The Galapagos Islands experience two distinct seasons – the dry and the rainy – although the weather remains fairly temperate throughout the year. While the cool, dry season extends from July through to December, the hot, rainy season is from January through to June.
In reality, any time is a good time to visit the Galapagos Islands but the peak of tourists come between mid-December and mid-January or mid-June through to September. That being said, there are travel restrictions imposed by the Galapagos National Park Service to keep visitor numbers sustainable, so you will never encounter masses of other people.
What you will encounter in the Galapagos Islands (no matter what time of the year you visit) are masses of wildlife, with every species having its season. From birds nesting to hatching iguanas and migrating whales, there is always something to see.
Otherwise known as the garua season, the dry season begins around July when the temperatures begin to drop. Cold waters travel up from the Antarctic region to cool the climate, resulting in conditions that are more subtropical than tropical. A misty rain often blankets the archipelago’s peaks and the mountain vegetation turns a lush green while the lowlands remain quite arid.
During this time, the Humboldt Current brings up nutrients and plankton-rich waters that attract marine mammals, fish, and birds. This makes the dry season one of the best times to observe seabirds and Galapagos penguins who are feasting on the ocean’s bounty.
By January, things are beginning to warm up again and tropical rain showers descend on the islands. Most of these showers are short and heavy, with long stretches of sunny skies in between. The waters are at their warmest for snorkeling and diving, with the smoothest ocean conditions experienced between March and April. That being said, the fish and marine life is not as abundant as during the dry, cool season.
Read on for a breakdown of the monthly weather in the Galapagos Islands and some of the wildlife events you are likely to see.
In January, you can expect generally sunny days with occasional afternoon showers and temperatures between 86 and 72°F (30 and 22°C). The average water temperate is around 76°F (24°C) and rainfall is roughly 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) in the highlands.
Giant tortoises are beginning to hatch and can be seen scuttling about while Galapagos green turtles come to lay their eggs on the island shores. After the first rains descend, many of the Galapagos Islands’ land birds begin to nest and the land iguanas can be seen displaying their mating rituals on Isabela Island. On Española Island, you may be lucky enough to see male marine iguanas showing their bright coloration to attract mates.
Afternoon showers interspersed with clear skies continue throughout February, with air temperatures between 86 and 75°F (30 and 24°C). Rainfall generally remains the same as in January and the water temperatures warm slightly to 77°F (25°C).
While giant tortoises continue to hatch, marine iguanas begin to nest on Santa Cruz Island. Greater flamingos are starting to do the same on Floreana while Galapagos penguins begin their migration from Bartolomé Island to the cooler waters of Fernandina and Isabela. Bird lovers can experience the peak of the Galapagos dove’s nesting season and see the end of the Nazca boobies nesting rituals on Española Island.
March tends to be the rainiest month in the Galapagos Islands, with roughly 2 inches (5 centimeters) of precipitation. Temperatures hover between 88 and 75°F (31 and 24°C) while the water temperatures are roughly 77°F (25°C).
If you’re visiting Isabela Island, you can expect to encounter Galapagos penguins while frigatebirds can be seen inflating their bright red throat pouches on Genovesa and San Cristóbal. Waved albatross begin to arrive on the shores of Española Island while marine iguanas can be seen nesting on Seymour and Fernandina islands.
In April, temperatures begin to cool and rainfall drops to around 1.5 inches (3.8 centimeters), although showers continue throughout the month. You can expect air temperatures of between 88 and 75°F (31 and 24°C), with water temperatures hovering around 77°F (25°C).
As the giant tortoise hatching season comes to an end, Galapagos green turtle eggs begin to hatch on the islands’ beaches. This is also the case with land iguanas, which can be seen hatching on Isabela Island. Birdwatchers can observe waved albatrosses migrating to Española Island and their impressive courtship rituals.
Both air and water temperatures continue to cool throughout May and the tropical rain showers begin to ease up. While the air temperatures hover between 82 and 72°F (28 and 22°C), the water temperatures are roughly 76°F (24.5°C).
During May, Galapagos green sea turtles continue to hatch on Floreana, Santiago, and Española islands and marine iguana eggs can be seen hatching on Santa Cruz. May is also the start of the Galapagos sea lion mating season, with their pups born roughly a year after conception. Waved albatross begin laying their eggs on Española Island and band-rumped storm petrels are starting their nesting season. A highlight for birdwatchers is seeing the blue-footed booby mating dance on Seymour Island.
In June, the tropical rain showers continue to become lighter as the air temperatures drop to between 79 and 70°F (26 and 21°C), as do the water temperatures (73°F/23°C).
As giant tortoises begin to migrate to their lowland nesting sites on Santa Cruz Island, short-eared owls are starting to mate on Genovesa. June marks the start of the whale migration season, with pods seen passing through the archipelago until September. Whale sharks can also be sighted in the northwest of the Galapagos Islands towards the end of the month. If you’re visiting Seymour Island, you’ll be treated to sightings of male frigatebirds with their bright red throat pouches.
July officially marks the start of the dry season as air temperatures cool to between 79 and 68°F (26 and 20°C). Rainfall drops to around 1/2 an inch (1.3 centimeters) while the water temperatures hover around 72°F (22°C).
As lava lizards begin their mating season, both greater flamingos and flightless cormorants can be seen performing their courtship dances. Oystercatchers begin to nest on Santiago Island while blue-footed booby and frigatebird chicks are taking their first steps. Whales are regularly spotted off the coasts of Wolf and Darwin islands during July.
August is the coolest month in the Galapagos Islands, with temperatures dropping to between 79 and 66°F (26 and 19°C) and water temperatures at around 71°F (21.5°C).
Newly born sea lion pups can be seen playing on the central and western islands while giant tortoises are starting their return migration to the Santa Cruz highlands at the end of their nesting season. There is plenty of action for birdwatchers, including the arrival of migratory shorebirds. Nazca boobies and swallow-tailed gulls are nesting on Genovesa Island and Galapagos hawks can be seen performing their courtship rituals on Santiago and Española islands.
September is one of the most active seasons for wildlife viewing in the Galapagos Islands, with the garua season at its peak. Air temperatures are generally between 79 and 66°F (26 and 19°C) while the water temperatures are around 72°F (22°C).
In addition to lots of activity at seabird nesting sites and sea lion colonies, you can observe Galapagos penguins courting on Bartolomé Island, with this ritual continuing through to December. It’s also a great month for whale watching, with both whale sharks and humpback whales often seen around the northwestern islands.
While the garua season continues, air and water temperatures warm slightly throughout the Galapagos Islands, with air temperatures between 79 and 68°F (26 and 20°C). Rainfall is still minimal, however, at roughly 1/4 inch (0.6 centimeters) in the highlands.
Throughout October, whale sharks are still visible around Wolf and Darwin islands and it’s also the start of the lava heron nesting season, which continues through to March. Blue-footed booby chicks are active on Española and Isabela while Galapagos fur seals begin their annual mating season.
As the Galapagos waters begin to warm up to around 73°F (23°C), the conditions for snorkeling are ideal. The seas are generally calm and visibility is on the rise. Air temperatures are increasing to between 79 and 70°F (26 and 21°C) while rainfall is usually around 1/2 inch (1.3 centimeters) in the highlands.
November is a great time for observing Galapagos green sea turtles at the height of their mating season. It’s also the start of the mating season for brown noddies while band-rumped storm petrels are beginning their second nesting period. A highlight of visiting in November is observing older sea lion pups, who are becoming inquisitive of humans.
December marks the end of the garua season and temperatures are on the rise at between 81 and 72°F (27 and 22°C). Rainfall is roughly 1/2 inch (1.3 centimeters) in the highlands while the water temperate hovers around 73°F (22.5°C).
Giant tortoise eggs begin to hatch in December while Galapagos green sea turtles are still in the midst of their mating season. Waved albatross chicks can also be observed testing their newfound wing skills, which will allow them to eventually leave the archipelago before returning again in March.