Galapagos Islands, books, child, children, nature, animals, Darwin

Twelve Titles on Galapagos – For Children

You and your family are dreaming of going to the Galapagos Islands. How can you prepare your young ones for their explorations of these enchanting isles?

A surprising number of children’s books about the Galapagos have been published. Share these works aloud with your kids at bedtime or on a rainy afternoon. Some have activities you can enjoy with your children. We have chosen books for a range of ages, from kindergarten to pre-teen.

Check with an on-line or your local bricks-and-mortar bookshop for these and other works. Or borrow them from your public library. (If it doesn’t have the books you wish to peruse, you can request them through interlibrary loan for a small fee.)


The Adventures of Piratess Tilly

by Elizabeth Lorayne

Piratess Tilly heads to the Galapagos with her koala and a menagerie of animals to explore the islands’ flora and fauna. There they encounter pirates kidnapping giant tortoises. How will Tilly and her friends save those mellow reptiles? This book, written in haiku, won the Moonbeam Spirit Award Winner for Exploration, for children’s books. For ages 4-8.


Darwin and Evolution for Kids

by Kristan Lawson

This book includes 21 activities, like a botanical treasure hunt and how to keep a naturalist journal, that you can do with your child to learn more about Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. For ages 10-14.


Galapagos Bedtime Stories

by Paula Tagle Saad

Through tales of the islands’ unique fauna, Galapagos naturalist guide Paula Tagle Saad recounts how these animals’ lives are. You’ll meet many of the isles’ natives, like a waved albatross that’s afraid of heights, and find out why flightless cormorants can no longer fly. For ages 4-8.


A Galapagos Day

by Sarah Martin

Learn about a day in the life of a new-born sea lion pup. For ages 5-9.


Galapagos Islands Coloring Book

by Jan Sovak

Your child will spend hours on a rainy (or snowy) day learning about the Galapagos while coloring these drawings of the islands’ animals. It contains much information about the wildlife. This would also be a good book to take along on your Galapagos cruise. For any age (even grown-ups!)


“Galapagos” Means “Tortoise”

by Ruth Heller

With poetry and pictures, your young one will learn about giant tortoises – and blue-footed boobies, marine iguanas, sea lions and eight other Galapagos creatures. For ages 6-9.


Island: A Story of the Galápagos

by Jason Chin

Through watercolors and text, Chin explains the Galapagos Islands’ geology, evolution and wildlife in a language your pre-teens will understand. For ages 8-12.


Inside the Beagle with Charles Darwin

by Fiona Macdonald and Mark Bergin

Board the HMS Beagle and learn how life aboard was for the Galapagos Islands’ most famous naturalist scientist, Charles Darwin. For ages 7-12.


Lala Goes To the Galapagos Islands

by Virginia Ives

A grandmother’s photographic journey with her grandson to the Galapagos Islands. For ages 5 and up.


An Old Shell: Poems of the Galapagos

by Tony Johnston

Through his 34 poems and drawings, Johnston tells us about his trip to the magical Galapagos Islands. For ages 7 and up.


Tomas and the Galapagos Adventure

by Carolyn Lunn

A fun tale of Tomas, an Ecuadorian child, who dream-journeys to the Galapagos Islands where he rides on a sea turtle and sees humpback whales and hammerhead sharks, lunches with pirates, and escapes from a volcanic eruption – and makes it home in time for dinner! For ages 5-8.


We’re Sailing to the Galapagos

by Laurie Krebs and Grazia Restelli

Get ready to sail to the Galapagos Islands, to see waved albatrosses, iguanas, giant tortoises and more of the isles’ fascinating animals. For ages 5-8.


These twelve titles will help your young explorers prepare for their Galapagos adventure. And be sure to check out the other parts of Galapagos Travel Planner’s exclusive “Twelve Titles on Galapagos” series: Natural History, Human History, and Videos. Did we miss your favorite book? Share it in the comments below.


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Shopping in the Galapagos islands

Cash or Card? Using Money in the Galapagos Islands

Updated July 9, 2017.

We often get asked about the best way to pay your way while you’re in the Galapagos Islands. Whether you’re on a cruise, land-based tour or independent trip, you’ll no doubt need to spend some extra cash at some point – perhaps for a drink in the bar, souvenirs, tips, snacks or anything else you might need.

You’ll also need cash for the $100 national park fee and, if you are going to Isabela Island, the $5 dock tax there. As well, often the price on restaurant menus does not include the 10% service (tips) or 12% IVA tax.

As these protected islands are 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) out to sea, it’s not as straightforward as simply whipping out your credit card. So before you go, be sure to read our top money tips.

Money, money, money
  • The currency used in the Galapagos Islands (and all of Ecuador) is the U.S. Dollar.
  • In Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island, there are two banks. Banco del Pacífico has ATMs accepting Mastercard, Cirrus and Visa (Avenida Charles Darwin across from the fisherman’s wharf; Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m.-1 p.m.). Banco Pichincha has an ATM (Avenida Baltra, between Española and Genovesa Streets; Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-4 p.m.). ATMs are also at the Proinsular supermarket at the end of Avenida Charles Darwin, past the post office.
  • In Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristóbal Island, Banco del Pacífico has a 24-hour ATM and changes Euros to US dollars (corner of Avenida Hernán Melville and Ignacio; Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m.-1 p.m.).
  • Note that there are no ATMs in the town of Puerto Villamil on Isabela Island or in Puerto Velazco Ibarra on Floreana Island. Bring plenty of cash with you.
  • Nicer hotels, restaurants and souvenir stores accept major credit cards, but there is often a 5-10% fee charged. Many shops and restaurants do not accept credit cards, and neither do all hotels – check in advance. MasterCard and Visa are the most accepted; few businesses take American Express.
  • Traveler cheques are not widely accepted, so it is better to stick to cash and credit cards.
  • Bring some extra cash with you from the mainland, just in case your credit card isn’t accepted or the ATMs are out of bills. (It happens!)
  • Bring small bills – $10s and $5s are ideal. You won’t be able to use bills over $20.


Have you already been to the Galapagos islands? Help other travellers by sharing your money tips in the comments below.


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King Angelfish, Galápagos Islands

Galapagos Islands’ Best Snorkeling Sites – No Cruise Required

This is the third article of a three-part series about the Galapagos Islands’ best snorkeling sites, to help you plan your dream vacation.

The previous two parts of this special series about the best snorkeling sites in the Galapagos Islands focused on the Eastern / Central and Western parts of the archipelago.

But if you suffer from extreme seasickness that prevents you from even taking a day cruise (let alone a multi-day cruise), you won’t be left out of the action. You will still be able to explore the Galapagos’ underwater world by snorkeling.

On each of the major islands, there are sites worthy of a snorkeling excursion, with no guide needed. Each of these islands is connected by air flights, thus allowing you to avoid taking the local ferries.


San Cristobal Island

Near Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the main town on this island and the capital of Galapagos Province, are several beaches suitable for swimming and snorkeling: Playa de Oro, Playa de los Marinos and Playa El Cañón. A bit further on, though, are cleaner, more tranquil spots for underwater exploration.

Playa Mann

Playa Mann is located just west of downtown Puerto Baquerizo Moreno and Playa de Oro. This white beach of crushed shells fringes clear waters perfect for snorkeling. This is also a wonderful spot to catch the sunset.

La Lobería

A great site to observe myriads of tropical fish, rays, sea turtles and – as its name suggests – lots of sea lions. On the coral-sand beach you’ll see marine iguanas, finches and other birds. La Lobería is 10 minutes from the airport, southeast of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. You can walk there or take a taxi.

Punta Tijeretas

Punta Tijeretas is at the foot of Cerro Tijeretas, 3.5 kilometers (two miles) from Puerto Baquerizo. If you are a strong swimmer, you can snorkel with sea lions and tropical fish. Also, take time to enjoy the fantastic views of León Dormido rock from atop the hill.

Punta Carola

This famous golden beach is another place to snorkel with sea lions and marine iguanas as well as other marine life. Follow Avenida Alsacio Northía northward from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno; also accessible by trail from Cerro Tijeretas.


Santa Cruz Island

Tortuga Bay

This paradisaical bay has two beaches. The trail emerges at Playa Brava, which has strong currents. Walk to your right up the beach until you come to a small cove, which is named Playa Mansa. In these tranquil waters, you can see sea turtles, sea lions, rays and many colorful fish. Located about five kilometers (three miles) from downtown Puerto Ayora (45-60 minutes walking).

Las Grietas

These narrow channels are a delightful place to check out white-tipped sharks and a variety of tropical fish. To arrive to the trail to Las Grietas, you will have to take a water taxi across Puerto Ayora’s Academy Bay (about five minutes).


Isabela Island

Concha de Perla

Concha de Perla is a small lagoon edged by a narrow beach backed by mangroves. Within its calm waters lie wonderful creatures like chocolate chip starfish, rays, sea horses and lots of fish. You may even bump into sea turtles, white-tipped sharks, sea lions or even a penguin! The 250-meter (820-foot) trail to Concha de Perla is midways between the port and the town of Puerto Villamil. This is a popular spot, so go early morning or late afternoon to avoid the crowds.


Did we miss any Galapagos Island sites for incredible snorkeling? Tell us about it in the comments below!


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Frigate Birds, Galapagos Islands

New Galapagos Entry Requirements

The Galapagos Islands government has issued new entry regulations for both foreign and national tourists. These new requirements went into effect on June 5, 2017.

Visitors to the Galapagos Islands will now need to show the following when obtaining their tourist card at the Gobierno Especial del Régimen de Galápagos counters at the Quito and Guayaquil airports:

  • Round trip air fare.
  • Hotel and/or cruise reservation for the days they will be in the Galapagos Islands, from the time of arrival to departure from the islands.
  • If the tourist will be staying in the home of a Galapagos resident, a letter of invitation from the resident.

Once these documents have been presented, then the tourist can obtain the Galapagos tourist card which still costs $20US and is paid in cash.

An on-line registration form, which will save visitors time, is in the works. Check with your tour operator to see if you will have to supply this information, or if the tour agency will provide this service to their customers. Independent travelers should have copies of their air tickets and reservations printed off.

It is important that, before departing from the mainland, do-it-alone travelers make all hotel reservations on all the habitable islands where they will be spending the night. These include Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Isabela and Floreana islands.

Have you travelled to Galapagos since the new regulations came into effect? Share your experience with other travellers in the comments below.


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Galapagos Islands’ Best Snorkeling Sites – Eastern and Central Islands

This is the first of a three-part series about the Galapagos Islands’ best snorkeling sites, to help you plan your dream vacation.

The Galapagos Islands are renowned for its unique land animals – but a whole world of amazing creatures awaits you below the waves. Snorkeling is one way even novices can explore Galapagos’ underwater world.

To help you plan your Galapagos cruise, here are the top places to go snorkeling in the Eastern and Central sectors of the Islands. Some can be visited on day cruises, and others only with multi-day cruises.

Isla Lobos (San Cristobal Island)

As its name indicates, the main attraction of this protected cove is the large sea lion colony. These creatures, especially the young, love to leap and dive around the humans who visit their corner of the Galapagos, which has clear and tranquil waters.

Accessibility: Multi-day Cruise, Day cruise

Tour Region: Eastern

Kicker Rock (San Cristobal Island)

You’ll get your kicks at Kicker Rock. Within this narrow channel, you can see a startling variety of marine life, from rays to white-tipped sharks, from sea turtles to sea lions. With a bit of luck, dolphins and sharks (hammerheads and the endemic Galapagos) may swim by.

Accessibility: Day cruise; Multi-day Cruise (check itinerary to see if snorkeling is included)

Tour Region: Eastern

Gardner Bay (Española Island)

The clear, blue waters of Gardner Bay on Española, the southernmost Galapagos Island, is home to sting rays and colorful parrotfish, as well as sea lions, sea turtles and white-tipped reef sharks. From April to December, waved albatross are seen on the shores.

Accessibility: Multi-day cruise, Day cruise

Tour Region: Eastern / Southern

Chinese Hat Islet (Santa Cruz Island)

Here you’ll delight in the array of iconic Galapagos sea residents, including sea lions, green sea turtles, penguins and white-tipped sharks.

Accessibility: Multi-day cruise

Tour Region: Central

North Seymour Island

With little current around this island and low cliffs, this is a favorite snorkeling destination. White-tipped sharks are common, as are a rainbow of fish like parrotfish, hogfish, king angelfish and damselfish. Also on the agenda are rays and sea lions.

Accessibility: Multi-day cruise, Day cruise

Tour Region: Central

Devil’s Crown (Floreana Island)

Within this wave-worn, ancient volcanic cone beneath the waves lies a coral reef where you will observe sea urchins, moray eels and many species of fish, including the beautiful scorpionfish. Schools of spotted eagle and golden rays are also present, as are sea lions and green sea turtles. On the rim of the crater jutting above the water are blue- and red-footed boobies. This is one of the Galapagos Islands’ most treasured snorkeling spots. Accessible by panga (dinghy); current can be strong.

Accessibility: Multi-day cruise

Tour Region: Central / Southern

Pinnacle Rock (Bartholomew Island)

Bartolomé Island’s Pinnacle Rock is a common stop for cruises. On this stone obelisk’s beach sea turtles nest and sea lions rest. Beneath the waters is a jagged-rock labyrinth where colorful fish and white-tipped sharks live. This is also a great place to spot penguins.

Accessibility: Multi-day cruise, Day cruise

Tour Region: Central / Western

James Bay (Santiago Island)

This site delights on land and in the sea. On the shore lounge sea fur lions and sea lions. Offshore are penguins and vibrantly colored fish. Depending on the season, golden and spotted rays may also be present. Beginning snorkelers will enjoy this calm and shallow bay. Access is from the shore.

Accessibility: Multi-day cruise, Day cruise

Tour Region: Central / Western

Prince Phillip’s Steps (Genovesa Island)

On the southwestern side of Genovesa (Tower Island) is a submerged volcanic caldera in whose deeper waters reside hammerhead sharks and huge manta rays. On the eastern side of this island is Prince Phillip’s Steps, with more great snorkeling featuring large tropical fish like angelfish, parrotfish and unicorn fish.

Accessibility: Multi-day cruise

Tour Region: Central / Western


The next part of this series will explore the best snorkeling sites in the western part of the Galapagos Islands archipelago.


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Snorkeling in the Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands are one of the most stunning places on Planet Earth for snorkeling. Its underwater world is home to myriads of vibrant fish and other sea creatures including sea lions, marine iguanas and penguins.


What You Need to Know

Although the Galapagos Islands straddle the equator, the waters are not warm year-round. This is due to the cold Cromwell Current that flows from the west, and the Humboldt Current which surges northward from Antarctica. Between June and October, ocean temperatures are 18-22 ºC (64-72ºF), thus necessitating a wetsuit. The Humboldt begins to weaken in December. Between December and May, the water is much warmer (23-25ºC / 74-76ºF), calmer and clearer – thus creating fantastic conditions for snorkeling adventures.

Most boats cruising the Galapagos Islands supply snorkeling gear to their guests. Check to see if there is an additional charge for the use of gear or a wetsuit.

If you prefer to use your own snorkel, face mask and fins, it is quite easy to pick them up at home or in the major Ecuadorian cities, Quito and Guayaquil. Shops in the Galapagos towns also sell gear, though it will be more expensive than on the mainland, and some tour agencies rent it.

Another nifty item to have in your luggage is an underwater camera. It will let you capture and share the magical marvels you saw in the Galapagos.

If you are a newbie to snorkeling, try practicing in a local pool or pond before you take your Galapagos vacation. Guides on cruise ships can also teach you (and children) how to enjoy this easy sport.

To help preserve the Galapagos’ pristine environment, remember to keep respectable distance from animals (2 meters / 7 feet, according to Galapagos National Park regulations). Also, do not to stand on or touch coral reefs, as this can cause them to die.


 What You Can See

Because the Galapagos Islands lie at the confluence of three major currents – the cold-water Cromwell and Humboldt currents, and the warm Panamanian Current from the north – the waters surrounding the archipelago are rich in marine fauna. Hundreds of species reside here, with new ones being discovered every year.

Large schools of colorful fish brighten the deeps. These include Sergeant Major, striped deep blue with yellow fins; King Angelfish, pale blue with peach and brilliant yellow fins; Blue-chin Parrotfish, a green-rose-blue rainbow; and Yellowtail Surgeonfish, among many others.

Other creatures you may see are seahorses, sea slugs, starfish and sea stars. Eagle, golden and manta rays are also present (more common May-December), as are moray and other eels. Most Galapagos visitors, though, dream of snorkeling with sea lions, penguins, white-tipped sharks, marine iguanas and sea turtles.

Certain marine fauna can only be seen in certain areas of the Galapagos archipelago. If specific ones – like white-tipped sharks or penguins – are on your “to snorkel with” bucket list, then plan to visit their regions.


Best Places to Snorkel

Several Galapagos Islands have reefs that allow for fantastic snorkeling. Luckily, many of these are on the multi-day and day cruise ship itineraries. These include Devil’s Crown on Floreana Island, and nearby Onslow and Champion islets.

Bartolomé Island has not only reefs, but has a colony of Galapagos penguins. Another prime place to see this equatorial penguin species is on Chinese Hat Islet, off the southeast coast of Santiago Island. Here, you can also swim with sea lions, sea turtles and reef sharks. James Bay on Santiago is known for penguins, as well as sea turtles, sea lions, fur sea lions, and gold and spotted rays.

Many Isabela Island snorkeling sites offer not only penguins, but many fish species not found in other parts of the archipelago. Punta Vicente Roca is one of the most prized places to explore underwater. Tagus Cove is the only place where you can see giant sea stars.

Kicker Rock, northwest of San Cristóbal Island, is a dramatic snorkeling site where sea turtles, sharks and manta rays are easily observed. Also near San Cristóbal are Isla Lobos, renowned for its sea lions, and Islote Five Fingers, rich in bottom-dwelling fauna like sea urchins. In these sites, Galapagos sharks, eagle rays, multitudes of fish species and sea turtles are frequently seen.

North Seymour Island, north of Santa Cruz Island, has a fascinating array of fish, including damselfish, king angelfish and parrot fish. Black-blotched rays and sea lions are also common.


Have you gone snorkeling in the Galapagos Islands? Tell us about it in the comments below.


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9 Galapagos Day Cruises - Kicker Rock

9 Galapagos Islands Day Cruises

Land-based tourism in the Galapagos Islands doesn’t mean you’ll be confined to dry land on San Cristobal, Santa Cruz and Isabela islands. You can see the archipelago’s incredible wildlife on the uninhabited islands, too. Here are nine Galapagos day cruises you can add to your itinerary.

Navigation times are usually under two hours. Guides and lunch is included (and if the start time is early, also breakfast). Be sure to check whether snorkeling gear and wet suits are included in the price of the tour.

From San Cristóbal Island

Kicker Rock  Also known as León Dormido, this snorkeling or scuba diving tour is highlighted by three species of shark – white-tipped, Galapagos and hammerhead – and eagle rays. Frequently, tours include swimming and snorkeling at Manglesito Beach on Isla Lobos, home to a large sea lion colony.

Española  A day cruise to Española Island features snorkeling at Gardner Bay and hiking to Suárez Point.  This island’s unique Galapagos wildlife include waved albatross (April-December), marine iguanas (to see them blazing red and green, come in January), masked boobies and lots of land birds.

From Santa Cruz Island

Being in the center of the Galapagos archipelago, Santa Cruz is the launching point for many day cruises. Most depart from Canal de Itabaca, the channel between Santa Cruz Island and Baltra.

Bartolomé  Home of turquoise waters fringed with white-sand beaches, penguins (mating season in September) and nesting sea turtles (January-March). The tour includes a hike to the viewpoint of iconic Pinnacle Rock, and snorkeling with sea lions, white-tipped sharks and multitudes of colorful fish. Some tours continue to Sullivan Bay on the east coast of Santiago Island, where you can see the lava formations left by the 1903 eruption.

North Seymour  This destination features a two-kilometre (1.2 mile) trail through colonies of blue-footed boobies and frigatebirds. To see the boobies’ mating dance, plan your visit for April-May. Frigatebirds show off their red throat pouches year round. You can also snorkel with Galapagos sharks and sea turtles. Some tours to North Seymour also spend time at Bachas Beach on the north coast of Santa Cruz Island.

South Plaza  This islet is home to one of Galapagos’ largest sea lion colonies. Also resident are land and marine iguanas (and hybrid iguanas!), masked and blue-footed boobies, and tropic birds. Tours may include snorkeling at Carrion Point at the northeast tip of Santa Cruz.

Santa Fe  This island lies 40 minutes south of Puerto Ayora. Wildlife includes two species of land iguanas, Galapagos hawk and sea lions. Swimming and snorkeling with sea turtles, stingrays and tropical fish in the island’s crystalline waters is also on the agenda.

Floreana  On a day cruise from Puerto Ayora, you’ll hike to Asilo de Paz and other sites in the highlands, and snorkel at Black Beach. Unfortunately, visits to Post Office Bay and Devil’s Crown are limited to multi-day cruises.

From Isabela Island

Day tours to Isabela from Santa Cruz Island include the giant tortoise breeding center, flamingo-dotted lagoons and either Las Tintoreras or Concha de Perla. If you spend a few days on Isabela, though, you can see much more on cruises originating from the main town, Puerto Villamil.

Las Tintoreras  These small isles are located just off shore from Puerto Villamil, the main village on Isabela Island. They are named for the white-tipped sharks (tintoreras) that rest in the narrow inlets carved into the lava. Other residents are sea lions, marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies and penguins. Some tours to Las Tintoreras also include snorkeling at Concha de Perla lagoon.

Lava Tunnels  Also known as Cabo Rosa, the speed boat goes along the south coast of Isabela Island to tunnels formed by hot lava as it entered the sea. This landscape is home to sea turtles, sea lions, white-tipped sharks, rays and iguanas, as well as blue-footed and masked boobies, frigates and other birds. This tour includes snorkeling at Finados and a cruise around Roca Unión islet.


Have you taken a Galapagos Islands day cruise? Tell us about it in the comments below.


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Photo credit:Eric Schmuttenmaer

Multi-Generational Galapagos Vacations

3 Tips for Multi-Generational Galapagos Islands Vacations

The Galapagos Islands is an ideal vacation destination for the entire family. Not only mom and pop and the kids, but also grandparents or other generation of kinfolk can explore these incredible isles together.

Having three or more generations embarking on such a journey together poses some challenges. Here are three tips to help you plan your dream Galapagos adventure and create enchanting family memories.

Brainstorm Together

Lay out the snacks and sit down together (or schedule a Skype conference call). What would you like to see? What activities – birdwatching, snorkeling, bike riding, kayaking, hiking, scuba diving – would each of you like to do?  What are the younger travelers’ attention (and patience spans) like? Does anyone have physical limitations? Be sure to also discuss the budget of each of the participants.

Island Cruising or Land-Based Tourism?

The next decision to make is whether to take a multi-day Galapagos cruise or to island-hop through the archipelago.

Galapagos cruises last from four to ten days. Many larger ships offer separate activities for children, with programs and activities specially tailored for them. These boats also offer alternative activities for those with mobility issues. If your group is large enough, you may consider booking an entire, smaller yacht for your clan. All cruises have itineraries that allow for resting between visitor sites, and you don’t have to worry about finding a place to eat. All your needs aboard ship are taken care of. No matter if you choose a small or large ship, be sure to check for children discounts!

Land-based tourism is another choice, which would allow family members to rest more between activities, or set off in small groups to do different things. This is also a better option if someone in the family suffers from sea sickness. Many day trips can be planned on Santa Cruz, San Cristóbal and Isabela islands that the entire family can participate in, and it is easy to travel by local ferry or plane between the islands.

All Together to Create the Family Scrapbook

In the days of old, scientific expeditions to the Galapagos Islands included an artist, a photographer and a historian aboard. Your entire family can join their creative talents to create a scrapbook that will be an ever-lasting memento of your multi-generational vacation to these isles. The album can also include drawings, photographs and a video, and perhaps a bit of poetry.


To get more tips for planning your vacation, also check out those offered for family and older travelers to the Galapagos.

The Galapagos Islands has a bit of everything for everyone in your family, whether 7 years old or 77. You will create memories together that will last for generations to come.

Are you planning a multi-generational trip to the Galapagos islands? Or have you done one? If you have any tips to share with other travellers please leave a comment below.


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Emily with Sea Lions, Isla Mosquera, Galápagos

Going Solo in the Galapagos Islands

While planning your Galapagos vacation, you undoubtedly have read many tips for families and honeymooning couples. But you, you will be journeying there alone.

Whether you decide to see the Galapagos with a multi-day cruise or on your own with land-based tourism, here are a few tips to get you on your way.

  • On multi-day Galapagos cruises, single rooms are usually scarce. Be sure to check whether there is a surcharge for staying as a single aboard, or whether you will be sharing a cabin with another solo traveler. In the latter case the cruise operator will match you with a cabin-mate of the same gender.
  • A smaller yacht or catamaran will allow you to mingle more with the other passengers.
  • In the low season, solo travelers will find it easier to get a last-minute spot on a cruise than a couple or family group.
  • Land-based tourism can offer you more freedom on when and where to go – thus allowing you to avoid groups of people and enjoy the islands’ pristine nature alone.
  • Many of the attractions on Santa Cruz, San Cristóbal and Isabela islands are easy and safe to do on your own, and do not require a guide.
  • Choose to stay at smaller hotels. You may meet other travelers with whom you can share a taxi for a private tour to the Highlands or Garrapatero Beach on Santa Cruz Island, or to Puerto Chino on San Cristóbal – or to take advantage of the 2-for-1 day tour specials often offered in the low season.
  • Without a traveling companion, it’ll be much easier for you to meet the local Galapagos residents and get an inside view of island life.

The Galapagos Islands are one of the most tranquil and safest places for solo travelers. It is a perfect destination if you are looking for deep chill time or to meet new faces. Going there solo will provide innumerable adventures to tell your family and friends.


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Galapagos penguin, Tagus Cove, Isabela Island, Galapagos Islands

Top 9 Things To See And Do On Isabela Island

Isabela is called the Island of Sand and Volcanoes – and this is precisely what awaits you. You can spend several days, relaxing on secluded beaches and visiting young fire mountains. Isabela is also the place to go to see Galapagos penguins and flightless cormorants.

Rent a bicycle for the day and ride out to the tortoise breeding center, wetlands and other sites along the road to the Wall of Tears. (Take a picnic and plenty of water.)

Many other sites require a guide. Tours are easily arranged on Isabela island, or you can book a package through an agency in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz island. Visitor sites are open 6am – 6pm.

1. Concha de Perla

Near Puerto Villamil’s port is Concha de Perla, a small cove with crystal clear water perfect for snorkeling. The underwater world here is breathtaking, with penguins, sea lions, chocolate chip starfish, rays, turtles and multitudes of other marine life. Go on tour, or walk the 250-meter path near the port to get to the shores.

2. Tortoise Breeding Center

Centro de Crianza Arnaldo Tupiza is where Galapagos National Park rangers are raising tortoises to replenish Isabela island’s endangered giant tortoise population. This island is unique in that five species are present. Located 1.5 kilometers (1 mile) from Puerto Villamil. Open 7am – 5pm.

3. Lagoons

Past the tortoise breeding center and along the road to the Wall of Tears are several pozas, or lagoons where flamingos, rails and other waterfowl may be seen: Poza de las Diablas, Pozas Verdes, Poza Redonda and Poza Escondida.

4. Beaches

Beaches also line the road out to the Wall of Tears. The best surfing is at Quinta Ola and Playa Barahona (40 – 50 minutes west from Puerto Villamil). Playa de Amor is a shallow lagoon with fascinating tidal pools at low tide. Playa del Estero is a secluded arm of the sea surrounded by forest where you can leave the world behind. Near Playa del Estero is a marked lava tunnel.

5. Wall of Tears

Muro de las Lágrimas – Wall of Tears – is a reminder of when Isabela was host to a prison colony. Inmates had to repeatedly build, tear down and rebuild this 100-meter-long stone wall as part of their punishment. Also on site are remnants of the World War II-era US military base.

6. Las Tintoreras

Las Tintoreras are islets just offshore from Puerto Villamil. Here you’ll see Galapagos penguins, blue-footed boobies, nesting marine iguanas and nursing sea lions. The big feature is the white-tipped sharks (tintoreras) that rest in narrow channels. A guide is required.

7. Sierra Negra and Cerro Chico

A lunar-landscape world awaits you at Sierra Negra volcano. Of Isabela’s six volcanoes, this is the nearest to Puerto Villamil and it is one of the largest active craters in the world. The chiva (rustic bus) takes you as far as El Cura from where it is eight kilometers (5 miles) to Cerro Chico, site of the 2005 eruption. Sierra Negra can also be combined with a tour to the sulfur mines (Minas de Azufre, 12 kilometers / 7 miles). A guide is required for either hike, which can also be done on horseback.

8. Lava Tunnels

On the coast west of Puerto Villamil, you can explore the labyrinth of lava tunnels. These were formed as lava flowed from Volcán Sierra Negra to the sea. The variety of marine life here makes for astonishing snorkeling. These can be visited only on a guided tour. Due to sea conditions, the lava tunnels are best visited January – May.

9. Tagus Cove

Follow in the footsteps of Charles Darwin with a visit to Caleta de Tagus on the west coast of Isabela island. Since the early 19th century, this cove overshadowed by Volcán Darwin has been a popular rest stop for pirates, whalers and tourists. Wildlife includes giant tortoises, land iguanas and birds. Accessible only on a tour.

Other sites, like Elizabeth Bay, Urbina Bay and Fernandina Island, can be visited on boat tours arranged from Puerto Villamil. Many of these destinations are also included on multi-day Galapagos Island cruises.

Prime scuba diving sites near Isabela are Isla Tortuga and Roca Cuatro Hermanos, among others. Cabo Marshall and Punta Vicente Roca are also good for snorkeling.

Visiting Isabela Island

Even though Isabela is at the far western end of the Galapagos archipelago, it is still easy to get there with local boats and flights, or book an all-inclusive tour from Santa Cruz island.

Puerto Villamil offers a handful of restaurants and hotels. If camping is your thing, stay at Campo Duro Eco-Lodge. Take plenty of cash with you to Isabela, as there is no ATM or bank. There is a $10 dock tax upon arriving at Puerto Villamil.

Have you been to a place or done an activity on Isabela island that you would recommend to fellow travelers? Share your tips in the comments below.

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Photo credit: Harvey Barrison