The Galapagos Islands can be visited year-round, as their privileged location on the equator result in an ideal climate for vacationing or embarking on a cruise. You can visit either during the wet and warm season (December to May) or during the dry and cold season (June to November).
However, you might wish to plan your trip depending on which particular wildlife you’re hoping to see during your time there.
Galapagos Weather and Temperature
The Galapagos Islands boast a climate that experiences only slight changes throughout the year, creating a unique environment for visitors to explore. The archipelago is characterized by two distinct seasons, each offering its own remarkable moments and opportunities for adventure.
Warm/Wet Season (December to May):
During this season, the islands come alive with daily showers that last for short durations, typically no longer than a couple of hours. Temperatures hover around 80 to 90°F (27-32°C), creating a warm and pleasant atmosphere. The air and water temperatures are also higher, making it an ideal time for engaging in swimming activities such as snorkeling and scuba diving. Exploring the marine life becomes more comfortable during this period.
Cool/Dry Season (June to November):
In this season, the Galapagos Islands experience cooler temperatures ranging from 69.8 to 78.8°F (21-26°C). The islands are shrouded in a light fog known as "garúa," adding an enchanting ambiance to the surroundings. Skies may appear cloudier during the day, but the cool/dry season presents its own unique charm. Travelers are advised to wear a wetsuit while diving, as water temperatures may be slightly cooler. Despite this, the cool/dry season allows for pleasant exploration of the Galapagos Islands.
What is the best time to visit the Galapagos?
When planning a visit to the Galapagos, it is important to consider the best time to experience the wonders of this pristine destination. The cool/dry season, which aligns with the dry season, offers comfortable temperatures and less rainfall, making it an excellent choice for those seeking optimal weather conditions. It provides an opportunity to explore the islands while enjoying pleasant temperatures and clear skies. On the other hand, the warm/wet season, known as the peak season for marine life, offers fantastic opportunities for observing the diverse underwater world of the Galapagos.
It is worth noting that the Galapagos National Park closely monitors the seasons to ensure the conservation of this remarkable ecosystem and the protection of its inhabitants. The regulations set by the park aim to maintain the fragile balance of the archipelago's unique wildlife and ecosystems.
No matter the time of year you choose to visit, the Galapagos Islands offer a captivating blend of unique wildlife, stunning landscapes, and remarkable weather conditions. Immerse yourself in the wonders of this natural paradise, where the temperature, water conditions, and marine life create an unforgettable experience that will leave you in awe of the Galapagos' natural splendor.
Galapagos Historical Temperature by Month
Best times to visit
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When to Visit Galapagos for Snorkeling and Diving
The archipelago's stunning marine biodiversity attracts countless visitors each year, offering unforgettable encounters with a wide array of captivating species. If you wish to dive in warm and calm waters, December to May - the warm/wet season - is ideal despite a slight decrease in migratory wildlife. June to November - the cool/dry season - is a great time to view local and migratory marine animals, yet you might encounter heavier winds. During the warm season, snorkelers can comfortably explore the vibrant underwater world without a wetsuit, encountering Galapagos turtles, sea lions, marine iguanas, colorful starfish, and schools of fish. During the cool season, snorkelers and divers may benefit from wearing wetsuits to stay warm during their underwater explorations. However, this season brings abundant marine wildlife, including increased whale and dolphin sightings, whale sharks, sea lion pups, and active Galapagos penguins.
What kind of wetsuit should you wear?
For snorkelers, a 3mm wetsuit is sufficient, while scuba divers are recommended to wear a 5mm wetsuit with gloves and a hood. Cruise ships and diving trips will usually provide the necessary equipment.
Embarking on a journey to the Galapagos Islands means venturing into a world of captivating natural wonders both on land and beneath the waves. Understanding the ocean conditions is essential for planning activities like snorkeling, diving, kayaking, and swimming.
Ocean conditions in the Galapagos are largely influenced by ocean currents, which dictate the ebb and flow of the seas. During the cool season, from June to November, increased trade winds can create choppy waters, occasionally causing gentle rocking of Galapagos cruise ships and potential seasickness. However, the islands themselves provide some protection, minimizing the impact of rougher seas. Open water crossings between islands may involve 4-6 hours of travel with moderate swells, but truly stormy conditions are rare.
For divers, it's important to note that the Humboldt Current brings colder waters, especially during the misty and rainy season from July to December. Conversely, the "El Niño" current can bring warmer waters and increased rainfall from January to June. Water temperatures vary throughout the year. From December to June, temperatures range from 70°F (21°C) to 80°F (27°C), while from July to November, temperatures range from 65°F (18°C) to 75°F (23°C).
These varying sea conditions present opportunities for exhilarating aquatic adventures. Snorkel among playful sea lions, marvel at the vibrant marine life while diving, paddle through pristine waters on a kayaking excursion, or simply enjoy a refreshing swim in the crystal-clear sea. As you explore the Galapagos, always remember to respect the marine environment and follow the guidance of experienced guides to ensure your safety and the preservation of this fragile ecosystem. With proper preparation and a sense of awe, you'll embark on an unforgettable journey, immersing yourself in the wonders both above and below the Galapagos waves.
When to Go to Galapagos for Hiking
The Humboldt Current, which travels north-westward along South America's west coast from June to November, brings in cooler temperatures making it the best time to hike.
Galapagos Best Hikes
The Galapagos Islands offer a variety of captivating hikes that allow visitors to explore the unique landscapes and encounter fascinating wildlife. Here are some of the best hikes in the Galapagos:
Sierra Negra Volcano (Isabela Island): Embark on a challenging hike to Sierra Negra, one of the world's largest active calderas. The trail takes you through otherworldly lava fields and offers breathtaking views of the vast volcanic crater.
Punta Pitt (San Cristobal Island): This hike takes you to a spectacular viewpoint where you can observe the impressive frigatebirds and blue-footed boobies nesting on the cliffs. Enjoy panoramic views of the island's coastline and marvel at the diverse birdlife.
Bartolome Island: Climb to the summit of Bartolome Island for a panoramic view of the iconic Pinnacle Rock and the surrounding turquoise waters. The hike involves ascending a wooden staircase, and the reward is a stunning vista of this iconic Galapagos landmark.
North Seymour Island: Explore the rocky trails of North Seymour Island, known for its abundant wildlife. Encounter frigatebirds, blue-footed boobies, land iguanas, and sea lions as you walk along the island's coastline.
Santa Cruz Highlands: Take a hike through the lush highlands of Santa Cruz Island, where you can encounter giant tortoises in their natural habitat. Walk among towering Scalesia trees and enjoy the peaceful ambiance of this pristine environment.
Remember to abide by the Galapagos National Park Regulations, which have been designed to protect the fragile environment of the Galapagos archipelago while ensuring the safety of visitors.
How to Prepare for a Hike in the Galapagos
Keep in mind that the terrain in Galapagos is varied and rugged, influenced by its volcanic origin. Hiking trails can range from rocky and uneven surfaces to sandy paths. Therefore, it is essential to wear proper footwear with thick soles that provide grip and support, ensuring stability on different terrains. A sturdy pair of hiking shoes or boots is recommended. Additionally, don't forget to bring sun protection such as sunscreen with a high SPF, a wide-brimmed hat or cap to shield yourself from the strong equatorial sun, and sunglasses to protect your eyes from the glare. It's also advisable to carry a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated throughout the hike. Following these guidelines and being prepared with the necessary equipment will enhance your hiking experience in the Galapagos Islands while respecting and preserving this remarkable natural habitat.
No matter the time of year you choose to visit this remarkable location, hiking through the diverse routes available will allow you to experience the best that the Galapagos Islands have to offer. It's important to note that the Galapagos Islands can be considered a year-round destination, with each season offering its own unique highlights and wildlife encounters. Whether you explore the lava fields, volcanic craters, lush highlands, or coastal trails, you'll have the opportunity to witness the remarkable biodiversity and pristine natural beauty of the islands.
Best Time to See Wildlife in Galapagos: By Season and Month
One of the main reasons people visit the Galapagos Islands is the area’s rich biodiversity on land, sea, and air throughout the whole year.
No matter when you go, you will see colonies of marine iguanas populating the lava rock and sea lions playing gracefully among the myriad tropical fish, in addition to some of the best birding opportunities in the world. But if you want to see a specific animal’s breeding or nesting, then certain times are better than others.
Most of the reptiles in the Galapagos Islands (such as land & marine iguanas and green sea turtles) breed and nest during the rainy season, from December to May. In June, humpback whales visit the Islands, and the seabirds become gradually more active throughout the following months. Sea lions’ mating season takes place from July through December.
Galapagos Wildlife by Month
Birds - Land birds start nesting.
Reptiles - Green turtles begin laying their eggs; land iguanas start reproductive cycles (Isabela); marine iguanas are brightly colored (Española).
Birds - Greater flamingos begin nesting (Floreana Island); black-tailed pintails begin breeding season; nazca boobies end their nesting (Española); Galapagos doves nesting season reaches its peak.
Reptiles - Marine iguanas begin nesting (Santa Cruz Island).
Birds - First waved albatrosses arrive at Española Island.
Reptiles - Marine Iguanas nest at Fernandina Island.
Birds - Waved albatross arrive in great numbers to Española.
Reptiles - End of hatching season of giant tortoises; green turtle eggs begin to hatch; land iguana eggs begin to hatch (Isabela).
Birds - Blue-footed boobies begin courtship (North Seymour Island); waved albatross begin laying eggs (Española); storm petrels begin the nesting period.
Reptiles - Green turtles hatching; marine iguanas hatching (Santa Cruz).
Reptiles - Giant tortoises migrate from highlands to lowlands for nesting season (Santa Cruz).
Marine life - Humpback whales pass through the archipelago in groups.
Marine life - Whales & dolphins pass by the coast of Isabela Island.
Birds - Galapagos hawks begin courtship (Española & Santiago); Nazca boobies & swallow-tailed gulls nest Genovesa Island); Migrant waders begin to arrive.
Reptiles - Giant tortoises go back to Santa Cruz Highlands.
Mammals - Sea lions begin to give birth.
Birds - Galapagos penguins active on Bartolome Island; other seabirds active at their nesting sites.
Mammals - Sea lions are very active competing for the female attention.
Birds - Lava herons begin building their nests; Blue-footed boobies raising chicks (Española & Isabela).
Reptiles - Giant tortoises laying eggs.
Mammals - Galapagos fur sea lion begins mating.
Birds - Brown noddies begin breeding; storm petrels begin second nesting period.
Mammals - Galapagos sea lions are pupping.
Birds - Young waved albatrosses beginning to fledge.
Reptiles - Green turtles have their mating display; Giant tortoise eggs begin to hatch.
Galapagos Islands Iconic Species - Quick Guide
The Galapagos Islands are home to a remarkable array of unique and iconic species that have evolved in fascinating ways to adapt to the Galapagos harsh conditions. Here is a list of some of the most important and renowned species found in the archipelago:
Galapagos Giant Tortoise: These gentle giants are among the most famous inhabitants of the islands, with each island having its own distinct subspecies.
Galapagos Sea Lion: Playful and charismatic, these marine mammals can be found lounging on sandy beaches and rocky shores throughout the archipelago.
Marine Iguana: The only iguana species that forages in the ocean, the marine iguana is a fascinating creature with its ability to swim and feed on underwater algae.
Galapagos Penguin: The only penguin species found north of the equator, the Galapagos penguin thrives in the islands' cooler waters, displaying their agility in the water.
Blue-footed Booby: Known for their vibrant blue feet, these seabirds put on impressive courtship displays and are a highlight for many visitors.
Red-footed Booby: With their vibrant red feet and striking plumage, red-footed boobies are known for their graceful flight and impressive diving skills.
Nazca Booby: These seabirds with their distinctive black and white plumage and striking facial markings are an impressive sight during breeding season.
Flightless Cormorant: This unique bird has lost the ability to fly and has adapted to swim and dive for its food, making it a rare and intriguing sight.
Galapagos Hawk: The top predator in the archipelago, the Galapagos hawk is endemic to the islands and plays a crucial role in maintaining the balance of the ecosystem.
Darwin's Finches: These diverse species of finches were studied by Charles Darwin and played a significant role in the development of his theory of evolution.
Galapagos Land Iguana: With their distinct yellowish coloration, these land iguanas can be found basking in the sun and feeding on vegetation.
Waved Albatross: Known for their impressive wingspan and unique courtship dance, the waved albatross is a migratory bird that breeds exclusively on Española Island.
Galapagos Land Iguanas: These iconic reptiles are known for their yellowish coloration and can be found roaming the islands' arid landscapes.
Galapagos Frigatebirds: With their large wingspan and distinctive throat pouches, these seabirds are known for their impressive aerial displays.
Galapagos Fur Seals: Endemic to the islands, these agile marine mammals can be found resting on rocky shores and in coastal caves.
Galapagos When to Go: Low Season vs. High Season
The Galapagos Islands have consistent peaks and valleys in the annual tourism season, and just as planning a trip during the high season means that tours are more expensive across the board, booking during the low season can mean significant savings.
Galapagos' Low Season falls between April & May and September & October, which is a good time to grab last-minute deals and look for promotions. Throughout the rest of the year, it’s a good idea to book your tour in advance to ensure that you have a spot. If you wait too long, there’s a chance that you won’t be able to reserve the itinerary or boat that you want, or you might not find any availability at all.
If you’re not chained down to certain dates, then consider booking a cruise at the last minute. Many boats offer major discounts (sometimes 50% off or more) if they have open cabins in the weeks or days before a cruise departs.
Galapagos High Season & Holidays. Booking your cruise over Christmas and New Year's is one of the busiest times of the year, which means prices can be pretty high. A Galapagos cruise can be a great way to spend the winter vacation, but if you’re looking for the best deals of the season, then think about booking a few weeks before or after when there’s less tourist traffic.
What are the Main Galapagos Islands Visited on Tours and Cruises?
San Cristobal Island: As one of the oldest islands in the Galapagos, San Cristobal offers diverse landscapes and is home to the famous Kicker Rock, a popular snorkeling and diving spot.
Santiago Island: Santiago Island is known for its volcanic landscapes, including the famous Sullivan Bay with its striking lava formations and the black sand beach of Puerto Egas.
Isabela Island: Isabela Island is the largest island in the Galapagos and is known for its stunning volcanic landscapes, including the Sierra Negra volcano.
Santa Cruz Island: Santa Cruz is the central island of the Galapagos and is home to vibrant town of Puerto Ayora and the Charles Darwin Research Station, dedicated to protect and study the islands' unique species.
Española Island: Española Island is the breeding site of the waved albatross, an impressive seabird known for its elaborate courtship rituals and remarkable wingspan.
Genovesa Island: Also known as "Bird Island," Genovesa is a haven for birdwatchers, with vast colonies of seabirds such as red-footed boobies, frigatebirds, and swallow-tailed gulls.
North Seymour: North Seymour Island is known for its abundant wildlife, including magnificent frigatebirds, blue-footed boobies, and playful sea lions.
Fernandina Island: Fernandina is the youngest and most pristine island in the Galapagos, with a stark volcanic landscape and the opportunity to spot flightless cormorants.
Floreana Island: Floreana Island has a rich history, including intriguing stories of early settlers, a famous post office barrel, and the chance to see the endangered Galapagos penguin.
North Seymour Island: North Seymour Island is a haven for nesting and breeding seabirds, with large colonies of magnificent frigatebirds and blue-footed boobies.
Bartolome Island: Bartolome Island offers stunning panoramic views from its summit, including the famous Pinnacle Rock, and is a popular snorkeling spot to observe marine life and Galapagos penguins.
South Plaza Island: South Plaza is a captivating isle known for its vibrant red and yellow sesuvium plants, as well as its population of land iguanas and sea lions. It offers scenic walking trails with stunning views of the surrounding cliffs.