Get ready to plan your exotic, tropical vacation to the Galapagos Islands, where nature and evolution remain frozen in a time when Charles Darwin first explored them. Located off the coast of Ecuador and Peru, the Galapagos Islands is a place to rediscover endemic wildlife and views over the lush volcanic islands that have captivated explorers and tourists for centuries.
Marchay members have access to the ultimate travel experience to the Galapagos Islands, where vacations are filled with adventure in this South American paradise. This travel guide provides information about the best time to visit and what to expect during each of the seasons in the Galapagos Islands.
When is the Best Time to Visit the Galapagos Islands?
The best time to visit Galapagos Islands is between December to February, although different times of year are preferred depending on the desired activities. These months are considered the warm, rainy season or garúa season.
During these months, tourists visiting the Galapagos Islands will experience ideal weather conditions for enjoying outdoor activities, tourist excursions, cruises, and seeing its diverse wildlife. Rainfall is generally a brief shower, leaving visitors plenty of time to enjoy the warmer weather.
December to February are some of the busiest months to visit the Galapagos Islands; expect to see more tourists on the tours, staying in hotels, or navigating the boats and planes between islands.
This period is the best overall time to visit the Galapagos Islands, but there are many other times of year to consider for a vacation. Popular activities vary based on the time of year. For example, snorkeling and diving are common year-round, but cooler months of June to August can be ideal for seeing the marine life active underwater. Also, hiking is preferred during the same months, thanks to slightly cooler temperatures.
When is the Worst Time to Visit the Galapagos Islands?
The worst time to visit the Galapagos Islands is during the transitional months of March and April. These months occur during the end of the warm, rainy season, but they also experience the most dramatic weather of the season.
The warm, rainy season is actually one of the popular times to visit the Galapagos Islands, but if possible, avoid the tail end months of March and April. These are typically the hottest and wettest months on the islands. Unfortunately, these climate conditions are not ideal for the best hiking or other outdoor activities due to the humidity and chance of rainfall, which tends to increase at higher elevations.
On the contrary, travelers agree that April is the best month to visit to see the waved Albatross birds on Isla Española (Española Island). And since the summer months are the most popular time to visit, crowds can fill up the tours, hotels, and popular attractions. It can be the worst time to visit the Galapagos Islands if you are looking for a quiet, relaxing vacation away from lots of tourists.
Visiting the Galapagos in the Spring
Traveling to the Galapagos Islands in the Spring lands directly in the transitional seasons from warm and rainy to cool and dry. A Spring visit to the islands offers the best of both seasons and a glimpse at a few of the island’s favorite animals when they are most active.
Spring months in the northern hemisphere lasts from March to May. It’s considered one of the best overall times of year to visit South America. As the rainy season starts to taper off in its latter months, visitors can expect less rain, and temperatures begin to cool, all while the waters remain warm after heating up the past couple of months.
Whether planning for land activities like hiking or enjoying the many water activities like swimming and snorkeling, Spring is the best time to enjoy the outdoor natural wonders on the Galapagos Islands. The islands’ flora begins to bloom during the season, creating views of the beautiful, verdant flora that the islands are known for.
Wildlife in the Spring welcomes a shift in behavior for many animals as the weather transitions. It’s the best season to see Blue-footed Boobies performing mating rituals for the upcoming mating season and Frigate Birds nesting on Genovesa Island with their young after hatching in the winter.
Visiting the Galapagos in the Summer
As the warm air begins to cool and the colder Humboldt Current from Antarctica begins to rush into the islands, it means that the Galapagos is entering its dry, cooler season, or what travelers from the northern hemisphere recognize as summer. It’s a particularly good time to visit the islands to see unique activity from wildlife, including a few species arriving for the season, and an excellent time for outdoor excursions.
Summer is the busiest time to travel to the Galapagos Islands, with many people taking advantage of the summer vacation time. Since these islands are located near the equator, cooler temperatures typically sit at the high-60s to high-70s. These milder climates are perfect for hiking, such as to the summit of Sierra Negra, or exploring the historical first post office on Floreana Island. In addition, it’s an excellent time of year for birdwatching to see Blue-footed boobies hatching and Galapagos hawks soaring overhead. You definitely won’t want to miss out on the sight of sea lion pups lounging on the beaches during nesting season, either.
Although water temperatures are much cooler than in the rainy season, dropping below 70°F, wet suits are all that’s necessary to enjoy scuba diving or snorkeling in the cooler waters. In addition, the currents bring new nutrients, stirring up the marine life to become more active with feeding during the summer.
Visiting the Galapagos in the Fall
As the summertime tourist crowds begin to settle, visiting the Galapagos during the fall gives a much more pleasant experience for travelers truly seeking a getaway destination. The fall season, September to November, is the latter half of the islands’ dry and cool season. These months are ideal as the weather begins to warm slightly in October and November, while the rains stay away.
The fall months are ideal for enjoying tourist activities on the island. Since it’s a year-round destination, several local tours are available for sightseeing, cruises, hiking, etc., but with fewer tourists, visitors have a better chance of reserving the activities and having fewer crowds on each adventure.
As the cool, dry season winds down, it’s the migratory season for many sea creatures. Cruise the Bolivar channel for the best opportunities to see the blue whales, humpback whales, bottlenose dolphins, etc. Alternatively, trek around Santa Cruz Islands to see the abundance of green sea turtles nesting on the shores.
Fall is a popular time of year for photography in the Galapagos Islands. Natural lighting is always ideal, with lots of daylight to snap photos of the local wildlife or picturesque views.
Visiting the Galapagos in the Winter
The high season for Galapagos travel is during the winter months of December to February. Winter occurs during the rainy season, bringing in the warm temperatures that travelers seek for a winter escape.
Weather in the Galapagos Islands is beautiful during the winter, with temperatures ranging between 70-80°F. Although it’s the time of year when the islands get the most rainfall, these showers are typically short and happen overnight, so it’s still possible to enjoy all the fun activities.
Wake up early for a hike while the weather is slightly cooler. Later in the day, spend the day at the beach lounging in the warm sun. It’s an excellent time for snorkeling and diving since the waters are warmest and have high visibility during the winter for exploring the vibrant marine life.
The Winter months in the Galapagos Islands are great for spotting wildlife. Isabela Island is a popular destination to see the cracked giant tortoise eggs from newborns during their hatching season. And watch as male land iguanas and marine iguanas show off their colors and aggression to protect their partners during mating season.
Attractions & Things to do in the Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos Islands consist of over a dozen individual islands, each with unique characteristics, from the landscape to the wildlife. Spend time on the main island, Isabella, or hop on a cruise to one of the remote islands to make your own Darwin-esque discoveries in the Galapagos. Check out some of the best things to do in the Galapagos Islands that Marchay members have access to!
— Lounge With Giant Tortoises
Did you know that the Galapagos Islands were named after its native tortoises? Venture into the Santa Cruz highlands to visit tortoise farms or visit the Charles Darwin Research Station to learn about the world’s largest turtles growing to over five feet long and 500 pounds.
— Take In The Views At The Wall Of Tears
Swerve around giant tortoises while biking to the Wall of Tears historic site on Isabela Island. This massive stone wall towers over two stories and was built by prisoners held captive on the island between 1946-1959. Continue the path past the flamingos to reach a scenic viewpoint overlooking the volcanic landscape.
— Watch The “Locals” Steal From The Santa Cruz Fish Market
The sounds of flippers slapping the ground and seabirds circle overhead as tourists are the only ones waiting patiently for the fresh catch at the Santa Cruz Fish Market. Keep an eye out on these slippery “locals” in case they get their flippers on the best fish before you do.
— Visit The World’s Second-Smallest Penguins
Standing shorter than a desk lamp, the native Galapagos Penguins are the second-smallest penguins in the world and the only species endemic north of the equator. Cruise the western shores to hotspots like Elizabeth Bay on Isabela Island and Punta Espinosa on Fernandina Island, where large colonies of these charming birds thrive.
— Swim Alongside Reef Sharks
Suit up in diving gear and float around the coral reef in the North Seymour Islet, where white-tip reef sharks swim peacefully around you. Spot these friendly fish sleeping in the crevices of rocks or circling majestically around the reef.
The Bottom Line
The Galapagos Islands are a year-round destination with exciting things to do every season. Tourists visiting the Galapagos Islands should plan their trips based on activity preference to get the best experience during their visit. Fortunately, there’s always something to do for everyone.
The best time to visit the Galapagos Islands for outdoor activities is during the dry, cool season, while marine life explorers may prefer the warm, rainy season when the marine life is most active and migratory animals arrive. Explore the various activities and see which is the best time to visit the Galapagos Islands.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the rainy season in the Galapagos?
The Galapagos Islands are characterized by two seasons: the rainy season and the dry season. The rainy season is the shortest season on the islands, lasting from December to April, with weather effects sometimes extending until May. Although it’s the wet season, there are plenty of reasons why it can be the best time to visit the Galapagos Islands.
During the rainy season, the islands receive daily rainfall. The good news is that it often rains during the night or only a flash shower, so it can still be an excellent time to travel to the Galapagos. The sea temperatures also warm up, making it the preferred season for snorkeling or diving.
The rainy season is one of the busiest travel seasons for the Galapagos, with many tourists arriving during their Christmas and New Year holiday breaks. With heightened activity on the island, pre-reservation for activities, restaurants, and attractions is recommended.
What is the coldest month in Galapagos?
The Galapagos Islands are located on the equator, with a subtropical climate across the islands. The coldest month in the Galapagos Islands is October, but tourists can still enjoy the tropical climate since it averages in the low-70s during the day (compared to the high-70s to 80s in the warmest months).
October is near the end of the dry, cool season when you’ll experience the season at its peak. In addition to the cooler air temperatures, the water is also cold due to the Humboldt Current flowing all season, dropping temperatures as low as 60°F.
Traveling to the Galapagos Islands during October can be an excellent time to visit. The ocean currents create heightened marine life activity, so it’s one of the best times to go snorkeling and scuba diving in the Galapagos Islands. Additionally, the famous giant tortoises lay their eggs in October to close out breeding season.
How does the rain affect the wildlife?
The rainy months of the year in the Galapagos Islands are December until April. Diverse wildlife can be seen throughout the year on the islands. However, the rainy season frequently brings new wildlife to the ecosystem, changes behaviors, and other exciting surprises waiting to be seen by tourists visiting during this season.
Rainfall varies on the different Galapagos Islands, with a heavier downpour in the islands’ higher elevations. The water leads to seasonal streams forming to irrigate the landscape as it flows down the slopes until ultimately reaching the ocean. It creates thick vegetation in the Galapagos Islands for animals to thrive.
The rainy season is excellent for sporting unusual land birds like the flightless cormorants as the lush flora provides plenty of seeds to eat and shelter for nesting.
What activities are there in the Galapagos Islands for children?
The Galapagos Islands is the perfect family travel destination. Children are allowed on the Galapagos Islands and are more than welcome to join in on the island’s exciting activities. Plan a trip to the islands to enjoy kid-friendly Galapagos cruises, kayaking, beaches, and nature explorations.
Spend a day at the beautiful tropical beaches lining the coastline. Tortuga Bay and Playa de Oro are popular spots for families to enjoy views from the beach or swim in the ocean. Next, go sightseeing to landmarks like Pinnacle Rock to see the natural structure emerging from the sea or explore the depths of the lava tunnels on Santa Cruz Island. Kid-friendly hikes in the Galapagos Islands include popular routes like Sombrero Chino or a nature walk through the Galapagos National Park. Kids can even get up close to their favorite animals in the Charles Darwin Research Station or swim with friendly sea lions in the ocean!