The best time to visit the Galapagos will depend upon your travel goals and flexibility. Many say that the only bad time on the islands is when you are not there. Although the Galapagos Islands are a great year-round destination, there are some realities to consider.
The National Park Authority limits the number of visitors to each island in the Galapagos archipelago. The purpose of this is to protect the local plant and animal life. If you plan to travel during peak tourist seasons (Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Easter, Spring Break, peak summer holidays) then it is important to book far in advance as only a limited number of travelers are allowed. Shoulder seasons are great times to consider visiting, not only because finding cruising space is relatively easy, but the islands’ sites will have fewer explorers. You may even hook up with a rewarding international air ticket deal.
If you have more flexibility in your schedule, then when you choose to travel might be based on the actual wildlife experiences you would like to witness. With very few exceptions, all wildlife that is famous and iconic in the Galapagos can be seen all-year-round. What will be different is the behavior wildlife is experiencing at that given time. Quick example: April & May are great times to see blue-footed boobies in full courtship rituals, while July & August are great to see the results of such rituals: their white-fluffy chicks. Most species, such as the fur sea lion, flightless cormorant, land iguana, and many others do not migrate. Therefore, they can be seen at any time of the year. Out of the very few exceptions, perhaps the Galapagos Albatross is a truly absent species during the peak months of the hot season (January-March).
The Galapagos is an archipelago made of 19 islands that lay approximately 600 miles west of Ecuador. These islands are known for their unique array of animals. Many of these creatures are endemic to the region and not found anywhere else in the world. These islands were the inspiration for Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, and each has something unique to offer visitors.
Visit Puerto Egas, a long, black lava shoreline featuring caves, inlets, and lava pools. This shoreline is one of the most popular sites in the Galapagos. It houses a variety of wildlife, including marine iguanas, fur sea lions, and Sally Lightfoot crabs.
Explore Punta Suarez on Española (Hood) Island with perhaps one of the greatest wildlife encounters featuring blue-footed boobies, Galapagos albatrosses, swallow-tail gulls, Darwin’s finches, the island endemic Hood mockingbird, Nazca boobies, tropicbirds, marine iguanas, lizards, and many more. This old island of the group is located in the southeastern end of the archipelago.
Isabela Island is a great place to enjoy sea kayaking, which is a fun way to work out with numerous opportunities to view sea lions, blue-footed boobies, Galapagos penguins, and more.
Bird watchers will be enchanted with the island of Genovesa (Tower). This island is home to some of the best bird watching on Earth. Red-footed boobies, frigatebirds, herons, doves, yellow warblers, owls, petrels, lava gulls, and many more. It’s been estimated that over a million birds reside in this northerly location.
The Galapagos offers wonderful snorkeling and scuba diving as well. Underwater explorers often come across sea lions, tropical fishes, turtles, eagle rays, hammerhead sharks, penguins, flightless cormorants, and more. No wonder the islands are not just a national park, but a marine reserve-the the largest one in America, actually.
Alright, so let’s go back for a minute on how to define your best time to visit the Galapagos Islands. There is a Hot Season that runs from December through May and here you find hardly any strong winds which allow warmer water to accumulate, evaporate, and produce some tropical downpours (like any equatorial destination). Showers are quick and clearing up is a fast process. The small amount of rainfall we get is enough for the islands to gradually enter an “emerald green” look, as foliage develops beautifully in the arid zone. Days tend to be quite sunny, water visibility averages 30-40 feet, and humidity is about 85%. The ocean is much calmer due to the lack of trade winds, and that minimizes the chances of being seasick. These months are ideal if you are looking for the true tropical side of the islands. Land birds and most land reptiles will use this season as their mating season, due to the high presence of leaves, flowers, fruits, and suitable soil nesting conditions.
From mid-December through January is high season. These months coincide with the general holidays and vacation times around the world. If you are planning your Galapagos getaway during these popular times, then it is better to check when is the best time to visit the Galapagos and book your trip as far in advance as possible.
As June enters the calendar, the southeast trade winds gradually appear and the south equatorial current makes its way to the islands. It brings cooler weather and water (for tropical standards) from June through November. We call this, the dry season. This cooler environment brings water that is full of plankton and nutrients. This attracts plenty of birds and fish, so it is an ideal time to witness the onset of mating for most ocean-depending species. The underwater world becomes highly dynamic and most agree that it is the best for snorkeling and scuba diving. There are also more penguins as they find a higher abundance of fish. Blue-footed boobies mate during this time, offering the perfect chance to observe the interesting mating ritual. Days are dry, somewhat breezy, and cooler compared to the hot season.
Most travelers explore the Galapagos via live-aboard cruise ship, expedition yacht, or one-guide boats. Cruises are typically all-inclusive for the ultimate stress-free vacation. This leaves you free to enjoy the beauty of the Galapagos. Cruises incorporate many exploring activities providing travelers with far more options to choose for enjoying the islands.
Metropolitan Touring’s expedition vessels offer a range of cozy and intimate experience in the Galapagos and adventurous explorations. Particularly, Santa Cruz II Cruise was developed to operate in remote locations and provides high-tech amenities suitable for any adventure. The newest vessel in Metropolitan Touring’s Galapagos fleet is Yacht La Pinta. This yacht features a wonderful observation deck allowing guests to enjoy the wonderful scenery of the Galapagos Islands. All of these vessels offer guests top-notch service, luxurious accommodations, world-class dining, and wonderful social areas. An expedition team of Expedition Leaders, Naturalists, and Panga drivers will divide the total number of guests in small groups.
The Galapagos offers an incredible experience no matter when you visit, so you can enjoy diverse wildlife and beautiful scenery year-round.