Sea lion poses in front of black lava rocks in a retreating wave with its head tilted.

The best time to visit the Galapagos Islands is from December to May if you want sunny weather and smooth sailing. However, June to November is the best time to see blue-footed booby mating displays and migrating whales. This can make deciding when to visit the Galapagos seem a bit challenging. The islands are without a doubt a year-round destination, but the draw to visit varies from month to month. This guide to the archipelago’s weather and animals will do the heavy lifting for you, no matter how you envision your dream Galapagos Islands vacation. 

*Cover photo by Amy Perez on Unsplash.

Galapagos weather

A view from red rocks and green shubery of Rabida Island of a Galapagos cruise ship in a bright blue bay.
A cruise sits in a bay of Rábida Island on a bright sunny day. Photo by Gonzo1887 on Pixabay.

Warm season: December to May

The warm season in the Galapagos Islands starts in December and transitions in May. Temperatures are balmy and days are often sunny. If pairing the Galapagos with Machu Picchu, this is the best time of year to visit. Winds tend to be a mild breeze. Rain is generally infrequent this time of year. However, when it does rain, it tends to be much heavier than during the cool season. Overall, this leads to higher average rainfall.

Air temperatures

Daytime: 79°-88°F (26°-31°C) 

Nighttime: 72°-75°F (22°-24°C)

Ocean conditions

Although never completely calm, the warm season is when the sea around the archipelago is at its smoothest. This is perhaps the best time to go on a cruise since you will avoid severe seasickness. The El Niño Current passes through the islands during these months, which warms up the waters. A wetsuit is still recommended when out in deep water. If snorkeling along the shore, in bays, or shallow reefs, a wetsuit isn’t necessary.

Water temperatures

Average: 70°-80°F (21°-26.5°C)

Cool season: June to November

A woman walks along a stone path on San Cristobal Island with drizzly weather.
A tourist walks along a path to El Junco lagoon on San Cristobal Island on a misty day. Photo by Amy Perez on Unsplash.

The cool season in the Galapagos is between the months of June and November. Temperatures drop during this time, especially at night. Compared to the warm season, it is much windier this time of year. However, since the islands fall on the equator, it is still pretty warm. Also, there is more frequent drizzly weather, known locally as garúa.

Air temperatures

Daytime: 79°-82°F (26°-28°C)

Nighttime: 66°-70°F (19°-21°C)

Ocean conditions

As the wind picks up around the Galapagos archipelago, the seas become choppier during the cool season. The chilly Humboldt and Cromwell Currents bring the ocean temperature around the islands down (while increasing nutrients in the water). A wetsuit is recommended for deep water snorkeling and diving and sometimes recommended in shallow water depending on weather conditions.

Water temperatures

Average: 65°-75°F (18°-24°C)

Best time to visit

One may be tempted to plan their Galapagos trip around the time of year with the best weather. Others may be drawn to see baby sea turtles hatch or blue-footed boobies perform mating displays. The major factor when planning a trip to the Galapagos is what you want to see.

The main attraction of the islands is, of course, the incredibly diverse and unique flora and fauna. First, you should decide which animals or plant species you would like to see during your trip. For example, blue-footed boobies and frigatebirds more commonly perform their mating displays during the cool season. Many whale and dolphin species also migrate through the islands during this time. Conversely, many bird species are nesting during the last few months of the warm season. (See our list below of animal events by month).

A pair of white Nazca boobies with black-edged wings incubate their egg on a Galapagos beach.
A pair of Nazca boobies nest on a Galapagos beach. Photo by Maribell Mormontoy for Inca Expert Travel.

After deciding which creatures you want to see and finding the best time to see them, you can narrow down your dates further with your preferred weather and sea conditions. If you don’t mind risking heavy rains for a chance of mostly sunny skies and smoother seas, plan for the warm season. If a little mist and choppy waters won’t deter you from seeing your favorite animal events, you can visit during the cool season. (See month-by-month Galapagos weather patterns below).

When to start planning

Visiting the Galapagos Islands is a dream for so many travelers and often sits high on their bucket list. In order to maintain the pristine ecosystem, visitor numbers are highly regulated, meaning you should give yourself a full year to plan. It’s also worth getting an early start to planning your trip in order to get your preferred accommodations and experiences.

Although the Galapagos is a year-round tourist destination, its high season is from June to August. There is also a spike in the number of visitors for the Christmas and New Year’s holiday season. During this time, cruises and top-ranked hotels can sell out over a year in advance. For this reason, if you are planning a summer vacation or holiday trip, you should consider planning one to two years ahead of time.

Even if you plan to visit during the low season, you should still plan relatively early. Galapagos cruises, which are limited in size and number, should be booked 6 months to a year in advance. Hotels should be booked at least 6 months out.

A cloudy day looking out at a burst of water on the rocky coast of Espanola Island with a preening Nazca booby.
A burst of water on the shores of Española Island with clouds hanging low in the sky. Photo by vincecroos on Pixabay.

Animal events month by month

January
  • Marine iguana mating season begins. Male iguanas turn bright colors to attract a mate.
  • Green sea turtles begin to come ashore to lay eggs.
  • Giant tortoises are hatching.
  • Galapagos penguins are nesting.
February
  • Male marine iguanas continue to display bright colors for mating season.
  • Giant tortoises are hatching.
  • Greater flamingos begin nesting.
  • Penguins migrate to Isabela and Fernandina.
March
  • Male marine iguanas continue to display bright colors for mating season.
  • Marine iguanas begin to lay eggs.
  • Giant tortoises are hatching.
  • Frigatebirds begin laying eggs.
April
  • The main hatching season for giant tortoises ends.
  • Albatross migrate to the islands en masse.
  • Green sea turtles begin to hatch.
  • Female Galapagos sharks move to shallow waters to give birth.
  • Flightless cormorants are nesting.
May
  • Female Galapagos sharks move to shallow waters to give birth.
  • Flightless cormorants are nesting.
  • Marine iguanas begin to hatch.
  • Galapagos penguins are nesting.
A humpback whale breaches on a sunny day with its back arched towards the deep blue ocean.
A humpback whale breaches off of Santa Cruz Islands, Galapagos. Photo by Bryan Thompson on Unsplash.
June
  • Flightless cormorants are nesting.
  • Galapagos penguins are nesting.
  • Giant tortoises begin to lay eggs.
  • Blue-footed boobies begin the year’s principal mating season. Males dance to display their brightly-colored feet.
  • Frigatebirds begin their mating season. Males inflate their red gular pouch to attract a mate.
  • Orcas, spotted dolphins, Fraser’s dolphins, pilot whales, and striped dolphins migrate through the islands.
  • The sea-purslanes on South Plaza Island turn bright red, orange, and purple.
July
  • Flightless cormorants are nesting.
  • Galapagos penguins are nesting.
  • Male blue-footed boobies are likely to be performing courtship dances.
  • Male frigatebirds court females by inflating their red gular pouch.
  • Orcas, spotted dolphins, Fraser’s dolphins, pilot whales, and striped dolphins migrate through the islands.
  • The sea-purslanes on South Plaza Island are bright red, orange, and purple.
  • The California sea lion breeding season begins.
August
  • Flightless cormorants are nesting.
  • Galapagos penguins are nesting.
  • Male blue-footed boobies are likely to be performing courtship dances.
  • Male frigatebirds court females by inflating their red gular pouch.
  • Orcas, spotted dolphins, Fraser’s dolphins, pilot whales, and striped dolphins migrate through the islands.
  • The sea-purslanes on South Plaza Island are bright red, orange, and purple.
  • Galapagos hawks begin their mating season.
  • Baby California sea lions conceived the year before are born.
September
A frigatebird sits in bramble as it inflates its bright red gular pouch with its black wings puffed up.
A frigatebird inflates his red gular in an attempt to attract a mate. Photo by Apouf on Pixabay.
  • Flightless cormorants are nesting.
  • Galapagos penguins are nesting.
  • Male blue-footed boobies are likely to be performing courtship dances.
  • Male frigatebirds court females by inflating their red gular pouch.
  • Orcas, spotted dolphins, Fraser’s dolphins, pilot whales, and striped dolphins migrate through the islands.
  • The sea-purslanes on South Plaza Island are bright red, orange, and purple.
  • Penguins begin mating displays on Bartolome Island.
  • Humpback whales and sharks migrate to the northwestern islands.
October
  • Flightless cormorants are nesting.
  • Galapagos penguins are nesting.
  • Blue-footed boobies have hatched on Isabela and Española Islands.
  • Male frigatebirds court females by inflating their red gular pouch.
  • Orcas, spotted dolphins, Fraser’s dolphins, pilot whales, and striped dolphins migrate through the islands.
  • The sea-purslanes on South Plaza Island are bright red, orange, and purple.
  • Breeding season begins for Galapagos fur seals.
An adult blue-footed booby stands on a rock and looks down at its white, fluffy baby.
A blue-footed booby feeds its down-covered young. Photo by pen_ash on Pixabay.
November
  • Galapagos penguins are nesting.
  • Male frigatebirds court females by inflating their red gular pouch.
  • The sea-purslanes on South Plaza Island are bright red, orange, and purple.
  • Green sea turtles begin mating.
  • Baby sea lions are abundant.
A sea lion puppy stands on a white sandy beach looking past the camera with its large, round eyes.
An adorable baby sea lion poses for the camera. Image: Sea Lion Pup by Dag Peak, used under CC BY 2.0 / Compressed from original
December 
  • Galapagos penguins are nesting.
  • The sea-purslanes on South Plaza Island are bright red, orange, and purple.
  • Giant tortoises begin to hatch.
  • Baby albatross hatch and fledge.

Galapagos Weather by Month

January

The warm, wet season really gets going in January. Air temperatures are close to their peak, with an average daytime temperature of 86°F (30°C) and low of 72°F (22°C). The ocean is about 76°F (24.5°C). Rainfall increases significantly from the end of the year to 2.4 in (61 mm). 

February

February’s air temperatures continue to rise, reaching 86°F (30°C) during the day and 75°F (24°C) at night. The ocean reaches its warmest temperature during this month at 77°F (25°C). Rainfall continues to rise, averaging 4.6 in (117 mm). In fact, this is the wettest month of the year. However, rain during the warm season often comes in relatively short but heavy bursts, whereas the cool season experiences frequent but light drizzles.

March

March is one of the warmest months of the year in the Galapagos Islands. The average daytime temperature is 88°F (31°C) while the average evening temperature is a comfortable 75°F (24°C). The ocean is still at its warmest, averaging 77°F (25°C). March is the second wettest month with 4 in (102 mm) of rainfall.

April

The weather in the Galapagos continues to be balmy in April, keeping the same averages as March with a high 88°F (31°C) and low 75°F (24°C). The ocean also remains around 77°F (25°C). Rainfall begins to dip as the cool, dry season approaches, averaging 1.5 in (38 mm).

May

As the last month of the warm season, May experiences a significant drop in average temperature. The average daytime temperature is 79°F (26°C) while the average nighttime temperature is 72°F (22°C). The ocean is about 76°F (24.5°C).  Average rainfall also drops to 0.75 in (19 mm).

June

Galapagos Island weather remains steady into June and onwards through the cool season. Average temperatures are a high of 79°F (26°C) and a low of 70°F (21°C). The ocean drops a few degrees to 73°F (23°C). There’s only slightly less rain, averaging 0.6 in (15 mm). Although there is a minute amount of precipitation throughout the month, this is delivered in a frequent drizzle known locally as garúa.

Four palm trees stand in the mist of the Galapagos highlands.
Garúa, what the locals call drizzly weather, hangs over the Galapagos highlands. Image: Misty Palms, Galápagos by Paul Krawczuk, used under CC BY 2.0 / Cropped and compressed from original
July

Daytime temperatures remain about the same in July with an average of 79°F (26°C). However, nights are chillier at 66°F (19°C). The ocean temperature, too, drops further to a refreshing 71°F (21.5°C). The average rainfall is the same as in June, 0.6 in (15 mm).

August

Galapagos weather in August continues with the same patterns from July with a high of 79°F (26°C) and a low of 66°F  (19°C). The ocean is at its chilliest, around 70°F (21°C). Rainfall, however, is at its lowest in August, averaging 0.25 in (6 mm). From here, the weather starts to turn as the warm season approaches.

September

Air temperatures remain the same in September, the daytime average being 79°F (26°C) and nighttime 66°F (19°C). Ocean temperatures begin to creep up this month, going back to about 71°F (21.5°C). Rainfall also increases to 0.5 in (13 mm) as the warm season approaches.

October

October sees rises in temperatures all around. The average day and night temperatures are 81°F (27°C) and 68°F (20°C), respectively. The ocean temperature creeps up to about 72°F (22°C). Rainfall remains constant from September at 0.5 in (13 mm).

November

Temperatures continue to slowly rise into November. The average high is a cozy 82°F (28°C) while the low is 70°F (21°C). The average temperature of the ocean is 73°F (23°C). Rainfall continues to be about 0.5 in (13 mm).

December 

December starts off the warm season with an average high of 84°F (29°C) and a low of 72°F (22°C). The water temperature goes up to 74°F (23.5°C). Although at the beginning of the warm, wet season, rainfall remains relatively low at a continued average of 0.5 in (13 mm).

Two scuba divers observe a large whale shark as the sun hits the surface of the water above.
A gigantic whale shark wows scuba divers.

As you can see, the Galapagos Islands always have something to offer travelers no matter the season. Nature is constantly moving in the archipelago. You can be confident that no matter when you travel to the Galapagos Islands, you’ll see the beauty and biodiversity that is sure to inspire. The best time to visit the Galapagos Islands is as soon as you can come! 

Let us help you with all of your Galapagos trip planning. One of our expert Travel Advisors will help make every detail of your dream trip to the Galapagos effortless.

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Written by Rachel
Family trips abroad gave Rachel an insatiable taste for foreign languages and cultures. She has spent the past few years living and exploring both touristy and off the beaten path destinations in Peru and Ecuador. Her favorite pastimes are hiking and eating local, veggie-friendly cuisine.