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NOTE ON TRAVELING AMIDST THE COVID PANDEMIC
We are not going to talk about a post pandemic trip, COVID19 is still with us and we do not know for how long. At the time of writing here are the instructions so you can visit Galapagos without a quarantine.
In short, if you can, the best time to visit is now. Great deals and reduced pricing, choose the boat you want, charter availability is open, no crowds. For the rest, please, read our full guide on when to travel to the enchanted isles.
Best time to visit the Galapagos Islands
This is a question that keeps coming up time after time. Travelers thinking of visiting get many answers and in most cases it is a consensus to say there is no bad time to travel around the Galapagos archipelago.
20 years of experience traveling back and forth to the islands and having organized thousands of trips for people from different walks of life, gives us a little more insight and authority to give a better answer. Actually the answer is going to depend on the type of trip, who is traveling, what they want to do and what they want to see.
So here goes a breakdown of our answer:
Best time to visit Galapagos for nature cruising
To answer the question: “when is the best time to take a Galapagos Cruise?” it also depends on fine tuning the questions.
- Do you get seasick?
Yes – The season with less wave action in Galapagos is from Mid December to Mid May. The sea seems to be calmer. Of course the itinerary comes into play as well. If you are prone to suffering motion sickness it is also important that you focus on a Southern Island or Central island itinerary.
You should avoid long navigations, this would take islands like Genovesa, Fernandina and the West side of Isabela off your list.
No – You can be flexible, you can travel anytime to any corner of the archipelago. Taking this into account, please note that the weather being always pleasant you have fewer crowds in September, the first 15 days of December, between mid January through mid February.
- Do you want to be on a sailboat?
Most of the year the Galapagos are in the doldrums, meaning there is no wind. If you plan to boat a sailing boat you should consider visiting between August and October which are the windiest months in the archipelago.
- Do you want to strike a bargain?
Travel today, in a pandemic travel world, the earlier you travel the better deals you will get.
Eventually things will change, we do not know when, but in general the pricing season forr Galapagos cruises have always been:
High season pricing: Spring break or Easter holiday, the months of may, june, july, mid october until thanksgiving in november, Christmas and New Years departures
Shoulder season pricing: Mid January through mid february, two weeks before easter and two weeks after, the last week of August, the first week of October, one week before thanksgiving.
Low season pricing: It usually does not exist, but if you are willing to wait a bit and travel with uncertainty of now knowing exactly which boat you will be on, then you can usually find deals throughout September and the first 3 weeks of December. Every year we see the prices of cruises reduced during these periods.
Check out our Galapagos Cruise deals section.
- Do you want to join a family cruise?
There is no secret that families travel together during the summer. It is also important to consider that kids like to meet other kids they can spend time with on their vacation. It is fun to make friends on a trip and with children there is no exception. The months of June, July and August apart from the festives (Christmas and New years) are the best time to find other kids on board a cruise in Galapagos. You can always ask your agent help you book a small boat that has other kids booked on it. Chances are higher if you decide on one of the slightly larger 48 – 100 passenger boats and of course taking a family friendly departure.
- Do you want a cruise with no children on board?
Some travelers prefer an adult only crowd. Avoid the months of June, July and August or ask your travel agent to find you a departure that has no kids booked on it.
Visit our cruising section to explore options on Galapagos Cruises
Best time to visit Galapagos for Scuba divers
Many guide books and bloggers will take a quick guess and make a recommendation for the warmer months. However if you are a scuba diver and have a checklist that reads…. Whale sharks, large schools of hammer head sharks, etc. then you should consider visiting the Galapagos from June – December.
This is when the humboldt current arrives with rich nutrients. Galapagos diving is always a cold water dive, specially from September – November which are the colder months, but when you will see most marine life the archipelago is famous for.
Best time to visit Galapagos for snorkelers
Similar to scuba diving, the best season for marine life in Galapagos is between September and November, at this time a wetsuite will be necessary since water is colder. The warmer water season is between January and April is also a good time to snorkel, Manta rays and other smaller species can be more active.
Best time to visit Galapagos for hotel based tours
This will depend a bit on activities and species you will try to spot, note, that you are limited to the central and eastern islands and the visitor sites that are close to the inhabited islands.
If you are staying on Santa Cruz island you should consider that one of the top day trip visitor sites is Bartolome island, one of the reasons is the possibility to observe the penguins. Bartolome is a central island and penguins can be found more active here between June and November.
If you are staying on San Cristobal island you might want to take advantage of the 360 tour, this covers the entire surroundings of the island and includes some sport fishing activities. Please note that the between July – September the ocean is a bit rough and it may not be possible to take this tour.
Choosing a hotel can also depend on the seasons. A hotel in the islands is more appropriate in the warmer season (December – June), you will find that the highlands are fresh and lush at this time of the year. During the 2nd half of the year (July – November) you will notice the highlands will be a bit chilly and misty.
Beach hotels will always be attractive, but in particular the second part of the year (July – November) they are not overly hot as during the first part (December – June)
If you are ready to book, take a look at our Galapagos tour options section.
Best time to visit Galapagos for birdwatchers
Most birdlife can be observed at any time of the year. The 25 endemic species are all present at any time. Having mentioned this, it is important to note that the waved albatross is not present between December and March. For a full species checklist the top months for birders are between April and November.
Best time to visit Galapagos for hikers
The months between August and October are fresher, it is a bit cooler and hiking can be more enjoyable. There is still lots of wildlife and it is the peak hatching season for sea birds as well as many new born sea lions can be seen at the island beaches.
Best time to visit Galapagos for photographers
It actually depends on your style. You will always have plenty of wildife, amazing scenery and some of the worlds best golden hours, sinc you are at the equator.
For clear skies photography, the best months are from February – April
For dramatic cloudy days, the best months are from July – September
The rest of the year you get a mix. In general it all depends on how you play with your lighting and what type of photos you are looking to get.
There are two types of seasons in the Galapagos: rainy and dry
The rainy season is from December to May and gives you the advantage of warmer air and water temperatures. There are daily drizzles but the rain only covers the islands within sporadic spells. You can expect the calmest seas and sunniest weather still in the rainy season. The rainy season, despite its name, is the most popular time to visit Galapagos.
The dry season is from June to November. This is when the Humboldt current passes through the South American coast, and results in cooler temperatures and colder waters in the Galapagos Islands. There are overcast conditions most days but rainfall rarely results from these skies. The seas and the wind tend to grow stronger as the dry season moves forward. Divers and seabird watchers will want to go during the dry season, while those who are after the more leisurely snorkeling, swimming, and exploring should visit during the rainy season.
The rainy season is also the breeding season of sea lions and sea turtles. Those who want foliage will appreciate the flowers blossoming along with the newborn wildlife during the rainy season. Whenever your trip is scheduled, the best time to visit Galapagos will depend on what you’re after and the conditions you’re most comfortable in. You may refer to a travel guide like the Galapagos Cruise services for information on what specific tours are available in the islands.
To assist you in this “interesting choice” we have prepared a Galapagos Islands travel guide and part of this is our Island wildlife activity calendar to tell you what goes on in the archipelago every month of the year.
Galapagos Wildlife activity, highlights, weather and rainfall at different times of the year
The animal life of the Galapagos has their own preferences and is more or less active at different times of the year. Factors that influence wildlife behaviour are temperatures, sea temperatures, sea currents (the humboldt current brings food), rainfall is another factor. Here is a summary of the top wildlife observation possibilities month by month:
This is a short summary, we have also written a more in depth wildlife activity calendar.
Other seasonal factors to consider
Trip extensions to mainland Ecuador
The andes of Ecuador are beautiful all year round with their snow capped peaks piercing the clouds and reigning the blue sky. There is a rainy season in the Andes of Ecuador and it lasts from Mid March – Mid May, if this region is an important part of your plans, you might consider other dates.
The Coastal lowlands of Ecuador offer 1000’s of km’s of pristine beaches. The rainy season is very hot, but has many downpours. This is December – March. It might not make the best time for a beach extension.
The Amazon rainforest is always rainy, hence the name rainforest. It is possible to visit at any time of the year. Please note that if you are overlanding into the Amazon basin and not flying in, the season between mid march and mid may has many surprises in terms of landslides on the roads and you might have to be flexible if your roadways is washed out. During this time of the year it is best to fly into the lower Amazon of Ecuador.
Interested in exploring the Andes, the Amazon or the Pacific coast, check out our Ecuador tour options
Trip extensions to Peru
It is very common for travelers to combine a visit to the Galapagos Islands with a trip to Peru and in particular to Cuzco and Machu Picchu. Please note that between December and March the highlands of Peru go through their rainy season and there are heavy daily downpours. At this time of the year (January) the Inca trails is actually closed for maintenance. So Peru is on your mind, you can also take this into account for your plans and explore our Peru Vacation planner.
Voyagers Travel – Galapagos vacation chart
Taking into account all the variables that are in place to plan a Galapagos vacation, at Voyagers we have created the following chart to help travellers plan accordingly:
We are also happy to offer advice and trip planning services in order to fulfill a carefree vacation in South America including this marvelous archipelago and other highlights of the region.
When is the best time to visit Galapagos?
Every month is perfect as there is always something going on in the Islands and wildlife can be spotted year around. Our detailed wildlife activity calendar will give you a comprehensive details of what takes place on each island and site in the Archipelago
What are the seasons in the Galapagos?
In the Archipelago we have two established seasons: the Dry season that goes from June to November and it characterizes for offering warm water temperatures, calmer sea and mild winds; while the Rainy season goes from November to May, time for the cold Humboldt current to passes by South American Coasts, resulting in cooler temperatures and colder waters.
Which is the hottest month in Galapagos?
The 3 hottest months in the archipelago are February, March and April
Which is the coldest month in Galapagos?
The coldest months are July, August and September
Which month has the calmest seas?
There is less wind and waves are calmer during February, March and April
When can you see the waved albatross?
From March to December