and birds, it’s the underwater landscape that is most spectacular. This modest ocean pinnacle can’t be accessed by land excursion, but diving around it reveals sheer, ornately decorated walls that stretch to the ocean floor about 40m below.
The perfect spot for beginners and advanced divers alike. Moderate currents and surges make this diving location an overall calmer experience. The marine life is also generally far less intimidating, but no less exciting.
Hidden in the coral encrusted walls of the pinnacle, cartoon-like nudibranchs and delicate seahorses are the main attraction, and form the perfect subject for aspiring photographers! Also regularly spotted here are many bigger pelagics.
Manta, golden and eagle rays glide past alongside green turtles, and on occasion, hammerhead sharks. Find the ideal viewpoint from the plateaus to watch them swim by unawares. All in all, for the most diverse dive trip, Cousins Rock is must-see!
Well done Diving Squad! Another mammoth read under the belt!
Now that you are seriously prepared for a liveaboard in Galapagos, thanks to this dive guide, all that’s left is to just… dive in! All you’ll ever need to know about diving in the Galapagos can be found in this article.
From the best budget liveaboards, luxury Galapagos scuba diving liveaboard, the best time to dive Galapagos to the species you’ll see and even a cool Galapagos liveaboard comparison chart! It’s all here for your dive-knowledge basket.
With soooo many epic dive sites, we’re not sure how any diver can resist the temptation of the Galapagos.
Now you are ready for Galapagos liveaboards, it’s either time to start saving, or booking! Diving in the Galapagos is the Crème de la Crème of the diving world. It’s a once in a lifetime experience that you don’t want to let expire – in fact, spots are filling up as we speak!