When to Visit the Galápagos
The best time to visit the Galápagos is determined more by your interest in wildlife than by temperatures:
- December – Turtles, seals and birds mating – best time for animals on the beach.
- March – Flowers, calm seas. Warmer and wetter.
- June – November – Humboldt Current and penguins. Drier and slightly cooler.
Windy, fish and birds increase.
Best diving, but wet suit preferred.
Albatross from June to December.
Giant tortoises in the fields of Santa Cruz from June to January.
Sailing Changes – In 2012 changes were made that prevent tour boats from stopping at the same port twice during a 7 day itinerary. The change reduces visits to islands such at Santa Cruz, which used to be a hub for boat excursions. Since 2012, there are more 4, 6, 7, 10 and 14 day cruises.
Visit the Galápagos – Islands
- San Cristobal – sea lions at the docks and on the beaches, Cerro Brujo Beach for blue-footed boobies, snorkeling.
- Espanola – sea lions on the beach that let you mingle with them for photos, albatross from June to December, Galapagos hawk, Darwin finches, marine iguanas, masked boobies, blue footed boobies, Galapagos hawk.
- Bartolome – Pinnacle Rock, Galapagos Penguins.
- Santiago – volcanic island, views to Pinnacle Rock, Galapagos Penguins, Sullivan Bay.
- Santa Cruz – giant tortoises in the fields at Rancho Primicias. Darwin Research Station and resting place of Lonesome George (last tortoise of his species), lava tunnels, green sea turtles, Black Turtle Cove, Cerro Dragon iguana nesting site, Bachas Beach, Tortuga Bay.
- North Seymour – frigate birds, blue-footed boobies, land iguanas, hammerhead sharks.
- Genovesa – frigate birds, red footed boobies.
- Rabida – occasional flamingos, iguanas, sea lions, pelicans, white tipped sharks, boobies.
- Isabela – Sierra Negra volcano, Giant Tortoise Breeding Center, flamingos, Darwin’s salt lake crater, snorkeling, sea turtles, rays, Galapagos penguins, Wall of Tears (penal colony ruins), land iguanas, Galapagos hawk.
- Floreana – iguanas, pelicans, occasional Galapagos penguin.
- Santa Fe – marine iguanas, manta rays and surgeonfish.
Visit the Galápagos – Weather
Temperatures are always good for visiting the Galápagos. December to May is rainier and warmer, however rainfall is not continuous so sunny breaks are frequent. It’s drier in June through November with slightly cooler temperatures and the ocean is colder, because of the influence of the Humboldt current from Antarctica.
Visit the Galápagos – Access
Aero Gal or Tame Airlines will get you access to the Galápagos from Quito on a 1.5 hour flight. Aero Gal provides modern jets and in flight complimentary service that will remind travelers of the golden age of flying. All flights stop at Guayaquil along the way. Visitors to the Galápagos arrive at one of two airports:
- Seymour Airport is located on the island of Baltra and it doesn’t have any tourist services. The main buildings on Baltra are fuel storage facilities and military bases. Visitors at Baltra must take a bus to Puerto Ayora or board a tour boat immediately. The bus to Puerto Ayora includes a short ferry ride.
- The other airport is at Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on the island of San Cristobal. This is the most populated area in the Galapagos and most tours start here.
Visit the Galápagos – Package Tours
You need a guide to visit any island in the national park. Tour boats use inflatable power boat, such as a Zodiac, to reach the islands. The park service assigns the arrival and departure time. Visits are usually under two hours. The Celebrity Xpedition and the Silver Galapagos offer a luxurious ocean based tour, but these are also among the most expensive options. They are allowed a maximum of just under 100 passengers. Vessels operated by many other companies, like G-Adventures, take 16 passengers or less. Most passengers have no problem with motion sickness on these small boats, because the seas are relatively calm. If you suffer from sea sickness, don’t forget to bring mediation.
The least expensive tours are land based accommodation with high speed motor boat access to various islands. Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz is the starting point for land based touring with day trips to Santa Fe, Bartolome, Floreana and Isabela. Overnight accommodation options are also available upon arrival in Isabela. Land based touring to Espanola is not available. Check out Intrepid Travel and G-Adventures for land based options.
Here are some tour suggestions: