The Best Time to Visit the Galapagos Islands

Galapagos Islands sea life

Wildestanimal/Getty Images

With an abundance of wildlife, warm tropical setting, and pristine ocean waters, the Galapagos Islands have long been a bucket-list destination for adventurous travelers. After all, where else can you see blue-footed boobies dance, aquatic iguanas swim and giant sea tortoises in their natural environment? But when exactly is the best time to visit the Galapagos? As it turns out, there isn't really a bad time, and it truly comes down to what you want to do while you are there. 

Situated 620 miles off the coast of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands are located almost directly on the equator, which generally means warm temperatures throughout the year. But, the islands also fall within the path of the Humboldt Current, which feeds a steady stream of cold ocean water to the region as well. The result is frequent rain storms throughout the year, although there are some seasons that are better than others. 

Unlike some destinations, deciding exactly when to go to the Galapagos isn't quite as easy as simply finding out what time of year offers the best weather. The most stable conditions are found between December and May, which is when most people tend to visit. But, if you want to interact with certain animals or be on the islands during a specific event centered around the wildlife, the date of your visit could change dramatically.

With that in mind, here's what you need to know before you book your Galapagos Island tour

The Wet Season (December-May)

The Galapagos Islands are at their warmest from December to May each year, with temperatures generally climbing into the upper 70s and low 80s for most of that period. That same timeframe also sees the amount of rainfall on the islands increase as well, bringing more intense storms that are shorter in duration. Winds are generally calm and the skies are frequently clear, with plenty of sunshine to be found.

The busiest travel season during this period falls between mid-December and mid-January, which is when the crowds at the islands' most popular wildlife spots tend to swell. If you're looking to visit the Galapagos at this time of year, plan on booking your accommodations, tours, and airfare early to avoid any unexpected problems. Expect to pay a little more for your trip during that time frame as well, as demand spikes considerably.

The Dry Season (June-November)

Calling the time period between June and November in the Galapagos the "dry season" is a bit of a misnomer. While the heavier storms are definitely found during the other months of the year, this period also features drizzle-filled days and little sunshine. Cold, steady winds from the south bring the average temperature down to the upper 60s and low 70s as well, which can make things damp and cool at times. 

Despite these conditions, the Dry Season is a popular time to visit the Galapagos. In fact, from mid-June to early-September, the islands can get very crowded with travelers from around the globe descending upon the region. If your plans are to visit during that time frame, be sure to get your itinerary organized early and don't expect to find too many bargains. High demand means there aren't a lot of vacancies to be found.

Seasonal Wildlife Highlights

Avoiding inclement weather and large crowds aren't the only factors to consider when booking your Galapagos adventure. The things that you want to see and do while there can dictate the best time to visit as well, particularly if your goal is to witness certain wildlife-related activities. 

For instance, if you want to witnesses the world famous blue-footed boobies partake in their mating dance, the best time to go to the Galapagos is in the Dry Season. Conversely, if spotting baby sea lions or turtles is high on your list of activities, you'll want to go during the Wet Season instead. Knowing what you want to experience ahead of time can help you decide when exactly should you go.

Wet Season Wildlife Events

The top wildlife events during the December to May timeframe include a large number of green turtles in the area, as well as the start of the marine iguana testing season. The Galapagos is the only place in the world where you can see these swimming iguanas, which can be very active in the early months of the year. 

Other Wet Season animal events include the arrival of large numbers of waved albatrosses to Española Island. Nearly the entire world's population of those birds descends on that location in the spring for their annual mating season, while the Galapagos' flightless cormorants also begin their nesting season at that time too.

Dry Season Wildlife Events

The Dry Season has its own wildlife highlight that make it an enticing time for travelers to visit too. For example, many of the Galapagos' birds begin hatching their eggs following the spring breeding season, which means a wide variety of hatchlings can be found in nests at that time of year. Also, the various flamingo species on the islands begin their elaborate mating ritual, which can be fun and interesting to witness as well.

September is an especially busy time in the Galapagos as two of the more popular animal species enter their breeding seasons too. Both the local sea lions and the Galapagos penguins are extremely active during that particular month, making it one of the best times to be there.

Scuba Diving and Snorkeling

Scuba diving and snorkeling are popular activities in the Galapagos Islands at any time of the year, with most people donning a mask and fins to take a plunge in the ocean waters at some point during their visit. But, the arrival of the Humboldt Current during the Dry Season makes it the best time visit if you want the optimal scuba or snorkeling experience. That's because the current brings a wide array of marine life with it, with most of those species attracted to the Galapagos' nutrient-rich waters.

The number of ocean creatures that can be found just offshore during this period rises dramatically, making it an all around better experience for divers.