The Ultimate Guide to Scuba Diving in the Galápagos

Often considered the pinnacle of any scuba diving career, the remote Galápagos Islands of Ecuador are home to hammerheads, penguins, seals and more.

Made famous by Darwin, the Galápagos Islands are a magnet for scuba divers from around the world. The remote location, separated from the continent by the deep sea, along with the perfect mixture of temperature and nutrients means these islands are swimming with an abundance of species. Up to 20% of these are found nowhere else on earth.

While the Galápagos can be accommodating to beginning divers, those with more experience will better enjoy the journey. Cold water and strong currents can be expected at many dive sites.

When to Dive the Galápagos Islands

Two seasons make up the non-distinct weather pattern of the Galápagos. The first half of the year is ‘wet’ and the second half of the year is ‘dry.’

Wet Season

January to May forms the wet season in the Galápagos. During this time of year, warmer temperatures descend on the islands along with heavy showers daily. At other times during the day, sunny skies prevail. The water temperatures also increase to approximately 20-25°C.

With that said, many of the dive sites around the Galápagos will remain cold due to currents from the deep sea. These sites will require heavy exposure protection, so make sure to pack a variety of suits.

Dry Season

From June to December, dry season descends on the Galápagos. During these months, the temperature is colder both in terms of the air and the water. Under the sea, you can expect temperatures of about 19-23°C with frequent thermoclines.

While it may sound less comfortable, this is considered ‘high season’ for scuba divers. Dry season brings significant nutrient upwellings which in turn attract the most pelagic species. This is the best time of year for hammerhead encounters and whale shark sightings.

Where to Dive in the Galápagos Islands

With 13 major islands, there are plenty of dive sites to explore. Serious divers will want to include both Wolf and Darwin Islands in their itinerary.

Darwin Island

With the photogenic Darwin Arch above the water and rich biodiversity under the water, Darwin Island offers the best diving in the Galápagos.

Wolf Island

Pelagic-lovers rejoice! Wolf Island in the far northwest of the Galápagos regularly plays host to schools of hammerheads and other large marine life.

Santa Cruz Island

Perfect for beginners, Santa Cruz Island features protected bays and interesting encounters with marine iguanas, sea lions and Galápagos sharks.

Floreana Island

Because of its caves and rocky outcrops, the dive sites surrounding Floreana Island represent the best opportunity for macro diving in the Galápagos.

San Cristobal Island

For large schools of grunt, snapper and jacks as well as the occasional diving blue-footed booby, head to the rocky outcrops of San Cristobal Island.

Isabela Island

Isabela Island is surrounded by underwater volcanoes. These form interested dive sites where hammerheads, sea lions and seahorses are commonplace.

Fernandina Island

After a week of shark diving, Fernandina Island represents a welcome change. Here penguins fly by while sea lions and marine iguanas feast underwater.

Dive Sites in the Galápagos Islands

With hundreds of dive sites in the astounding waters of the Galápagos, it may be overwhelming to select your perfect dive. Most divers will want to head for Wolf Island by liveaboard. Here you’ll experience plenty of shark encounters and fun dolphin interactions.

Darwin Island should also be on any list of the top dives in the Galápagos. El Arco is especially appealing with its above-the-water arch and underwater hammerhead action.

Finally, Isabela, Fernandina, San Cristobal and Santa Cruz Islands offer colder dive sites filled with fascinating marine iguanas, penguins and sea lions.

Snorkeling in the Galápagos Islands

Snorkeling in the Galápagos can also yield amazing wildlife interactions. Even from the surface, snorkelers can see marine iguanas, green sea turtles, tiny penguins, dolphins and playful sea lions. Most of the snorkeling is completed away from Wolf and Darwin Islands and closer to Santa Cruz Island.

What to see

What to See in the Galápagos Islands

With hundreds of species left to progress through natural selection on these remote rocks, over 20% of the wildlife around the Galápagos is found nowhere else on earth. You will be astounded by the variety of sea life on each dive. Common marine life includes huge schools of hammerheads, Galápagos sharks, horn sharks, silky sharks, blacktip sharks, jacks, manta rays, eagle rays, marine iguanas, dolphins, sea lions, fur seals, barracuda, whale sharks, mola mola, grouper, batfish and seahorses.

Your dive logs are sure to be packed and unlike any of your other pages after this dive trip.