Ecoventura: The Trip of a Lifetime in the Galápagos Islands

by Amanda Eyre Ward on March 8, 2024 in Travels,

Nothing prepared me for my adventure to the incredible Galápagos Islands.

I’ve heard my friends rave about their “trip of a lifetime.” For some, it’s a glorious spa. For others, one night away from the kids (with a room service breakfast). I will never forget the first time I left the eastern time zone, at age nineteen, to fly to Nairobi, Kenya. That trip taught me the shock of joy that stepping into a new world could inspire. But nothing prepared me for my adventure to the incredible Galápagos Islands aboard the Relais & Chateaux Ecoventura. From the moment I met our two naturalists, Jose Castillo and Ivan Lopez, a dive guide and viral celebrity with his song “Galápagos,” I knew that the Ecuadorian-operated Ecoventura was the perfect choice for a trip that would change me in all the best ways.


Guided hikes with private naturalists show guests blue footed boobies. Photo courtesy Ecoventura.

Why are the Galápagos Islands on so many travelers’ bucket lists? In short, the islands offer the chance to see a vast diversity of animal life: giant tortoises, blue-footed boobies, sea lions, penguins, land iguanas, and, of course, amazing birds, including the finch that inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.


An award-winning leader in sustainable travel, Ecoventura offers an adventure cruising experience aboard its fleet of luxury expedition yachts, Origin, Theory, and Evolve. Photo courtesy Ecoventura.

Ecoventura’s three luxury yachts are, in fact, named after Charles Darwin’s scientific works: the Origin, Theory, and brand-new Evolve, which debuted in January 2023. Ecoventura is the only Ecuadorian-owned company in the Galápagos, and each yacht was designed by Ecuadorian designer Cindy Murriagi in ocean-inspired silver and blues.

Evolve will join the rest of Ecoventura’s Relais & Chateaux fleet in design, style and experience, with 10 premium cabins that foster a sense of connectivity with the destination via panoramic views from all corners, and onboard amenities that include a full-time concierge, fitness center, a sundeck with loungers and daybeds, and a Jacuzzi. Photo courtesy Ecoventura.

 Local craftsmen and carpenters built much of the furniture, and the gray and white upholstery, leather sofas, exotic stones, petrified teak, agate (which is made into lamps) seem just right in the islands.


Guided hikes with private naturalists show guests sea lions. Photo courtesy Ecoventura.

My week aboard the Ecoventura yacht was truly a dream. Each morning brought a gourmet breakfast, followed by one incredible adventure after another: a Zodiac boat to a snorkel guided by your naturalist, who would point out a cave or a sea lion who wanted to play; a hike to see nesting blue-footed boobies; a small boat tour of waters with swimming baby sharks; a walk on a beautiful beach shared only with sea lions. 

Grilled octopus basque-style served with roasted peppers and sauteéd potatoes. The food aboard the Ecoventura yachts is world-class, featuring fresh seafood and carefully-prepared delicacies. Photo courtesy Ecoventura.

We enjoyed sumptuous lunches, happy hours, and multi-course dinners featuring fresh-caught local fish or delicacies of crab, steak, lobster, pork tenderloin prepared by Chef Estuardo Vilela and his Sous Chef Jose Castillo—not to mention the libations of bartenders Luis Vera and Juan Pablo Carrera.


The company’s mission is to offer discerning guests a travel experience that is as transformative as it is chic, through one of the globe’s most elusive destinations. Photo courtesy Ecoventura.

Recent events in Ecuador have made travelers cautious, and with good reason. I felt completely safe, however, as the Ecoventura team handled all travel details from Texas. We flew to Guayaquil, where we were met at baggage claim and whisked to an overnight stay at the luxury Hotel Oro Verde. The next morning, we joined a flight filled with staff and fellow passengers to San Cristobal, an appealing island in the archipelago, where we met the yacht.

Ecoventura says, “recent events in Ecuador may have raised concerns, and Ecoventura is actively assuring guests that their safety and comfort remains the team’s top priority. Hotels and ground handlers are implementing the utmost precautions to ensure the safety of Ecoventura clients in Guayaquil and taking precautionary logistical measures in the historical center of Quito. Movement to and from airports remains permitted, ensuring that guests can arrive and depart from Ecuador without hindrance. Ecoventura is closely monitoring the situation and any changes or updates that could have an impact on our Galápagos cruise are being promptly communicated to guests.”


Two unique seven-night itineraries depart every Sunday, visiting more than a dozen exclusive visitor sites in the Galapagos National Park for up-close experiences with wildlife, many endemic to the archipelago. Photo courtesy Ecoventura.

This attention to passenger safety speaks to why I felt lucky to have chosen Ecoventura for my trip of a lifetime. The Ecoventura team paid attention to every detail, and I was free to feel awe, to allow myself to be transformed by the power of nature and beauty in the truly special destination of the Galápagos Islands.


Cover photo courtesy Ecoventura

Amanda Eyre Ward is the New York Times bestselling author of ten novels. Amanda’s work has been optioned for film and television and translated into fifteen languages. She lives in Austin, TX, and her new novel, LOVERS AND LIARS, will be published in May 2024.