One of the most famous wildlife-watching destinations on the planet, the Galápagos Islands offer its visitors countless opportunities; stroll alongside a giant tortoise, come face to face with sea lion pups, snorkel with penguins, swim with turtles and lay amongst hundreds of jet-black marine iguanas. Even within its small area, the archipelago that inspired Charles Darwin’s ground-breaking theory of evolution has an astonishing variety of fearless wildlife. To help you make the most of your holiday, we’ve offered our top tips for travelling to this corner of the world with children.
1) Although there are no age restrictions to visit the islands, we think that children from the age of 7 or over will enjoy the explorations and appreciate the destination a lot more.
2) The Galápagos Islands can be visited all year round. For warmer weather and calmer waters, travel between December to June.
3) The sea can be choppy from July to September so you may want to consider staying on land. From safari-style tented camps to hotels with swimming pools, there are plenty of options to choose from. The sea is usually cooler too so consider bringing or hiring a wetsuit.
4) If you decide to stay on land, for variety and a better understanding of the archipelago, consider an island-hopping adventure. The independence and freedom to enjoy the islands by spending as long as you like amongst the wildlife is a huge draw and the flexibility to take a private excursion as and when you feel like is highly appealing.
5) Can’t decide on a cruise or land-based itinerary, why not combine the two? On a cruise you’ll be kept busy with island visits at least twice a day so for a relaxing end to your trip, you could add two or three nights on one of the islands.
6) Snorkelling is one of the main activities in the Galápagos so expect to snorkel at least once a day during a cruise. All cruises provide snorkelling equipment and some even offer childrens sizes so you don’t have to worry about flippers taking up precious luggage space.
7) There are over 50 vessels operating in the Galápagos so choosing the right one for you and your family may seem like a daunting task. Here at Journey Latin America we’ve inspected all the vessels we offer so can expertly guide you to making the right decision. We know if a vessel has interconnecting cabins, kayaks, stand-up-paddle boards and glass bottom boats. We can advise you on which vessels offer family departures and which offer a programme of activities for different ages.
The MY Origin and the Letty and Eric cruises offer family departures catering for three age ranges: 7-12 years, 12-17 years and 17-21 years. Younger children will enjoy games, parties and special meals while kids’ size masks, wet suits and flippers will let them join in with the fun swimming and snorkelling. Older teenagers and young people’s programmes are more active, with hikes and kayaking.
The Evolution offers family departures with guided tours as well as snorkelling and kayaking excursions designed for children. There is a special kids menu on board and all children receive an expedition journal.
The Santa Cruz, La Pinta and Isabela II ships offer a young pirates program with children’s activities for 7-12 year olds.
8) Given the distance involved and the variety of islands to explore, we’d recommend staying at least four nights, ideally seven. Each island offers different wildlife encounters, varied landscapes and unique experiences.
9) It’s not possible to fly to the Galápagos directly from the UK, you can, however, fly from either Guayaquil on Ecuador’s Pacific coast or from the colonial city of Quito. We highly recommend you explore some of Ecuador before heading to Galápagos – journey by steam train down the Avenue of the Volcanoes, pick-up a Panama hat at Otavalo market and find out where chocolate comes from, can all be easily combined with a trip to Galápagos.
Our 13-day Family Ecuador and Galápagos holiday combines an Amazon cruise with a land-based stay in the Galápagos at the Finch Bay hotel.
Alternatively, Ecuador's Andes and Galápagos Islands Hop is a family adventure that combines colonial Quito and the Avenue of the Volcanoes with two major islands in the Galápagos: San Cristobal and Santa Cruz.