Galapagos Highlands Tour With Kids -New For 2024

The Galapagos Islands, renowned for their stunning beaches and rich marine biodiversity, also offer a wealth of treasures inland that families can explore together. Taking the Galapagos Highlands tour with kids opens up a fascinating world of volcanic forces that shaped these islands. It is also an excellent opportunity for families to witness the diverse inland wildlife that make the Galapagos a truly remarkable destination for explorers of all ages.

The highlands tour also offers an enjoyable change of pace. After a few days around the coast, on beaches, and in boats, it was a nice change to head inland to cooler, higher ground to see what was on offer. 

A close up of a giant tortoise's head eating folliage on a Galapagos Highlands tour with kids.
One of the majestic giant tortoises, known as “galapago” in Spanish, which lend the Galapagos Islands their name

Our Map Of The Galapagos Highlands Tour With Kids

How To Experience The Galapagos Highlands Tour With Kids

The Highlands Tour combines several attractions close to Santa Cruz’s centre. These are the majestic lava formations Los Gemelos (“The Twins”) and a giant tortoise reserve and lava tunnels you can walk through.

Los Gemelos is usually the first stop on the Highlands Tour, situated approximately 25km north of Puerto Ayora along Route E5.

Looking down into one of the lush, green, collapsed craters of Los Gemelos on Santa Cruz, Galapagos.
A photograph does not do the sheer scale of The Twins justice.

Visits can either be made using a tour company that will also provide a guide or under your own steam by hiring a taxi or bikes.

Sadly, our daughters are too young to bike so far, even on e-bikes! The journey from Puerto Ayora to Los Gemelos is uphill just about all the way and covers a 600-meter climb. We would not recommend trying to bike this with kids under 14, and even then, take plenty of water as it can get very hot.

Nearly all the tour companies in Puerto Ayora offer the Highlands Tour.  We have used Grupo Galapagos for a number of other tours and transfers and have been very impressed with their service.  They offer the half day trip for $120 for 1 or 2 people.

Planning a family vacation to Santa Cruz, Galapagos? Don’t miss our complete guide to making the most of this extraordinary island. Whether it’s wildlife encounters, stunning beaches, or adventure activities you’re after, our guide has it all covered.

Discovering Santa Cruz Galapagos With Kids

Having researched the trip, we were more than comfortable to experience the Santa Cruz Highlands Tour with the girls under our own steam. We hired a taxi through Taxi Express and it cost us $60 for the four of us, our driver was very friendly and waited for us whilst we made the various stops.

Both options are great, using a taxi will definitely save you money, but using an organised tour may provide you with more facts and information about the area.

Tours tend to depart twice daily, once in the morning and once in the early afternoon. For this reason, we booked our taxi for 11 am to miss most of the tour buses, which worked well, and we had a relatively quiet experience.

It is also possible to do this tour on your transfer from the airport for a small additional cost, which, as you drive through the area, may be worth looking into.  Frankly, our journey to the Galapagos was tortuous, so we opted to head straight to our accommodation!

It is a low-stress excursion, so it is eminently doable if you have a reasonable flight time.

What to Expect On The Galapagos Highlands Tour With Kids

As mentioned above, The Highlands Tour combines three experiences into one trip.

Los Gemelos – The Twins

Trips usually start with a visit to Los Gemelos. ‘The Twins’ are a pair of naturally formed sinkholes (not craters!) created during the formation of Santa Cruz Island between 1.5 and 0.7 million years ago. They were caused by the collapse of empty magma chambers, which have left incredible formations in their wake; the sinkholes are up to 280 meters deep and 1 mile in diameter!  

Kirsty, Georgia and Eva at the top of one of the lush, green, collapsed craters of Los Gemelos on Santa Cruz, Galapagos.
Kirsty and the girls at Los Gemelos

The walk between the two holes is a short and flat 2 km, taking you initially past the smaller sinkhole, and after crossing the road, you quickly reach the larger one.  Information boards in both Spanish and English enlighten you about the formation and local flora.

A second, longer route is shown on the map but is closed off. When we inquired about the reason for this, we were told it was home to an endangered tree species, so we don’t suppose it will reopen soon.

Giant Tortoise Reserve and Lava Tunnels

The second stop will be to a giant tortoise reserve, which is approximately 5km back towards Puerto Ayora in the village of Santa Rosa.  From here, you will see the incredible giant tortoises that give the Galapagos Islands their names and explore impressive lava caves.

Three giant tortoises basking in a muddy puddle at El Chato Reserve on a Galapagos Highlands tour with kids
The giant tortoises love a good wallow!

Two adjoining places offer the tortoise and tunnel experience, Rancho Primicias and El Chato Rancho. 

When we asked our driver, he said El Chato Rancho was better. However, we are not so naive as not to think there may have been some reward for bringing us. At the time of writing, both are rated 4.7 stars on Google.

Once you turn off the main road onto a rough track, you will see giant tortoises dotted around the fields and sometimes in the middle of the road! Don’t worry, they are not as slow as they look – they can actually move at quite a pace!

A red, hexaganol 'STOP, Tortoises crossing' sign with a picture of a giant tortoise in the centre.

Entry to El Chato is $10 per person, with children under eight free.  All visits through the reserve were guided, and we were quickly united with our tour guide.  Our first impressions of our guide were disappointing as he seemed far more interested in his phone than in enlightening us about these gigantic creatures. However, he did warm up when the girls bombarded him with questions about their age, size, activity and speed! They really are quite incredible creatures.

After getting up close to a number of giant tortoises we then walked through the lava tunnels, where our guide explained how they were formed.  We adventured through three of the tunnels, and the exit of the third tunnel spits you out back at the entrance café.

People climbing up stairs towards the exit of a lava tunnel on the Galapagos Highlands tour with kids
Exploring the lava tunnels is an incredible experience. It gives a profound sense of “deep time”

Your driver will then take you back to your accommodation in Puerto Ayora.  The whole trip takes around 3 hours.

What to Take On The Galapagos Highlands Tour With Kids

This is an easy trip which is suitable for children of all ages and you are unlikely to need anything beyond the typical Galapagos essentials: sun block, bug spray, water, and snacks.

Our only areas of concern are that the trails in the highlands can get quite wet and muddy. We visited in February and tackled them with our walking shoes on. There were a few wet patches and puddles, but we saw people in sandals and Crocs.  Also, the steps up and down to the lava tunnels are quite wet and slippery, so we would recommend a shoe with good grips.

At the tortoise reserve, wellies are available for you to borrow if it is especially muddy, but we did not need them.

You can purchase refreshments at the Tortoise Reserve, but the cafe was overpriced. We brought a packed lunch that we ate on one of the picnic benches there.

We had a brilliant time on the Galapagos Highlands tour with our kids, and we hope you do, too. If you think we need to include anything or if any information below needs to be updated, please let us know in the comments below.

The Spencer Family

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About the authors

Our lives have been intertwined with a passion for exploration and a shared love for travel. Our adventures began long before we met, as we individually embarked on daring expeditions across the globe. Our paths finally converged, and we soon realized that our adventures were much more meaningful when shared!

After a brief hiatus to start a family, we eagerly embarked on a new chapter of our travel saga. Determined to instil in Georgia and Eva the values of discovery and open-mindedness, our goal is to embark on exciting escapades and explore breathtaking landscapes, bustling cities, and remote corners of the world. From hiking through mist-laden forests to snorkelling in turquoise seas, every adventure is an opportunity to create lasting memories as a family.

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