A visit to the Galapagos Islands is truly a trip of a lifetime. Whether you are embarking on a Galapagos cruise for just a few days or spending weeks exploring this unique part of the world, you are likely to spend your time doing a wide variety of activities.
After our first land-based Galapagos trip with Galakiwi, we got a taste for Galapagos cruises on our sustainable cruise with Oniric. On both trips, our days were filled with activities, ranging from hiking and biking, to paddle boarding and snorkeling.
In preparation for our trip, we learned first-hand that figuring out what to pack for a trip to the Galapagos can be tricky! So allow us to share some packing tips based on our own experience.
Weather in the Galapagos Islands
Like other parts of South America, the Galapagos Islands have two seasons. Firstly, the warm and wet season, and secondly, the cool and dry season. The dry season lasts from June-November and is a very active time for marine life. Meanwhile, the warmer season lasts from December-May and sees much more rain.
Even with the two seasons, your essential Galapagos packing list won’t differ all that much. Whether on a land-based adventure or a boat trip, there are three key things to keep in mind:
Prepare for Hot Weather…
Since the Galapagos Islands experience a subtropical climate, the average temperature on land doesn’t vary much through the year. So no matter when you are visiting the Islands, it will be hot.
If you happen to come during the shoulder season (March – May), the weather can get quite extreme, with daily highs reaching 30+C. The equatorial sun is extremely strong so having the right travel gear is no joke.
… And Cold Water
Despite the high land temperatures, the Humboldt currents keep water in the Galápagos colder than you might expect.
In the cool/dry season (June to December), the temperature often drops below 18C and even in the warmest months, it rarely goes beyond 22-23C.
There is a lot to see and do in the Galapagos. Unless you are traveling around the Islands on a cruise, you’ll likely be moving from island to island every few days.
Packing light will help minimize the hassle of unpacking and repacking and also lighten the load when you have to carry your bags onto the ferry or to a private transfer boat. You don’t need much for exploring the islands, so a carry-on size backpack/bag should be more than enough.
Our Suggested Galapagos Packing List
Unlike many other destinations, shopping options in the Galápagos are very limited and can only be found on Santa Cruz island, so it’s extra important to think through what you need to bring before departure.
2 x Bathing Suits/Swim Shorts – You’ll be in and out of the water daily, often multiple times a day, so a few good pairs of bathing suits are definitely needed for this type of trip. You’ll want to invest in a style that’s practical for activities like kayaking, diving, snorkeling, and paddle boarding.
Ladies, you’ll want to leave those string bikinis at home and bring a sportier design. Oksana traveled to the Galapagos with this cute number from Eco Peace and found it to be a perfect mix of style and functionality for a Galapagos adventure.
1 x Rash Guard – A rashguard is a must for those sunny days and water-based activities. Invest in an ethical piece made from sustainable materials, so you don’t have to resort to cheap alternatives upon arrival. Patagonia and Prana have some good options.
2-3 Active Tops – When it comes to tops, quick dry fabric is a must! Another important feature is odour protection, to help you stink less even after a long day of activities on the islands. Look for fabrics that incorporate silver into their blends, like Lululemon’s Silverscent Technology or YAthletic’s SilverAir. Remember that water is a precious resource in the Galápagos, so you’ll want to try and keep washing to a minimum while there.
1-2 Long Sleeve Tops – The sun is unforgiving in the Galapagos Islands and while you can slather yourself with sunscreen, nothing beats covering up! Look for lightweight fabrics and designs that offer UV protection. Patagonia and Prana offer some great options.
2 x Active Shorts – Pack a few pairs of light, breathable, quick to dry and easy to wash shorts for activities like biking, hiking, and general island exploring. Lululemon has some great options for women and men. Hiking pants are also an option for the added sun protection but we prefer shorts in the heat.
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1-2 Evening Outfits – You’ll likely want to change out of your active clothes for nighttime activities and dinners. Most cruise ships have nightly dinners with other guests so it’s nice to pack an evening outfit. That said, fashion is not a top priority for those living in the Galapagos. So, don’t pack anything that belongs on a runway. A simple light dress or a pair of casual shorts with a nicer top will do the job.
1 x Rain Coat – It didn’t rain much during our time in the Galápagos, but when it did, our Packable Rain Jackets definitely came in handy. Look for light jacket styles that offer minimum 5,000 mm of rain protection.
Hiking shoes/sandals – You won’t need these on a daily basis, but they’ll come in handy if you plan to hike the Cerro Negro volcano on Isabella, or head into the highlands on San Cristobal. We recommend Chaco or Keen hiking sandals. We don’t recommend hiking boots because they take up a lot of space. Also, it won’t be as versatile as hiking shoes or sandals.
Flip flops – An absolute must for any beach/boat activities. If you’re not a fan of flip-flops, consider water shoes. Or, another type of lightweight sandal that’s easy to slide on and off.
Sarong/beach towel – A sarong is the perfect beach accessory that can be worn as a cover-up, top, skirt, or used as a beach mat. We traveled to the Galapagos with both a sarong and these quick-dry microfiber towels that doubled as our bath towels and beach towels.
Scrubba Wash Bag/Dry Bag – Great for quick and efficient hand washing but also doubles as a dry bag, to keep your electronics safe on boats/kayaks/paddle boards, etc. A dry bag always comes in handy for day trips with land and water activities.
Hydro Flask – This double wall vacuum insulated reusable water bottle will be your best friend when it comes to staying hydrated in the Galapagos heat. Many of the hotels in the Galapagos have banned plastic water bottles and offer free water refills. This will help travellers further reduce their consumption of plastic while on the islands.
Toiletries – Take only the essentials, leaving the majority of your make up at home. Small convenience stores with basics are available on all the big islands, but we recommend bringing everything you need from home. The selection, even of basic shampoo/conditioner/lotion products was pretty limited. Keep the environment in mind and grab eco-friendly options from Lush Cosmetics.
Sunscreen – As mentioned before, sun in the Galapagos is VERY harsh, so pack some extra sun protection. Consider the environment when making your choice and opt for an eco-friendly reef-safe sunscreen. We recommend this Raw Organic Sunscreen by Raw Elements. You may also want to pack a tube of aloe vera gel if you’re prone to sunburns.
Electronics – Like on any epic trip, you’re going to want to pack a camera. Bring cameras (Check out our shop page for the items we currently use), spare batteries, charging cables, power adapters, etc. An underwater camera is also a worthy addition if you have one! Internet in the Galapagos was practically nonexistent so leave your laptop at home and prepare to disconnect. Electricity was not an issue, but we still brought this Portable RavPower Power Bank to keep things charged during long days.
Day Pack – You’ll be out and about most days, so a good day pack is necessary to carry your water, snacks, towels, cameras, snorkeling gear, and other day trip essentials. Most Galapagos tours visit multiple locations so having everything in one bag is always helpful. If your electronic equipment includes a camera body and a few lenses, you’ll want a camera bag that doubles as a day pack. We use Mindshift Gear Rotation180° 38L pack and love how it protects all of our camera equipment no matter where the day takes us. If you are not packing a lot of camera gear and just need a pack for everyday essentials, we recommend Gregory Sula 28 or equivalent.
And last, but definitely not least…
Pack a Sense of Adventure!
The Galapagos Islands offer a plethora of activities and ways to interact with wildlife. So, be sure to pack a sense of adventure and a “let’s give it a try” attitude. Get ready for one of the most memorable trips of your life!