When to Visit the Galápagos Islands

By Dave

When to Visit the Galapagos Islands:

Red-Footed Booby

Visiting the Galápagos Islands is the trip of a lifetime, so try to visit at the best time of year for you and your interests. Practically speaking, when you visit will likely be influenced by other factors like when you can get your boss to okay enough vacation time or when the kids are out of school. I can’t help you with that. What I can help you with is my understanding of the pro’s and con’s of visiting the Galápagos at different times of year, based on researching for my own travels there and talking to local residents and tour operators. Lucky for you, the Ecuadorian archipelago makes things easy by having essentially two seasons with the following advantages and disadvantages:

Season Advantages Disadvantages
June-December (dry/cool)
  • Less visitors
  • Less bugs
  • Waved albatross mating (April-Dec.)
  • Less wildlife activity and vegetation
  • Rougher seas from Sept.-Nov.
January-May (wet/hot)
  • More wildlife / activity
  • Lusher vegetation
  • Breeding season for finches, mockingbirds and other songbirds
  • Calmer seas
  • High season
  • Hotter
  • More bugs
  • No waved albatross until late April (usually)

Climate Patterns in the Galápagos Islands:

Frigatebird (Great or Magnificent? I can’t tell the difference. Can you?)

These patterns change during El Niño (warmer / wetter) and La Niña (colder / drier) years. Generally speaking, El Niño is bad for marine animals – and therefore chances of observing them – because life at the base of the food chain (algae, plankton, and certain fish) dies off in the warmer water and reduces overall marine life. For example, More rainfall also means higher water levels and possibly rougher waves. On the other hand, it’s good for animals and plants on land because of the increased precipitation. The reverse is true during La Niña years. The latest El Niño began in 2015, so some of the decreases in wildlife populations may have started to be observed only recently, as it takes time the impact of starvation to become noticeable.

If seasickness is a substantial consideration, note that the Humboldt Current typically begins to shift in late August / early September and causes generally rougher seas from September through November. This affects not only cruises but also land-based travelers because you’ll have to take small boats (where the effects of strong seas are more keenly felt) from island to island, which lasts for a couple of hours at a time, as well as to your day-trip destinations.

For greater detail about nature’s highlights during each month in the Galapagos, check out this calendar.

Now that you have a better idea of when you want to visit the Galapagos Islands, read more here about how you want to visit the Galápagos Islands.

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