We snorkeled alongside of penguins, we played at the beach with sea lions and we basked in the sun with the iguanas. The intimate encounter we experienced with wildlife will forever be etched on our hearts and minds. Galapagos is breathtaking, enchanting, peaceful and family friendly.
Traveling with kids can be stressful, but it’s so worth it. I’d even venture to say–the family that travels together stays together. I’m partly joking but the bond you forge as you discover, explore and experience a new city, country, continent, culture, language, food … with your people, your little tribe, it’s unforgettable.
I was beside myself, when the day finally arrived for us to take our dream trip. We’d been saving up for years and now it was finally coming true. Some one pinch me. Galapagos and Machu Picchu were on our bucket list and now we could check one off.
A few things to take note about our trip: We were traveling on a budget. My kids were 3, 6 and 9. We did not receive any discounts or perks from any establishment in exchange for this article. We didn’t purchase any tour packages for our trip. We traveled in January. We did not plan our trip other than booking a hotel we were going to take it day by day. However, I did do research prior to going, to familiarize myself with the layout of the land and the top things to do there. We mostly stayed on the Island of Santa Cruz but we did island hop one day to see the penguins.
We flew out of Quito, Ecuador and had a connection in Guayaquil before our final destination.
Traveling Adventures: Galapagos with Kids–Day One
The land of the giant tortoises is what I’d call the highlands. We were surrounded by lush green pastures, mountains and turtles. This was pretty much the only place we came across the giant tortoises other than seeing their tracks early one morning on the beach and knowing that had gone to and fro from the sea but they were no where in sight.
Upon arriving on an island in Galapagos which looked like it only existed for the purpose of landing planes, I immediately felt the hot breeze smother me. We were coming from the Andes where it was nice and cool–I was not prepared for the heat. None of us were, it was really hot (in our opinion).
Everyone but the nationals had to pay an entrance fee to set foot onto the enchanted islands. If you’re a resident of Ecuador you pay a smaller fee. I’m not sure how much foreigners pay but you may want to look into that because it’s a per person rate. Most tour packages you purchase don’t include this entrance fee so make sure you ask about it before you’re caught by surprise with this unexpected expense at the airport.
Once you go through customs and pay your fee you take a bus to the edge of the harbor to board onto a taxi boat which then takes you to the island of Santa Cruz . It was less than $2 for our taxi boat. Once you arrive you take another taxi, if you don’t have someone from your hotel waiting to pick you up. Our hotel hired someone to pick us up from here and drop us off at our hotel. I think it cost about $10. Though it wasn’t hard it was nice not to have to figure that out upon our arrival.
We’d only been on the island for less than 10 minutes and we were already in love with the sea lions.
Our taxi truck driver was definitely a good businessman. He immediately asked us if we were interested in taking a tour of the highlands since we would go near it on the way to our hotel. He then explained that this was a good plan because it would get this part of our sightseeing out of the way so we could focus on the activities near the harbor or the islands. I agreed and we accepted and he was right. Once you get to the harbor it would take at least 1/2 of a day to go up to the highlands explore these areas and get back. Since our time was limited we were thankful for this option as it helped us make the most of our days on the islands.
Our first stop was Los Gemelos. Los Gemelos are twin craters set up high in the mountainous region of the island. It was a beautiful sight but at that point in our trip I was thankful ours was short. The taxi driver/tour guide told us to take our time going around the outer area and he picked us up on the other side and explained a little bit of history concerning how these craters came about. If I understood correctly they were caused by the collapse of the magma chambers from the volcanoes.
The next stop was the Rancho Primicias which is an ecological tortoise reserve with huge lava tunnels that run through their property. Apparently, there are lots of others sites with lava tunnels but we got a two in one deal here since we were able to see the natural habitat of the tortoises and enjoy the lava tunnels. We paid a small fee to enter and explore the ranch. On your way out you can also order tea, coffee (organic coffee was free) and tamales. We were starving so our family enjoyed their snacks. They also have these fun tortoise shells where you can slide in and take some pictures. The caption on this picture should say, “I got a big butt and there’s no denying.” LOL
One of our boys is much more cautious about anything he does so the tunnels scared him at first but with some encouragement we were able to get him to go through it with us. He loved it and we were all amazed by the natural beauty that was created from a volcano explosion and lava running through the land.
We learned some interesting things about tortoises–if you get to close they hiss and then go into their shell. We weren’t allowed to touch them so we just took pictures near them. According to other tourist this is the place with the most concentrated amount of tortoises are in their natural habitat. Thankfully, I had my long lens so I was able to get some good shots without frightening them.
In my opinion, the lava tunnels were amazing. This was the entrance to one of them, you had to go down the stairs to get a glimpse of the natural artistic beauty.
Here you can see that the lava went through one end and came back out another creating another tunnel within the tunnel.
I have so many great pictures of the lava tunnels so I’ll only post two more so I don’t bore you.
We finally made it to our hotel and we spent the rest of the day getting settled in and exploring the harbor. We did learn from our first day that we were able to visit both of those spot for really cheap and we didn’t need a tour company to charge us an arm and a leg for the a similar experience. So if you go feel free to just take a taxi and enjoy this trip for cheap. Our taxi driver/tour guide offered us lots of information so it was like having a tour guide. So maybe if you want information to go along with your trip you can ask your taxi driver if he can also serve as a tour guide. You can even do it on your way out of the island before heading off to the airport if you’re flight doesn’t leave early in the morning.
Our hotel was about a 2 minute walk from the harbor. It was inexpensive, nearby the main attractions and nice. I’ll share more about that in my Galapagos with Kids: Day Two, article.