Visiting Galapagos With Kids

Family Travel in the Galapagos Islands

We’re often asked how to visit the Galapagos Islands with children. Over the years, we’ve helped countless families visit the Galapagos. Often, the request is from a family with two or three members between the ages of 4 and 18. But for multi-generational families (i.e. grandparents, parents, and grandchildren) the family usually includes toddlers and infants in arms.

No matter the age of your kids, visiting the Galapagos as a family is possible, worthwhile, and unforgettable.

That’s not just a pitch. We’re parents. We have visited the Galapagos Islands with our children. When you work with LANDED, you’ll receive first-hand recommendations born of experience.

Why Visit the Galapagos Islands as a Family?

Galapagos captivates visitors. These islands surprise, challenge, and enchant. For children, the Galapagos have a special kind of magic. Seeing a giant tortoise is like encountering a dinosaur. Swimming playfully with a sea lion is pure joy.

Wonder & Magic

A journey here is time travel to a pristine age awash in life—an example of what once was and what can be again. The memories you’ll make here are unforgettable.

Born is extreme isolation without terrestrial predators, resident species developed unique forms and behaviors; you’ll encounter more curiosity than fear. Go on a safari in Africa, and most of the wildlife won’t even recognize you distinct from your vehicle–that’s probably for the best with a lion or cape buffalo, isn’t it?

But here, under the guidance of expert naturalists, you can observe nature’s grace, genius, and playfulness as nowhere else.

Even the land is alive: shield volcanos and lava plateaus change and grow through eruption and subduction. Geologically speaking, these islands are newborns, having emerged from the sea roughly 5 million years ago.

Although the landscape appears harsh and barren, this is a fragile, irreplaceable ecosystem; more than ever, how we visit matters. With cruise and land-based options, we’ll help you experience the magic, while protecting these treasured islands.

LANDED arranges personalizes, custom travel within the Galapagos Islands and across South America. Start the conversation with one of our expert travel designers today.

Penninsula on Isla Bartolome in the Galapagos Archipelago showing lush green grass, sandy beach and mountains

Family Cruises in the Galapagos

LANDED works with the best cruise vessels in the Galapagos.  You can read about many of these yachts, catamarans, and ships here. We know these options first-hand, not just from a brochure.

Most cruises in the Galapagos have 7-night itineraries. Some offer 3-night, 4-night, and 5-night options. Often, shorter cruises are a better match with a family’s school schedules.

Most vessels in the Galapagos are designed for 20 travelers or fewer.  A few can accommodate more than 40 passengers. The maximum number of guests is 100.  Galapagos cruises are tightly regulated to protect the ocean, air, and land habitats.

Large black and white Galapagos Charter yacht MV Infinity

Choosing a Cruise for Your Family in Galapagos

Choosing a Galapagos cruise can be confusing and tiring. The choice should consider the vessel, the itinerary, and the guiding. Adding children to the equation makes the decision even more complex. Your questions will likely include:

  • Does the cruise have a minimum age?
  • What special programs are offered for children and families?
  • What on-board amenities make the trip more enjoyable for kids?
  • Will my kids get seasick?
  • What are the cabin locations, bedding configurations, and interconnection options?
  • Will everyone in my family find foods they like on the cruise menu?
  • Is equipment (e.g. snorkeling gear and kayaks) available for young travelers?
  • Does this cruise bake chocolate chip cookies?
Elegant Dining Area onboard M/Y THEORY Galapagos Island Charter Yacht

We Clear The Path

If you’re thinking about taking your family to the Galapagos Islands, speak with an expert travel designer at LANDED. We take the friction out of travel, so you can enjoy the moments and make memories. We’ll help you sort through the options and find the perfect fit.

Couple on honeymoon taking in sunset onboard Galapagos Cruise ship M/V Legend

Galapagos Hotels and Lodges for Families with Kids

Some families prefer the freedom, flexibility, and room to roam that comes with staying on the islands. Some of these options offer swimming pools, hiking trails, beach access, bicycles, and kids’ clubs (with games, art classes, and science programs).

When you choose a land-based program in the Galapagos, LANDED can often arrange a hand-picked, private guide for your family. Our guides are great with kids, and many are parents or grandparents.

Staying in a hotel or lodge in the Galapagos can also increase the flexibility of your touring, compared to the set itinerary of a cruise. On one day, you might choose to visit a tortoise refuge, surf or boogie board, and visit a research station before getting some ice cream in town. On another day you might kayak, bike, or explore a lava tunnel before visiting a chocolate shop.

Some Galapagos hotels and lodge have fixed programs, especially during the December holiday season.

Typically, set programs at Galapagos lodges and hotels involve touring on the home island, and day trips to other relatively close islands.  A five-night program might be structured as follows:

Day 1 – Arrival at the airport. Guided visit to a tortoise reserve and lava tunnels.

Day 2 – Day trip by yacht to a nearby island for guided walks and snorkeling.

Day 3 – Active exploration of the home island (e.g. kayaking, biking, snorkeling) and a visit to a research station.

Day 4 – Day trip by yacht to a second nearby island for guided walks and snorkeling.

Day 5 – Day trip by yacht to a third nearby island for guided walks and snorkeling.

Day 6 – Morning at leisure or morning touring.  Departure to the airport.

Some hotels offer full-board programs that include accommodations, meals, and touring. Others have rates for room and breakfast.

Some hotels and lodges in the Galapagos have a minimum age for guests. This is rare, but it’s usually related to the size of the hotel, the touring plan, and characteristics of the hotel’s construction. Often, LANDED can obtain exceptions to these policies.

Interconnected rooms are rare in general in Latin America. Rooms with internal connection (aka communicating rooms) are even rarer in the Galapagos.

LANDED can advise you on where interconnected rooms are offered. These rooms book up well in advance for peak dates. We can also help you book a three-bedroom, three-bathroom family suite or a private villa.

Outdoor patio at Galapagos Safari Camp family suite.

Another popular option? Combining a Galapagos cruise with a few days at a Galapagos lodge or hotel. Our expert travel designers can guide you through all the options.

Minimum Ages? Are My Kids Too Young for Galapagos?

Some Galapagos cruises do set a minimum age. For some cruises, that age is 6 years. For others, it can be age 12. (Most land based programs do not have a minimum age.)

These minimums are established based on the characteristics of the vessel. Some yachts and catamarans are better suited for adults, while others have special amenities and programs for children. Discounts for children (usually under age 12) are available.

For most Galapagos yacht and catamaran charters, children of all ages are welcome. LANDED has also arranged special menus, games, presentations, citizen science programs, meetings with sea lion experts, and educational programs (effectively disguised as fun) for young children and teens.

Should I Take My Children to Galapagos?

The hikes, wildlife tours, and snorkeling in Galapagos can all be adapted for younger travelers. LANDED has also arranged private guides for families (on cruises and on land-based programs) to allow for greater flexibility. Many of our guides are parents. All know how to bring out the magic of these islands for young visitors.

If you’re asking, “are my children too young for the Galapagos?” or “how young is too young for the Galapagos?” we encourage you to read this article by our friend, Clark Kotula. You can also read about one of our own family trips to mainland Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands with children on Tropic of Candycorn.

When to Visit the Galapagos Islands with Kids

If you have any chance to visit the Galapagos with your family, take it! This is a year-round, equatorial destination with very little seasonal or temperature change. Species migration is rarer than elsewhere; most birds are in residence continually. Rainfall is low and welcome. Seas are generally calm. There is no “bad” or “wrong” time to visit.

We’ve outlined When to Go to the Galapagos (the month-by-month details on weather, water, and species) in this article.

The most popular times for families to visit are during school breaks. For North American and European visitors, those months are March and April (Spring Break), June to August (summer vacation), and December (for the year-end holidays).

How Long is a Galapagos Trip with Children?

For most North American and European families visiting the Galapagos, 7 to 10 days are needed.

As a bare minimum, you’ll need:

  • 1 night in mainland Ecuador;
  • 3-4 nights in the Galapagos; and
  • 1-2 days for international travel.

Better yet, spend 4 or 5 days in mainland Ecuador (Amazon, Andes, coast, or cloud-forest) and 7 or more days in the Galapagos. Many Galapagos cruises and Galapagos charters are only available on 7-night basis. Some hotels and lodges have four- or five-night minimum stay policies during peak seasons.

Galapagos Taxes and Park Fees

All visitors to the Galapagos must pay a Galapagos National Park Fee and purchase a “transit control card” (or TCT) before arrival. LANDED can pre-purchase these items for you.

The Galapagos National Park Fee

For foreign visitors from outside South America, the Galapagos National Park fee is US$100 per person, or $50 per child for visitors age eleven or younger.

Transit Control Card or INGALA Card

The TCT is issued by INGALA, the Ecuadorean government agency that regulates the Galapagos. The card is meant to help control immigration to the islands. It registers your visit, controls the maximum stay (limited to 90 consecutive days), and keeps those who have been deported (say, for breaking park rules) from reentering the province.

The cost of the TCT Is US$20 per person, with no discount for children.

Flying to the Galapagos

Almost everyone visiting the Galapagos Islands arrives and departs on commercial airline flights from Guayaquil, on Ecuador’s Pacific Coast.

The flight from Guayaquil to the Galapagos takes about 2 hours. If you’re traveling to the Galapagos Islands from Quito, you’ll have another hour of flying (from Quito to Guayaquil) and about a 45 minute on-plane layover. Total flight and layover time from Quito to the Galapagos is around 3.5 hours, depending on the carrier.

The flights use commercial, pressurized jet aircraft, not small propeller planes. Typical aircraft include Airbus A319 and Airbus A320 with assigned seating, overhead compartments, and beverage service.

The commercial airlines that serve Galapagos include LATAM, Avianca, and TAME. Charter flights to the Galapagos can be arranged with advance notice.

A private jet charter preparing to load a family on leisure travel in the Galapagos

When flying to the Galapagos, your luggage will be screened by for biological materials. Make sure your family is not bringing fresh fruit or vegetables, meat, raw seeds, or nuts. This screening helps keep non-native species from arriving in the islands.

Commercially packaged snacks can be brought, but please choose options that don’t create a trash burden or that have a high potential for wind-blown micro-trash litter.

What About Food?

Importation of food is closely regulated in the Galapagos Islands. The islands are a wildlife sanctuary first; we’re visitors here.

That said, the cruise operators, lodges, and hotels in the Galapagos are experienced in feeding guests of all ages and palates. If your child will be happier with pancakes, pasta, and pizza, let us know. LANDED has arranged meals for guests with all types of food allergies and other special dietary considerations, including gluten-free, kosher-style, halal, vegan, and vegetarian.

If you’re bringing some of your family’s favorite snacks with you, choose commercially pre-package foods that are low impact—with paper wrappers or without wrappers that create micro-trash that can blow away or be easily lost. No foods are allowed on landings within the national park.

Keep a watchful eye on children to make sure they stay hydrated. The surest way to ruin a day in the sun or at sea in Galapagos is dehydration. Purified drinking water is easy to obtain. Please consider bringing a reusable bottle, as many hotels and cruises provide water stations for refill.

What about Sea Sickness in the Galapagos?

While it’s true that children between the ages of 2 and 12 may be more susceptible to sea sickness, you can make choices to reduce these issues. For example, you can choose a land-based itinerary, or a smaller cruise vessel (yes, smaller is often better), or a cruise with stabilizers or a double-or triple-hull design.

Children under age 2 are more resistant to motion sickness.

We’ve written more about the causes and preventions of Galapagos sea sickness (also seasickness) in this article.

What to Pack When Traveling with Children in the Galapagos

You’ll find the LANDED Galapagos Islands Packing List here.

It’s thorough, but when packing for small children, you should also consider:

  • Children’s dose medications (e.g. Motrin, Benadryl);
  • Travel games or e-books for children; and
  • Full-face easy breathing snorkel masks. These can make all the difference for young or first-time snorkelers.

Tipping / Gratuities in the Galapagos

Tips are an important source of income for guides and staff in the Galapagos and can account for more than 1/3 of a guide’s annual earnings.

Tips are best paid in cash, although tipping by personal check (drawn on a US-based bank) is possible. Credit cards may also be used, but such payments are heavily taxed.

Recommendations for guide and crew / staff tips vary widely by cruise company and level of service. Some cruise companies or charters recommend $50 per visitor per night, divided evenly between the naturalist guide and other staff.

A commonly quoted baseline is US$25 per person per night per visitor, with children and adults tipping the same amount.

In Summary: Bring The Family

  • Families with young children and teens can visit the Galapagos Islands. The Galapagos Islands are magical; you’ll make great memories here.
  • You can choose between cruises and land-based options.
  • Some Galapagos cruises have a minimum age. Most lodges and hotels in the Galapagos Islands do not have a minimum age.
  • You can visit any time of year.
  • Don’t put off visiting the Galapagos until your children are older. If you have the rare privilege of visiting as a family, take it!

Why LANDED?

We know because we go. We’re able to advise you not just as travel designers, but as parents who have been there with our kids. We love the Galapagos, and know your family will too, with the right planning.

If you’re thinking about taking your family to the Galapagos Islands, speak with an expert travel designer at LANDED. We take the friction out of travel, so you can enjoy the moments and make memories. We’ll help you sort through the options and find the perfect fit.

Dreaming of the Galapagos Islands? LANDED provides personalized, custom travel within Central America, South America, and the Antarctic. We’ll create a unique itinerary plan tailored to your interests and dreams. Experience the trip of a lifetime. Speak with one of our expert travel planners today at 801.582.2100.