Did you know that 97% of the Galapagos Islands are a national park? Snorkel around mangroves teeming with marine life. Explore the stunning, sandy beaches of Isabela Island. Bike, kayak, surf and hike the amazing coasts and volcanic calderas.
We’ve been coming back to the Galapagos Islands since 1998 for a good reason: this hidden gem of South America offers natural wonders and active adventure far from the tourist hubs and cities.
It’s impossible to name them all, but here are 11 reasons why families love the Galapagos Islands.
1. The Beaches are Beautiful (and One is Green!)
The beaches in the Galapagos are just pristine. White sandy shorelines lead into turquoise waters, and , you won’t see a cloud in sight – beautiful!
You might be surprised to discover the sand in Santa Cruz’s Whale Bay is green. Don’t worry – that’s totally normal! The peculiar color is a result of natural processes related to underground magma. It’s a fun place for some coastline snorkeling and wildlife spotting: the sea lions, iguanas and yellow warblers will be happy to keep you company!
2. …and you can explore them by foot
Many travel operators who visit the Galapagos do so from a cruise ship, allowing only brief excursions inland to see the islands, wildlife and scenery. Thomson gets you into hotels and inns throughout the islands. That way, you spend more time creating lasting memories with the scuttling marine iguanas, lumbering tortoises and, of course, the people you cherish.
3. Two Words: Lava Tunnel
You read that right: Santa Cruz has massive underground tunnels made of volcanic rock that are millions of years old. These subterranean tunnels can measure over 1,300 feet, delving below one section of the island and rising somewhere completely different. These incredible formations are great for teaching how volcanoes formed the Galapagos Islands. Your naturalist guide will make sure your time in the tunnels is as fun as it is educational.
4. Making New Friends is Easy
Our flagship Friends Across Borders program is the gold standard when it comes to creating new international connections. In fact, the Galapagos Islands are one of the first places we fostered those connections – it’s something of a craft we’ve perfected over the years.
When families travel to the Galapagos, your children have the chance to meet Ecuadorian students, become acquainted and play soccer (or just hang out!). The kids might teach each other a few language skills or geek out over Minecraft – in any case, it’s a wonderful opportunity to remember how much we have in common with those around the world.
5. The Galapagos Shines Any Time of Year
Thanks to its position near the equator, the Galapagos Islands experience a temperate climate year-round. December to May is the archipelago’s hot season, with average temperatures at around 84° Fahrenheit. The islands are dense with beautiful tropical greenery. Though it’s more likely to rain, showers tend to be short.
The dry season lasts from June to November, with temperatures averaging around 75° Fahrenheit. The islands become colorful and arid, and experience southeastern winds that provide an amazing, movie-star breeze.
6. The Sierra Negra Volcano is Massive
Isabela Island is home to the enormous Sierra Negra Volcano, one of five on the island. Its six-mile wide crater is a stunning, powerful reminder of the Galapagos Islands’ volcanic formation.
A light hike on a slow, gradual incline will bring you past fumaroles and lava fields to the volcanic rim. Along the way, your naturalist guide will talk about the geology, birds and plant life. When you reach the top, check out the different colors of lava rock, which tell you how new (or, more often, millions of years old) the eruptions that created them are.
7. Giant Tortoises, Blue Footed Boobies and More
So much of the wildlife found in the Galapagos Islands is endemic, meaning it is found nowhere else on Earth. Among the countless marine and land-based creatures that holds true for is the famous Galapagos giant tortoise, weighing up to 919 pounds.
An amazing, colorful array of critters awaits on the land and in the ocean. Here are some of our favorites:
- Sally Lighfoot Crab. These zany little scuttlers like to hang out on the rocky outcrops of San Cristobal.
- Galapagos Penguin. These penguins are especially surprising – they’re the only wild penguin colony north of the equator. Being endemic to the island, they are a land-based colony too, which is unusual in itself!
- Lava Lizard. Imagine a fiery red reptile whose tail is the tip of a flame. Well done: you’ve imagined something similar to the Lava Lizard, a little animal blazing with color.
- Lava Gull. With an ash-black head and grey plumage, this endemic and endlessly beautiful bird is considered to be the rarest gull in the world.
Let’s not forgot the island’s amazing marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies and Darwin’s famous finches, three iconic species that have helped shape the identity of this beautiful place.
8. Everyone Can Surf in the Galapagos Islands
The tides in the Galapagos Islands are, as the kids say, totally gnarly. They’re great for first-time surfers who want to hang ten, catch a rad barrel, carve the curls…you get the idea.
If you’ve never surfed before, no sweat: we’ll connect you with a surf instructor who will guide you, step-by-step, to riding your first wave. It’s a low-pressure environment that’s all about having fun (and of course, shredding the surf)!
9. Biking the Wall of Tears
The Galapagos Islands offer a ton of outdoor activity unique to its special place in the world. One of those activities is a scenic bike ride on Isabela Island.
Cycle through mountainous scenery and swampland filled with wildlife to the Wall of Tears, built by prisoners of the island’s former penal colony. It’s as much an amazing scenic workout as it is a fascinating cultural excursion.
10. Kayaking Calm Bays and Beautiful Beaches
Puerto Villamil Bay is often thought of as the jewel of the Galapagos harbors. A string of islands and natural reefs protect these calm waters, making it an outstanding spot for some water sports – yes, that includes kayaking!
While you’re out on the water, keep your eyes open for wildlife resting on the rocks. Common sightings include blue footed boobies, frigate birds, marine iguanas and pelicans – not to mention those Galapagos penguins we talked about earlier.
11. Snorkeling with Marine Life in Whale Bay
Few places in the world offer the chance to snorkel with such an amazing array of endemic fish. In Santa Fe’s Whale Bay, you can swim around mangrove thickets that provide food for king angel fish, damselfish, barberfish and surgeonfish, among many, many others.
The Galapagos Islands are more than a beautiful place for watersports and leisure – they are home to conservationists working to preserve the area’s wildlife. Learn more about how to support and participate in these endeavors on our Galapagos Multi-Sport Adventure.