Are you considering visiting the Galapagos with your kids? For many families, it’s a dream destination outside their budget or likely a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. The archipelago is an awesome place to holiday for parents with young kids, beach lovers, animal, and nature enthusiasts, anthophiles, and many more. Yet being so remote, travelling to the Galapagos islands isn’t exactly straightforward, especially when you are travelling solo with your kids. But just like any other destination, if you are well prepared, and ready to take on a few challenges, a single parent holiday in the Galapagos will be the most exciting and rewarding adventure you and the kids will ever have.
Galapagos with kids – what you need to know before you go
Make sure you find out all the facts before visiting the Galapagos islands from when to go and how to get around before you set off on your adventure.
How to get around
If you are travelling from the UK, chances are you have already spent a minimum of 17 hours in the air by the time you touch down at one of the Galapagos two main airports. After flying long haul with kids for that length of time, you really want to take it easy from here.
Nearly all the Galapagos islands are protected by a national park, so there are many places that you cannot go to on your own – you have to book an organised land tour or cruise. Both will allow you to explore, but if you are travelling with kids starting your adventure by boarding a Galapagos Islands cruise is undoubtedly the more convenient way of seeing the archipelago. With accommodation, food, and excursions all in one place, you don’t have to worry about travelling, packing, snacks, etc. Cruises are also time efficient, taking you and the kids safely from one place to another whilst you are all asleep on board. They allow you to visit even the most remote parts of the islands where you will be rewarded with sightings of exotic wildlife, including the blue-footed booby, Galapagos sea lions, and giant turtles.
Land tours and island hopping take a lot more organisation on your part, but on the upside, they are cheaper, and you won’t have to worry as much about you or the kids getting seasick. They are also more flexible as you could stay in one place and do day trips on some days and relax on others. The obvious downside is that you cannot travel as far in a day, unless you do some serious island-hopping changing accommodation frequently. Whichever method you choose to explore the Galapagos islands, you will not regret visiting!
Know the rules
Even when booking an organised tour, it’s important you and the kids familiar with the rules of the Galapagos National Park. The islands are a National Park and World Heritage Site, so you are expected to behave responsibly.
As mentioned before, if you visit any protected area of the Galapagos National Park, you must be accompanied by an authorised guide or book a tour with an authorised provider. You should also stay on marked trails and keep a distance of at least 6 feet from ANY wildlife you may encounter. Never touch or feed animals – for both their health and your safety! If you go snorkelling, do not pick anything up from the ground, or attempt to buy or take home souvenirs made from banned materials, such as corals, shells, vegetation, or lava rock. Needless to say, don’t litter – dispose of rubbish responsibly, and leave the island as you found it. Smoking and campfires are not permitted within the national park due to the risk of fire.
Pick the right time of year
The Galapagos enjoys a tropical and semi-arid climate with two distinct seasons. It is often called a year-round destination, so you just pick the season that suits your family best. The warm season runs from December through June, with average temperatures of 26 ºC. It is also a time when rainfall increases, but it’s not abundant, especially on the coast. The water is warm and clear, so ideal for swimming, snorkelling, and scuba diving.
From July onwards, the temperature drops but not massively so – the average temperature will still be around 23 ºC and the sea is still a comfortable 22/23 ºC. A southerly wind blows, and it is very dry, yet often misty and cloudy.
The quietest time to visit the Galapagos islands is September to early December when prices become more affordable. However, since the islands are protected as a national park, with strict regulations on tourist numbers, it will never feel crowded here whenever you decide to visit. Wildlife can be seen the whole year round, so unless you are a passionate diver, there is no reason not to go in the low season.
Galapagos with kids – things to do and see
All kids love animals, but what exactly can you do in the Galapagos with kids? The archipelago has the most fascinating flora and fauna, so diverse and unique to the islands that people from all over the world travel here to see it.
Spot the Galapagos’ unique wildlife
Just walking around some of the main towns on the islands will give you many close encounters with exotic creatures that are not afraid of humans. For other species, such as the giant tortoises, you will have to book a tour around the national park. Did you know that the Galapagos Tortoise can become over 100 years old weighing over half a ton? It makes quite an impressive sight, not just for kids! They can be found at private farms like Las Primicias and Reserves such as El Chato Tortoise Reserve on the island of Santa Cruz. A few can also be seen roaming around at Urbina Bay on Isabela Island.
The Galapagos is also well known for its beautiful land and marine iguanas. These can become 3 to 5 foot long, and can be very colourful, especially during the mating season and as they mature. Just imagine, your children’s delight at spotting these huge lizards in red, green, and yellow. You can spot iguanas on most of the islands.
There are many more native species in Galapagos, that you won’t find anywhere else in the world, such as the blue-footed booby, the Galapagos penguins (the smallest penguins in the world), Darwin’s finches, Frigate birds (also known as pirate birds), the Galapagos sea lions and Galapagos fur seals. Take a check list with you and get your kids to tick the animals off that they have spotted – it’s a simple activity but one that never fails to excite little ones.
Explore Galapagos’ underwater world
If you are traveling with teenagers, or even younger kids, you could book a diving or snorkelling tour to discover the truly magical underwater world of the Galapagos. Even young kids can snorkel, and with a lifejacket and an experienced guide you will effortlessly discover sea turtles, mantle rays, sea lions, and countless schools of coloured fish. These are memories you and your children will cherish for years to come.
Don’t forget that you are in a pretty remote place, so consider taking your own snorkelling equipment, wet suits, UV-suits, diving gear, etc. especially if you want specific sizes or equipment, have special needs, etc.
Hit the beach
If you are doing a land-based or hotel-based tour, you will have plenty of free time to visit the local beaches with your kids. Consider staying on the second largest island of the Galapagos, Santa Cruz, which has some of the best beaches in the world with pristine white sandy stretches and turquoise waters.
Do a tour to Las Bachas for swimming in turquoise water whilst pink flamingos and small sharks pass near you. If feel spontaneous, you could take a tax to Puerto Chino, as it does not require you to book a guided tour, but it takes around 40 minutes to drive and another 15 minutes to walk there before you spot the sea lions on this amazing beach. One of the best beaches in the world, Tortuga Bay, can only be reached via a 2.5 km track, but you will be rewarded with a magical sight, and might find yourself swimming with marine iguanas.
As you can see, you don’t need to take a bucket and spade on your Galapagos holiday – there is so much to see and admire, splashing around in the clear waters and admiring the marine life will have you and the children entertained for hours.
Do some island hopping
Whether you book a cruise, a land-tour, or a hotel-based stay for your single parent holiday, make sure that you fit as many of the beautiful Galapagos islands into your itinerary as you can. After all, you haven’t come all this way to stay put! Each island has its own distinctive characteristics, flora, and fauna.
Isabela Island may be the largest of the Galapagos islands, but despite this is neither densely populated nor the most visited. It has several volcanoes, which are intermittently active and a very interesting plants wildlife, including many wild Galapagos tortoises. The second largest island, Santa Cruz Island, which I mentioned before, is home to the Charles Darwin Research station, complete with adorable tortoise hatchlings, as well as some of the most amazing beaches in the world. San Cristobal Island is probably best known for its diving and snorkelling spots, Kicker Rock and Isla Lobos, where you can snorkel with sea lions and admire the famous blue-footed booby and other native birds. One of the smaller, uninhabited islands is Bartolomé, probably the most photographed spots in the Galapagos and a must-see. Here you will find the iconic Galapagos penguins and other exotic wildlife, such as white-tipped reef sharks and sea lions. These are just some of the 20 or so islands in the Galapagos that you could include them in your cruise or island-hopping tour.
We hope you enjoyed our short guide to the Galapagos islands with kids! If the stunning archipelago is at the top of your ultimate dream holiday wish list, make it come true before your kids are grown up! With some preparation, a more generous than usual holiday budget, and an adventurous mind, you will have the single parent holiday of a lifetime!