The Galapagos archipelago is made up of 13 main islands about 9 islets and about 600 rocks, with a whopping 176 visitor sites in total, each offering their own experiences, attractions, and things to do. So how can travelers ensure that they’re really getting the most from their Galapagos vacation?
It’s important to consider who’s travelling, and plan your trip for your group. While adventurous adults may enjoy diving Darwin’s Arch or hiking the Sierra Negra volcanic rim, families with young children may be looking for something a little different.
Here are 5 not-to-miss experiences for anyone travelling to the Galapagos with kids:
- Small Boat Cruising
Forget everything you think you know about cruising. Small boat Galapagos cruises are much calmer and more laid back than traditional cruising, making them very relaxed places for families with small children. Some vessels like the Sea Star Journey have a selection of board and video games for children during dedicated family departures, keeping the little ones entertained while at sea. And should your children feel more comfortable onboard than on shore, large panoramic windows mean you won’t miss out on the volcanic scenery.
- Enclosure-Free Animal Encounters
Many children love visiting zoos, but seeing animals in enclosures can sometimes be upsetting. In the Galapagos, children can see animals in their natural habitat, and even get quite close to them. Perhaps best of all, children can see animals that they won’t see anywhere else, with 80% of birds and 97% of reptiles here being endemic to the islands. If your children are keen to see a specific species, plan your trip accordingly. Galapagos penguins, for example, are more often seen on Isabela and Fernandina.
- Beachside Fun
If children love spending fun days at the beach, they’ll love the Galapagos. One of the best beach experiences here is at Gardner Bay on Espanola Island. The beach is 2km long, making it one of the biggest beaches in the area, and boasts crystal clear waters. Swimming is permitted in the shallow waters, and you may even catch a glimpse of a sea lion or two. Throughout most of the year, green sea turtles can be found swimming in the water, but between January and March you may see them nesting on the beach
Children don’t need to be strong swimmers (or even swimmers at all) to experience the marine magic of the Galapagos. At many visitor sites, it’s possible to hop in a tandem kayak with your child (wearing a life jacket for safety), and gently row around the waters. Baroness Bay on Floreana is a great place for kayaking as you can make your way around the four little islets and check out the wildlife just off the coast. Some animals that can be seen here include sea lions, green sea turtles, and plenty of fish. Even snorkeling is possible with a life vest on. Upper market yachts like the Sea Star Journey offer glass bottom boats/zodiacs for non swimmers.
- Easy Strolls on Santa Fe or North Seymour
Volcanic in nature, much of the Galapagos is steep and mountainous. However, there is one island that is remarkably flat. Santa Fe is great for little legs, and there’s an easy walking trail that’s ideal for families. Choose the short loop trail that stays close to the beach, and you and your family can enjoy a relaxing stroll with a chance to see the Santa Fe land iguanas and Galapagos hawks, as well as salt bushes and giant prickly pears. The other trail on Santa Fe is a little more strenuous, so nest for bigger kids. Another easily walkable island for the little ones is North Seymour, it is completely flat, the trails has little or no rocks to walk on and the nesting sites for frigate birds and blue footed boobies are just by the trail, one of the easier but more enjoyable wildlife walks in the archipelago.