For keen snorkelers, and even complete beginners, this pursuit offers a superb chance to enjoy the underwater world around the Galapagos Islands. This adds another element of interest and enjoyment to any Galapagos cruise or land based trip. Swimming too is a much-enjoyed pastime around the islands. Here we will consider everything you need to know about Galapagos snorkeling. This includes what time of year to go to get the most out of snorkeling in Galapagos, the best places for snorkeling in Galapagos, and our own tips for this activity.
Snorkeling and swimming in Galapagos are popular activities here. For some, snorkeling will even be a key highlight of a trip to the Galapagos Islands. This is because it provides an excellent opportunity to view the marine life, under the water’s surface, going about its business. More species can be seen while snorkeling, and a greater understanding can be gained about the ecosystems in the Galapagos. Meanwhile, the Galapagos climate is generally warm (considered tropical or subtropical, depending on the time of year of the visit) and so swimming provides a great option for cooling off.
Opinions are mixed on the best time of year for snorkeling or swimming in the Galapagos. This depends on preferences about water temperature. The hot and rainier season runs between January and June, raising the temperatures on land and in the water. The warmer water makes both snorkeling and swimming a more comfortable experience, and the waters are clearer because the sea is calmer. However, the amount of marine life that can be seen during this season is lower than in the drier, cooler season, which runs from July through December. During these months, the Humboldt Current pushes up towards the Galapagos Islands. This brings rich nutrients to the seas around the islands, which provides food for marine life and birds. What this means is that while the seas are cooler, there is a lot more marine life to observe. That said, it can sometimes be harder to see it as the waters are not so still and clear as in the hotter, wetter months.
There are many good spots for snorkeling, but in our opinion these are the best places for snorkeling in Galapagos:
Devil’s Crown is one of the best places to go snorkeling in the Galapagos Islands. Close to Floreana Island, it is worth checking if your cruise stops here, because not all do. The site is characterized by an eroded volcanic crater which is teeming with marine life. Snorkeling here you will be likely to see sea turtles, manta rays and white-tipped reef sharks. There is also a wide array of tropical fish here, and sometimes spotted eagle rays.
On Bartolome Island, Pinnacle Rock offers another fabulous snorkeling site. One of the great highlights here is that it is often possible to see Galapagos penguins swimming under the water while snorkeling. Here also, sea lions may often play with snorkelers in the water, swimming up to their faces before darting the other way at the last minute. You may also see a wide range of tropical fish and white tipped reef sharks.
On Española Island, at Gardner Bay it is possible to snorkel off the beach. The beach itself is well worth spending time on, as it is a stunning white sand beauty. Cooling off with a snorkel, you may get to observe marine life that includes parrot fish, sea lions, sea turtles, white tipped reef sharks and stingrays, among others.
At Isabela Island, Tagus Cove also presents lovely snorkeling opportunities. It is considered one of the best spots off Isabela due to the fact that the water is filled with nutrients for marine life. One of the highlights here is the chance to spot sea horses. Other sea life you might see while snorkeling includes marine iguanas, rockfish, sea turtles, penguins and flightless cormorants.
Also on a visit to the Western Isles of the Galapagos Islands, snorkeling at Punta Espinosa on Fernandina Island offers excellent Galapagos snorkeling. Possible wildlife to see here includes penguins, sea turtles, sea lions, marine iguanas and flightless cormorants. However, very special highlights here include (sometimes) the chance to swim with dolphins and in season, the possibility of seeing Humpback whales.
Off San Cristobal Island, Kicker Rock also offers stunning Galapagos snorkeling. Here you have a chance to see Galapagos sharks, white tipped reef sharks, sea lions, sea turtles and eagle rays. You may also sometimes spot hammerhead sharks, which is a real thrill. Be aware that some cruises simply sail by Kicker Rock, so if you want to snorkel here you need to make sure it’s on the itinerary for your cruise.
Off Genovesa Island, some great snorkeling is to be had near the Galapagos visitor site of Prince Phillip’s Steps. One of the highlights here is the wide array of tropical and other fish you might see. Species spotted here include hogfish, parrotfish, angelfish, surgeonfish, butterfly fish and unicorn fish. You may even get to see manta rays or hammerhead sharks if you are lucky.
Our favorite places to snorkel in the Galapagos Islands are at Devil’s Crown off Floreana Island, and off Bartolome Island at Pinnacle Rock. Here the marine life you will see in each spot is diverse, and each offers its own unique and exciting viewings. For the best snorkeling experiences with chances to see more marine life, we recommend the months of July through December – but maybe think about bringing or hiring a wetsuit to get the most enjoyment out of this.
Ecuador and Galapagos Insiders offers a wide range of Galapagos Islands cruises and Galapagos land-based options through which you can enjoy snorkeling and swimming near the islands. Some of our favorite cruises offering great snorkeling opportunities are the Grand Majestic, the Seaman Journey and the Cormorant Galapagos boat among other popular options. Get in touch to find the cruise or trip that works best for you, to enjoy the best snorkeling the Galapagos has to offer.