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.