When to visit the Galapagos Islands

An In-Depth Guide to the Galapagos Seasons

- EXPLORE OUR GUIDE -

Best time to visit The Galapagos Islands

There are many guides offering advice and tips on the best time to visit the Galapagos Islands. However, most of them are written by “Galapagos experts” who have never actually lived in the Galapagos year-round. As a result, there is a lot of conflicting and inaccurate information on the web.

When to visit: Insights from Insiders

Compiled by the team at Galapagos Safari Camp (led by our founders who lived at the camp for 8 years) our Insider’s Guide to When to Visit the Galapagos Islands gives you a wealth of firsthand knowledge to to help you make an informed decision and ensure that your Galapagos experience is tailored to your own needs and preferences.

The Galapagos: A Year-Round Destination

The good news is that Galapagos Islands are a great place to visit any time of the year. Even though they are on the equator, the islands do not have excessively high temperatures like most equatorial countries with tropical climates. This means that it never gets unbearably hot. Furthermore, the wildlife is abundant and fascinating no matter when you visit, making the islands the perfect all-year round destination.

 

The Two Distinct Galapagos Seasons

There are two defined seasons in the Galapagos: the warm and wet season (January to June) and the cool and dry season (June to December). The seasons are largely determined by the trade winds, which impact ocean currents, which affect the weather and wildlife.

Warm – Wet Season
Cool – Dry Season
Air Temperatures (min-max)
71 – 88°F 22 – 31°C
67 – 80°F 19 – 27 °C
Sea Temperatures (approx)
74 – 76°F 23 – 24°C
68 – 74°F 20 – 23°C
Average rainfall
2 – 5cm 0.75 – 2in
0.60cm – 1.3cm 0.25 in – 0.50in
Clear Skies (hours)
4 – 7
2 – 4
Wind Force
1-4
4-7
Underwater visibility
Approx 10-30 meters
Approx 5-20 meters
JANUARY TO JUNE

The Galapagos Warm and Wet Season

Ocean currents:

From January (or sometimes earlier, from December), the southern trade winds ease and the Panama Current becomes the dominant ocean current, bringing warm waters from the northeast to the Galapagos Islands.

Air and sea temperatures:

This is the hottest season with air temperatures in the 70s and 80s (°F) and 20s (°C), making it a popular season with sun-seekers, especially those in the northern hemisphere craving winter sun. The ocean is also at its warmest during this season, at around 74 – 76°F / 23 – 24°C.

Note that humidity levels are generally higher during this season, particularly along the coast and lower areas of the islands.

Wind and underwater visibility:

Wind speeds are light, ranging from force 1 (light air) to force 4 (moderate breeze). As a result, the sea is clearer making it very pleasant for snorkelers and divers with good underwater visibility (usually 15-30 meters). However marine life tends to be more abundant in the cooler season (see below).

The calmer seas also allow for relatively smooth boat trips to uninhabited islands – perhaps a factor to consider if you are prone to seasickness.

Families with younger children (or those sensitive to the cold) may find these warmer sea temperatures favorable, especially if their Safari includes a lot of water-based activities such as snorkeling and surfing. (Note: Galapagos Safari Camp provides wetsuits for all ages)

Blue skies, sunshine and rain:

The warm and wet season brings longer periods of blue skies and sunshine (about 4-7 hours of clear skies per day). To confuse matters, this season is also known as the ‘rainy season’. Although rain showers are expected daily, they are usually short and sweet.

Galapagos flora and fauna:

The warmer weather kick-starts the breeding and nesting season for many species such as marine iguanas, sea turtles, giant tortoises and sea lions.

Vegetation is green and lush, particularly in the highlands where Galapagos Safari Camp is based, with many flowers blooming in March and April.

 

The warm and wet season at Galapagos Safari Camp

Pleasant evening temperatures, spectacular sunsets, alfresco dining.

Best for: Sun seekers; those who prefer warmer waters

Noteworthy dates: 12 February: Darwin Day (Darwin’s birthday)

THE FOUNDER’S VIEWS

The Warm and Wet Season: A Summary

Stephanie Bonham-Carter
Founder
Heat lovers are more likely to enjoy the period from January to June. Having said that, the heat and humidity levels tend to peak in March, with the rest of the season being relatively mild. This is especially the case at the camp, which is 400 meters above sea level and therefore 4 degrees cooler than the coastline, making it particularly pleasant in the evenings and at night. Our Safaris involve a lot of water activities during the day so there are plenty of opportunities to cool off when needed. Rain can be expected from February to April, and while there are downpours, it is always refreshing to clear the air and be rewarded with fabulous blue skies. Rain tends to be intermittent and dramatic so clear skies are more the norm. There is plenty of wildlife activity throughout the year, so no matter what time of year your visit the Galapagos, there is always plenty to see and marvel at. During the rainy season the vegetation is lush and inviting, the landscapes are surprisingly green in some areas, in contrast to the barren, volcanic landscapes often associated with the Galapagos Islands. The seas are calmer and the water warmer, making this a good season for people intolerant to lower water temperatures and sea sickness.
JUNE TO DECEMBER

The Galapagos Cool and Dry Season

Ocean currents:

During the cool and dry season, the southern trade winds push the cold, nutrient-rich Humboldt Current up the coast of South America from Antarctica, before turning west at the equator towards the Galapagos Islands.

Running in the opposite direction of the Humboldt (west to east along the equator), the Cromwell Current (also known as the Pacific Equatorial Undercurrent,) is a much deeper current that carries nutrients from decaying matter on the ocean floor. When it reaches the archipelago, the cold, nutrient-rich water is deflected to the surface, an oceanographic process known as upwelling.

These nutrients sustain the phytoplankton on the ocean’s surface, and the increase in plankton growth attracts an abundance of fish and seabirds, making the waters especially exciting for snorkelers and scuba divers.

The islands in the south, such as Isla Floreana and Isla Española, are the most affected by the cold waters of the Humboldt Current. The islands to the west such as Fernandina and Isabella are most affected by the Cromwell Current. (Galapagos Safari Camp is located on Santa Cruz Island, in the middle of the archipelago, and is therefore less affected by these currents).

La garua:

In addition to feeding microscopic plant and animal life, this cold, nutrient-rich water is responsible for creating the fog (or garua) that prevails during this season by cooling the air directly above its surface.

Higher up, at about 1000-2000ft / 300-600m, where the warmer air sits on top of the cooled air, an ‘inversion layer’ forms, containing evaporated moisture from the ocean. This creates a layer of mist which keeps the highlands (and our home) lush and green compared to the lowlands which become very dry and barren during this season.

El Niño:

During warmer years when this bottom layer of the food chain is not sustained, the consequences can be dire. For example, during El Niño of 1982 – 1983, the lack of food at the bottom of the food chain led to the death of many sea lions at the top of the chain.

Air and Sea Temperatures:

The cooler ocean currents also bring cooler weather with air temperatures ranging from 67 – 80°F / 19 – 27 °C.

Sea temperatures drop to 68 – 74°F / 20 – 23°C. For context, 70-78°F is the range where most people feel ‘comfortable’ swimming without a wetsuit, although this is a matter of preference. (Galapagos Safari Camp provides wetsuits for all ages, all year round).

Although described as ‘cooler’, it’s worth noting that these water temperatures are more or less the same as those in Cape Town, Africa in January (19°C), the Algarve, Portugal in July (20°C), the Costa del Sol, Spain in August (23°C), Jacksonville, Florida in May (°23C), and Malibu, California in August (19°C).

Wind and underwater visibility:

Wind speeds pick up during the cooler months, ranging from force 4 (moderate breeze) to force 7 (strong, moderate/near gale). The open ocean can be choppy during these months, and those who prone to sea-sickness may prefer a land-based safari to a cruise.

Galapagos flora and fauna:

The cooler season sees the arrival of sea lion pups as this is when the oceans contain the most food for nursing females. Marine life is at its best.

Migratory birds and humpback whales

Vegetation is not as lush as in the warm and wet season, with more subtle colors bathing the island.

 

The cool and dry season at Galapagos Safari Camp

Misty mornings and dramatic sunsets. Alfresco dinners on the verandah. Our tables are positioned under solar-powered heat lamps, allowing our guests to still dine in nature if they wish. During the cooler months, we light a fire in the main lodge in the evenings, and in the tents we slip hot water bottles into beds.

Best for: Abundant, spectacular marine life (great for snorkelers and divers)

Noteworthy dates:

September and; October: Darwin visited Galapagos
September 15 1835: arrival of the Beagle (and Darwin) in the Galapagos Islands.
September 17-22: Darwin visits San Cristóbal
September 24-27: Darwin visits Floreana
September 29-October 2: Darwin visits Isabela
October 8-17: Darwin visits Santiago

THE FOUNDER’S VIEWS

The Cool and Dry Season: A Summary

Stephanie Bonham-Carter
Founder
For those who are less tolerant of the heat, this is a better time to visit. It is never too cold, but you can expect a slight chill at night, requiring a jumper or fleece. I particularly love the air quality during this time of year, as it’s less humid and the views are sharper when it’s clear. Due to the garua, the weather is more temperamental and the “enchanted islands” effect becomes tangible, with islands appearing and disappearing on the horizon. During these months I find these luminous landscapes hauntingly beautiful and, reminiscent of the Romantic paintings of Turner and Whistler, evocative of a bygone era. Given the cold currents, this is a good time for diving, albeit with more challenging conditions. The open sea is rougher and the water much colder, making this a better time for the more adventurous souls. Wildlife is always interesting, but there is a more “grown up” quality to this time of the year without the effervescence of the mating or nesting moments. The general atmosphere is more serene but just as delightful.
THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS

Month-By-Month

The Galapagos in January | Best time to Visit the Galapagos

Is January a good month to visit the Galapagos Islands? Peak Season: January is part of the peak travel season in the Galapagos, thanks to the appealing weather and the start of the new year holiday period. Due to its popularity, it’s advisable to book your trip well in advance to secure your spot on […]

Full Article

The Galapagos in February | Best time to Visit the Galapagos

Is February a good time to visit the Galapagos Islands? February in the Galapagos Islands marks a vibrant period where the Warm and Wet Season brings the archipelago to life. With flowers blossoming and numerous land species engaging in nesting and mating rituals, the islands become a hub of natural activity. This post dives into […]

Full Article

The Galapagos in March | Best time to Visit the Galapagos

Is March a good time to visit the Galapagos Islands? March in the Galapagos Islands continues the vibrant life initiated by the Warm and Wet season. The islands are awash in color as the vegetation remains lush and animals are highly active, engaging in nesting, mating, and birthing rituals.   Galapagos in March: At a […]

Full Article

The Galapagos in April | Best time to Visit the Galapagos

Galapagos in April With rains easing off, the Galapagos waters are assuaged, serene enough for first-time snorkelers or kayakers to take the plunge. This is the month of new beginnings, when land iguana and sea turtle eggs are hatching, and Galapagos penguins begin their summer stint in the islets near Puerto Villamil. A touching stop […]

Full Article

The Galapagos in May | Best time to Visit the Galapagos

Galapagos Weather in May With the return of the southeast trade winds and cold waters from Antarctica, the beating afternoon sun is refreshed with a welcome, fragrant breeze. This is the month (the favorite of many our guests) when the camp is at its lushest, the Santa Cruz highlands green and exuberant in the spring-like […]

Full Article

The Galapagos in November | Best time to Visit the Galapagos

Galapagos weather in November November marks the final month of the garua season, or the cool & dry season. Both air and sea temperatures remain relatively chilly in the highlands, but this means it’s ideal for those who are less tolerant of the heat and humidity.   Galapagos wildlife in November Sea lion pups born in […]

Full Article

If you would like help planning your Galapagos vacation, please contact one of our Galapagos Safari Designers. We specialise in tailor-made Galapagos vacations, including Galapagos tours over land and sea, all personalized to meet your needs and interests.