Best Time to Visit Galapagos
As a leading small-ship expedition company, Aqua Expeditions continues its growth and expansion into new destinations, scouting for special uncharted corners of the world which possess an indescribable ‘wow’ factor, combined with unparalleled natural beauty, exotic wildlife, and rich culture and history. We make it a priority to select destinations that can be explored year-round, ensuring our guests of rewarding lifetime adventures no matter the time of year they choose to sail with us. The Galapagos Islands is one of those magical settings where its dynamic ecosystem and different species’ lifecycles mean nature will have something extraordinary to show and teach us, every day. Here’s a look at the best time to visit Galapagos.
The Galapagos Islands are located off the coast of Ecuador in South America. Being near the equator in the Pacific Ocean may lead you to believe that the islands feature a very hot and tropical climate but the weather is in fact surprisingly moderate with average temperatures ranging between 69°- 84°F (21°- 30°C). This is because of the influence of ocean currents which are responsible for creating its two distinctive seasons: the wet season and dry season. Overall rainfall levels in the Galapagos are quite low, resulting in predominantly arid zones in the lowlands near the shore, whereas mist enables lush green vegetation to flourish in the highlands of larger islands.
Average air temperature: 71 – 87 °F (22 – 31 °C)
This is the hottest season in the Galapagos, characterized by clear blue skies and plenty of sunshine. The predominant current during this period is the Panama Current, which brings warm waters to the archipelago, making it ideal for snorkeling as it is also when the visibility underwater is the clearest. Heavy but short rain showers are frequent during the afternoons, transforming the landscapes with lush green vegetation.
Average air temperature: 67 – 81 °F (19 – 27 °C)
The dry season is characterized by cloudier and foggier skies, with less intense sunshine, very little rain, and more humidity. During this period, southern trade winds are stronger, powering the effects of the colder Humboldt Current and Cromwell Current in the Galapagos. The cold waters of the Humboldt current cause the air near the ocean surface to cool more than the air above, creating a temperature inversion and a layer of high humidity, responsible for the typical mist present during this season, particularly in the highlands. In fact, this season is locally known as ‘garua’, which is the Spanish word for mist. Although visibility underwater is not as clear as during the wet season, life underwater is magnificently rich and active as sea animals follow the nutrient waters brought by the cold currents around the Galapagos Islands.
As there is no “best” or “worst” time to visit the Galapagos Islands, we have listed some of the ultimate highlights per month to help plan your trip:
- Warm and relatively calmer seas make this an excellent month for snorkeling with great underwater visibility – swimming with penguins is especially fun as this is when they get most active!
- Land birds begin nesting so we will be on the lookout for rare species such as red boobies, Nazca boobies, flightless cormorants, and frigate-birds.
- Green sea turtles start to lay their eggs on the beaches.
- On Española Island, adult marine iguanas will change their colors to bright green, red, and black in preparation for their mating rituals.
- Crystal clear waters and sunny skies create the perfect scenario for snorkeling, kayaking and paddle boarding adventures.
- Greater flamingos are easily observed in Floreana as they start nesting.
- Marine iguanas start nesting on Santa Cruz Island.
- Witness the courtship ritual of a magnificent frigatebird as males vigorously inflate their red throat pouches on North Seymour Island.
- One of the warmest months with temperatures reaching 87 °F (30.5 °C) that can also experience a heavier rainfall.
- Crystalline seas that allow for high visibility underwater means that this period continues to be excellent for snorkeling.
- As iguana nesting season continues, female land iguanas can be seen battling in protection of their nesting sites.
- Waved albatrosses, the largest bird species in the Galapagos, start to migrate back to Española Island.
- Stunning spring landscapes as wildflowers blossom and highlands become vivid green.
- Best time for waved albatross watching as they arrive en masse to Española Island for the courtship season, in which pairs will mate for life.
- Nesting for green sea turtles comes to an end and newborn hatchlings make their way to the sea at night time attempting to avoid predators.
- Land iguana eggs also hatch during this month.
- A month with wonderful warm weather as temperature drops to levels between 72°F – 82 °F (22°C – 29°C) while humidity and rainfall remain low.
- Time spent on the water will be a delight; perfect to make the most out of aquatic activities.
- It’s the time for the blue-footed booby courtship dance as males proudly display their blue feet to attract a mate.
- Breeding and nesting also begins for other endemic birds of the Galapagos such as penguins, flightless cormorants, and flamingoes, offering a beautiful display.
- June marks then end of the summer season which means the climate will be relatively cool and dry, especially at night, but still very pleasant and sunny throughout the whole day.
- Marine life thrives as the Galapagos’ seas fill up with nutrients brought by the cold Humboldt current.
- The magical sighting of a humpback whale is possible, as they migrate to the Galapagos to feed on its plankton-rich waters following the Humboldt current.
- A wonderful time for birdwatching as various bird species continue to breed and nest including the Galapagos penguin.
- With an average temperature of 72°F (22.0°C), this is the perfect time of year for those who prefer a slightly cooler, more refreshing climate while still in a tropical environment.
- The Humboldt cold current continues to attract abundant marine life, including bottlenose dolphins, orcas, hammerhead sharks, Bryde’s whales and the beloved gentle whale sharks.
- Spot and swim with playful California sea lions as their breeding season begins.
- Vibrant bird life as iconic species like the red and blue footed boobies, waved albatrosses and flightless cormorants are nesting.
- At the peak of the ‘garua’ (misty) season, you can expect cooler, dryer temperatures.
- The effect of the Humboldt Current over marine life is strong, making this a magnificent time for snorkeling. Although water temperature can drop to 64°F (18°C), a wet suit will keep you comfortable as you swim alongside marvelous sea creatures.
- The famed Galapagos giant tortoises lay their eggs on Santa Cruz Island.
- Scruffy Galapagos albatross chicks with dark brown feathers can be seen with their parents on Española Island.
- Average temperature of around 70 °F (21°C) makes it one of the cooler months, also the lowest in rainfall.
- One of the best times to swim with penguins as they are very active on Bartolomé Island.
- The iconic bird species of the Galapagos continue presenting their peculiar courtship dances.
- California sea lions and fur seal pups during breeding season is an adorable sight you won’t want to miss.
- Stunning natural landscapes and good lighting due to overcast skies create a perfect scenario for photography, with very special early morning sunrises and mist.
- As the weather is still cooler than in the following months, it is ideal for hiking expeditions along Galapagos’ volcanic terrains.
- Fluffy blue-footed booby chicks can be spotted on Española Island.
- Endemic lava herons start building their nests close to the ocean.
- This will be one of the last chances to encounter Hammerhead sharks before they migrate as the dry season comes to an end.
- Still one the best months to watch the gentle giants of the sea including humpback whales, whale sharks, and sperm whales.
- Curious sea lion pups that were born a few months ago are now old enough to come out and play in the sea.
- Courtship season for penguins arrives, making it possible to swim with them around Bartolome Island’s Pinnacle Rock as they search for a mate for life.
- Celebrate the end of the year under the clear, sunny skies of Galapagos.
- As the wet season kicks in, the Galapagos turns into a green oasis of lush vegetation and blossoming flowers.
- An eventful month for turtles as the green turtle mating season begins and Galapagos giant tortoise eggs start to hatch, offering the wonderful opportunity to witness these tiny creatures venture into the world for the first time.
- Witness a display of male marine iguanas fighting each other as mating season begins.
In summary, there are good times to be had no matter when you visit the Galapagos Islands. The wonders of the archipelago and national park shine year-round, and Aqua Mare is the best way to discover them all!