If you want to show your kids an island undisturbed by humanity, one that instills a respect of nature in visitors, the Galapagos islands are the perfect destination. It’s a unique, almost otherworldly experience to build sandcastles a few yards away from lazing sea lions, or to swim in the pool while marvelling at the giant iguanas crossing the adjacent street. More importantly, to travel with kids to Galapagos is to have an experience not to be missed.
Cruiseship or individual?
Only a few years ago it wasn’t easy to visit the Galapagos, and very expensive to boot. Now most tour operators try to sell the Galapagos as a luxury destination. According to them, you have to book a cruise trip, or else you won’t see the real Galapagos.
However, spending a week on a cruise ship may not be the best way to travel with kids to Galapagos. Children have their very own schedule that doesn’t always sync up to the cruise’s. They take naps at a certain time and will often decide to spend half an hour longer on that beach than they’re supposed to. A scheduled trip could make it stressful for you and for your children.
There are other options, of course. Every island is dotted with hostels and hotels, and rooms with three or four beds are easy to find. If you want to spend some time in a luxury hotel right on the beach and with excellent service, we recommend the Galapagos Hotel Iguana Crossing on Isabela. The resort offers a pool, heated jakuzzi and very friendly staff. The prime location beside the Iguana Trail is sure to make the children happy. Parents can have their coffee on the terrace while the kids build sandcastles on the beach in sight, the adults’ fears assuaged knowing the water is uniformly shallow.
How to get there?
Most people fly from Guayaquil or Quito to Santa Cruz, although this island is notoriously lousy with tourists instead of the wildlife the islands are famous for. The real Galapagos is on San Cristobal and on Isabela. We’d suggest a longer stay on one of these islands, ideally flying from the mainland to San Cristobal, then to Isabela, and finally departing from Santa Cruz back to Quito or Guayaquil.
Ferries – speedboats that accomodate 20 people – connect the 3 islands, but seasickness is an omnipresent risk. A bout of it will make the three hour ride a less-amusing event. The ferries depart every day in the morning at 6 or 7 am, and in the afternoon at 3 pm. It costs $30 per person and $15 per child. On occasion, they offer free rides for children on the afternoon ferry. Tickets can be purchased on the same day or earlier at the offices beside the harbour. To be sure of your ride, buy them one day in advance.
If you’re worried about the seasickness or simply don’t want to spend three hours on a speedboat with kids, try the Galapagos Airline Zab instead. It connects all of the islands via seven-seater planes. The planes combine the comfort and convenience of an island sightseeing flight for a brief one-hour trip. Tickets are about $130 to $160 per person. It’s a very professional airline with well-maintained planes and well-trained pilots.
The Galapagos islands are very close to the equator, so solar radiation is much stronger than in most other parts of the world. I’ve never seen sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 100, but there are four varieties of the stuff in the Galapagos pharmacies. Be sure to pack sunhats, sunscreen and sun-protection clothes for the beach, or you will regret it. Avoid the sun between noon an 3 pm.
Conveniences for families:
All three islands have playgrounds next to the seaside. On Isabela and San Cristobal the sea lions and iguanas lie around everywhere – they are very entertaining for kids and adults and provide some welcome company. There are few cars on the road, but plenty of pedestrians. Travelling with a pram is perfect here. We were surprised by the strong, safe infrastructure.
Pharmacies are open regularly and offer sunscreen and common medicines. The supermarkets sell nappies like Huggies and different types of baby food. No need to take them with you.
If you travel with kids to Galapagos it’s good to have a laundromat nearby, since accidents do happen. Thankfully, there are several in San Cristobal near the ATMs and on Isabela in the esplanade. It costs about $1 per 500g. Their overnight service is perfect!