🏝 Best Time to Visit Galapagos: Pros & Cons for Each Month

Best time visit to Galapagos islands blog post cover graphic.  Text overlaying a pair of courting blue-footed boobies with their beaks wide open on Isabela island.

The most important thing we learned in months of planning for our first visit to Ecuador in 2023 is that there is no “best” time to visit Galapagos, but there is a “right” time for each individual.

Wildlife encounters are such an important part of any Galapagos vacation, and the bi-seasonal climate and ocean currents tremendously impact the behavior of the islands’ animal residents.

In this guide, we will explain everything you need to know about the Galapagos archipelago’s seasons, ocean currents, temperatures, and climate.

You will also find the pros and cons of planning a visit for each month of the year with considerations regarding the wildlife routines you can expect at that time.

🌦 About the Seasons in Galapagos

A perfect sunny day on the beach at Isabela island in the Galapagos with palm trees blowing in the breeze.

Understand from the start that based on the archipelago’s proximity to the equator, there are only two seasons in the Galapagos Islands: warm & wet season and cool & dry season.

These seasons are brought about by two main currents, the Humboldt and the Panama, each dominating half the year.

While there is a warm and a cool season, the temperature variation is fairly minimal. Average daily highs vary from 74°F (23°c) in August to 88°F (31°c) in March.

However, the seasonal currents and changes do bring about variations in ocean conditions and wildlife activity.

Galapagos Islands Weather by Month

☀️ Average Highs
❄️ Average Lows
🌧 Average Rainfall
🌊 Average Sea Temperature

Warm and Wet Season (December to May)

A photo of rough seas with dozens of Nazca Boobies on Union Rock taken on a cloudy day in the Galapagos islands.

The warm and wet season typically begins in December and lasts until May. As indicated, the islands receive a lot more rain and higher temperatures during this time.

With that said, tropical rain showers are sporadic and you can still expect mostly sunny days. Although the rainfall can be heavy, it is generally short-lasting. The rainfall is heaviest from January through March.

The change in climate is brought about due to the Panama Current bringing warmer waters from the north. This increases the temperature both in the water and on land.

The warmer ocean is less nutrient-rich and, therefore, there is a decrease in marine life activity. However, the water is clearer and calmer during this time, making it ideal for snorkeling, despite the decrease in fish.

Cool and Dry Season (June to November)

Stunning scenery from Playa Bahia Sardina beach with blue skies, white clouds, crystal clear water, and a lone girl strolling the shoreline.

Cool and dry season typically begins in June and runs through November. It is also known as the garúa season, which translates to “drizzle” in English.

As the seasons transition, cooler water travels up from Antarctica on the Humboldt Current and begins to make its way to the area around the Galapagos archipelago. With this new current comes a decrease in ocean temperatures and drier, cooler weather.

While there is a decrease in rainfall, the subtropical climate creates a misty rain that covers the highland areas – making the name garúa apt. This creates lush, verdant landscapes and plentiful food sources for land-based wildlife.

The Humboldt Current is nutrient-rich, which produces a high density of algae. This attracts more marine mammals, fish, and birds, and increases the aquatic activity of all wildlife in the Galapagos.

The unfortunate downside to the surge of activity brought on by the Humboldt Current is that this nutrient-dense water is also far cloudier, making visibility much worse than during the warm season.

Additionally, the water can get very cold making snorkeling less enjoyable.

El Niño Impact on the Galapagos Islands

Adam Marland and his mother walk home as a torrential downpour pummels Santa Cruz island in the Galapagos causing the streets to flood as a result of the 2023 El Niño weather event.
A monsoon hits Santa Cruz island during our April 2023 visit.

Approximately once every seven years, the islands are severely affected by an ocean current known as El Niño, which can last 9-12 months.

The El Niño current drastically increases the temperature of the ocean water, which causes a variety of changes to the climate. The most common is an extended period of droughts followed by monsoons and flooding.

This also severely impacts the local wildlife, often decimating specific populations. Many of the Galapagos island’s animals have evolved to thrive here and rely on the ocean for sustenance, but the hot El Niño current strips the ocean of its nutrients.

A decrease in nutrients and algae means less fish, which has a knock-on effect on the birds, sea lions, and other species that feed on them. It also dramatically impacts marine iguanas as they feed directly on the algae.

Additionally, El Niño brings heavier rains, which can inundate turtle nests on the beaches and wash away eggs.

As it is a natural occurrence, there are no preventive measures that the Galapagos National Park can take.

Conversely, terrestrial life flourishes during this time as the warmer, wetter weather provides ample plant growth and food. Finches, Galapagos tortoises, land iguanas, and other land animals reproduce during El Niño seasons.

What does El Niño mean for a Galapagos vacation?

A miserable, rainy evening at Volcan Sierra Negra on Isabela Island (Galapagos).

When it comes to vacationing in Galapagos during El Niño, you can expect some warmer and wetter weather than what is typically seen.

This also can create calmer oceans and better visibility for snorkeling, much like the warm and wet season does.

While conditions might be better for snorkeling, marine life can suffer and, therefore, you may see less aquatic life during this time.

However, land animals thrive and you are likely to see a greater population of terrestrial creatures.


🐢 Best time to Visit the Galapagos Islands:
Quick Answer

An absolutely perfect sunny morning at Playa Mann on the island of San Cristobal in the Galapagos.

Depending on which you prioritize, the best time to visit the Galapagos islands for wildlife activity is June to August when the Humboldt current begins bringing nutrient-dense water to the region, or December to February for reliably dry and cool weather.

Personally, we consider June to be the best month to visit Galapagos overall. This is right on the shoulder of the two seasons, meaning you often get the best mix of conditions.

The weather is mostly reliable with a nice temperature both in and out of the water, visibility is still good for snorkeling, and wildlife activity increases as the Humboldt current begins to arrive.

With that said, there is no bad time of year to visit Galapagos! In fact, there are many seasonal factors to consider that may align better with your personal vacation goals.

As mentioned, each month and season has pros and cons. The remainder of this guide will cover the best reasons to visit the Galapagos for each specific month.


☀️ Best Time to Visit Galapagos Islands by Month


Over/under photo of a Galapagos penguin swimming off the coast of Bartolome Island.

Highly active penguins
If you hope to swim with the rare Galapagos penguins, January is the month when they are most active.

Excellent snorkeling, with warm water & calm ocean
January is one of the best months for snorkeling as the ocean is warm but calm with excellent visibility.

Nesting begins for rare land birds and green sea turtles
Typically, some of the rarer species of land birds will begin nesting season around this time of year. These include red boobies, Nazca boobies, flightless cormorants, and frigatebirds.

Meanwhile, green sea turtles will start to dig and fill the beaches with tiny eggs.

Adult marine iguanas change their colors
On some islands, the most notable being Española, adult marine iguanas prepare for the mating season by changing their colors to bright reds and greens in the hopes of courtship.



Two kayakers set out into the clear waters of Playa Mansa in Tortuga Bay.

Blue skies and clear waters
The weather in February is particularly good for water (and underwater) activities such as kayaking, snorkeling, and paddle boarding.

Nesting flamingos in Floreana
The greater flamingos of the Galapagos begin nesting this time of year. They can be seen in multiple places, but the most reliable is on the island of Floreana.

Nesting marine iguanas
Marine iguanas begin nesting in February. This will be most easily observed on Santa Cruz Island.

Courting magnificent frigate birds inflate their throats
The mating ritual of the Magnificent frigate birds is one of the most beautiful and unusual displays you will ever witness. In order to attract a mate, the males will vigorously inflate red throat pouches demonstrating their value. Best observed on North Seymour Island.


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

Crystalline seas with high visibility
Underwater visibility continues to be excellent for snorkeling and diving, with warmer air temperatures making the water all the more inviting.

Warmer weather, but heavier rainfall
March tends to be one of the warmest months with an average high of 87 °F (30.5 °C), but it feels much warmer than that with humidity. It also experiences more rainfall than most other months.

Waved albatross begin to return to Espanola Island
The waved albatross is the largest bird species that live in the Galapagos islands. In March, these beautiful birds begin their migration back to Isla Española.

Continued iguana nesting season
Males continue to change their colors to attract mates while females can often be observed in battle to protect their nesting sites.


Lush greenery surround Laguna el Junco in this springtime photo from the San Cristobal highlands in the Galapagos.

Lush greenery and wildflower blooms
As spring begins, the highlands of most major islands become lush and green as wildflowers begin to bloom.

Waved albatross peak migration
April is the best time of year to behold the waved albatross on Isla Española as they arrive en masse to begin the mating season.

Baby green sea turtles and land iguanas begin to hatch
Having laid their eggs in January, the beaches of Galapagos will come alive in April as baby green sea turtles begin to hatch and make the long march out to sea. You will also encounter plenty of baby land iguanas as you fly in or out of Baltra Island and on Isabela.


A blue footed booby begins a mating dance beside a cactus on Isabela island in the Galapagos.

Blue-footed Boobies begin to dance
The iconic blue-footed boobies are always amazing to see, but during mating season the males put on a particularly good show. They will attempt to impress the female with a series of bows and shuffling dance moves to show off their bright blue feet.

Ideal climate and weather
May is the best time to visit Galapagos for comfortable temperatures with little rainfall and low humidity. Daily temperatures tend to fall between 72°F-82 °F (22°C-29°C).

Breeding & nesting season begins for endemic bird species
Many of the endemic bird species of the Galapagos islands, the most notable being the Galapagos penguins, greater flamingos, and flightless cormorants, begin to mate and nest.

Marine iguanas hatch
On Santa Cruz, most of the marine iguanas’ eggs will hatch from their nests.

Waved albatross begin laying eggs
The waved albatross on Española start to lay eggs in May. The females lay a single egg that the couple will then take turns incubating for up to two months until it hatches.


Underwater dive photo of a Galapagos hammerhead shark swimming at Kicker Rock.

Peak season for Galapagos hammerhead sharks
Snorkelers and divers of Kicker Rock off of San Cristobal island have a near-certain chance at seeing the incredible hammerheads circling the water.

Summer ends with cool, dry nights
As the summer season comes to an end and the garúa season begins, the weather becomes very mild. Expect pleasant, mostly sunny days with cool and dry nights.

Humboldt current arrives, invigorating marine life
With the arrival of the cold-water Humboldt Current comes a fresh supply of nutrient-dense water. This creates a feeding frenzy for much of the Galapagos wildlife.

Humpback whales migrate through
The Humboldt Current also attracts marine life from other regions! In June, you may be able to spot the incredible humpback whale as it migrates through the region.

Start of nesting season for giant Galapagos tortoises
Santa Cruz giant Galapagos tortoises start migrating from the highlands to the lowlands in search of suitable nesting places.


A California sea lion playfully swims upside down toward the camera in this underwater photo from Isla Pinzon in the Galapagos archipelago.

California sea lion breeding season begins
While they are playful any time of year, the California sea lions become even more active in July as the breeding season begins. They’re known as the “pups of the sea” for a reason!

Cool and dry season takes hold
For better or worse depending on your preferences, the weather in July becomes cool and dry. The average temperature is 72°F (22.0°C) and rainfall is uncommon.

New marine life follows the Humboldt current
As the Humboldt Current continues to bring color, nutrient-rich water to the Galapagos archipelago, new seasonal visitors follow. These include orcas, bottlenose dolphins, Bryde’s whales, and even the occasional whale shark!

Nesting season continues for endemic bird species
Iconic, endemic Galapagos aviary species like the waved albatross, flightless cormorants, and red and blue-footed boobies finish up the nesting season with some last-minute activity. It’s a particularly great month for blue-footed boobies as you can see eggs, chicks, juveniles, and sub-adults.


A pair of mating Galapagos giant tortoises at El Chato Ranch pose for their photo on a sunny day.

Santa Cruz Galapagos giant tortoises lay their eggs
In August, the crowd-favorite Galapagos Giant Tortoises of Santa Cruz island begin to lay their eggs and then return to the highlands. The best place to observe them is at El Chato Ranch in the highlands.

Incredible snorkeling, despite the cold water
By August, the impact of the Humboldt Current is in full force. The underwater world will be highly active, providing some great snorkeling experiences and underwater wildlife encounters for those who can sustain the cold water (about 64ºF, 18ºC).

“Garúa” (misty) season reaches peak
Locals refer to the transition months between wet and dry season as the misty season, which reaches its peak in August. Temperatures are cool and the weather is mostly dry with passing rains.

Albatross chicks begin to hatch
On Española Island, adorable brown-feathered albatross hatchlings make their way into the world for the first time.

Start of sea lion pupping season
Sea lions start to give birth to pups, known as pupping season. Sightings of young pups are most common in the western and central islands.

More avian courtship and nesting
Galapagos hawks are courting on Española Island, while on Genovesa Island Nazca boobies and Swallow-tailed gulls are nesting.


A colony of Galapagos penguins shuffle about during mating season at Isla Bartolome.

Galapagos Penguins become highly active on Bartolome Island
While you may have the good fortune of seeing the endangered Galapagos penguins on Bartolome Island any time of year, September is when they are most active.

Peak of cold & dry season
With an average temperature of 70 °F (21°C) and almost no rainfall, September is driest and coldest month.

California sea lion breeding season continues
With a gestation period of 11 months, you will begin to see plenty of adorable baby sea lions popping up on the beaches as breeding season, which began in July, comes to an end.



A moody, spectacular sunset with orange skies captured from Isabela Beach.

Special sunsets and sunrises
October tends to have lots of moving clouds which can create some spectacular sunsets and sunrises for photography enthusiasts.

Continued cool weather, great for hikes
If you are planning on doing any hiking, such as the famous Volcan Sierra Negra hike on Isabela island, October is a great month with continued cool and dry weather with overcast skies.

Blue-footed booby chicks
The only thing cuter than a blue-footed booby is a fluffy booby chick! Blue-footed boobies continue to raise their young chicks all over Española and Isabela islands.

Galapagos lava herons begin building nest
The endemic lava heron begins its nesting season which tends to be constructed ocean-adjacent.

Plenty of Galapagos fur seal pups
The Galapagos fur seals’ mating season is a little different from the California sea lions, lasting from August through November. October is the peak of their pupping season and offers the best chance of seeing fur seal pups.


Underwater photography of a juvenile sea lion pup playfully swimming toward the camera while snorkeling the Galapagos islands.

Young sea lions become highly active
Those sea lion pups from months ago are now reaching adolescence, becoming extremely playful and curious. Expect plenty of interaction underwater!

Cold season begins to wind down
This will be the last chance for many wildlife encounters of migrating species, such as whales, dolphins, and whale sharks.

Galapagos Penguin courtship season begins
Take a day tour out to Bartolome Island for a chance to see the Galapagos penguins begin their courtship rituals.



Close up underwater photo of a green sea turtle on the ocean floor, captured while snorkeling at Kicker Rock off the coast of San Cristobal island in Galapagos.

Green sea turtle mating season begins
December is a particularly active month for the green sea turtle residents of Galapagos who will begin to seek mates.

Warm & wet season begins
Temperatures begin to rise and rains pick up, transforming the highland landscape into a green oasis.

Baby giant tortoises begin to hatch
The adorable paradox of a tiny giant tortoise can be experienced at any of the Galapagos island tortoise breeding centers as the eggs begin to hatch. Each major island has at least one tortoise sanctuary.

Marine iguanas become agitated as mating season begins
Don’t be alarmed to see a couple of marine iguanas having it out as they fight to win the attraction of potential mates.

Fledgling waved albatross
The first young waved albatross will start to fledge on Española.

🙋‍♀️ FAQs on When to Visit Galapagos Islands

A beautiful sunny day photo of a remote part of San Cristobal islands with orange mountains in the distance and turquoise water in the foreground.

Hopefully, we have answered all of your questions in this guide, but below is a quick summary of the most frequently asked questions regarding when to visit the Galapagos islands.

Simply click the drop-down arrows to reveal answers.

When is the best time to visit Galapagos?

The best time to visit Galapagos for wildlife activity is the cool & dry season (June to November), though the water clarity and temperature are better for snorkeling in the warm & wet season (December to May).

What is the best month to visit the Galapagos islands?

June is the best month to visit the Galapagos islands. This marks the arrival of the cold-water Humboldt current which brings a fresh supply of nutrient-dense water to the region, stimulating wildlife activity.

As a shoulder season, June also tends to have comfortable temperatures on land and underwater.

When is the wet season in Galapagos?

The Galapagos Islands’ wet season, which is also the warm season, typically lasts from December until May. The monthly rainfall is around 63mm on average during this time, with April being the wettest month.

When is the dry season in Galapagos?

The dry season in Galapagos is also the cool season and typically falls between June and November.

When is the cold season in Galapagos?

The “dry & cool” season in Galapagos typically lasts from June through November with the arrival of the Humboldt current from Antarctica.

When is the warm season in Galapagos?

The warm season in Galapagos is also the wet season, which begins with the arrival of the Panama current in December and lasts until the June arrival of the cold-water Humboldt current from Antarctica.

When is the best time of year to see penguins in Galapagos?

You may encounter Galapagos penguins on a day tour to Bartolome Island any time of year, but they are most active from September through January.

What is high season in Galapagos?

High season for tourism in the Galapagos islands is directly correlated with the North American summer and school break from mid-June through early September. Another uptick is observed during the holiday season (mid-December through mid-January).

During these times, it will be nearly impossible to arrange some tours and tickets on short notice.

📚 More Galapagos Islands Travel Guides

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💬 Final Thoughts on the Best Time to Visit the Galapagos Islands

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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.

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