The 10 Best Galapagos Liveaboards for Amazing Diving [ 2023]
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If you are a diver pro, you will be interested in reading this post about the best Galapagos Islands Liveaboards.
Diving in the Galapagos Islands is a dream for every experienced diver, even more, if you are on a liveaboard because you will be able to dive in spectacular unique places that are not reachable with day trips.
The best dive liveaboards in the Galapagos take you to the remote Darwin and Wolf islands, where you will get a chance to see some amazing marine life.
Divers can spot a variety of sharks, including hammerheads and Galapagos sharks, as well as large rays, dolphins, mola mola, and whale sharks.
Ready to make your dive dream come true? Keep reading for a guide to the best liveaboards to the Galapagos.
After reading about the best Galapagos liveaboards make sure you read the important information we share and that you should know before diving in the Galapagos.
👉 If you are interested in the NON-DIVING liveaboards in the Galapagos check out my post on the best naturistic cruises in the Galapagos
The Best Galapagos Liveaboards
1. Galapagos Sky
The Galapagos Sky is a 100-foot luxury yacht that was built in 2001 specifically for diving. The boat can take a maximum of 16 guests and has 8 suites.
The suites have private bathrooms and offer either two twin beds or one king-size bed. The Sky boasts fine dining, and all meals are plated with a complimentary beer or wine with dinner.
The Sky is proud of its experienced staff who work hard to make sure guests are well taken care of.
Weather permitting, the Galapagos Sky guarantees three days of diving at Wolf and Darwin Islands.
Divers will have a chance to complete up to 19 dives during their 7-night liveaboard. Divers will enter and exit the water at dive sites from a tender.
The spacious main dive deck has warm showers and guests will receive a hot towel after each dive. There is a camera charging station.
The Galapagos sky offers free nitrox to certified divers. There are also land excursions offered.
👉 Check rates and availability of Galapagos Sky on Liveaboard.com
The 109-foot Calipso was remodeled in 2019 with the diver’s comfort in mind. It has room for 16 guests.
There are double occupancy in-suite guest rooms that offer ocean views on the main and upper decks.
There are two single-occupancy cabins on the lower deck. The top deck has lounge chairs, a BBQ, a bar, and a hot tub for guests to enjoy.
The Calipso will take you to the far-off islands of Wolf and Darwin, as well as exploratory dives.
The Calipso also visits Marchena Island which was previously only visited by scientists and filmmakers. Divers will go to dive sites on small tenders.
The large main dive deck has hot showers and a separate camera rinsing station. Nitrox is available.
Guests on the Calipso enjoy the spacious boat and attentive crew. They will help you make the most of your dives at the Galapagos.
👉 Check rates and availability of Calipso on Liveaboard.com
3. Tiburon Explorer
The Tiburon Explorer is a brand-new luxury boat that entered the water in 2020. It is 129 feet and has room for 16 people.
It has 9 rooms located on the lower and main decks. Main deck rooms have large windows that offer ocean views. All rooms have en-suite bathrooms and the option of two twin beds or a queen bed.
There is a spacious sundeck with a hot tub.
The spacious dive deck has individual gear bins and separate rinse tanks for cameras and dive gear. The liveaboard offers 7-night charter trips and goes to Darwin and Wolf Islands.
Divers use rigid hull inflatable tenders to get to the dive sites. There is nitrox available.
You will love the spacious, comfortable Tiburon Explorer. The crew works hard to make your vacation the trip of a lifetime.
👉 Check rates and availability of Tiburon Explorer on Liveaboard.com
The Aqua liveaboard is a budget-friendly boat and offers either naturalist cruises or dive itineraries, so make sure you select the correct itinerary before booking.
This 85-foot boat was built in 1998 and renovated in 2019. The dive itinerary is a 7-night cruise.
The boat has room for 16 guests and has 9 cabins. The cabins are spread across the low, main, and upper decks.
They all have en-suite bathrooms and either two twin beds or a double bed. The Upper and main deck rooms have ocean views. The boat has plenty of common areas for socializing.
The Aqua liveaboard will take you to dive at the islands of Wolf and Darwin. They take diver safety very seriously.
All divers are provided with a personal rescue GPS tracker, storm whistle, beacon, and surface marker buoy.
Divers will get to dive sites on tenders. There is nitrox available.
Guests love that the Aqua is a great value liveaboard with an attentive staff.
👉 Check rates and availability of Aqua on Liveaboard.com
5. Galapagos Aggressor III
The Galapagos Aggressor is 100 feet long and was built for stability and diver comfort. It has room for 16 people. There are 9 cabins.
The deluxe staterooms are on the lower deck and have two twin beds. The master staterooms offer either two twins or a double bed and are on the upper deck. They have ocean views.
All cabins have en-suite bathrooms. The boat services breakfast and lunch buffet style and a plated dinner. The sun deck has a large solarium and hot tub.
The spacious dive deck has individual storage areas and personal lockers for dive gear. The deck has warm showers and separate camera and gear rinse stations.
Divers will get to dive sites on inflatable tenders. There is nitrox available.
Aggressor III guests love the professional service and dive guides on the liveaboard- they will help you have an unforgettable vacation!
👉 Check rates and availability of Galapagos Aggressor on Liveaboard.com
The Nortada was built in 1986 and renovated in 2014. This boat specializes in small groups, and has room for twelve guests maximum; however, most liveaboard cruises only have 8 guests.
There are four cabins and a spacious sundeck for socializing.
The Nortada offers either seven or fourteen-day cruises. It takes guests to the remote islands of Wolf and Darwin.
The dive deck was designed for comfort with benches and camera tables. Divers will use tenders to get to the dive sites. Nitrox is available.
The Nortada supports rebreathers and technical divers for an additional cost.
The Nortada offers great diving in a smaller group setting. You can book either as an individual or charter the boat.
👉 Check rates and availability of Nortada liveaboard on Liveaboard.com
7. Humboldt Explorer
The Humboldt Explorer was built in 2009 and is part of the Explorer Ventures fleet. It is 111.5 feet long and has eight cabins.
The cabins have either twin beds or double beds, and they are located on the lower and upper decks. The rooms all have in-suit bathrooms and TV. The boat has a spacious sundeck with a hot tub to warm up in.
It offers seven-night cruises with up to four dives per day. It visits Darwin and Wolf Islands. The board has a spacious dive deck with individual gear storage space, a camera table, a charging station, and separate camera rinse tanks.
Divers will get to dive sites on two spacious tenders. Nitrox is available.
Explorer Ventures created the Dive Green Environmental Management Policy to promote sustainability and conservation among their fleet. The Humboldt Explorer participates in this program.
Divers love the comfortable boat and say that the Humboldt Explorer is a great value for the cost!
👉 Check rates and availability of Humboldt Explorer on Liveaboard.com
8. Galapagos Master
The Galapagos Master is a stable, steel yacht that was built in 2004 and renovated in 2015. It is 105 feet and can accommodate up to 16 guests.
There are nine cabins on board and they have either twin or double beds and en-suite bathrooms. The cabins are on the upper and lower decks.
It has a spacious sundeck for socializing. The Galapagos Master’s experienced crew offers seven or ten-night itineraries.
The Galapagos Master has a comfortable dive deck with warm showers, gear storage, a camera area, and separate gear and camera rinse stations.
They guarantee a minimum of two days at Darwin and Wolf Islands and offer up to four dives per day. Nitrox is available.
Divers will have a great experience diving with the skilled crew.
👉 Check rates and availability of Galapagos Master on Liveaboard.com
9. Galaxy Diver
The 96-foot Galaxy Diver was renovated in 2022. It offers naturalist or diving itineraries. It can accommodate up to sixteen guests and has eight luxurious cabins with en-suite bathrooms.
The upper level cabins have large windows that offer ocean views. Lower-level cabins have porthole windows.
The boat was designed for divers and has a spacious dive deck. There are separate rinse areas for cameras. Divers will get to dive sites using tenders. Nitrox is available.
👉 Check rates and availability of Galaxy Diver on Liveaboard.com
Galapagos Liveaboard Useful Tips
Before booking your dream liveaboard trip to the Galapagos, here are some tips to help you make the most of your dive vacation and the best choices:
✔️ Be realistic about your dive skills
Remember, the Galapagos Islands are not for beginner divers. Several different ocean currents come together at the Galapagos Islands, so divers should expect strong currents while diving.
Not only do divers need advanced certification to dive the Galapagos, but they should also have plenty of experience and feel comfortable in challenging dive situations.
✔️ Decide when to go
Think about which ones of the Galapagos animals you most want to see during your trip and plan your liveaboard accordingly.
If your dream is to see a whale shark, plan to go during the whale shark season of June to December.
Taking the time to think about what animals you want to see and picking your travel dates accordingly will help make your diving dreams come true!
✔️ Service your gear
It is easy to forget to service your dive gear before a trip. Take the time to make sure everything is working properly before heading to the Galapagos. Pack a small save-the-dive kit with extra o-rings.
✔️ Don’t overdo it
It is easy to want to stay up late socializing and be up early for every single dive. The shortest Galapagos itineraries are seven nights, which means you have a lot of diving days and will need your rest to make all the dives.
Be realistic if you know that you cannot do four dives a day.
If you are afraid of missing out on great diving, talk to the divemasters.
They can usually tell you which dives to prioritize, so you can plan when to rest.
✔️ Stay hydrated
You will feel better, more rested, and safer while diving if you stay hydrated. Almost all divers who suffer from decompression sickness are also dehydrated. Dive doctors stress the importance of proper hydration.
✔️ Be safe in the sun
You may find a sunny spot on the boat irresistible while warming up between dives- just be careful to not burn! Make sure to be sun-safe, you do not want to deal with a painful burn while on a liveaboard.
Eco-friendly natural sunscreen for face and body
✔️ Pack sea-sickness medicine
Even if you have never had problems with motion sickness, pack some extra sea-sickness medicine. The open ocean crossing can be rough at times, and you would hate to feel sick and not have any medicine.
✔️ Take care of your ears
Be careful to go up and down slowly on dives and equalize early and often. You will have up to four dives a day on many liveaboards, and you do not want to miss any action due to ear problems.
✔️ Use nitrox if you are certified
If you are a nitrox-certified diver, make sure to use it! With so many days of diving, you will see the benefits of extended bottom times.
If you are not yet nitrox certified, consider taking the class at a local dive shop before your trip.
✔️ Stay warm!
Even if the surface temperature is warm, there can be thermoclines and currents of cold water. Make sure to pack a warm enough wetsuit and bring an additional hooded vest or underlayer to add as the week goes on.
After several days of multiple dives a day, you will start to feel chilled. Make sure to warm up between dives too!
Pack warm layers to wear on the surface so you can start each dive warmed up. Many liveaboards have air-conditioned common areas, so take socks and layers to wear while inside.
✔️ Have dive insurance
Make sure you have current dive insurance. Renew if your insurance is about to expire. Dive insurance will cover medical and travel expenses in the unlikely case that you have a dive accident. No diver should ever travel without it.
Actually it is mandatory to board the majority of the above mentioned liveaboards.
A dive trip on a liveaboard to the Galapagos Islands is a dream vacation for divers. Follow this advice so that you can enjoy the most time possible in the water looking for hammerheads, whale sharks, and other pelagic animals!
We recommend Dive Assure, one of the top insurance companies for diving. I am sure you have heard of them as they are one of the most popular.
🔽 Get a free Dive Assure quote here 🔽
Scuba Diving the Galapagos Islands – what you should know
The Galapagos Islands are a UNESCO World Heritage site and Ecuadorian National Park located about 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) off the western coast of Ecuador.
To get to the Galapagos Islands you can take a flight from Quito or Guayaquil. Flights from the mainland arrive at either Baltra or San Cristobal Islands. Most liveaboards depart from Baltra Island.
The Galapagos Islands are home to several endemic species. The Ecuadorian government works hard to protect the flora and fauna here by prohibiting visitors from bringing any plants, seeds, or biological goods with them.
You should expect an inspection upon arrival to make sure you will not introduce any invasive species.
Make sure that your hiking boots and shoes are clean from dirt or other plant materials before flying into the Galapagos.
Charles Darwin famously visited the Galapagos Islands in 1835. Throughout his journey, he took extensive notes on the different animals he encountered.
His theory of evolution and natural selection was inspired by the different animals he saw on his journey. The Galapagos Islands are a special place.
Three different Pacific Ocean currents meet at the Galapagos Islands, combining warm and cold water. The islands were formed by underwater volcanoes and have never been connected to the continent of South America.
The islands are full of endemic plants and animals, including Galapagos giant tortoises and Galapagos iguanas.
In addition to great scuba diving, the Galapagos Islands offer visitors lots of ways to enjoy nature on land.
If you have the chance, plan to spend a few days on land before or after your liveaboard.
There are over 200 species of birds that live on the islands, and the Galapagos Islands are the only place in the natural world where you can find penguins and flamingos together.
For divers, the highlight of their trip will be the liveaboard diving; however, you should take advantage of being in such a unique place and spend a few days exploring on shore.
Further below in this post, I will share more guides we wrote about the Galapagos islands to help you plan your trip.
Things you should know before booking a Galapagos liveaboard trip
A scuba diving trip to the Galapagos Islands is a dream come true for many divers. This area is famous for its large, diverse marine life. You can expect to see a variety of sharks, including whitetip reef sharks, blacktip reef sharks, hammerhead sharks, Galapagos sharks, bull sharks, and silky sharks.
Other large animals you can encounter are dolphins, sea turtles, a variety of rays, lots of different reef fish, and whales and whale sharks. Lucky divers will see marine iguanas, penguins, and fur seals.
This is truly an amazing spot to look for big marine life!
When is the best time to go on a scuba liveaboard in the Galapagos Islands?
You can do a Galapagos Islands liveaboard trip year-round. There are two distinct seasons. The warm season is from December to May.
During this time water temperatures can reach up to 80 degrees, but you can expect some cooler thermoclines at depth.
The further north islands often stay a bit cooler, so still plan to bring warm layers for diving. The visibility is generally between 40-100 feet.
Generally during the warm season, the conditions are calmer and there is less current.
During this time of the year, you can expect to see schools of hammerhead sharks, silky sharks, and Galapagos sharks.
The cool season is from June to November. It is common to have overcast, misty days.
The water temperature drops down to 60-75 degrees. It is windier and there is a greater chance of rough seas and strong currents.
The conditions make this time of year more challenging to dive the Galapagos, and visibility can drop to 30 to 70 feet.
The great part about the cool season is that it is whale shark season. It is common to see the gentle giants around Darwin and Wolf islands.
The strong currents bring a variety of nutrients to the water and the large marine animals follow!
So as you can see, you can visit the Galapagos year-round, and the best time to go depends on what you want to see.
The warm months are also the time of year you are most likely to see manta rays and marine iguanas mating.
The cooler season has nutrient-rich currents that attract whale sharks and promotes reef fish activity.
Who can dive from a scuba liveaboard in the Galapagos Islands?
Liveaboards to the Galapagos Islands are for advanced divers. The water is cold and divers will need to wear thick 5mm or 7mm wetsuits to stay warm.
Divers should be prepared to dive in strong currents with limited visibility.
Surface conditions can be choppy and divers will dive off of small inflatable boats. Dive sites can have strong currents and surge.
It is not uncommon to hold onto a rock during a dive to watch the wildlife go past.
Can beginner divers go on a scuba liveaboard in the Galapagos?
If you are a new diver and dreaming of doing a liveaboard trip to the Galapagos, start working on your skills and get your experience level up!
Plan dive trips to areas with current. Travel somewhere that you will need to use a thicker wetsuit. Take additional dive courses to work on your diving skills.
You can make a trip to the Galapagos Islands your goal for when your dive skills are advanced and you will be able to enjoy the challenging conditions.
Galapagos liveaboards overview
Most Galapagos liveaboards offer 7-10 days cruises, with some offering extended 14-day trips. They are known for offering divers comfort while exploring the far-off islands of Darwin and Wolf.
These tiny islands are far off from the rest of the Galapagos Islands and only accessible on liveaboards. It is not permitted to do land excursions there.
Your dive guide will have all the latest information about what dive sites should not be missed. Dive guides know that area better than anyone, and know where the large marine animals are most likely to be spotted. Here are a few of the popular dive sites you will visit:
✅ Punta Carrion – A great first stop on a liveaboard. This area is known for Galapagos sea lions and eagle rays. Lucky divers will catch a glimpse of whitetip sharks, dolphins, or hammerheads.
✅ El Arco at Darwin’s Islan – An unforgettable dive where you can see a variety of sharks including hammerheads, silky, and Galapagos. Divers can see rays and whale sharks in the warm months.
✅ El Arenal at Darwin’s Island – In front of where Darwin’s famous arch once stood, this site is famous for its large marine life. You can find hammerheads and whale sharks here.
✅ Cape Douglas at Fernandina Island – A great spot to see penguins and sea lions. Look for marine iguanas that dive down from the surface to munch on algae.
✅ Cousin’s Rock at Santiago Island – You can check out black coral and sea fans. This is a great spot to find giant manta rays.
All of the Galapagos Islands dive sites will offer you the chance to see large and rare marine life.
Land-Based Diving in the Galapagos
Visitors to the Galapagos Islands can do land-based scuba diving. The land-based diving options are great for less experienced divers, or people who want to combine on-land activities and diving.
The central islands offer calmer diving options where you can find a variety of turtles, sharks, and sea lions.
If you chose to do land-based diving in the Galapagos Islands you will not go to open water, advanced sites where the largest pelagic animals are found.
But in some places such as Leon dormido (kicker rock) in San Cristobal for example or in some sites around Santa Cruz Island.
What to pack for a Liveaboard in the Galapagos
You do not need to pack a ton for a liveaboard, but you do need to be thoughtful with your packing. Most liveaboard cabins are small, so you do not want to bring a lot of extra things you will not use.
Here is what you will need for your liveaboard to the Galapagos:
➡️ Dive gear – In addition to your regulator, BCD, fins, mask, and computer you should consider taking a surface marker buoy, whistle, and any other surface signaling device you have.
The current can be strong and you will want to be visible on the surface if you separate from the group.
Make sure to take a warm wetsuit and layers to add throughout the trip. If you have two dive computers, take both with you, and use them on each dive.
This way if one computer fails, you still have a computer to use.
➡️ Clothes for between dives – As mentioned above, you want to make sure you warm up between dives. Make sure to take layers so you are comfortable inside the air conditioned dining room.
Many boats do not allow you to wear shoes, so take socks if your feet get cold.
➡️ Earplugs – If you end up sharing a cabin with someone you do not know ( or someone you do know who snores ) or are near an engine room, ear plugs can help you get the quiet you need to rest between dives.
➡️ Clothes pins – You may want to take a few clothespins to hang wet clothing to dry. This will keep them from blowing away.
➡️ Medication – Do not forget any medication you are on, or will possibly need while on the liveaboard.
➡️ Travel and dive documents – Take the time to double check you have all the necessary travel and dive documents you will need.
➡️ Gloves – Many reef divers have never worn gloves while diving. Reef divers are taught to never touch the coral. Many dive sites in the Galapagos are made of volcanic rock that you will hang onto in strong currents.
➡️ Camera equipment.Whether you have a camera with an underwater housing or a small Gopro type of camera, you will want to take plenty of memory cards for pictures and videos.
➡️ Entertainment. Liveaboards give you the chance to disconnect and turn off your devices. Load up your kindle, download some podcasts, or bring a book to keep you entertained between dives.
Packing for a liveaboard can be stressful because you will be so far away from civilization! Remember to pack all essential medicines, and things you cannot live without.
Thankfully, apart from dive gear, swim suites, and the essentials, you will not need much on a liveaboard.
Best Galapagos Liveaboards: final thoughts
A dive trip to the Galapagos Islands is a trip of a lifetime for divers. You will get the chance to see rare, pelagic animals including hammerheads and whale sharks.
These islands are at a remarkable spot, where currents come together, bringing animals, and resulting in amazing dives.
This area is for experienced divers who will feel comfortable in colder water and fast current. For these divers, it will be an unforgettable trip. We hope this post was helpful to find the perfect diving liveaboard in the Galapagos.
Meet the author
Adrienne Banka is a Michigander who fell in love with diving at 16 years old. Now she is an island living dive instructor turned brewmaster, turned mom. When she is not in the water she enjoys riding her bike and chasing after her dog her newly