When to visit the Galapagos Islands? Is there a best time of year for a Galapagos trip?
There is no simple answer. The perfect holiday time for you depends on many factors including your interests, your tolerance for heat/rain/heavy seas, your budget, the time you have available and how late you have left it to make your booking. Divers, birdwatchers, sun-worshippers and volunteers all have different requirements and ideas about when is the best month to visit the islands and take a Galapagos cruise.
Galapagos high season is usually considered to be June to August (i.e. “summer holidays” for Europe and the USA), and December to mid January (Christmas vacations). Low season in the Galapagos Islands is springtime (May to June) and September. The bits in between get categorised as either high or low season depending how business is going when you are trying to book. Galapagos flights get particularly busy in high season, so book well ahead.
Cruise and accommodation prices are of course higher in the high season. Availability is stretched in the high season – Christmas cruises often book up more than a year in advance. Hotel availability is not usually a problem in the low season, but cruises are often not available in September. Sea conditions are at their worst in September and many cruise operators take this month to put their boats in dry dock for maintenance. So think twice before heading off to the islands in search of a last-minute bargain Galapagos cruise “because it’s low season”.
The Galapagos climate may well influence your decision on when to visit the islands. See the Galapagos weather calendar for information about air and sea temperatures, sea conditions and rainfall. The warm wet season in the first half of the year (actually not all that rainy) may be best for sunbathing, snorkelling and swimming. Hikers or volunteers doing more strenuous activity may prefer the cooler dry season from June or July to December.
For most visitors to the islands, the wildlife is the main attraction. The Galapagos wildlife activity calendar will give you some idea of what you might see in each month. If you are desperate to see some particular animal or bird, talk with a specialist Galapagos travel agency to find the best cruise itinerary, bearing in mind that some of the rarer wildlife is found only on the more remote islands, so you may need a longer cruise to reach them.
Birdwatchers in the Galapagos Islands often recommend April to June as the best time for a birdwatching tour. The famous waved albatrosses are absent from the islands from December onwards, with the first few returning to their home on Española in late March. Mass arrivals and fantastic courtship displays make April perhaps the best month to see the waved albatross.
Diving in the Galapagos is said to be best from June to November, with more marine life to be seen then, though divers have to suffer rougher and cooler sea conditions at this time of year. The huge whale sharks are found near Wolf and Darwin islands only from around June to November. However, there are more hammerhead sharks about in the warm season than the cool. Note that diving conditions in the islands make them suitable for experienced divers only and that the best diving, out off Wolf and Darwin islands, requires a long trip and no chance to land on the islands.
Tourists with an interest in the volcanic origins of the Galapagos Islands, the fascinating lava flows and other geological features may prefer to visit in the cool dry season when conditions are more pleasant for hiking.
Discover the incredibly diverse life endemic to the Galapagos Islands with Bamba Experience: