Galapagos Islands land based with kids

Galapagos Islands With Kids

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Are you planning a land-based trip to the Galapagos Islands with kids? Well you’ve come to the right place! For the longest time, the Galapagos Islands seemed like a dream destination that wasn’t very attainable. But after some research, we have found that visiting the Galapagos Islands with kids doesn’t have to be overly expensive or impossible to do without a cruise. While many spend tens of thousands of dollars visiting the islands, we have visited for a small fraction of that and you can too! We opted to base ourselves on Santa Cruz Island and do day tours with guides and on our own from the island. Read on for our land-based Galapagos Islands itinerary.

Getting to the Galapagos Islands

If you’re coming from the United States, chances are you will be flying into either Quito or Guayaquil via a layover somewhere, the most popular one being Panama City. Our flight was on Copa Airlines from LAX to PTY (a short one hour layover) and onto Guayaquil . We opted to spend our first and last night in Guayaquil  at the Sheraton, located just 3 minutes from the airport. For airfare, we used UR points from our various Chase credit cards for the airfare (business class!) making the bulk of our trip free.

Copa Airlines business class
Copa Airlines business class

From Guayaquil, it is a 2 hour flight to the Galapagos islands. There are two major airports in the Galapagos so make sure you choose the correct one or you will be on a very long ferry ride to get to your hotel! We were basing ourselves on Santa Cruz island, so we flew into GPS and took a short 5 minute ferry ride to Santa Cruz followed by a taxi to the hotel.

  • Seymour Airport (airport code: GPS) is an airport serving the island of Baltra (and connects to Santa Cruz via water taxi and bus).
  • San Cristóbal Airport (airport code: SCY) is an airport on the island of San Cristóbal.

What to Expect at the Airport Prior to Getting on your Galapagos Islands Flight

In order to get to the Galapagos Islands, you first have to go through a process at the airport. First, you will need to get a transit control card for each member of your family. To save time, you can fill out the Transit Control Card form for each member of your family online. Keep in mind this site is in Spanish only! You’ll still have to queue up at the airport, but all your information will already be in the computer, saving at least 10-15 minutes. This card costs $20 per person (cash only). Make sure you keep the card and receipt in a safe place, since you may be asked for it when leaving the islands.

Because non-native plants, animals, etc. can pose a risk to the flora and fauna in the Galapagos, your luggage will undergo some rigorous screening. Make sure you don’t have any plants, seeds, fruits, vegetables, animals, etc. in your checked or hand luggage!

We read horror stories about the lines for this process, and our hotel suggested we leave the hotel at 6am since our flight was at 8:30 so we did. Well we were done with the entire process and security by 6:30! Thankfully there was a lounge so we hung out there til it was time to board. I’m sure when it’s a more popular time to visit the islands, the lines are going to be longer but we could have easily slept another hour and still made it on time.

Now you’re ready to board! There are 3 airlines that fly to the Galapagos Islands from GYE, Tame, Avianca and LAN. We used Chase points once again to book these flights so we ended up flying Avianca since it required the fewest amount of points.

Galapagos Islands land based with kids

Arriving at the Baltra Airport in the Galapagos Islands

You made it to the islands! But there’s still a few more steps before you get to Santa Cruz Island. All visitors to the island must pay an island entrance fee (cash only) of $100, kids under 12 pay $50. Note that the currency in Ecuador is the US Dollar so you won’t have to exchange any money if you are coming from the US. There is an ATM in case you don’t have enough cash. There can be a long queue for this so try to sit in the front of the plane and go as quickly as possible to this line so that you can be done quickly and be on your way. We sat towards the front and went right to pay our entrance fee without any wait in line. The longest line was for luggage. You will have to wait until every single bag is brought inside and then a dog goes through them all to make sure nothing that shouldn’t have been brought is detected. Bags that the dog marks as suspicious are pulled out for further inspection and if yours isn’t, you grab your bags and off you go.

Getting from Baltra Airport to Puerto Ayora

You’re ready to start your Galapagos vacation! Keep in mind that after you pay the entrance fee, it will take you 1-2 hours to get to your actual hotel in Puerto Ayora, so make sure you use the bathroom prior to boarding the shuttle bus! To get to Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz Island), you will first take a shuttle bus (5 minute ride) to the ferry. The bus costs $5/adult and $2.50 for kids. Your luggage will be loaded onto the boat and you will be on your way! The boat costs 80 cents per person per way.

Galapagos Islands land based with kids
This shuttle bus will take you to the ferry.

Once you arrive in Puerto Ayora, there are several options to get to your hotel.

  • Private transport-Your hotel will most likely offer you the option of a private pickup so you don’t have to deal with the hassle of taking a taxi or bus. Ours offered it for $70 which we declined as we got a cab for $25.
  • Public Bus-Bus fare costs $2 and you will see them as soon as you exit the boat. Keep in mind these get crowded and are hot (no AC) and drop you off at Avenida Charles Darwin and Ave Baltra, so it may not be close to where you are going.
  • Taxi-In the Galapagos, taxis are white pickup trucks. This is what we chose to take to our hotel, our cost was $25 vs. the $70 our hotel quoted for the same ride. You will see a ton of the white pickup trucks when you get off your boat, so pick one and be on your way.
Galapagos Islands land based with kids
All taxis on the island are white pickup trucks.

Things to Bring to the Galapagos Islands

Now we are normally light packers, traveling with carry ons only however we packed two big suitcases for this trip! One had all of our gear and the other our clothes. You’re going to want to bring your wetsuits, camera gear, underwater camera, water shoes, and snorkel gear. While you can rent snorkel gear in town and the tour operators provide it, we prefer our own that we know fits without someone else’s spit all over it! Milana use this snorkel set and it’s the best, she was able to snorkel way out in the ocean without issues. She also had these fins which made snorkeling a lot easier. For the adults, we brought these and they are great as well.

While Milana is an excellent swimmer, we didn’t want her in the open ocean without some kind of protection so I purchased a snorkel vest for her to use. Regular life jackets will restrict them while snorkeling, the snorkel vest puts them in the proper position for snorkeling and she actually liked wearing it. I highly recommend keeping this in your travel bag for all beach trips, it folds up flat and tiny and barely took up any room. And, it inflates and deflates in seconds! We also brought our own wetsuits, since you can’t be guaranteed that they have ones that will fit especially for kids! Milana uses this wetsuit at home in SoCal and it was perfect for snorkeling in the Galapagos! For the price, you really can’t beat the quality.

I used this waterproof case for my iPhone and it was awesome underwater! It comes with a floating wrist attachment and is super easy to use, by far the best iPhone case I have found and I’ve tried many! This is so much better than the GoPro I used to own and I wish I had discovered it sooner. Milana’s shoes were from PLAE, our favorite kid shoe company! She brought her Sams for days where we got our feet wet and they were awesome, I highly recommend these water shoes! The other pair she brought was her Elise sneakers. These are probably the best shoes she’s ever owned and we purchased every size so she is sure to always have a pair! They are lightweight and breathable and can be worn with or without socks, she says it feels like she’s wearing slippers. These were great in the Galapagos for the long daily hikes we did and she never complained of discomfort. They’ve been all over the world with us and I highly recommend them for all kids!

And don’t forget the sunscreen! Lots and lots of sunscreen. We don’t normally burn easily but being so close to the equator, it felt like you were burning minutes after being out! Even on overcast days. Do not forget your sunscreen or you will regret it! We use Blue Lizard because it’s mineral based with no chemicals and safe to use on kids and adults. It worked really well in the strong Galapagos sun!

We also brought this waterproof, packable backpack to carry our beach gear in (snorkels, towels, etc). It was the best purchase ever! The backpack is huge when open and folds up very small to fit into your suitcase, this will be coming with us on all trips! For the adults, I highly recommend Salomon shoes. These are great in the water and out, you will need something like this in order to hike the very rocky and hot islands since you will be in and out of water and navigating slippery rocks.

Best Time to Visit the Galapagos Islands

December-May This is supposed to be the best time to visit the Galapagos Islands. You will have plenty of sunshine and temperatures in the high 70s and 80s for most of your trip, with minimal rainfall. Since these months are popular, you may need to book flights and accommodations ahead of time.

June-November The temperature this time of year will be cooler, 60s to 80s on some days. Rain showers are also more likely at this time of year. We visited in mid November and the weather was awesome and crowds were very low, making it a very enjoyable trip! October and November are the dry months, so something to consider if you want to avoid the rainfall! Our daily weather showed 60s but it felt like 80s and 90s during the day and the water was really warm, so I’m glad we came in November. I imagine it’s quite miserable in the hotter months and hiking could become unbearable midday! We also had no rainfall at all, it really was the perfect time to be here, with a nice cool breeze in between the scorching sun!

Where to Stay With Kids on Santa Cruz Island

Looking for the best hotel in the Galapagos for families? I have done tons of research on the various accommodation options and we opted to stay at Semilla Verde Boutique Hotel. It’s a little bit outside of town, but that didn’t deter us at all and getting a ride to and from town was easy and cheap ($7 each way). Yes, it is pricier than many of the other options (around $325/night) but it was very well worth it! The hotel, which only has 9 rooms, is in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island and the grounds are home to wild Galapagos Tortoises.

You can see them roaming the lush, green grounds from your balcony and our nightly evening walk around the grounds was filled with seeing tons of them! If you want to see these guys in their natural habitat, this is the hotel for you. You won’t see them like this anywhere else on the island, this is really the best place to see the tortoises so if that is your goal, definitely stay here! Needless to say, we took an evening walk around the property every single day of our stay to see these majestic creatures! The hotel’s dog, Saba, showed us around the trails and joined our nightly walks.

Galapagos Islands land based with kids
Tortoise, on the walking path!
Galapagos Islands land based with kids
Galapagos Islands land based with kids
Galapagos Islands land based with kids
The hotel dog, Saba, always joined us on our walks.
Galapagos Islands land based with kids
Galapagos Islands land based with kids
Galapagos Islands land based with kids

Our room was on the upper level of the Finch wing, and we had a wrap around balcony with amazing views of tortoises and lush, green landscape. Milana had her own bed and we had ours. I believe this is the biggest room on the property, perfect for families. Milana brought her Charles Darwin doll on the trip, we bought him a few years ago when she was fascinated by his work!

Galapagos with kids
Semilla Verde Hotel, our room was on the top level.
Galapagos with kids
Semilla Verde Hotel, room 9
Galapagos with kids
Milana’s bed

The staff here is very friendly and you can even eat here if you choose as long as you give them 24 hour notice to shop. Breakfast (cooked by the staff daily) was included and we had lunch here once and dinner once, both very good and again, cooked fresh by the staff. There is also the hotel dog, Saba, which took us all over the trails to show us around.

Galapagos Islands land based with kids
Lunch at the hotel, it varies daily based on what is purchased that day.

Where to Buy Groceries on Santa Cruz Island

Since you can’t bring your own fresh food or fruit to the island, you’re going to want to visit the grocery store for snacks and fruit. There is only one main one on the island, the Proinsular, near the pier. It’s a three story grocery store, with a cafeteria on the 3rd floor serving food, it even has a play area for kids while you wait for your kids. Groceries are downstairs and household essentials and personal items on the 2nd floor. There are several smaller stores throughout the island, but this is the best option if you need to stock up on lots of things. Make sure you have your own reusable grocery bags from home, as they don’t give out plastic bags on the island.


Money and ATMs on Santa Cruz Island

As I mentioned before, the official currency of Ecuador is the US Dollar. Make sure you have plenty of smaller change, particularly $1 and $5 bills, to pay for food, souvenirs, taxis, etc. There are lots of ATMs around the island where you can withdraw cash should you run out. But, we have also found that many places take credit cards as well and we ended up using them the majority of the time.

Cell Service, Wi-Fi and Electricity on Santa Cruz Island

We have T Mobile so we just used our phones like we would at home. There were areas with spotty service but for the most part, it worked well enough for what we needed. Our hotel had wifi and there are several restaurants and cafes in Puerto Ayora with wifi too in case you need to look something up or do some work.

Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands use 110 Volt electricity, same as the United States. If you are traveling from the states, you won’t need an adapter or converter while here.

Getting Around Santa Cruz Island

If you’re staying near Puerto Ayora, you can walk pretty much everywhere as the town is small. Our hotel was located quite a bit away from the town (15-20 minute cab ride) so we used the pickup truck taxis quite a bit! You can’t rent a car here, so you will rely on buses or cabs to get around. The taxi ride from our hotel to town cost $7 and if you’re going around Puerto Ayora, the taxi ride will cost you just $1. Using the taxis was easy, and I would recommend just using them during your stay. Sometimes you came to a traffic jam so the ride took a little bit longer!

Galapagos Islands land based with kids
Galapagos traffic jam

Safety in the Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos are islands are very safe to travel to. You’re more likely to be sunburned than you are to be the victim of a violent crime! We felt safe walking around at all hours of the day and into the evening and their crime statistics prove that it’s a safe place for visitors. Take the usual precautions you would anywhere else in the world, but know that it’s a very safe place to travel with minimal crime. I wouldn’t hesitate to come here alone with Milana or encourage women to travel alone.

Our 6 Day/5 Night Galapagos Islands Itinerary

We aren’t picky travelers and we had a list of things we wanted to see, like sea lions, blue footed boobies, sea turtles, etc. but we didn’t go crazy booking every tour and filling every minute of every day with scheduled activities. I assure you, you will not be wanting to do an 8 hour tour every single day of your stay. It’s a lot of walking (not flat!), climbing, etc. and you will be exhausted. This is especially true for young kids, they simply won’t be able to handle the hot sun and being on the go all day every day so I recommend booking one long tour, a short one and then do things on your own and at your own pace. We visited some places on our own as well as taking a few tours to destinations we couldn’t reach on our own. We had 6 days and 5 nights on the islands (but really 5 days since day 6 we left early), which turned out to be the perfect amount of time for our family. Here is our detailed Galapagos Islands with kids itinerary.

Day 1

We flew into Baltra airport and arrived at our hotel around 11 am. We had lunch at our hotel and explored the grounds to see the giant Galapagos Tortoises, there are so many right on the grounds!

In the late afternoon, we went to the Charles Darwin Research Station and explored there for a bit. The entrance to the station is free, but they try very hard to get you to use a guide ($10 per person) which we declined because we wanted to explore at our own pace. We did make a donation at the end to support their services! Milana learned so much here, this is a must on your first day so that you can learn about the island and Darwin’s work.

Galapagos Islands land based with kids
You’ll see a ton of these guys walking to the research station!
Galapagos Islands land based with kids
Galapagos Islands land based with kids
Galapagos Islands land based with kids
Darwin, meet Darwin!
Galapagos Islands land based with kids
Lots of things to see at the research station!
Galapagos Islands land based with kids
You will see tortoises in various stages of life.
Galapagos Islands land based with kids
Galapagos Islands land based with kids

Be sure to check out Playa de La Estación which is right near the entrance to the station to see lots of marine iguanas, crabs and other sea life!

Galapagos Islands land based with kids
Galapagos Islands land based with kids
Lots of iguanas on this beach! They’re hard to spot on the black rocks so watch where you step!
Galapagos Islands land based with kids
Milana loved spotting all the sea life, especially the bright red crabs!

After the the beach, we headed down Charles Darwin Avenue and explored all the souvenir shops, playground, and had dinner. The playground is near the pier (and supermarket), and depending on when you visit, you may see tons of sharks if you look into the water! We saw lots of them swimming around. We also wanted to do a tour of North Seymour Island and some snorkeling, and opted to book it when we arrived, so we found their tourist office in town and did just that with Galapagos Dreams Adventures. During busy times, you will want to book tours with this particular company before you arrive, as they can’t guarantee space will be available.

Galapagos Islands land based with kids
Souvenir shops in Puerto Ayora
Galapagos Islands land based with kids
Milana chose a blue footed booby as her souvenir.
Galapagos Islands land based with kids
Sea lions in the middle of the sidewalk.
Galapagos Islands land based with kids
Galapagos Islands land based with kids
Playground near the pier.

Day 2

On our 2nd day, we did a tour of North Seymour Island which included snorkeling at Las Bachas. This was a full day tour, which included pick up at our hotel at 8am. We booked this tour when we arrived in the Galapagos with Galapagos Dreams Adventures. Now this isn’t a cheap tour by any means, but you get what you pay for. Research the boats and operators before taking any tours. Many aren’t allowed on the beaches and other islands and many have boats that shouldn’t be in operation.

Galapagos Islands land based with kids
This is the boat we were on

We went on their Sea Lion boat, which was a high end boat with multiple levels for hanging and out relaxing in between exploring. Lunch was served on the boat as well and our group had only 15 people, making it a more intimate experience. We paid $260/person for this trip and keep in mind that kids pay the full price as well with no discount. But it was a great trip, a nice boat and the guid was awesome so I highly recommend them. Their agency is located in town, ask for Victor if you go and he’ll find you a tour that fits your schedule and needs. Also important to note, you didn’t even feel like you were on a boat, even when it was stopped. You will see why this is crucial when you read our experience on other, smaller boats!

Galapagos Islands land based with kids
The boat ride was smooth the entire time!
Galapagos Islands land based with kids
Galapagos Islands land based with kids
The upper deck of the boat.

Our first stop was Las Bachas, for some snorkeling. This is a gorgeous, turquoise beach without many people on it. We were the only group here for over an hour when we arrived! You will see lots of sea life here, from marine iguanas and crabs to lots of fish and even sea turtles!

Galapagos Islands land based with kids
Milana snorkeling in Las Bachas
Galapagos Islands land based with kids
Las Bachas Beach
Galapagos Islands land based with kids
Las Bachas Beach
Galapagos Islands land based with kids
Milana and I snorkeling
Galapagos Islands land based with kids
Tons of crabs!
Galapagos Islands land based with kids
Marine iguana going for a swim.

After snorkeling, we got back on the boat for a ride to North Seymour island for some hiking and amazing wildlife viewing! Here you will see the frigate bird. The males have a red sac that they inflate to attract mates. We happened to see two males trying to swoon a female while we were there! Sadly, she wasn’t impressed by either of them and flew away. You’ll also see lots of land iguanas but you have to spot them as they match the landscape.

Galapagos Islands Land based with kids
Frigate bird
Galapagos Islands Land based with kids
Land Iguana

You will also see lots of blue footed boobies here. The younger ones have lighter colored feet and the older ones have the bright, blue feet you normally associate with the species. We even saw one incubating its eggs!

Galapagos Islands Land based with kids
Blue footed booby incubating its eggs
Galapagos Islands Land based with kids
Juvenile blue footed booby

Keep in mind that the hike on this island is around 1 hour on very rocky trails, not suitable for wheelchairs or young kids as they can trip over the rocks very easily. On the way back to the boat, we spotted some seals on the rocks.

Galapagos Islands Land based with kids
Most of the trail is made up of rocks like this.
Galapagos Islands Land based with kids
Last part of the trail is on sand.
Galapagos Islands Land based with kids

Day 3

We wanted to compare differently priced tours and chose a $40 per person tour with Galapagos Aquatours. We walked around town in the morning and did the tour in the afternoon. This tour was from 2-6 and included several stops, on a glass bottom boat. So I will say this, you get what you pay for! The tour we did the day before was amazing and you didn’t even feel like you were on the water while the boat was in motion. This was a great value for the money so if you are on a budget, it’s a good option for you!

The biggest difference was the boat itself, it was a tiny boat and we felt every single wave. Almost everyone on the boat got nauseous to the point where they had to make a stop and let us off. The sea in the Galapagos is very rough so if you get sea sick, definitely be sure to bring your Dramamine and sea bands or you will be very sorry! We visited several spots on this tour, including Las Grietas, dog’s beach to view the white tip sharks and snorkeling at Franklin’s Bay.

Galapagos Islands land based with kids
Dog’s Beach, first stop on the tour
Galapagos Islands land based with kids
So many sharks!
Galapagos Islands land based with kids
Lots of iguanas on the beach!
Galapagos Islands land based with kids

The second stop on this tour was Las Grietas. Directly translated, grieta means crack and that’s essentially what it is. Las Grietas is a place to swim in cool ocean water between two tall cliffs, where the earth has opened like a crack or crevasse. It’s over 30 feet deep and Milana wasted no time jumping in! You can explore this area on your own if you take a water taxi from town and stay as long as you want.

On your walk up to Las Grietas, you will pass the salt marshes. This was really cool to see and a great learning experience! These salt marshes are connected to the sea and the sun evaporates the water, allowing the salt to crystallize. The salt is used here on the island. Milana was so excited to see where sea salt comes from and the process of how it’s done.

Galapagos Islands land based with kids
Galapagos Islands land based with kids

Since our tour was in the afternoon, we headed into town in the morning to check out the fish market. If you aren’t familiar with the fish market, it’s right by the water and they have lots of animal helpers! You will see sea lions sitting by the vendors, waiting for a piece of fish to drop. Lizards, pelicans, it’s a sight to see! But be warned, after seeing how they handle the seafood by placing it all on the dirty floor and allowing the iguanas to climb inside and eat the fish, you may not want any seafood after that! We particularly avoided the Scorpion fish after seeing this, as we witnessed the iguanas climbing inside of them and eating and then restaurant owners buying them for that evening’s meal. You will see tons of these fish for sale in the evening at the various kioskos.

Galapagos Islands Land based with kids
Galapagos Islands Land based with kids
Galapagos Islands Land based with kids
Galapagos Islands Land based with kids
Galapagos Islands Land based with kids

And because photos don’t do this place justice, here is a video:

Day 4

By this point in the trip, we have been out and about all day every day and are pretty much dying. By we I mean the adults, Milana seems to be unaffected by all this activity! Walking up the stairs to our 3rd floor room is getting increasingly difficult so what better thing to do today than to take the 45 minute hike to Tortuga Bay? There are two ways to get here, walking or by boat. We opted to walk as by this time, we were so over the extremely choppy water and didn’t want to start our day by being nauseous. If you want to take a boat, go to the pier area and look for the Tortuga Bay sign and you can buy tickets there ($10 a person, kids should be $5 but it depends who is working). Boats leave at 9 am and 2 pm so you’ll need to time it just right.

You can get a taxi to drop you off by the entrance to Tortuga Bay. You will walk up a steep flight of stairs to the guard station, where you will sign in and be on your way. The walk is fairly flat and paved aside from the beginning, and to get to the first beach it will take around 35-45 minutes, depending on your pace. When you see the beach, don’t get too excited just yet. You can’t swim there, there are red flags everywhere and the current is very strong. Turn right and walk along the beach. Here you will see the famous marine iguanas swimming and sunbathing, tons and tons of them!

Galapagos Islands Land Based With Kids
As soon as you reach the beach, you will start seeing these guys!
Galapagos Islands Land Based With Kids
Galapagos Islands Land Based With Kids
Galapagos Islands Land Based With Kids
Galapagos Islands Land Based With Kids

Once you reach the end of this beach (about a 15 minute walk), the path curves right and you will come to a beautiful, calm turquoise beach perfect for snorkeling or swimming. You have been rewarded for that walk! There are hooks to hang your bags so they aren’t sitting in the sand and lots of areas to sit in the shade.

Galapagos Islands Land Based With Kids
Galapagos Islands Land Based With Kids
Galapagos Islands Land Based With Kids

On the way back, we opted to take the boat ($10 per person). Keep in mind, to go back to town, they leave at 12 and 2 so if you plan to do that, time it so you have enough time for the beach. We arrived around 10 am and had a few hours before leaving. Know that the ride is 25 minutes through very choppy waters, it was worse than the previous day’s boat ride which I didn’t think was possible! This boat can’t go all the way to the pier so a water taxi will meet you near the shoreline and take you the rest of the way. Keep in mind that your fare doesn’t cover the water taxi and you will have to pay for that as well, they charged us $1 for all 3 and others were charged 80 cents a person so I don’t really think there’s a method for what they charge. Also, know that if you take the boat to and from Tortuga Bay, you will miss the iguanas. The boat drops you off by the swimmable beach and the iguanas are just behind it, so you’ll have to walk around the curve to see them. Don’t miss this!

Galapagos Islands land based with kids

Day 5

Our last day on the island! On this day, we wanted to take it easy and visit some places on Santa Cruz Island. We hired a taxi through the hotel ($60) and he drove us to several places and waited while we explored. It was perfect and basically like having your own private driver for the day!

Our first stop was the Highlands View Galapagos, famous for its magic swing which was definitely a hit with all of us! We arrived her when they opened and were the only ones here, so we got to enjoy the swings for quite some time. After the swing, you will hike around the property and see their farm animals, and old fashioned sugar cane press powered by a donkey just like they did back in the day and some beautiful hiking trails. The entrance fee is $5 for adults and $3 for kids and definitely worth a visit! This property is owned by a local family and it’s awesome that they allow visitors to explore their beautiful grounds.

Galapagos Islands land based with kids
Magic Swing
Galapagos Islands land based with kids
Galapagos Islands land based with kids
Hiking trails at Highlands View Galapagos
Galapagos Islands land based with kids

After the Highlands View we drove to Los Gemelos, two massive craters. These are essentially volcanic sinkholes and quite a sight to see! You can hike the circular trail, it takes about 30 minutes.

Galapagos Islands land based with kids
Galapagos Islands land based with kids

Our last stop of the day was El Chato Tortoise Reserve. Now we really should have skipped this as the tortoises that were on the property of our hotel were more active, closer to the trails and in a more beautiful setting. But if you don’t have tortoises at your hotel, this is one of the few places you can see them in their natural habitat. The cost to enter is $5 per person.

Galapagos Islands land based with kids
Galapagos Islands land based with kids

A surprising part of the tortoise reserve were the lava tunnels. You can walk inside and explore these tunnels.

Where to Eat on Santa Cruz Island

Food, one of the biggest reasons we travel! We love experiencing new foods and seeing what people around the world eat. Milana loves anything and everything, making it easy to travel and not worry about food.

As I mentioned before, our hotel provided breakfast that was cooked to order by their staff so we started the day off eating there. We had lunch at the hotel once (the day we arrived) and dinner once. The rest of the time, we ate in town and tried several different places. Here are some favorites and not so favorites.

Isla Grill

This was the first restaurant we ate (well tried to!) at in Puerto Ayora. We ordered the white fish but when it came out, it was cold and raw in the middle. Someone else had a steak that was cold and raw in the middle so we came to the conclusion that despite it being recommended by the hotel and tour guides (sounds like their friends work here), it wasn’t a good place to eat and risking food poisoning on the first day of our trip wasn’t a good idea. So we left and ate elsewhere. I don’t recommend this place, the staff and food is pretty awful.

Galapagos Islands land based with kids
Don’t let the photo fool you, the fish was cold and raw inside!

La Garrapata

This was one of our favorite restaurants in town. The staff was friendly and attentive and the food was really good! Milana and I ate shrimp in garlic sauce and Dave had the carne asada, which was perfectly cooked. This is a popular place and it was filled shortly after we arrived. Definitely give this place a try!

Galapagos islands land based with kids
Galapagos islands land based with kids
Galapagos islands land based with kids

Kioskos

These are popular for lunch, where you can get a plate of shrimp, rice and plantains for just $5. We had lunch at El Bucanero once and it was really good. Can’t beat the price! This entire street is known as the avenue of the kioskos, basically their version of street food.

Galapagos Islands land based with kids

In the evening at 6pm, the street is closed to cars and tables set outside. All the restaurants have pretty much the same items, prepared differently. Keep in mind that you really shouldn’t be eating the salads or fresh vegetables here as they are cleaned in their unfiltered water and tourists have gotten sick. Several locals have told us this so we heeded their warning! We came for dinner one evening but honestly the food wasn’t great and we opted to eat dinner at restaurants after that. You will see that scorpion fish I warned you about here!

We ate at La Pausa 2 and I had the shrimp, Dave had a lobster and Milana had the arroz con pollo. Milana’s meal was the best! Ours lacked flavor. Not only that, I have read reviews where people mention the bait and switch on the receipt, where it doesn’t match the menu prices. Sure enough, they tried to charge us more than what the menu was and we fought and had it taken off. It’s apparently very common here and many tourists just pay and others go on TripAdvisor to complain in stead of taking care of it while they are there.

Galapagos Islands land based with kids
Galapagos Islands land based with kids

Cafeteria at the Proinsular Supermarket

This would have been a good choice however after we all ordered, the waitress came back to tell us that 70% of the items we wanted were out of stock so we didn’t really get to try much aside from their fruit shakes and Milana had a grilled cheese sandwich (she ordered ham and cheese but they were out of ham). The view here is amazing if you sit near a window, great place to relax for a little bit. There’s even a little play area for kids while you sit and enjoy some coffee.

Galapagos Islands land based with kids
Galapagos Islands land based with kids
View from the restaurant.

Lo & Lo Restaurant

This was probably our favorite meal on the island. This is an Ecuadorian restaurant with traditional food. I had an awesome chicken meal and Dave had the Ecuadorian beef stew, which he loved as well. Milana shared some from each of us. If you only choose one restaurant, I would make it this! Next door to this is the Galapagos deli, with some great ice cream if you’re looking for dessert.

Galapagos Islands land based with kids
Galapagos Islands land based with kids

El Chato Tortoise Reserve

Now this isn’t a common place to eat, but we were here after a day of exploring and were starving. They have a restaurant on site and it’s actually decent food! We all had the chicken with in mushroom sauce and it was a decent meal at the most random place.

Final Thoughts

The Galapagos Islands were one of our favorite family trips to date! I will say that this trip is better for older kids. At 8, we felt it was perfect for Milana and she learned so much on this trip and was able to keep up on all the hikes.

None of the places we went to were stroller friendly, so if you have kids who need a stroller, wait a few years until they can walk for longer distances. I can’t imagine baby wearing on any of the trails we went on, just not very safe. Also if you have kids, regardless of age, that don’t listen to direction, you should probably skip this trip. There are lots of dangerous areas and you hike close to big cliff drops, so it’s essential that your children listen to you and the guides or risk injury.

On your way home, if you are flying through the GPS airport, you’ll find a lounge where you can use your Priority Pass membership. We found it funny that an airport in the middle of nowhere has a really nice lounge yet LAX lacks greatly in this department! Galapagos Ecological Airport was built in 2012 to run solely on solar and wind power, and 80% of its infrastructure is made from materials recycled from the old building. It even has mechanical shutters that open and close depending on the building’s heat and CO2 levels. Fresh water comes care of the airport’s own desalination plant, which converts local seawater. It’s rated as the world’s most environmentally friendly airport. We even had some finches join us!

Galapagos Ecological Airport was built in 2012 to run solely on solar and wind power, and 80% of its infrastructure is made from materials recycled from the old building. It even has mechanical shutters that open and close depending on the building's heat and CO2 levels. Fresh water comes care of the airport's own desalination plant, which converts local seawater.
Galapagos Ecological Airport was built in 2012 to run solely on solar and wind power, and 80% of its infrastructure is made from materials recycled from the old building. It even has mechanical shutters that open and close depending on the building's heat and CO2 levels. Fresh water comes care of the airport's own desalination plant, which converts local seawater.
Can you spot the finches?

We absolutely loved the Galapagos Islands and hope this guide will help you plan your own family trip to the islands! Want to read this later? Pin this image to save for later.

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