Galapagos Islands All-Inclusive
Closeup encounters with wildlife, such as this sea lion with its young, are commonplace in the Galapagos Islands. (Photo: John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images )
Galapagos is a bucket-list destination for many nature enthusiasts. This remote group of islands off the coast of Ecuador in South America is where Charles Darwin began formulating ideas during an 1830s expedition that eventually led to his theory of evolution. The 19 islands and the equatorial Pacific waters that surround them are teeming with exotic wildlife from giant tortoises to blue-footed boobies. Most of the area is protected as a national park and marine reserve, as well being a UNESCO World Heritage site. Visits to protected areas aren't permitted without a certified naturalist as a guide, but several all-inclusive accommodations offer guided tours.
Finch Bay Eco Hotel (finchbayhotel.com) in the town of Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island offers nature and scuba diving tour packages ranging in duration from four to eight days. All packages include accommodations at Finch Bay, meals, guided excursions and a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station, a working scientific facility in Puerto Ayora. The scuba packages provide all diving equipment and instruction, and a dive master is available for those already certified. Finch Bay is a 27-room beachfront property with a pool, an on-site restaurant and bar, and access to snorkeling equipment, kayaks and bicycles.
Red Mangrove (redmangrove.com) is a resort lodging company with properties on three islands in the Galapagos - Santa Cruz, Isabela and Floreana. The company offers all-inclusive options for land-based and diving tours that last from three to 10 days. Guests can combine land and diving options in one trip. Packages vary from the Honeymoon Special and the Multisport Soft Adventure, to the Full Adventure and Darwin's Triangle tours. All of the accommodations are located on the water, except for the Divers Lodge in Santa Cruz, which is a short walk from the Aventura Lodge on the bay in Puerto Ayora.
The Royal Palm (royalpalmgalapagos.com) resort bills itself as a "hideway" because it is located away from the coast in the Santa Cruz highlands. The hillside accommodations include veranda studios, villas and suites, including the Prince of Wales Suite, named after a member of the British royal family who once stayed there. The Royal Palm offers excursion packages to Tortuga Bay and the Charles Darwin Research Station, as well as beach, snorkeling and kayaking tours. Extended luxury yacht packages visit different islands and bays in style on guided land and sea expeditions.
On San Cristobal Island, the 11-room Casa Opuntia (opuntiagalapagoshotels.com) is a waterfront hotel and restaurant that overlooks the boardwalk. For those interested in learning to scuba dive and experience the abundant marine life of Galapagos, introductory packages from one to four days are available. Most people don't think of the Galapagos Islands as a surfing destination, but many good spots exist, and Casa Opuntia offers a guided five-day surfing package. If conditions aren't ripe for hanging ten, you'll still have the options of hiking, biking, kayaking, scuba diving or snorkeling.