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Pinnacle rock in Bartolome

Best Time of Year to Visit the Galapagos

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Any time of the Year is a Good Time to Travel to the Galapagos Islands! 

The Galapagos Islands’ location in the heart of the tropics, right on the Equator, means there’s never a bad time of year to visit this enchanting archipelago. But depending on which wildlife you’d like to see and the daily climate you’re hoping to encounter, there are considerable differences throughout the year, and if cost is a factor, then it’s helpful to know the high and low seasons too.

Galapagos Weather and Temperature

Although the climate experiences only mild changes throughout the year, there are two distinct seasons.
From December to May is the sunny/rainy or wet season, with daily showers that usually last less than a couple of hours. Temperatures are generally in the 80's & 90's F (27-32º C). Air and water temperature are also higher during this season, and swimming activities (like snorkeling & diving) are more comfortable.

From June to November, the Galapagos has the “garua” season, which is the cooler/dry season (temperatures ranging from high 60's to low 80's F (21-26ºC) with only light mist on the Islands (for which the season gets its name). It’s a good idea to use a wetsuit when snorkeling because of the slightly colder water temperatures, and you can expect cloudier skies during the day.

Snorkel with incredible sea turtles
Snorkel with incredible sea turtles

Read more about the seasonal air and water temperatures.

When to Visit Galapagos for Snorkeling and Diving

December through May are the best months to explore the Galapagos Islands. These months coincide with the warm season, and the sea is calmer, with good underwater visibility for snorkeling and diving. Despite the numerous, but brief showers that occur during this season, the sun shines brightly on the majority of days, keeping vegetation green and wildlife lively.

When to Go to Galapagos for Hiking 

Alternatively, the Humboldt Current, which travels north-westward along South America's west coast from June to November, brings in cooler temperatures. However, longer rain showers and heavier winds result in rougher seas during these months, although this is considered the best time for hiking.

Best Time to See Wildlife in Galapagos: By Season and Month 

One of the main reasons people come to the Galapagos Islands is the 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.
Iconic wildlife of the Galapagos sunning themselves
Iconic wildlife of the Galapagos sunning themselves
Most of the reptiles in the Galapagos Island (like land & marine iguana and the green sea turtle) 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. It’s also during the late months of this season that sea lions begin their mating rituals.

Galapagos Wildlife by Month

January Birds- Land birds begin their nesting.

Reptiles- Green turtles begin laying their eggs; Land iguanas start reproductive cycles (Isabela); Marine iguanas are brightly colored (Española).
February BirdsGreater flamingos begin nesting (Floreana Island); Black-tailed pintails begin breeding season; Nazca boobies end their nesting (Española); Galapagos Doves nesting season reaches peak.

ReptilesMarine iguanas begin nesting (Santa Cruz Island).
March BirdsFirst Waved Albatrosses arrive at Española Island.

ReptilesMarine Iguanas nest at Fernandina Island.
April BirdsWaved Albatross arrives in great numbers to Española.

ReptilesGiant tortoise end of hatching season; Green turtle eggs begin to hatch; Land iguana eggs begin to hatch (Isabela).
May BirdsBlue-footed boobies begin courtship (North Seymour Island); Waved albatrosses begin laying eggs (Española); Storm petrels begin the nesting period.

ReptilesGreen turtles hatching; Marine iguanas hatching (Santa Cruz).
June ReptilesGiant tortoises migrate from highlands to lowlands for nesting season (Santa Cruz).

Marine lifeHumpback whales pass through the archipelago in groups.
July BirdsFlightless cormorants perform courtship & nesting (Fernandina); American oystercatchers nest (Santiago); Blue-footed boobies nest. 
ReptilesLava lizards begin the mating ritual.

Marine lifeWhales & dolphins pass by the coast of Isabela Island.
August BirdsGalapagos Hawk begins courtship (Espanola & Santiago); Nazca boobies & swallow-tailed gulls nest Genovesa Island); Migrant waders begin to arrive.

ReptilesGiant tortoises go back to Santa Cruz Highlands.

MammalsSea lions begin to give birth.
September Birds- Active Galapagos penguin on Bartolome Island; other seabirds are very active at their nesting sites.

MammalsSea lions are very active competing for the female attention.
October BirdsLava herons begin building their nests; Blue-footed boobies raising chicks (Española & Isabela).

ReptilesGiant tortoises laying eggs.

MammalsGalapagos fur sea lion begins mating.
November Birds- Brown noddies begin breeding; storm petrels begin second nesting period.

MammalsGalapagos sea lions are pupping.
December BirdsYoung waved albatrosses beginning to fledge.

ReptilesGreen turtles have their mating display; Giant tortoise eggs begin to hatch.

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 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 Christmas vacation, but if you’re looking for the best deals around the holidays, then think about booking a few weeks before or after when there’s less tourist traffic.

Llamas around Machu Picchu
Llamas around Machu Picchu

There are also some fantastic deals for combining a Galapagos cruise with a trek to the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu in Peru or maybe a trip into the dense Amazon rainforest of Ecuador.

Contact Adventure-life specialists for expert advice on the best time to cruise the Galapagos Islands. 

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