Galapagos - When to go

When is the best time to visit the Galapagos Islands?

There’s never a bad time to visit the Galapagos islands.

Whenever you choose to go, here are the main highlights of what’s happening in the Galapagos each month. The climate may have a bearing on your decision of when to travel (see below), but often people choose to travel at times when a specific wildlife event is happening. This list should help you. Click on the month to see what’s happening.

January

  • The rains during the Galapagos wet season (mid-December to May) are short-lived and occur mainly in the afternoon. They pass quickly, leaving behind gorgeous blue skies
  • Land iguanas begin their reproductive cycles on Isabela Island
  • On Espanola Island, the marine iguanas become brightly coloured as they start mating
  • Green sea turtles begin to arrive back to the Galapagos island beaches for egg laying
  • Giant tortoise eggs start hatching (some egg laying still continuing too)
  • Magnificent and great frigatebirds start nesting (this can happen year round on North Seymour)
  • January is the ideal time for snorkelling as the water and air temperatures have risen above 22°c.  Best underwater visibility continues through February and March too.

February

  • Marine iguanas begin nesting on Santa Cruz
  • The nesting season of the Galapagos dove reaches its peak
  • Nazca boobies on Espanola are at the end of their nesting season (can be year round on other islands)
  • Beginning of the black-tailed pintails breeding season
  • Greater flamingos begin nesting on Floreana Island
  • Many penguins tend to move away from Bartolome to Isabela and Fernandina which have cooler waters.

March

  • Marine iguanas nest on Fernandina and North Seymour.
  • March 21st, is the beginning of the summer equinox and signals the return of the first albatrosses to Espanola.
  • Frigatebirds start mating on San Cristobal and Genovesa.

April

  • Arrival en-masse of waved albatrosses to Espanola for the start of their courtship
  • End of the hatching season of the giant tortoises
  • The eggs of green turtles begin to hatch
  • Eggs of land iguanas hatch on Isabela
  • The rains have ended but the islands are often still green this month
  • Water temperature is normally at its highest
  • Sea turtles, marine iguanas and land iguanas are nesting

May

  • North Seymour’s blue-footed boobies begin their courtship
  • Green turtles are still hatching on Gardner Bay, Punta Cormorant, and Puerto Egas
  • Most of the marine iguanas eggs hatch from their nests on Santa Cruz
  • The waved albatrosses on Espanola begin laying their eggs
  • Band-rumped storm petrels begin their first nesting period

June

  • Beginning of the cold dry season
  • Giant tortoises on Santa Cruz Island migrate from the highlands to the lowlands in search of suitable nesting places
  • Beginning of the giant tortoises nesting season
  • Some groups of humpback whales that migrate up to equatorial latitudes along the coast of Ecuador reach the Galapagos
  • Whale sharks often begin to be seen in the latter part of the month
  • Southern migrants have begun their journey towards the north. Galapagos is an important landfall for such birds. Some species of cetaceans also follow this pattern of migration

July

  • The sea bird colonies are very active (breeding), especially the blue-footed boobies on Espanola
  • Flightless cormorants perform beautiful courtship rituals and nesting activities on Fernandina
  • A good time to observe the four stages of nesting in blue-footed boobies – eggs, chicks, juveniles and sub-adults
  • Lava lizards begin their mating rituals which continue until November
  • American oystercatchers are nesting on the beaches of Santiago
  • Whale sharks and humback whales seen around islands.
  • Sea lions begin to breed
  • Blue-footed boobies and waved albatross nesting
  • July and August can be the windiest months – possibly avoid if you get seasick!

August

  • Galapagos hawks begin their courtship displays on Espanola and Santiago
  • Frigate birds begin to hatch
  • Nazca boobies and swallow-tailed gulls nest on Genovesa
  • The ocean temperature drops to 18 degrees C
  • Giant tortoises return to the highlands of Santa Cruz
  • Galapagos sea lions begin to give birth

September

  • Galapagos penguins are at their most active during their courtship on Bartolome
  • Galapagos sea lions are very active. Females have come into season and the males are constantly barking and fighting. Lots of baby sea lions around
  • Most species of sea birds remain quite active at their nesting sites
  • Known as the ‘garua’ the cold season is at its peak and the air temperature has fallen to below 20°c

October

  • Giant tortoises are still laying eggs
  • Blue-footed boobies raise their chicks on Espanola and Isabela
  • The Galapagos fur seals begin mating
  • Have fun swimming with baby sea lions
  • Lava herons start nest building and continue until March

November

  • Band-rumped storm petrels begin their second nesting period
  • Breeding season for the brown noddies begins
  • Pupping of Galapagos sea lions continues
  • Still have opportunities to whale sharks in the northwest
  • Green sea turtle mating season starts.

December

  • Hatching of giant tortoise’s eggs begins and lasts until April
  • Green turtles begin their mating display
  • Marine and land iguanas start mating
  • The warm rainy season begins and all of the plants in the dry zone begin to produce leaves. The Galapagos archipelago becomes noticeably ‘green’
  • The first young waved albatrosses fledge and begin their migration following the cool waters back to lower southern latitudes, they will not return to the Galapagos until they are ready to breed
  • Sea lions and fur seals are breeding

CLIMATE

Being some distance from the mainland, the Galapagos are governed by a climate of their own but this remains fairly constant throughout the year, so this is really a year round destination. The tropical heat you might expect is usually tempered by the Pacific breezes and you might even need a jumper after sundown on deck. Daytime temperatures will vary from about 20 to 28°c. December to May are the warmest months to visit the Galapagos. April and May are generally the clearest months. July and August can be windy (but this is still peak season). From July to November you may experience occasional ‘garua’ or mists and the water is atypically cool for the tropics.

For divers

Underwater visibility is at its best around mid-December to March, so keen divers might want to consider these months for your trip, however bear in mind that there really is never a bad time to come here. The waters in the wet season (roughly January to June) tend to be from about 20° to 28°, whereas in the dry season (July-December) it is much cooler with water temperatures being more like 16° to 23°.

Considering that these islands are placed directly under the equator, the climate is far from being excessively hot; this seems chiefly cause by the singularly low temperature of the surrounding water, brought here by the great southern Polar current. Except during one short season, very little rain falls, and even then it is irregular; but the clouds generally hang low.

Charles Darwin

Voyage of the Beagle 1845

Galapagos Island climate chart

Galapagos Island climate chart
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