The best time to visit the Galapagos Islands really depends on when you have available for this incredible vacation.
The Galapagos Islands are part of Ecuador and found 550 miles (900 km) off the country’s coast. The name Ecuador is the Spanish word for equator and the Galapagos are found well within the world’s tropics.
Because of their tropical position, the islands are a great place to visit no matter when you are planning your Galapagos vacation. The temperature is very similar from month to month and is usually warm and welcoming. However, there are some times of year when temperature can get a little cooler and also when the weather can be a bit drier.
The wildlife can be seen at all times of year. However, some animals have different seasons dependent on migration patterns. If you have a particular animal in mind, it’s worth checking on the best times for seeing them. Examples include hammerheads and whale sharks.
Most of the iconic wildlife always stay on or around the islands, so can be seen throughout the year and will always be around to greet you on your visit. As the islands were only recently discovered relative to other areas, the animals are still very friendly so you will understand why maintaining a respectful distance is more your responsibility than theirs.
We will now mention some of the different points to consider when planning the best time to visit the Galapagos Islands.
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Galapagos Islands Weather & Seasons
As mentioned above, the best time to visit the Galapagos Islands really depends on when you have available for a visit. Enjoy continual good weather year round with an average daily temperature of 84°F (30°C) and a nightly temperature of 69°F (20°C).
The Galapagos seasons are split into either a cool and dry season from the Humboldt Current or a wet and warmer season due to the El Niño Current. The slightly warmer and slightly rainier season is from December to June.
The average temperature from December to June is between 80ºF (27ºC) and 90ºF (32ºC).
The drier and cooler season is then from June – November. This is often the preferred time to visit if you enjoy diving.
Between June and November, you can expect an average of 70ºF (21ºC) to 80ºF (27ºC).
Even when it does rain, it often clears up after a short while and shouldn’t alter your plan for activities. The rain tends to fall towards mid-day, late afternoon and evenings then clears by the following morning.
When to visit the Galapagos Islands • in/°F | mm/°C
The Best time to see Galapagos Wildlife
Aside from the very few migrating species, the Galapagos wildlife can be seen year round. Enjoy walking around town spotting the marine iguanas literally sunning themselves on the pavement. Sea lions can also be spotted nearby. For example, you can spot sea lions at the Red Mangrove Hotel where the hotel freed up an area for exclusive sea lion use.
Enjoy cruising between the different Galapagos Islands to see the wildlife in their natural habitats. Watch the giant tortoises making their routine migrations up and down the volcanoes, spot the large frigatebirds gliding over the shore, blue-footed boobies walking around their nest areas, marine iguanas diving the waters for algae, and even the Galapagos penguins swimming in the sea.
You can also visit the Charles Darwin Research Center to see the work the Charles Darwin Foundation is doing to restore and protect the islands, including the giant tortoise breeding programmes with the many baby tortoises.
There are also specific times to see turtles nesting on the sand, baby sea lions playing on the beaches, and whale sharks and manta rays cruising underwater.
If you are visiting the Galapagos Islands for diving to see certain animals, the following are the best months to see popular migrating marine mammals:
- Manta Ray Season: December – May
- Whale Shark Season: June – November
- Hammerheads: December – May
The Galapagos Islands – A Month by Month Guide
If you’re visiting the Galapagos Islands in January, you can expect warm days with a few days of rain. This is a great time to spot sea turtles moving up the beaches to lay their eggs and also baby giant tortoises. This is also when marine iguanas are in their breeding season. January is a great time to see the famous red, green and black marine iguanas of Española Island. January is also when the land iguanas on Isabela Island are breeding.
February offers warm weather with a few days of light rain and is a great time to see turtles climbing the beaches to lay their eggs. This is also a great time to see nesting birds and hatching giant tortoises. Marine iguanas are also nesting on Santa Cruz Island.
March offers warm weather with a few rainy days due to the El Niño Current and the warm weather means breeding and nesting season. This is a great time to spot turtles laying eggs on the beaches, baby giant tortoises, and different birds nesting on the islands. The marine iguanas are also nesting on North Seymour and Fernandina Island.
April is towards the end of the warm and rainier months. You can still see the birds and turtles in the last phases of nesting and breeding behavior before the cooler months arrive. The favorites to watch are the iconic blue-footed boobies and frigatebirds with their bright red throat sacks contrasted with black feathers.
May is right at the end of the warmer months. The end end of May starts to see slightly cooler temperature. However, for the most part you can enjoy warm and welcoming waters. Despite slightly cooler, the weather is still warm. May is also when you can see the iconic blue-footed boobies performing their courtship rituals on North Seymour Island.
May is sometimes quoted as the best month to visit the Galapagos Islands as it offers one of the most preferred temperatures, the courtship rituals of iconic birdlife, and allows you to avoid the high tourist season.
June is when the Humboldt Current brings in cooler temperature but drier weather. Although cooler, you can still expect temperature of between 70ºF (21ºC) to 80ºF (27ºC). This is a great time to see the migrating humpback whales off the Galapagos. Whale sharks also have started their migration to the Galapagos (best seen around Wolf Island and Darwin Island). On Santa Cruz Island, this is when the giant tortoises start to move from the highlands to the lowlands for mating season. Mid-June is the start of peak tourist season.
July means the Humboldt Current’s influence is in full swing brining with it abundant food for marine life. This means it’s a great time to see penguins and seabirds as they feed from an abundant food supply. July is the last of the breeding season for some species, such as blue-footed boobies, flightless cormorants, and owls. Great islands to observe displays are Genovesa Island and Española Island. You can also enjoy whale watching tours to see the humpback whales. If scuba diving or snorkeling, you can also see whale sharks. You will also see the lava lizards starting their courtship behavior, which consists of ‘pushup’ rituals.
August is now within the cooler and drier season mentioned further up, however, the weather still offers a pleasant temperature to enjoy the Galapagos Islands. Enjoy heading out to see the migrating humpback whales. August is also one of the best months to see baby sea lion on the beaches. This is also a great month for seeing whale sharks underwater. August is also when the flaminoes start their fantastic mating rituals. On Santa Cruz Island, Giant Tortoises are returning to the highlands.
September offers the cooler and drier season of the Humboldt Current mentioned further up. But you can still expect pleasant temperatures to enjoy the Galapagos Islands. September is also the last month to spot humpback whales during their Galapagos migration. Another favorite marine animal, the whale sharks are also around the Galapagos in September. Penguins begin breeding and the large sea lion males are defending their harems from rivals. September is also the end of peak tourist season.
October is when the Galapagos Islands starts to feel the influence of the El Niño Current and the air and water temperature begins to rise slightly. October is also a good month to see whale sharks if diving or snorkeling and is when the fur seals are breeding.
November is the start of the warm and wet season of the El Niño Current. Enjoy the warmer air that will soon start the breeding and mating season on the Galapagos. November is when the baby sea lions born over August and September and heading into the ocean. If snorkeling in this time, you will probably meet some curious sea lion pups. November is also the last month to see whale sharks near the Galapagos Islands.
With the warm and wet season nearly in full swing, December is when baby giant tortoises start to hatch from their eggs. Enjoy warmer air but also a few more rainy days. The waters are still colder as the Humboldt Current is dying off and remain full of nutrients for marine life. The famous waved albatross chicks are also making their first flights and the sea turtles have started mating. Marine iguanas have also started their courtship rituals. The middle of December is also another peak tourist season that ends in mid-January.
Galapagos Islands Tours
There are some fantastic tours to explore the Galapagos Islands to see incredible wildlife spectacles, natural features, and to learn about the fascinating history of the Galapagos, once known as the enchanted isles.
Below are some of the top rated Galapagos tours, including luxury small-group cruises and package tours from the luxury Galapagos Habitat Hotel.
The Petrel Cruise
The Petrel Cruise is a luxury-class catamaran cruise for the Galapagos Islands. Enjoy fantastic tours both on guided expeditions on the islands themselves and also exploring the marine environment on kayaks and snorkeling tours led by naturalist guides.
Because of the Petrel Cruise design, enjoy more stability and comfort while cruising between islands.
The Petrel Cruise itself offers very comfortable and spacious suites with your own private balcony, comfortable relaxation areas and a jacuzzi.
Aboard the Petrel Galapagos Cruise, you can choose from the Petrel’s 5-day, 6-day and 8-day itineraries.
The Petrel Cruise 8-day Itinerary
As an example of an itinerary aboard the Petrel Galapagos Cruise, here is the the 8-day itinerary ‘B’, which departs from San Cristobal Island.
The first day, you will explore the island of San Cristobal to find the iconic giant tortoises.
After a restful night’s sleep, you will be exploring the beautiful Gardner Bay and Española Island. Walk the idyllic beach and snorkel turquoise waters to find sea lions and colorful fish.
Enjoy a visit to Osborn Islet and Suárez Point on Española Island. Your guide will be on the lookout for iconic wildlife, such as blue-footed boobies and lava lizards, but especially the waved albatross.
You will then cruise to Cormorant Point as you begin to explore Floreana Island. Cormorant Point has a beautiful lagoon where you can watch the colorful flamingos. While here, you can also enjoy spotting the many different species of Galapagos birds that regularly visit the lagoon.
Nearby, you can also find an attractive beach colored green by the high amount of olivine crystals. You will also visit another beautiful beach made of white corals.
After this, it’s time to visit one of the most wildlife-rich areas of the Galapagos Islands, which is an area known as the Devil’s Crown. Enjoy snorkeling the water to find a high diversity of colorful fish, different rays, and sharks. You will then visit the famous Post Office Bay where early sailors would leave letters in the hopes that a passing vessel will deliver their message.
The next day, enjoy guided tours around Santa Cruz and the Charles Darwin Research Center. Learn of the work the Charles Darwin Foundation is doing to help preserve the wildlife of these incredible islands.
You will also see the baby giant tortoises, which will later be released on different islands to help recover tortoise populations.
You will then visit Bartholomew Island to see the beautiful views and lava formations with their patterns of vegetation made from plants that lived here many year ago.
After this, you will see Genovesa Island and Darwin Bay for its coral beach. Enjoy spotting the many birds, such as the iconic red-footed boobies.
See Santiago Island to visit Buccaneer Cove and learn about the fascinating history of pirates, whalers and explorers who would moor their ships here while setting foot on the islands.
On the last day, you will explore Mosquera Island and Santa Cruz. Visit Carrion Point for the incredible wildlife to see many colorful fish and different rays.
The Ocean Spray Cruise
The Ocean Spray Cruise offers a luxury cruise of the Galapagos Islands aboard a vessel designed specifically for comfort and performance.
Due to the catamaran style of the cruise, the Ocean Spray offers more stability cruising from island to island than other cruises. You will then enjoy the spacious suites with modern ensuites, clean and comfortable living areas, the jacuzzi, sundeck, and the private balconies.
Aboard the Ocean Spray Cruise, you can choose an itinerary from 4-days to their 15-day mega cruise for in depth island exploration. In addition to expertly guided island exploration, you will also enjoy guided kayaking and snorkeling tours to explore the marine environment.
The Ocean Spray 4-night Cruise
For an example of an Ocean Spray itinerary, the 4-night cruise offers a fantastic experience of the islands if you only have a few days for island discovery. Note that there are other itineraries to choose from.
You will start the itinerary on Baltra Island where most visitors to the Galapagos start their journey. You will then be briefed about the cruise and the Ocean Spray vessel. After this, it’s time to head to Bartholomew Island.
Bartholomew Island offers one of the most famous views of the Galapagos Islands. You can also enjoy snorkeling in the area to see many different colorful Galapagos fish.
You will then visit Genovesa and Darwin Bay to enjoy guided walks to find different sea birds and an attractive coral beach.
After this, you will visit Santiago and Espumilla Beach to see Sally Lightfoot crabs, marine iguanas and other Galapagos wildlife. This is also near Buccaneer Cove where British buccaneers would come for refuge.
Puerto Egas then offers fascinating black sands where you can see Galapagos fur seals, Galapagos hawks and lava lizards.
You will then enjoy watching various Galapagos birds, such as blue-footed boobies, sea lions and frigatebirds on North Seymour Island.
Towards the end of your tour on the last days, you will first explore Santa Cruz to find the iconic giant tortoises as the move around the island’s highlands. You will also enjoy different snorkeling opportunities for more colorful fish, reef sharks and turtles.
The last day is then spent on Mosquera Island with its beautiful beaches and island views. This island is home to the largest population of sea lions on the Galapagos Islands and guests can occasionally spot the famous orcas.
The Ocean Spray CruiseGalapagos Islands, Ecuador
Aboard the Ocean Spray Cruise, you will embark on a memorable journey through the mesmerizing Galapagos Islands. The 16-passenger luxury
The Galapagos Habitat Hotel Tour Package
Located on the fantastic island of Santa Cruz and nearby some of the island’s favorite attractions, the Galapagos Habitat Hotel offers a luxury experience of the Galapagos. Enjoy the Galapagos Habitat package tours to explore nearby islands
After relaxing in the very comfortable hotel, you can enjoy free time exploring the areas nearby. Enjoy some of the island’s best galleries, cafes, restaurants and attractions. Located just next door, you can find the Charles Darwin Research Center, which is one of the most visited attractions on the Galapagos.
Although there are different restaurants nearby, you can also enjoy the highly rated Almar Restaurant by Isla Grill within the Galapagos Habitat Hotel itself.
The Almar Restaurant specializes in fresh seafood and meats prepared with an Argentinean and Galapagos-Ecuadorian influence. This is also where you can enjoy wildlife experiences even from the hotel deck.
Even around the Galapagos Habitat Hotel you can see some fantastic animals iconic to the Galapagos archipelago. Spot the many marine iguanas that enjoy sunning themselves on the deck while you’re enjoying a meal, coffee or cocktail. You will then be able to spot pelicans, frigatebirds, and the sea lions that have a special place set aside at the hotel.
To explore the islands and to see more of the fantastic Galapagos wildlife, you can enjoy the Galapagos Habitat Package tours. Enjoy exploring the islands before returning to the hotel for delicious food and a restful night’s sleep.
The Red Mangrove HotelThe Galapagos, Ecuador
Currently, TourTheTropics.com cannot help you book this experience. However, you can visit the tour operator's website for more information.
The Amazon & Galapagos Combination Tour
To fully experience two of Ecuador’s top natural attractions, you can enjoy the Amazon and Galapagos Combination Tour.
Combine the luxury-class Ocean Spray or Petrel Cruise for the Galapagos Islands mentioned above and explore the Amazon Rainforest from the luxurious La Selva Lodge and Spa.
The combination tour includes 3 nights on either the Ocean Spray or Petrel Galapagos Cruise, 3 nights at La Selva Lodge, and then 3 nights at a hotel in Quito city.
Cruise the Galapagos Islands with expertly guided tours to find marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies and giant tortoises. Your spacious suite offers a very comfortable beds and a modern ensuite.
Your naturalist guide will help you find the iconic Galapagos Islands wildlife on the different bays, beaches and islands. See the iconic blue-footed boobies, giant tortoises, marine iguanas and more.
Aboard the vessel itself, enjoy spacious suites with modern ensuites and comfortable living areas.
Explore the Galapagos marine environment on snorkeling tours and guided kayaking opportunities. You will then have guided island walks on the different Galapagos trails to enjoy fantastic wildlife and natural features.
You will also explore Ecuador’s Amazon Rainforest from the very comfortable La Selva Lodge & Spa.
The award-winning lodge provides very comfortable suites, a private porch, delicious cuisine, and guided tours into the wildlife-rich surrounding rainforest.
The animals and plants you’re likely to find on guided walks include capuchins, squirrel monkeys, pygmy marmosets, toucans, macaws, attractive orchids, and towering rainforest trees.
The lodge itself is nestled on the beautiful Garzacocha Lake, which you will explore to find different wildlife, including night tours to spot caiman crocodilians.
Because La Selva Lodge also offers a spa area, after yout excursions you can then relax with a massage and spa treatment surrounded by rainforest.
The Amazon Galapagos Combo TourQuito, Ecuador
Currently, TourTheTropics.com cannot help you book this experience. However, you can visit the tour operator's website for more information.About the Author: Ash Card is a frequent visitor to the Tropics and has a passion for helping visitors get the best experiences from tropical locations. Ash is a contributor to both TourTheTropics.com and ThinkJungle.com writing about tropical destinations, rainforests and wildlife. Feel free to contact Ash for tour help in the tropics. When not helping tourists with tours and info, Ash can be found salsa-ing the night away or posing near waterfalls.