Famous as the main place where Charles Darwin got his world-changing insights on natural selection during his voyage on the Beagle, the Galapagos Islands are among the world’s greatest island destinations. We’ve answered several frequently asked questions in this previous blog post, so now, we’ll dive into the best times to cruise to the Galapagos.
Galapagos Islands Climate
Everyone who does some research on the best times to cruise to the Galapagos will find that there is no single “best” time to visit the archipelago. That doesn’t mean that the weather and conditions are stable throughout the year, though. Unlike other equatorial regions, mostly on the continents, the Galapagos lie far removed from any mainland—more than 900 kilometers, in fact, from continental Ecuador. This results in rather significant, changing seasonal weather patterns.
Its position on the equator does give it a constant day length throughout the year, but that’s basically the only thing that stays the same. Located in the Pacific Ocean, the islands lie in the path of the Humboldt Current, which brings in cold water during certain months. This affects the above-surface weather, too, as well as the behavior (and even presence) of many animals. Other conditions like underwater visibility are also greatly influenced by those seasonal currents.
Something else to consider when deciding on when to visit the Galapagos is the volume of tourists. Like many other island cruise destinations, such as Hawaii and the Caribbean, there are certain times in the year when visitor numbers increase significantly. This, too, applies to the Galapagos, which see a spike in visitors from June through August.
With that knowledge, we have come up with the four best times to cruise to the Galapagos.
Best Times to Cruise to the Galapagos Islands
December – January
The start of the New Year also means the kick-off of the warm season in the Galapagos. Temperatures increase noticeable throughout December and January, while the chance of rain rises slightly as well. You can expect some drizzle pretty much every day this time of year, but there will also be plenty of sunshine to let you dry up.
The highlight of this particular time period are the green turtles that come on land to lay their eggs. Note that Christmas and New Year’s weeks tend to be very popular, so you might want to plan your visit in early-December or later in January.
February – April
February through April is the hottest part of the year in the Galapagos. These are also the wettest months, although total rainfall decreases as the season progresses. The warm weather combined with a lack of cooling winds might make this an uncomfortable time of year for some people. Visitor numbers drop significantly this time of year (with the only exception being the week of Easter).
If you’d like to go diving in the Galapagos, this is not when you want to go. Visibility under water is very poor. However, on land, there’s plenty of activity going on. This is wildflower season on the islands as well as the mating season for Galapagos tortoises and various land birds, including the Darwin finches.
May – June
Most experts agree that May is the absolute best time to cruise to the Galapagos. This is when the rains subside. Air temperatures drop to comfortable levels, but the water remains warm. May is a great month for beach enthusiasts, in other words.
By May, several sea and land birds will be courting, breeding and/or nesting. A major highlight this time of year is the courtship dance of blue-footed boobies. Other animals that are thinking about reproducing are frigate birds, flightless cormorants, Galapagos penguins and greater flamingos. Additionally, this is also the hatching season for marine iguanas.
September – October
After the bustling summer season, things calm down in the Galapagos in September and into October. By now, the Humboldt Current has brought in cooler, nutrient-rich water, which in turn attracts huge numbers of marine life. This is the coolest time of the year, also characterized by daily drizzles and the “garua”, mist banks that hang over the islands’ hilltops.
What makes this one of the best times to cruise to the Galapagos, however, is its amazingly clear water. This is the best season for snorkeling and diving. You’ll most likely need a wetsuit! Jump into the water and look for all kinds of animals, from Galapagos penguins and Galapagos fur seals to California sea lions, sea turtles, a few species of ray and white-tipped reef sharks.