The Galapagos islands are famous for being giant sea tortoise havens and the home to other endemic species such as the flightless cormorant. It’s one of those unbelievable “bucket list” places that you binge watch on TV anytime a special comes on. If you’re an avid traveler and animal lover, it’s likely the word “Galapagos” is written down somewhere or pinned to your dream board. I thought that visiting this special archipelago would cost an arm and a leg, so I brushed the idea off as something I’d do in the distant future. Boy, was I wrong. I discovered that the Galapagos can be done within a budget without skimping on a single activity, seafood feast, or having to sleep in awful accommodations. I broke it all down in my guide on traveling to the Galapagos on a budget so you can do it too.
While you are in the Galapagos, I recommend mixing up your daily itinerary. Spend some days in the water snorkeling or diving and other days on land exploring tortoise reserves, hiking, or enjoying the islands on a bicycle. If possible, alternate your water and land activities so you can enjoy each island at different times of the day (most tours leave early in the morning and don’t return until afternoon). Many places of interest are also within walking distance of the main town. Plan for a little extra time to get each destination because you are sure to see interesting things such as brown pelican birds plunge diving over the waters or red sally lightfoot crabs scuttling among the lava rocks that you’re going to want to take pictures of.
The weather in the Galapagos stays fairly stable between 69 – 84°F, which makes it a wonderful place to visit any time of the year. There are slight differences between the seasons, with the warm “peak” season which runs from December to May and the cooler season (preferred condition for divers and marine-life viewing) which runs from June to November. Unlike other islands you may be accustomed to visiting, the Galapagos does not have a tropical atmosphere with high humidity. Evenings can get cool and you’ll want a jacket or warm layer to wear.
The water is also colder because three main ocean currents pass through the islands– the cold Peru Current from Chile and Antarctica, the chilly Cromwell Undercurrent, and the warm Panama Current. These currents bring special nutrients which contribute to the special ecosystem found in the Galapagos.
Quick tips for travel to the Galapagos
- Sunscreen is extremely expensive. Bring what you’re going to need from home.
- Tap water is not safe to consume. There are plenty of filtered water jugs available at most tourist offices and your accommodation, so you should always be able to refill your water bottle.
- The waters can get chilly, even close to the shore. Wear a rashguard for extra warmth and negotiate a full-length wetsuit even for snorkeling.
- Wifi can be painfully slow in many areas. Save yourself some connectivity rage by downloading offline maps, having a printed (or screenshot) itinerary, and all of your research done before you go.
- Many of the boat rides (especially the ferries) are bumpy. Arm yourself with motion-sickness medicines if you’re prone to nausea.
- Of course, you’re going to want to capture photos of these amazing animals! Just remember to keep a respectful distance from them, do not disturb their habitats, step on coral, and dispose of all your trash in the right place.
The packing list below is for the Galapagos traveler who plans on doing a range of sporty and low-key activities, including snorkeling and dive tours. Local island attire is casual– one of our friends on Isabela island preferred to walk without shoes most of the day. I pretty much lived in shorts, sandals, and a tank top during the daytime and put on pants and a light jacket at night.
**Please note that all of these products are my personal recommendations and may contain affiliate links. Your purchase helps to produce helpful content on The Petite Adventurer at no additional cost to you. Cheers and many thanks for your support.
- Travel insurance
- Cash (US Dollar), as there is only an ATM on Santa Cruz Island; keep in mind there is a $120.00 visitor entrance fee upon arrival to the airport
- Travel adapter with USB ports
- Chargers and cables
- Smartphone (I use an iPhone) – Airplane mode on to avoid roaming charges with WiFi on and offline maps for every town pre-downloaded
- Kindle E-reader or book (optional)
- Bose Headphones // Bose wireless earbuds (optional)
- GoPro adventure camera (optional)
- Camera (optional)
- Power bank with extra USB ports (optional)
You will want clothing that can dry quickly or is easy to change into after a day in the water.
- Sports bra (women)
- Sleeping clothes
- Long sleeve shirts for sun protection
- Short sleeve shirts
- Athletic tops
- Athletic bottoms (shorts are helpful after diving)
- 1 hat with brim or bill for sun protection
- 2 swimsuits (alternate every day)
- Rashguard (extra warmth in the waters; women’s and men’s)
- Sandals (ankle straps are helpful; women’s and men’s)
- Close-toed walking shoes (women’s and men’s)
- 1.5 to 2L refillable water bottle
- Lightweight backpack
- Waterproof dry bag
- Quick drying and lightweight microfiber towel
- Sports wristwatch with alarm (optional)
- Daily skin moisturizer with SPF
- Waterproof Sunblock
- Face cleanser
- Medicine (general assortment)
- Toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss
- Shampoo & Conditioner or pack your own in these reusable bottles
- Contact solution and lens case
- Deodorant (women’s and men’s)
- Optional: face wipes, q-tips, hair ties, bobby pins, stain remover pen, antibacterial gel
- Travel-sized tissues
- Motion-sickness medicine (optional)
- Small notebook and pen (optional)
You should be well-equipped for your trip to the Galapagos with these items. Don’t worry if you happen to forget anything though, as there are little shops in San Cristobal, Santa Cruz, and Isabela in case you need additional supplies. If you’re considering day-to-day logistics for your trip, check out my 6-day itinerary for the Galapagos. I’m thrilled that you’ll be seeing this magical place for yourself. If you have any questions, feel free to let me know in the comments below.
Don’t forget a single piece! PIN THIS post so you’ll have this list handy.