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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Photo credit: Gregory “Slobirdr” Smith