The Galapagos Islands are an amazing destination for anyone with a heart for exploration, especially active families! A family trip to the Galapagos can be a fantastic way to commemorate a special occasion, like an anniversary, or simply an exciting way to bring the family together for a fast-paced week of exploration and discovery.
Families come in all shapes and sizes, and the Galapagos Islands aren’t exactly a one-size-fits all kind of destination, so it’s important to make sure it’s a good match for your family.
Are Galapagos vacations good for kids?
The Galapagos are one of the most incredible places on the planet for children to experience a truly wild place of nature in a relative comfortable and safe way.
When determining if this is a good trip for your family take into consideration basic physical challenges, maturity, and attention span of your children.
Infants and Toddlers
Cruises require multiple strictly scheduled daily embarkations and disembarkations between boats, zodiac motorized rafts and land, including “wet landings” on beaches. Hikes can be long for those who recently learned to walk and they traverse sharp lava at times. So ask yourself if you’re able to safely navigate such situations carrying your young child. Many boats do not allow small children, and for those that do, the larger capacity ships like the Legend tend to have more facilities like play rooms for small kids.
If you are at all concerned about your infant or toddler on a cruise boat, a land based tour out of hotels enables more flexible activities and schedules that accommodating a family instead of the family needing to accommodate for the cruise.
Young Kids 5-12
The Galapagos are an absolutely amazing experience for any child that has even a remote interest in nature. An experience in the Galapagos is far beyond what an aquarium, zoo, or theme park could ever be, because it is real, it’s living, and kids feel and understand that in Galapagos. Fearless animals approach you, you spend your days exploring trails, beaches and oceans lead by a naturalist guide that explains how all of the pieces fit together.
For children in this age group, it’s a question of levels of basic maturity, behaviour, and courtesy, as you will be in relatively close quarters with other guests on the boat and children need to respect the rules of the National Park and safety procedures related with being on a boat.
Any parent of a teen knows that everything depends on attitude. If your kid has a good attitude about it, they will have the trip of a lifetime. The mix of swimming, snorkeling, hiking tours, and guided natural exploration.
Grandparents & Great Grandparents
Many visitors to Galapagos are well into their 80’s and beyond. Getting on and off your boat to a zodiac, then landing on shore are the most physically demanding and require balance and sure-footedness. If your elder family members are agile enough to achieve this, then they should be in good shape to go on a cruise. Alternatively, staying in hotels and taking a land based tour is another option.
Are Galapagos trips relaxing vacations?
That all depends on your definition of relaxing. Galapagos itineraries are generally fast-paced, with a focus on experiencing the living natural laboratory that is the Galapagos archipelago with daily excursions and activities.
This includes hiking up the side of volcanoes, snorkeling among the endemic marine life, trekking over hardened lava flows, and jettying around the estuaries in pangas. Most itineraries also feature a fair amount of down time and some beach time between activities as well, but overall these vacations are not for the faint of heart.
So if adventure is your idea of relaxation, then no other trip is more so! But if you’re hoping to just soak in the sun on a beach, then the Galapagos Islands are probably not the destination for you.
Should I get a cruise or do a land-based tour?
Cruises and land-based tours are both great options for family Galapagos vacations, depending on what you’re hoping to get out of your trip.
Advantages to land-based family Galapagos trips:
- Better if someone in the family might get motion sickness on a cruise.
- Families can eat at a different restaurant every night.
- Itineraries are more flexible – if you want to spend a day in town or visit the same site twice, that’s up to you!
- Hotels tend to be a bit less expensive than cruises, especially for larger groups like families.
- Land-based tours are similar to more “traditional” beach vacations than the unique Galapagos cruises, which are unlike traditional cruises. Still, even a land-based tour will be unlike any other beach vacation your family has ever taken!
Advantages of a family Galapagos cruise
- The itinerary is pre-planned, so it’s one less thing to think about!
- Cruise itineraries are packed with activities (usually 2-3 per day), which means there’s never a dull moment.
- The atmosphere aboard the smaller Galapagos yachts (with occupancy generally just 16 passengers and sometimes up to 100) offers a much more intimate feel, meaning you will have quality family time.
- Cruises are all-inclusive, so although they are a bit more expensive, they save you the budgeting for transportation, meals, equipment rental, and daily excursions & tours.