Visitors come from all over the world to witness the unique offerings of the incredible Galapagos archipelago. The wildlife spread through these islands is unrivaled, with vast quantities of endemic species such as the marine iguana and Galapagos penguin to Galapagos tortoises and playful Galapagos sea lions that are all unafraid of humans. The toughest part about visiting the Galapagos Islands is choosing where to go and when to see the wildlife you care most about; although keep in mind, no island or time of year disappoints as animals are active year-round. Use this Galapagos by Month guide to help you find out the best time for you to reach these wild islands.
January in Galapagos
- Beginning of the rainy season
- Land birds start nesting, generally after the first rain
- On Española Island adult marine iguanas become brightly colored (green & red + black)
- The green sea turtles arrive to beaches for egg laying period
- Land iguanas begin reproductive cycles on Isabela Island
- Both water and air temperatures rise and stay warm until June
- Ideal time for snorkeling
February in Galapagos
- On Floreana Island greater flamingos start nesting
- Bahama pintail ducks (Black-tailed pintail) start their breeding season
- Nazca (masked) boobies on Española Island are at the end of their nesting season
- Marine iguanas nest on Santa Cruz Island
- The highest water temperature reaches 25C (77F). This temperature remains constant until April
- Very few penguins are sighted at Bartolome Island (most have followed the cool waters back to the west or near upwelling areas)
- Nesting season of the Galapagos dove reaches its peak
March in Galapagos
- The rainy season reaches the highest precipitation (this does not mean it rains everyday)
- Sporadic tropical rains, intense sun and hot climate. Air temperature can reach up to 30C (86F). Humidity is high
- Marine iguanas nest on Fernandina
- March 21st, the beginning of the summer equinox, signals the arrival of the waved albatross to Española.
- Even the western islands have warm waters where snorkeling is excellent. Punta Vicente Roca near Isabela Island can be an amazing site. Penguins still active in the water, next to tropical fish!
- Due to warmer water temperatures, snorkelers may remain longer periods of time in the water
- Some shores, specially those facing the north side, can receive deep surge (ola de fondo) coming from the northern currents. Wet landings at places like Puerto Egas, Gardner Bay, Bartolome can sometimes be a challenge
April in Galapagos
- Massive arrival of waved albatrosses to Española Island where the amazing courtship starts
- End of hatching season of the giant tortoises
- Eggs of green sea turtles begin to hatch
- Eggs of land iguanas hatch on Isabela Island
- While the rains have ended, the islands quite green still
- Good visibility in the water for snorkelers
- Perhaps, together with May, the best months in Galapagos (weather, animals, water temperature)
May in Galapagos
- North Seymour’s blue-footed boobies begin their courtship
- Sea turtles are still hatching on Gardner Bay, Punta Cormorant and Puerto Egas
- Most of marine iguanas’ eggs hatch from nests on Santa Cruz
- Palo santo trees begin to shed their foliage
- Waved albatross on Española start laying their eggs
- Ban-rumped storm petrels begin their first nesting period
- Perhaps, together with April, the best months in Galapagos (weather, animals, water temperature)
June in Galapagos
- Beginning of the garúa season
- Giant tortoises on Santa Cruz Island migrate from the highlands to the lowlands in search of suitable nesting places
- Beginning of the nesting season of giant tortoises
- Southeast tradewinds return. Currents become a bit stronger
- Seas pick up in surge and wave action
- The male magnificent frigatebirds on North Seymour start flaunting their red pouches
- Southern migrant birds have started their journey toward the north and Galapagos is a rest stop for such birds. Some species of whales and dolphins also follow this pattern of migration.
- Some groups of humpback whales that migrate up to equatorial latitudes along the coast of Ecuador can reach the Galapagos
The male magnificent frigatebirds on North Seymour start flaunting their red pouches in June.
July in Galapagos
- Sea bird communities are very active (breeding), specially the blue-footed boobies on Española Island. 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 until November
- Cetaceans (whales & dolphins) are more likely to be observed, specially off the western coast of Isabela Island
- Great month to see the four stages of nesting in blue-footed boobies: eggs, chicks, juveniles and subadults
- Water temperature does not reach more than 21C (68F)
August in Galapagos
- Galapagos hawks court on Española and Santiago
- Nazca (masked) boobies and swallow-tailed gulls nest on Genovesa Island
- The temperature of the ocean drops to 18C (64F), varying according to the geographic zones among the islands
- 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 the strongest levels, surge can be expected along the shores that face west or south
- The main pupping season (births) of sea lions has started (although pups may be seen throughout the year). Western and central islands are common places for such sightings.
September in Galapagos
- Peak of the cold (garúa) season
- The air temperature reaches its lowest levels (19C-66F)
- Galapagos penguins show remarkable activity on Bartolome Island. Since May swimmers and snorkelers can be delighted at Bartolome with penguins active at the surface or torpedo-like while underwater.
- Sea lions are very active. Females have reached estrus stage, and so harem-gathering males are constantly barking and fighting. Pups still being born.
- Shore fighting by sea lions is heavy. Western and central islands are the most active islands for this
- Most species of sea birds remain quite active at their nesting sites
In September, active penguins delight swimmers and snorkelers at Bartolome Island with penguins swimming like torpedos through the water.
October in Galapagos
- Lava herons start nesting until March
- The Galapagos fur seals begin their mating period
- Blue-footed boobies raise chicks all over Española and Punta Vicente Roca (Isabela)
- Giant tortoises are still laying eggs
- Days are not always sunny. Garúa can be expected in most locations, except the western islands where most days have a misty start but after few hours of daylight it burns off
- Sunrises in the west can be quite beautiful as the garúa covers only certain locations of the western volcanoes. Summits are clear, but low-lying fog covers the shoreline
- Pupping of sea lions continue
November in Galapagos
- Sea lions are sexually active on the eastern part of the archipelago
- Breeding season for the brown noddies
- 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 at the shores of the Flour Beach at Floreana
- Band-rumped storm petrels begin their second nesting period
- Seas are calm as southeast tradewinds have decreased strength allowing the water temperatures to slowly rise
- Generally great weather due to transition between one season and the next one
- Good water visibility for snorkeling
- Sea lion pups (specially at Champion Islet) play aqua-aerobics next to snorkelers. Most pups here are curious enough to nibble at fins of snorkelers. The average age of most pups is 3-4 months.
December in Galapagos
- Hatching of giant tortoise eggs begins and lasts until April
- Green sea turtles display their mating behavior
- The rainy season begins; all of the plants of the dry zone produce leaves. Galapagos becomes “green”
- The first young waved albatrosses fledge
- Great weather
This Galapagos guide to the seasons is among AdventureSmith Explorations’ extensive collection of travel guides. Find more on the AdventureSmith Travel Blog, or visit our collection of Galapagos Travel Guides for even more resources to plan your Galapagos Island trip. While originally published in 2013, this post has since been updated by our team of experts; our most recent update occurred July 2020.