We took a three hour water taxi from San Cristobal to Santa Cruz Island for $100 for the whole family. It was a long bumpy ride and the kids and I napped for most of it. Arriving at the docks is a bit confusing because another little taxi pulled up to our boat and took us and our gear to the docks. These little taxi’s cost a few dollars and give rides across the harbor to other beaches and trails. The most exciting thing about arriving were the small sharks that could be seen from the dock. There is a kids park at the end of the dock that the kids happily played at while we tried to figure out which way to go to our pre-booked hostel. We stayed at Hotel Carliza and for anyone who ever stays here, don’t mind the loud sirens and screaming that wakes you up in terror with thoughts of a tsunami, its just the school near the hostel sounding the recess call and the kids yelling.
Santa Cruz is much more touristy than we were expecting but there were many great destinations and places to eat. The best and cheapest place for dinner every evening was just across from our hostel where the street shuts down and is filled with tables and chairs from the food vendors that seemed closed during the day along the way. It became so lively and fun every evening and the prices were incredible. I had a lobster and curry one night that I still dream about.
The vendors display their fresh catches and every night I met friendly people sitting next to us as we ate. It was a great place to swap stories, and inquire on favorite places to see around the island.
Las Grietas was one of our favorite destinations in the Galapagos. To get there we had to take a water taxi across the harbor for a few dollars and hike past a great kids beach (which we swam at a few times) and Los Salinas, the salt marshes. There is a bar next to the trail near the salt marshes to buy drinks and refreshments. We always stopped for Popsicle’s because it is a hot walk. It takes twenty minutes to get there but is well worth it. The canyon is not handicap accessible due to the amount of stairs on the trail and the decent to the swimming area. There are places to rent life vests in town so Rex was able to keep up with his brother in their exploration of the canyon. The area is not a toddler friendly so we timed it right one day and Wren slept on our towels while we played near by.
Our other favorite destination was Rancho Primicias, a tortoise sanctuary located 13 miles in the highlands. We caught a taxi in front of our hostel and negotiated our fare of 35$. There is a set tour that all the taxi’s offer to visit Primicias, a lava tunnel and Los Gemelos( a large scenic sink hole further inland from the sanctuary). We opted out of Los Gemelos and just visited Primicias.
This place was a lot of fun to explore and my children loved climbing through the tortoise shells near the entrance. There are 10 surviving species of tortoise on the Galapagos with differing characteristics that developed based on the climate of each island. These beauties can weigh as much as 900 lbs and live to be 100 years old in the wild. The population experienced devastating drops in numbers in the last few centuries due to pirates and whale hunters collecting them for their ability to survive long periods of time at sea without care or water, allowing sailors to have fresh meat.
And then we walked and crawled through the lava tunnel. It was a quick exploration with lighting provided throughout.
We spent 5 days in Puerto Ayora and tried to visit the Charles Darwin Research Center but only managed to get there as they were closing. We did a quick walk through and then enjoyed the long walk back to the hostel. Rex got into a bit of trouble when he came across a group of napping iguanas and as they woke and scattered he chased them. It upset a lady who was near by and she yelled at him and me. Try to remind kids how important it is to not chase any animals while visiting the Galapagos, though it is difficult for 5 year olds to maintain decorum with such exciting things happening around them.
We came to the Galapagos on quite a budget and didn’t take any of the big tours. We still managed to see amazing animal life and explore beautiful locations as a family. With a little research, a family can come here and have a very rich experience creating memories that will last a lifetime. And don’t forget the sunscreen.