Deciding on the perfect family vacation – and looking for an extra adventure? The Galapagos Islands are a natural wonderland for adventurers of all ages. Enchanting and exotic, this is a land where giant tortoise reign supreme and up-close encounters with animals are an everyday event. Close to home – yet a world away – the Galapagos Islands grant the 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 within easy reach for families living in North America. Your journey begins with an international flight to the mainland of Ecuador – daily flights from Miami are just a little longer than those to the Caribbean (slightly over 3 hours). You'll arrive in the evening and connections to the Galapagos are available every morning.
Most travelers choose to begin their journey in Quito – one of the two international gateways to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. Located in the Andes, Quito is the capital of Ecuador and a UNESCO world heritage site. The best-persevered colonial city in South America, Quito is well worth spending an extra night or two to explore on its own. The historic old city is rich in art and architecture and Quito's close proximity to the equator (15 minutes) offers you the opportunity to snap family photos while straddling the equator line with a foot in each hemisphere.
The entry requirements for citizens of most countries are fairly simple and consist of a valid passport and return ticket – no immunizations are required.
Once you have decided you are going to visit the Galapagos, the next step is selecting the type of program that best suits your family – a cruise or a tour package. Over the past 25 years cruises have become the traditional way to see the islands. Varying in accommodations from 16 to 100 passengers you will navigate between islands at night and explore the islands during the day. Each yacht has a pre-determined itinerary ranging in length from 3 to 15 nights. Children 7 years of age or older are welcome on board – special arrangements may be made for youngger children upon request. Many yachts feature special family departures with kid friendly activities and special menus designed for children. Cruises typically offer discounts up to 50% for children 11 years of age or younger.
More recently, Galapagos Tours have 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 an array of activities including snorkeling, hiking, photography, kayaking as well as wildlife viewing and your daily wildlife interactions.
Galapagos Tour packages are the best alternative for families with young children, multi-generational families, or those families groups with a wide range of ages. Tours are more flexible and can be designed around the family's interests. You can decide on how many hours you want to be on tour each day as well as the time you depart each morning. Many families with younger children opt to have a nanny to join them on tours providing further flexibility (local nannies are available). Your nanny can be dedicated to watch over and entertain youngger family members while leaving parents and older children free to enjoy longer hikes or more time in the water.
Whether it's watching the smile on your child face while they swim with sea lion pups, or having their picture taken next to a giant tortoise the Galapagos Islands is a magical destination for adventurers of all ages. Your visit to the Galapagos provides you and your family to the backdrop to take spectacular family photographs while creating wonderful memories of your adventure together while gaining an enhanced love and concern for the environment, which can last a lifetime.