Eastern Santa Cruz Plaza Sur Walk

Galapagos Weather: When to go, why it happens and what to expect

There are some who say that there are two sides to every coin, and Galapagos weather is no exception to this saying. The Galapagos Islands find themselves split between two distinct seasons that transpire throughout the year, and they each have quite an influence on the look and feel of the islands themselves. In a sense, guests can have a wholly different experience of the Galapagos depending on the season. Probably one of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to travelling to Galapagos is:

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When is the best time to travel to Galapagos?

The simple answer: Always! The Galapagos Islands are a year-round destination and, in this blog, we’ll tell you all about why that is and what to expect when it comes to Galapagos weather.

Galapagos Weather: So Much Depends on Location

Sitting along the equator, like little pieces of earth dangling from an equatorial necklace (an island of which even looks like a seahorse), the Galapagos archipelago is often mistakenly thought of as a tropical destination. Consequently, it’s also thought of as continuously having tropical weather. But this erroneous assumption couldn’t be any farther away from the truth, given that Galapagos weather is actually unlike anything that’s seen in the tropics.

In spite of the fact that the Galapagos is a year-round destination, it’s worth taking a moment to understand the notable differences that exist between the two specific weather patterns that exist throughout the archipelago Understanding these “Sister Seasons” is sure to help guests plan their trip to the enchanted isles depending on their likes and preferences.

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Galapagos Weather: Enter the Hot Season (January – June)

Each year, the Galapagos starts off with a bang as the hot season kicks into full gear. It’s during this period that the islands experience the sunniest of days throughout the year. Consequently, this also means that temperatures rise well above the average norm. Nevertheless, it’s also when the islands see their first bit of considerable rainfall, which allows plant life to flourish in droves, turning the islands from their somewhat monotone colour palette into a leafy world of emerald green. This is when the islands truly live up to their location along the equator, as they actually do end up looking incredibly lush and tropical. Rainfall is substantial, but only temporary, almost always lasting for no more than a few hours per day – an event that might even offer guests a rather refreshing respite from the heat!

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With the abundance of plant life that comes to life during hot season, this is a great time to witness a bunch of terrestrial species becoming highly active as well.

Why does the Hot Season occur in Galapagos?

During this period, the southeast trade winds (which you’ll learn more about soon in the Dry Season) diminish in strength. This allows the Panama Current to flow down southwards freely and bathe the Galapagos with its warmer waters (as well as the whole west coast of South America).

Temperatures not only rise during this time, but so too do humidity levels. The presence of such meteorological factors creates skies that oscillate between clear and cloudy, with brief moments of light rainfall that occur on a near daily basis.

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With higher water temperatures that average around 26°C (80°F), underwater visibility can be as good as 9 metres (30 feet). Hot Season in Galapagos will begin as early as mid-December (which is otherwise known as a transition month in Galapagos).

Best reason for visiting Galapagos during the hot season: AIR & SEA TEMPERATURES. You’ll find that climate (both in and out of the water) is quite nice during this time. For many, this is often seen as the most comfortable and refreshing time to visit Galapagos.

dry hot season transition galapagos

March is seen as the peak of the hot season in Galapagos, with June serving as the transitional month into the Dry Season.

Galapagos Weather: The Arrival of the Dry Season (June – December)

As the name implies, the Dry Season in Galapagos sees the lower portions of the islands, particularity the coastlines, turn dry and less colourful. As things simmer down on the surface, however, Galapagos flaunts its aquatic beauty to the maximum.

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Virtually zero tropical downpours will occur during Dry Season. Photo by: Doug Greenberg

At most, you’ll find mornings start off with a very light drizzle during the Dry Season. The highlands on the other hand will remain relatively more humid when compared to lower areas in the Galapagos.

Why does the Dry Season occur in Galapagos?

Southeast Trade Winds are to blame for the presence of the Dry Season in Galapagos; specifically as they rise from the chilly, subantarctic latitudes and head all the way up to the northern tropical and subtropical latitudes. Once they get far enough north, they change direction and head sideways, towards the Galapagos islands. These same winds are also responsible for steering the direction and force of the currents at play.

As the southeast trade winds move towards the Galapagos, so too does the Humboldt Current, bringing with it cooler and nutrient-rich waters that are a boon for the islands’ aquatic and certain terrestrial wildlife.

Best reason for visiting Galapagos during the hot season: Given the Galapagos Island’s tropical location, having relatively cool waters that are highly rich in nutrients and plankton flow into this area is an excellent opportunity for sea-dependent species (such as seabirds, sea lions, etc.) that will seize this moment of aquatic “flourishing” to actively reproduce. During the Dry Season, guests are sure to witness quite a spectacular sight, as courtship rituals abound for sea creatures and seabirds along the coasts, such as Galapagos penguins, flightless cormorants and American flamingos (all of which are a part of our BIG15 group of iconic species).

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Given Galapagos Weather, when is the best time to go snorkelling in Galapagos?

When many come to the Galapagos Islands, one of the biggest draws and features is the underwater world that awaits. Fear not, dear guest, for much like the surface, the Galapagos underwater world is a year-round destination, too. When it comes to the two distinct seasons in Galapagos, the only notable difference will be temperature, visibility and activity.

Hot Season: Sees warmer waters, greater visibility and less powerful currents.

Dry Season: Sees elevated levels of underwater creature presence and activity, with pronounced levels of cooler and nutrient-rich waters (otherwise known as upwellings).

All in all, both seasons are great for water activities, regardless of the time you choose to visit. Keep in mind that, should the waters feel too cold for you during either season, wetsuits are available aboard the Santa Cruz II Galapagos cruise.

How to Dress for Galapagos Weather?

When it comes to clothing in Galapagos, it’s always best to wear lightweight layers so as to facilitate being able to take them off, carry them and/or put them back on, if need be. A cool sea breeze or lingering under the shade for a while might be enough to make you want to throw on a lightweight jacket or windbreaker. Under the intense Galapagos sun, you’ll definitely want to either dress down or wear long-sleeve clothing to protect yourself from the intense UV rays that exist along the equator.

During the hot season, you’ll definitely want keep some form of waterproof (but breathable) clothing handy in the event that light rains come in. Also: be sure to have a waterproof bag to put your electronic devices into as well!

Always be sure to wear sunscreen and re-apply a fresh coat throughout the day. We recommend SPF30 or higher.

Ready to start packing your bags to Galapagos in favour of the year-round, fantastic weather?

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Christopher Klassen

With parents that worked for the U.S. Foreign Service up until he graduated from high school, Chris was raised to have the heart of a nomad throughout his life. He has resided in Honduras, Guatemala, Colombia, Panama and Ecuador throughout his years, and just recently spent the past four up in Canada finishing his Bachelor's Degree in Philosophy & English at the University of British Columbia.

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