The 5 Best Rated Snorkelling Sites in Galapagos
Get the Most Out of Your Underwater Adventure on These Islands!
Some people will argue that Galapagos under the sea offers even better wildlife observation opportunities that what you can find on land. Recognized as a World Heritage site in 2001, the Galapagos Marine Reserve is one of the largest in the world and covers an area equivalent to the size of Greece.
There are good reasons for this.
Fishing is solely permitted to locals, and only artisanal fishing practices are allowed. The large international tuna fleets are kept out, operating just beyond the limits of the marine reserve, 65 kilometres / 40 miles out from the nearest land point. As a result, you’ll be hard-pressed to find more pristine ocean waters anywhere else. It is worthwhile to perfect your snorkelling skills before starting your Galapagos vacation to ensure you get the most out of your time in the islands.
We asked 12 Galapagos naturalist guides who have worked a combined total of 231 years to evaluate all the snorkelling sites accessible to visitors (39 in all). They rated them from 0 to 100. Here's what they found:
Champion Islet - Score: 96%
Located just off the island of Floreana island in the southern part of the archipelago, this small island’s eastern side is bathed by ocean currents, which bring up rich nutrients from deeper waters. Naturalist guides rate the snorkelling around Champion as the best in Galapagos. Sea lions, sea turtles, white tip sharks, sea horses, schools of tropical fish - and if you're lucky, hammerheads, giant manta rays dolphins and eels can be spotted here.
Score Punta Mejia - Marchena Island: 94%
Located on the northern edge of the main group of islands, this rarely visited snorkelling site is rated as among the top snorkelling sites in Galapagos. Deep, calm and clear waters of the northern archipelago along with jagged topography of the place give the feeling of witnessing the first years of our planet and its underwater world. In addition to a wide variety of fish, snorkelers often see stingrays, sea turtles, reef sharks and from time to time, some marine mammals such as false killer whales and pilot whales.
Devil's Crown - Floreana Island: 91%
Coral formations can be found in this flooded volcanic crater. They attract other marine animals, making it one of the best snorkelling spots in the Galapagos. You can see sea lions, sharks, stingrays, tropical fish, eels and sea turtles or watch a blue-footed booby as it dives into the water to catch their prey. The outer rim of the crater is a paradise for birds, including boobies, pelicans, frigates and red-billed tropical birds.
Score Punta Vicente Roca – Isabela Island: 90%
Located off the northwestern coast of Isabela Island, the waters here are bathed by the nutrient-rich Cromwell current. You’re likely to see mantas, sea turtles, marine iguanas and sea lions. The famous mola mola (ocean sunfish), a very large, unusual fish might be spotted. With some additional luck, you could actually see a whale shark cruising by (more likely between June and November). You’ll almost certainly see penguins. Above the waves, onshore, blue-footed and Nazca boobies preen alongside an occasional flightless cormorant.
North Seymour - 86%
This is the only one of the 5 best snorkelling spots that can be visited by land-based visitors (via a full day trip). North Seymour is located just off Baltra Island (a.k.a. South Seymour) – where the main airport in Galapagos is located. You’re almost certain to swim along with white-tipped reef sharks and with as are a variety of other tropical fish such as angelfish, stingrays, parrotfish and sea lions – who are like underwater puppy dogs.
The waters of the Galapagos are the warmest from January to May and the coolest from August to November. People used to swim in cold waters can do without a wetsuit at any time of the year, but generally, at least one shorty is appreciated from June to December, and most should be able to do without a wetsuit between February and April.
The Five Most Photographed Visitor Sites in the Galapagos Islands
From Breathtaking Landscapes to the Wonders of Wildlife
Though most people would consider Galapagos to be a wildlife photographer's dream destination (they would not be mistaken), the archipelago also offers a wildly diverse range of land and seascapes. Created by a volcanic hotspot under the Earth’s crust, Galapagos consists of a dozen larger and many smaller islands and islets formed by continuous volcanic eruptions during the last 5 million years. The most recent islands to the west are still subject to occasional eruptions. The island of Fernandina is the youngest of all, and 90% of its surface is mostly made up of recent and very arid lava fields, with only a few places sheltering plant and animal life.
All of this volcanic activity has left a legacy of unusual landscapes, volcanic cones, expanses of pahoehoe lava fields, sulphur fumaroles, lava tunnels, one of the largest sunken craters on the planet, pristine beaches with multi-coloured sand and more.
But the 85 sites designated for visitors to the Galapagos National Park Service do not represent equally impressive landscapes. To help visitors better plan their trips and embark on a superior cruise itinerary, we hired 12 naturalist guides who together have worked for a total of 231 years on the islands to assess the extent to which visitors are impressed by what they see or how much time they spend taking pictures of the landscapes at particular sites. Ratings range from 0% (no interest / few pictures taken) to 100% (everybody is impressed / taking pictures). The following is the result of their work.
Bartolome Island: 98%
Bartolome Island has two sites for visitors, which usually combine into one visit. The first includes a swim and snorkel off a beautiful beach around the well-known Pinnacle Rock; the undersea world is very impressive. You’ll be sharing the waves with sea turtles, penguins, rays, white tip reef sharks and a variety of tropical fish. The second site is accessible by a long staircase, which leads to a breathtaking view from which you can see graphic evidence of recent volcanic activity both on the island of Bartolome and beyond the neighbouring island of Santiago.
Punta Espinoza on Fernandina Island: 91%
Barely a few hundred thousand years old and with no invasive species, this is probably the most pristine island you will ever see in your life. Its central volcano dominates the terrain, extending its rugged lava fields to the shore. One of the island’s iconic species is the flightless cormorants, which nest there, along with “lizard city,” which is, in fact, one of the highest densities of marine iguana, penguins and, if you're lucky, the Galapagos falcon. Big Pacific swells often come crashing ashore here – creating a powerful spectacle.
Sierra Negra Volcano, Isabela Island: 91%
The Sierra Negra volcanic caldera is the second largest in the world. A 45-minute drive from the main town, followed by a half-hour walk or a horse ride will take you to the edge of the caldera. From here, you can follow the path for another hour. It is divided in two: to the west, it heads towards an old sulphur mine; to the east, the path leads to the Chico volcano where one of the most recent eruptions took place (2019). Magnificent views of Alcedo, Fernandina and Azul volcanoes in the distance can be had on clear days.
Gardner Bay on the Spanish island: 91%
Considered the best beach in the Galapagos where you’ll find sea lions and cheeky mocking birds (they will peck at your shoelaces), this long stretch of pristine white sand is what you expect to see in travel magazines under the caption “Beautiful tropical beach.”
Tagus Cove - Isabela Island: 88%
This is a deep-water cove frequented by whalers and pirates, as evidenced by old shoreline graffiti. A short steep walk leads to Darwin Lake inside a volcanic cone. With beautiful views in all directions, you’ll be bumping into Galapagos finches, Galapagos hawks, yellow warblers, Galapagos flycatchers and more. Walk along the path to the end to enjoy a wide view north toward the Ecuador volcano, 35 km (21 miles) in the distance. A small boat ride along the cliffs can get you up close to flightless cormorants, Galapagos penguins and Galapagos sea.
Photography Tips for Travelling to The Galapagos Islands
How to Perfectly Capture the Spectacular Beauty of the Galapagos Islands on Camera
They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but when photographing the stunning natural beauty of the Galapagos Islands, the photos are truly priceless.
Whether you are a professional photographer or just a hobbyist considering a trip to the Galapagos Islands, there are ways to maximize your experience and improve your chances of capturing the most incredible moments imaginable.
Which is why we’ve gathered the top industry tips for ensuring you get the perfect shot while remaining safe and respectful of the abundant wildlife that habitat the islands.
Cruise Vs Land-Based Tours – Which Will Provide the Best Photography Opportunities
If capturing all the amazing Galapagos wildlife and beautiful landscapes is top of mind when travelling to the islands, then a cruise will provide the best photo opportunities.
A cruise allows you to see the most remote and spectacular uninhabited islands, allowing you to capture a diverse range of impressive wildlife up close.
And because a cruise stops at a new island each day, every day offers something new and exciting to experience and capture forever.
What’s a Typical Day Like on a Galapagos Cruise?
Here is the timeline for an average day aboard a Galapagos Islands cruise tour:
- 5:30 AM: Wake up, have breakfast on the ship.
- 6:00 AM to 10:00 AM: Arrive on shore for animal/landscape viewing.
- 10:30 AM to 11:30 AM: Snorkelling or panga ride/kayaking.
- 12:30 PM: Break for lunch. Ship may travel to nearby destinations.
- 2:00 PM to 6:00 PM: Another shore landing and possibly more snorkelling.
- 6:30 PM: Dinner aboard the ship.
- 12:00 PM: Ship begins cruising to tomorrow’s destination.
What Kinds of Things You Will Be Able to Capture
The Galapagos Islands truly are a wildlife photographer’s paradise, as there is such an incredible range of biodiversity that isn’t found anywhere else in the world.
From unique creatures in their natural habitat to volcanic landscapes surrounded by stunning, crystal clear turquoise waters and pristine white sand beaches, there is no limit when it comes to the immense amount of beauty you will be able to capture when visiting Galapagos.
Some highlights of the close-up encounters you can expect with the islands’ wildlife include:
- Marine and land Iguanas sunning themselves
- Majestic birds flying overhead
- Playful sea lions frolicking on the beach
- Courtship displays of the Waved Albatross
- Vibrant red and blue-footed boobies
- Galapagos penguins swimming
- Magnificent giant tortoises
- Rainbow coloured Sally Lightfoot crabs
Types of Shots to Focus On
With so much to do and see during a Galapagos cruise tour, deciding what kind of images to capture can be difficult to narrow down.
Here are some recommendations for shots to focus on to make the most out of this amazing photography opportunity.
Galapagos has some of the most open and expansive landscapes you may ever see in your lifetime, so be sure to capture everything it has to offer by using a wide-angle lens. Make sure to capture the contrast of the vibrant blue waters surrounded by darky, volcanic rock and white sand beach.
Landscape with Focal Foreground Element
Focusing in on some flora or fauna in the foreground, while also featuring the gorgeous landscape in the background makes for another incredible landscape shot.
Landscape with Many Elements
Try to capture what it actually feels like to be in the Galapagos islands without making the landscape or wildlife the sole focus.
Photograph the landscape from a wider angle and feature some animals in the shot, without making them the focal point.
Use a longer lens to capture a portrait of one single animal and use a wide aperture to help blur the background. You should still be able to see enough of the background to get a sense of what is going on in the animal’s surroundings.
You don't need to just focus on portraits of the whole animal. Galapagos has several species with unique characteristics and other interesting details that make for incredible macro shots. Focusing on the vibrant feet of blue or red-footed boobies, in particular, make for great detail shots.
One of the most amazing things about the Galapagos Islands is that animals are typically not fearful of humans, allowing you the opportunity to see them up close in their native habitat, and capture their unique quirks and behaviour.
Take advantage of this opportunity by observing from a bit of a distance and using a longer lens to capture some of this behaviour in real-time.
What Photography Equipment Should I Bring?
When travelling abroad, lugging all of your expensive camera equipment with you can be a challenge, especially when taking part in a cruise.
To avoid having to pack up and lug around a large amount of heave photography equipment each time you leave the ship for an excursion, try and limit your gear as much as you can and only bring the essentials.
Avoid bringing a tripod, as it will only end up being a burden, and you will have limited opportunities to use it. Don’t bring a flash or drone either, as both are against national park regulations.
Do bring, however:
- A telephoto lens
- A wide-angle lens
- Extra memory cards
- Extra batteries
- Padded camera bag
- Extra camera strap
- An underwater camera for snorkelling shots
Photography Tips for Getting Great Wildlife Shots
Do Your Research and Get to Know the Animals’ Behaviour and Patterns
The secret to capturing the best wildlife shots in the Galapagos Islands is to get to know the animals you are photographing.
Do your research and observe them for a bit to find out when they wake and feed, what they eat, and where can they be found.
Get Close to Ground Level
Most animals in the Galapagos are small and reside quite close to the ground, so getting down on their level will help you see the world from their point of view and capture the perfect shot from straight on.
Make Sure Subject Is in Focus
There’s nothing worse than photographing an incredible subject like Galapagos wildlife and having your photo out of focus.
Prevent this by shooting at a higher shutter speed when capturing a moving subject and have your camera set to auto-focus.
Try to Capture Behaviour
As previously mentioned, spend time observing wildlife and their habits and try to capture some of their unique behaviour, such as:
- Sally Lightfoot crabs cleaning ticks from the skin of marine iguanas
- Male blue-footed boobies strutting in front of females
- Waved Albatrosses taking part in adorable breeding rituals
- Galapagos fur seals splashing around in the water
- Marine iguanas basking in the sun
In order to truly capture the unique characteristics of Galapagos wildlife, you will need to get close using a long lens. Get some tightly cropped close up shots of animals that allow you to see some amazing details.
Pay Attention to The Background
When photographing wildlife, it can be easy to forget about the gorgeous landscape that surrounds you. Keep in mind that the wildlife isn’t the only thing you will want to look back on and remember about the Galapagos Islands when you return home.
So, along with close up shots of wildlife, remember to get some shots with the stunning landscape in the background.
Don’t Get Too Close
While many Galapagos creatures don’t fear humans and may get close to you, National Park rules dictate that visitors must maintain a distance of at least 2 metres from all animals. This is for both your safety and the animals’.
For this reason, having a longer lens will come in handy for getting close up shots.
Take Your Time
To avoid frightening the animals, try not to rush and make sudden movements. Be patient and take your time observing the animals in order to get a few perfect shots, rather than running around trying to get as many photos as possible.
Always Look Behind You
Some critters are shy, but curious and may sneak up on you if you are not careful.
Always be looking around to prevent an unexpected run-in with the creatures you are trying to capture.
The most important thing to remember when visiting the Galapagos Islands is to show respect for the wildlife. After all, you are entering their habitat, not the other way around.
Remember that these are living creatures that are incredibly important to the delicate ecosystem of the Galapagos Islands, which is why the National Park has such strict rules in place.
The Galapagos Islands are one of the most unique travel destinations in the world and should be on the bucket list of every photographer.
However, it’s important to do your research and plan ahead to ensure you are able to get some amazing shots while staying safe and respecting the rules of the Galapagos National Park and the animals that live there.
The Unique History and Characteristics of The Galapagos Islands
Historical Significance of the Galapagos Islands and What Makes Them So Special
Along with being a spectacular place to visit with a wealth of unique experiences to offer, the Galapagos Islands have a lot of historical significance and unique characteristics you won’t see anywhere else on the planet. From volcanoes and origin stories of natural selection to endangered species, these islands are incredibly special and should be treated with care.
To help you gain a better understanding of the distinctiveness of the Galapagos Islands and what makes them so unique, here are some important facts about the islands to familiarize yourself with if you are considering a trip to Galapagos.
The Geography and Geology of the Islands
Located 906 km (600 miles) off the coast of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands are a volcanic archipelago made up of 13 main islands and nearly 100 smaller islands and islets.
The Galapagos Islands are located at the juncture of three different tectonic plates – moving pieces of the earth’s crust – making the Galapagos Islands one the most volcanically active places in the world.
Situated on top of a volcanic hotspot, the islands were created as the result of millions of years of volcanic activity, and there are currently 13 active volcanoes in the archipelago. There are several fumaroles (one is accessible as a visitor site), but eruptions only happen every few years. These are not explosive, but rather consist of cracks in the sides of volcanoes opening up and magma squirting out.
As a result, the Galapagos’ famous turquoise blue waters, lush greenery, and pristine white sand beaches are contrasted by a harsh yet stunning volcanic landscape.
Spectacular Wildlife and Biodiversity
The Galapagos Islands are perhaps best known for their unique biodiversity and impressive array of highly adapted species, many of which are endemic to individual Islands. In fact, 97% of the reptiles and 20% of the marine species found in the Galapagos Islands do not exist anywhere else on earth.
Due to their remote nature, very few mammals were able to make it to the islands – there are only 2 native mammal species there (a small rat and a bat).
But what really makes the animal life on the islands so incredible is that fact that the species have evolved with very little human contact or any major predators for hundreds of years. This means that they are typically not afraid of humans and will often either come close to you, or let you get close to them.
Some of the most distinctive animals from the Galapagos that you can expect to see includes:
- Marine and land iguanas
- Seals and sea lions
- Giant tortoises
- Green sea turtles
- Galapagos penguins
- Darwin’s Finches
- Blue-Footed Boobies
- Flightless cormorants
While the Galapagos Islands are known for being home to an amazing array of unique animal species, many people often do not realize how much historical – and scientific – significance these creatures have.
Back in 1831, famed naturalist Charles Darwin set sail on the H.M.S Beagle on a voyage to South America. By 1835, Darwin landed in the Galapagos Islands, where he spent 5 weeks studying the unique flora and fauna of the islands and collecting geological and biological specimens from the islands for further analysis.
During his time on the islands, Darwin noticed that while certain species such as finches (now known as Darwin’s Finches) were similar from island to island, each had evolved and adapted to their environments in different ways.
Darwin went on to use his observations to help develop his ground-breaking theory of evolution outlined in his 1859 publication, On the Origin of Species, and dramatically altered the way people at the time understood the biological origins of life.
Other Interesting Facts About the Galapagos Islands
To help you understand even more about what makes the Galapagos Islands so unbelievably unique, here are some additional facts about the islands that many visitors may not know.
In 2012, the Galapagos suffered a huge loss when Lonesome George — the sole remaining Pinta Island tortoise and icon of the Galapagos conservation efforts — died, marking the official extinction of the species.
For many years, Lonesome George was the last known surviving Pinta tortoise and considered the rarest creature in the world.
In fact, The Pinta tortoise was thought to have gone extinct in the early 20th century. It wasn’t until 1971 when a scientist discovered that one still remained, who was swiftly brought to the Charles Darwin Research Station where he lived for the rest of his life and was given the name Lonesome George.
While in captivity, efforts were made to have George mate with females of other Galapagos tortoise species but were unsuccessful.
During his time at the research station, George remained in relatively good health and is estimated to have lived to over 100 years old by the time he eventually died of natural causes.
97% of Galapagos Is A National Park
Another factor that makes the Galapagos Islands one of the most unique vacation destinations is that the 97% of the total area of the islands remains uninhabited and is a part of the Galapagos National Park.
Established in 1959, the Galapagos National Park is the oldest national park in Ecuador and is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This means that strict measures are in place to protect the islands and minimize the impact of visitors.
As a result, any tourist visiting the islands on a cruise or other tour must be accompanied by Galapagos National Park certified guide.
The Galapagos National Park also collects an entrance fee of $100 USD from each visitor, which goes directly towards conservation efforts along with the protection and management of the islands.
Presence of Penguins
When most people think of penguins, they think of snow, ice, and freezing cold climates. However, the cute, beloved birds can actually be found in warmer climates like the Galapagos. In fact, the Galapagos Islands are home to the only species of penguin found north of the Equator.
These penguins are typically found on Isabela and Fernandina Islands but can also be spotted on Floreana and Bartolome islands.
Galapagos penguins are able to survive in hotter climates by developing ways to adapt to the warm weather, such as walking on land with their flippers over their feet to avoid being burned from the sun.
The penguins are also able to thrive in their tropical habitat due to the cool, nutrient-rich waters of the Humboldt Current that flows north from Antarctica.
Pirates and Buried Treasure
Nearly 200 years before Charles Darwin even stepped foot in the archipelago, the Galapagos Islands once served as a safe haven for English pirates and Buccaneers after attacking and looting Spanish treasure fleets transporting gold and silver from South America to Spain.
The islands provided the perfect spot for taking refuge because they were close enough to shipping routes to serve as a launching pad for attacks on Spanish ships but were far enough from the South American mainland that pirates could make a clean break and hide out and guard their loot.
According to local legend, some of that treasure remains hidden in the Galapagos to this day.
Major Landmarks and Visitor Sites
There are endless things to see and do when visiting the Galapagos Islands, so how do you know where to start?
To give you an idea of what to look for when selecting an itinerary, we’ve broken down some of the most iconic and historical attractions in the Galapagos Islands.
Charles Darwin Research Station
The Charles Darwin Research Station, located in the city of Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island, is a biological research station operated by the Charles Darwin Foundation along with over 200 scientists and volunteers.
Founded in 1959, the foundation has dedicated its efforts towards the preservation and conservation of the Galapagos Islands along with the many animals and plants that live there.
This includes monitoring the conservation of the islands’ and flora and fauna, caring/rehabilitating for injured and/or endangered animals until they are ready to be released back to the wild, and tracking the movement of sea turtles, Galapagos penguins, and sharks around certain islands.
The Charles Darwin Research Station itself is a popular tourist destination where visitors can witness the famous tortoise breeding center – where Lonesome George lived until his death – and learn more about local conservation efforts and the Galapagos wildlife.
Punta Suarez, Española Island
Punta Suarez is one of just two visitor sites on Española and is home to the Galapagos' only colony of the Waved Albatross – a rare endemic species that can only be seen on Española Island.
The main activity for visitors to enjoy is hiking a 2 km trail through Masked and Blue-Footed Booby colonies and enjoying the spectacular views this island has to offer.
Another highlight of this hike is a lava fissure that has created a blowhole that sprays water nearly 30 metres into the air.
Punta Vicente Roca, Isabela Island
Located on the largest island in the Galapagos, Punta Vicente Roca is home to the remnants of an ancient volcano that has formed two turquoise coves and is one of the islands’ top-rated snorkelling sites.
Animals that call this spot home include blue-footed and Nazca boobies, flightless cormorants, sea lions, and sea turtles.
Popular activities include taking a panga ride along the cliffs or exploring the partially sunken cave located right at the water’s edge.
Devil’s Crown, Floreana Island
Known as one of the best places for snorkeling in the Galapagos, this visitor’s site got it’s name from a large ring of jagged, volcanic rocks resembling a crown that stick up from the water just off the shore of Floreana Island.
What makes the site so enticing for snorkellers and scuba divers is that the rocks make it an attractive spot for smaller fish, which attract larger fish for feeding, and so on.
Marine life that can be spotted by snorkellers include hammerhead sharks, white-tipped reef sharks, sea turtles, manta rays, and spotted eagle rays.
There is also a colony of playful sea lions that live among the rocks and along the nearby shore.
Prince Phillip’s Steps, Genovesa Island
Named after England’s Prince Philip, who visited Galapagos in 1965 and again in 1981, this site is a steep, rocky trail leading up a cliff that provides the perfect opportunity to spot a variety and abundance of birdlife including:
- Red-footed boobies
- Nazca boobies
- Short-eared owls
- Red-billed tropicbirds
- Galapagos swallows
- Galapagos doves
During your time at this area of Genovesa Island, you will have the opportunity to see a small fur seal colony, along with variety of marine life clinging to the rocks, and stunning views of lava plains.
As you can see, the Galapagos Islands truly are a treasure trove full of history and natural wonder, and are the perfect destination for history, science, and animal lovers alike.
So, when planning your next big vacation, consider a cruise to the Galapagos Islands in order to really experience all that the islands have to offer.
Why an Expedition Cruise in the Galapagos Islands is Perfect for Your Next Family Vacation
How to Take A Trip to the Galapagos Islands with Children
If you're planning your next big family trip and are unsure of where to go, why not consider the sunny, ecologically diverse Galapagos Islands?
With so much to do and see, the Galapagos Islands can be an incredible destination for both parents and kids of all ages.
From the stunning turquoise blue waters contrasted by rocky, volcanic terrain, to the spectacularly diverse species of animals, both parents and children will fall in love with Galapagos, making the islands a once in a lifetime travel opportunity that you will never forget.
What to Expect When Travelling to the Galapagos Islands Depending on Your Children’s Age
Travelling abroad with children can pose some challenges at any age, but certain age groups may be more difficult to travel with than others.
To help you better prepare for a trip to the Galapagos Islands, here are some tips for planning your vacation based on the age of your kids.
Infants and Toddlers
While it is possible to take an infant or toddler on vacation to the Galapagos, you may encounter some challenges trying to explore the islands and navigate the rocky terrain.
Also, keep in mind that when touring the Galapagos Islands, the uninhabited islands on many itineraries do not have bathroom facilities, which can become a problem if you need to change your infant’s diaper.
To ensure that you as a parent, and your child are able to fully immerse yourself in the Galapagos experience and take in everything that the islands have to offer, it’s recommended that you wait until your child is a bit older to travel with them to the islands.
Ages 5 to 12
Many parents ask themselves, “Is my child old enough for overseas travel?” This is a particularly common question asked by parents considering a trip to the Galapagos Islands.
There really is no simple answer to this, as your child’s readiness all depends on their level of maturity, behaviour, and respect, as they will need to be able to follow the rules of the National Park and respect the Galapagos wildlife.
They will also need to have some patience to sit through long flights with connections and be physically able to hike rocky terrain.
How Long Should I Book My Family Trip?
If you are travelling to the Galapagos Islands with your children, a shorter trip will likely work best for your family. However, this is completely up to you. While 8 days is the standard length for a cruise, it’s possible to find 5- or 6-day cruises for those short on time.
Are the Galapagos Islands Safe for Kids?
When done correctly, a family trip to the Galapagos Islands can be 100 percent safe and beneficial for young kids.
In fact, with knowledgeable guides and proper supervision, one of the only safety risks you’ll need to worry about is the harmful rays from the sun.
What Food Should We Expect?
On the islands themselves, you can expect lots of delicious fresh seafood (ceviche is an especially common dish) along with plenty of exotic fruits.
Galapagos meals are fairly simple, light, and fresh, combining the elements of Ecuadorian cuisine like meat, potatoes, and grains with coastal ingredients like yucca and seafood.
But if your kids are picky eaters, not to worry, most cruise ships will offer child-friendly meals if requested.
Travelling by Land Vs. Sea – Which Is Better for Families?
Benefits of a Cruise
When it comes to getting the full Galapagos experience, travelling by cruise is by far the most relaxed and efficient way to see everything the islands have to offer, especially if you are travelling as a family.
Since Galapagos is an archipelago made up of a dozen larger volcanic islands and nearly 100 smaller ones located 600 miles/1000 km off the coast of Ecuador, cruises are the most efficient way to visit these islands, especially remote ones without any human habitation.
Many of these islands are not able to be visited in just a day trip if you are staying in a hotel on one of the main islands.
With a cruise, your ship is usually travelling at night or during meals, allowing you to visit many different islands during your trip without having to ever miss out on valuable exploration time.
In fact, most cruises have pre-planned, diverse itineraries, allowing you to visit up to two sites per day where you can enjoy a variety of activities, without the stress of planning.
An added benefit is if you choose to participate in a cruise that is specifically designated as a family cruise, child-friendly activities are likely to be incorporated.
This means that their days will be packed full of fun adventures, tiring them out by the evening and pretty much guaranteeing they’ll be in bed early most nights.
Plus, there are likely to be many other children on board that your kids can play with, giving you as a parent a bit of alone time to take in your surroundings. And of course, this also means there will be other parents for you to chat with and enjoy the company of other adults.
Top Attractions and Activities for Kids
When visiting the Galapagos Islands with your kids, you will never run out of fun activities. Here are some examples of family-friendly activities the whole family can enjoy.
A defining feature of the Galapagos Islands is the vast number of unique species that call the islands home.
And rather than shying away from you, most animals feel comfortable being amongst humans, and may even approach you, allowing you to get close enough to – respectfully – observe them in their natural habitat.
This can be a great learning experience for kids, as they will learn how to respect the wildlife and know that they don’t need to be afraid of exotic animals.
Some cool creatures you can expect to see, and in some cases maybe even interact with include:
- Sea lions
- Marine and Land Iguanas
- Giant tortoises
- Lava Lizards
- Galapagos penguins
- Sea turtles
If your kids are strong swimmers and aren’t afraid of getting up close and personal with marine life, then snorkelling can be a great activity that you, as a parent, will enjoy as well.
The Galapagos Islands are home to hundreds of fascinating species that can only be found in this part of the world, making it one of the top destinations for scuba diving and snorkelling.
So, when taking part in a snorkelling expedition led by an experienced guide, your child will be able to learn all about whitetip reef sharks, sea lions, green sea turtles, exotic fish, and even Galapagos penguins by getting to see them up close in their natural habitat.
If your kids are too young for snorkelling or are simply not interested, relaxing or exploring one of the Galapagos’ many pristine, white, red, or black sand beaches can also be a fun family activity.
Not only will you be able to soak up some sun, build sandcastles, and take a dip in the ocean, but Galapagos beaches are also another great opportunity to take in the incredible wildlife native to the islands, such as penguins, turtles, sea lions, and more.
Perhaps the best way to truly experience everything the Galapagos Islands have to offer is to explore them on foot.
Expedition cruises will take you around to visit several of the islands, exploring them on foot with your naturalist guide.
Hiking the islands is a perfect activity for young explorers, as children will be able to learn all about how volcanic islands are formed as they trek across lava fields, tuff cones, craters, and sunken calderas.
For those who prefer to remain above the water but still want to see various marine life up close, kayaking is the perfect, family-friendly activity.
Kayaking will allow you to still explore the ocean by skimming across the surface, without having to get too close for comfort to all the underwater creatures.
Along with the untouched natural beauty and biodiversity, the Galapagos Islands are known for their rocky, volcanic landscapes, produced by millions of years of ongoing volcanic activity.
A product of this is stunning underground lava tunnels found across the islands.
You can explore these natural cave formations with your children to help them – and yourself! – develop a better understanding of the volcanic nature of the archipelago and feel like a true adventurer.
Charles Darwin Research Station
Named after the famed naturalist who spent time developing his ground-breaking theory on evolution in the Galapagos Islands, the Charles Darwin Research Station is a biological research station operated by the Charles Darwin Foundation.
The centre is home to several exhibits along with a breeding centre where you can see iguanas and giant tortoises in various stages.
Visiting the station can be a great educational opportunity for your children to learn more about the animals living on the islands along with the foundation’s conservation efforts to help preserve these species.
When taking a family vacation to the Galapagos Islands, your children will gain incredible experiences and develop precious memories that will last a lifetime.
From days filled with exploration and adventure to days spent taking in the diverse wildlife and stunning views, visiting the Galapagos Islands will help kids to discover the beauty of nature and the magic of animals running free without fear of humans.
So, when planning your next big family vacation, consider the Galapagos Islands for a trip of a lifetime that both you as a parent and your children will remember forever.