Are you planning to visit the Galapagos Islands, and are you searching for useful information and tips on organizing your vacation? Or you are not sure between a Galapagos cruise or a do-it-yourself trip (yes, you can do that too!) LOOK NO FURTHER, because you have landed the most complete and comprehensive practical guide on the Galapagos.
ECUADOR ENTRY REQUIREMENTS AND COVID PROCEDURES
Mainland Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, have officially reopened! So If the Galapagos were on your bucket list you should take advantage of these weird and difficult times and take a break from stress and uncertainty, while enjoying this wildlife sanctuary.
The local authorities and operators are going beyond their ways to create a safe environment for locals and visitors alike, and protocols are in place and strictly followed.
Now, the Mainland and the Galapagos islands have slightly different entry requirements, which am explaining here below.
MAINLAND ECUADOR ENTRY REQUIREMENTS:
As of mid-July Ecuador’s international airports reopened, and flights have resumed with the following requirements:
- Proof of a negative COVID PCR (PCR test only) test within 10 days of arriving in Ecuador,
- Not presenting any symptoms of COVID on arrival
- If the above conditions are met there is no need for self-quarantine, on the contrary, passengers must self-quarantine in a designated hotel at their expense for 14 days and then take the test again.
GALAPAGOS ENTRY REQUIREMENTS:
- For the Galapagos islands, policies are a little stricter, as follow:
- A negative COVID PCR test within 96 hours of arrival in the islands (please note only PCR tests are accepted)
- Proof of Travel Insurance, including medical coverage for COVID-19,
- Proof of confirmed itinerary in the islands.
- Entrance requirements for Ecuador and Galapagos are subject to change.
TEST TIMING AND LOGISTIC
Please note the timing difference. That means that if you don’t want to take the test twice you need to make sure to enter the Galapagos Islands within 96 hours from when you took the test before coming to Ecuador. So make sure you do the maths.
Timing can be stressful. I had a similar situation when I crossed the border from San Cristobal to Guatemala. If you want to avoid stress, you can just take your time and arrange another test in Quito before getting to Galapagos. There are around 20 clinics in Quito where you can take it, and the cost is around 85 to 105 USD. You will have your results in 12 hours.
SECURITY PROTOCOLS IN ECUADOR
Both on the mainland, and in the islands, in all public spaces, including hotels, airports, yachts, and transportation, there are social distancing measures in place and new sanitation procedures.
I have been to the Galapagos Islands for 3 weeks and researched all the possible ways to get there, hotels, restaurants, tours, cruises, compared prices, and take notes of everything that happened during my stay. I have put all the information I gathered in this huge guide and other detailed posts.
And if you are wondering whether you can afford this trip, I guarantee you that there are ways to visit the Galapagos Islands and make the most of it without breaking the bank. It’s totally up to you.
Are you ready? Scroll through the index and click on the title related to the information you want to read or just scroll down and read it all.
HOW WE PLANNED OUR TRIP TO THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS
Traveling to the Galapagos islands might seem like a utopia, an exclusive trip only reserved for the few elected.
Well, after extensive research, I realized that although it is an expensive destination, it’s not so outrageous as you may think.
This is why I decided to go for it even though I am on a long-term journey, and therefore I am traveling on a budget.
I really wanted to see this UNESCO Natural Reserve. Together with a friend, we spent 3 weeks in the Galapagos, covering many amazing sites and understanding the local conservation mission and history.
Whether you are ready to splurge on a luxury cruise or you want to know the Galapagos on a budget, here you will find handy information to make the best of your trip.
I have ticked off one of the most interesting places I have listed on the bucket list of my journey through South America with this trip. Now that I am writing this, I am in Quito taking a pause from my long journey and sharing my life on the road with you hoping to inspire you to pack that backpack or suitcase.
We started to read blogs and tour company sites while we were still in Guatemala, where she joined me.
We realized how expensive the cruise was and thought that if we flew to the main islands and took tours from there, we would have saved a lot of money while still seeing a lot. That’s what we thought initially, but once on the islands, we realized it’s not so true, and I will tell you why later in this post.
Although we are both luxury freaks, we also are on a long break from work, and we need to be cautious with our spending, so we opted for the “cheap” way.
The initial idea was to fly to Puerto Ayora in St Cruz, the main island, book the first 2 nights, and find accommodation, possibly an apartment where we would have cooked our meals and save on food, the least important part of the trip. We would have then decided when to move to the next islands according to the things we wanted to see.
However, after reading more thoroughly online reviews and info, we realized that the Government of Galapagos had implemented some new entry laws to have more control over the visitors, including the obligation to have all your accommodation booked in advance before entering the country. This official website will give you more detailed and updated information.
I had also read from fellow bloggers who visited the islands a few months before us that they didn’t have to face all those restrictions. After further reading, we found that these laws hadn’t been effectively implemented, but they can be at any time. It was all so confusing that we decided to follow the rules meticulously. We didn’t want to take all the risks and pay for a flight and then having to give it all up, although it really didn’t make much sense.
Since we realized we had to plan everything ahead of time, we spent a lot of time reading guides and blogs to understand the unmissable things to do and from which island, check out online affordable accommodations, and then we booked our flights.
After a lot of brainstorming, we realized that to see everything, we would have to stay for 2 months, which was not realistic. We opted for 3 weeks instead. From November 12th through December 2nd so distributed:
- 7 nights in St. Cruz
- 5 nights in Santa Isabela
- 5 nights in San Cristobal
- 1 night in St. Cruz where we had our flight back
Ideally, we were supposed to fly over St Cruz and leave from San Cristobal, but the flight was way more expensive this way. So we fly in and out from St Cruz.
The below information is so based on our research and our experience once on the islands.
Useless to say we had a blast and we have seen so much wildlife and understand a lot about conservation practices in Galapagos.
I hope this guide will be useful to plan your own trip and make the right choice for your needs.
TRAVELING SOLO TO THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS
As you know me, I always prefer to travel on my own, for many different reasons. During this trip to the Galapagos, I was with a friend who decided to come and join me for a portion of my journey, and although it only confirmed how I love to travel on my own, I am thankful for this because it wasn’t for her I would have never seen these amazing places.
Not because I didn’t have them on my list, but I thought it was an unreachable goal, since I was traveling without working and with a tight budget.
Once I was on the island I realized that, although expensive, you won’t need to break the bank to visit the Galapagos.
The other thing I realized was that it’s perfectly fine to travel to the Galapagos on your own.
It’s safe and even more, the majority of the hotels don’t apply the single supplement. So whether you are renting your room for one person or for two, the room rate per person stays the same. That has never happened to me before.
So if you are a solo traveler you will have a blast in the Galapagos. My word! I actually can’t wait to go back on my own.
GALAPAGOS ORGANIZED TOUR
If traveling solo is not your gem, there are always amazing cruises that take you around these spectacular islands.
If you are wondering whether to book a Galapagos cruise or traveling on your own, check out my post on the topic. It will help you solve the dilemma.
As usual, before visiting a country, I like to explore what’s my option in the literature as I like to know about the local culture before going or have something to read during my stay.
This time the only thing I have read was the Lonely Planet as I wanted to make sure I was covering all the most interesting stuff. However, I have found other interesting books that might be of your interest, if you love to know about the natural history of the islands. Here below my choice.
DOCUMENTS AND ENTRY REQUIREMENTS TO TRAVEL TO THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS
As I mentioned before, the Galapagos Islands is a unique destination for being one of the few remaining refuges of some of the rarest animal and plant species, some of them endemic. Government and private associations are striving to keep the region protected and preserved.
Although they are taking some actions that are all against environmental practices such us opening the airport in San Cristobal to the US military airplanes, on the other hands they are still taking baby steps to keep the environment safe and healthy, such as prohibiting fireworks and limiting (soon eliminative) the use of plastics.
Tourism in the Galapagos has been increasing since 1960, when the industry has started, which is a great way to support the local conservation project that keeps the environment safe and protected. On the other hand, it is necessary to keep it controlled and educate the visitors on conservation issues and best ecological practices.
REQUIRED PAPERWORK YOU NEED TO HAVE BEFORE FLYING TO GALAPAGOS
- Return flight
- Confirmation of the accommodation booked for the entire stay (printed copies need to be presented at the airport before check-in)
- Proof of travel insurance
- 20 USD to purchase the TCT card
- 100 USD to pay at your arrival
To our surprise, we were not asked any of it, except the payment. We have been explained afterward that these rules were new at the time of our flight and hadn’t been strictly implemented yet. But there would have been random checks, so it was good that we had everything reserved and ready. However, I would recommend you should check out their official sites to see what are the updated regulation. This one and this one.
THE COMPLETE DEPARTURE/ARRIVAL STEPS TO THE GALAPAGOS
We have arrived in Quito the night before and stayed at a lovely hotel close to the Airport “Hotel Las Mercedes” it’s really cozy and clean, with great wifi and a good value for money. The area is super quiet and the taxi to and for the airport is 7 USD each way. Ask the hotel to arrange it for you.
However, if you are going to spend a few days in Quito before flying to Galapagos, you should consider booking a hotel in the center, either the historical center or Floreana, the trendy neighborhood, as the airport is about 1hr drive to the heart of Quito, quite inconvenient if you wish to explore the city. You can check hotel options here.
The following morning, we had the flight to Baltra (St Cruz) at 10.40 and were suggested to be at the airport at least 2 hours before in order to complete all the necessary procedures. Consider that for a domestic flight you only need 1 hour. That was a great suggestion though so that we avoided a huge line that formed just after we finished and we could have enjoyed a 3.50 USD coffee’, at least it was delicious.
WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO ONCE YOU GET TO THE AIRPORT IN QUITO
1)Enter through the Domestic flight door
2)On your left, you will see the Transit Card counter. That’s where you need to go before anything else. Prepare your passport and 20 USD. They are supposed to ask all the printed confirmations. They did not, in our case, but that was the rule and we were ready. We also filled out an online form but apparently, it wasn’t even necessary either. They will give you a lovely card with all your information on it and the dates of arrival and departure from the Galapagos on a nice recycled paper with a huge tortoise printed in green. Right then you will realize you are actually going to the Galapagos! Your dream will come true.
3) Once you do that you will need to enter a door at the back of the counter, where you will have your bags scanned. All of them. Then you will be able to proceed to the check just like any other flight.
WHAT HAPPENS ONCE YOU LAND AT THE GALAPAGOS
In our case it was Baltra but you could get to San Cristobal as well.
You will pass through immigration where you will show:
- Transit Card ( the one with the green tortoise)
- Another form that you will have filled out on the flight
After the first immigration guy, you will pass to the adjacent desk where you will also pay the 100 USD entry fees which (they say) will go to the conservation projects, but I read that it’s unfortunately not so true… anyway, you have to pay that.
Then you will move to another counter where do you pay 2 usd for transportation to the ferry dock (unless you are with a group in which case you will have your own transportation and your agent should give you directions about that)
They are super organized, I have to say. I was really impressed.
Before collecting your checked bags you will have your handbags scanned again I am not sure for what reason since they had already scanned them before boarding.
HOW TO GET TO PUERTO AYORA (SANTA CRUZ)
As I was mentioning before I didn’t expect such an efficient organization which goes like this.
You will fly to Baltra which is a small island separated from St Cruz by a canal. Puerto Ayora is the main town, located right on the opposite side of the Airport. as you can see in the map below.
If you are not coming with a group and you don’t have your own pre-booked transportation, you will hop on one of the buses parked right outside the airport (for which you already paid 2 USD at the immigration counter).
After a few minutes ride, you will get to a ferry dock where you will hope on a sort of taxi boat/ferry to get on the other side of the narrow canal.
We have been greeted by a funny sea lion who seemed as if he just came to say hi! It was too cute and I felt like a good omen for the amazing trip awaiting us. We didn’t know at that time that this funny creature would have been the main presence of our entire trip. I totally fell in love. You will know more about it in the next chapters.
Once you get on St Cruz, on the ferry terminal you will be approached by taxi drivers offering their services. But you also see regular busses parked there. You can choose your preferred transportation.
- The bus is 5 USD per person and you might need to wait a little while since they only depart when they are almost full.
- Taxis cost 25 USD per up to 5 people and it’s a private service unless you want to share it with somebody else to split the cost.
It’s a 1-hour beautiful drive cutting through the island when you can admire the extremely diverse landscape, dry and flat on the coast and lush and green in the middle. We have also passed by a private estate with thousands of giant tortoises, scattered around the land mingling with cows and horses. It was just hilarious.
It was sunny when we arrived and it became misty while we were driving through the highlands, but the rain made everything look even more beautiful, as the green leaves of the tropical flora become even more intense and luxuriant.
As soon as we arrived at our destination we found our little pre-booked apartment, dropped our bags and went out to explore. We had a local meal in a very local place (5 USD per person) and we started to browse around but most of all we checked out a few travel agents and compare prices of the tours.
We realized that they all have more or less the same trips and the prices of every trip vary according to the operator and kind of boat.
The other thing we realized is that the best sights are done only by cruise. Especially we had looked into Genovesa Island and Rabida island which were our nr 1 favorites but there is no way to go other than joining a cruise. BUMMER!
Also, I was told that I wouldn’t be seeing Penguins as they are only there in the summer! Luckily they were wrong. I saw more than one and I will tell you more about it later.
WHERE ARE THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS LOCATED?
The Galapagos Islands is an archipelago of about 300 volcanic islands (including rocks and islets) located in the Pacific Ocean right on the Equator Line. The Islands are part of Ecuador at a distance of 906 km (563 mi) west from continental Ecuador, which is also the closest land mass to them. (see source)
How to get to the Galapagos islands?
Unless you are traveling on a private boat, for which you need to ask for special permission, you can only get to the Galapagos islands by flight.
AIRLINES AND COSTS
There are 3 airlines flying there:
The costs of the flight range from 350 to 500 USD, return, depending on how early you book and what time of the year, and other factors.
FROM WHERE TO WHERE ARE THE FLIGHTS TO GALAPAGOS
You can fly either from Quito or Guayaquil to either San Cristobal or Santa Cruz (Baltra). If you fly to San Cristobal it would normally be from Guayaquil. So if you are departing from Quito you will probably have to make a stop in Guayaquil.
It’s about a 3-hour flight.
WHAT IF YOU HAVE BOOKED A GALAPAGOS CRUISE?
If you have booked a Galapagos cruise, you should ask your cruise company or travel agent. Some of them would take care of everything, flights and transportation included, others won’t. More info in the Cruise section.
OTHER FLIGHT RELATED INFORMATION
- It’s an internal flight and you are allowed to bring liquids
- The baggage allowance depends on the airline but it’s usually 1 checked bag and 1 carry-on, plus a personal item. You should check directly with your airline.
- You will have permission to stay in the Galapagos for a maximum of 60 days. It’s 90 in Ecuador overall.
- There are supposed to be restrictions on plastics, but I haven’t seen anything applied and the islands are full of plastic items although they are prohibiting plastic bags in supermarkets and grocery shops. Kind of contradiction but I reckon it’s difficult to implement in an entire community and they are really trying hard
- DO NOT introduce food, animals, or plants.
- remember what I have mentioned before: you will be required to pay a 20USD Entry Card and 100 USD conservation fee, which are never included in the price of the flight ticket.
- Even if it is a domestic flight you should get to the airport at least 2 hours before departure.
Safe flight! 🙂
GALAPAGOS NATIONAL PARK RULES
There are common sense rules that we should follow all the time, not only in the Galapagos National Park. I was happy to see that these rules are strictly implemented with a lot of controls, with the help of the local nature guides and people involved in conservation.
- Don’t touch the animals
- Don’t litter
- Stay at about 6 feet from the animals
- Don’t feed the animals
- Don’t use flash when photographing
To know about all the rules you can check out this official website on Galapagos conservation.
It would be great if we get the habit and will continue to follow these instructions on how to respect the environment and live in peace with nature.
SANTA CRUZ ISLAND
This is a brief summary of what to do in Santa Cruz. Click here to read the FULL GUIDE to Santa Cruz, Galapagos
Santa Cruz is the main island, not the biggest, but where the majority of the business life happens. Here is where the WIFI is faster, there are more infrastructures, such as banks, supermarkets, hotels, and commercial services in general.
Puerto Ayora is the biggest town in Santa Cruz Island, where the port is and where the majority of the activities are.
Flights from Quito and Guayaquil get to Santa Cruz, via Baltra Island, where the airport is situated (read this section to know how to get from the airport to Puerto Ayora).
There are plenty of things you can do in Puerto Ayora as the majority of the one day tours leave from there, but there are also a variety of things that you can do and enjoy on your own.
WHAT TO DO IN SANTA CRUZ: FREE DO IT YOURSELF ACTIVITIES
- Walk to Tortuga Bay beach: surf or hang out with the marine iguanas
- Snorkel at Las Grietas and then relax in Playa Alemanes
- Explore the highlands and visit the Giant Tortoise walking around freely
- Get to know the Conservancy project in the Charles Darwin Research foundation and relax in one of its 2 beaches.
- Bask in the sun at El Garrapatero Beach
- Relax in the Laguna de Las Ninfeas
- Watch the baby sharks from the pier
- Familiarize with the funny sea lions
DAILY TOURS FROM SANTA CRUZ
The majority of tours are from Santa Cruz as there is such a variety of places to see, especially for those who love snorkeling, here below I list all the available tours, even those that I haven’t done…
How to book the tours
You need to know a couple of things before booking your tours:
1) you will see tons of travel agents selling their tours, however except for the diving tours, all the other day trips are organized by the boat owners who also make the price. The travel agent who sells the trip makes a commission out of that, which is normal.
You can probably see a 5 dollars difference from one agent to the other, so when you ask for information always ask the name of the boat used for the tour. In this way, you can compare prices correctly.
Therefore, in general, the prices should be more or less the same unless some agency wants to do a last minute offer. You can always check if you are in low season. Otherwise… see the second note here below.
2) IMPORTANT, because of what I was saying above, that the number of authorized boat for each tour is fixed, they won’t add more boats in high season. Therefore you should book in advance for your day trips otherwise you would risk being left out of your favorite tour either because there is no more space if you book last minute or they don’t do the tour you chose on that specific day.
We were there for a week for each island which gave us a lot of flexibility and it was low season. But if you have a limited time and/or you travel in high season you need to keep this in mind.
FULL DAY TRIP TO BARTOLOMÈ ISLAND (190 USD)
DIVING TRIPS (250 USD – 190 USD for the discover dive).
Diving trips from Santa Cruz are:
- Gordon Rocks
Prices are normally from 250 USD per day, but if you book last minute and they have space you might get the chance to a discount. We paid 160 USD booking last minute. I don’t recommend it in high season (December through March)
OTHER DAY TOURS FROM PUERTO AYORA
These below are other trips available in Santa Cruz that I haven’t done (prices are approximate)
Half day to Seymour Island 150 USD
Half day trip to Pinzon Island 150 to 160 USD
Half day trip to Santa Fe’ 130 USD
Half day trip to Plazas 130 USD
Full Day trip to Floreana Island 180 USD ( Last minute 130 USD)
SAN CRISTOBAL ISLAND
Also read my detailed guide of all the amazing things to do in San Cristobal Island.
San Cristobal Island is the last we visited and the one I loved the most.
The small quaint village develops around the Malecon (seafront promenade), populated by the funny sea lions that hang out there undisturbed by the human presence, just like everywhere else in the Galapagos Islands. For a few blocks from the seaside, you will find the heart of the main town, where shops, travel agents, bars and hotels are located.
On the sides, you will walk to the various point of interests as I will explain here below.
There are 3 cash machines and one bank, Banco del Pacifico, a few fancy hotels and apartments and restaurants on which I am afraid I cannot give you advise as we have never eaten out here.
FREE THINGS TO DO IN SAN CRISTOBAL, NO GUIDE IS NEEDED
- Bask in the sun at Playa Mann
- Get informed in the Interpretation Center
- Visit Playa Punta Carola (the best Sunset Spot)
INSIDER TIP It’s very important that you don’t touch the baby sea lions within their 4th year of age, because if they are still depending on their mum for their nutrition and if you touch them the mum cannot recognize their odor anymore and would abandon them. It seems cruel but it’s the way nature works. They recognize each other by the odor, not by their traits. So please don’t.
- Snorkel and bask in the sun at La Loberia beach.
- Inland tour and Puerto Chino Beach
- Snorkel at Las Tijeretas after checking out the viewpoint (Cerro Tijeretas)
PAID DAY TOURS FROM SAN CRISTOBAL
In San Cristobal as well the prices of the tours are decided by the boat owners and the number of available boats are fixed. They don’t increase the number of boat according to the demand. This is part of the conservancy program and it makes sense. After “interviewing” different tour agencies we picked the one that gave us more reliability. We went by the vibes.
- 360º San Cristobal tour of the island – 180 USD
- Snorkeling at Kicker Rock (Leon Dormido) 100 USD
- Diving at Kicker Rock 200USD
- Española Island 200 USD
- Admire the Red-footed boobies in Punta Pit – 200 USD
Isabella Island is the biggest island of the Galapagos in extension but although the village is very tiny and laid back and with only 3000 souls.
What makes it so attractive is its peculiar geological formation as it is made of 5 vulcanoes among which some are active including Volcano Sierra Negra, which makes a great hiking tour with stunning views from the top.
If you wish to get more in details on what to do where to stay and eat on Isabela Island, you should check out this post.
Otherwise here I will give you a general overview of the destination.
FREE TRIPS (DIY) ON ISABELA ISLANDS
- Snorkeling at Concha de Perla
- Bike to the Muro the las Lagrimas (or walk)
- Walk on the boardwalk to the Tortoise Breeding center and watch the beautiful Flamingo along the way
- Hang out on the beach and with the sea lions
DAY TOURS FROM ISABELA ISLAND
Also in Isabela Island, you will find plenty of travel agents selling their tours which are basically all the same with a 10 USD variation on the prices. Here below I will tell you what we did.
- Kayak to Las Tintoreras and snorkel around the reef
- Snorkeling trip to Los Tuneles
- Snorkel and fishing trip to Tortuga Island – 150 USD
- Hike to Sierra Negra Volcano – 30 USD
WHERE TO STAY ON ISABELA ISLAND
High-end hotel options
Mid-Range budget properties
Find more detailed information on Isabela Island.
HOW TO MOVE AROUND AND BETWEEN THE ISLANDS
There is a boat service that connects the inhabited islands of Santa Cruz with San Cristobal, Isabel, and Florencia which costs around 30 USD per ride per person, or, if you are not fond of boats or you can stand sea motion sickness, you can always check out the inter-island flights with EMETEBE, a local airline. Their prices are around 200 USD per person one way.
Here is what you should know about interisland transportation by boat:
The cost per person per ride is 25 USD to 30 USD. The boat owners decide the price, although the tickets are sold by the various travel agents that you find all around the islands.
It is advisable to book your ride a few days in advance in the high season. In the low season, even one day before is safe, but it’s better to book everything as soon as you know your itinerary, to be on the safe side. As I mentioned before, you must have all your hotel reservations booked ahead of time anyway.
There are two rides per day one in the morning around 6 or 7 am depending on the island, and one in the afternoon around 2 pm. We thought that the afternoon ride would be choppier but it’s not true, it all depends on the currents and the weather conditions.
All the islands connect via Santa Cruz. You cannot travel from Isabela to San Cristobal directly. So for example, if this is your itinerary you will need to take the boat in the morning from Isabela to Santa Cruz and the one in the afternoon from Santa Cruz to San Cristobal. This is what we did at least.
However, you could be smarter than us and if you are planning to stay on the three islands, you could fly to San Cristobal first, then visit Santa Cruz, then Isabela, and then come back to Santa Cruz on the day before you fly out. This is a suggestion if you don’t want to waste one full day for your island transfer or if you suffer from sea-motion sickness.
SEA MOTION SICKNESS: TIPS
I know about it because I realized I love the sea so much as I suffer a lot for the sea-motion. Therefore every time we needed to move from one island to the other I panicked. I don’t want to take medicines whatsoever, let alone for a stupid 2 bumpy hours.
So I found my remedy. I realized if I stayed at the very back of the boat looking at the sea, I had no issue at all, well maybe a little when the sea was particularly choppy but bearable.
So my main worry was not the seasickness but to get on the boat as first so that I could choose my seat. I spoke to the captain or the agent at the pier and explained my needs and they have been usually accommodating. At the back, you might smell a little gasoline, but you are in the open air and the wind will relieve you. Although you might get wet sometimes, it’s definitely the best way to travel on a boat if you have any motion-related issues.
Other than that, it’s a beautiful ride:)
GALAPAGOS ISLANDS WEATHER
We were there in November and we got quite a few unexpected showers and the sky was most of the time cloudy even though during the day it would clear up.
It was chilly and the water quite cold, at least for us.
However, we were told by the locals that the week prior to our arrival was much warmer and mostly sunny.
The fact is that because of the location right on the Equator and seasons are not clearly defined. Here below a general overview, but always be ready for exceptions.
THE GALAPAGOS WEATHER FROM JUNE THROUGH DECEMBER
This is supposed to be the cool and dry season where the sea tends to be choppier because of the Humboldt current, a cold current coming from Peru towards the Equator which is also responsible for cooling the marine air and consequently preventing the precipitations.
THE GALAPAGOS WEATHER FROM JANUARY THROUGH MAY
This is the hottest season and mostly humid but also sunny with occasional showers. The winds are more moderate and the sea less rough.
THE BEST TIME TO VISIT THE GALAPAGOS
Well, that depends on what are your priorities. I am sure the main reason why you want to visit this enchanted islands, is to appreciate their moon-like landscapes and rare creatures that most of the time are not found anywhere else in the world.
I have good news for you, whenever you go you are visiting the Galapagos island you will be able to encounter its unparalleled wildlife and spectacular landscapes.
In November, when we were there we managed to see almost everything we wanted to see, even Penguins, my favorite, although we were told that it was not the most favorable time to spot them.
If you want to have a more precise overview of the wildlife activity with respect to the seasons here below I am including a great insight from this informative website.
TOP WILDLIFE HIGHLIGHTS DURING THE WET SEASON
- Hordes of green sea turtles
- Marine iguanas start their nesting season.
- Albatross arrive in Española.
- Blue-footed boobies courtship
- Flightless cormorants start nesting.
TOP WILDLIFE HIGHLIGHTS DURING THE DRY SEASON
- Flightless cormorants nest on Fernandina Island
- Booby and frigate bird eggs begin hatching
- Flamingos begin mating rituals August.
- Sea lions very active, the breeding season begins in September
- Galapagos penguin breeding season during the month of September.
Consider though that if you wish to snorkel and dive in warmer water and suffer from seasickness you would probably choose to travel to the Galapagos in the dry season from June through December.
WI-FI IN THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS
Let’s put it like that: If you have to work online, forget about it in the Galapagos.
Probably in luxury hotels might work better, but in general, WIFI sucks. It’s ok for WhatsApp and email. You can talk and download email quite easy. But if you need to load pages, it’s going to take a while or maybe impossible.
In Santa Cruz is a little faster, especially in the morning, but in Isabela you can tell your boss to forget about you for a few days, so lay back and go hang out with the sea lions.
In San Cristobal is kind of decent, like Santa Cruz, but still, I wouldn’t rely on a consistent connection.
If you know you need to be connected for work or urgent matters you should then buy a local SIM card and use your phone DATA when the WIFI will let you down.
GALAPAGOS PACKING LIST
So you are ready for your trip and you are unsure about what to bring?
Here I am showing you how your Galapagos packing list is the shortest you have ever had! 🙂
You don’t really need much.
It’s a very laid back place and even if you are staying e in one of the few luxury hotels, they have still a quite casual ambiance.
So here is the list of things you cannot do without:
- Shorts and T-shirts. I found these kinds of shorts very practical, especially during the boat tours where you can get wet very easily, as they dry fast.
- Swimsuits. Here some swimsuits ideas if you wish to buy a new outfit for this special occasion.
- Hat (if you use it, I didn’t)
- Ecological Sunscreen
- Windbreaker or a jumper, evenings and boat rides can get chilly. I love my North face 3 seasons, but I have an older version. This one is the new model, which is much cooler and in nicer colors. I find it quite practical because you can take in and out the internal layer according to the temperature.
- Reusable water bottle. Lifestraw is what I am going to purchase as soon as I get to a place for a while where I can get deliveries from Amazon. While on the road it’s difficult to shop online :). Life Straw is what I have been raving about as it has a filter on it so you can get tap water and drink good purified water. Perfect when you travel either for saving money and to look after your stomach! 🙂
- Underwater Camera or GoPro or similar: you will want to take some turtles and sharks back home with you, at least in pictures. I got the GoPro 4 when it came out and paid it a fortune. I can see that they have accessible prices now. The latest model is GoPro hero7 and on Amazon is less than 400 USD. But if you are not a super pro and still want good resolution video, the GoPro 5 works amazingly as well and it’s only 237 USD.
- Camera with a zoom, you don’t want to miss capturing the spectacular wildlife. I have a Canon 6D, a grand angle Canon 16-35 f/2.8 LII, which I love for landscapes, but I stayed on the cheep for my zoom lens and a Tamron 75-300 f5.6.It was not exactly ideal, or what I wished I had, but it worked well. Also because the wildlife in the Galapagos is extremely friendly and fearless, so you can get very close, as you can see from my pictures.
- Flip flops, I always go for Hawaianas, although I admit they left me barefoot a couple of times in the middle of the road. It was embarrassing but I always make a laugh about my embarrassing adventures. At least I have something funny to tell.
- Gym or hiking shoes. I have these Merrell and I love them. I have been wearing them almost every day for 2 years and are still good although a little worn out.
- Wet suite and snorkeling gear if you have your own, otherwise you can rent it anywhere (it’s normally 5 USD for short wetsuits and 10 USD for long per day and the snorkeling gear 10 USD per day. If you want to have your own, it is understandable. I don’t like the long one but I don’t even like to be cold. I was in Galapagos during the coldest season and the short one was good enough, although my friend still preferred the long. It’s a very personal choice. You will also need to check on the thickness. They normally go from 3 mm to 7 in very cold water.
- Binoculars. I am not an expert on binoculars, so I will leave you this general link to a page with a variety of brands and prices.
- Dry/waterproof Bag. This is one of the best gifts I have ever received. Too bad I left it in a hostel, like many other important stuff I have left behind. I missed it in several occasions. So if you have space in your bag you should get one. Here a link to my choice.
- Motion sickness pills, if it’s really unbearable. I prefer to avoid it and just sit back in the open air and watch the horizon, but I know for many it’s not enough.
OTHER USEFUL POSTS ABOUT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS
- Galapagos Cruise or DIY trip? Figuring out the best way to visit the Galapagos Islands
- Guide to the incredible animals of the Galapagos Islands
- All the amazing things you can do in San Cristobal, Galapagos Islands
- How to Make the most of your trip to Isabela Island, Galapagos
- Santa Cruz, Galapagos: how to make the most of your trip
- Galapagos Travel Itineraries: how to make the most of your time.
HOW LONG YOU SHOULD VISIT GALAPAGOS ISLANDS FOR?
This is a tricky question to answer. Let’s put it like that: you could stay in the Galapagos 3 months and still have things to do and to see left.
It really depends on your time and budget availability and your interest in marine activities and wildlife.
I have to say that our 3 weeks were a little too much, despite our passion for nature and being in the water. Probably if the weather and water were warmer we would have enjoyed and endured even more.
I will write a separate post with suggested itineraries. For now, I am just sharing the following information that you should consider:
- Santa Cruz Island is the island with more daily tours and diving spots, and things to do independently. So you could stay a week there and not even complete your visit (Click here to get to Santa Cruz Section)
- San Cristobal Island is the island that I loved the most has a lot to do as well, between tours and spectacular beaches. We spent there 5 days and couldn’t see it all.
- Isabela Island is the most laid back island with less activity. 3 days could be enough. Although if you like to bask on the beach, this is the perfect place. Well, also San Cristobal.
- If you take a cruise, I would also try to spend a few days on an island either before or afterward to know a little of both worlds.
- Floreana Island should be interesting and more for being the first human settlement and its’ mystery stories, but we didn’t make it there. It’s on my list, together with a cruise for my next trip.
It is really difficult to determine a specific time if I am not in your head :). It all depends on what you want to see and what time flexibility you have. I will be happy to give you a personalized itinerary if you can’t make up your mind after reading this guide. You can email me, by clicking here.
For Further Reading
- Galapagos Islands Vacations: everything you should know before booking
- Galapagos travel Itineraries: how to make the most of your time in the Galapagos
- How to visit Cuicocha lake from Otavalo, Ecuador
- Otavalo Ecuador – Things to do beyond the Market
- Secret Garden Cotopaxi: amazing things to do