Climate of Galapagos Islands
The Galápagos are bursting with birdlife, flowing with flora, and swimming in so many marine creatures that it’s almost impossible to count them. But when it comes to seasons, there are only two: the hot/rainy season and the cool/dry season, also known as the garúa.
During the garúa season, which typically lasts from July through December, temperatures are lower than they are during the rest of the year. Cold waters come up from the Antarctica region, carrying with them the makings for a subtropical — rather than tropical — climate. A fine, misty rain (or garúa) blankets the tops of the islands, which turn lush and emerald green.
The hot/rainy season runs from January to June. In the first three months of the year, the annual rains arrive; they are strong but of short duration. Temperatures rise, and sunny days are frequent. Warmer waters head south from Panama and Columbia, making this — for some — a favorite time for snorkeling.
However, the varied natural changes the two seasons bring to the appearance and fauna of the islands mean that there’s never a bad time to see and visit the Galápagos. The “peak season” is sometimes described as mid-June through early September and from mid-December through mid-January. But since the Galápagos National Park Service works with tour providers to coordinate every ship’s itinerary and has restrictions on the number of visitors to each island at any one time, you will never feel as if you’re one in a throng of people. At any time of the year, you’ll be sure to feel as if the islands are yours alone — or yours and a few good friends’ — to enjoy in peace and natural solitude.
To help you decide which time of year would be best for your visit, read more below:
January through June
During the hot/rainy season in the Galápagos, the water and the air temperatures are warmer, but it drizzles for a short period of time almost daily. Strangely, however, this is also the sunniest time of year, making your visit to the islands now extremely enjoyable.
In late March and April, as the rains start to dissipate, flowers blossom. The ocean is clear and warms to the high 70s or even to 80 degrees Fahrenheit; air temperatures may reach the low 90s. Because of the warmer water, some find swimming and snorkeling to be more to their liking during these months. On the other hand, there aren’t as many fish to see as there are later in the year.
This is the breeding season for land birds, so it’s likely that you’ll witness some unusual mating rituals. During this time, you may also find Galápagos green turtles nesting on the beach.
Another benefit of traveling to the Galápagos at this time of year is that the ocean is much calmer, so you'll have less chance of getting seasick. The waters start to get a bit choppy in July and are at their roughest from August to October.
July through December
During the garúa season, the Humboldt Current makes it way up to the Galápagos from the southern end of South America. It brings cold water and cold weather, but it also creates a sea rich in nutrients and plankton, which attracts fish and birds.
Stratocumulus clouds sail in the skies over the Galápagos at this time of year. They accumulate around the tops of volcanoes and wait there — sometimes for weeks on end. Although the higher reaches of the islands may get so wet and fog enshrouded that they become bogs and moorlands, lush, fertile Moist Zones are also created. The lowlands remain arid, however, and only receive any appreciable rain during El Niño periods. Because the prevailing wind in the Galápagos is from the southeast, the south sides of the major islands are much moister than the north sides, which lie in a rain shadow.
Daytime temperatures during these months seldom exceed 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and water temperatures range from the low 70s throughout most of the islands down to about 60 degrees on the west side of Isabela. These cool waters bring a plankton bloom. Some experienced divers prefer this time of year to visit the Galápagos. There are more fish in the sea now — and more seabirds searching for them.
On Española, waved albatrosses arrive and stay until December. Galápagos penguins come for the colder water and the abundance of fish, so you’re more likely to see them here during this season. On Genovesa Island, elusive short-eared owls mate. Blue-footed boobies also mate now, so it won’t be difficult to observe their courtship ritual: a posture known as the “skypoint.”
Average Air and Water Temperatures by Month
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