Located 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, you'll find a collection of small islands with big biodiversity known as the Galapagos. These 19 volcanic islands offer up-close wildlife encounters surpassing even the best zoos, making it a great destination for families.
The history of biology comes alive in the Galapagos as you walk in the footsteps of Charles Darwin himself. Darwin visited the Galapagos Islands aboard the HMS Beagle in 1835, and what he observed there helped him form his theory of natural selection. His legacy remains at the Charles Darwin Research Station.
For years, Galapagos tour operators have catered primarily to adult travelers, but today, you'll find a wide variety of itineraries geared specifically toward families. What better way to foster a sense of environmental responsibility in your children than giving them a first-hand look at what's at stake.
Animal encounters in the Galapagos are practically guaranteed. Since most of the wildlife aren't bothered by the presence of humans, you can get up close to observe birds, sea lions, tortoises and iguanas in their natural habitats. You can leave the zoom lens at home, since you'll be so close, you won't even need it.
The wealth of experiences available in the Galapagos means toddlers and teenagers alike will have plenty to do. Spend a day building sandcastles on the beach with the sea lions and lizards, or go diving with sharks in the waters just off the coast. Worried about seasick kids? Embark on a land-based exploration of the islands instead.
While the Galapagos isn't a budget destination, there are significant discounts to be had for families traveling with children. Your kids can sometimes get up to 50 percent off an adult fare, and if you travel during the fall or spring off-season, you'll save even more.
Traveling to the Galapagos is about more than wildlife. It involves experiencing a new culture. When you pass through Quito, you and your family can experience the colonial architecture, craft markets and delicious food that have helped earn the city a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The thought of taking the entire family to South America might sound daunting at first, but travel to the Galapagos is easier than you think. You don't need a visa to visit Ecuador, and most tours – particularly cruises geared toward families – are all-inclusive.
There really isn't a bad time to visit the Galapagos, as the weather is pleasant throughout the year. Since different species breed at different times, you and the kids will almost certainly see a few Galapagos babies whether you travel winter or summer, autumn or spring.