Best time to visit the Galapagos Islands

Joanne Owen

written by
Joanne Owen

updated 27.05.2024

If you’re thinking of taking a trip to Ecuador’s extraordinary Galapagos Islands, the good news is, stacks of unforgettable experiences awaits around the year. That said, each month delivers something different, especially when it comes to watching wildlife. Read on to find out about the best time to visit Galapagos, with detail on the best things to do and see in each month of the year.

What is the best time to visit the Galapagos Islands?

As touched on above, there’s not really a bad time to visit the Galapagos islands. It all depends on what you most want to see and do.

For example, wildlife-watching experiences vary according to the season (we detail those below), and some months are better than others when it comes to the likes of snorkelling and diving.

In general, though, if you prefer warmer seas and don't mind occasional rain, the warm season (December to May) might be the best time to visit the Galapagos. That’s especially the case if you’re into more snorkelling and want to enjoy the beaches alongside seeing wildlife.

If, however, you’re an avid diver — and don't mind cooler temperatures — the cool season (June to November) might suit you better.

Keen to take a trip? Contact our local experts, and browse our customisable Ecuador itineraries, many of which include the Galapagos.

Bartolome Island, Galapagos, Ecuador. Bartolome Island is a volcanic islet in the Galapagos Islands with an amazing viewpoint at the top © Seumas Christie-Johnston/Shutterstock

The best time to visit the Galapagos Islands is...any time! © Seumas Christie-Johnston/Shutterstock

Weather and climate overview

During the Galapagos Islands’ December-May warm season you can expect average daily temperatures of 25-30°C (77-86°F), and occasional rain showers. These are mostly short and intense, and typically come in the afternoon.

 In addition, the sea is warmer and generally calmer during these months.

Come the June to November cool season, temperatures are (unsurprisingly) cooler, with a range of 19-24°C (66-75°F).

During these months, the islands are often covered in a light mist, known as “garua”, and the seas can be a little rougher due to the Humboldt Current. 

This brings cooler water and nutrients to the surface, which enriches the marine environment. As a result, the cooler season is one of the best times to visit the Galapagos to observe aquatic life and dive.

Wondering how long to visit, and how to focus your Galapagos itinerary? Read our feature on how to spend 10 days in the Galapagos, and how to spend 7 days in the Galapagos.

Galapagos iguana

Galapagos iguana © Shutterstock

Galapagos high season

The Galapagos Islands experience two notable high seasons. The first runs from mid-December to January, which is particularly busy due to Christmas and New Year holidays. 

A second high season runs from June to August, coinciding with the summer break in many countries. The weather during these months is also is cooler and drier.

During both high seasons, the Galapagos Islands see an influx of visitors, which can lead to crowded sites and higher prices for flights, cruises, and accommodation. As a result, it’s advisable to book your trip well in advance.

Galapagos low season

May, and September to November represent the shoulder and low seasons in the Galapagos. 

They can be attractive months to visit if you’re looking to avoid crowds and potentially find better deals on travel and accommodation. 

Given that unique wildlife can be seen year-round, visiting during the low season definitely doesn’t mean missing out on the natural attractions that make the Galapagos so special.

When to avoid the Galapagos

While the Galapagos Islands offer unique and compelling experiences year-round, there are a few periods you could consider avoiding depending on your preferences for weather, sea conditions, and crowd levels:

First up, if you’re looking to avoid crowds and higher prices, consider skipping the busiest times of the year i.e. the high season periods detailed above.

Secondly, note that while February to April are within the warm season and offer pleasant weather and good underwater visibility for snorkelling, they’re also the rainiest months. As a result, if you prefer drier weather, these months might be less appealing.

You might also want to bear in mind that September is in the heart of the cool, dry season, when the seas can be rougher due to stronger winds and currents. This might affect those who are prone to seasickness.  

Additionally, the water is cooler in September — less ideal for extended snorkelling sessions without a wetsuit.

Seal in San Cristobal Island in Galapagos Archipelago, Ecuador.

Seal on San Cristobal Island, the Galapagos © Shutterstock

January: best for curious courtship rituals

January sees Galapagos marine and land iguanas start their mating season, with the marine variety putting on an especially incredible show. 

During this season, they change colour to display vibrant shades of red, green and black.

January is also mating season for Galapagos sea lions, and a top time to witness land birds’ courtship rituals before they nest. Look out for cormorants, penguins, red footed and Nazca boobies and frigate birds. 

February: best for sun and snorkelling 

With the waters around the Galapagos at their peak temperature in February — and offering peak visibility — this is one of the best months to visit the Galapagos to snorkel.

The Galapagos Islands are at their sunniest at the time of year, experiencing their first rains in January or February. 

With precipitation usually contained to the highlands, it’s also a top time to hike higher ground to see blooming flowers and an abundance of insects, finch and mockingbird chicks.

March: best for penguins, turtles and nesting iguanas

With high sea temperatures, and good underwater visibility, March is also a good month to snorkel in the Galapagos, with the bonus of standing a great chance of seeing Galapagos penguins in the water.

If you visit the Galapagos in March, you might also see green turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs.

If that wasn’t enough, marine iguanas and land iguanas start to nest in March.

Blue footed boobies with iguana, Galapagos ©

Blue footed boobies with iguana, Galapagos ©

April: best for waved albatrosses and hatchlings

From the end of March (you stand a better chance of seeing more through April), Española Island sees Galapagos albatrosses — AKA waved albatrosses — return.

They lay eggs from mid-April through to June, with chicks flying the nest from December to January.

April also sees hatching season for giant tortoises come to a close, and you still stand a good chance of seeing hatchlings.

At the same time, green turtle hatchlings begin to emerge from the sand and make their way to the sea. Meanwhile, over on Isabela Island, you could get to see land iguana hatchlings. 

May: best for hiking, biking and blue-footed boobies

Being cooler than the preceding months, May is a good time to take to the islands’ hiking and biking trails. Fresh from the rainier season, the landscapes will be gorgeously lush.

Santa Cruz, for example, has a network of paths that connect Puerto Ayora town with the island’s highlands.

Over on Isabela Island, you could cycle to the Muro de las lagrimas (Wall of Tears), or tackling a thrilling downhill route from Sierra Negra volcano.

When it comes to avian action, May sees North Seymour’s blue-footed boobies start their strange courtship dance, while waved albatrosses begin to lay eggs on Española.

June: best for giant tortoises and whales

Head to Santa Cruz Island in June to see iconic giant tortoises migrate from the highlands for their mating season.

June also sees groups of humpback whales migrate up along the coast of Ecuador, with many reaching the Galapagos through the month.

June also sees female sea lions begin to deliver their pups.

 Galapagos Marine Iguanas, tortuga bay, santa cruz island © Shutterstock

Galapagos marine iguanas, Tortuga Bay, Santa Cruz island © Shutterstock

July: best for diving and whale sharks

Similar to June, July is a great month to visit if you want to watch whales and dolphins, and see sea lions breed. 

You won’t be disappointed when it comes to bird action, either. For example, this is nesting season for blue-footed boobies, and the waved albatross. 

Of special note, though, is the fact that July is one of the best months to spot huge whale sharks on a diving trip.

As for where to dive, head to around Darwin Island and Wolf Island, which have justified reps for being among the world’s best dive sites. 

Editors’ tip: into diving? You’ll love our customisable Galapagos Diving Adventure trip.

August: best for sea lion pups, tortoises and penguins

Visit the Galapagos in August, and you could get to see sea lion pups in huge numbers. 

In addition, while it’s possible to see Santa Cruz’s giant tortoises around the year, the best time to see them is in the highlands between June and December.

When it comes to avian action, flamingos and Galapagos hawks begin their mating rituals August. 

This is also a mighty fine month to see Galapagos penguins. Sitting within their May-September breeding and nesting season, August offers opportunities to see them active along shorelines.

September: best for bargains, penguins and sea lions

Falling after peak-season July and August, September is a good time to visit the Galapagos Islands if you’re looking to save some cash, and prefer smaller crowds. 

This month also sees Bartolome Island play host to huge numbers of Galapagos penguins. Take a boat trip to see them swimming around Pinnacle Rock.

In addition, September is also a great time to see sea lions, especially around North Seymour, the Plaza islands, and Santa Fe Islands.

Galapagos Giant Tortoise © Maridav/Shutterstock

Galapagos giant tortoise © Maridav/Shutterstock

October: best for snorkelling and sunsets

Very special avian treats await in October — the chance to see blue-footed booby chicks and lava herons.

October is also an especially great time for photography, thanks to the spectacular sunrises you can see over the western islands. 

And, thanks to the Humboldt current, snorkelling the Galapagos in October offers the chance to see a great variety of fish, and an increased chance of seeing green sea turtles.

November: best for playful sea lions and kayaking

After coming into the world in August, by December sea lion pups are in playful mode – keep an eye for them having a whole lot of fun on the shore and in the water.

November is also a great month for you to follow suit. Take a kayaking trip along the shores to see mangroves up close, also the while looking out for sea lions and marine iguanas.

December: breeding birds and buzzing beaches

Visiting the Galapagos Islands in December offers a mix of wildlife encounters and outdoor activities as the warm season — and peak tourist season — ramps up.

Taking us full circle to where we kicked off in January, December is a top time to witness some remarkable courtship rituals. For example, visit Española Island to see how waved albatrosses hook up. 

Meanwhile, iconic blue-footed boobies will be doing their distinctive "sky-pointing" dance on North Seymour or Española.

December is also a wonderful time to relax on the Galapagos' beautiful beaches when they’re blissfully warm.

For example, gorgeous Gardner Bay and Tortuga Bay offer white sandy beaches, crystal-clear waters, and the opportunity to chill and swim in the company of sea lions.

This being a high season month, expect the vibe to be lively.


Blue-footed booby Galapagos Islands © Shutterstock

To help your pre-trip planning experience, discover the best things to do in Ecuador.

Not keen on planning?  Contact our local experts, and browse our customisable Ecuador itineraries, many of which include the Galapagos.

You might also find it helpful to read about what you need to know before traveling to Ecuador.

Joanne Owen

written by
Joanne Owen

updated 27.05.2024

Joanne is a Pembrokeshire-born writer with a passion for the nature, cultures and histories of the Caribbean region, especially Dominica. Also passionate about inspiring a love of adventure in young people, she’s the author of several books for children and young adults, hosts international writing workshops, and has written articles on the Caribbean and inspirational community initiatives for Rough Guides. Follow her @JoanneOwen on Twitter and @joanneowenwrites on Instagram.

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