🤿 Best Snorkeling in Galapagos: Free Spots + Top Tours (2024)

Best Snorkeling in the Galapagos blog cover graphic.  Text overlaying an underwater image of Sophie Marland photographing a sea lion swim by while snorkeling at Kicker Rock in Galapagos.

We have snorkeled all over the world, but nothing compares to the two weeks we spent snorkeling in Galapagos in April 2023.

While the coral reefs are tragically lacking, the abundance and rarity of friendly animals that inhabit these peaceful islands created countless magical moments and photos that were truly unforgettable.

In this guide, we will provide you with the names and exact locations of our favorite Galapagos snorkeling spots we discovered during our visit. This includes the best free spots, day tours, and beaches you can snorkel from.

We have also provided snorkeling and underwater photography tips, as well as general advice for maximizing your first trip to the Galapagos.

🤿 Our Experience Snorkeling in the Galapagos in 2023

We (Adam, his mother, and Sophie) took a two-week trip to the Galapagos islands in April 2023.

Sophie is an absolute animal lover, so our purpose for visiting the Galapagos was largely work-related but also to cross it off of her bucket list.

During our time, we snorkeled or did a dive every single day. Water visibility can vary substantially from day to day and even by the hour. However, there was not a single time we hit the water that we did not come face to face with a sea turtle, sea lion, eagle ray, or other aquatic friend.

We took every single photo you find in this guide. As you will see, the opportunities for wildlife encounters that exist when snorkeling in the Galapagos islands are unlike anywhere else on the planet.

Snorkel Spots: Self-Guided (Free) vs. Tours

A cruise ship docks off of Playa Dorada on a sunny day in Isla Bartolome.

For ease of use, we have arranged the list of the top snorkel spots in Galapagos into two categories: self-guided and tour-only.

As the name hopefully suggests, the self-guided spots are those that you can get to without hiring a tour company to take you there. Most will be walkable, but some may require a taxi or bike rental.

The tour-only snorkel spots are some of the best you will ever swim but require you to arrange a day tour. These spots are only accessible by boat and typically require a Galapagos National Park guide.

🏝 Best Self-Guided Galapagos Snorkel Spots

Over/under photo of a sea lion looking toward the camera while Adam films with his phone on Playa Punta Carola Beach.

Each inhabited island in the Galapagos has one main town where tourists can stay.

Fortunately, each town also has some local beaches where you can just walk down and go for a swim right from the shore; all you need is your mask!

This section features the best spots you can snorkel without booking a tour on each island.


Santa Cruz Snorkel Spots

Tortuga Bay

A snorkeler swims alongside a marine iguana in the crystal clear water at Playa Brava on Santa Cruz island in the Galapagos.

Tortuga Bay is home to the most popular beaches on Santa Cruz island in Playa Brava and Playa Mansa.

Getting here requires some amount of walking, which can be somewhat offset by cabbing to the trailhead, or you can hire a water taxi to avoid it altogether.

Playa Brava is mostly un-swimmable, but there is one spot near the mangroves as you get to the end of the beach where it is safe to swim and you will likely see reef-tip sharks and marine iguanas.

Playa Mansa is the more popular beach for snorkeling or for enjoying a beach day. The water visibility is very poor but also very calm. Expect to see lots of green sea turtles and marine iguanas, and maybe some sharks and rays.


Las Grietas

A photo from water level of Las Grietas, the most famous snorkel spot in the Galapagos on Santa Cruz island.

Las Grietas Galapagos is one of the most popular swimming spots in Santa Cruz.

Just a short water taxi and walk from Puerto Ayora, it is famed for its unique geological formations and crystal clear waters for snorkeling.

As of 2021, a guided tour is required but this can be paid for upon arrival, advanced booking is not required.

Most visitors to Las Grietas go there to see the unique volcanic landscape and to swim in its calm waters. The dramatic, steep cliffs and vibrant water make for a remarkable sight.

While it is a popular place for swimming, marine life is more limited than other sites.

🤿 READ MORE:
HOW TO VISIT LAS GRIETAS


Playa de los Alemanes

A photo of the beach at Playa los Alemanes near Las Grietas on Santa Cruz island.

Playa de los Alemanes is accessible from Puerto Ayora by a short water taxi.

While access to this beach is fairly easy, it takes just enough effort to keep the large crowds away, meaning you will typically find plenty of space here!

It is common to spot sea lions playing in the surf here, as well as marine iguanas swimming near the mangroves.

If you plan to visit Las Grietas, you will naturally pass this beach, making it an ideal stop on your way to or from this famous Galapagos snorkel spot.


Playa de la Estación

A quiet morning at Playa de La Estacion beach on Santa Cruz island in the Galapagos.

Playa de La Estacion is the closest beach to Puerto Ayora (the main town on Santa Cruz). It is located just before the Charles Darwin Research Station entrance.

This is far from a premier snorkeling spot, but the proximity to town makes it an appealing option on a hot day with some spare time.

You might see all the usual suspects, you may see nothing at all, but given that it’s only a 5-minute walk it is a good spot to know about if you are staying on Santa Cruz.

🦎 READ MORE:
COMPLETE GUIDE TO PLAYA DE LA ESTACION


Playa La Ratonera

Playa La Ratonera beach with lush greenery and lava rocked lined shores is a popular snorkel spot on Santa Cruz island in the Galapagos.

Playa La Ratonera is located just beyond Playa de La Estacion.

The two beaches are extremely similar and you will likely see the same things snorkeling at each.

The water entry is easier at Playa de La Estacion making it the better option, but La Ratonera tends to be a little quieter and may therefore have a few extra animals hanging around.


Playa El Garrapatero

Aerial photo of the beach at Playa El Garrapatero, one of the best beaches and snorkel spots in the Galapagos islands.

Playa El Garrapatero is a remote beach at the very end of the Santa Cruz highway with clear water and easy beach-entry snorkeling.

Because it is more isolated, the beach is typically quiet and the animals are equally laid back.

You cannot walk here, but you also don’t need to arrange any tours. Rather, you’ll need to rent a bike or hire a taxi to deliver you.

🏝️ DISCOVER MORE:
BEST BEACHES IN THE GALAPAGOS


San Cristobal Snorkel Spots

Playa de Oro

A baby sea lion sits alone on the beautiful beach at Playa de Oro on San Cristobal island in the Galapagos.

Playa de Oro is the first beach most people see when they get to San Cristobal island.

It is located directly in the main town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.

What makes Playa de Oro so nice is that no effort whatsoever is required.

Just bring your snorkel gear and hop in the water where you are sure to encounter sea lions frolicking about.


Playa Mann

An underwater photo showing a snorkeler with a camera photographing a young Galapagos sea lion performing tricks and playing around, captured at Playa Mann on San Cristobal island.

Playa Mann is located about 10 minutes from town and is one of the best beaches in the Galapagos.

This pristine spot has everything you could want, including affordable local restaurants, vendors, restrooms, and even a lifeguard. It also has sea lion residents who will definitely want to play.

While you won’t likely see anything more than a few sea lions from Playa Mann, you cannot ask for an easier spot for a first swim.

If you are staying on San Cristobal, simply drop off your bags, grab your mask, and head down to the white sand beach for your first chance at experiencing what makes the Galapagos so special.

🦭 READ MORE:
COMPLETE GUIDE TO PLAYA MANN


Darwin’s Cove (Muelle Tijeretas)

Top-down view of the crystal clears waters at Darwin's Cove, one of the most popular snorkel spots on a self-guided itinerary.

A 30-minute walk from town, Darwin’s Cove has the clearest and calmest water on San Cristobal for snorkeling.

In its impossibly turquoise waters, you may encounter some of the most iconic Galapagos residents including sea lions, turtles, sharks, and an array of tropical colorful fish.

This is one of the best snorkeling spots on any of the Galapagos islands that can be discovered without a guide or boat tour!

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Playa Punta Carola

Two sea lions playfully wrestle in the sand during sunset at Playa Punta Carola while two snorkelers watch.

If you are looking for a quieter alternative beach to snorkel from than Playa Mann, the spectacular Playa Punta Carola is just around the corner!

This beautiful white sand beach takes about 15-20 minutes walk from town but feels more remote than that.

You can snorkel right off the sand and are sure to see lots of sea lions and potentially some turtles as well.


Playa Baquerizo

A daytime photo of pristine Playa Baquerizo white sand beach showcasing the crystal clear water that makes it so good for snorkeling in the Galapagos.

Getting to Playa Baquerizo takes some effort, but is worth every step for those who value tranquility.

Playa Baquerizo is located about a mile beyond Playa Punta Carola and around 0.7 miles beyond Darwin’s Cove. Most people, therefore, tie these all into one long day of exploration.

Due to the remote location, you will likely have this beautiful snorkel-friendly beach mostly to yourself.

Expect to see a lot of green sea turtles, marine iguanas, frigates, and diving boobies.


Playa La Lobería

Three sea lions swim underwater at the popular beach of Playa Loberia on San Cristobal island in the Galapagos.

Just south of the San Cristobal airport and only 2 miles (3km) from town, Playa Loberia is one of the most famous beaches for snorkeling with sea lions.

It used to be the absolute best beach on San Cristobal to see them and is still fantastic.

However, you no longer have to go that far for this experience as they are all over Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.

Still, Playa Loberia is a wonderful place to hang out and snorkel with smaller crowds than you will find at the beaches in town while still being a quick and easy journey either by foot or taxi.


Puerto Chino Beach

Looing down at the white sand and azure water of Playa Puerto Chino from the hilly viewpoint at the end of the beach.

Playa Puerto Chino is typically visited as the final stop of the San Cristobal Highlands half-day tour, but can also be visited on a solo adventure either by renting a bike or hiring a taxi.

This is one of the prettiest beaches on the island and has the softest sand, with a calm and sheltered cove to swim or snorkel in.

As far as snorkel spots go, it’s nice because it is easy to swim and enter the water at Puerto Chino but the visibility is rather poor and there isn’t much to see underwater.

⛵️ FIND MORE INSPIRATION:
BEST GALAPAGOS DAY TOURS


Isabela Snorkel Spots

Concha de Perla

A snorkeler extending his arm and GoPro to film a pod of eagle rays swimming all around him, captured at Concha de Perla on Isabela island in the Galapagos.

Located just around the corner from the main pier on Isabela Island is a popular little cove nestled amongst the mangroves that provides easy and fantastic snorkeling.

Concha de Perla is the best place that you can snorkel on Isabela without booking a tour. The deck is typically covered in sea lions and marine iguanas and the cove is teeming with wildlife.

Beyond those mentioned above, other animals that are commonly spotted at Concha de Perla are sea turtles, eagle rays, a variety of fish, and sometimes even penguins!


Playa Puerto Villamil (Playa Isabela)

A wide angle photograph of a Galapagos marine iguana on Isabela Beach with a volcanic backdrop.

Playa Puerto Villamil, informally known as Playa Isabela or Isabela Beach, is a beautiful, expansive beach that runs right along the major town of Puerto Villamil.

It is the best and most easily accessible beach on the inhabited islands.

Snorkeling off of Playa Isabela is great in that it requires absolutely no effort, but it is a bit sparse when it comes to expected wildlife encounters.

Still, being that some of the best places to stay are literally located in the sand, it is a great place to just hop in the water when time permits, and hope you get lucky!

🚤 Best Snorkel Spots by Day Tour Only

The following epic snorkel spots are some of the best you will experience in the Galapagos, but require you to arrange a day tour to visit or book a cruise that includes them as a stop.

As many of them are on smaller islands, we have organized this list by which island you would book them from if you wanted to include it in your Galapagos itinerary.


Snorkel Tours from Santa Cruz

At no cost to you, we receive a small amount for any bookings made using the links below.

Bartolome Island

A snorkeler photographs a pair of Galapagos penguins while swimming in the water at Bartolome Island.

Of all the minor islands you can visit in the Galapagos, Bartolome Island is the best.

Not only is it the most beautiful vista in the entire region, but the snorkeling off of Pinnacle Rock will be the best chance most visitors have of swimming with the rare Galapagos Penguin.

⛵️ READ MORE:
BARTOLOME ISLAND ULTIMATE GUIDE


Pinzon Island

Underwater photo of a snorkeler with a massive school of tropical fish below him, taken on a day tour to Isla Pinzon in the Galapagos.

The day tour tour to Pinzon Island is really more of a snorkeling tour as you cannot actually step foot onto the island.

The islet that tours will take you to at Pinzon is the clearest water we snorkeled in all of our time in the Galapagos.

The water was incredibly crystalline and teeming with sharks, turtles, sea lions, and diving blue footed boobies.

🦈 READ MORE:
PINZON ISLAND ULTIMATE GUIDE


South Plaza Island (Punta Carrion)

While the Punta Carrion snorkel spot is actually just off Santa Cruz, it is typically visited on a day trip to South Plaza Island.

Here, you can discover a myriad of colorful fish, including sergeant majors, parrotfish, surgeonfish, and angelfish.

You may also spot sea turtles, rays, and sharks, including white-tipped reef sharks and occasionally hammerhead sharks.


Santa Fe Island

A seal lion swimming underwater seen while snorkeling in Galapagos.

Isla Santa Fe has three marine visitor sites, all of which are well known for being excellent places to snorkel with sea lions.

There are fewer fish here but you may encounter sea turtles, various ray species, and Galapagos sharks.

📸 DISCOVER MORE:
GALAPAGOS PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS & LOCATIONS


North Seymour Island (Mosquera / Las Bachas)

A parrotfish and a school of surgeonfish seen while snorkeling in the Galapagos islands

A visit to North Seymour Island will typically include a snorkel stop at either Mosquera or Las Bachas.

Both of these locations offer some of the best snorkeling in Galapagos, with a wide array of marine life.

It is common to see sea lions, parrot fish, Mexican hogfish, surgeonfish, garden eels, and white-tip reef sharks. 


Floreana Island

White sand and lava rock edge the beach at Punta Cormorant in Floreana Island Galapagos

Most people do not realize that Floreana Island is inhabited and you can actually stay overnight by booking a day tour or ferry and arranging your ride back the next day.

There are several places to snorkel from on Floreana, but Punta Cormorant is the best and most popular.

This is home to a green sand beach and flamingo lagoon, in addition to clear, calm water.

🛳️ READ MORE:
COMPLETE GUIDE TO ISLAND HOPPING IN GALAPAGOS


Daphne Island

A view of Isla Daphne (aka Daphne Island) taken from the boat on the way to Isla Bartolome.

Daphne Island is a minor island located just north of Santa Cruz and east of Baltra.

Like some of the other islands mentioned, you cannot step onto land on a day tour but the snorkeling off the shores is phenomenal.

Daphne Island has some of the best visibility in the area and is a good place to spot blue-footed boobies, as well as starfish, sea lions, sea turtles, and sponges.


Snorkel Tours from San Cristobal

Kicker Rock

Magical underwater photo of a turtle swimming under the clear water at Kicker Rock, considered the best snorkel spot in the Galapagos.

Kicker Rock is perhaps the best place to dive or snorkel in all of Galapagos.

The water is incredibly clear, the landscape is fantastic, and it is one of the most common places to see Galapagos hammerhead sharks.

Even if you do not have the good fortune of spotting hammerheads, you are sure to see a thriving underwater world.

Plus, swimming through the giant crevice between the rocks is a humbling experience.


Bahia Sardina

Over / under photo of a sea lion swimming in the crystalline waters off the coast of Sardina Bay in the Galapagos islands.

Bahia Sardina is one of the most photogenic places in the Galapagos islands with a gorgeous white sand beach, crystal clear water, and mountainous backdrop.

The water at Sardina Bay has some of the better visibility you will snorkel, though you won’t see as much here as other sites.

The only way to visit Sardina Bay is by booking the San Cristobal 360º Tour.


Bahia Rosa Blanca

Close up photo of a Galapagos green sea turtle looking at the camera captured underwater while snorkeling at Bahia Rosa Blanca.

Bahia Rosa Blanca is perhaps the best place to snorkel in the Galapagos for seeing green sea turtles.

In our 45-minute swim, we personally encountered about 15 turtles, one of which may have been the largest we have ever seen in our lives.

You can only get to Bahia Rosa Blanca by booking the San Cristobal 360º Tour.


Española (Gardner Bay)

A large group of sea lions lounge on the pristine white sand of Bahia Gardner (Gardner Bay Beach) with bright blue water in the background on Española Island Galapagos.

Although most visitors head to Española Island to see the waved albatross that nest here, there is plenty more to the island.

With its pristine white sand, Gardner Bay is one of the most beautiful beaches in Galapagos and an excellent place for snorkeling.

Although sea lions are the main attraction, you can also swim with reef white-tipped sharks, rays, and a variety of colorful reef fish.


Isla Lobos

An underwater image of a sea lion surfacing for breath in crystal clear water off of Isla Lobos Galapagos.

Located just off the coast of San Cristobal is the small islet of Isla Lobos.

Named for the sea lions (lobos marinos) that live here, you can expect to swim with some of these majestic creatures in crystal clear waters.


Ochoa Beach

A sea lion seen in shallow water while snorkeling in Galapagos.

Ochoa Beach is typically visited as part of a day tour to Isla Lobos. The white sand beach is located just south of the islet on San Cristobal Island.

Its shallow waters make it an ideal spot for snorkeling, particularly for beginners.

Similarly to Isla Lobos, you can expect clear waters and plenty of sea lions.


Snorkel Tours from Isabela

Los Tuneles (Cabo Rosa)

Underwater photography from Los Tuneles showing a snorkeler diving with both a sea lion and green sea turtle in the foreground.

Los Tuneles is the best place to snorkel on Isabela Island.

This strange lava-tube landscape is fascinating to experience, and the clear water is filled with wildlife.

Beyond the usual sharks, green sea turtles, and sea lions, Los Tuneles is the best place to see sea horses and some of the more elusive species of sea turtles.

This is also the best place to get up close and personal with blue-footed boobies!


Tintoreras

Underwater photo looking up at 3 Galapagos penguins swimming in the water.

Tintoreras is a popular kayaking and snorkeling destination just off the shore of Playa Isabela to see the rare Galapagos penguins.

The word “tintorera” means shark in Spanish, so unsurprisingly, it is also a common place to spot white-tipped reef sharks.


Isla Tortuga

Underwater photo of a starfish burrowed into coral in the Galapagos islands.

Just a short boat ride from Isabela Island is the small islet known as Isla Tortuga or Turtle Island, supposedly named for its shape rather than inhabitants.

The snorkeling is excellent for spotting hammerhead sharks, Galapagos sharks, blacktip reef sharks, manta rays, eagle rays, and starfish!


4 Hermanos & Cartago Bay

A green sea turtle seen snorkeling in the Galapagos islands

One hour by speed boat from Isabela are four island rock formations known as Los 4 Hermanos, or The 4 Brothers.

This Galapagos snorkeling spot is a deep sea site with a high chance of seeing pelagic fish as well as hammerhead sharks, Galapagos sharks, and manta rays.

A snorkeling day tour will also include a stop at Cartago Bay, which offers a sheltered area for shallow water snorkeling. Here you are likely to swim with sea turtles, rays, sharks, and a variety of fish.

🚢 Best Cruise-Only Galapagos Snorkeling Spots

If you plan to visit the Galapagos by cruise, you will have the opportunity to visit other incredible snorkel spots.

One of the benefits of a cruise is the ability to access more remote locations, especially distant islands that cannot be reached on a day trip.

Below are the top 10 best snorkeling spots that can be reached by cruise only.

  • Punta Espinosa (Fernandina) offers the best Galapagos snorkeling spot for seeing marine iguanas in the water. Other highlights include flightless cormorants, sea turtles, and occasionally Galapagos penguins.
  • Devil’s Crown (Floreana) is one of the most famous snorkeling spots in the Galapagos. The sunken volcanic crater provides a home to a wealth of marine life including moray eels, golden rays, eagle rays, scorpionfish, and much more.
  • Chinese Hat (Santiago) is a protected cove with calm, clear waters where you can spot baby sea lions, Galapagos penguins, reef sharks, and sea turtles.
  • Tagus Cove (Isabela) is carpeted with green algae, making it popular with marine iguanas, sea turtles, flightless cormorants, Galapagos penguins, and seahorses. There are also large numbers of starfish.
  • Punta Vicente Roca (Isabela) has a large population of green sea turtles, making it one of the best snorkel sites in the Galapagos for these majestic creatures.
  • Prince Philip Steps (Genovesa) offers some great snorkeling in the north of the archipelago. The submerged crater provides home to a huge range of tropical fish, as well as the occasional hammerhead shark and manta ray.
  • Rabida Island is famed for its red sand beach. However, it is also great snorkeling around the north of the island where you can spot sea lions, sea turtles, eagle rays, and garden eels, as well as the occasional sharks and penguins.
  • Osborn Islet is a tiny island near Española that can only be accessed by zodiac. You’ll discover a diversity of multi-colored tropical fish, such as angelfish, parrotfish, and butterfly fish, as well as various species of sharks, green pencil urchins, and manta rays. 
  • Buccaneer Cove & Espumilla Beach (Santiago) provides the chance to witness a colorful underwater world with beautiful coral formations, in addition to sea lions, fur seals, rays, turtles, and a myriad of vibrant fish.
  • Champion Islet (Floreana) is one of the best places in Galapagos for spotting dolphins. Additionally, snorkeling here is almost guaranteed to be in the company of sea lions, along with the chance to swim with Galapagos penguins and sea turtles.

🐠 Tips & Advice on Snorkeling in the Galapagos ISlands

Underwater Wildlife Encounters

A Galapagos sea lion swims directly up to our underwater camera in crystal clear water while snorkeling in Ecuador.

The Galapagos islands are renowned for the incredibly tame wildlife that resides there. Due to a long history without predation, most endemic animals are unbothered by humans, and many, especially the juveniles, are even playful.

Galapagos National Park rules dictate that you are not to come within 6 feet (2 meters) of wildlife.

It goes without saying (but must be said anyway) that you should never, ever touch the animals!

The great thing is that if you remain calm and respectful of the animals and their space, many will approach you! Sea lions, in particular, are known for being very playful and may engage you in a game of spinning and dancing; just be sure to heed any warnings agitated animals give you.

In the Galapagos islands, you are almost guaranteed to swim with sea lions, sea turtles, marine iguanas, and plenty of tropical fish. You also have a good chance of seeing a variety of rays and sharks (none dangerous), and even Galapagos penguins if you know where to go!

🐢 READ MORE:
MOST ICONIC ANIMALS IN THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS + WHERE TO FIND THEM!


Snorkeling Equipment

Disclosure: At no cost to you, we receive a small amount for any purchases made using the links below.

Over/under photo of Sophie Marland photographing a smiling Galapagos marine iguana while snorkeling.

While tours will always provide you with snorkeling equipment, we highly recommend you bring your own snorkel and mask and consider bringing fins as well. You can also buy these items as a snorkel set, which works out cheaper still.

As each island has local beaches you can snorkel from, packing your own gear will save you a lot of time and money compared to dealing with rentals upon arrival.

Additionally, your experience will be much better if you have quality equipment that fits properly, unlike the often ill-fitting rentals.

This is especially important if you wear glasses and require a prescription snorkel mask. Prescription masks are much harder to come by on the islands, and the ability to actually see the turtle or sea lion looking back at you will make all the difference to your experience.

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Water Temperature in Galapagos

Underwater photo of Adam free diving while photographing a Galapagos shark at Los Tuneles on Isabela Island.

Being on the equator and a tropical environment, you may be expecting the water in Galapagos to be warm… you would often be mistaken!

The Galapagos archipelago is strongly affected by two currents which impact water temperature and seasonality:

The Humboldt Current flows north from Antarctica from July through November, bringing a very cold stream of water that is filled with nutrients but downright frigid. The average water temperature during the cold & dry season that corresponds with the Humboldt current is 73°F (22°c) but can get as low as 66°F (19°c).

The Panama Current flows south from December through June, bringing warm but nutrient-poor water with it. The average temperature during this “warm & wet” season is about 76°F (24°c).

If you’re visiting during the cold season, you may wish to consider packing a thin wetsuit to keep you more comfortable in the water.

☀️ LEARN MORE:
BEST TIME TO VISIT GALAPAGOS ISLANDS


Snorkeling Safety Tips

A cheerful marine iguana poses on the steps while our tour group prepares for an underwater snorkel tour of Concha de Perla in Galapagos.

While snorkeling in Galapagos is relatively safe, there are always risks when swimming in the ocean. You can minimize these risks with the following steps:

  • Always check current conditions, including weather, warning flags, and currents.
  • Know your own limits.
  • Only snorkel with a buddy (or consider booking a tour).
  • Use a life vest if you’re not a confident swimmer.
  • Stay close to shore.
  • Always be aware of your surroundings.
  • Do not use full-face masks (these create a CO2 buildup that can cause you to become disoriented or even lose consciousness).
  • Only snorkel during daylight hours.

🙋‍♀️ FAQs About Snorkeling in the Galapagos

Underwater photo of a Galapagos green sea turtle staring right into our camera while Sophie is seen in a snorkel mask swimming up towards it from behind.

Hopefully, you have no questions left unanswered about snorkeling in the Galapagos islands, but just in case, you can find answers to the most frequently asked questions below.

Simply click the drop-down arrows to reveal answers.

Is it safe to snorkel in Galapagos?

It is absolutely safe to snorkel in the Galapagos islands, though the water is surprisingly cold much of the year. The archipelago has many beaches and sheltered bays teeming with wildlife that you can snorkel from without having to make any arrangements whatsoever.

What is snorkeling like in the Galapagos?

Snorkeling in the Galapagos islands is one of the most transcendent experiences you will ever have regarding wildlife interactions. Nowhere else in the world are you as likely to be engaged by marine life as you are by the famously tame animal residents of Galapagos.

Do you need a wetsuit to snorkel in Galapagos?

A wetsuit is not required for snorkeling in Galapagos, especially during warm and dry season (December-June) when the Panama Current is present. However, it may be preferred for warmth during during the “cool and dry” season (July-November) when the frigid Humboldt Current is flowing up from Antarctica.

What will I see snorkeling in the Galapagos?

Each island and spot has different wildlife present, but you are almost guaranteed to see sea lions, marine iguanas, tropical fish, and green sea turtles in most places you will snorkel in Galapagos. Additionally, you will likely see a variety of sharks and rays, with. a chance for penguins, sea horses, leatherback and hawksbill turtles, and hammerheads.

What is the best time of year to snorkel in Galapagos?

June and July are the best time to snorkel in Galapagos as the nutrient-dense Humboldt Current arrives causing a flurry of wildlife activity. While this cold water current makes temperatures more frigid, the water is more tolerable than it will be further into the season.

How much does it cost to snorkel in the Galapagos Islands?

You can snorkel from any beach and various coves in the Galapagos for free! Some of the best spots, however, require day tours to reach which vary widely in price based on the distance required. On-island tours tend to be in the $50-$100 range, with distant islands and spots trending up to the $150-$250 range locally.

📚 More Galapagos Islands Travel Guides

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Hopefully, this guide has answered all of your questions, now it’s time for the rest of your planning!

These guides will help you through the process step-by-step, providing insight on everything from finding flights to top activities and so much more.

Planning Guides

Local Guides

Things to Do Guides

💬 Final Thoughts

This underwater photo shows a female snorkeler with a waterproof camera free diving to photograph a Galapagos shark at Los Tuneles on Isabela island in the Galapagos.

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Adam Marland is a professional travel blogger and landscape photographer from Oregon. After over a decade of experience as a freelance travel photographer, Adam found national acclaim when he became the National Park Foundation's “Chief Exploration Officer” in 2021.

9 thoughts on “🤿 Best Snorkeling in Galapagos: Free Spots + Top Tours (2024)”

  1. Wow, that sure is a thorough list of places to snorkel in the Galapagos Islands. I would love to visit someday and I will have the information I need right on this website. The photos look beautiful and the wildlife looks wonderful. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. This looks incredible! The Galapagos Islands is one of my wish list destinations, but it is far (and expensive) so it will stay on my wish list for a while. When you do the snorkel tours, do they come with any guidance about how close you can get to wildlife, and is it sustainable ? Would love to snorkel or scuba dive there but am unsure about it, conservation-wise.

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    • The Galapagos can be expensive to get to, but is is possible to travel Galapagos on a budget🐢 Backpacking Galapagos: How to Travel Galapagos on a Budget. Around 97% of the Galapagos is National Park and, as such, is protected and can only be visited with a naturalist guide who will inform all visitors of the rules. Much of the islands are still entirely wild and cannot be landed on, giving wildlife plenty of space. There are also sign posts everywhere about staying away from wildlife, and on some of the more popular beaches we saw lifeguards who would tell people to back off if they were too close. They’re also apparently banned single-use plastic on the islands, however, this did not seem to be the case in practice. There’s certainly still a lot more they could do (such as making reef-safe sunscreen a requirement) but on the most part conservation seems to be at the forefront of people’s minds.

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  3. Wow what a thorough post which beautiful photos!! 😍 definitely considering the Galapagos island for next years snorkel trip, currently in Roatan snorkeling myself atm 🙂

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  4. What a beautiful world down there! And the creatures seem so unmindful of people swimming by. I hope I will gather courage one day for snorkelling to deep waters. The safety tips are really helpful.

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    • Thank you. The wildlife was mostly indifferent to humans, or occasionally curious! There’s so many great spots to snorkel from the shore that you certainly don’t need to snorkel in deep waters if you don’t feel comfortable. With that said, you will be provided a flotation device if you want one which makes snorkeling in the deep waters very easy and safe.

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  5. Thanks for sharing this underwater wonderland! The way you’ve described each location and the marine life is so vivid that I almost feel like I’m underwater alongside you.

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