When to visit the Galapagos Islands

Travelers often come to us with the same question: “When should I visit the Galapagos Islands?” When you’re looking to invest in a once-in-a-lifetime adventure to the Galapagos, with the relatively high costs involved, it’s an important question to ask.

The simple answer is that the Galapagos archipelago is a great travel destination all year round. Thanks to the effect of sea currents, there is something occurring every month amongst the wildlife living on and around the islands. Besides changes in the weather, the currents also affect plant and animal life. When you’re planning your trip, be aware of these differences to ensure you plan the right experience to suit your particular tastes and interests.

Between May and December the islands are affected by the cold Humboldt current producing a soft drizzle and mist on the high part of the islands resulting in slightly colder days. The cold Humboldt current brings lots of nutrients and plankton for species that feed off the sea, such as marine iguanas, sea lions and sea birds, allowing them to reach their reproductive stage. Marine life is also richer and water visibility is better (the perfect combination for experienced divers), though it tends to be more windy and the seas rougher.

Between December and May it’s the warm Panama current that influences weather in the archipelago. At this time of year temperatures are higher, while short heavy rains are followed by sunny clear skies. These rains turn the islands into lush green terrain that provide lots of food for creatures that depend on land nutrients, including land birds, giant tortoises and land iguana. When water temperatures are higher than usual during these months, it leads to the El Niño phenomenon.

If you’ve got a flexible schedule, TerraDiversa recommends traveling in the transition months between these two seasons: 15th April to 15th June or 15th November to 15th January. On the one hand, these dates will allow you to skip the high tourist seasons (July to August and Christmas/New Years) when prices are higher and it’s harder to find travel deals. On the other, these transition months will allow you to experience a wider range of natural phenomena. From July to September, the climate tends to be cooler and foggier (particularly at higher altitudes), while February and March are often uncomfortably warm. If you’re a repeat visitor, try visiting at different times of year to enjoy a wider range of the spectacle nature has to offer.

Galapagos Monthly Calendar

January in the Galapagos
· Warm Panama current
· Beginning of the rainy season, though this season has more sun hours and is warmer
· Both water and air temperatures rise and stay warm until June
· Land birds start nesting after the first rains
· On Española Island adult male marine iguanas become brightly colored: red, black and emerald green
· Green sea turtles arrive on the beaches of the archipelago to lay their eggs
· Land iguanas begin their reproductive cycle on Isabela Island
· This is a great time for snorkeling
· Temperatures: 24 – 28 ºC (76 – 82 ºF)
· Average sea temperatures: 23 ºC (74 ºF)

February in the Galapagos
· Warm Panama current
· Water temperatures reach highs of 25 °C (77 °F) and remain constant until April
· Flamingos start nesting on Floreana Island
· Bahamas pintails start their breeding season
· Masked boobies on Española Island reach the end of their nesting season
· Marine iguanas nest on Santa Cruz Island
· Some penguins can be sighted on Bartolomé Island, though many migrate to Isabela and Fernandina
· The nesting season of the Galapagos dove reaches its peak
· Temperatures: 23 – 31 ºC (73 – 87 ºF)
· Average sea temperatures: 25 ºC (77 ºF)

March in the Galapagos
· Warm Panama current
· The rainy season reaches its highest levels of precipitation, though this is the month with most sun hours
· Sporadic tropical rains, intense sun, warm climate and high levels of humidity, with air temperatures of up to 30 °C (86 °F) and 85% humidity
· Marine iguanas nest on Fernandina Island
· March 21, the beginning of the summer equinox, signals the arrival of the waved albatross to Española Island
· March is a great month for snorkeling around the western islands
· Warm waters make penguins and tropical fish active
· Temperatures: 22 – 31 ºC (73 – 87 ºF)
· Average sea temperatures: 25 ºC (77 ºF)

April in the Galapagos
· Warm Panama current
· The rains of the warm season come to an end, though the islands still remain green
· Mass arrival of waved albatross to Española Island where they begin their courtship rituals
· End of hatching season for the giant tortoise
· Green sea turtle eggs begin to hatch
· Land iguanas hatch on Isabela Island
· Great visibility for snorkeling
· Temperatures: 23 – 30 ºC (73 – 86 ºF)
· Average sea temperatures: 25 ºC (77 ºF)

May in the Galapagos
· Start of the cold Humboldt current
· Blue-footed boobies on North Seymour begin their courtship
· Sea turtles are still hatching on Gardner Bay, Punta Cormorant and Punto Egas
· On Santa Cruz Island most marine iguanas eggs hatch from nests
· Band-rumped storm petrels begin their first nesting period
· On Española Island the Albatross begin to lay their eggs
· Palo Santo trees begin to shed their foliage
· Temperatures: 22 – 28 ºC (72 – 82 ºF)
· Average sea temperatures: 25 ºC (76 ºF)

June in the Galapagos
· Cold Humboldt current
· Beginning of the garúa cold / dry season
· Winds pick up from the south, currents become stronger and there are more waves in the ocean
· Giant tortoise on Santa Cruz Island migrate from the highlands to the lowlands in search of nesting places
· Beginning giant tortoise nesting season
· Birds begin their migration from the south to the north, many stopping en route in the Galapagos Islands
· Humpback whales who migrate to the Ecuadorian coast often reach the Galapagos Islands also
· Whale sharks can sometimes be spotted near the northern islands
· Temperatures: 19 – 26 ºC (66 – 79 ºF)
· Average sea temperatures: 23 ºC (73 ºF)

July in the Galapagos
· Cold Humboldt current
· Sea bird communities are very active, especially blue-footed boobies on Española Island
· Flightless cormorants court and nest on Fernandina Island
· It is possible to find oyster catchers nesting on Santiago Island
· Lava lizards initiate mating rituals until November
· Sea lion breeding season
· Whale and dolphin spotting becomes more frequent, especially off the western coast of Isabela Island and Fernandina Island
· Temperatures: 19 – 25 ºC (66 – 76 ºF)
· Average sea temperatures: 22 ºC (72 ºF)

August in the Galapagos
· Cold Humboldt current
· Due to increased wind there are stronger currents and waves
· The temperature of the ocean decreases, sometimes as low as 18 °C (64 °F)
· Galapagos hawks court on Española and Santiago Islands
· Mask boobies and swallow-tailed gulls nest on Genovesa Island
· Migrant shore birds start to arrive and stay on the islands until March
· Giant tortoises return to the highlands of Santa Cruz Island
· Birthing season for sea lions in the western and central islands
· Temperatures: 19 – 24 ºC (66 – 75 ºF)
· Average sea temperatures: 21 ºC (72 ºF)

September in the Galapagos
· Cold Humboldt current
· The peak of the cold and dry garúa season
· Night temperatures can be as low as 11°C (52 °F)
· The air temperature reaches its lowest level of (19 °C) (66 °F)
· Penguins demonstrate remarkable activity on Bartolomé Island until December
· Sea lions are very active, especially in the western and central areas of the Archipelago
· Sea lion pups can be seen
· Most species of marine birds remain active at their nesting sites
· Temperatures: 20 – 24 ºC (68 – 75 ºF)
· Average sea temperatures: 22 ºC (72 ºF) 

October in the Galapagos
· Cold Humboldt current
· Garúa is common, especially at the beginning of the day, but it clears in the afternoon
· Lava herons nest until March
· Galapagos fur seals begin their mating season
· Blue-footed boobies raise their chicks on Española Island, North Seymour Island and Isabela Island
· Giant tortoises continue to lay their eggs
· Temperatures: 19 – 25 ºC (66 – 77 ºF)
· Average sea temperatures: 22 ºC (72 ºF) 

November in the Galapagos
· Cold Humboldt current
· The water is calmer and the water temperature has risen
· Usually a great month due to the transition between the dry and hot seasons
· Sea lion pups are born
· Sea lions are sexually active on the eastern part of the archipelago
· Breeding season of brown noddies
· Green sea turtles mating season
· Band-rumped storm petrels begin their second nesting period
· Sea lion pups tend to play with snorkelers
· Temperatures: 20 – 26 ºC (68 – 79 ºF)
· Average sea temperatures: 23 ºC (73 ºF) 

December in the Galapagos
· Start of warm Panama current
· The hot / rainy season begins and the arid landscape begins to turn green
· The western islands remain dry and the waters here are still cooler
· The water continues to rise in temperature
· Hatching of giant tortoise eggs begins and lasts until April
· Sea turtles display their mating behavior
· The first young albatross begin to leave their nests
· Sea lions and fur sea lions start to breed
· Birds begin their migration from the north to the south, many stopping en route in the Galapagos Islands
· Temperatures: 21 – 27 ºC (70 – 80 ºF)
· Average sea temperatures: 23 ºC (74 ºF)

 

Check out our Galapagos Travel Guide for more tips on planning the perfect trip to the Galapagos Islands.

 

When to visit the Galapagos

 

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