About Site Ratings

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder"


70+ :    Worth the detour

60-75:  A good site, in the top tier

50-65:   Fair - some aspects of this site will score well.

Less than 50:   Not the best, but be attentive, there's always something interesting to see / understand.



In an effort to help people who are trying to find their "ideal cruise", we developed the first ever quantitative Galapagos visitor site rating system.   To obtain values for each site, we asked 12 naturalist guides, with a combined 231 years of Galapagos guiding experience to rate them on a scale of 1 to 100 (1 being the poorest) against 5 specific criteria:

  1. Iconic species: The likelihood of seeing relatively rare but iconic Galapagos species (e.g. giant tortoise in the wild, penguin, flightless cormorant, flamingo, land iguana, hybrid iguana, red-footed boobies, Galapagos hawk...).  Because some iconic species are relatively common and will be very difficult to miss on just about any cruise (e.g. marine iguanas, blue footed boobies), these don't enter into consideration when rating a site for this criterion.
  2. Biodiversity: The abundance and diversity of plant and animal life (not necessarily iconic). Basically, sites rating well under this criterion will have plenty of vegetation, birds and/or marine life.   Sites rated the lowest will tend to be barren lava fields, for example.  
  3. Striking vistas: For this one, we asked the naturalist guides to give the highest scores for those sites at which they have seen visitors taking a lot of landscape pictures.  For some sites, the landscape is banal and doesn't attract an "ooh! aah!" reaction, while others are impressive and the subject of many pictures, including selfies.  
  4. Beach quality: The quality of a beach for playing in the sand, sunbathing, swimming, relaxing - also child friendly. Even though Galapagos is not a "beach holiday", there's no need to feel guilty for taking in the pleasures of a nice beach on occasion!
  5. Snorkel quality: The likelihood of seeing rich and diverse underwater life.


The overall site score is the average of the score obtained under each criterion.  For sites with no beaches, or where snorkeling is not an option, the average is calculated only against the criteria for which a score is provided.  A site with a fair or even poor overall score can have a "BEST" score for one of the individual criterion and be well worth seeing. 



It’s important to note that the results paint a broad, general picture, and contain plenty of “wiggle room” in terms of actual visitor experience, with some variability due to seasonal fluctuations and to simple chance of seeing, or not seeing some species on a particular day (Punta Suarez’s iconic waved albatross is a seasonal visitor, for example), or simply due to personal preferences (see page sub-title).    For this reason, it is better to use the ratings as a general indication and not as an absolute measure.   For example, the #7 site is not necessarily worse than the #1 site, but you can be confident that it is among the top sites for a particular criterion.  



The ratings do not take into consideration cultural, historical or scientific attributes of the sites.  Some sites might have little appeal for wildlife, but are steeped in history (Post Office Bay, Floreana Island, Darwin Station for example).  These might be of interest to visitors as well and have been highlighted with an museum icon.