La Pinta: Voyage of Discovery
The luxury yacht La Pinta cruises through the Galapagos year-round.
Photo by Ramiro Salazar
More than 600 nautical miles west of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean, the Galapagos Islands remain one of the Earth’s final untouched frontiers. The archipelago of 13 volcanic islands and 17 islets comprises a living museum of evolutionary biology—a land where plants and animals have evolved for centuries without human interference. Whether travelers were inspired by Darwin from high-school textbooks, intrigued by the pages of National Geographic or captivated by the stunning cinematography on Discovery Channel, the Galapagos Islands have topped bucket lists since the advent of leisure travel. And even in today’s search for the next great “it” destination, the Galapagos prevail as a must-see.
A cabin aboard La Pinta.
With human populations contained to a few pockets of select islands and strict rules governing visitation of National Park lands, cruising is the principal method for exploring the Galapagos. A carefully controlled inventory of small ships and yachts is permitted to island-hop the region on preselected routes. Notably, the luxury yacht La Pinta, a premium ship from Ecuador’s superlative tour operator, Metropolitan Touring, travels the eastern, northern and western circuits in three-, four- and seven-night programs, respectively, all of which may be combined for longer cruise experiences.
Pinnacle Rock on Bartolomé Island
Cruising through Darwin’s diverse island funhouse is at once adventurous and exhilarating. With two island stops daily, each hour is an ambush of the senses. A single morning commingles a hike to the iconic Pinnacle Rock on Bartolomé Island (above) for sensational snorkeling among penguins, sea lions (below), tropical fish and stingrays followed by an afternoon traversing lava fields on Sullivan Bay with fregate birds overhead and marine iguanas below. Another day yields encounters with land tortoises and extended ambles along picturesque white-sand beaches where the red- and blue-footed boobies rule. Professional naturalists guide visitors step-by-step through their immersion in this natural selection. The “Choose You Own Adventure” experience grows even more bespoke, as travelers choose from panga (dinghy) rides, hikes, underwater adventures, photographic safaris and beach lounging against the Galapagos’ larger-than-life backdrops.
Photo by Ramiro Salazar
The yacht buffers the twice-daily rite of passage with excellent meals, libations and cozy spaces—like a library, a bar and a rooftop hot tub and lounge—idyllic for soaking in the surrounds and swapping stories among fellow jet-set. Twenty-four spacious and brightly decorated cabins provide a welcome respite from the action, each with an elongated, panoramic window maintaining an endless island or ocean view.
By no means is La Pinta the ultimate in rest, relaxation or glamour, but nobody comes to the Galapagos with haute couture in tow or late mornings in mind. This is the realization of a true once-in-a-lifetime experience, sprinkled with modern luxuries to make this sojourn a rather comfortable one.