So you crafted your itinerary, booked your flights, and are now trying to figure out what to pack for Galapagos? You’re in the right place! I traveled to Galapagos with my sister last summer and came up with this ultimate Galapagos Islands packing list, including everything I’m happy we brought and what I wish we had packed so that you can learn from my mistakes.
Island-hopping in Galapagos? I’ve written three island guides for Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, and Isabela that include how to get there, what to do, and where to stay, as well as a round-up of the best Galapagos day tours. Make sure to check them out next to be as prepared as can be to visit the Enchanted Islands!
What is the weather like in the Galapagos Islands?
Before we dive into the packing guide, there are a few things you should know about the islands. Despite being located near the Equatorial line, the Galapagos Islands are not your typical tropical destination. Understand, it’s not always warm and sunshiny. There are two seasons: the dry season from June to December and the wet season from January to May. During the dry season, the weather is cooler, and the sky tends to be more cloudy. However, there are lower rainfall risks. On the other hand, during the wet season, temperatures are higher with clear blue skies but expect heavy downpours.
What is the best time to visit the Galapagos Islands?
Honestly, there’s no best time! Yes, it rains more during the wet season and the water is cooler during the dry season, but Galapagos is a year-round destination. What will determine at what time of the year you should plan your visit are the animal behaviors you hope to witness. For example, if you want to see the blue-footed boobies elaborate courtship ritual, you’d want to visit during their mating season, between June and August. However, if you wish to see sea turtles hatch their eggs, you’d go between December and January.
Galapagos Islands Packing List: Clothing
Regardless of when you visit, keep in mind these three facts when packing: it is cooler at night, you are going to spend a significant amount of time in the water, and it may rain. So I would recommend packing breathable clothes (could be activewear) that dry fast and at least one sweater. With that being said, let’s go over the essentials!
- Short and Long-sleeved shirts: Pack a mix of short and long-sleeved shirts to wear throughout your trip, not only to keep you warm at night but also to protect your skin from the strong Equator sun’s rays. There’s no better sun protection than to be covered!
- Shorts: In Galapagos, you’ll want to jump into the water and snorkel every chance you get. Shorts are perfect for wearing on top of your swimsuit as they’re easy to take off and throw back on after your swim. I’d recommend active shorts in particular as they usually have an elastic waist and dry fast.
- Leggings: … to wear when the temperature drops at night (jeans work too). You’ll probably also want to put them on for those early island transfers if you’re island hopping or on the plane.
- Waterproof jacket: As you know by now, there are two seasons, but even during the “dry” season, you still might get mid-day showers. Pack a waterproof jacket to stay dry. They also work as great windbreakers on the boat!
- Bikini: Bring a swimsuit… or two! I don’t like to overpack but having two swimsuits will save you from having to put a wet swimsuit back on, allowing enough time for the other one to dry between snorkeling sessions.
- Flip flops: Of course! You’ll be living in them. Most of the time, you have to take your shoes off when you board the boat to go on day tours so they’re extra practical as they’re easy to take off and put back on.
- Hiking shoes: … or any kind of comfortable walking shoes. It depends on how much hiking you plan on doing. If you’re going to spend more time in the water than on land, then sneakers are enough. But if you want to hike Sierra Negra, pack hiking shoes.
- Hat & sunglasses: As I previously mentioned, the sun’s rays in Galapagos are no joke so make sure to bring a hat and sunglasses with UV protection.
- Buff: This one’s optional, but I personally swear by buffs. They’re multifunctional and take up little space. In short, they’re extremely practical! You can wear buffs as a hat, headband, mask, or around your neck to keep you warm or protect yourself from the sun.
Galapagos Islands Packing List: Snorkeling & Swimming
The Galapagos Islands’ singular volcanic beauty is breathtaking but the real show is going on underwater. Here are a few things you should consider taking with you to make the most of your snorkeling trips.
- High SPF Sunscreen: I’m starting to sound like a broken record but the sun really is very strong in Galapagos so you’ll want to put high SPF sunscreen on. If you’re going to snorkel, consider using a reef-safe option like this affordable SPF 50+ option.
- Snorkel Mask & Fins: When you book snorkeling trips, the travel agency will lend you snorkeling gear. However, there are many places where you can snorkel on your own like at Tortuga Bay in Santa Cruz or Concha de Perla in Isabela. So to avoid having to rent a snorkeling mask and fins every time you want to explore the underwater world, bring your own snorkeling kit! It will save you time and money.
- Wetsuit Jacket: The water is cold in Galapagos, especially during the dry season. If you get cold easily but still want to be able to spend a good amount of time in the water without turning blue, think about getting a wetsuit jacket. The same goes as for the snorkel mask and fins. When you book trips, the agency will give you a wetsuit, but if you plan on snorkeling a lot on your own, it might be worth getting one.
- Water Shoes: Another optional but very useful item. As dreamy as the Galapagos’ beaches look, the bottom of the ocean near the shore and sometimes the beach itself is quite rocky. Pack a pair of water shoes to protect your feet from the rocks’ sharp edges. They’re not expensive and will serve you well.
- Dry Bag: Traveling in the Galapagos involves a fair amount of time on boats, cruising from one island to the other. To keep your valuables safe during visits, snorkeling trips or island transfers, place them in a dry bag. Alternatively, if you don’t want to invest just yet, put your camera, wallets, etc. in a plastic bag within your regular backpack. This trick works wonders.
- Travel Towel: Finally, a traveler’s essential on just about any trip, but even more so for a holiday at the beach. Bring a microfiber towel! Not only are they light but they also don’t take much space and dry very quickly. They’re perfect for the beach and snorkeling trips.
Galapagos Islands Packing List: Travel Gear
Clothing ✓ Snorkeling ✓… Now, what about your regular travel gear? Should you bring a suitcase or a backpack? Do you need a filtering water bottle? What about binoculars, are they really necessary? Find out in this section.
- Travel Backpack: If you’re island-hopping in Galapagos, you’re, well, going to do a lot of traveling between the islands. To avoid having to lug your luggage to the deck and then to your hotel on the other island each time you transfer islands, prefer a travel backpack over a suitcase. It will make the process easier. If you’re taking a cruise, a suitcase shouldn’t be a problem.
- Flashlight: Depending on the island where you’re staying, the streets aren’t always well lit at night. If you’re staying on Isabela for example, a flashlight will come in handy if your hotel is located away from the waterfront. Plus, if you share a dorm, you’ll be able to sneak out of your room without waking everyone else up for those early ferry departures!
- Binoculars: Binoculars are not essential but I wish I had brought a pair when I visited the islands. After all, Galapagos is mainly known for its wildlife and while you can observe many species without binoculars, you’ll be happy to have them to get a better look at sea birds in particular. Especially from the boat on day tours or during your cruise.
- Waterbottle: Avoid buying single-use plastic water bottles by bringing your own water bottle and filling it up as you go. While tap water isn’t potable in Galapagos, you don’t need a filtering water bottle as most hotels will have filtered tap water or a water dispenser that you can use during your stay.
Galapagos Islands Packing List: Camera Equipment
Almost ready to go! Now that you’ve packed everything you need to have an unforgettable experience in Galapagos, you might want to capture the incredible landscapes and wildlife encounters on your trip to show your friends back home. Here’s the camera gear I used but feel free to just take inspiration from this list and adapt it according to what you already have at home.
- Go Pro: With all the snorkeling that you’re going to do, it would be a shame not to be able to capture the beautiful species that you’re going to encounter underwater! Go Pros are great overall adventure cameras but if you’re not willing to bite the bullet just yet, you can also opt for a waterproof pouch for your phone (always test it at home prior to your trip).
- Waterproof Floating Handle: So that you don’t lose your go pro in open water! Secure it to your wrist with a waterproof floating handle. Even if it somehow slips off your wrist, it will just float back to the surface and wait for you to come and get it.
- Hybrid Camera: If you’ve been wanting to take your photography to the next level but don’t want to carry around a reflex, a hybrid camera might be for you. Lighter and smaller than a reflex, hybrid cameras take great photos. I’ve been using the sony alpha 6000 for a while now and am very happy with it.
That’s it for the Galapagos packing list! If you have any questions regarding your trip, let me know in the comments and I will answer to the best of my abilities. I hope you will enjoy your trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos islands! In the meantime, make sure to read the rest of my Galapagos Travel Guide series for more tips about traveling in Galapagos.
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The item I always forget is binoculars! I can see how they would be great to take to the Galapagos!
Me too! Trust me, I regretted it. But it’s okay, we still got to see a lot of wildlife!
A great list, and looks like a beautiful place to visit although the seasons seem a little messed up and unpredictable
It is a little unpredictable but overall the weather’s nice all year round 🙂
Clazz - An Orcadian Abroad says
I’d loooove to visit the Galapagos Islands! It looks incredible but it’ll require some saving up before we can go haha.
I know, it’s expensive but so worth it! & there are ways to visit on a budget 🙂