The short answer? Any time. The Galapagos Islands are a year-round destination, and the best time to go depends on your particular preferences. Because Ecuador straddles the equator, seasons don’t vary drastically and the islands have numerous microclimates.
The peak season for the Galapagos Islands is from mid-June through early September, and mid-December through early January, although this is primarily due to vacation schedules in the Northern Hemisphere rather than what's happening on the islands themselves. There's also been a growing trend to visit between March and May when much of the islands' wildlife gets its mating groove on.
If you plan to travel during peak season, be sure to schedule your trip in advance as boats (and hotels) will fill up quickly. Each ship has a regulated itinerary, thus limiting the number of daily visitors to all of the major sites and preventing the islands from ever being crowded…Even during peak season.
There are two general seasons in the Galapagos: the warm and wet season from January to May, and the cooler and drier months from June to December.
January through May: Warm and wet
These are the warmest months, with air temperatures ranging from 65 to 85 degrees.
Known by locals as the wet season, you can expect showers in the afternoon, but strong sun the rest of the day (ironically, this also happens to be the Galapagos’ sunniest season).
Water temperatures are warmer (70-75 degrees), making this the most comfortable time for snorkeling. Visibility is also better during the warmer months.
The vegetation on all islands is greener and more lush.
Giant tortoise eggs will hatch on most islands (but especially Santa Cruz) in January.
In February, penguins migrate from Bartolome to Isabela and Fernandina.
This is nesting season for green sea turtles and marine iguanas (Santa Cruz, North Seymour, Fernandina) will be laying eggs. The eggs should hatch in May.
Marine birds begin mating season in March, with the frigate birds (San Cristobal and Genovesa) in March. Waved albatrosses begin nesting on Española in April and the Blue-footed Boobies (several islands but especially North Seymour, Floreana, Española and Isabela) perform their world famous mating ritual in May.
Highs and lows
Most rain: March (2 inches)
Warmest water: April (77 degrees)
Highest temperatures: March (73 - 85 degrees)
Seasons transition: April-June
June through December: Cool and (mostly) dry
These are the coolest months, with air temperatures ranging between 60 and 80 degrees.
Although rain is less likely, so is strong
sun. Hazy and misty skies are common. A light rain jacket could be needed for unexpected showers during land excursions.
Water temperatures are cooler (60-73 degrees). Some people may prefer wetsuits, although snorkeling without one can still be comfortable. This is the best time to see marine life.
Island vegetation will be browner, although tropical areas on Santa Cruz will still be lush.
Giant tortoises (most islands but especially Santa Cruz) migrate from the highlands to the lowlands to nest. They return to the highlands after laying their eggs in August. Their eggs hatch in December and January.
Giant see turtles mate in November before laying their eggs in January.
Galapagos sea lions have a really long breeding season which runs from May all the way through to January (in fact, most mothers breed twice during the season). You have a good chance of seeing their adorable pups on most islands from August onwards.
Watch out for blue-footed booby chicks on Isabela and Española
Whale sightings are more likely. There are plenty of humpback whales around in June. In the extreme North of the archipelago, you may even see whale sharks at this time of the year.
Highs and lows
Lowest temperatures: September (64 - 75 degrees)
Coolest water: September (72 degrees)
Strongest winds: July-August
From downright practical to unashamedly academic, there’s very little of the Galapagos that we haven’t blogged about. Here are five of our favorites…
Planning and packing for your Galapagos adventure
Galapagos cruise versus island hopping
Weird wildlife of the Galapagos: the Marine Iguana
Wildlife checklist: The Galapagos Tortoise
Evolution 101: Darwin’s finches
Planning a trip to the Galapagos? Check out our Galapagos tours or speak to a Destination Expert about creating a bespoke itinerary just for you.
All images sourced from Max Pixel on a Creative Commons licence.