Before you plan a visit to the Galápagos Islands, it’s important to check out the right time of year to go. Situated near the equator, the Galápagos has a wet and dry season that each offer different wildlife spotting opportunities, activity options, and weather conditions for visitors.
You need to know the best time to visit Galápagos to have the best experience during your visit! We’ll show you the best time to visit Galápagos, from the overall best time to go to the cheapest and worst times of year to visit.
Find out when to plan your trip to avoid cloudy, rainy days and get the best chance at spotting the fascinating wildlife that call these islands home in our guide!
Why You Should Visit the Galapagos Islands
When you picture the Galápagos Islands, you probably think of rare, colorful wildlife, rocky terrain, and Darwin’s historic expeditions.
This archipelago off the coast of Ecuador is so much more, though! This chain of islands is both a national park (which makes up 97% of the land surface) and a World Heritage Site.
Four of the islands are inhabited (Santa Cruz, San Cristóbal, Isabela, and Floreana) with hotels, restaurants, bars, and shops to check out. Santa Cruz has the most options for travelers, with San Cristóbal, Isabela, and Floreana being the next best options in that order.
When you’re spending time at Galapagos National Park, there are endless activities and things to do.
Spotting some of the world’s most unique and entertaining wildlife from blue-footed boobies and iguanas to pink flamingos, sea lions, and sea turtles is high on the list for Galapagos visitors.
But the fun doesn’t stop with land and marine animal observation! Snorkeling and diving the crystal-clear waters off the islands is stunning to say the least.
You’ll be able to swim with more than thirty species of sharks, including giant whale sharks and hammerheads. Float alongside deep-diving marine iguanas, manta rays, and sea turtles. It’s an experience you won’t forget!
Hiking and mountain biking around the islands are real treats for explorers. One of the best areas to hike is around Sierra Negra on Isabela, one of many active volcanoes on the islands.
With rocky terrain, it’s a challenging hike that leads to the deep caldera depression at the center of the volcano.
Hike or bike up Frigate Bird Hill on San Cristóbal to see the red-throated birds up close during the wet season and follow trails to the sea lion-inhabited beach at Playa Cabo de Horno.
Bartolomé Island is another visitor favorite hiking area (and the most photographed spot in the entire archipelago). Take a 374-foot wooden staircase to the island’s summit, where you’ll have great views of 2 crescent beaches and Pinnacle Rock.
Take to the seas on kayaks to see the islands from a new perspective and spot marine wildlife. Go horseback riding across the islands for a real adventure.
Panga boats — inflatable dinghies — are available for excursions around the islands and are great fun for kids and adults alike. For thrill seekers, the surfing around Galapagos is great during the north swell season from December to April.
The south swell season runs from April to November. From wildlife watching to snorkeling, swimming, and surfing, there’s a lot to capture your attention in the Galápagos Islands.
Planning your trip at the right time of year is easy when you know the best time to visit Galápagos! Below, you’ll see the best and worst times to go.
Overall Best Time to Visit the Galapagos Islands
- December-May is the best time to visit Galapagos
- Perfect opportunities to spot wildlife and lush vegetation
- Warm temps with brief rain showers in the afternoons
The best time to visit Galapagos Islands is from December to May, when the weather is ideal for exploring the islands, spotting wildlife, and seeing lush green growth and flowers around the archipelago.
Temperatures don’t vary much throughout the year because of the proximity to the equator, but things are slightly warmer at this time of year with sunny skies and brief rain showers.
This is a great time to spot marine and land iguanas, flamingos, pintail ducks, frigate birds with their dazzling red throat sacs, and humpback whales migrating through the waters.
The waters around Galapagos are warmer and more inviting from December to May, with sea temperatures hovering around 76F during this period. Even with near-daily brief rain showers, the skies stay mostly sunny and temperatures hang in the low 70s to upper 80s.
This makes this time of year ideal for spending lots of time outdoors on the islands. December-May is the wet season in Galapagos, but it’s surprisingly more appealing and comfortable than the cooler, cloudier dry season from June to November.
You’ll experience clear, sunny mornings with short rain showers in the afternoons that quickly pass before sunset. Sunsets here are incredible, especially on Isabela Island.
Note that one of the peaks in Galapagos tourism occurs from mid-December through mid-January.
You’ll run into higher rates on flights and hotels during this period, as well as more difficulties booking near your planned travel time. Plan to visit near the end of January through May for a less-crowded, more enjoyable visit.
Cheapest Time to Visit the Galapagos Islands
- September is the absolute cheapest time to visit Galápagos
- Summer crowds dissipate and leave Galapagos uncrowded
- Prices hit rock bottom as airlines, hotels, and cruises drop rates
The best time to visit Galapagos on a budget is during September. This is when the summer crowds have left the islands, kids are back in school, and visitor numbers dwindle on the islands.
You’ll be able to score great deals on the hotels on the larger inhabited islands of Santa Cruz, San Cristóbal, and Isabela. Cruises are priced lower in September and it’s a great time to visit on the cheap.
Cooler highs in the 70s are comfortable and warm for exploring the islands, but the waters are a little chillier — around 70F — during this time of year due to the Humboldt Current running from north to west.
It’s the dry season, so there’s very little rainfall, around 0.3 inches during the month of September on average. While the water’s a little cooler, snorkeling and scuba diving are at their best during the dry season.
Cheaply-priced September is a great time for both. With increased nutrient levels in the waters, marine life big and small come close to the islands to gorge themselves and make any snorkeling or diving trip spectacular!
Expect strong winds that make the seas rougher during the month of September.
Galapagos penguins are mating, sea birds are nesting, and sea lions are very active at this time of year. You might see male sea lions battling it out on the beaches as breeding season gets started!
Least Busy Time to Visit the Galapagos Islands
- September-November see the fewest visitors here
- Better wildlife spotting opportunities with smaller crowds
- Slightly cooler temperatures and dry weather
The best time to visit Galapagos without big crowds is September to November, which see the fewest tourists of the year here.
This is the latter part of the dry season in Galapagos, which runs from June to November. You’ll experience very little rainfall, slightly cooler temperatures on land and in the water, and lots of opportunities to see wildlife up close.
September is a great month for spotting penguins on the central islands as they gather to mate. Sea lions and seals are active as their breeding season kicks off in September and October, and sea birds are nesting in droves.
Spot blue-footed booby and Nazca booby chicks hatching in October and November, along with adorable sea lion pups on the beaches.
With fewer visitors coming to the islands at this time of year, your opportunities to see all this wildlife activity up close improve. Winds are stronger which make for rougher seas around the islands.
Although the weather is generally dry, the difference between the land and sea temperatures creates a unique misty rain phenomenon called Garua common.
Worst Time to Visit the Galapagos Islands
Since the Galapagos Islands are so close to the equator, the weather here doesn’t have a ton of variation to make one time of year a necessarily “bad” time to go.
However, if you consider your goals for the trip, there may be certain times of year that are less appealing than others to visit the Galapagos Islands:
- If you’re hoping for ideal weather and lush greenery, avoid visiting from June to November. This is the dry season, which leaves vegetation parched and less colorful. During the wet season from December to May, the rain is usually limited to afternoon showers and is otherwise ideal. The afternoon rain leaves the vegetation on the islands lush with lots of flowers in bloom.
- If you’re looking for a great deal, don’t visit during December to mid-January and July-August. This is typically the busiest periods to visit, which drives prices up for flights, hotels, and cruises.
- If you’re hoping to spot lots of wildlife across the islands, October to November is generally the worst time to go. You’ll see booby birds, sea lions, and seals mating, but other land and sea birds, marine wildlife, and reptiles are not seen in abundance at the end of dry season.
- If you tend to get seasick, try to avoid visiting from June to November if you plan to take a cruise or sea excursion. The stronger winds make for choppy seas during these months, making cruises around the islands nauseating, especially on smaller ships.
More Things to Consider
You’ve seen the best time to visit Galapagos, the cheapest and least busy times to go, and the worst times to visit. What else do you need to know to make your trip to the islands great?
Here’s what you should consider before you plan your trip:
- Most travelers fly in from Ecuador. You’ll leave from the mainland at Quito or Guayaquil, and all flights to Galapagos are offered by 3 airlines: LAN-Ecuador, TAME, and Avianca. Expect to pay somewhere between $400-$500 for your round-trip ticket to the islands from Ecuador. You can find cheaper rates during select seasons, especially in September.
- Plan for extra fees and charges. In addition to your flight to the islands and the nightly rate for your on-island hotel or cruise, you’ll need to get a mandatory $20 tourist transit card, pay the $100 entry fee for Galapagos National Park ($50 for children), and pay for an overnight stay in Quito or Guayaquil before you can return to the U.S. or your home country.
- Pack the right stuff. You’ll need high-SPF sunscreen, breathable long-sleeved shirts, shorts, and pants with added SPF protection, and hats to protect your head and face from the intense sun rays on the islands. If you plan to snorkel, surf, or dive (especially in the cooler dry season), you may want a wetsuit. Many cruises and excursion boats provide these.
- If visiting protected areas, you need a guide. The GNPD (Galapagos National Park Directorate) requires visitors to be accompanied with a naturalist guide they’ve authorized when going into the protected areas of the islands. This is really a bonus, as your guide will be able to point out unique wildlife and land formations while sharing facts and information with you.
- Don’t feed the wildlife. It can be tempting to offer a bit of your sandwich or chips to the wildlife around the islands, but it’s strictly off-limits. Feeding the reptiles, birds, and marine life around the islands can cause serious health problems and safety issues for you. Avoid feeding the wildlife while you’re on the islands.
- Leave everything as you found it. Don’t litter or bring natural souvenirs back home with you from the islands. Lava rock, black coral, shells, driftwood, vegetation, and animal bones may seem like tempting souvenirs to take, but it’s illegal and will cause you problems at airport security. Leave everything as you found it and take nothing with you that wasn’t purchased.
So, What’s the Best Time to Visit the Galapagos Islands?
Overall, the best time to visit Galapagos Islands is between December and May, with late January to May being the absolute best time to go.
You’ll get near-ideal weather with brief afternoon showers, lush greenery around the islands, and the most active wildlife on the islands to observe. The waters are warm for snorkeling, swimming, and diving and it’s peak season for the islands.
It’s a great time to go!
The Cheapest Time to Go
The best time to visit Galapagos on a budget is during the month of September. This is when you’ll find the year’s lowest rates on flights, hotels, and cruises around the islands as the number of visitors takes a nosedive at the end of the summer season.
The Least Busy Time to Go
The best time to visit Galapagos without big crowds is from September to November. This is the end of the dry season, so things are a little parched and wildlife isn’t quite as active as during the wetter months of the year.
You’ll still have the opportunity to spot blue-footed and Nazca boobies, sea lion and seal mating season, and their cute pups!
The Worst Time to Go
Keep the worst times to visit in mind as you plan your stay — the dry season, especially October-November, isn’t great if you want lush vegetation and the most active wildlife.
December to mid-January and July-August aren’t ideal if you’re looking for great deals on flights, cruises, and hotels. Avoid June-November if you’re planning to take a cruise and tend to get seasick, as the seas are rougher at this time of year.
With endless wildlife spotting opportunities, inviting seas filled with marine animals small and large, gorgeous landscapes with beaches and volcanoes, and tons of activities on and off land, the Galapagos Islands are an immersive experience for even the most seasoned travelers.
If you want to experience the natural beauty and rare species of these equatorial islands that have sparked thousands of scientific discoveries through the centuries, this is where you need to go.
Just make sure to follow the rules put in place for the safety of the wildlife, the islands, and you! Check out these helpful travel guides next to learn more about planning the island or South American trip of a lifetime: