Emily with Sea Lions, Isla Mosquera, Galápagos

Going Solo in the Galapagos Islands

While planning your Galapagos vacation, you undoubtedly have read many tips for families and honeymooning couples. But you, you will be journeying there alone.

Whether you decide to see the Galapagos with a multi-day cruise or on your own with land-based tourism, here are a few tips to get you on your way.

  • On multi-day Galapagos cruises, single rooms are usually scarce. Be sure to check whether there is a surcharge for staying as a single aboard, or whether you will be sharing a cabin with another solo traveler. In the latter case the cruise operator will match you with a cabin-mate of the same gender.
  • A smaller yacht or catamaran will allow you to mingle more with the other passengers.
  • In the low season, solo travelers will find it easier to get a last-minute spot on a cruise than a couple or family group.
  • Land-based tourism can offer you more freedom on when and where to go – thus allowing you to avoid groups of people and enjoy the islands’ pristine nature alone.
  • Many of the attractions on Santa Cruz, San Cristóbal and Isabela islands are easy and safe to do on your own, and do not require a guide.
  • Choose to stay at smaller hotels. You may meet other travelers with whom you can share a taxi for a private tour to the Highlands or Garrapatero Beach on Santa Cruz Island, or to Puerto Chino on San Cristóbal – or to take advantage of the 2-for-1 day tour specials often offered in the low season.
  • Without a traveling companion, it’ll be much easier for you to meet the local Galapagos residents and get an inside view of island life.

The Galapagos Islands are one of the most tranquil and safest places for solo travelers. It is a perfect destination if you are looking for deep chill time or to meet new faces. Going there solo will provide innumerable adventures to tell your family and friends.

 

Galapagos Travel Planner - FREE Download

Photo credit: Paul Krawczuk

Common Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) – Galapagos

The Best Time to Take a Galapagos Vacation

No matter if you are a solo traveler, a couple, honeymooners, a family or retired, we all have the same question when planning our dream Galapagos vacation: When is the best time to go?

A number of factors should be considered in deciding the when to go to the Galapagos Islands, such as high versus low season, budget, climate and sea conditions.

High Season versus Low Season

Unlike other parts of the world, in the Galapagos Islands the weather has very little to do when the high and low seasons are. Rather, they are very closely tied to when humans take their vacations.

One of the biggest – and longest – high seasons is from June through August, corresponding with summer vacation of not only visitors from the Northern Hemisphere, but also of Ecuadorians from the Andean Highlands. During these months, children are off from school, making it easier for families to head out to the Enchanted Isles.

Other high seasons are Christmas-New Years, Carnival (February/March) and Easter Week (March/April) holidays.

During the high season, there will be many more tourists visiting the Galapagos. Also, air fares, hotel rooms and other prices are higher.

The low season brings not only lower prices all around, but also the possibility to book a Galapagos cruise at the last moment (which is especially helpful to solo travelers). Additionally, some companies offer two-for-one specials or discounts on Galapagos tours.

If you can, be flexible about when you take your vacation. And families, you may be able to vacation outside of the high season and during your children’s school year by talking with the teacher: perhaps your child can take a few weeks off from their studies in exchange for doing a presentation to their classmates about the enchantments of the Galapagos Islands.

Budget

For some travelers, the higher prices during the Galapagos high season may present a problem.

Again, be flexible with your vacation and go during the low season if you can. You can easily save several hundred dollars.

Older travelers, if you are going to be relocating to Ecuador, wait to go to the Galapagos Islands until after you have your residency. With your cédula (national identification card), you will qualify for lower Ecuadorian air fares and national park entry fees.

Climate

Like other tropical countries, the Galapagos Islands have two distinct seasons: hot and sultry, and rainy.

From December to April, temperatures can reach 31°C (88°F) during the day, especially in March and April. The sun is strong, humidity high and barely a breeze.

Cooler weather prevails from June to October, with temperatures ranging from 18 to 26ºC (64-76ºF). Evenings are cool. Garúa, a fine, drizzling mist, is common in the morning and evening. Also you can expect afternoon showers. During this rainy season, the Highlands on each of the islands get quite muddy. This will make hiking to see giant tortoises in their native habitat a bit more of a challenge.

May and November are dryer months with less extreme temperatures.

Sea Conditions

When is the best time to take a Galapagos cruise? The sea conditions may affect your decision.

If you have a tendency to seasickness you might want to avoid July through September when the seas are rougher. In August, currents are strong and waves high, especially along south and west-facing shores. If you take a Galapagos cruise during these months and are susceptible to seasickness, choose a larger ship. These are more stable and thus make seasickness less likely. Also, toss some remedy in your luggage to have on hand. As an alternative, you can opt for land-based tours.

If you have mobility difficulties, be forewarned that in March the northern winds make for challenging landings, particularly at Bartholomew, Gardner Bay, North Seymour and Puerto Egas (Santiago Island).

The seas are clearest and warmest from December to April, making for great snorkeling and scuba diving. During the rainy season (June-October), water temperatures are cold enough to necessitate using a wetsuit, especially for snorkeling and scuba diving.

A special treat on Galapagos cruises is seeing dolphins, whales and other sea mammals during their migration through the islands in June-August and again in October-December.

Some of the larger ships also offer special Galapagos cruises packages for honeymooners and activities especially tailored to children. Browse through Galapagos Travel Planner’s cruise tour listings to find the perfect ship to sail you across these beguiling seas.

 

Check out our special articles with dozens more tips for families, honeymooners and older travelers.

And browse through Galapagos Travel Planner’s exclusive calendar for when you can catch the Galapagos Islands’ wildlife activities and human festivals (including marathons and triathlon).

 

Galapagos Travel Planner - FREE Download

Photo credit: Gregory “Slobirdr” Smith

5 Reasons to go to the Galapagos Islands

5 Reasons to Visit Galapagos in 2017

Are the Galapagos Islands still on your bucket list of places to go?

Why not make these volcanic isles 1,000 kilometers (650 miles) from Ecuador’s mainland and populated by unique animals, your dream destination in 2017?

Here are five reasons to come this year!

1. Lonesome George has come home!

Lonesome George (called Solitario Jorge in his homeland) has returned to the Galapagos Islands. He was the last giant tortoise of the Pinta Island species and became the icon for conservation in the Galapagos. When Lonesome George died without heirs in 2012, he was sent to New York to be preserved. He now resides in a climate-controlled chamber at the breeding center in Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz Island). Your tour will include a stop to visit him, or you can get there on your own.

2. Ruta de la Tortuga

Also awaiting you at the Fausto Llerena Breeding Center on Santa Cruz Island is a new route, the Ruta de la Tortuga. It includes five stations explaining giant tortoise breeding, evolution, Charles Darwin, and the environmental importance of these gentle reptile giants. This will be a popular stop for both tours and independent travelers.

3. El Niño

El Niño affected much of the Pacific Ocean basin, including the Galapagos Islands, in 2015-2016. This climate phenomenon raises water temperatures, affecting rainfall amounts and food supplies for wildlife. In May 2016, sea temperatures began to drop, making food more abundant for marine iguanas and sea birds. In March of 2017, the Eastern Pacific (including the waters around the Galapagos Islands) has begun to warm again, leading scientists to believe there is a 50% chance another El Niño may develop by the end of 2017. If it does, you can expect warmer, wetter weather in the Galapagos, with clearer waters for snorkeling and scuba diving.

4. Dive with Sharks!

Is part of your Galapagos dream to dive with hammerhead and other sharks? A handful of yachts are authorized to offer live-aboard scuba expeditions to the far-flung islands of Darwin and Wolf, in the northwest corner of the Galapagos Marine Reserve. In March 2016, the Ecuadorian government declared a special marine reserve around these islands, to protect 38,000 square kilometers (15,000 square miles) where the world’s highest concentration of sharks can be found. The seas around Darwin and Wolf are home to over 34 species that include hammerhead, whale and Galapagos sharks.

5. Meeting the Galapagos Island’s Inhabitants

Each month offers different events in the Galapagos Islands. Perhaps you want to see the mating dances of the gigantic Waved Albatross – found only on Española Island – or of the humorous Blue-footed Boobies. Or maybe you’re more interested in spotting sharks, whales and dolphins migrating through the archipelago. If you’re a marathon runner and looking for an enchanting place to win a prize, the three major islands offer competitions throughout the year. You can use Galapagos Travel Planner’s calendar to plan precisely when you come to the Galapagos.

 

So, start making your plans for visiting the enchanting Galapagos Islands in 2017. It is sure to be the Trip of a Lifetime!

 

Galapagos Travel Planner - FREE Download

Photo credit: Lucy Rickards

Albatross courting 1

Galapagos Islands: What Happens in April

The rains in the Galapagos Islands begin to subside, leaving behind a lush, emerald landscape (especially in the Highlands). The sun is strong and the waters are warm, with great visibility for snorkeling. April is definitely one of the best times to visit these tropical isles.

On Land

  • Marine iguanas are nesting.
  • On Isabela Island and elsewhere in the archipelago, new-born land iguanas are emerging from their shells.
  • In the wild, it is the end of the giant tortoise hatching season.

At Sea

  • Green sea turtle eggs are also hatching on Galapagos beaches. Be sure to follow all special instructions about staying away from their nesting areas.

In the Air

  • Waved Albatross arrive en masse to Española Island, and begin their mating and nesting rituals.
  • Over on San Cristobal and Genovesa (Tower) islands, Great Frigatebirds are also reproducing, with the males inflating their crimson throat pouches.
  • On North Seymour Island, Blue-footed Boobies are performing their courtship dances.

Humans

  • Some years, Easter (Semana Santa) is observed in April. (Click here to see future dates of Semana Santa, which runs from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday.)
  • Galapagos is a popular destination for vacationing Ecuadorians during both of this holiday. Expect higher prices and many more people checking out Galapagos’ wonders.
  • Outside of this holiday time, it is the low season in these Islands, which means you can find some great deals on tours and cruises.
  • If you are into running, join in the Sierra Negra Volcano marathon and half-marathon on Isabela Island, held in mid-April.

Climate
April is summertime in the Galapagos Islands. Days are hot with strong sun tempered by sporadic showers, and evenings pleasantly are cool.

  • It’s comfortably warm in the Galapagos during April, with temperatures reaching daytime highs of 31ºC (88ºF) and dropping to 22ºC (72ºF) at night.
  • The Highlands receive nearly 4 centimeters (1.5 inches) of rain during April.
  • Despite the rain, there will be over seven hours of strong sunshine per day. (Be sure to use sun protection!)
  • The sea is warm (25ºC / 77ºF) and clear, making terrific scuba diving and snorkeling.

Have you visited the Galapagos islands in April? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Galapagos Travel Planner - FREE Download

Photo credit: captjmh