When visiting the Galapagos Islands, you can see a lot by staying on a boat, but you can often miss a lot, too. Cruise itineraries can be hurried and quarters are often cramped. The views are spectacular and soothing, but you have to be on deck to capture them.
Perhaps one of the most overlooked experiences on the Galapagos Islands is just staying put, where there is one island, with one hotel, that is best positioned for enjoying all of the Galapagos: Hotel Solymar on Santa Cruz.
Situated in Puerto Ayora (where all cruise ships eventually anchor, anyway), Hotel Solymar is home to spectacular ocean front views and is a haven for some of the wildlife species that travelers come to see in the Galapagos.
Guests at Solymar will see at least half a dozen species of bird without even leaving the hotel. The Yellow warbler will duck into their restaurant to clean up bits of bread that fall during breakfast. Yellow-crowned night herons, Lava gulls, Pelicans and Blue-footed boobies often rest on the patio, while Frigate birds and pelicans sail over nearby fisherman's wharf.
But probably the most endearing wildlife attraction is the presence of sea lions lingering near the pool, an almost permanent fixture at Solymar.
Jimmy Perez, founder of Hotel Solymar, probably did not have this in mind when he made Santa Cruz his home in 1958. Those were rugged days, long before tourism took hold. His family says that at the time all Perez could really offer was sun and ocean, or "sol y mar." So the name stuck.
Little by little, as Perez built his house and a few cabins adjacent to Pelican Bay, for the scientists and occasional travelers that came to the islands, an air of hospitality took over. With time, Perez's reputation for affability and cheer and his unmatched location in Puerto Ayora, allowed Solymar to become one of the principal hotels on the island.
Today Hotel Solymar offers first class facilities and service, with 17 ocean front rooms. A new, second hotel, Isla Sol, has added 14 more rooms, along with conference rooms and all the amenities for groups and events, from weddings to corporate gatherings.
The explosive growth and popularity of the Galapagos Islands in recent decades means that Solymar has not only grown in size but it has matured to consider environmental consciousness. They have put into place smart practices that offer excellent service alongside environmentally friendly actions, such as recycling and minimizing non -biodegradable materials.
Packages & Excursions
If you come to the Galapagos to see several islands, not just Santa Cruz, Hotel Solymar will help you arrange an expedition. Day visits to the islands of Seymour, Bartholomew, the Plazas, Floreana, and Isabella are easily scheduled. But Solymar is proud of their heritage, which is why they put together tours to showcase the treasures of Santa Cruz, including sites that most cruise operators miss.
Though the chance to see a Galapagos Tortoise is a unique part of the experience, generally the cruise ship visitors see them only in captivity at the Charles Darwin Research Station, which is just a few minutes walk from Solymar. But those who stay on Santa Cruz have a chance to see them in their natural habitat. An easy day hike through the highlands offers a chance to encounter tortoises as they search for food or rest at a drinking hole.
Though the wildlife is the principal attraction to any Galapagos Islands, the highlands of Santa Cruz offer a bit more.
Those who like hiking and exploring will be fascinated to discover the lava tunnels and caves. Allison Schaffer, Reservations and Social Media Manager of Solymar, recommends a hike to the two twin craters referred to as Los Gemelos (the twins).
For those who prefer the coast and beaches, Academy Bay is a great place for snorkeling and diving, where visitors will encounter sea turtles, sharks, rays, and marine iguanas. More extensive diving packages can also be scheduled through Hotel Solymar.
Tortuga Bay, a 30-minute walk away from the bustle of Puerto Ayora, offers white sand beaches and calm waters where visitors can enjoy the ocean surf, kayaking, or snorkeling in the lagoon. The bay is home to more Pelicans, American Oystercatchers, Marine Iguanas, and Blue Herons.
And Garrapatero Beach is another secluded and private beach with white sand and black lava formations, offering visitors a peaceful opportunity to swim, snorkel, or simply relax beneath the mangroves.
Staying at Hotel Solymar
No matter what day time activity they choose, guests at Solymar know they always return to oceanfront accommodations.
The Solymar chef has an exquisite menu that includes seafood, steaks, and vegetarian options. The signature drinks at Solymar include the Margarita with Passion fruit, Mojitos, Caipiriñas y Piñas Coladas. Guests can enjoy them while watching the day turn into night and couples can enjoy a romantic evening by candlelight, oceanside.
Hotel Solymar offers custom packages. Overnight rates range from $148 for singles in Isla Sol to $225 for doubles with an ocean view. Taxes are additional, but buffet breakfast is included. For families, kids under 12 years of age stay for free in oceanfront rooms (1 child per adult).
For reservations or more information contact them at www.hotelsolymar.com.ec. / firstname.lastname@example.org or call 05-252-6281 / 252-7015. Follow them on Twitter @HotelSolymarGPS or join the hotel on Facebook: Hotel Solymar Galapagos.