Options for flying into the Galapagos is limited to two islands; San Cristobal and Baltra. Private aircraft must use Baltra as it is the airport equipped with overnight plane accommodations. Baltra airport was recently renovated (2012-2013) to accommodate larger planes.
Until 1969 the only way to visit was on a private or chartered vessel. There was no regular air service until Forrest Nelson’s Hotel Galapagos began the first organized tours in April of 1969. Soon other travel companies brought in tour ships and yachts, and local fishermen began converting their wooden boats for rudimentary cruising with guests. These vessels were the main source of overnight accommodations in the Galapagos. Today there are about 85 yachts and ships equipped for overnight guests, but are limited by the government to 16 up to 100 passengers. In 2006 the Baltra military governed island, was opened up to limited overnight camping. Baltra also requires permits by the military government for overnight stays on the beach. Other inhabited islands also allow camping on the beaches designated as “recreational” use to the locals. All of these camping permits are limited to number of people and nights, with most nights not to exceed 3.
Land based hotels are opening on the inhabited islands of San Cristobal, Santa Cruz, Floreana and Isabela. By 2012, more than half the visitors to Galapagos made their tours using day boats and these small hotels. Restaurants,easy access and economy make this an attractive travel option. The cruise tours are still the best way to see all the complex environment and wildlife of the islands.
There are only 116 visitor sites in the Galapagos, these include 54 land sites and 62 SCUBA or snorkeling sites. Small groups are allowed to visit in 2-4 hour shifts only to limit impact on the area. All groups are accompanied by licensed guides.