The Galapagos Islands, considered the second largest marine reserve on the planet, were declared the National Park of Ecuador in 1959 and World Heritage by UNESCO in 1978. These paradisiacal and world-famous islands are visited every year by thousands of tourists who seek to discover unparalleled biodiversity. For this reason, we want to tell you about the best time to visit Galapagos so you can plan your next trip to the enchanted islands.
Cover photo: Galapagos sea lion. Photo by fredfowler on Pixabay.
Since the Galapagos Islands are on the Equatorial line, a fact that represents a particularity to understanding its climate, we will begin by telling you that the seasons on the islands are divided between hot and cold. In other words, there are no seasons of the year on the islands as elsewhere in the world. Galapagos is the confluence point of the Cromwell, Humboldt, South Equatorial, and Panama currents. This allows them to appreciate their unique wildlife constantly and enjoy moderate temperatures throughout the year.
Next, we’ll tell you the characteristics of these seasons so you know the best time to visit Galapagos.
The hot season in the Galapagos Islands, also known as the dry season, begins in December and extends through May and early June. During these months, the days are usually sunny and the climate is mild. While the presence of rains is scarce, there are mild breezes. Because of this, it is considered the best time to visit Galapagos and to dive since the sea is calmer and the visibility under the water is ideal to appreciate the species living there. In addition, during the hot season, specifically February, March, and April, many land birds, sea lions, and turtles experience their breeding or nesting seasons. These are the best months to appreciate, from a respectful distance and as required by the Galapagos National Park, these fantastic wildlife events.
The cold season extends from June to November. During these months, temperatures drop, especially at night. Additionally, in these months, the wind currents are greater and there is rain (drizzle). If you are wondering what the worst date or worst time to visit the Galapagos Islands is, no date or time could be considered as such, however, the cold season could be considered the least desirable for the reasons already stated. However, because the Galapagos Islands are at the level of the Equatorial Line, this season is much warmer than in other parts of the planet, and temperatures are still quite acceptable.
Ocean conditions and water temperature by season
If you are going to travel to the Galapagos Islands, you should know that you will constantly get on and off boats that will travel short, medium, or long distances in the ocean, which depends on the destination you are heading for. So, another fundamental factor to define the best time to visit Galapagos is to know the conditions in which the ocean will be during your visit.
The hot season is the time when the sea surrounding the Galapagos Islands archipelago is the calmest. In addition, the water is warmer since the El Nino Current, a warm, seasonal, and equatorial sea stream typical of the South American Pacific, is crossing the islands. Water temperature during this season ranges from 21°-26.5°C (70°-80°F). This is considered to be the ideal time to take speedboats or boats between islands or to take a multi-day cruise around the islands. As mentioned above, the hot season runs from December to May, and if you are a person prone to seasickness (motion sickness) these are the best dates to visit the Galapagos Islands.
On the other hand, the cold season is when the presence of winds has a greater impact on the waters surrounding the archipelago. The sea is more agitated, and the water temperature during this season ranges from 18º to 24º C (65°-75°F). The cold Humboldt and Cromwell currents significantly reduce sea temperatures. In any case, whether in the hot or cold season, a wetsuit is required for deep sea diving.
When are there more or fewer tourists?
The Galapagos Islands are a world-renowned destination. For many people, getting to know them is the fulfillment of one of the greatest dreams of their lives. This fact causes the islands to be visited by thousands of tourists throughout the year. Despite the permanent presence of tourists throughout the year, the high season in the Galapagos Islands is considered to be between June and August, and there is also a significant increase in tourists in December, during Christmas, and the New Year. Likewise, the number of tourists is usually increased when there are holidays in Ecuador. On the other hand, in October and November, considered the medium or low season, the sea is rough on the islands, so there are fewer tourists.
We recommend you to read: How to get to Galapagos?
When is it more expensive and cheaper to go to the Galapagos Islands?
There is a belief that visiting the Galapagos Islands is highly expensive. In this sense, it is important to note that, generally, there are different options for different types of budgets anywhere you travel, and the Galapagos Islands are no exception. However, the geographical location of the islands means that almost everything in the archipelago has to be imported from the mainland, so prices are always higher than the mainland of Ecuador. Also, the archipelago has very arid and hard lands in which it is difficult to cultivate, and those dedicated to doing so must comply with the regulations issued by the Galapagos National Park.
However, these facts do not prevent a trip to these paradisiacal islands from being perfectly feasible. The important thing is to search for flights to this destination well in advance, as well as accommodation on the island(s) you decide to visit. In addition, with regard to food, it is always possible to find ways to reduce costs; and, as far as tourism activities are concerned, there are countless places to visit and activities to do, and it is precisely this aspect where one can make a big difference concerning costs. It all depends on what you like and are willing to pay for.
Knowing when it is more expensive or cheaper to go to the islands will allow you to define the best time to travel to Galapagos. As mentioned earlier, in October and November the sea is quite rough on the islands, which is why you can find better deals on these dates. This period could be considered the cheapest time to go to the Galapagos Islands. While if you are wondering when it is more expensive to go to the Galapagos Islands, you could say that this time corresponds to the high season, when there are more tourists, which is usually between June and August, and also in December, during Christmas and New Year.
Additionally, we recommend that your stay is not less than five days because there is an infinity of activities to do on the different islands. So if you can only travel during this time, we suggest prioritizing what you want to see on the islands so you can make your schedule.
The dream of thousands of travelers around the world is to arrive in the Galapagos Islands to appreciate the enormous biodiversity that exists there. In this section, we want to tell you a little about the different animal species that exist on the islands and the relevant periods of their biological activity. These indications on certain species can help you decide which is the best time to visit Galapagos. If you are interested in observing birds or appreciating marine life, that is, if you are looking to meet a particular animal species, you will not want to miss the opportunity to observe it during your visit.
One of the few migratory species in the archipelago are humpback whales. These can be seen around the ocean from June to September. In September, humpback whales and sharks migrate to the northwest islands.
Baby sea lions
Baby sea lions can be seen in August when they are born. While in November, the presence of baby sea lions is abundant, and you can swim with them. One of the places where it is possible to see a huge number of baby sea lions is in the sea lion colony on San Cristobal Island.
Frigatebird courtship season is an event that is highly appreciated if you enjoy bird watching. In March and April, the frigates inflate the red sack of his neck, puff it up and make noise.
The mating ritual of blue-footed boobies is another wildlife event that often captivates tourists. They wobble from left to right, jump from foot to foot, and their graceful moves make this mating season a captivating spectacle. The exact time this occurs varies from island to island. By May, blue-footed boobies are doing their cortege dance in North Seymour, while July is the mating season for blue-footed boobies, particularly on Española Island. For these reasons, you must decide before your trip what you want to see to decide the best time to travel to Galapagos according to your preferences.
Recommended reading: Things to do in Galapagos that you cannot miss.
From May to January penguins nest. In February, penguins migrate to Isabela and Fernandina. On these islands, sightings of these marvelous animals are possible.
Giant tortoises of the Galapagos
One of the special events of the Galapagos Islands is the breeding season of the famous Galapagos tortoises. At the beginning of the year, the tortoises begin laying eggs on the beaches, and from December to March, the hatching process of the eggs is constant.
What is the best time to travel to Galapagos?
In short, the best time to visit Galapagos is between December and May. During these months, you will be able to enjoy the sunny climate, and the sea currents will allow you to sail in a calm sea. These aspects must be taken into account if you want to enjoy an appetizing climate and conditions of waves that allow you to carry out all the outdoor activities.
However, another criterion for defining the best time to visit Galapagos can also be based on what you want to see. Given the immense variety of wildlife on the islands, you might decide to travel according to the wildlife events that occur at specific times of the year. That is, once you decide which species you want to see and what is the best time to see them, you can define when your ideal time is to visit the Galapagos Islands.
Other criteria can help you decide when is the best time to visit Galapagos, for example, what is the low season and the high season, or when is it more expensive or cheaper to visit the islands. All of these factors should be involved in making your decision.
It only remains to mention that the Galapagos Islands are a destination that deserves to be visited at least once in a lifetime. Regardless of the date you choose, it will always be a good time to visit since much of the magic lies in the fact that you can enjoy the unique and exuberant wildlife and stunning landscapes at any time of the year. The Enchanted Islands are everything you imagine and more.
Write us and we will help you choose the best time for your trip and plan everything related to your visit to the unique, enchanted islands.