Deciding on the perfect family vacation – and looking for an extraordinary adventure? The Galapagos Islands are a natural wonderland for adventurers of all ages. Enchanting and whimsical, this is a land where giant tortoises reign supreme and close encounters with the animals are a daily occurrence. Close to home – yet worlds away – the Galapagos Islands offer a unique opportunity to learn about and experience nature at the same time.
Located 600 miles off the west coast of South America, the Galapagos Islands are easily accessible for families living in North America. Your trip begins with an international flight to mainland Ecuador – day trips from Miami are slightly longer than those from the Caribbean (just over 3 hours). You will arrive in the evening and connections to the Galapagos Islands will be available each morning.
Most travelers choose to start their trip in Quito – one of two international gateways to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. Located in the Andes Mountains, Quito is the capital of Ecuador and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. South America’s most enduring colonial city, Quito is well worth an extra night or two to explore on its own. The historic old city is rich in art and architecture, and Quito’s proximity to the equator (15 minutes away) gives you the opportunity to take family photos while walking the equator by a foot in each hemisphere.
Entry requirements for citizens of most countries are fairly simple and consist of a valid passport and return ticket – no vaccinations required.
Once you have decided that you are going to visit the Galapagos Islands, the next step is to choose the type of program that best suits your family – a cruise or a tour package. Over the past twenty-five years, cruises have become the traditional way to see the islands. Accommodations vary from 16 to 100 passengers, and you’ll cruise between the islands at night and explore the islands during the day. Each yacht has a predetermined itinerary ranging from 3 to 15 nights in length. Children 7 years old or older are welcome on board – special arrangements can be made for younger children upon request. Many of the yachts feature special family departures with kid-friendly activities and special menus designed for kids. Cruises usually offer discounts of up to 50% for children 11 and under.
Recently, Galapagos Tours has grown in popularity. Using one of the islands as a home base, tours can be any number of nights (3 nights is the recommended minimum). Tours combine day trips to a selection of islands with a range of activities including snorkeling, hiking, photography and kayaking as well as wildlife viewing and daily interactions with wildlife.
Galapagos Tour packages are the best alternative for families with young children, multi-generational families, or those family groups with a wide range of ages. Tours are more flexible and can be tailored to a family’s interests. You can select the number of hours you want to be on the tour each day as well as what time you leave each morning. Many families with smaller children choose to have a nanny join them on tours which provides more flexibility (local nannies are available). Your nanny can be dedicated to taking care of and enjoying the younger members of the family while leaving the parents and older children to enjoy long walks or more time on the water.
Whether you’re watching the smile on your child’s face while swimming with a sea lion, or taking photos of them next to a giant tortoise, the Galapagos Islands are a magical destination for adventurers of all ages. A visit to the Galapagos Islands provides you and your family with the backdrop to take amazing family photos while creating fond memories of your adventure together while also gaining more love and concern for the environment, which can last a lifetime.