Going to the Galapagos with families is an adventure that takes the breath away. The archipelago is a natural playground for all ages with miles of beaches, islands where animals run free, and activities that are fun for the whole crew.
Keep reading for ideas & tips of the cool things you and your family can do when visiting the Galapagos islands.
The most important decision for your Galapagos vacation with kids is whether to opt for a live-aboard cruise or go for a land-based trip. Whilst cruises take you further afield to see more diversity of islands, and cruise guides can really bring the Galapagos experience alive for kids, the downside is that you can start to feel cooped up after a few days aboard a yacht. For that reason, you should also consider the alternative of a land-based Galapagos vacation; these tours can be tailored specifically to your family, offer a great range of fun activities for all ages, give you a lot more flexibility in activities and allow you to relax with the crew away from the crowds at the end of the day.
Whichever type of trip you prefer, the next consideration is when to travel? The good news is that the Galapagos Islands are a year-round destination with good weather in all months, and there is always something new and interesting happening in nature, different mating, nesting and hatching seasons. The bad news is that demand is always high during kids’ school vacation times, so be sure to plan ahead of time. We would recommend booking at least 6-9 months before traveling for summer months, and 1 year before for Easter / Christmas holidays.
Children of any age can visit the Galapagos Islands, however, we recommend that ages 5+ will get most out of the experience. The educational benefits of learning about nature, volcanoes, and evolution firsthand are unforgettable, and the family memories will last a lifetime.
We have helped families travel to Galapagos with toddlers or babies too, but some of the activities may not be suitable at this age, so a babysitter is recommended to look after the kids while Mum and Dad enjoy Galapagos activities.
There are heaps of fun, kid-friendly activities & adventures to keep little ones busy, read on for a few of our top suggestions.
Both cruises and land tours include guided walks as part of their itinerary. Not only will you get up close to lots of amazing Galapagos wildlife, but you’ll also learn lots of fun facts about nature along the way with your expert guide.
Without a doubt, Galapagos snorkeling is a big highlight for most kids, an opportunity to interact with playful sea lions and spot colorful underwater creatures. Check out our Galapagos snorkeling with kids blog for more info.
Learning is, of course, an important part of the Galapagos experience for kids (and adults too!). Each of the main islands has interpretation centers where families can learn about the delicate balance of Galapagos life together.
Depending on age and ability there are plenty of other fun activities that can be included in a land tour, such as kayaking, biking, paddle boarding, horse riding, and more.
Kids and families will literally love EVERY tourist sites in the National Park, as each place is unique and enjoyable in its own way. But of course, there are some extra special hidden surprises that are guaranteed to put a smile on kids’ faces.
A fish market doesn’t get the kids jumping up and down at first glance, but at the outdoors fish market in Puerto Ayora, you will find some highly unusual customers … pelicans and the occasional sea lion line up at the counter hoping to gobble down tasty scraps, and produce quite a spectacle for tourists!
Any kid who has enjoyed watching ‘journey to the center of the earth’ is going to want to walk into a Galapagos lava tunnel. The whole family can climb into these ancient tubes and witness how the islands were formed, just remember to take a torch along with you, and a sense of adventure to see where the tunnel leads.
The center and the Galapagos National Park raise giant tortoises from birth until they are old enough to be introduced in the wild. Visiting takes you through every stage of growth where seeing baby tortoises and the juvenile gently giants close up is fun for visiting the Galapagos with toddlers and the whole family. We suggest combining this visit with a trip to Santa Cruz Highlands to see giant tortoises in mud pools in the wild.
It is not often that you get a chance to safely look inside an active volcano crater, so head to Isabela Island and take a ½ day trek up Sierra Negra Volcano. This is one of the largest volcanic craters in the world, and inside you can see old lava flows, and often smoke billowing out of crevices.
Probably the easiest way to keep the whole family happy for a day is to visit the beach, and Galapagos has many to choose from. We recommend Puerto Villamil Beach (Isabela Island) or Tortuga Bay (Santa Cruz Island), both have long swathes of golden sand, are great for swimming, and have plenty of wildlife such as marine iguanas, sea lions, sally lightfoot crabs & sea birds to keep curious kids happy.
La Loberia (San Cristobal Island): If you want to see sea lions then a visit to La Loberia is a must! This site is actually a beautiful beach in its own right, but the real highlight is the large sea lion colony that makes this beach home. Tourists often while away hours watching the sealions laze around on the sand, and interact together.
El Ceibo treehouse, (San Cristobal Island): Last, but not least, young kids usually gaze in awe at this treehouse atop a 300-year-old Ceibo tree. Climb up for a real-life Tarzan experience, and you can even stay the night if you wish as the treehouse is equipped with shower & toilet.
All of the sites and activities above, and much more besides, can easily be combined into a family trip. Happy Gringo specializes in Custom-made Galapagos land tours, helping you to personalize a unique Galapagos itinerary to keep the kids entertained, and the adults happy. Just let us know the ages of each family member, and give us an idea of which activities you most enjoy, and we will do the rest of the work for you.
Some activities do offer kids discounts so don’t forget to ask us about that, and you can also save $$$ by staying in family rooms at hotels.
No problem, the Galapagos Islands are a popular destination for seniors, and there are lots of activities for the older generation to enjoy.
Again, the key decision is Cruise vs Land tour. Whilst seniors will love watching the kids have fun on a land tour, they might find traveling easier aboard a large cruise ship where they receive more attention and are well looked after by the experienced crew.
The activities on a cruise ship tour are much the same as land tours, that is, lots of nature walks, beach relaxation, swimming & snorkeling. Seniors will usually be paired together into a less active small group, so you can take your time on the activities, and guides are used to adjusting the pace for you.
Good mobility is required for the walks, and some may be over rough terrain, but your guide will always inform you before each activity, so you can decide whether to go along, or relax aboard the ship instead. Walking sticks are often available too.
Large cruise ships also have better onboard facilities, are more stable in the sea, and have a doctor on board in case of any health issues.
So, as you can see the Galapagos Islands are the perfect destination for a family vacation, whatever your age range.
You could also combine Galapagos with some days in mainland Ecuador. We already have two trip itineraries specially designed for families:
Or of course, we can tailor a unique itinerary for you.
For more information about going to the Galapagos with families, kids or toddlers, and travel in the islands for seniors, contact a member of our team.