When is the best time to visit the Galapagos?
The Galapagos is a “twelve month” destination: there is always something going on and it’s good to visit at all seasons.
Broadly speaking there are two seasons: the warmest is between December to May when the sky is always clear and the sun shines strongly. June to November is cooler but the visibility under water is slightly better, so this is the prime season for Scuba divers.
Galapagos Dry Season
From June to November the southern trade winds bring the cold Humboldt Current from Antarctica to the Galapagos, making the water cooler and creating a layer of high atmospheric mist. The effect is that the highlands of the larger islands stay green and lush while the sea level islands and shorelines are dry. This season is known for its blue skies and light mid-day showers in the highlands.
During this season you will see a large variety of bird and animal species, including giant tortoises, humpback whales, blue-footed boobies, cormorants, oyster catchers, lava lizards, Galapagos hawks, masked boobies, swallow-tailed gulls, sea lions, lava herons, brown noddies and penguins.
Galapagos Warm Season
Between December and May the climate is more tropical with daily rain and cloudier skies. The ocean temperature is warmer and marginally better for swimming and diving.
During this season you will see marine iguanas, sea turtle, land iguanas, flamingos, white-cheeked pintails, masked boobies, albatross and blue-footed boobies.
Galapagos Weather for Divers
The Humboldt Current’s influence brings colder waters from July to December. The “El Niño” current may bring warm waters to the Galapagos and will make the surface warmer and rainfall increase (January to June in certain years only).
The water temperature varies during the year
January to June: from 70°F (21°C) to 80°F (27°C)
July to December: from 65°F (18°C) to 75°F (23°C)
Galapagos Weather in January
Land birds start nesting, generally after the first showers. On Hood (Espanola) Island, adult marine iguanas become brightly coloured (green, red & black). Green sea turtles arrive to lay their eggs. Land iguanas begin reproductive cycles on Isabela Island. Both water and air temperatures rise and stay warm until June. Ideal time for snorkelling
Galapagos Weather in February
On Floreana Island greater flamingos start nesting. Bahama pintail ducks (Black-tailed pintail) start breeding. Nazca (masked) Boobies on Hood are at the end of their nesting season. Marine iguanas nest on Santa Cruz Island. Water temperature peak at 25°C (77°F) and stay there till April. Very few penguin sightings at Bartolome Island (most have followed the cool waters back to the west or near upwelling areas). Galapagos dove reaches its peak nesting season.
Galapagos Weather in March
Sporadic tropical rain and intense sun; air temperature can reach up to 30°C (86°F). Humidity is high.
Marine iguanas nest on Fernandina. March 21st, the summer equinox, signals the arrival of the waved albatross to Espaniola. Snorkelling is excellent. Punta Vicente Roca (Isabela) can be an amazing site with penguins swimming next to tropical fish! Snorkelers can remain in the water for long periods.
Galapagos Weather in April
Large numbers of waved albatrosses arrive at Espanola and their amazing courtship starts. End of hatching season for the giant tortoises. Green sea turtle eggs begin to hatch. Land iguana eggs hatch on Isabela. There is no precipitation but the islands remain quite green. Good visibility in the water for snorkelers/divers. Perhaps, together with May, this is the best month to be in the Galapagos (considering the weather, animals and water temperature).
Galapagos Weather in May
North Seymour’s Blue Footed Boobies begin their courtship. Sea turtles are still hatching in Gardner Bay, Punta Cormorant, and Puerto Egas, Santiago Island. Most of the marine iguana eggs hatch from nests on Santa Cruz. Palo santo trees begin to shed their foliage. Waved albatross on Espanola start laying their eggs. Band-rumped storm petrels begin their first nesting period.
Galapagos Weather in June
Beginning of the “Garua” (misty) season. Giant tortoises on Santa Cruz Island migrate from the highlands to the lowlands in search of suitable nesting places. Southeast trade winds return and currents become a bit stronger; the seas pick up in surge and wave action. The male Magnificent Frigate birds on North Seymour develop the large, red neck-pouch. Migrant birds from Southern climes use the Galapagos as a rest stop during their journey to North America. Some species of cetaceans also follow this pattern of migration including groups of Humpback whales migrating up to equatorial latitudes along the coast of Ecuador.
Galapagos Weather in July
Sea bird communities are active (breeding) especially the Blue Footed Boobies on Espanola. Flightless cormorants perform beautiful courtship rituals and nesting activities on Fernandina.
If you walk along the shores of Puerto Egas (Santiago Island) you could find American oystercatchers nesting. Lava lizards initiate mating rituals between July and November. Cetaceans (whales & dolphins) are more likely to be seen, especially off the western coast of Isabela. Great month to see the four stages of nesting in Blue Footed Boobies: eggs, chicks, juveniles and sub-adults. Water temperature is around 21°C (68°F)
Galapagos Weather in August
Galapagos hawks court on Espanola and Santiago. Nazca (masked) Boobies and Swallow-tailed gulls nest on Genovesa Island. The temperature of the ocean drops to 18°C (64°F). Migrant shore birds start to arrive and stay on the islands until March. Giant tortoises return to the highlands of Santa Cruz. Oceans are quite choppy, currents at their strongest, surge can be expected along the shores that face west or south. Sea lion pupping begins throughout the islands, particularly on western and central islands.
Galapagos Weather in September
Peak of the garua season: air temperature reaches their lowest levels (19°C or 66°F). Galapagos Penguins show lively activity on Bartolome: active at the surface and torpedo-like underwater.
Sea lions are active because females are in oestrus and harem-gathering males are constantly barking and fighting, particularly on western and central islands. Most species of sea birds remain quite active at their nesting sites.
Galapagos Weather in October
Lava herons start nesting from now until March. The Galapagos Fur Seals begin mating. Blue Footed Boobies raise chicks all over Espanola and Punta Vicente Roca (Isabela). Giant tortoises are laying eggs. Days are not always sunny. Garua can be expected in most locations except the western islands which begin the day misty but it burns off by mid-morning. Sunrises in the west can be quite beautiful. Volcano summits are clear but low-lying fog covers the shoreline.
Galapagos Weather in November
Sea lion pupping climaxes. Breeding season for the brown noddies. Beginning of the giant tortoises’ nesting season. Southeast trade winds return and currents become a bit stronger. Seas pick up in surge and wave action. Some species of jellyfish can be seen around the islands; the genus Physalia is commonly seen floating around Gardner and Tortuga Islets. Some can also be seen stranded on the shores of the Flour Beach at Floreana. Band-rumped storm petrels begin their second nesting period. At the end of the month seas are calmer. Southeast trade winds have decreased; water temperatures are slowly rising. Generally great weather due to transition between seasons.
Good visibility for snorkelers. Sea lion pups (especially at Champion Islet) play aqua-aerobics next to snorkelers. Most pups (3 to 4 months old) are curious enough to nibble at fins of snorkelers.
Galapagos Weather in December
Giant tortoise eggs begin hatching between now and April. Green sea turtles display their mating behaviour. There is more precipitation and plants of the dry zone produce leaves. Galapagos becomes “green”. The first young waved albatrosses fledge. Hardly any wind from the south east. Waters continue to warm up. Western islands remain very dry. First red pouches of Great frigate birds seen at Genovesa. Migrant birds from the north begin their journey south, using the Galapagos as a rest stop. Some species of Cetaceans, such as the Humpbacks also follow this pattern of migration.