When is the Best Time to Go to the Galapagos?
As the Galapagos Islands are a year-round destination with mild weather patterns and very few migratory species, the best time to go to the Galapagos may very will depend on what you yourself hope to see and do there. Some periods like January through April offer terrific conditions for snorkeling, given calmer seas and warmer ocean temperatures, while drier and cooler months like July through September lend themselves more to hiking along the coast and through the highlands. Various times throughout year are ideal for exploring some of the most remarkable marine and wildlife the planet has on offer. In this blog, we invite you to learn more about the distinct seasons and weather patterns in Galapagos to help you answer the question: when is the best time to go to the Galapagos?
When is the best time to go to the Galapagos, weather-wise?
Being that the archipelago is located right along the equator, the Galapagos Islands are often mistakenly thought of as a tropical destination. Yes, the year-round temperatures are quite warm, however, the weather is not typical of the tropics. Understanding that there are two distinct seasons in the Galapagos is probably the best way to understand its climate. The two seasons in the Galapagos are hot and dry. Here are some key features of each:
Hot Season (January through May)
○ Higher precipitation and warmer temperatures
○ Lush vegetation extending into the mostly arid highlands
○ Daily, intermittent and refreshing rainfall
○ Bright sunlight, vibrant colors, sultry heat
Dry Season (June through November)
○ Humboldt Current strengthening
○ Very active marine life due to increased food supply
○ Silver skies and very comfortable weather conditions
There are also two transitional periods that occur as seasons overlap. These are November through January and May through July. These are very popular times to visit the Galapagos, especially in the latter period, moving from the hot season into the dry, as is evident by the greater number of visitors. Each season signals shifts in sea currents and vegetation that frame important moments in the lives of marine and land animals, well worth observing up close and in person.
When is the best time to see wildlife in the Galapagos?
On Land, the best time to see wildlife is arguably during the hot season. Sure, you may be more comfortable hiking in the dry season, but you see more in the hot season. For instance, it is during this time that you might be lucky enough marine and land iguanas at their most colorful or Galapagos giant tortoise eggs hatching over at the breeding centers (on Santa Cruz and/or San Cristobal Islands).
Some things to keep in mind during the hot season:
○ An abundance of flourishing plants results from warmer temperatures and greater precipitation
○ Increased food supply inspires more terrestrial activity
At Sea, the dry season brings with it a significant increase in marine activity. Waters tend to be cooler but, whether snorkeling or diving, wetsuits allow you more time underwater (these are readily available aboard our vessels that are mentioned a little further ahead in this blog). Birds tend to enjoy this time of year, too, as species like the American flamingo can be seen initiating elegant mating rituals.
It is good to note some reasons for this exciting time at sea:
○ Upwellings (sudden, submarine countercurrents) push deep water nutrients to the surface and make for cooler water temperatures.
○ Increased food supply just under the surface of the water means much more marine activity
Did you know...
Metropolitan Touring guarantees that you will see, on average, more than half of the BIG15 Galapagos iconic species when you hop aboard any one of our cruise-based tours. You can find out more about those species by checking out our Galapagos BIG15 page.
When is the best time to do certain activities in the Galapagos?
Enjoying the beauty of the archipelago while relaxing on the beach is a given, and exploring the islands by taking part in various activities is key. So, let’s have a look at the best time for some of the most important activities in the Galapagos:
… is a must in the Galapagos. There is so much to explore and no matter which island you visit, walking along the coast or up into the highlands puts you in the middle of everything. The end of the hot season (April and May) sees an increase in the number of visitors to the Galapagos. Vegetation becomes lush and temperatures cool slightly. Meanwhile, dry season months like September and October mean fewer tourists, more breeze, and very comfortable hiking conditions.
… is impossible to avoid whether on land or at sea. One thing to consider is that some of the Big15 iconic species of the Galapagos can only be found on specific islands of the archipelago. Exploring the Galapagos on a cruise ship – such as the Santa Cruz II, Isabela II, and La Pinta – is an ideal way to reach some of the most remote spots. While stronger currents and a persistent ocean breeze during the dry season may signal choppier seas, the aforementioned Yacht Isabella II offers a very popular itinerary around the central islands that is virtually sea-sickness proof! In contrast, the currents are not so strong during the hot season, inviting calmer seas.
… offers you a view of life just beneath the surface of the ocean. December, January, and February are ideal for spending more time underwater and there is plenty to see. That said, if you don’t mind the slightly cooler temperatures, July and August are your window for viewing a frenzy of marine activity. Speaking of windows, each of the vessels mentioned above boast a glass-bottom boat as an alternative way to view marine activity, without getting wet.
… like mountain biking, paddleboarding, and kayaking give you the chance to cover a lot of ground or coastline that might otherwise take you a little longer to explore. These enjoyable activities are offered year-round and are widely available aboard all of our vessels and at our Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel.
What is the best way to book a trip to the Galapagos?
A fair number of travelers that organize their own trips to the Galapagos, book flights, lodging, and activities on their own and find that they end up spending a hefty sum and seeing much less than they had expected. Visitors who decide to change plans last-minute often find out the hard way that deposits paid for excursions and activities are often non-refundable. This can turn an otherwise fun vacation into a nightmare full of stressful arguments, unreturned phone calls, and lost time and money.
Lodging, like the modestly-sized but very popular Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel, tends to vary in availability, so booking a room well ahead of time is key. There are peak months of year like June, July, and December when the crowds of tourists tend to be larger. If you want to visit during less busy months, May and October may be just what you’re looking for and may offer you greater availability. When booking your stay at Finch Bay, planning activities at the same time and through the same agent is a great way to guarantee and reserve your spot for different excursions.
Booking a cruise aboard the Santa Cruz II, Isabela II, and La Pinta – replete with luxury accommodations, healthy and delicious dining options, and expert naturalist guides, plus the peace of mind knowing that there is an onboard medical officer – offers you the chance to see and do everything on your wish list and more. The investment in your own peace and mind, knowing that every detail is taken care of for you, from flights to accommodations, from meals to itineraries, is undoubtedly the best value for your experience.
Ultimately, deciding on the best time to visit the Galapagos really depends on you, what you’d like to see, and what activities you’d like to pursue. And the best way to plan your trip is to do it well in advance, budget the right amount, and work with a reputable tour operator with plenty of years of experience and know-how with respect to this wholly-unique destination. Trust us: your experience will be all the richer for it.
José Ayerve enjoys traveling. After graduating with a degree in Romance Languages and Latin American Studies from Bowdoin College, Ayerve spent many years touring around North America as a musician while telecommuting as a Spanish language translator for a public school system. In 2015 he returned to South America. He currently resides in Quito, Ecuador.