Known as a ‘living museum and a showcase of evolution,’ the Galapagos Islands are home to some incredible creatures that are found nowhere else in the world. In this article, I will walk you through everything you need to know about scuba diving in the Galapagos Islands.
This includes information on the best dive sites, the best time to go, and more.
Known as a diver’s bucket list dream, in the Galapagos Islands, you can find yourself surrounded by nature and biodiversity as you can experience exactly what Darwin did all those years ago and understand first-hand how this very location inspired his theory of evolution by natural selection.
Many a traveler makes their way to the paradise that is the Galapagos Islands, attracted by the animal life and unique diving experiences that are talked about worldwide. If this is you and Galapagos diving is at the top of your must-do travel experiences, here is everything you need to know to make it a trip of a lifetime.
- 1 Best Scuba Diving Sites in the Galapagos Islands
- 2 Best Time to Go to the Galapagos Islands
- 3 Top Dive Sites in the Galapagos Islands
- 4 Diving Tips in the Galapagos Islands
- 5 Other Things to do in the Galapagos Islands
- 6 How to Get to the Galapagos Islands
Best Scuba Diving Sites in the Galapagos Islands
To answer your question quickly, here are some of the best dive sites in the Galapagos Islands. Later in this article, I will also share a few tips on each site as well as info on other activities within the Galapagos Islands.
- The Bartolome Point, Bartolome Island
- Darwin’s Arch, Darwin Island
- Shark Point, Wolf Island
- Camaño Islet, Santa Cruz Island
- Gordon Rocks, Santa Cruz Island
- Tortuga Island, Isabela Island
Best Time to Go to the Galapagos Islands
Is there a bad time to visit the Galapagos Islands? Not really. It comes down to preference. The seasons are split into cool and dry (June-November) and warm and wet (December-June). This means that scuba diving all year round is possible which makes it an ideal diving location.
Most people prefer to come in the warmer season as its warmer, the waters are calmer making underwater visibility at its best, and the rain creates brilliantly clear blue skies between showers. However, if you’re looking to travel the Galapagos Islands on a budget, it may make more sense to visit during the cooler season.
When diving in these waters, although 30-meter visibility is not unheard of, it’s usually 10-20 meters/30-70 feet. The visibility highly depends on the season and amount of plankton in the water so make sure you check with the companies you plan to do your trip with.
Hottest and wettest months: March and April
Top Dive Sites in the Galapagos Islands
Dive Experience: Intermediate to Advanced
Starting off the list is Darwin’s Arch which is a super famous dive site and is considered the highlight of most liveaboard trips.
If you’re after large sea creatures, this is the place to go as most of them converge here due to the strong currents. Although you will be able to see the usuals like manta rays and sea turtles, the sheer number of sharks (especially if you go during the right season) is nothing short of magnificent.
Highlights: As mentioned, this dive site is a shark show stopper as schools of hammerhead, blacktip, Galapagos, and silky sharks often converge in these waters. To top things off, the sharks tend to stay in shallow waters which makes the entire experience nothing short of memorable!
Darwin’s Arch Diving Video
Shark Point, Wolf Island
Dive Experience: Intermediate to Advanced (due to currents)
Along with Darwin’s Island, Wolf Island is also one of the most iconic dive sites in the Galapagos. Only accessible via liveaboard boats, this dive site is very remote which just adds to its overall appeal. A lot of people recommend bringing a good pair of scuba diving gloves as you will need to hold on to rocks due to strong currents.
Highlights: While you are bound to see the usual sharks, mobula rays, and bluefin tunas, the reason this dive site so popular is because whale sharks often frequent these waters. They often can be seen from between 6 and 60 feet (2 and 20 meters) from June to December.
Diving Experience: Beginners
For those that aren’t doing a liveaboard cruise, this dive site is easily accessible from the mainland as it is situated right by the coast of Santa Cruz Island. This is a place that is ideal for beginners as the waters are usually calm with great visibility.
Highlights: Expect to see large groupers, playful sea lions, and batfish. If you’re lucky, you might be able to spot a few Galapagos marine iguanas swimming about.
Gordon Rocks, Santa Cruz
Dive Experience: Intermediate to Advanced (due to currents)
Gordon Rocks is a volcanic crater with a sandy bottom and is considered a must-do in every Galapagos Island diving trip. Due to the currents, the plankton is pushed up, attracting large schools of hammerhead sharks. The currents here are pretty intense (giving a washing machine effect) so make sure you’re comfortable with this before heading down.
Highlights: Schools of hammerhead sharks is the main attraction here and it’s no surprise as they come here in massive schools. Watch the quick video below to catch a glimpse of how truly magnificent this dive site is.
Gordon Rocks Diving Video
The Bartolome Point, Bartolome Island
Dive Experience: Intermediate
Also known as Bartholomew Island, this place is famous for its scenic landscape view as well as its marine life. The lava rock formations make the perfect playground for rays, turtles, various reef fish, as well as larger pelagics.
The pinnacle rock in Bartholomew Island is an icon in all Galapagos Island trips so a trip here regarding if you’re an avid diver or not is well worth it.
Highlights: You can find most of the unique Galapagos marine animals here, making it a must-visit dive spot. Sea lions, marine iguanas, and even playful penguins can be found playing along these waves making it a super fun dive site.
North Seymour Island
Diving Experience: Beginner to Intermediate
If you enjoy seeing large pelagics, this place is ideal because you can enjoy a different variety of sharks without the strong currents that often come with it. If you’re lucky, you can also see spotted eagle rays migrating through the channels alongside with manta rays and devil rays.
Highlights: Despite being a cool dive site to see various types of rays, the Seymour Islands are famous for their many black tip and white tip reef sharks. Smaller schools of hammerhead sharks can also be seen in the area.
Tortuga Island, Isabela Island
Diving Experience: Beginner to Advanced
If you want pretty underwater landscapes, Tortuga Island offers a little bit of everything. Large Gorgonian fans and colorful corals. Aside from sea turtles, barracudas, Galapagos groupers, and a variety of sharks, you can also spot various rays throughout the dive site.
Highlight: The main highlight of this area is the possible sighting of orcas and mola molas.
Diving Tips in the Galapagos Islands
Located at the confluence of three ocean currents, the Galapagos is considered a ‘melting pot’ of marine species; as these volcanic masterpieces have been isolated from the rest of the world for so long.
This is the only place on earth that you will see some unique creatures so I think that they can officially say that their diving experiences are like no other. As well as the unique, the Galapagos Islands are also teeming with some of our marine favorites such as corals, sharks, penguins, sea lions, dolphins and whales, so you get the best of both worlds when diving here!
- Recommended training – although the visibility is excellent, it is recommended that you only dive if you are a PADI Advanced Open Water Diver as some dive conditions are challenging. Being PADI Drift Diver certified is also highly recommended.
- Best dive schools – Scuba Iguana, Academy Bay Diving, and Galapagos Travelers Diving Center.
- Best Liveaboard Boats- Humboldt Explorer, Nortada, and Galapagos Master
Liveaboard Diving in the Galapagos Islands
With so many dive options and unique sites to see both on land and beneath the water’s surface, liveaboards offer you the chance to see as much as possible in the time that you have. There are so many options from 4-day trips to up to 14 days, so make sure that you find the best liveaboard option for you.
Check out our article on the Best Galapagos Liveaboards if you need help choosing as we compare the prices and give you our recommendations on the best boats.
We always recommend going for longer trips if you have the time as you can experience a mixture of different dive types (easy, challenging, day and night) and they also allow you to see more of the isolated islands that you wouldn’t normally be able to get to.
If you don’t have time for a longer one, at least make sure that the option that you do go for visits the 2 best dive sites in the whole of the Galapagos:
- Wolf Island
- Darwin Island
Other Things to do in the Galapagos Islands
Whale & Dolphin Watching
Between June and October, particularly between the islands of Isabela and Fernandina, you can take part in the most incredible and unforgettable whale and dolphin watching experiences. As the waters are cooler in these months and they contain more nutrients, you will see many migrating humpback whales swimming up from Antartica.
Other majestic species that you may see include blue whales, orcas, sperm whales, minke whales, bottlenose dolphins, and the common dolphin. There’s nothing like seeing these huge animals gliding above and below the crystal clear Galapagos waters so this activity is considered a must do while you’re here.
As these 19 islands have been left to develop over hundreds of years undisturbed by us, the landscapes and unusual species of sea mammals, flora, reptile and birdlife that have evolved are incredibly fascinating.
With so many natural sights to admire and explore, one of the best ways of seeing as much as you can is by island hopping. Plus, this is one of the only ways that you can visit the inhabited islands. Over 7 days, you can see all of the main spots:
- Turtle Bay (Santa Cruz Island) – isolated white sand beach populated by local turtles. In June-July, you may even be lucky enough to see emerging hatchlings.
- Hood Island or Isla Española – hundreds of albatrosses populate the guano-streaked cliffs which are an incredible sight to see. You may even catch their mating rituals which are interesting, to say the least.
- La Loberia (San Cristobal Island) – isolated stretches of beach where you may see wild iguanas, lava lizards, yellow warblers and frigates. This island is also home to a colony of sea lions!
- Isabela Island – the biggest and inhabited island, this island is the best for hiking, swimming with sharks at Tintoreras, and visiting the wall built by Prisoners (Wall of Tears).
- Floreana Island – this is one of the best spots for snorkeling and diving, especially at the Devil’s Crown – a sunken volcano!
As the Galapagos Islands were formed several million years ago by a series of titanic volcanic upheavals and were left to develop over time isolated from the rest of the world, they are a true natural wonder to behold.
Sierra Negra Volcano on Isabela Island, in particular, is mindblowing. Hike through the alien landscape and stand at the edge of the second largest crater in the world!
There is definitely no shortage of things to do in the Galapagos, especially when it comes to adventure. If you’re a water baby, you can find so many opportunities for swimming, surfing, rafting, kayaking and panga (dinghy) rides. If you’re more of a land mammal, mountain biking, horseback riding and trekking are among the favorites that are on offer.
How to Get to the Galapagos Islands
As there are no direct international flights to the Galapagos Islands, you will have to fly into one of the nearest airports: Quito or Guayaquil on mainland Ecuador.
If you have the option to, we’d recommend flying into Guayaquil as this is the closest airport to the islands and most flights from Quito have a stopover in Guayaquil on the way to the Galapagos anyway. So save yourself some time if you have that option.
From mainland Ecuador, the only option you have to get to the Galapagos Islands is by plane. All three airlines (LATAM, Avianca, and Tame) offer flights to the Galapagos which leave most days at:
- 6:45 am / 9:00 am from Quito.
- 8:20 am / 10:40 am from Guayaquil.
These morning flights are the only ones each day and they will take you to one of these two airports on the Galapagos Islands. Seymour Airport (GPA) on the island of Baltra or San Cristóbal Airport (SCY) on the island of San Cristóbal.
As early flights are your only option for flying to the Galapagos, you will have to stay at least one night in Quito or Guayaquil.
If you’re staying in Quito, we recommend checking out or articles on the Top Things to Do in Quito That You Can’t Miss Out On!
To get to the Galapagos Islands, you can expect to pay approximately $400USD (flying from Quito) or $500 (flying from Guayaquil) for roundtrip tickets from mainland Ecuador. For non-citizens and non-residents of Ecuador, an added supplement of $150 will also be charged.
Although most airlines will list their airfares with this supplement already included, please check before you book especially if the prices seem cheap! Also, check if they include checked baggage.
Note: Before flying to the Galapagos, you will need to purchase your Galapagos Transit Control Card ($20) and once you arrive on the Islands, you will need to pay the National Park Entrance Fee (in cash!).
So, what are you waiting for? Are you booking your ticket to the Galapagos Islands as we speak? If you are, make sure to use this guide to help you make your trip as smooth as possible.
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