A Perfect Family Vacation to Galapagos Islands

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Total Trip:

11 Days
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Countries Visited:

Galapagos / Ecuador
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Places Visited:

Quito, La Compania, Mindo, North Seymour Island, Punta Espinoza, Puerto Ayora, Punta Cormorant, Galapagos
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Departure Dates:

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.
Natural history is alive in the Galapagos. Mystical landscapes are explored, unique wildlife is encountered, and a variety of activities allow the family to explore their own piece of the archipelago. This family vacation trip to Galapagos Islands is handcrafted and combines a 6-day Galapagos cruise with four days discovering the Andes and Quito. Snorkel and swim with penguins, sunbathe beside sea lions, hike on volcanic history, and discover a world that's breathtaking regardless of your age.

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Day 1

Arriving in an Ancient City

The old city of Quito leaves history hanging from balconies and courtyards. Located in a compact central area, you'll find the largest collection of Spanish colonial buildings anywhere in South America. Church domes glimmer with their 16th century Moorish roots, historic bishops' palaces have been converted into shopping and dining arcades while pastel-colored streets mingle five centuries of tales.

After landing at Quito International, you'll be greeted by your guide and transferred to a hotel in the old city. Check in and relax. The whole area is very safe and easy to walk as a family. There's also a huge choice of restaurants within walking distance of the hotel.

What's Included:

included

Transfer

included

Accommodation

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Day 2

Relaxed Quito City Tour

Etched into these central streets are the tales of conquerors and indigenous tribes, every building is home to another historical narrative. Before the Spanish, came the Incas, and before them came 1,100 years of civilization, all of it now buried beneath the Presidential Palace and Plaza de la Independencia.

Today, you go on a leisurely private walking tour of the city, visiting some of the most remarkable buildings. At La Compania, you're blinded by an interior covered in gold, the shimmering leaf carved around walls, altars, and domes. Eclectic styles mix at other churches while live musicians create a lively atmosphere in the city squares. There's also some fascinating exhibits in the city's cultural centers, and you can walk across the courtyard of the president's palace. Lunch is included and the afternoon is at your leisure.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Tour

included

Breakfast

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Day 3

Zip Lining and Hiking Through the Cloud Forest in Mindo

Head north from the city and the mountain slopes become dominated by thick, mysterious forest. Butterflies flicker through the trees while quetzals call from hidden branches. Mist rises through the cloud forest, a stunning site as the family takes a zip line above the canopy. The green awning closes in and you walk deeper into the undergrowth. Strange plants and birds are spotted as moss climbs up gigantic trunks. In total, it's a three-hour excursion with different hiking trails connected by zip lines.

After lunch, besides a vivid collection of hummingbirds, visit a butterfly sanctuary, where you can witness the complete process from caterpillar to cocoon to decaying adult. Butterflies also land on everyone with patient fingers. Return to Quito in the late afternoon.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Breakfast

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Day 4

Walking on Volcanic Slopes and Visiting the Middle of the World

The Equator line is one piece of geography that can excite almost all children. First, visit the fake Equator, where a monument shows where the French had incorrectly found the middle of the earth. Then, visit where the indigenous tribes had located the Equator many centuries earlier, a site that's since been confirmed by GPS. Take a famous photo of the family straddling the Equator and learn some intriguing science that tips perceptions of the Earth on its head.

Next, take a cable car to the slopes of Pichincha Volcano for stunning views over the city and the snowy mountains that surround it. You can take a short hike along the slopes here before returning to Quito via an enchanting back route.

What's Included:

included

Tour

included

Accommodation

included

Breakfast

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Day 5

Spectacular Bird Nesting Sites on North Seymour

The Galapagos adventure starts on North Seymour, an iconic island filled with the mating antics of strange birds. Blue-footed boobies spread their nests along the cliffs, guarding two precious eggs just two meters from the walking trail. Males seeking a mate, dance and hop hoping to attract females to their flamboyant feet. Magnificent and great frigates are even more outrageous in their mating displays, inflating a bright red pouch and finding a prime spot on the breeding ground. Sea lions and fur seals are found around the landing site while you'll also get a first glimpse of large land iguanas. This island is a wonderful introduction to Galapagos wildlife, and a guided land excursion occupies the afternoon.

You'll fly to Galapagos from Quito, where you're met at the airport and taken directly to your ship for lunch. This large, brand-new ship is amongst the best for family cruising. Ensuite cabins with interlinking doors can be set up for families, and there's many different social areas for some privacy and tranquil time. A boat of this size is also well-equipped to combat the potential of seasickness as it's more sturdy in the water.

Seven naturalist guides are on board, and they tailor excursions and information to children's interests. For example, they offer children's photography activities or guided snorkeling in safe, shallow waters. There's also a library full of books on the Galapagos, a large upper sundeck, and WiFi on board. After the excursion to North Seymour, enjoy a welcome greeting from the crew and a three-course dinner in the restaurant.

What's Included:

included

Transfer

included

Flight

included

Accommodation

included

Breakfast

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Day 6

An Incredible Underwater World in the Western Galapagos

Another great advantage of your ship will be its size and speed in the water. Over these six days, the ship connects remote Galapagos sites, allowing you to experience the full diversity of the archipelago.

Wake up this morning and you're in the west, anchored alongside Isabela Island. After breakfast, take a dinghy ride beneath the gigantic volcanic cliffs, admiring lava flows and the soaring of tropical seabirds. Galapagos penguins, sea lions, and flightless cormorants dive into the waters around you, often coming up with a slither of fish in their beaks. You can also snorkel along the cliffs here, offering an even more intimate encounter with these three iconic species. Follow the guide, and you reach a turtle cleaning station, where Galapagos green sea turtles come to eat and have their shells cleansed of parasites. It's one of the best snorkeling sites in the whole archipelago.

Return to your boat and enjoy a large buffet lunch before a few relaxed hours in the early afternoon. This is time to read a book on the sun deck or watch out for whales and dolphins in the ocean. The afternoon excursion is to Fernandina, the youngest Galapagos Island. Sea lions greet you at this special site, their honking overheard by spiraling Galapagos hawks and nesting flightless cormorants. Frigate birds and blue-footed boobies can also be seen on the easy hike. But the main attraction is the Galapagos penguins, hundreds of them playing along the cliffs and comically waddling around.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Breakfast

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Day 7

Swimming with Penguins and Sea Lions

Slowly, you paddle through Tagus Cove watching out for the antics of penguins and sea lions. A long second passes as these iconic species raise their heads from the water, eying you with confusion before returning to their fishing. Next, hike onto Isabela Island to the Darwin Crater rim for dazzling views of the volcanoes that continue to shape the archipelago. Return to sea level and jump into the water to swim and snorkel with the penguins and sea lions, a unique opportunity to encounter such rare creatures in the natural habitat. All this happens in an action-packed morning.

Urbina Bay is the day's second wildlife site, a place where giant tortoises and marine iguanas occupy the shoreline. Hike across the ocean floor and spot large land iguanas, the camouflage specialists blended expertly into the orange rock. Penguins, hawks, and blue-footed boobies are also common sights as you wander across coral and shells. Urbina Bay was created when the ocean uplifted in the 1950's, meaning that the scenery of the ocean floor is now above the surface.

Since most Galapagos excursions combine both water and land activities, you will return to your ship with exhausted children. Enjoy dinner and another chance to admire the stars from such a remote location.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Breakfast

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Day 8

Intimate Encounters with Giant Tortoises on Santa Cruz

Today provides a change of scenery as you arrive on Santa Cruz Island and head into the luscious highlands. Giant tortoises cover the fertile slopes, many of them well over 100 years of age and weighing over 500 pounds. Necks extend from shells as they move slowly and deliberately across their feeding ground. When excited children move too fast, they hide bashfully in their shells. But walk around on tiptoes and you can get within a couple of meters of these remarkable giants. Your naturalist guide provides the science, including how they can survive a year without water and live with just three heartbeats a second.

After lunch beside a hotel pool, you visit the Charles Darwin Research Station to see tortoise species from different islands and learn more about the Galapagos's role in shaping scientific understanding of the world. Return to the Santa Cruz II for dinner and overnight.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Breakfast

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Day 9

Iconic and Endemic Specialties on Floreana

Disembark at Post Office Bay and there's always a boisterous colony of sea lions shouting hello. Return their gaze and then post your letter in a wooden barrel that's served as a post office for almost 300 years. Pirates and whalers would leave cards in the barrel for their colleagues to find, and anyone finding a card they could deliver would do so. You'll be able to buy souvenirs at this historic little town before a short nature hike offers more encounters with sea lions, marine iguanas, and blue-footed boobies. Return to your ship for your buffet lunch.

Sea lions cover the olivine-crystal beach at Punta Cormorant. They look bizarre, big lumps of blubber contrasting with the turquoise waves and fine sand. It's a famous place to lay down your towel and sunbathe beside them. Your guide takes you inland where greater flamingos pick their way through a brackish-water lagoon, and magnificent frigates can be seen soaring above.

Completing the activities here, you can choose a glass-bottom boat ride or snorkel around the volcanic pinnacle of Champion Islet. Sea turtles roam here, casually coasting across the vibrant reef and paying little attention to the vivid collection of tropical fish. It's perhaps the best marine site in the south of the islands and a wonderful way to round off the Galapagos exploration. Return to the boat for a farewell dinner on board.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Tour

included

Breakfast

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Day 10

Relaxing After Returning to the Mainland

Even as you leave the Galapagos, it's impossible to miss the wildlife. Sea lions hark around on the pier, and the shimmering white of seabirds can be spotted from the airport entrance. Fly back to Quito and arrive around mid-afternoon, where you're greeted and transferred to a nearby spa hotel.

After five nights in the Galapagos, everyone will be ready for a little quiet, relaxed time. Two pools, a spa, and massage room offer an idyllic place to rejuvenate. But the wildlife hasn't stopped. Llamas roam around the vast gardens, poking their heads up to stare at every guest, a final little treat for entertaining the children.

What's Included:

included

Transfer

included

Accommodation

included

Breakfast

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Day 11

Departure

On the return flight, you all debate the defining moment from the vacation. Perhaps the sea lions and their marine antics? Maybe the strange mating birds? The cloud forest? Equator? Kayaking alongside a colony of penguins? It's a conversation that likely to continue for years to come, as is remembering the photo on the Equator.

What's Included:

included

Transfer

included

Breakfast

expand/close
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Trip Highlights

  • Discover the Galapagos archipelago with a 6-day cruise on the new Santa Cruz II, a spacious and comfortable boat that's ideal for family travel
  • Seven naturalist guides and a selection of activities allow the whole family to explore a Galapagos world above and below the water
  • Marvel at the mating displays of iconic birds, stand beside giant tortoises, find fur seals on the beach, and hike along stunning volcanic cliffs
  • Snorkel with sea lions and penguins and enjoy a glass-bottom boat ride to see different species of sharks and rays
  • Visit the true middle of the Earth and photograph the family straddling the Equator line
  • Hike on the slopes of a dormant volcano and zip line through the cloud forest of Mindo, two outdoor activities for your time in Quito
  • Discover the charms of the world's first ever World Heritage Site with a walking tour of Quito
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Detailed Description

Tailored for active families, this itinerary offers an intimate journey to Ecuador and the Galapagos. Spend six days touring the Western and Central Galapagos on this family vacation trip to Galapagos Islands. You will be able to get close to all the unusual and wonderful characters that call these islands home. The varied excursions allow you to encounter safely everything from lava flows to reef sharks, boisterous birds to mammoth reptiles. Cruising on the large Santa Cruz II allows you to explore as a family, but also provides tranquil space for parents. Furthermore, guides run tailored activities that ensure the children are fully involved.

But before the Galapagos, start the vacation with four days in the old city of Quito, a compact area laced with colonial charm and mysterious history. A private guide and driver take you on day trips to cloud forests and iconic attractions, with the timing tailored to your needs. These four days in and around Quito offer an exciting slice of Ecuador. The old city is dominated by the tales of indigenous tribes and Spanish conquerors, and its stories are etched into golden churches and ambient city squares. Safe and easy to walk, this area makes for a gentle and charming base.

Travel to the cloud forest of Mindo where hiking trails are connected by zip lining above the canopy. Stop at the Equator before taking a cable car to the slopes of a dormant volcano showcasing dramatic Andean views.

A large boat like the new Santa Cruz II is ideal for a family Galapagos itinerary. The spacious accommodation offers ensuite cabins, and there are numerous social areas to find some privacy and tranquility. Seven naturalist guides run a range of excursions to iconic natural sites, allowing you to tailor the itinerary dependent on the family's mood. Snorkeling, glass-bottom boat rides, kayaking, hiking, swimming, and dinghy rides are all offered at most sites. All meals are included, and the boat's size is an excellent counter to any potential feelings of seasickness.

This adventure connects many of the archipelago's most famous sites, including North Seymour, Champion Islet, Fernandina Island, and the western shores of Isabela Island. You're able to explore as a family but also safely allow children to pursue their own interests. Snorkel and swim alongside penguins and sea turtles, visit the extravagant nesting sites of vibrant birds, glass-bottom boat ride past sharks and rays, and stand surrounded by the world's largest tortoises. Each wildlife site is an ode to natural history, a living epitome of evolution and a fascinating story for the whole family to follow.

Please browse the Galapagos tour reviews for ideas and to see what other traveler's experienced while on their customized trip.

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Starting Price

$8245 per person (excluding international flights)

This trip is  customizable for your   private travel.

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What's Included

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip

The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a  custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.

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