A good friend who recently traveled to the Galápagos Islands with his wife and three sons returned home with wonderful tales to tell. As he observed while raving about the photo ops, “The blue-footed boobies alone are worth the price of admission!”

Blue footed boobies

The only glitch in their otherwise great vacation involved logistics…specifically, the twice-daily transfers from ship to shore and back again. On a cruise tour, of course, it’s unavoidable. And in Paul’s words, after a few days it started to get a bit old.

All of which got our travel planning team to thinking. Everyone who goes to the Galapagos island-hops. It’s the only way to experience everything this UNESCO World Heritage Site has to offer. The question is, will you base yourselves on one of the cruise ships that ply the region’s waters? Or opt for seaside eco-lodges that offer unlimited opportunities to explore the islands at will?

For our new Galápagos walking tour and Galápagos family journey — both making their debut in 2012 — we’ve given two thumbs up to the land-based approach. Staying in upscale comfort on shore hasn’t even been possible until recently, and the advantages are huge. From our spacious lodgings, like the Hotel Iguana Crossing on Isabela Island, we can set out several times a day on short strolls to the beach and into town, as well as on longer treks to lakes and lagoons and even a volcanic caldera with our naturalist guides.

Iguana Crossing

Access to the creatures you want to see most seems to increase tenfold when you’re based on an island. Staying on three distinctly different islands, as our guests do, means there’s not a blue-footed booby, giant tortoise or curious Galapagos penguin to be missed.

But it’s not all about the wildlife; there’s plenty of time for snorkeling, sea kayaking, a private tour and tasting at a family-owned coffee plantation, and a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Center to rediscover his theories of natural selection that put the Galapagos on the map.

Staying aboard the HMS Beagle may have been Darwin’s only option when he visited in 1835, but today’s explorers have the benefit of choice. For more on our island-based approach — and how we make the most of every Galapagos moment onshore — check out www.classicjourneys.com/galapagos.