Diving in the Galapagos Islands is marked by the marine life you can find in these waters. Indeed, central to Darwin’s theory of evolution, these islands in Ecuador boast a huge number of endemic and pelagic species. You might spot marine iguanas, penguins, sea lions, Galapagos sharks, hammerheads, whale sharks, tiger sharks and silkies. There are also mobula rays, manta rays, dolphins and mola mola. To see all these things, you’ll want to be on one of the best liveaboards in the Galapagos.
There are many liveaboard operators in and around Ecuador. Below, you’ll find our top picks for the best liveaboards in the Galapagos. These recommendations include the best:
- Luxury liveaboard
- Mid-range liveaboard
- Budget liveaboard
- Special interest liveaboard
- Non-diving liveaboard
- Eco-friendly liveaboard
- Liveaboard for small groups
Scroll on to discover the liveaboard to turn your dreams of diving in the Galapagos into a reality!
Best Luxury Liveaboard: Galapagos Sky
One of the most luxurious vessels in the Galapagos, the Galapagos Sky provides the most modern diving amenities possible.
This spacious vessel allows for seven days of diving on every cruise (about 17-19 dives in total during your trip). The itinerary includes an astounding three days at Wolf and Darwin Islands. This will give you up to 11 dives plus one night dive in the best area of the Galapagos. To help you get the most out of these dives, nitrox is provided for free.
You’ll get to enjoy all of this under the water while relaxing in total luxury above the surface. Eight air-conditioned cabins can accommodate 16 divers. And, you’ll have the option of three land excursions. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore these epic islands above and below the sea.
To travel to the Galapagos Islands with all the comforts of home, book a trip on the M/V Galapagos Sky – one of the best liveaboards in the Galapagos.
Best Mid-Range Liveaboard: Humboldt Explorer
The mission of the Humboldt Explorer is to take you on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure to the unparalleled world of beauty, wonder and marine life known only in the historical Galapagos Islands.
In addition, you’ll get more dives at Wolf and Darwin Islands than on most other liveaboards in the area. The Humboldt Explorer generally stays in the north for four full days on a 7-night itinerary, giving you a total of 15 dives at the best Galapagos diving sites. Plus, there’s a naturalist diving instructor on board to explain the unique flora and fauna found in the area.
When not engaged in diving activities, guests on the Humboldt Explorer can relax in total comfort. There is plenty of seating, and the jacuzzi is ideal for unwinding. A full entertainment system awaits in the lounge, and guests are accommodated in eight en-suite cabins.
For a well-priced liveaboard with a nice selection of extras, the Humboldt Explorer is an excellent choice.
Best Budget Liveaboard: M/Y Galapagos Aqua
Gracing our list as the liveaboard with the best value, the M/Y Galapagos Aqua could also be named the most colorful liveaboard in the Galapagos, thanks to its recognizable teal and white exterior.
But what really makes the M/Y Galapagos Aqua unique is its combination of diving safaris to the best dive sites in the Galapagos with naturalist cruises that allow guests to enjoy topside biodiversity on the same trip. Each day features diving, treks, cultural immersion and environmental activities.
In terms of diving, guests on the M/Y Galapagos Aqua will find plenty of support. A large diving platform, complete with rinse tanks for cameras, is available along with dive pros who understand what divers come to the Galapagos to see.
Furthermore, the boat itself is comfortable with enough space for every guest to relax. There’s a shaded lounge on the upper deck where you can catch fantastic sunsets. And, each of the nine cabins is light and airy and boasts an ensuite bathroom.
If you want to visit the Galapagos and want to enjoy both the underwater and topside environments, consider the M/Y Galapagos Aqua.
Best Special Interest Liveaboard: MY Blue Spirit
It’s fair to say that any Galapagos liveaboard will certainly appeal to (and cater for) nature lovers. But if you have special interests in wildlife, photography and/or technical diving, then you’ll want to check out MY Blue Spirit.
As well as the onboard library, wildlife enthusiasts will enjoy the informative sessions and photo presentations included as part of the trip. Along with must-dive Darwin and Wolf Islands, MY Blue Spirit also covers the less-visited Marchena Island, where you’ll find particularly large concentrations of Galapagos sharks. Technical divers and photographers will appreciate the wide diving platform, camera tables, recharging stations, gear bins and cleaning facilities.
Recently refurbished in 2019, the liveaboard features 10 air-conditioned and ensuite cabins for up to 16 guests. There are also two well-stocked bars and delicious dishes that mix international cuisine with Ecuadorian tastes.
If you’re looking for a dream Galapagos liveaboard complete with added touches for specialist interests or gear, then book a trip with MY Blue Spirit.
Best Non-Diving Liveaboard: Tip Top IV
You don’t need to scuba dive to take in this Pacific Ocean paradise. Whether you’re taking a break from diving or you’re looking for a trip to enjoy with non-diving friends and family of all ages, Tip Top IV offers a highly recommended non-diving cruise.
There are two kayaks on board, and snorkeling equipment (including child-friendly sizing) is available to use for the duration of your travels – either four or seven nights. You’ll be joined onboard by specially-trained naturalist guides that are certified by the Galapagos National Park. They host daily excursions to places like the Charles Darwin Research Station, sea lion colonies and a cactus forest.
Tip Top IV has 10 air-conditioned cabins for 16 guests, as well as a bar, dining room, lounge and sun deck. Plus, there is plenty to keep the entire family entertained during downtime: board games, videos, books, music and even a desktop PC.
If you’re looking for a fully featured, non-diving wildlife extravaganza for the whole family, then Tip Top IV is one of the best liveaboards in the Galapagos.
Best Eco-Friendly Liveaboard: Tiburon Explorer
If eco-friendliness is at the forefront of the decision making process for your diving adventure in the Galapagos, you may want to consider the Tiburon Explorer. This 40-meter (130-foot) vessel was custom built for diving and is one of only two liveaboards in the area that are active members of the Green Fins sustainability and conservation program. (The other is the Humboldt Explorer.)
The boat boasts a 16-guest capacity across nine staterooms, all of which feature air-conditioning and an en-suite bathroom. The open-plan area on the main deck includes a comfortable lounge for socializing and watching TV, a fully furnished dining area and a small bar. On the upper deck, there is a sun deck, a hot tub and a covered outdoor dining space (with accompanying bar) to allow guests to enjoy the ocean views as they dine.
The Tiburon Explorer offers 7-night itineraries which cover the best dive sites from the Western Archipelago, including both Wolf Island and Darwin Island.
Best Liveaboard for Small Groups: Galapagos Master
Thanks to a recent refurbishment that took place in early 2023, the 32-meter (105-foot) Galapagos Master is one of the most modern liveaboards sailing the waters around the Galapagos. And with its state-of-the-art technology, safety equipment and friendly, hard-working crew, the boat is the ideal way for individuals, couples and groups of divers to make the most of their time visiting these nature-filled islands.
The steel-hulled yacht provides guests with just the right mix of personal and public space. Each of the nine well-appointed cabins includes an en-suite bathroom, air-conditioning and plenty of storage space to help keep your room free from clutter. Communal areas include an indoor dining area (with adjacent bar for post-diving cocktails), an indoor camera set-up station, a top sun-deck and a shaded area.
The Galapagos Master gives divers the choice of two marine life-filled itineraries. Both the 7-night and 10-night options include a visit to the world-famous Wolf Island and Darwin Island. Guests will also have the opportunity to enjoy a number of land excursions, such as North Seymour, Santa Cruz and Isla Isabela.
Galapagos Diving FAQs
Want to know more about diving in the Galapagos? Here is a selection of answers for some of the most commonly asked questions.
Is Diving in the Galapagos Worth it?
The Galapagos Islands are mostly volcanic, and the water temperature changes from summer to winter. So, there aren’t many corals in the surrounding area. Underwater landscapes generally include rock formations and pinnacles. But, the channels around the islands work like pelagic highways, so divers can just sit on the edge and watch the action pass by.
The absolute best dive sites in the Galapagos are located around Wolf and Darwin Islands. These distant land masses are not populated and can only be reached by liveaboard – but it’s a journey that’s more than worth it.
Most liveaboards generally depart from Baltra Island, a short flight from Guayaquil on Ecuador’s mainland. The typical length of itineraries in the Galapagos is seven nights, but some liveaboards offer eight to 10-night trips.
When is the Best Time to Dive the Galapagos Islands?
The best time to dive the Galapagos depends on what you want to see. From December to May, manta rays, schooling hammerheads and other sharks populate the area. These months also bring milder currents and better visibility. On the other hand, June to November is considered whale shark season. The water temperature drops and nutrient-rich current brings in these gentle giants along with mola mola and humpback whales.
Keep in mind underwater conditions in the Galapagos can be fairly rough, and the current can be on the strong side. Therefore, some experience with current is a prerequisite. Most liveaboards require divers to have 50 or more logged dives.
Ready to Explore the Galapagos by Liveaboard?
The liveaboards on this list were chosen by the scuba diving experts at PADI Travel, but they aren’t the only liveaboards in the Galapagos Islands. Visit PADI Travel to explore the full range of liveaboard vessels or get in touch via email, phone or live chat for help or advice on booking your dream scuba vacation.