A candid review from a paying traveler.
Of all the areas of the world to explore, the Galápagos Islands – an archipelago of volcanic islands in Ecuador – are perhaps the most intriguing and may already be on your wanderlust bucket list. Since most of the islands are uninhabited, visitors have the opportunity to essentially step back in time when visiting the protected Galápagos National Park. Honeymooning in Galápagos provides the perfect combination of luxury and adventure travel for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The best time to visit is between December and June when the season offers calmer seas and warmer waters with better visibility for snorkeling. Located in the Pacific Ocean off the west coast of Ecuador, the collection of islands positioned both north and south of the equator offer unique opportunities to view wildlife as well as stunning landscapes to view and photograph. Since the islands are free of many natural predators, animal lovers will enjoy getting up close and personal with iguanas, tortoises, the popular blue-footed booby, Galápagos penguins and sea lions, and an array of hawks and birds since they don’t have instinctual fear and are therefore relatively tame. Snorkelers and divers will also see bullhead and whale sharks, sea horses, manta rays, and more.
With catamarans, yachts, and cruise ships available for multi-day tours, you’ll experience modern-day comforts while witnessing the beauty of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, which was visited by Charles Darwin in 1835, inspiring him to develop his Theory of Evolution. The Galápagos Islands were unknown to most of the world until the first tourists arrived in 1934. While hotels and eco-lodges are available for stays on the largest islands, we recommend cruising the Galápagos for the best view of the natural environment and wildlife at its best.
Photo courtesy of Silversea
While there are a multitude of cruising options, we recommend Silversea Cruises for a true luxury experience. Arriving summer 2020, Silversea's all-suite Silver Origin will be the first ship built specifically for the Galápagos with the highest crew-to-guest ratio in the region.
Ships in the Galápagos are limited to 100 passengers and only one ship is allowed to dock on any island at any given time. Cruise lines must adhere to strict guidelines designed to protect the environment and educate visitors. All Galápagos guides are highly experienced and certified by the National Park of the Galápagos, while all ships must sail the Ecuadorian flag, hire Ecuadorian workers, and serve food grown in Ecuador. Fish, meat, and vegetables are locally sourced, fresh, and absolutely delicious.
Photo courtesy of Silversea
We paid to sail on Silversea's Silver Galapagos, and we can honestly say that what sets it apart is the quality of the experience provided and the guests you meet and enjoy while vacationing. If you're hesitant about a cruise, thinking you're too young, think again. This trip will be an absolute adventure and not an ordinary cruise – it's fun and exciting and not formal and stuffy. We left the Galápagos with new friends and fond memories.
While Silversea cruises are not inexpensive, the price you pay in advance includes amenities different from other cruise lines: alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages in-suite and throughout the ship, gourmet dining when and with whomever you please, butler service, amazing expeditions, and all gratuities. A seven-day cruise is the perfect length to see almost everything the islands have to offer. If you're prone to sea sickness, consider booking a suite on the lowest deck in the center of the ship. This location will have the least amount of sway, as well as the lowest price point. No need to worry that you'll miss out on picturesque panoramas from your room; with two cruise adventures every day you simply don't spend much time in your room. Most people we met spent much of their "free" time enjoying each other's company and exploring the ship.
Photo courtesy of Silversea
Your journey will begin when you arrive in Quito, Ecuador. If you have the opportunity, we highly recommend arriving a few days early and staying in Old Town at Casa Gangotena, one of the best luxury hotels in South America. From Quito you will fly to the Galápagos to board your ship.
Excellent shore excursions are entirely dependent upon amazing expedition leaders and the people you meet on your ship and, based on our experience, you will find the Silversea to be best in class. You can choose to do as much or as little as you'd like, but every morning and afternoon, experienced guides offer an opportunity to explore nature on a new island.
Upon your return to ship, you will be greeted warmly and then return to your suite to get ready for another amazing meal. Our personal butler quickly identified our preferences and was always prepared when we returned from our excursions. By pairing luxurious accommodations and excellent service with unforgettable experiences in one of the most isolated areas of the world, it’s a trip you'll never forget. At the end of your journey, you will return to the city of Guayaquil. If this is the end of your honeymoon, we highly recommend staying at Hotel Del Parque, another Relais & Chateaux property, prior to your return home. We found this boutique hotel to have modern, beautiful rooms and delicious fare. Stay an extra night and enjoy the Parque Historico, a 20-acre park that recreates the Guayaquil of yesterday.
Photo courtesy of Silversea
If you're not ready to end your adventure, we have a couple of options to consider. More often than not, cruise lines will offer an opportunity to have a post-cruise excursion to visit Machu Picchu in Peru. If your time is limited and you're unlikely to return, this may be an excellent option for you. However, in our experience the pace of this experience will not allow you the time to enjoy the wonders of Peru.
If you are able to spend more time in the area, we have a couple of recommendations. First, consider traveling further in Ecuador. The colonial city of Cuenca is a four-hour drive or short flight from Guayaquil. (You can arrange to fly to Cuenca directly after you arrive at the airport in Guayaquil.) A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Cuenca is welcoming and surrounded by natural beauty. There is no better place to stay in Cuenca than the Mansion Alcázar. A traditional 19th-century mansion, this boutique hotel offers garden rooms and suites we found to be the perfect blend of modern luxury and historic charm. Pristine national parks and lakes make memorable day trips and the hotel will gladly assist with providing a guide for any excursion. If you're interested in traveling over the Christmas holiday, the Pase del Nino parade on Christmas Eve mixes the sacred and the profane filling the streets with crowds while the day-long parade passes. It’s a sight to behold with a perfect view from the balcony of the property.
If you enjoy the idea of train travel through the Andes, book yourself in Gold Class and relax while you continue your journey. Explore the charm of Ecuador by returning to Guayaquil and traveling on the Tren Crucero. The "Train to the Clouds" will return you to Quito in four days through the Avenue of the Volcanoes.
If you don't mind traveling by train while on your dream honeymoon, Hacienda La Danesa is certainly worth a visit. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay in their Restored Stables room and the Garden Cottage is divine. (This hotel is the perfect stop if you drive from Cuenca before returning to Guayaquil and your flight home.) Niels Olsen Peet is a welcoming host offering stunning accommodations and delicious farm-to-table cuisine. Located on 1,250 acres, the family-owned dairy, cocoa, and teak wood farm is the perfect blend of Danish style and Ecuadorian charm.
Photo courtesy of Celebrity Cruises
While we've not experienced them personally, you might also consider the following cruise options.
Explore the Galápagos Islands aboard the new Celebrity Flora (Sky Suite pictured above), a 100-passenger, all-suite ship with floor-to-ceiling windows, oversized bathrooms, and many accommodations with private verandas. A personal suite attendant will help you unpack from the moment you arrive, and you'll dine wonderfully with menus curated by a Michelin-starred chef. The ship offers incredible romantic experiences for honeymooners, such as glamping where couples will partake in a naturalist-guided stargazing session and sleep under the stars in a cabana before waking up to the sunrise with a private breakfast.
National Geographic also offers excellent expedition cruises to the Galápagos Islands aboard their National Geographic-Lindblad fleet. The "Wild Galápagos Escape" and "Galápagos Voyage" expeditions offer respective seven- and 10-day trips, while two other cruises – a nine-day expedition and a 16-day tour – add Peru to the list of destinations. While not as luxurious as the Silversea or Celebrity cruises, these trips are ideal for honeymooners looking for a more-affordable experience with under 50 passengers on board.
However you choose to explore the Galápagos Islands, we encourage you to do so. Honeymoons are meant to be once-in-a-lifetime experiences, and visiting one of the most beautiful, remote destinations in the world is an excellent way to celebrate your new marital status and experience post-wedding bliss in a gorgeous locale.
- Bring sunscreen (you’re on the equator and you need protection). Check out ewg.org/sunscreen for safety ratings – these products from Raw Elements, Suntegrity, and Thinksport all have perfect scores on EWG.
- Bring bug spray (we didn’t have an issue, but it's smart to be prepared). We recommend this EarthKind mosquito repellant, which comes in a convenient travel size.
- Wear comfortable clothes ready for an adventure. For style, durability, and comfort, we recommend KÜHL, Rhone, and KEEN.