The Galapagos Islands, located nearly 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, are known for their dizzying array of wildlife. These 19 volcanic islands make the perfect family vacation destination with plenty to offer kids of all ages.
1. Amazing Animal Encounters
Sea lion pup — Photo courtesy of Dag Peak
The Galapagos Islands beat any zoo hands down when it comes to close-up animal encounters. You'll see species found nowhere else on earth, come nose to nose with sunbathing sea lions, gaze into the ancient eyes of a Galapagos tortoise and identify blue-footed boobies.
2. It's Educational
Don't tell the kids, but they're bound to learn a lot about animals and the environment without a teacher or textbook in sight.
3. Foster a Love of the Environment
Red-footed booby — Photo courtesy of sly06
What better way to instill a sense of environmental stewardship in your kids than by exposing them to exactly what's at stake. Older kids and teenagers can even participate in volunteer conservation projects to help give something back.
3. Something for Everyone
Whether you're traveling with toddlers or teenagers, you'll find activities for all ages in the Galapagos. Spend a day at the beach with little ones, or go on a scuba diving safari with more adventurous teenagers.
4. Underwater World
It would be a shame to visit the Galapagos Islands without taking time to explore the underwater world right off its shores. Snorkeling and diving expeditions take you to see a variety of fish, sharks, penguins and sea lions.
5. Brilliant Beaches
Black Beach — Photo courtesy of Dallas Krentzel
Idyllic stretches of sand are abundant in the Galapagos, and depending on where you decide to lay your towel, you may be sharing real estate with sea lions, aquatic lizards and sea turtles.
6. Discounts for Kids
The Galapagos Islands aren't the cheapest destination around, but many times cruise operators offer discounted rates for kids, sometimes as much as 50 percent off.
7. Exposure to a New Culture
Traditional Ecuadorian clothes — Photo courtesy of Hosteria San Mateo
Chances are your travels to the Galapagos will take you through Quito, the capital city. Consider spending a day or two exploring all the cultural wonders of the first city to ever be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
8. It's a Year-round Destination
With it's position near the equator, the Galapagos Islands are pleasant year round. That means you don't need to worry about pulling the kids out of school to catch the best weather conditions.
9. All-Inclusive Cruises
So long as you don't suffer from major seasickness, exploring the islands via cruise makes for a hassle-free vacation, particularly if you're traveling with kids. Look for operators with kid- or teen-focused itineraries for the best possible experience.
10. Easy to Get to
It's not as difficult to get to the Galapagos Islands as you may thing. After a flying to Quito – sometimes in less than four hours – you can hop on the short two-hour flight to the islands.